Count it all joy when you face various trials. --James the brother of Jesus

Friday, January 11, 2013

Christian Bashing and an Anti-Religious Bigot's House of Mirror's

After the recent uproar concerning Louie Gigliio, many have already commented on the impression given that Christians are now unwelcome in the public square--Albert Mohler, Russell Moore, Denny Burk, and Ed Stetzer to name a few.

On the other end of the spectrum, John Shore has written over at the Huffington Post an article claiming that Christians have no support for their position on homosexuality outside the Bible, and that Christians have looked at Jesus as a mirror and seen their own views in the reflection. As a conservative Christian who holds to the view of marriage held by Christians of all traditions from the time of Christ until very recently, I felt an inclination to respond to his argument.

1. His first line of argument is a claim that apart from the Bible, Christians have nothing to say about why homosexuality is wrong. He states:
"Challenge a Christian to make one single argument for homosexuality being wrong that doesn't quote or reference the Bible, and suddenly they're in a house of mirrors; suddenly the only thing they can only point to is themselves."
Basically he's arguing (according to his view) that apart from the Bible, Christians are just harboring bigotry and they really just don't like gay people.

I object to this claim on two counts. First, Mr. Shore demands a test that is impossible for a Christian to submit to. A Christian's entire view of the world is (or ought to be) shaped by Scripture. The authority of the  Bible is fundamental Christian belief. To require Christians to exclude our sacred text in order to speak intelligently about any issue, is to require us to stop thinking like Christians. Second, there are arguments being made by Christians that are not entirely dependent on Biblical texts. Justin Taylor draws attention to such a discussion here.

2. Shore then makes the claim that the Bible does not condemn homosexuality. Now, I'm not exactly sure what he's reading, but the Bible I read says things like:

Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. (1Co 6:9-10)
(One of Giglio's controversial quotations was almost a direct quote from this one.)
Now we know that the law is good, if one uses it lawfully, understanding this, that the law is not laid down for the just but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and sinners, for the unholy and profane, for those who strike their fathers and mothers, for murderers, the sexually immoral, men who practice homosexuality, enslavers, liars, perjurers, and whatever else is contrary to sound doctrine, in accordance with the gospel of the glory of the blessed God with which I have been entrusted. (1Ti 1:8-11)
(Notice that right next to the word "homosexuality" is the word "enslavers. Giglio is praised by the president for his condemnation of the one, and pushed out for his condemnation of the other)
  You shall not lie with a male as with a woman; it is an abomination. (Lev 18:22)
Yes, I know that one's in the Old Testament. Why should that matter? Both Old and New Testaments are together accepted by Christians as the word of God. Marcion was condemned as a heretic for his rejection of the Old Testament. The New Testament is organically connected to the Old Testament. It assumes everything in the Old Testament. If you come to the New Testament without the Hebrew Scriptures, you are bound to misunderstand it because you have cut yourself off from the context within which it was written.

3. Shore then turns to Jesus. He makes the claim that what Jesus was concerned about was compassion. He claims that Jesus didn't care about the 10 commandments; all he cared about was love and compassion. Shore then turns to a biblical story (something he tries to exclude Christians from being able to do). He tells of how in John 5 Jesus heals a man who was lame from birth and is then criticized by the legalists because it was done on the Sabbath. Shore states:
Also on the scene are some Jewish leaders. They object to what Jesus has done. And why? Have they so little compassion that they actually prefer the poor man remain a cripple?
Of course not. They're outraged because Jesus disobeyed the Bible. And not in any small way, either. In healing the man Jesus brazenly violated number eight of the Ten Commandments: He worked on the Sabbath. ("Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy ... on it you shall not do any work.")
Now, to someone who's cherry picking which teachings of Jesus to listen to, this is a reasonable argument to make. However, Jesus explains in Matthew 12 that his detractors actually misunderstood the Bible's teaching on the Sabbath.
He said to them, "Have you not read what David did when he was hungry, and those who were with him: how he entered the house of God and ate the bread of the Presence, which it was not lawful for him to eat nor for those who were with him, but only for the priests? Or have you not read in the Law how on the Sabbath the priests in the temple profane the Sabbath and are guiltless? I tell you, something greater than the temple is here. And if you had known what this means, 'I desire mercy, and not sacrifice,' you would not have condemned the guiltless. For the Son of Man is lord of the Sabbath." (Mat 12:3-8)
 Jesus didn't break the Sabbath. Those who objected misunderstood the Bible's teaching, and Jesus' own explanation makes this clear.

Those who argue that Jesus never mentioned homosexuality may be "technically" right, only in the sense that he didn't use the word. However, Jesus accepted the authority of the Old Testament. He had Leviticus 18:22 in his Bible too. He was fully aware of that when he said:
"Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. (Mat 5:17)
Jesus accepted the sexual morality that was given in the Old Testament. If he wanted to change something he could have said so. Rather than loosen the biblical teaching of sexual morality, if anything Jesus made sexual ethics even more strict.
 "You have heard that it was said, 'You shall not commit adultery.' But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart. (Mat 5:27-28)
4. Shore then makes the argument:

The response of the dedicatedly legalistic Christian to this clear and simple reasoning is as predictable as it is inevitable. He or she will say that just like the lame man was physically sick so the gay person is spiritually sick.
"See?" they will say, "Both need Jesus to heal them!"
Which sounds reasonable. Except it ignores the fact that there is something objectively wrong with the lame man, whereas there's nothing whatsoever objectively wrong with the gay person beyond what the Christian uses his Bible to claim there is.
Objective is not the right word here. Physical would fit better. Shore seems to think that in order for something to be "objective" it has to be scientifically verifiable. Moral categories are not scientifically verifiable. In fact, without a claim to revelation, moral categories are impossible to justify in the first place.

Homosexuality is a moral sickness. It is a deadly sin, along with all other sins like lying, stealing, and not loving God with your whole heart mind soul and strength. It is a sin that along with the others will one day be lain bare before a holy God who is coming in judgement, whom we all must answer to--both homosexual and heterosexual alike.

5. By stating that that Jesus only cared about compassion and not about keeping commandments, Shore falls into the same trap that he is accusing Christians of. He concludes his argument:
But when we turn to our legalistic Christian in hopes of a response to that we will find that he or she, having made their point, has disappeared back inside their hall of mirrors, there to spend their hours rapturously gazing at distorted images of themselves, and always mistaking them for God.
Shore is doing what Albert Schweitzer famously pointed out about 19th century liberals. In their quest for the historical Jesus they looked down into the well of history and saw the reflection 19th century liberal values. Shore is doing what we are all sometimes tempted to do. David Platt, in his book Radical, admits that conservative evangelical Christians have a tendency to reinvent Jesus into our own image as a nice middle class God who is cool with us having our stuff and our sin and wouldn't say a word about whatever sin that we deem acceptable.

I don't think that Shore is right about evangelical's simply reading into the Bible the teaching that they want to find about homosexuality. In fact, I think there are probably some who would likely abandon this issue if it didn't mean giving up the clear teaching of Scripture. However, it is without question that remaking Jesus is always the temptation for us all. It is much easier to deal with a Jesus of our own making than the Jesus of the Bible. If we shape and mold our Jesus into own image we can justify pretty much anything we want to, but then again, if we do that, what we are left with isn't really Jesus at all is it?

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