If you haven’t read our most recent issue of Solid Ground (that I co-wrote with Greg), I encourage you to read it now. You need to understand a challenge the Church is facing and will continue to face in the foreseeable future. It will be tough for Christians who want to remain faithful to Christ and Scripture.
With the recent SCOTUS decision legalizing same-sex marriage, we will be increasingly living in a culture that is supportive of homosexuality. That will exert external pressure on Christians. We’ll also have internal pressure from Christians who want the Church to be gay-affirming. Given both of these forces, we’ll have our hands full. It will be tempting to want to compromise our convictions. We’ll need to stand firm and not conform to the pattern of this world (Romans 12:2).
Even if you’re not the least bit persuaded by The Reformation Project (TRP) and their revisionist interpretation, you might need to become familiar with the material Greg and I present because a believer you might know will need your help. If you don’t read it for yourself, read it so you can help them when and if they’re beguiled by TRP’s revisionist interpretation of Scripture.
Right now I’m working on Part II of this Solid Ground series, but in the meantime I want you to consider what TRP, the Gay Christian Network, and others like them think. They believe that Judaism and Christianity have, since their inception, been permissive of loving and consensual homosexual sex acts. In other words, they believe the Bible does condemn some homosexual acts, but only abusive or exploitive ones. It’s hard to imagine Moses, the prophets, Jesus, and the disciples all affirming some forms of homosexual behavior, but that’s TRP’s incredible view.
As Greg and I clarify in part I (and will again in part II) of this Solid Ground series, the Bible's prohibition of homosexual behavior is a categorical rejection of all male-male or female-female sex acts, not just abusive or exploitive ones.
Even the Jewish historian Josephus based his condemnation of homosexual intercourse on the Mosaic Law by stating, “The law recognizes only sexual intercourse that is according to nature, that which is with a woman…But it abhors the intercourse of males with males.”[i] Notice he mentions sex that is "according to nature," which is heterosexual, in contrast to that which is against nature (homosexual). There’s nothing here to narrow the type of sinful homosexual sex acts to merely exploitive forms.
Don’t get me started! There’s so much wrong with TRP’s assessment of the Bible and homosexuality, but I’ll save it for part II of Solid Ground that comes out in September. Be sure to keep it and part I together as a handy tool to see through TRP’s case.
[i]Against Apion 2.199 as cited in Robert Gagnon, Horizons in Biblical Theology, Vol. 25 (2003), 232.
Sometimes the best remedy for a moral/theological controversy is simply a good old-fashioned, down to earth, nothing buttery, search-the-Scriptures to-see-if-it’s-so, Bible study. Of course, because of ambiguities in the text, not every challenging, contentious biblical dispute can be settled this easily. Frequently, though, a careful, close look at the Scripture is all that’s required to resolve what might seem at first to be a difficult dispute.
That’s the approach Alan Shlemon and Greg Koukl take to respond to one of the most severe challenges to Christian orthodoxy the church faces today. The question: What does God really think about homosexuality? This isn't only a dispute over morality. It's a question of what God teaches us in the Bible and its authority over how Christians live and what we teach. Some Christians, such as Matthew Vines, suggest that the church has misunderstood the Bible's teaching on homosexuality for 2000 years. In this first part of a two-part series, Alan and Greg show how these claims are not what the Bible teaches.
I believe parents are responsible for their children’s spiritual training. Of course, pastors, youth leaders, and Sunday school teachers can help. But parents have to do most of the work. Frankly, that makes me nervous. I’m still going to try my best, though.
Last month, I took my son to the center of UCLA’s campus during an abortion protest and had him engage abortion-choice advocates that were twice his age. I know that sounds a little crazy, but I’m a firm believer in the principle of inoculation.
Inoculation against false ideas works similarly to the way we inoculate against a virus. To vaccinate against polio, for example, you ingest an attenuated (weakened, but alive) virus. Your immune system responds by producing antibodies, killer cells that seek and destroy the virus. That way, when your body is exposed to polio in the real world, your immune system isn’t caught off guard. It neutralizes the threat with its army of antibodies.
Inoculating young believers against a false idea works the same way. You teach them the errant view, why people believe it, and what’s wrong with those reasons. That way, when they come across someone who holds the view, they’re not surprised by the person’s arguments. The young believer easily recognizes their reasoning and is ready to respond.
That’s what I did when I found out former Stand to Reason speaker (and my good friend) Steve Wagner was bringing the Justice for All exhibit to UCLA. Their ministry uses graphic images of abortion to spark conversations about abortion on university campuses. In anticipation of their arrival, I spent three days teaching my son the basics of embryology, some arguments for abortion, and a few pro-life tactics of persuasion. Then, I role-played an abortion-choice advocate to get him familiar with how the material is applied in conversations.
After he was comfortable arguing with me, I asked my wife to make a case for abortion to him. That way, he was exposed to a different person’s thinking. He struggled a little because she thinks and responds differently than I do. I gave him feedback on his performance, and we prepared for the next stage.
Justice for All provided an all-day training for pro-lifers who wanted to become better equipped or were planning on attending the campus protest. I took him so he’d learn pro-life training from different people. This would solidify material he was familiar with, provide nuances to training he knew, and expose him to new arguments. More importantly, he got to role-play with strangers (both students and adults) who thought even more differently than my wife.
Field training was next. Our two-hour road trip to UCLA gave us time to reflect on his training and pray for the upcoming hostile encounters with real people who would disagree with him.
My son’s first encounter with an abortion-choice advocate occurred while he stood next to Steve during a conversation. Although he got to mostly see Steve model the pro-life tactics he learned days before, he also contributed a little to the conversation. His second encounter was with me. My son saw a college student nearby and, without any prompting, approached him and started talking to him. I stayed completely out of the conversation, allowing my son to wrestle with the man’s arguments and formulate responses.
After a few conversations, his confidence increased. While I was talking to a couple of other students, I heard some girls laughing behind me. I turned around and noticed my son who, on his own, had started talking to two abortion-choice advocates. They were disagreeing with him, but having fun in the process. He had about a dozen conversations that day.
To be honest, I was a little skeptical he’d be able to traffic with college-aged students, but he handled himself nicely. He was able to identify tangents and prompt the abortion-choice advocate to focus on the question of whether the unborn was human (which is what he was taught to do).
The process of inoculating against an idea is a progression. For my son, I taught him content first. Then, I had him role-play with me, my wife, and strangers who were pro-life. Then, he watched experienced pro-lifers model the tactics with people who disagree. Finally, he engaged abortion-choice advocates himself. I gave him feedback at every step and helped him process every encounter.
I’m not saying every parent needs to do the same thing with their 10-year-old. I’m not even saying at what age they should start or with what topic. My point is to give you an example of inoculation. Parents (AKA youth leaders) can apply the same principle with other ideas their kids will encounter.
I’ve made a video explaining a similar point about inoculation. Also, I recommend these quick-reference guides (here, here, and here) as good starting places to become familiar with opposing ideas. Plus, they're only one page (double-sided), and so they're very accessible.
I recently posted a video answering a challenge: When did you choose your heterosexuality? Someone asked a follow-up question, and I thought I’d share my response.
Here’s the question:
I listened to Alan's challenge about not choosing to be heterosexual. What my question is. Romans 1 says that people who reject God will burn in their lust for the same sex. I don't understand Alan's response. He said that same sex attraction comes from early experiences from age 1 to 5. Children at that age can't reject God because they haven't reached the age of accountability.
So my question is, does same sex attraction come from a bad experience in early childhood, or does it come as punishment for rejecting God as Paul says in Romans?
Below was my response:
Your question is a good one. I agree with you that my answer sounds confusing in light of Romans 1. That’s my fault. Let me clarify.
In my attempt to explain the causes of same-sex attraction, I did not intend to negate the impact of sin in the world or our sin nature. The world is fallen, we are sinful, and that contributes to a huge amount of the sin we commit. Furthermore, Romans 1 tells us that homosexuality is evidence of man’s deep-seated rebellion against God and how he ordered creation (specifically humans) to function.
Now, I wouldn’t say as you have that “people who reject God will burn in their lust for the same sex,” since not every person who rejects God is a homosexual. Rather, sexual desire for the same sex is one possible symptom of rebellion towards God. But you are otherwise correct about the importance of Romans 1 in our understanding of homosexual activity that Paul observed.
Let me add an additional qualification to the video. I often answer the question of what causes same-sex attraction from both a biblical (special revelation) and scientific (general revelation) perspective. Usually, in a teaching environment, I have more time to address the challenge, but these videos are intended to be under five minutes. That’s why I left out the biblical answer. Plus, I was answering the question with the non-Christian skeptic in mind. Since such a person would not consider biblical information as authoritative, I only gave an answer based on secular research.
The secular explanation that I offered, by the way, is only one known pathway towards same-sex attraction. I believe it’s the most common, but it’s certainly not the only one. If you want more detail about developmental pathway in childhood that can contribute to same-sex attraction, I encourage you to check out my short book The Ambassador’s Guide to Understanding Homosexuality that explains it. Or, for an abridged (and free) explanation, check out my article “Homosexuality: Nature or Nurture” (that I co-wrote with Greg Koukl) discussing one cause of same-sex attraction.
Anyway, thanks for asking your question and allowing me to clarify and explain myself.