A Defining Issue for the 21st Century Church

Vantage Point
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In the past several weeks, issues surrounding lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) persons and the church have been at the forefront of my mind.

The topic is important to me because my sister, who is not a Christian, is openly gay. My wife and I have spent a lot of time with her and her partner, Kate, over the past year, and we’ve had several really good conversations about their lives, their relationship, and their experiences at the hands of Christians and the church.

LGBT persons, and the questions surrounding how the church interacts with them, are not going away.

So it pained me to learn that at Synod 2011 several weeks ago, the Christian Reformed Church decided not to “appoint a study committee to consider new biblical and theological resources that have been published since the denomination’s official stance was decided” (“No New Study of Homosexuality,” The Banner, July 2011).

The more I think, read about, and discuss the subject, the more I am convinced that homosexuality will be a, if not the defining theological issue for Christians my age (in their 20s) and younger.

Many young Christians are deeply passionate about their convictions regarding how the church should or should not respond to LGBT people. The recent New York State vote to allow same-sex marriages, for example, filled Facebook and Twitter with strong emotional statements of both support and concern by young adults.

That’s because our beliefs about the nature of homosexuality are drawn from how we see and interpret Scripture and what we believe about the nature of God, sin, justice, and creation itself—many of the core elements of our life of faith.

I believe, therefore, that synod missed an opportunity by not allowing a committee to examine LGBT issues in light of new research. In fact, I would go so far as to say that if synod is not willing to do so soon, it may jeopardize the very future of the CRC. Because LGBT persons, and the questions surrounding how the church interacts with them, are not going away.

The perception by many young adults is that Christians believe God does not love LGBT people. If our denomination cannot say that it continues to remain open to God and has a teachable spirit about how we interact with LGBT people, we’re going to risk alienating many of our young adults—gay and straight alike.

I am not suggesting that synod’s 1973 report on homosexuality is wrong, in part or in whole. I don’t believe I am well educated enough on the topic to make that kind of decision.

But I am suggesting that we as a church need to be open-minded. We need to come together as a community, and with humility and much prayer, examine the fresh scholarship, stories, and perspectives that God has made available to us. That way we can be certain our teaching, preaching, and care regarding LGBT persons is in line with God’s will as best as we understand it.

I know that an honest examination of homosexuality requires time, patience, and a willingness to risk altering beliefs and ideas we have grown up with.

I have found myself on a journey as I know and love my sister and her partner. I feel less sure of my convictions and find myself wrestling deeply with what I believe about God. It has been a beautiful and wonderful experience, and I believe my faith is much better off because of it.

I know I am not the only member of the CRC walking through this. Some are themselves LGBT, while many others care deeply for someone who is. We need wisdom and guidance from a church that we know is leading us with an open mind and an open heart.

It may very well be that after a fresh examination, the church decides nothing needs to change. But denying the CRC an opportunity to study, think, and pray about such a crucial issue as a community denies all of us the chance to continue reforming. And in the end, that will only hamper our witness as we speak to the world, and especially young adults, about homosexuality.

About the Author

A.J. Gretz is a student at Calvin Theological Seminary, Grand Rapids, Mich. He and his wife, Anna, attend Oakdale Park CRC in Grand Rapids.

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Comments

very interesting that you removed my comment when I challenged people to ask God where they are deceived about this issue of homosexuality and to REALLY THINK what it is you are promoting when you say that you are in agreement or that you are a homosexual!!What is it they do bother you or that I said that God made male and female...and only have one partner in marriage and not hundreds...What is it that bothers you??? I saved it as I thought you would remove it cause I was getting at truth..

Hmm... I read a discussion on textual interpretation. While it isn't related directly to the actual article in reference to which this discussion started, I'll further the thought anyway.

How DO we interpret scripture? How do we read it? Interpret it though history? Read it as written?

What about the weird laws in Leviticus regarding sowing seeds or laws in Deuteronomy about eating partcular meats?

What about 1 Timothy 2:8-15 where women are explicitly told not to teach or lead?

How do we decide which parts of text to read literally, as written, or as interpreted?

...the joys of theology and scripture!

@Textual Reading,

One of the main ways to understand the Bible is to read it like any other book, literally, as written. The Scriptures taken in context will communicate what is history, poetry, parables, metaphors, and prophecy. The Bible is an endless library of truth. If you come across a text that you're not sure of the interpretation, the best way to figure it out is to cross reference the text with other passages, to see if supports a particular teaching. In other words allow Scripture to interpret Scripture.

In the case of 1 Timothy 2:8-15 the Apostle Paul explained the text and he interpreted the passage for us. He brought the OT into the NT and explained why this teaching of headship in the church is to be the way it ought to be.

The Levitical laws are made up of three parts: Moral, Dietary, and Civil. The consequences for disobeying the dietary and civil laws ended at the Cross. They were for the nation of Israel. The Moral part of Levitical law however, applies to all mankind, and are still in effect today. Why? Because the Bible says they are eternal, and can all be traced back to The 10 Commandments. The consequence for braking the Moral law (Known as the law of Moses, or they are sometimes referred to as God's law, divine law, perfect law, holy law, moral law, and eternal law) is eternal punishment in the lake of fire (Hell). The only way a person can be released from transgressing these laws is by God's grace through repentance (turning from sin), and placing ones faith in Jesus Christ alone for Salvation.

Great.

Can you provide some references for the Timothy interpretation that you're speaking of? And where it says that the morsl law still remains?

I like what you're saying, I just want to cross-reference it for future conversations like this.

@ Textual Reading,

As far as 1 Timothy 2:8-15 goes, All of Genesis 3, I Corinthians 11:3, Romans 13;1,2. Reinforce the teaching of God-ordained roles for men and women.

Psalm 19:7, James 1:25, Luke 16:17, Psalm 119:160, Romans 7:11,12,14-These verses among others tell us God's law still remains.

So for the record, truth, you hold an extremely conservative view of the reading of the Bible and on the stance of women ordination. The verses you referenced were for male headship and, when proof-texted, support a view of women that the CRCNA no longer supports... nor do a heavy majority of Christians in North America.

As for the verses you provided for differentiation between moral and civil law and their use today, they don't actually prove or support that.

I just feel like the texts you provided don't support your stance. Perhaps you could clarify further your perspectives on ideas like these? I really do want to understand how you understand them.

The church universal for over 1900 years generally obeyed the teaching of 1 Timothy 2. Since the sexual revolution the church caved under pressure, took a big scissors and cut out the passages they deemed as sexist. Popular or not, God's word on spiritual headship has not changed. Even one of the biggest denominations, like the SBC, 10 years ago encouraged their church members to come back under the authority of Scripture in reguard to biblical headship.

The Bible warns us that there will come a time when the church will not put up with sound doctrine.

You asked me to provide proof from Scripture that God's law still remains today. Let me put it this way.

Is it wrong to tell a lie?
Is it wrong to steal?
Is it wrong to take God's name in vain?
Is it wrong to murder someone?
Is it wrong to worship an idol?
Is it wrong to commit adultery?

If you can say yes, then by your own admission and conscience these six laws of the 10 Commandments verify the teaching of Scripture that God has written his law on your heart. Is this not true?

And what I'm saying is that it sounds like you are choosing to employ the laws that you feel apply to today thereby creating your own Biblical-social norms that work for and apply to you, your social situation, and to those that are around you and then you apply it to those whose situation would make it oppressive.

I'm also pointing out for the reader of these comments that your perspective is a legitimate and conservative perspective that is held by a *minority* within the Christian Church and our denomination.

I understand where you are coming from and I respectfully disagree. I personally cannot subscribe to such a reading of the Scriptures while simultaneously teach a grace-filled gospel to the people of this world who cannot fulfill such "laws" in our day and age.

@Textual,

Please tell me what laws you feel I'm choosing to employ?

@Textual Reading-

Couple things.

1. While you may be correct regarding majority opinion, and majority opinion is not something to be discounted out of hand, we should note that truth is not subject to majority opinion. It is not, therefore, on its face, sufficient. This includes, by the way, the majority opinion of the dead - to argue that a majority held a certain view for 1900 years has weight, but is not sufficient.

2. A grace-filled gospel presumes the hearers of it cannot fulfill such laws in our, or any, day and age. That's the whole point of grace.

@ truth
Well, you seem to employ rules that are against homosexual practices and women in leadership, but are willing to let other rules slide that are mentioned (clothing of two materials, eating meat cooked rare, planting two types of seeds, cutting your hair... cf Lev 19).
This also assumes you keep all the laws like no stealing, no false testimony, sexual purity, tithing, no idols, no gossiping, no tattoos, etc. There are a lot of laws that are mentioned, and I know many church leaders over the years that have been heavily involved in activities we would all call 'sinful', but very little was done against/for them because "they're still human". But there is a *huge* uproar against a people group that simply wish to be allowed to marry the one person they love and continue to be a loved, valued, and respected member of a church.

@PNR
1 - "Majority" obviously meant the majority of the living Christian world. I would not be arguing about the majority of mankind as that would cross generations and cultures and would just be absurd for my culturally-based interpretation argument.

And here's some of my logic:
What I hear you saying is that we need to read the scriptures as they were originally intended to be read, right? That we should be able to read them and apply them to our own lives?
The *application* of that scripture into our own lives in the 21st century IS interpretation.
My problem with this idea is that we are doing so in a misguided way. The Bible was obviously not written by it's authors for us, the middle-to-upper class Caucasian males that we, statistically speaking, are. The scriptures written by their authors for their intended audiences: the Israelites, the Early Church, etc. To try to apply it to our own lives would be like reading a letter sent to your neighbour and trying to apply what it says to your own life. It doesn't work. Instead we need to read the text, understand from where it came, to whom it was written, and the social/cultural situation in which it was written so that we can appropriately learn what we can about God from it.
That's how I understand it and read the Bible. God is definitely present in it and through its interpretation, but it was still written by errant and finite humans to other errant and finite human beings in another lifetime, culture, and generation.

2 - First of all, it is definitely a grace-filled gospel. And we need it, because our finite, ill-informed attempts at reading and interpreting it are likely inadequate and wrong, regardless of which stance we take. We're all gonna need a LOT of grace, because it is impossible for us to understand and read those laws perfectly. Instead, we do the best we can and rely on grace to cover our downfalls.
In your reading of the gospel and scripture I'm going to need more grace, and I should hope and pray that I "make the cut" because I read it differently than you. But I, a gay man called to ministry and relationship, read it differently: that I need to rely on grace to take me home (I believe everyone does!). The joy is that regardless of who I am or what I've done, I rely on Christ to lead me where He wants me to go. And part of what he's been teaching me lately, is how to extend grace and love to those who misunderstand me.

@Textual -

1. "Majority", even if it refers to a majority of living Christians, is not sufficient basis for determining truth. Truth is independent of the majority - even the majority of the dead that G. K. Chesterton sometimes referred to in justifying his respect for tradition.

2.a. A historical-redemptive principle of interpretation that has been long-standing and productive in Calvinist circles is the same principle I advocate, and which you seem to wish to jettison in order to justify homosexual acts. I cannot acede to such a program.

2.b. In particular, as I referenced Leviticus 18, it is clearly of a different nature than those referring to ritual purity for those serving before the altar of God in the Tabernacle/Temple. This is evident by the nature of the prohibitions as they are grouped together in that chapter, and you cannot logically jettison the prohibition against homosexual acts in verse 22 without also dispensing with the prohibition against zoophilia in verse 23 or all of the prohibitions in verses 1-21. So if you are going to argue that Leviticus 18:22 does not apply if it is a life-long, single-partner commitment to another of the same sex, we must also allow for life-long, single-partner commitments to a beloved cat. If you want to make that case, have at it, but don't be surprised if you have a hard time convincing anyone of sense. Indeed, I rather think even the cat would object.

3. The gospel of grace did not and does not abrogate the law. Neither does it change that law. It does tell us that in Christ's atoning blood we are graciously forgiven - a very different thing than saying sin isn't sin. In speaking of this grace-filled gospel, I must say therefore that I find your evident resistence to needing "more grace" rather curious. Your statements indicate to me that you find it preferrable to claim a certain self-righteousness in this regard than to depend entirely on that grace.

4. Disapproving of certain acts does not mean that I believe myself superior or more righteous, or that I misunderstand you. I understand you quite well, and I understand my own sin even better.

Thank you PNR and Truth for this discussion. I better understand where you are coming from and the theological stance that you hold - particularly on understanding of scripture.

This conversation, along with a number of other aspects of this church, has reminded me that I am not prepared to fight to stay within this denomination. I do not uphold the same understanding of scripture that the denomination endorses, and that is problematic when it is seen to be the ultimate authority without historical understanding. Additionally, I cannot stay in a church that does not welcome me as I am and will not ordain me because of who I date and intend to marry. What AJ Grenz said is true, the decision to not even talk about LGBTQQI issues is one that will alienate the younger members of our churches.

And while I'm sad to have to leave the church and community in which I grew up and developed, I will be moving to a denomination that loves me as I am and will encourage and support me as I seek ordination there.

Semper Reformanda Est. Maybe it's time the CRC reforms again? It hasn't been doing too much of that in my lifetime...

@Textual -

I am grateful to be of assistance in helping you come to such clarity.

For myself, I really don't see gobs of young people clamoring for acceptance of homosexual acts.

I also don't see an unwillingness to talk about it.

I do see an unwillingness to agree with you. But then, you are unwilling to agree with me. Intransigence cuts both ways, it would seem.

May God grant you his grace - as much of it as you may require.

@Textual,

My friend, if homosexuality is not a sin as you claim, then there is no need to seek grace or teach grace, particularly in this area of your life, if you're not guilty. But it leads me to wonder why so many people have seen homosexuality as sin, and by their testimony repented, being delivered from it, and found new life in Christ. I am grieved to see you go down the path you are choosing.

If I saw two hikers heading down a path where I knew there was definite danger and failed to warn them, or act to save them, I would be guilty of 'depraved indifferent'. 'Depraved' means that it's as low as you can get, and 'indifference' means that you couldn't care less.

I feel you are putting the weight of your soul in the confidence of your flesh, and are looking for confirmation and acceptance within the walls of the church to quiet your conscience.

To me, you are living among wolves, and I plead with you to come to the cross and lay the burden of homosexuality down and come clean.

"What shall we say then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means! We have died to sin; How can we live in it any longer?" ( Romans 6:1,2)

"Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires. Do not offer the parts of your body to sin, as instruments of wickedness." (Romans 6:12)

It has been reassuring to read the article and comments written by current seminary students. Perhaps there is hope for the future.

The most recent words in the bible were written more than 2,000 years ago. Since that time we have learned that the world is not flat, the earth revolves around the sun, infectious disease is caused by viruses and bacterial rather than sin, mental illness is not caused by demon possession etc. etc. etc. Do Mr. Getz's critics really believe we have nothing more to learn about LGBT people?

What about the passages in the bible that talk about same sex relationships in an affirming and non-judgmental way?

@John -

Affirming the biblical teaching on sexual morality, which includes the teaching that homosexual sex is sin, does not in the least mean that we have nothing to learn from those who are so tempted or that we are unwilling to learn it.

But if the only lesson you want me to learn is to reject the Bible in favor of some more "modern" morality, then we're stuck.

The problem with your argument Mr. PNR is that the bible does not teach against committed relationships between people of the same sex. The bible warns against idolatry, lust and abuse of power but it does not condemn the sort of wholseome and Christ centered relationships that are being discussed by Mr. Gretz in his article. You are misusing the bible to promote an agenda of fear and homophobia. Homophobia is sin.

@John-

I'm not homophobic, or promoting an "agenda of fear", whatever that is, so if we're talking sins, perhaps we might discuss dishonest slanders?

The Bible explicitly states that lying with a man as one would with a woman is an "abomination" - I'd call that sin (Leviticus 18:22). I've read the attempts to discredit or misdirect that text, primarily on the grounds that the previous verse refers to sacrificing children to Moloch and that therefore it's about ceremonial matters, idolatry, etc. But it comes in the midst of a chapter that lists a whole bunch of sexual behaviors that are sinful (most of them heterosexual), and follows verse 22 with a statement that having sexual relations with animals is also sinful. Would you then say that, for instance, as long as the brother and sister are genuinely committed to each other, sexual relations are acceptable (forbidden in 18:9), or if the mother and her son really love each other (banned in 18:9) they might go at it? What about someone totally dedicated to his dog (banned in verse 23)?

It is not misusing the Bible, therefore, to point out what it clearly says.

The same goes with the passage in Romans 1. The arguments for making that merely about idolatry or (as someone tried to do, about being untrue to yourself if you happen to be heterosexual by having sex with someone of the same gender) require such a massive twisting of the verses out of their plain meaning as to be wholly implausible.

I must, on the basis of Scripture, conclude that a wholesome, Christ-centered relationship cannot include homosexual sex (or zoophilia, or adultery in its various forms, or incest, or...). That doesn't mean I'm afraid of homosexuals or promoting such fear and labelling it as such is an ad hominem attempt to silence rather than a serious attempt at argumentation.

Minor correction - the verse in Leviticus 18 banning mother-son sex is verse 7, not verse 9. Apologies for the error.

Give me a break! The conduct referenced in Leviticus had nothing to do with the issues facing gay and lesbian people in today's world. Leviticus prohibits a lot of things that are not considered applicable in today's world. But then - you know that already.

The overarching theme of the bible is clear: God is love. There is also no longer any question about the fact that gay people were created that way by God while still in their mother's womb. The notion that a loving God would create a subclass of people and compel them to endure lives of misery, loneliness and self loathing abstinence is simply absurd.

@John -

"The notion that a loving God would create a subclass of people and compel them to endure lives of misery, loneliness and self loathing abstinence is simply absurd."

I concur. But it's possible to be tempted by homosexual sex and both abstain from sex and not loath one's self. I am tempted by all sorts of sins, sexual and otherwise, and, by God's grace, don't loath myself. And I don't have to change the definition of sin to be that way, either.

It's also possible to abstain from sex all together - gay or straight - and not be lonely. Through the years, thousands upon thousands have done so.

As for enduring lives of misery, well, there are people so created - some with serious birth defects, some with psychiatric disorders, some with congenital diseases. We live in a fallen, broken world. Misery comes with the territory.

As for Leviticus, it does prohibit lots of things that are not considered applicable. The issue is whether chapter 18 is one of those non-applicable passages. I don't see how it can be so construed without also removing its strictures on various other expressions of sexuality that are barred in it. Since those strictures still apply, so also must verse 22.

@John -

One more thing - God is love. But love does not equate to approval of anything and everything. To say that, because God loves me, it's OK if I sin, or that my sin is not really sin but actually approved by God, is to distort the Gospel. Plenty of people try - gay and straight. "God just wants me to be happy so my affair is OK"; "God is love, so having sex with different women in different cities is OK as long as my wife doesn't know. They just need a bit of loving and so do I"; "God doesn't want me to starve, so it's OK if I steal that food" I've heard all these excuses and explanations over the 20+ years I've been in ministry.

No. Sin is sin, and the love of God doesn't change that. It may mean we're forgiven, that we're accepted in spite of it, that God is patient, merciful, and gracious, but it doesn't mean sin is no longer sin.

PNR,

In the 21st century, many gay and lesbian couples live in committed relationships and in an increasing number of countries and states, they enter into legally binding marriages. Sex within the context of these relationships is not sin. Leviticus does not contemplate sex that occurs within the context of marriage. What Leviticus has to say about sex has no relevance to the discussions going on in the 21st century church.

@John-

And that gets to the heart of our disagreement. You say it is irrelevant. I say it is relevant. Neither of us is going to convince the other, I daresay.

For myself, your reasons for claiming it is irrelevant are entirely specious. Lots of people ignore it, well, lots of people ignore John 3:16, I Corinthians 13, Deuteronomy 6, Genesis 1, Psalm 119 and many other passages in the Bible. Doesn't affect their relevance at all.

As for saying it's about "sex outside of marriage", homosexual sex is, by definition, "sex outside of marriage" since "marriage" refers to a heterosexual union and has for as long as the human race has used a term for it. Only in the last few years have a rather small group attempted to coopt the meaning for their own purposes, but calling a homosexual union a "marriage" doesn't makie it so any more than calling a rock a flower turns it into a rose bush.

That the discussion is occuring in this century instead of a different one is also not a factor in the relevance of Leviticus 18 or any other biblical text. I don't recall there being printed expiration dates on any of the passages in my Bible. Those parts that we do not apply today are based on the New Testament assertion that they are fulfilled in Jesus Christ. That theological assertion doesn't seem to apply to Levit. 18, especially since its strictures on homosexual sex are repeated in Romans 1.

I'm sure this will not convince you in the least, but that you might better understand my reasoning, and that others who might read these comments might also understand, I put this out here anyway.

PNR,

You are correct. We disagree. In my view, your stubborn insistence on lumping committed gay relationships in the same category as the sort of ritualized sex with male prostitutes discussed in Leviticus and Romans is specious. The behaviors have nothing in common whatsoever. Including gay sex and Roman idolatry in the same category is as preposterous as equating sex in heterosexual marriages with rape or incest. In my view, you are misusing scripture to justify an agenda that has no basis in scripture. Your agenda is based on traditional fear, misinformation and erroneous assumptions. Gay christians are everywhere. They have a lot to offer the CRC community. It is your loss that you are unwilling to welcome them into your exclusive little club.

For clarification: Ancient Romans worshiped a fertility goddess they called Cybele. Cybele's temple was prominently positioned on top of the Palatine Hill overlooking Rome. Heterosexual Roman men worshipped Cybele by going to the temple, paying a fee and engaging in ritualized sex with castrated Galli priests. This is the practice that Paul was objecting to in Romans.

Even the most feeble minded aught to be able to understand that the idol worship Paul complained about in Romans has nothing in common with the issues being discussed in the CRC. No-one is suggesting that married straight men should have sex with castrated clergy during Sunday morning worship services. All we are asking is that men and women who were born gay and are living in lifelong committed marriages (or civil unions) be welcomed into full fellowship with the CRC. That is not an unreasonable request.

John said,

"Even the most feeble minded aught to be able to understand that the idol worship Paul complained about in Romans has nothing in common with the issue being discussed in the CRC."

John, even you are asking the CRC to do is bend the knee to a form of sexual idolatry. The Bible declares all forms of lust outside the perimeter of marriage between one man and women, as adultery. Jesus said whoever looks with lust upon another person has committed adultery in their heart.

If God judged you by the standard of The 10 Commandments do you think you would be innocent or guilty?

Heaven or hell?

I stand corrected. Apparently the feeble minded cannot comprehend the historical context of the bible.

As for my salvation, my faithful Savior Jusus Christ has fully paid for all my sins with his precious blood and he, through his Holy Spirit, assures me of eternal life.

Save your pathetic scare tactics for someone more gullible.

The text of "washing the mind with the water of the Word" is found in a passage concerning martial relationships.

"Husbands, love your wive, even as Christ also lived the church, and gave himself for it; That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the Word, that he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish." (Ephesians 5:25-27)

@John-

Oh, I understand the historical context of the Scriptures - far better than you might think. That I disagree with you doesn't make me feeble-minded, however comforting it might be to you to believe that.

What is being discussed in Leviticus 18 and in Romans 1 is not, and cannot be construed as, "ritualized sex with male prostitutes" - at least, not based on the texts in question. There is nothing in those texts that limits what is said there to such a small area of behavior.

But you go ahead and believe yourself morally, intellectually, and in all other ways superior to me if that's what blows your hair back.

You're still wrong.

Maybe we should ask Synod to appoint a committee to study the matter... ;-)

@John-

We did. You didn't like the result.

You got me on that one. Touche

You really are missing out by excluding the LGBT community from your fellowship. The CRC is greatly diminished as a result.

We recently attended a CRC. We endured vitriolic glares and one gentleman overtly refused to shake my hand as we left the sanctuary. The next week we attended an episcopal church just a few blocks away. We were welcomed with open arms and invited to the communion table. God's love and grace were shared extravagently. As we were leaving the sanctuary, we were invited as a couple to attend a church function later in the week. So I ask myself, which church would Jesus attend? When I read the Gospel, I get the impression that Jesus was impatient with the dogmatic, legalistic scripture thumpers of his day. Instead, he welcomed tax collectors and other people of ill repute. So for me, for now, the episcopal church is where I go to worship. This comment discussion has help affirm our decision. Hopefully, some day, the CRC will resolve its sqabble about what Paul was really thinking when he wrote that infamous single sentence in Romans. Until then, peace.

@John-

I am sorry that this was your experience in the CRC. As stubborn as I am in insisting that homosexual sex is sin, I do not think refusing hospitality, glares, or other such things are helpful and, quite frequently, they feed a sense of moral superiority that is unwarranted.

I shake the hands of hundreds of sinners every Sunday and they all shake the hand of at least one (me). Why would I treat you differently? While I think this course you've chosen is sinful, I don't think it's unique - not even in the effort to make the Bible say something other than what it does say so you can avoid guilt. Christians have rather a long history of doing that. Indeed, that's what the person refusing to shake your hand was doing - I'm sure he'd give me some biblical reference to justify his rudeness, insisting the biblical injunction to welcome sinners and be hospitable regardless doesn't apply to him or you or this situation or whatever.

In that sense, then, I am entirely sympathetic to the decision you make regarding where you participate in the life of God's people. Do so, though, without bitterness or rancor and with a heart ready to forgive.

PNR,

Please keep in mind next time you preach your stubbornly held (and I believe erroneous) beliefs that there are real people suffering as a result. I know people who have been fired by CRC employers for no reason other than they are gay. I know people who have been estranged from their CRC parents for decades because the parents feel morally obligated to shun their gay child. I know of several people who killed themselves because of the pain inflicted by the CRC. The next time you preach about your stubborn beliefs, please do not forget the faces of those teenage children who have taken their own lives because they believed in what you say. Thank God that, because of new media and online information campaigns, more and more young LGBT people are hearing the true Gospel that God loves them as they are.

@John -

I am well aware that real people suffer. I am also aware that some misconstrue what I say, or hear only the part of it that they think justifies themselves. I have never said it is OK to shun, fire, kill, abuse, or otherwise mistreat a sinner of any sort, nor will I ever say so. One sin does not justify another.

I have never said that God doesn't love sinners of any sort, nor will I. He does love us as we are. That doesn't mean he approves of all we do. God loves the man who wouldn't shake your hand, too. That doesn't mean his rudeness was OK and not a sin.

I take no responsibility for the sins of others - I have enough of my own. Nor do I accept that declaring a behavior to be sin is, by itself, responsible for the suicides of those who feel the only answer to guilt is death when life in Jesus is so freely offered to them. Jesus is not to blame for Judas' suicide, and if those teenagers truly believed what I say, they would not kill themselves, either.

The true Gospel is a Gospel of forgiveness that calls us to live gratefully in holiness, not a Gospel that ignores sin, justifies sin, redefines sin, or declares all behaviors holy.

A sex addict can get into a vicious cycle of self-destruction and degradation. I know first hand that sex addiction and lust can control your behavior. When a sex addict knows that what he is doing is wrong he will become critical and judgmental of those around him. The man who is being controlled by sin will often be overly sensitive to criticism.

Turns out that Mr. Gretz's premise may be correct. The LGBT exclusion issue is defining the CRC. Last night 4 December 2011, on an episode of the TV show "The Good Wife," the Christian Reformed Church's view of Leviticus 20 was featured prominently as part of the plot. I my view, it made the church look like a radical fundamentalist cult.

I have been reading this for the entire time..One time my comments were removed because I asked and stated "THINK..what is it you are promoting here..WHAT DO Homosexuals do??

You can point fingers for the rest of your life as to what CHRISTIANS do..how they treat homosexuals..like as to blame someone else for your sin...

Grow up...quit blaming others cause you want to make excuses for your sin..
YES we saw them mention the CR CHURCH of North America..they were certainly wanting to ridicule them because of their beliefs..ONLY THE BEGINNING>>it wont be long and no one will be able to say a thing against the sin of homosexuality..does that make it right..

ASK Holy Spirit if you are sinning and listen each day.. if you are doing right you dont have to spend time defending yourself..what a waste of time..

@John-

So we are to let a distorted portrayal on a television shows dictate our beliefs to us? I think not.

I really couldn't care less what "the good wife" tv show thinks about or portrays as the CRCNA. You're going to have to do better than that. :-)

My only point is that Mr. Gretz make a valid point in his article. This issue will define the CRC in the 21st century.

Views and beliefs are changing both in the world and in the church. Prejudice and discrimination against LGBT people in the US military is now illegal. It is no longer generally acceptable in society to use disparaging language. States have enacted gay marriage statutes. And many people in the CRC have come to understand that the church's historically held views are not valid. Praise God. Just like with other issues in the past, the true Gospel will prevail. Demographic trends are on our side. So, I really couldn't care less about what you think...

John, I'm concerned for you and the path that you are on. If hell was not at stake I wouldn't be talking to you like this. You are right. The LGBT has a support system around them and momentum going their way, to bring persecution to the Bible believing church. I can see it coming. I know this makes you glad.

I remember the hell of living. Driven with a whip by my own lust, driven like cattle, how dark and evil the thinking becomes. Living for self and the miserable, empty, meaningless life. Lust is demanding and is never satisfied. Sin will leave a person in the state of strong delusion and like the young man of proverbs seven, lust with words of persuasion will seduce.

"All at once he followed her like an ox going to the slaughter, like a deer stepping into a noose till an arrow pierces his liver, like a bird darting into a snare, little knowing it will cost him his life. Now then my son, listen to me; pay attention to what I say. Do not let your heart turn to her ways or stray into her paths. Many are the victims she has brought down; her slain are a mighty throng. Her house is a highway to the grave, leading down to the chambers of death."

@John-

Obviously, I disagree. To be sure, the societal trends at present are moving in your direction. I expect that will change in the near term - within 50 years or so.

But even if it doesn't, truth is not a matter of majority votes or cultural trends. The true Gospel will win out, but that Gospel has never been and is not now one that deals with sin by defining it out of existence.

I am content, as I hope you will be, to 1)argue for what I believe; 2)deal charitably with those who disagree; 3)and wait for the Lord to work his will in time.

PNR - I appreciate the respectful tone you use in this discussion. The fundamental point of disagreement between us is that I do not believe that committed gay relationships were ever defined by God as sin. None of the scripture references you rely on for you position address the sort of relationships that are the subject of the current debate in the CRC. Your proof texts are about idol worship and other issues that are not relevant.

"truthmatters" - I cannot relate at all to what you say. There is nothing sad or miserable about my relationship with my partner. I am not driven by strange dark forces - I am guided and nurtured by God given feelings of love, peace, happiness, joy and contentment. I believe that my relationship is blessed by God. Your comments are way off base.

@John

Your right a person can be happy in their sin. The Bible speaks of pleasure in sin. Even Moses "chose to be mistreated along with the people of God rather than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a short time." ( Hebrews 11:25)

God has commanded all men to repent. Why? Because he has appointed a day in which he will judge the world in righteousness. It's not an issue of happiness, but righteousness. It doesn't matter how happy a person is in their current lifestyle.

"The Lord reigns forever; he has established his throne for judgment. He will judge the world in righteousness" (Psalm 9:8) The Bible says, "All who sin under the law will be judged by the law." (Romans 2:12)

"For all that is in the world-the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life-is not of the father but is of the world. And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever." (1 John 1:16,17)

"So do not be swept off your course by all sorts of outlandish teachings; it is good that our sould should gain their strength FROM THE GRACE OF GOD, and not from scurples about what we eat, which have never done any dood to those who were governed by them." (Hebrews 13:9)[emphasis added]

"You therefore have no defense - you who sit in judgement, whoever you may be - for in judging your fellow man you condemn yourself..." (Romans 2:1)

"We know that no child of God is a sinner; it is the Son of god who keeps him safe, and the evil one cannot touch him." (1 John 5:18)

@John

You quote Hebrews 13, "So do not be swept off your course by all sorts of outlandish teachings." Gay pride is outside the teaching of Scripture, it fits very well the "outlandish teachings" that Hebrews speaks of. A child of God does not sanction sin.

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