Let's get it right!
The Loss of God's "Kingdom Marker"
The issue of homosexuality has become very divisive, not just for main-line churches - for which a literal hermeneutic is not normally embraced - but for evangelicals as well. And here's the problem: though most serious evangelicals are able to cite verses that clearly proscribe homosexuality, they're unable to explain the reasoning that lies behind those verses. And that puts evangelicals behind the eight-ball whenever they're called upon to debate the issue "Why is homosexuality condemned?" They're unable to provide an adequate answer - and, consequently, they're left looking witless, vapid, and insensitive.
Over the course of the next several weeks, I will be examining why scripture proscribes homosexuality. Basically, it boils down to two fundamental truths - the first of which we'll take up in this newsletter, with the second put off until the next newsletter.
Let me take you back to Genesis - back before the Garden of Eden - back to the mind of God in Genesis 1:26-28.
Then God said, Let us make man in our image, according to our likeness; let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth. So God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. Then God blessed them, and God said to them, be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it. ~ Genesis 1:26-28
Here we have the creation of man - beginning in the mind of God. And there are several items I want you to carefully notice. The first item I want you to take note of is the word "image." Do you see it there in your Bibles? It's a word that's not too well understood by most Christians. When we hear the phrase "made in the image of God," we think only of "likeness" - that we bear God's likeness. And that's true up to a point. But it misses altogether the meaning of Genesis 1:26-28.
We're living in a war zone
In the ancient Middle East, a king would often erect images of himself along the borders of his kingdom. Those images marked the limits of his realm. That's the truth that forms the backdrop against which the story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego is told in the Book of Daniel. Nebuchadnezzar had erected an image of himself to mark the extent of his absolute sovereignty. Nebuchadnezzar's sin did not consist in erecting the image; that was common practice; it's that he required his image to be worshipped. That was his sin.
An image, then, is a kingdom marker. It delineates the borders of a ruler's kingdom. So when Genesis 1:26-28 tells us that man was created in the image of God, it's telling us that man is God's "kingdom marker" - marking out the borders of God's realm and proclaiming his dominion over it.
In short, when God made man in his image and put him on earth, he was, in effect, proclaiming his intention to extend the sway of his kingdom to earth - or, more accurately, he was proclaiming his intention to reclaim earth from Satan, his rebellious vicegerent. Does that surprise you?
Have you ever wondered about the wording of the Lord's Prayer? Turn with me to Luke 11:2.
Look closely at what's being said here. "May your kingdom come (on earth)." It clearly implies that at present the earth falls outside the scope of God's kingdom - or, at the very least, God's dominion over the earth is being contested. Isn't that right?
Now take a close look at the next phrase: "May your will be done on earth." Likewise, what we have here clearly implies that at present God's will is not being honored on the earth. Isn't that right? Earth, then, is a war zone - with God and the devil at odds over who controls it.
The next items I want you to take note of in Genesis 1:26-28 are the words "dominion" and "subdue." In short, mankind is being charged here in Genesis 1:26-28 with the responsibility of subjugating the earth and establishing God's dominion over it. In other words, man is not simply a passive kingdom marker, he's expected to wage war - he's being told here ...
... to expect fierce resistance and to overcome it - to subdue it. In short, it's not just that we live in a war zone, which is bad enough, it's that we're combatants in that war zone. That's our very raison d'être.
Man is two-dimensional
Finally, the last item I want you to take note of is that man is two dimensional. He's not just male; he's male and female. Look closely at verse 27:
... so God created man in his own image; in the image of God he created him; male and female.
Do you see that? Man is male and female.
It takes both sexes to comprise man. Neither sex alone is sufficient.
Herein lies the reason homosexuality is so forcefully and so clearly proscribed throughout scripture. Man exists only in the union of both sexes. In the absence of that union, man, in a sense, doesn't really exist - meaning God has lost his kingdom marker.
The devil knows that man is God's agent of conquest - that man is God's kingdom marker. Furthermore, he knows that man exists only in the union between male and female. So, he has concocted a strategy to destroy man. And it consists of two parts:
In both cases, the union between man and woman is overthrown ...
Listen to me carefully here. It wasn't Adam who threatened the devil in the Garden of Eden; nor was it Eve. It was Adam and Eve. And so it is today. It's not men who threaten the devil; nor is it women: it's the union between man and woman - which is institutionalized in the rite of marriage and sanctified there.
Same sex marriage?
It's a very simple, straightforward truth that we've outlined here! Very little intellectual acumen is needed to grasp it. Why, then, are so few evangelicals able to explain it? Why, then, are so many evangelicals buying into same-sex marriage? Let me be just as blunt as possible. It's because evangelical leaders are not ministering the truth about homosexuality ...
Whatever the case may be, evangelicals are not being well served by their leaders - causing many rank and file evangelicals to inadvertently buy into the devil's strategy to destroy mankind. How sad! It's time for leading seminarians, scholars, and acknowledged theologians to stop nuancing their criticism - especially of the likes of Rob Bell and Brian McLaren. To, instead, be plain-spoken, candid, and brutal! Too much is at stake! It's a matter of the blind leading the blind - and if we allow it to continue, we'll all fall into a ditch.
Let's get it right!
Cast Adrift in a Sea of Cosmic Meaninglessness
Telos and the Meaning of Holiness
The Pentateuch, especially Genesis and Leviticus, defines holiness quite differently from what we've grown accustomed to expect. We tend to define holiness along two lines of thought ...
First Line of Thought
It's an attribute - an attribute we acquire when we're regenerated - an attribute that makes possible fellowship with God. Ordinarily, we're at a loss to take it any further - meaning we can't quite define what it specifically consists of - except to blurt out the word "godliness" - without defining what that means. Rarely, a well trained and perspicacious student of theology will point to Galatians 5:22-23 ...
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.
... explaining that holiness consists of the "fruit of the Spirit." Why? Because the phrase "against such there is no law" is meant to indicate that the Law, which reflects God's holiness, can find no basis for condemning a man whose life displays the fruit of the Spirit.
Second Line of Thought
Occasionally, holiness is defined less as a concrete attribute and more as an absence - specifically, an absence of sin - without bothering to define exactly what constitutes sin.
And, certainly, there's a modicum of truth in both definitions. But the Pentateuch defines holiness along a differnt line of thought - in a way that catches contemporary Christians off guard - that seems a bit strange and unsettling. That's because the Pentateuch defines holiness teleologically. (For a thorough discussion of premodern teleology, read Commentary on the Book of Romans, Vol. I. Press the book over to purchase) . For Moses, the author of the Pentateuch, holiness consists of living out the telos (i.e., the design) God has sovereignly ordained for every phenomenon that comprises existence; and, correspondingly, sin consists of violating that telos - of overstepping the bounds it defines. Leviticus 19:19 is a good example ...
You shall keep my statutes. You shall not let your cattle gender with a diverse kind: you shall not sow your field with mingled seed: neither shall a garment mingled of linen and wool come upon you.
God's statutes are ultimately meant to safeguard the design he has ordained for all creation - which means keeping separate and distinct the various "teloi" (i.e., designs, plans, goals) that comprise existence. That's holiness. Sin, on the other hand and at bottom, consists of a disregard for that design - a disregard that assumes the form of "mingling" - in this case ...
Sin and Confusion
Mingling leads to confusion - and confusion is contrary to holiness. Leviticus 18:23 and Leviticus 20:12 are both good examples ...
Neither shall you lie with any beast to defile yourself therewith: neither shall any woman stand before a beast to lie down thereto: it is confusion.
And if a man lie with his daughter in law, both of them shall surely be put to death: they have wrought confusion ...
It's this very rationale that underlies the prohibition against cross-dressing ...
A woman shall not wear what pertains to a man, neither shall a man put on a woman's garment; for whosoever does these things is an abomination unto Jehovah your God.
Mingling and confusion - a refusal to honor the unique differences God has assigned men in contrast to women and women in contrast to men - differences grounded in the separate and distinct teloi God has ordained for each!
Prohibition against homosexuality
The prohibition against homosexuality is grounded here as well. A man's physical sexuality finds its consummation in a woman, not another man. That specific expectation is integrated into the telos God has assigned him. Likewise, a woman's physical sexuality finds its consummation in a man, not another women. Put a little differently: God has designed men sexually for women and, likewise, women are designed sexually for men. Homosexuality is, therefore, contrary to God's design - and reflects a high-handed disregard of God's sovereignty. It leads to confusion and, hence, is contrary to holiness.
Sin, then, finds its roots in confusion - which occurs whenever the distinction that contrasts one telos from another is either overlooked or intentionally breached.
Jude 6 is another example of a sin clearly grounded in a high-handed disregard of telos.
And the angels which kept not their first estate, but left their own habitation, he has reserved in everlasting chains under darkness unto the judgment of the great day.
Here we have angels who overstepped the bounds God had set for them - who contemptuously violated the telos - the "estate," the "habitation" - he had assigned them. It's quite likely that these are the very angels Moses had in mind when he penned Genesis 6 ...
And it came to pass, when men began to multiply on the face of the ground, and daughters were born unto them, that the sons of God (angels) saw the daughters of men that they were fair; and they took them wives of all that they chose.
Angels transgressing the teleological distinction between themselves and mankind - "leaving their first estate" - and procreating with the "daughters of men" - a sin so abominable that it led to the Flood! Mingling and confusion on a grand scale! A blatant, rebellious disregard for the separate telos he had assigned angels in contrast to mankind - a failure to honor the unique status he had ordained for them in the created order.
Another Enigmatic Passage
This principle is the rationale underlying other enigmatic passages as well - for example, 1 Corinthians 11:3-15 - the whole question of "head coverings" ...
1 Corinthians 11:3-15
Once again, the issue here is telos - which is why the meaning of 1 Corinthians 11:3-15 is so puzzling for most Christians - never having been attuned to the significance of telos and, consequently, unable conform their thinking to Paul's. What Paul is doing here is really quite straightforward and wholly in keeping with the cultural mindset that was predominant at the time of Jesus: he's insisting on maintaining the distinction between men and women - knowing that a violation of that distinction leads to confusion and, hence, to sin.
Some commentators make authority the issue here; but authority is only a secondary issue. Others make the complementary nature of men and women the issue here - and, indeed, Paul is careful to underscore that truth; but it too is a secondary issue - and, like authority, is relevant only because a man and woman's complementary nature is imbedded in their respective "teloi."
Telos (i.e., God's sovereign design of creation) is the foundational principle underlying existence. It's a principle spelled out and highlighted in the very first chapter of Genesis, for example Genesis 1:11 and Genesis 1:21 ...
And God said, Let the earth bring forth grass, the herb yielding seed, and the fruit tree yielding fruit after his kind, whose seed is in itself, upon the earth: and it was so.
And God created great whales, and every living creature that moves, which the waters brought forth abundantly, after their kind, and every winged fowl after his kind: and God saw that it was good.
The word "seed" in verse 11 does not depict merely a mechanism for reproduction; it's a short-hand expression for "telos." Each fruit tree, each herb has been assigned a specific telos and is designed to reproduce that telos in its offspring. Honoring that principle lies at the very heart of holiness - which is the sense conveyed in the phrase "and God saw that it was good."
Throughout Genesis Chapter One, creation is depicted as an on-going process of separation and distinction - a process that begins with Genesis 1:3 ...
And God said, Let there be light: and there was light. And God saw the light, that it was good: and God divided the light from the darkness.
... and continues with Genesis 1:6-7 ...
And God said, Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it divide the waters from the waters. And God made the firmament, and divided the waters which were under the firmament from the waters which were above the firmament: and it was so.
... until its climax is reached at the end of Genesis One. In short, creation is built around the principle of separation and distinction - which God calls "good" (e.g., Genesis 1:10, 12, 18, etc.) - and which, therefore, defines holiness.
That brings us to the word "destruction" in 2 Thessalonians 1:7-9 ...
... when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels, In flaming fire taking vengeance on them who know not God, and who obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ: Who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power ...
2 Thessalonians 1:7-9
The word "destruction" in verse 9 does not mean "annihilation." Both the word itself (ὄλεθρος) and its context tell otherwise. Anyone who undergoes destruction is ruined - meaning he is eternally kept from living out the telos that defines him at the core of his being.
Homosexuality, then, is all about destruction: it threatens to leave the men and women who fall victim to it, including those who condone it, without significance and purpose - adrift in a sea of cosmic meaninglessness - a kind of hell they've willingly given themselves over to.
Once again, it's not an an explanation that requires a great deal of intellectual acumen. It could easily be grasped if evangelical leaders would simply teach it. But, sad to say, it's not being widely taught; instead rank and file evangelicals have been left with little more than the option of citing a few proof-text verses - an option that in the long run leaves them vulnerable to capitulation - a trend that's already well underway. Rank and file evangelicals would, I believe, contend vigorously for the Biblical prohibition against homosexuality if their leaders would do what they're supposed to do: equip them.
Let's Get It Right!
The Rage Driving the Homosexual Agenda
The First Article
My first article explained that God has commissioned "man" to subjugate the earth - to reclaim it from Satan's control - Satan, God's rebellious vicegerent. Man, however, is a union of both sexes; neither sex alone comprises man. Homosexuality, therefore, destroys "man" and, in doing so, prolongs Satan's rebellion.
The Second Article
My second article pointed out that the Bible defines holiness "teleologically," meaning holiness consists of living out the telos (i.e., the design, the plan, the purpose) God has sovereignly ordained for every creature - including man; and, correspondingly, sin consists of violating that telos - of overstepping the bounds it defines. What follows is obvious: teleologically, a man's sexuality finds its consummation in a woman, not another man. And, correspondingly, a woman's sexuality finds its consummation in a man, not another woman. Homosexuality, therefore, is contrary to holiness and reflects a highhanded disregard of God's sovereignty. Homosexuality "ruins" man and strips him of his significance, leaving him adrift in a sea of cosmic meaninglessness.
Homosexuality and the Rage It Prompts
Here in this my third article on homosexuality, I will be examining what exactly prompts the rage that drives the homosexual agenda - the desperation that gives rise to it.
We start with the bone-chilling verses found toward the end of Romans Chapter One - extending from Romans 1:24 to Romans 1:32. Here in this highly charged passage of scripture, Paul is explaining the inevitable consequence of suppressing the truth in unrighteousness - what inevitably follows from that ...
Therefore God also gave them over to uncleanness, in the lusts of their hearts, to dishonor their bodies among themselves
This is a judicial ruling on God's part. It's the first of three "giving overs." The others are found in verses 26 and 28. Each one is a punishment - not merely a consequence of sin, but an actual punishment for sin. Verse 27 makes this point especially clear.
Hebrews 11:25 acknowledges that there's "pleasure in sin for a season." But here Paul makes it plain that eventually the sin we find so exhilarating, so titillating - that very sin becomes wormwood and gall. Sin is like a baited trap; the bait lures us into a trap - which eventually snaps shut - catching us in a prison of anguish and misery.
The first "giving over" is to ("εἰς" - see footnote #1) "impurity" - primarily sexual impurity, which is what the Greek word "ακαθαρσια" implies. Impurity arises from the "lusts of the heart" ("ἐπιθυμίαις τwν καρδιwν αὐτwν"), which are ordinarily held in check by God's grace. But here God withdraws his grace (the judicial act of "giving over"), and the lusts are left uncontrolled and unchecked. The end result is "impurity" - which is often linked to the word "greed" ("πλεονεξια"), which denotes a terrifying state of emptiness - a condition that drives its victims relentlessly; and the more that's gained, the greater the sense of emptiness and the sharper the pangs it arouses. There's never any rest - never any sense of satisfaction - only a momentary reprieve - a kind of catharsis - followed invariably by another cycle of frenzied sinfulness - more gripping than before. Impurity is far more than a particular lust; it's an inordinate craving, a mind-numbing addiction that paralyzes the mind and will.
Think about what it means to be "given over." Clearly, it implies domination and bondage. We're made the prisoners of sin. What we have here, then, is a "compulsion" - usually a sexual compulsion, which, once again, is what the Greek word "ακαθαρσια" clearly suggests.
The next verse, Romans 1:25, is transitional - leading to verses 26 and 27 ...
... who exchanged the truth of God for the lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen.
Sexual impurity almost always gives rise to idolatry Why? The dynamic is simple and rather straightforward ...
That's why fornication and idolatry are so closely linked throughout the Bible - why one leads almost inevitably to the other: profanity cannot be contained; profanity at one level spills over to all levels: fornication almost always leads to idolatry.
It's this very insight that underlay Balaam's advice to Balak, King of Moab. Balaam knew if Israel could be seduced into committing fornication with the women of Moab that would inevitably prompt Israel to commit idolatry; and it did.
Romans 1:26-27 - Homosexuality
For this reason God gave them over to vile (ἀτιμίας - dishonoring) passions. For even their women exchanged the natural use for what is against nature. Likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust for one another, men with men committing what is shameful, and receiving in themselves the penalty of their error which was due.
Idolatry prompts the second of God's judgments: men and women are given over to "dishonoring passions." The Greek words are "πάθη ἀτιμίας." "ἀτιμίας" means "absence of honor." Here another line is crossed along the descent into human depravity. It's not merely that nature is pushed to its limits (e.g., gluttony, heterosexual excesses and impurities, etc.); it's that nature ("φυσιν" - "nature") is violated ("παρα φυσιν" - "against nature"); e.g., homosexuality, bestiality, pedophilia, etc). Such sins are "πάθη ἀτιμίας" - meaning by their vary nature, they dishonor, humiliate, and disgrace the person afflicted.
ἀτιμίας - No Dignity - No Respect
What do "gay activists" most desperately want? Is it what they claim it is - tolerance? No! It's respect. It's dignity. Their insistence on tolerance is secondary - meant only to establish the groundwork for attaining their primary objective - respect. Think about it. What's the name of one their most prominent organization? It's Dignity. That speaks volumnes, doesn't it? Dignity is exactly what their sin has stripped them of - and it's what they're trying so frantically to recover. But it can only be recovered if somehow homosexual behavior can be clothed in legitimacy - thereby expunging its stigma, its shame. And that's exactly what Christians won't do - their faith stands in the way. Yes, tolerance and civility can be extended - a willingness to live side by side with homosexuals - in the same neighborhood - on the same job. But to legitimize their behavior? No! Legitimacy can never be conferred. And therein lies the dynamic that gives rise to homosexual rage. Legitimacy is the "sine qua non" of respect and dignity - its necessary prerequisite; and Christians stand in their way of achieving that. And the rage will only get worse - with the secular elites lending their support to that rage.
We will continue beyond Romans 1:27, to the third judgment, a debased humanity, for the purpose of establishing context. The topic of homosexuality raised here in verses 26-27 does not stand alone. It's part of a continuum - and to tear it from that continuum leads to misunderstanding.
And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a debased mind, to do those things which are not fitting ...
Finally, the mind itself ("νοuς") is "given over." This is the third "giving over" - the third judgment. There's more at issue here than the translation suggests. The kind of behavior that's being described here does not "fit" humanity ("μὴ καθήκοντα"). Why? Because man is fundamentally - meaning essentially - a moral being - (see footnote #2); and, therefore, his rejection of all moral constraints leaves him less than human. What he has made of himself is completely at odds with God's intention. He no longer bears the image of God - the "imago dei" that makes him human.
Once again, it should be carefully noted that the Greek word "νοuς" is not exactly synonymous with the English word "mind." For the Greeks, the mind was not just the intellectual dimension of man's self; it was also the seat of moral integrity and spiritual perception. Indeed, it more closely corresponds to what the Keswick pietists called "the human spirit." Here - at this third level - a person's total intellectual, moral, and spiritual identity is lost. He is left with a "depraved humanity" - an "ἀδόκιμος νοuς" - a "humanity that doesn't measure up" - a psyche that can hardly be called "human" - wholly indifferent to shame and dishonor - incapable of even a modicum of genuine empathy. These kinds of individuals are the Ted Bundys and Joseph Mengelers of the world. They're what psychologists call "sociopaths."
The descent into human depravity corresponds to the following pattern: we begin with lusts held in check by God's grace; then, because the truth is suppressed, the heart is darkened, meaning the conscience barely registers sin: it prompts only a weakened sense of disgust and moral revulsion. That prompts a series of three judgments extending from verse 24 all the way through to verse 31.
At each of the three descending levels, the person undergoing judgment suffers a profound loss - meant both to bring him to his senses and to display the horrifying consequences that result from turning away from God - from suppressing the truth.
Verses 29 - 32 provide a horrifying description of persons who have been given over to a "debased mind" - a psyche devoid of basic human decency - persons hardly worth calling human. It's almost a carbon copy of Paul's description of the Last Days Generation found in 2 Timothy 3:1-5.
2 Timothy 3:1-5
Romans 1:32 tells us that the persons described in verses 29-31 make no excuses for their sinfulness - they make no attempt to hide it; in fact, they not only sin themselves, but actually endorse and then go on to encourage the sinfulness of others. That's the extent to which their rebellion has carried them. They willfully resist any kind of moral constraints - no doubt clothing their defiance in righteous indignation - claiming ...
A Word of Caution:
We shouldn't conclude that any of the three "giving overs" is irremediable. 1 Corinthians 6:9-11 proves otherwise ...
1 Corinthians 1:6:9-11
In other words, many of the redeemed are drawn from the same cesspool Paul describes here in Romans 1:29-31.
The On-Going Mercy of God
It's hard to be dogmatic about the passage of scripture we've been examining - beginning with 18b and extending through 32; but there's evidently a pattern here that Paul is sketching out ...
Who is a God like unto thee, that pardoneth iniquity, and passeth by the transgression of the remnant of his heritage? he retaineth not his anger for ever, because he delighteth in mercy.
No different from what's required of any of the rest of us
My e-mail box has been filled with responses to the three articles I published on homosexuality. Most have been quite positive - thanking me for explaining why both the Old and the New Testaments proscribe homosexuality.
On the other hand, some have been harshly critical, even defamatory - accusing me of being uncaring, insensitive, and, above all, "unchristian." In not a single case, however, was the underlying substance of my arguments attacked; just the conclusions - and always on emotional grounds.
I have been left wondering, "How has it come to this? How is it possible that the prohibition against homosexuality - universally embraced by past generations of evangelicals - has become so problematic among many of today's evangelicals - and not just a few?"
Actually, it's quite simple: what we have today is an untaught generation of believers - mostly younger believers, but some adults as well. How can the gospel message be preached without mentioning sin - and then without reproving it?
The Samaritan Woman
Jesus and the Samaritan Woman in John 4:1-40! There is no gospel narrative more revealing and more sublimely beautiful than this! Jesus witnessing to a despised Samaritan the love of God - but not without mentioning her sin.
Jesus said to her, "You have well said, 'I have no husband,' for you have had five husbands, and the one whom you now have is not your husband; in that you spoke truly.
It's only after bringing up her sin that she can see Jesus as Savior - it's only then that his identity is disclosed to her - that he is the Messiah sent to save her from the penalty and power of sin. Such a simple truth!
And it's the same for homosexuals. No difference. Excusing the sin of homosexuality - playing down its evil - keeps homosexuals from seeing their need for a Savior; it keeps Christ's true identity from being revealed to them. How can a Christian claim he loves homosexuals while at the same time casting a shroud over Jesus' identity - which, once again, is exactly what's done when the evil of homosexuality is ignored or played down?
The woman caught in adultery - brought before Jesus in John 8:3-11! Here a woman is brought before Jesus, who is then asked to affirm a sentence of death pronounced against her. Jesus replies, "Let those without sin cast the first stones." Ashamed, they slink away without stoning her. Jesus then forgives her, but not without warning her, "Go, and sin no more."
"Go and sin no more" - exactly what the Bible calls upon us to tell homosexuals.
I've said it before: this is not a difficult issue. What it requires is not intellectual acumen, it's courage and a willingness to read what the Bible teaches without spinning the truths revealed there.