Thursday, May 4, 2017

Does Your God Hate Me?

Thus far in our series Engaging the Homosexual Movement we have looked at arguments/objections from nature, morality, and authority that might be raised in favor of the normalization of the practice of homosexuality. And we have offered Christian answers to each objection. In this lesson we will address another argument/objection that touches on each of the previous three. It is not so much an argument for the normalization of the practice of homosexuality as it is an argument against the God who condemns it. While the previous three arguments touch upon theology in general, this argument concerns theology proper. Given the truthfulness of the previous three answers, one might ask, “Does your God hate me?” After all, as we have already seen, homosexuality deserves the wrath and curse of God.

“God hates the sin and loves the sinner,” has become an axiom within broad evangelicalism. But is it true? Is it biblically defensible? Oftentimes those who hold this view do not realize that it is, at best, a second-class deduction based on the theory that God’s love is chiefly expressed in providing the possibility of salvation for each individual sinner, which is a tenet of classical Arminianism. In this view God hasn’t acted to actually save anyone. He has only acted to secure its possibility. Changing the possibility into an actuality is a function of the human will to determine its own destiny. This view of salvation only works if sin is depersonalized, i.e. separated from the sinner himself. Just as God hates the sin and loves the sinner, so also Christ died for a depersonalzed concept called sin but not for the actual persons who sin. So the question becomes: is the depersonalization of sin biblically defensible? (By the way, this is one of the strengths of the Calvinistic understanding of sin and grace. But if you go this direction, you must arrive at the doctrine of definite atonement because if Christ died to actually secure salvation and not all are saved, then he must have only died for some.)

The Bible never depersonalizes sin. It always describes it as a personal offense against a personal God. It is either our sin or my sin but never simply sin. We see this most clearly when we consider the definition of sin in 1 John 3:4. The text says, “Sin is lawlessness.” Thus we teach our children from SC Q. 14: “What is sin? Sin is any want of conformity unto, or transgression of, the law of God.” Sin is the violation of an agreement (i.e. a law) between two or more parties. In other words, it is covenantal and, therefore, personal by nature. There is no such thing as sin separated from the persons who commit it. So we read in Ps. 11:5, “The LORD tests the righteous, but his soul hates the wicked and the one who loves violence.” And again in Rom. 9:13, the Apostle Paul, quoting Malachi, reminds us saying, “As it is written, ‘Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.’” According to Scripture, God hates sinners because of their sin against him. And who are these sinners? They are those born by ordinary generation from the time of Adam's fall forward. Paul is crystal clear about this in Rom. 3:10-20. “None is righteous, no, not one,” he says. The Apostle John teaches the same in 1 John 1:8, saying, “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.”

Therefore, we conclude that one answer to the question “Does your God hate me?” is “Yes. God hates all those who practice sin. As Paul says in 1 Cor. 6:9-10, ‘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.' God’s wrath and curse justly fall upon such people. That includes everyone born in the world except Jesus. I deserve God’s wrath and curse because of my sin just as much as anyone else." But there is more to our answer than that. There is more to the Bible than the law and sin. There is also the gospel and grace.

“Does your God hate me?” is essentially a question about the love of God. We could rephrase it negatively, asking, “Does your God not love me?” The answer to this question is complex. The Bible speaks of the love of God in several ways. One way in which God loves is with respect to his general providence over all that he has created. We read about this kind of love in the Sermon on the Mount. Jesus teaches that Christians should love their enemies. His reason? “For he (the Father) makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust” (Matthew 5:45). In other words, God loves his enemies in a general providential sense, and, therefore, we should do the same. So in this sense God loves the one who approves the practice of homosexuality. God provides for his temporal needs despite his rebellion against him. This is what makes the continued practice of sin so heinous. The practice of sin is the rejection of the love that God expresses to the sinner each and every moment. As God loves his enemies, being patient with them, giving them ample opportunity to repent, they continually reject him by suppressing the truth he has clearly revealed to them (cf. Rom. 1:18ff). This expression of God’s love only condemn sinners. It cannot save.

What about God’s love in a salvific sense? Is there any sense in which God salvifically loves those who practice sin? There is. God expresses his love to all sinners by inviting them to believe the gospel and be saved. This is where the Reformed distinction between the general and effectual calls becomes so important. God only extends his effectual call to his elect. But he extends his general call to all people without discrimination. All those who hear the proclamation of the gospel and receive the invitation to believe it are in fact receiving an expression of God’s love to them in a salvific sense. The offer of salvation in Jesus Christ is freely given and freely taken by any who would believe. As John 3:16 says, “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” Whoever hears that message is only a breath away from receiving eternal life in him (cf. Rom. 10:8). This is a genuine offer of salvation. Any who will believe will be saved. I can think of no better summary of this doctrine than WCF 15.1 and 4: “Repentance unto life is an evangelical grace, the doctrine whereof is to be preached by every minister of the gospel, as well as that of faith in Christ….As there is no sin so small, but it deserves damnation; so there is no sin so great, that it can bring damnation upon those who truly repent.” LC Q. 32 also asks, "How is the grace of God manifested in the second covenant?" And it answers in part: "The grace of God is manifested in the second covenant, in that he freely provides and offers to sinners a mediator, and life and salvation by him."

So a further answer we might give to the question “Does your God hate me?” (after we have explained the condemnation of the law) is to say “God also loves you. He expresses his love to you by providing for all your temporal needs each day. Moreover, he is loving you right now by offering you life and salvation if you would only repent and believe in Jesus Christ. 1 Cor. 6:11 goes on to say, ‘And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.’ This offer of cleansing is a free gift. Will you receive it?”

Does God hate those who approve of the practice of homosexuality? Yes and no. He hates them because of their sin against him, which ironically is a rejection of the love he freely gives. It is a personal offense against his greatness and goodness. But he also loves them in the sense that he provides for their temporal needs. And, when the gospel is proclaimed in their presence, he loves them by inviting them to receive the free gift of life and salvation through repentance and faith in Jesus Christ.

Now there is another, deeper, sense in which the Bible speaks of the love of God. We touched on this earlier when we distinguished God's effectual and general calls. God’s love is also expressed in his unconditionally choosing to save some out of the estate of sin and misery. This is what the Apostle teaches in Rom. 9:13 when he writes, “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.” We cannot know whether God has loved anyone in this sense until he has made a credible profession of faith. Thus a WRONG answer to the question, “Does your God hate me?” would be to say: “No. God loves you and he has a wonderful plan for your life. He sent his Son to live and die for you to provide a way for you to be saved.” We search the Scriptures in vain to find a single instance of the Apostles or their associates sharing the gospel in this way—and for good reason! It presumes a knowledge of that which is unknowable at the time (cf. Deut. 29:29). It may be true that God has a wonderful plan for that person’s life. It may be true that he sent his Son to live and die for that person, but we cannot know either of these things until the person has made a credible profession of faith. All we can know prior to such a profession is that salvation is freely offered to them in Christ if they will believe, and that free offer is an expression of God’s love for them. If they respond by truly repenting and believing in Jesus, then we will know that God has loved them in the sense that he has unconditionally elected them to be saved by the work of his Son. If he hasn’t loved them in THAT way, then they will persist in their rejection of the gospel, refusing to repent and believe in Jesus.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Judge Not Lest Ye Be Judged

Thus far in our series Engaging the Homosexual Movement we have looked at arguments/objections from nature and morality that are raised in favor of the normalization of the practice of homosexuality. The argument from nature might be phrased in terms of “This is just who I am” or, as we phrased it, “God made me this way.” We’ve learned that such an argument is fundamentally an appeal to the doctrine of creation, so we went back to Genesis 1 and 2 as well as other biblical texts and arrived at these answers:
  1. From the perspective of humanity’s creation as male and female: It’s not true that God made anyone homosexual. In God’s finished good creation there was no homosexuality. Therefore, it must be a result of humanity’s fall into the estate of sin and misery. It is an unnatural and sinful perversion of what God made, including you.
  2. From the perspective of the image of God and the one flesh union: It’s not true that God made anyone homosexual. The image of God in which humanity was created was expressed through the smaller husband and wife marriage community which was commanded to propagate a community of offspring. Homosexuality runs contrary to this expression. Therefore it must be part of the defacing of the image of God that occurred after the fall.
  3. From the perspective of God’s intended end for his creation: If homosexuality runs contrary to this end, then it cannot be true that God made anyone homosexual. By appealing to Eph. 5 and Rev. 19 we see that homosexuality denies this end in at least three ways: (1) It denies the headship of Christ over his church, both in the sense of his deity and his covenantal authority, (2) It denies the one-body union of Christ with his church, and (3) Because of (1) and (2) it denies Jesus’ ability to save sinners unto the renewal of the expression of the image of God in being fruitful and multiplying and filling the earth. 
The argument from morality might be phrased in terms of “Jesus never condemned it!” Last time we developed this answer to that argument: “No. Jesus did condemn it when he appealed to Gen. 2 in order to define God’s design for marriage and sexuality and when he spoke favorably of God’s destruction of Sodom. Besides these texts from Matthew, Mark, and Luke, we should also receive the rest of the Bible as God’s authoritative word. In numerous other places the Bible clearly condemns homosexuality as sin.”

In this lesson we’ll look at an objection from authority. This objection typically takes the form of Jesus’ teaching in his sermon on the mount. Matt. 7:1 and Luke 6:37 say in the KJV, “Judge not lest ye be judged.” This objection is essentially an appeal to authority. The basic idea is that no one has the right to judge anyone else’s behavior as good or bad. The reasons behind this objection vary. Some would say no one has the right to judge another because all people do bad things. This actually comes closest to what Jesus meant by “Judge not.” Others would say that no one has the right to judge another because such “religious” judgments are not based in fact but in personal, individual preferences. So what are we to make of such an objection?

We should begin with what Jesus actually meant by “Judge not.” Did he intend for this command to be taken in an absolute sense? In other words, did he mean to forbid all kinds of judging or a particular kind of judging? In John 7:24, Jesus teaches the crowd saying, “Judge not by appearances but judge with right judgment.” So in one passage he says, "Judge," and in another, "Judge not." What are we to make of this? If we believe that John’s gospel is just as authoritative as Matthew’s and Luke’s, we must conclude that Jesus’ command to “Judge not” cannot be meant in an absolute sense. Jesus must be forbidding a wrong kind of judgment. But what kind? Let’s look at Jesus’ teaching in context.

Luke 6:37-42: “‘Judge not, and you will not be judged; condemn not, and you will not be condemned; forgive, and you will be forgiven; give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you.’ He also told them a parable: ‘Can a blind man lead a blind man? Will they not both fall into a pit? A disciple is not above his teacher, but everyone when he is fully trained will be like his teacher. Why do you see the speck that is in your brother's eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, “Brother, let me take out the speck that is in your eye,” when you yourself do not see the log that is in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take out the speck that is in your brother's eye.”

Jesus is forbidding an ungracious judgmental attitude that would cause one to hypocritically "look down his nose" at others. He is rejecting any spirit that would exalt itself as morally superior to another based on one’s own supposed righteousness. This was the spirit imbibed by Jesus’ chief antagonists, the Pharisees. This is the unrighteous judgment he is forbidding. The Apostle Paul rightly judges this same kind of judgment in Rom. 2:1 which says, “Therefore you have no excuse, O man, every one of you who judges. For in passing judgment on another you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, practice the very same things.” Later he even uses the same illustration of spiritual blindness that Jesus uses in his sermon on the mount, writing in vv. 17-24, “But if you call yourself a Jew and rely on the law and boast in God and know his will and approve what is excellent, because you are instructed from the law; and if you are sure that you yourself are a guide to the blind, a light to those who are in darkness, an instructor of the foolish, a teacher of children, having in the law the embodiment of knowledge and truth—you then who teach others, do you not teach yourself? While you preach against stealing, do you steal? You who say that one must not commit adultery, do you commit adultery? You who abhor idols, do you rob temples? You who boast in the law dishonor God by breaking the law. For, as it is written, ‘The name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you.’”

If as Christians we ever hear the objection, “Judge not lest ye be judged,” we should first examine ourselves to make sure we are not approaching the subject in a self-righteous manner. To do so is to blaspheme God (i.e. the third commandment) by denying his law and gospel. It is a denial of the law in the sense that it requires one to exalt himself over the very law he purports to believe. If we are not judged and found guilty by the same law with which we judge, then we are not judging in a Christian manner. It is also a denial of the gospel. That person who judges in a self-righteous manner functionally rejects the need for the grace of God extended to him in Jesus Christ. Recently a popular politician was asked if he had ever asked God for forgiveness. He responded negatively, saying in effect that he had never done anything so bad that he felt he needed to be forgiven for it. That’s called self-righteousness. That’s what Jesus is forbidding in the sermon on the mount. Christian judgment is always soaked in grace and rendered NOT for the purpose of condemnation but repentance and reconciliation with God. In other words, the only legitimate manner in which a Christian should ever pass such a judgment is gently with grace and love. And the only reason for passing such a judgment is to call a person to repentance and reconciliation with God.

So how should we respond to the person who objects to the Christian teaching that homosexuality is sinful by saying, “Judge not lest ye be judged”? We should say we agree with Jesus. Jesus did not mean to forbid all kinds of judging. He meant to forbid a particular kind of unrighteous judging, namely self-righteousness. We should explain that the same law by which we judge homosexuality as sinful condemns us as well. We are not the authority. God is the authority. His word is our only infallible rule for such judgments. And we should share the good news of forgiveness, the imputation of righteousness, and the transformation into a new creation through faith in Jesus Christ.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Jesus Never Condemned It!

Thus far in our series "Engaging the Homosexual Movement" we have looked at the argument from nature or identity. This argument might be phrased in terms of “This is just who I am” or, as we phrased it, “God made me this way.” We learned that such an argument is fundamentally an appeal to the doctrine of creation, so we went back to Genesis 1 and 2 as well as other biblical texts and arrived at these conclusions:
  1. From the perspective of humanity’s creation as male and female we might answer: It’s not true that God made anyone homosexual. In God’s finished good creation there was no homosexuality. Therefore, it must be a result of humanity’s fall into the estate of sin and misery. It is an unnatural and sinful perversion of what God made, including you.
  2. From the perspective of the image of God and the one flesh union we might answer: It’s not true that God made anyone homosexual. The image of God in which humanity was created was expressed through the smaller husband and wife marriage community which was commanded to propagate a community of offspring. Homosexuality runs contrary to this expression. Therefore it must be part of the defacing of the image of God that occurred after the fall.
  3. From the perspective of God’s intended end for his creation we might answer: If homosexuality runs contrary to this end, then it cannot be true that God made anyone homosexual. By appealing to Eph. 5 and Rev. 19 we see that homosexuality denies this end in at least three ways: (1) It denies the headship of Christ over his church, both in the sense of his deity and his covenantal authority, (2) It denies the one-body union of Christ with his church, and (3) Because of (1) and (2) it denies Jesus’ ability to save sinners unto the renewal of the expression of the image of God in being fruitful and multiplying and filling the earth.
In this lesson we will look at another common objection raised in favor of the normalization of homosexuality. It is an argument from morality, which is typically phrased as “Jesus never condemned it.” First, we’ll look at what Jesus said about human sexuality. Second, we’ll evaluate the legitimacy of those who might attempt to pick and choose which texts of Scripture they will accept as authoritative. Third, we’ll look at what the Scriptures have to say about homosexuality.

First, what did Jesus say about homosexuality? Only one of Jesus’ teachings deals with marriage and sexuality directly. This teaching is found in Matt. 19:1-12 and Mark 10:1-12. It is occasioned by a question. The Pharisees, in order to test Jesus, ask him, “Is it lawful to divorce one’s wife for any cause?” In Matt. 19:4-6, he responds, “Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.” Mark 10:6-9 puts it like this: “From the beginning of creation, ‘God made them male and female.’ ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.” Jesus appeals to the creation account in Genesis. God instituted marriage in the beginning. It is a creation ordinance and the only proper context for human sexuality (i.e. an aspect of the one flesh union). And who are the proper subjects of such activity? Jesus is clear. “God made them male and female.” One man and one woman may be joined together in the bonds of marriage, not one man and another man or one woman and another woman or any other possible combination. The subjects of the God-ordained institution of marriage and sexuality are one man and one woman. It is understood that any other arrangement is contrary to God’s design and law and, therefore, sin.

Jesus addresses homosexuality in an indirect way on three other occasions. On each of these occasions he references God’s destruction of Sodom favorably. Now, as we saw in our first lesson, when we compare Gen. 19:5, Ezek. 16:49-50, and Lev. 18:22 we come away understanding that the particular sin associated with Sodom was homosexuality. (This is where we get the term “sodomy.”) In Matt. 10:14-15 Jesus instructs his Apostles before sending them out, saying, “And if anyone will not receive you or listen to your words, shake off the dust from your feet when you leave that house or town. Truly, I say to you, it will be more bearable on the day of judgment for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah than for that town.” In Matt. 11:24 and Luke 10:12, Jesus pronounces woes upon cities that reject him, saying, “But I tell you that it will be more tolerable on the day of judgment for the land of Sodom than for you.” In Luke 17:28-30 Jesus prophesies about his Second Coming, saying, “Likewise, just as it was in the days of Lot—they were eating and drinking, buying and selling, planting and building, but on the day when Lot went out from Sodom, fire and sulfur rained from heaven and destroyed them all—so will it be on the day when the Son of Man is revealed.” In all of these examples Jesus speaks favorably of God’s judgment against Sodom and compares it to the final judgment.

So, even if we limit our testimony to the words Jesus spoke at his First Coming we have ample evidence that he viewed homosexuality as sinful. But why limit ourselves in this way? Isn’t all Scripture, including the passages we’ve read from Matthew, Mark, and Luke, equally authoritative. Isn’t every word of the 66 books of the Old and New testaments the inspired word of God? Yes. Jesus himself clearly believed all 39 books of the OT were the inspired and authoritative word of God. And the same Spirit that inspired those texts inspired the Apostles and their associates to write the 27 books of the NT. When we look at all those texts we find many clear statements about the sin of homosexuality.

We’ve already mentioned the sin of Sodom as well as Lev. 18:22, which was part of Israel’s civil law under the Mosaic covenant. Besides these, the seventh commandment (Ex. 20; Deut. 5) assumes that the only righteous context for human sexuality is marriage between one man and one woman. And when we fast forward to the NT we find the same teaching in Rom. 1:26-27, which describes human depravity saying, “For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error.” 1 Cor. 6:9 also says, “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.” And Jude 7 says, “Just as Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding cities, which likewise indulged in sexual immorality and pursued unnatural desire, serve as an example by undergoing a punishment of eternal fire.” Finally, 1 Tim. 1:8-10a says, “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.” The biblical evidence for the sinfulness of homosexuality is clear and undeniable. One might claim otherwise, but he cannot have the Bible as his authority and claim otherwise.

Therefore, our answer to the objection “Jesus never condemned it” is, “No. Jesus did condemn it when he appealed to Gen. 2 in order to define God’s design for marriage and sexuality and when he spoke favorably of God’s destruction of Sodom. Besides these texts from Matthew, Mark, and Luke, we should also receive the rest of the Bible as God’s authoritative word. In numerous other places the Bible clearly condemns homosexuality as sin.”

Now it should be noted, as we'll see in the next few weeks, that this isn’t where our answer ultimately ends. There is hope for those who struggle with same-sex attraction in the gospel of Jesus Christ. As we’ve seen in 1 Cor. 6:9, God clearly condemns homosexuality, saying that those who practice it “will not inherit the kingdom of heaven.” However, in v. 11 he continues, “And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.”

Thursday, January 12, 2017

God Made Me This Way! (Part 2)

Last time we considered this objection from the perspective of God’s original created design under two headings: (1) “Man’s Creation Male and Female” and (2) “The Image of God and the One Flesh Union.” Under the first heading we concluded that the Bible’s answer to the objection “God made me this way!” is to say, “No, that’s not true. In God’s finished good creation there was no homosexuality. Therefore, it must be a result of humanity’s fall into the estate of sin and misery. It is an unnatural and sinful perversion of what God made, including you.” Under the second we concluded that the Bible’s answer is to say, “No, that’s not true. The image of God in which humanity was created was expressed through the smaller husband and wife marriage community which was commanded to propagate an increasing community of offspring. Homosexuality runs contrary to this expression. Therefore it must be part of the perversion of the image of God that occurred in the fall.”
        
In this lesson, rather than thinking about the objection from the perspective of protology (i.e. doctrine of first things), we’ll think about it from the perspective of eschatology (i.e. doctrine of last things). In the eternal decree of God there is a parallel relationship between first things and last things. As Jonathan Edwards taught in his masterpiece The End for Which God Created the World, whatever God aims to achieve must be his highest reason for creating. In other words, the creation as originally designed (i.e. protology) must have God’s end goal (i.e. eschatology) embedded within it. Thus the claim "This is just who I am!" or "God made me this way!" is more than simply an appeal to God’s original design for his creation. It’s also an appeal to his goal for it.

As we saw last time, God created man male and female after his own image, and the two were united together as one flesh in a marriage covenant as husband and wife. These were their God-given identities. After the fall God determined to send a redeemer. “The seed of the woman” would come to “crush the head of the serpent" (Gen. 3:15). This redeemer would serve as a second Adam (Rom. 5; 1 Cor. 15), undoing what the first Adam did and doing what he failed to do. But how would the elect receive these benefits? SC 30 asks, “How does the Spirit apply to us the redemption purchased by Christ? A. The Spirit applies to us the redemption purchased by Christ, by working faith in us, and thereby uniting us to Christ in our effectual calling.” The redemption we have is in Christ. It is ours through faith-union with him. And what is the nature of this union? LC 66 asks, “What is that union which the elect have with Christ? A. The union which the elect have with Christ is the work of God's grace, whereby they are spiritually and mystically, yet really and inseparably, joined to Christ as their head and husband; which is done in their effectual calling.” Our union with Christ is described as that of a wife to her husband.

Just as God originally created a wife for the first Adam, so he is creating a wife for the second. We read about the connection between marriage and God’s work of redemption in Eph. 5:22-33, “Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands. Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, because we are members of his body. ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.’ This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church.”

We see two defining characteristics of marriage in this text: (1) The husband’s headship over his wife, and (2) The one flesh (or body) union between one man and one woman. These characteristics of the marriage relationship between husband and wife correspond to Christ’s relationship to his church. Just as Adam was the head of his wife, so Christ is the head of his church, and just as Adam and Eve were joined together in a covenant bond as one flesh, so Christ and his church are joined together in a covenant bond as one body. It is through this relationship of headship and union that sinners are saved.

As we think about this analogy in terms of the renewal of the image of God, we might also say, just as the image of God was expressed in the smaller marriage community of Adam and Eve propagating an increasing community of offspring, so it is being renewed through the marriage community of Christ and his church, which is propagating an increasing community of offspring by making disciples of all nations. Christ, in union with his church, is working to fulfill the original goal of being fruitful, multiplying, filling, subduing, and having dominion over the earth. We read about the consummation of this renewal in Rev. 19:6-9. The text says, “Then I heard what seemed to be the voice of a great multitude, like the roar of many waters and like the sound of mighty peals of thunder, crying out, ‘Hallelujah! For the Lord our God the Almighty reigns. Let us rejoice and exult and give him the glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and his Bride has made herself ready; it was granted her to clothe herself with fine linen, bright and pure’— for the fine linen is the righteous deeds of the saints. And the angel said to me, ‘Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.’ And he said to me, ‘These are the true words of God.’” This is the final sanctifying act that Christ performs for his bride.

We may, therefore, evaluate homosexuality by testing its conformity to the headship and union that characterizes Christ's redemptive relationship with and goal for his church. When we overlay this biblical paradigm with the homosexual paradigm what do we see?

First, we see that homosexuality cannot achieve the headship that a husband should have relative to his wife, since homosexual partners can only be relational equals. This fails to conform to the analogy Paul draws to Christ’s headship over his church. That headship has two senses. First, as the Son of God, Christ is our natural head by virtue of his deity. The homosexual paradigm, therefore, effectively denies Jesus’ deity, which is blasphemy. Second, as the incarnate Mediator, Christ is our covenantal head. The homosexual paradigm, therefore, effectively denies Jesus’ covenantal authority over us. Both denials, paradigmatically speaking, deprive him of his ability to save, specifically with respect to his power, thus undermining the gospel.

Second, we see that homosexuality cannot achieve the one flesh union of husband and wife. Try as they may homosexual partners can only be two distinct individuals. This has massive implications for love. The Apostle clearly bases the love a husband should have for his wife on the fact that she is his body. While homosexual partners may love one another as individuals, they can never share the kind of love that is associated with the one flesh union. This fails to conform to the analogy Paul draws to Christ’s love for his church. Being unable to achieve the one flesh union, the homosexual paradigm effectively denies the same union between Christ and his church and therefore the basis of his love for her, viz. himself (she is his body). This, again, paradigmatically speaking, deprives Jesus of his ability to save, specifically with respect to his willingness (or love), thus undermining the gospel. 
Because the homosexual paradigm effectively denies Christ’s headship over and union with his church, it denies Jesus’ ability to save sinners both in terms of his power and willingness (or love), respectively. And because Jesus’ salvation of sinners is unto the renewal of the expression of the image of God in being fruitful, multiplying, filling, subduing, and having dominion over the earth, homosexuality also effectively denies this goal.

So, in answer to the objection, "God made me this way!” the Christian may also appeal to God’s goal for what he made. If homosexuality effectively denies that goal, then it cannot be true that God made anyone homosexual. Homosexuality effectively denies God’s goal for his creation by: (1) denying the headship of Christ over his church, both naturally and covenantally, thus depriving him of his power to save, (2) denying the one body union of Christ with his church, thus depriving him of his willingness (or love) to save. In other words, homosexuality effectively denies Jesus’ ability to renew the expression of the image of God in being fruitful, multiplying, filling, subduing, and having dominion over the earth.    

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

God Made Me This Way! (Part 1)

The Creation of Man and Woman
One of the most common beliefs put forward in the interest of the normalization of homosexuality has to do with nature or identity. We see this belief expressed whenever a proponent within the homosexual movement says, “This is just who I am!" How should Christians evaluate and answer such a belief?

First we need to understand that human identity is rooted in God’s work of creation. To say, “This is just who I am!" is the theological equivalent of saying, “God made me this way!” We must, therefore, begin with the biblical doctrine of creation when addressing such a belief.

When we look at the creation account in Genesis 1-2, what do we see? We don’t see God creating humanity as a self-identifying blank slate. We see him creating a man and a woman. He determines identity as he creates. Moreover, we don’t see God creating man for man or woman for woman. We see God creating one man and one woman for each other. When he finishes (2:1) his good (1:31) creation all the basic elements of human society are present but homosexuality is absent. Homosexuality doesn’t appear until after humanity’s fall into the estate of sin and misery.

The first explicit biblical reference to homosexuality is found in Gen. 19:5 as the men of the city of Sodom try to rape two angels who appear as men. This is why homosexuality is sometimes referred to as sodomy. Ezekiel 16:49-50 comments on Sodom’s sin, saying, “Behold, this was the guilt of your sister Sodom: she and her daughters had pride, excess of food, and prosperous ease, but did not aid the poor and needy. They were haughty and did an abomination before me. So I removed them, when I saw it.” The Hebrew word that is translated abomination, means “morally disgusting.” It’s the same word used to describe homosexuality in Lev. 18:22. That text says, “You shall not lie with a male as with a woman; it is an abomination.” Jude 7 describes Sodom's condemnation to that of hell saying, “And the angels who did not stay within their own position of authority, but left their proper dwelling, he has kept in eternal chains under gloomy darkness until the judgment of the great day—just as Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding cities, which likewise indulged in sexual immorality and pursued unnatural desire, serve as an example by undergoing a punishment of eternal fire.” The Bible describes homosexuality as sinful, unnatural, and deserving God's condemnation. Rather than conforming to God’s original good design for his creation, it is a result of the fall.   

One might object: “There’s no sex whatsoever prior to the fall. Does that mean heterosexual sex is bad too?” But this objection fails to account for the command of God in Gen. 1:28 to “be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth.” Such a command implies the conception of children. We see the same in Gen. 2:24, which says “Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.” The one flesh union includes sexual intercourse.

Therefore, our first answer to the objection, “God made me this way!” is to say: “No, that’s not true. In God’s finished good creation there was no homosexuality. In fact, the first explicit reference to homosexuality is condemned by God. Therefore, it must be a result of humanity’s fall into the estate of sin and misery. Homosexuality is a sinful and unnatural perversion of what God made, including you.”       

The Image of God and the One Flesh Union
One key aspect of the creation of humanity is the imago dei (i.e. the image of God). The image of God is what sets humanity apart from the beasts of the earth. It’s what makes us unique. Gen. 1:27 says, “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.” But what is this image?

The Apostle Paul teaches in Col. 3:10 and Eph. 4:24 that God is renewing the image of God in believers according to three different aspects. Col. 3:10 says, “And have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator.” Eph. 4:24 says, “And to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.” Therefore we confess in The Westminster Confession of Faith 4.2a, “After God had made all other creatures, he created man, male and female, with reasonable and immortal souls, endued with knowledge, righteousness, and true holiness, after his own image.” Interestingly, these three aspects of the image of God correspond to the three mediatorial offices of Christ. Knowledge corresponds to his prophetic office; holiness (1st table of the moral law) corresponds to his priestly office; righteousness (2nd table of the moral law) corresponds to his kingly office.

Reformed theologians have historically distinguished between two senses of the image of God. In a broad sense, it is simply the intellectual (i.e. knowledge) and moral (i.e. holiness and righteousness) faculties that make us human. Even after the fall humanity retained these faculties, although in a totally depraved condition. We see this sense of the image in Gen. 9:6. The text says, “Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed, for God made man in his own image.” This is what gives humanity, even in its fallen condition, dignity and worth.

In a narrow sense, however, the image is humanity's originally righteous condition, which was, of course, completely destroyed in the fall. Humanity is no longer characterized by original righteousness but by original sin. Rather than being innocent and pure, we are guilty and corrupt in our whole nature. This is the sense in which the Apostle speaks of the image as being renewed in Christians in Col. 3 and Eph. 4.

This image, while constituted within individuals, isn’t expressed through individualism. It is expressed in and through community. We see this in God's command to his image bearers in Gen. 1:28. The text says, “And God blessed them. And God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.’” Humanity was created to express the image of God by being fruitful, multiplying, filling, subduing and having dominion over the earth. Adam’s and Eve’s smaller marriage community was expected to propagate an increasing community of offspring. Only as two individual human beings of the opposite sex became one flesh could humanity properly express the image of God. Husband and wife, two individuals with two distinct bodies, were to function together as one body in the interest of further forming and filling God’s good creation. 
Because we see the image of God expressed in the beginning through the smaller husband and wife marriage community propagating an increasing community of offspring, and homosexuality runs contrary to this expression, we must conclude that it is contrary to the image of God narrowly considered.

Therefore, our second answer to the objection, “God made me this way!” is to say: “No, that’s not true. The image of God in which humanity was created was expressed through the smaller husband and wife marriage community which was commanded to propagate an increasing community of offspring. Homosexuality runs contrary to this expression. Therefore it must be part of the perversion of the image of God that occurred in the fall.”

Engaging the Homosexual Movement

Last Summer I taught a six-part Sunday school series at Neon Reformed entitled Engaging the Homosexual Movement. The class schedule was as follows:
  1. God Made Me This Way! (Part 1)
  2. God Made Me This Way! (Part 2)
  3. Jesus Never Condemned It!
  4. Judge Not Lest Ye Be Judged!
  5. Does Your God Hate Me?
  6. Do You Hate Me? 
In the interest of dusting off this old blog, I thought I might publish this and other short Sunday School series moving forward. Perhaps it will be a benefit to some.