Thursday, June 16, 2011

Homosexuality, Biblical Interpretation and the Christian Mind

As I noted in my last post, the moral and theological clarity of the Roman Catholic Church on the issue of homosexuality, as in the case of the formidable Archbishop Timothy Dolan of New York, is commendable. Unfortunately, the Protestant trumpet blows with a rather uncertain sound.

Evangelicals, for the most part, are standing firm on Scripture, but have failed to reflect theologically on the doctrine of human nature. As a result, the secular disciplines of psychology and sociology often exert more influence on Evangelicals' understanding of human nature, including sexuality, than Scripture, Tradition or systematic theology. This is a worrisome fact for the future of Evangelical faithfulness.

But if Evangelicals have a weak understanding of human nature, Liberal Protestants have completely abandoned the Christian doctrine of the human person and embraced a heretical tradition stemming from Rousseau, Marx, and Dewey, which views humans through the mechanical philosophy of Bacon, Newton, Kant and Nietzsche.

In Modernity, human nature is conceptualized dualistically as matter plus spirit. Matter is seen as completely under the control of blind, mechanistic, natural forces, while spirit is the realm of freedom. However, many moderns are not convinced that the human soul is anything more than myth. Those who do believe in the soul tend to reduce it to matter in various ways.

As a result of this kind of dualism (which is very different from the dualism of orthodox Christianity), Modernity is fundamentally confused about human nature, ethics and natural law. Modern dualism posits an agonistic conflict between the realm of freedom (spirit) and the realm of necessity (matter). They are related in a mysterious and tragic manner. But Christian dualism views the realms of freedom and necessity as intimately and harmoniously related to each other and the dissonance (perceived in both Modernity and Christianity) is caused, not by agonistic metaphysical mystery, but by sin. So the fundamental conflict in Christian anthropology is not between nature and freedom, but between the obedient and joyful will and the bent and destructive will (i.e. between love and sinful rebellion).

For Moderns, the assertion of will is not the natural function of the human being in the service of joyful obedience to the law, but essentially rebellion against nature. For Modernity, nature is incoherent chaos, not creation. Modernity seeks to rebel against nature in the name of humanism and thereby feels itself to be both noble and anti-Christian simultaneously for it cannot understand how or why Christianity can be so peacefully accepting of God's creation as revelatory of the plan of the Loving Creator. For Modernity, nature is to be feared, tamed and ultimately overcome. For Christianity, on the other hand, love brings nature and human freedom into harmony.

Liberal Protestantism has completely embraced the Modern understanding of human nature, God and creation. Therefore, it is no longer Christian. We have moved beyond differences of understanding of one theological reality into the realm of the denial of the Creed itself. While the hierarchy of the Roman Catholic Church, Eastern Orthodoxy, and Evangelicalism all remain within the realm of orthodoxy, Liberal Protestantism has separated itself from the Church universal and embraced heresy. Anyone who embraces the Liberal Protestant heresy is no longer a Christian except in the sense of having some sort of vague Christian heritage. The best name for this position is "post-Christian."

It is confusing for the general public, journalists, politicians and others who wish to know what Christianity thinks of public policy issues like abortion, homosexuality, marriage and so on. It is confusing because non-Christians have seized control of the denominational machinery, endowments and institutions of formerly Christian denominations. They still spout a lot of Christian phrases and slogans, but they have denied the content of the orthodox faith contained in Scripture and affirmed by all true Christians down through the centuries. Is it too radical to imagine that this shell of a religion may form the outward trappings of the anti-Christian religion that will be used by Satan and his minions, including the Antichrist, to deceive as many as possible in the last days?

What is the significance of the embrace of homosexuality by liberal Protestantism? It goes far beyond disagreement on just another ethical issue. Scripture itself clearly indicates that only a mind that is far gone into rebellion against God and the Truth can possible be so self-deceived and corrupt as to call homosexuality good. Romans 1 is often debated as to its meaning, but its real hermeneutical and theological significance is seldom appreciated.

I want to make three points that come out of Rom. 1:18-32, which is probably the most important passage in the Bible on the issue of homosexuality and hermeneutics. If you are not familiar with this passage, please go and read it carefully right now. What follows is not a complete exposition of the passage but just some important points it teaches.

1. In vv. 18-22 the Holy Spirit informs us that the natural man is under the wrath of God because of his rejection of natural revelation. Even apart from any knowledge of Scripture, the gentiles have rejected what can be known of God and human nature from creation and have thus incurred the wrath of God. As a result of this, we read in vv. 21-22:
"For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools." (ESV)
So the first thing this passage says is that sin makes us stupid, or rather, that by sinning we make ourselves stupid. This is why what seems perfectly natural and common sensible is turned upside down by people professing to be religious, educated and intelligent.

2. The second point we need to note from this passage is the triple "God gave them up" in vv. 24, 26 and 28. It says that God gave them up to the lusts of their hearts in v. 24, to dishonorable passions in v. 26 and to a debased mind in v. 28. In v. 18 it says that men suppressed the truth and failed to honor God. In v. 25 it says that men exchanged the truth of God for a lie and in v. 27 it says that men gave up natural relations with women. So we see here a pattern in which men reject the truth and God rejects them. There are three stages. First, men reject the truth itself and then they reject the behavior which is the living out of that truth. Finally, they lose the ability even to know or understand the truth itself: their minds become darkened and they begin to call good evil and evil good.

3. The third point I wish to emphasize from this passage is that this rejection of the truth results in a generally debased mind which is no longer able to function properly as God intended. Conscience is seared, the mind is darkened and people can no longer perceive reality clearly. Those in this condition are untrustworthy guides to the interpretation of Scripture as a whole.

This "debased mind" is the opposite of the "Christian mind" that is needed in order for the interpreter of Scripture to discern correctly the meaning of Scripture. In vv. 29-31 we find those who have this debased mind no longer able to understand right from wrong and in v. 32 we find them giving approval to actions that lead to death. Such people are a menace because they advise the unwary to engage in actions that lead to death. These people are extremely dangerous spiritually because they have an appearance of religion and learning, but they are incapable of perceiving the truth.

Those liberal Protestants (and their Catholic fellow travelers) who have gotten to the place where they actually think that evil is good and good is evil actually encourage those who depend on their advice to do evil. Their darkened minds prevent them from interpreting Scripture according to its center in Jesus Christ; instead, they impose ideologies derived from modern philosophies upon Scripture and call it interpretation. Like the Gnostics of the second century, they actually make the philosophical systems derived from pagan culture the framework into which Scripture is pressed and distorted.

A good rule for lay people to follow in matters of religious authority is to let their common sense and Christian Tradition guide them in matters of Scriptural interpretation relating to obvious evils like homosexuality and to be very wary of religious teachers who try to invert morality as liberal Protestants do. In other words, if someone is so far out of touch with reality that he tries to convince you that up is down and homosexuality is normal, then have nothing to do with such a one. Such a person is unlikely to understand the Bible at all.

Peter warns the laity of the church that false teachers will rise up and bring in secret heresies. (II Pet. 2:1) Likewise Paul warns the Ephesian elders that after he is gone, wolves will come in speaking twisted things and draw away many. (Acts 20:29-30)

When Christians leave liberal Protestant denominations that have embraced homosexuality they are only doing what is logical and safe for the souls entrusted to their care. Pastors and parents must answer for how they shepherd their flocks and families and exposing them to religious leaders who have rejected Christ, the Gospel and the authority of Scripture in order to embrace modern heresies is irresponsible. As important as Christian unity is, we must realize that there can be no Christian unity between Christians and non-Christians. And heretical religious leaders who have rejected God and truth and twisted Scripture into a pretzel trying to justify their rejection of truth are not Christians.

Homosexuality is a kind of bright red line beyond which difference of interpretation between Christians mutates into a clear rejection of God. Beware especially of those who claim that homosexuality is just a minor issue about which Christians who agree on everything else can agree to disagree. This tactic buys time for the heretics to gather strength until they can impose their doctrine on the denomination or institution as a whole.

Also watch out for those who claim that you can't love someone unless you accept their sin as normal. No one does this consistently. In fact, no religious group in the world is more judgmental, moralizing and condeming of the politically incorrect than liberal Protestantism. When they plead with us who are orthodox and traditional not to judge or condemn those who engage in sexual vices, they are utter hypocrites and their arguments fall flat.

In short, homosexuality is a canary in the coal mine when it comes to Scriptural interpretation. It is an issue which reveals the condition of the mind of the one who discusses it more clearly than most specific issues. Homosexuality itself is rather beside the point; what is important is the kind of mind that could be confused about something as obvious and clear cut as this issue is.

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