Andy Stanley, Right and Good

There was a dustup late last week stirred up by Al Mohler, who accused Andy Stanley for soft-pedaling when it came to homosexuality, and then Mohler ramped up the rhetoric by wondering if megachurches were the new liberalism. Denny Burk chirped up some support for Mohler. Then Rick Warren got into the act and told Mohler he was libeling thousands of megachurch pastors in his comment about liberalism.

CT posted a sketch of the story, and led it off with these unambiguous words: “His message was troubling,” said Dennis Burk, professor of biblical studies at Boyce College. “It was ambiguous at best. It was a total capitulation to the spirit of the age at worst.” The word “troubling” is the new big theological frown and it is used by those who have their theological ducks quacking at the same time. Burk then chased Andy Stanley down the slippery slope to total capitulation (at worst). That comment made me ask if he wondered what might have been the best read of the situation.

This whole story reminds me of two stories about Jesus and his Pharisee critics, two stories when he befriended those whom the others thought unacceptable. 

One time Jesus was invited to the home of a Pharisee named Simon. (You can read the whole account at Luke 7:36-50.) A prostitute heard Jesus was at the Pharisee’s house and so she apparently invited herself in. She washed and then oiled and wiped Jesus’ feet with her tears and her hair. She kissed his feet. In this man she had found grace and forgiveness and the possibility of a new life.

The Pharisee accused Jesus. He said that had Jesus been a real prophet (a true man of God, one faithful to the Torah and its traditions) he would have known what kind of woman was doing this deed of washing and kissing. What he would have known, had his theological sensitivities been set to the right level, is that the woman was a sinner. Evidently that label implied separation and denunciation.

Not so for Jesus. He denounced the Pharisee. Why? Because Simon thought being right was being good while for Jesus being good was the point of being right. That woman was expressively generous to the man who would go to the cross for her; the Pharisee held back his love and grace for both Jesus and the woman because he feared being good might compromise being right. Jesus pronounced her forgiven because of her expression of adoration for Jesus. Jesus saw her actions as faith and sent her home with Shalom. The Pharisee’s friends wondered aloud about Jesus’ own theology: “Who is this who even forgives sins?” They were at least asking the right question.

And I thought about the Samaritan woman, where the disciples had to learn that being right summoned them to be not only right but also good. (You can read this story in John 4.) Note again that John opens this chp with a reference to the Pharisees making Jesus unwelcome (4:1-2). So Jesus went back to Galilee but this time, instead of wandering up the Jordan River valley, he went straight through Samaria. At noon Jesus stopped at a well to get a drink and spotted a Samaritan woman drawing water from the well, and he asked for some water from her. The interchange is remarkable: She says aloud that Jesus is crossing traditional boundaries. Jesus points to himself — so typical for Jesus — and says in fact he’s got water that provides eternal life (even for Samaritans). He knows the inside story of her life and she, unlike Simon the Pharisee and like the prostitute in Luke 7, saw Jesus for who he was and she became a witness for Jesus. Samaritans came to believe the gospel that day, that is, they came to see Jesus for who he was: Messiah/King and Savior.

The disciples, though, are disturbed by Jesus’ behaviors. They replace the Pharisees at the opening of the chp and stand with the Pharisee in Luke 7.

My observations: I want to know if Andy Stanley welcomes sinners to the table. Yes he does. And I want to know if he preaches grace at his church. Yes he does. I want to know if he points people away from themselves and their sins to Jesus and to forgiveness. Yes he does. The big one is this: I want to know if Andy Stanley shows people to Jesus or out the door. I know he does the former and not the latter.

I’m with Andy. When James said “Mercy triumphs over judgment,” he probably had his older brother in mind and may well have remembered how that older brother was treated by the Pharisees when Jesus welcomed the sinners. Being right is not right if it is not also good.

The truth of the gospel will find a way when the time is right.

I will be monitoring this post and comments closely today.

About Scot McKnight

Scot McKnight is a recognized authority on the New Testament, early Christianity, and the historical Jesus. McKnight, author of more than forty books, is the Professor of New Testament at Northern Seminary in Lombard, IL.

  • http://bookwi.se Adam Shields

    This has been an exercise in missing the point. The point of the illustration is that we are called to love people that are difficult to love. Can you think of a better example of loving a difficult person than inviting your ex-husband and his current boyfriend to your home regularly for meals and family celebrations and to church? The dust up over the details miss entirely the point of the story and in fact confirm the need for the whole series.

  • Doug Peters

    The principle and the illustration are right and good. But I expect that I’m not the only one to detect a devil in the details…

  • holdon

    This is the standard: “Wherefore receive ye one another, according as the Christ also has received you to the glory of God.” Rm 15:7.

    Once received among the company of Christians, there is nurture, growth and restoration for all. And that is better dispensed in groups of 50 or 100 rather than in Mega sittings as our Lord instructed.

  • Deets

    At this point in this discussion, it seems that Stanely is on the side of doing good and in that being right.

    I should disclose that I’m not a fan of Mohler. I was working on a doctorate at Southern Seminary when Mohler took over and I was constantly frustrated by the fact that his message was seldom self-reflected, and often polemic.

    But I’m also not a fan of much of what I see in the megachurch world. Inviting homosexuals into their midst is not their sin. And I would never call them the new liberalism. However, the megachurch movement has made many compromises and have hurt many along the way. I wish that they would use this opportunity to be more reflected. When the Willow Creek Summit endorsed and thousands of pastors applauded the business man who announced churches should fire the bottom 10% of the producers in the church, I cried, because that might be a good business principle, but it isn’t a principle that is drawn from Scripture. The megachurch movement needs to be more self-reflective as well.

  • Nace

    It seems you might be going down the wrong path when you aim at your brothers. I love Denny and Andy. We have to always make a place for us sinners to go.

  • http://www.novuslumen.net Jeremy Bouma

    Scot, I’m not sure I understand what you’re saying here…

    Mohler et al were confused why Stanley drew a sharp line in the sand regarding the obvious sinful adultery, but presumably didn’t draw a sharp line in the sand regarding the obvious sinful homosexual practice. And they called him out on it, and rightly so.

    You mention this call out, then quote two stories which relate to the acceptance of sinners at the table. OK, fine. But I’m not sure what the point of this is. Is it to call out Mohler et al for not accepting sinners to the table? For being more concerned about being right than being good? For being Pharisees while Stanley was being Jesus?

    It seems to me that Stanley was pretty content with denying these two homosexual adulterers a place at the “serving table” because of their sinful adultery. He said exactly that: you can’t serve at this church if you are committing adultery. Presumably Stanley wasn’t wrong or improper for closing the door to them over *this* sin, right?

    Yet when it comes to Mohler et al calling Stanley out for failing to 1) also call these two men out for for their homosexual practice; and 2) deny them a place at the “serving table” for said homosexual sin, there’s a problem? And they are Pharisees while Stanley is not? Is that the argument?

  • Doug Peters

    NB: this is an honest question — I really would like Scot’s opinion!

    By what principle is
    [appearing "proud" about accepting a man sleeping with a woman's husband]
    different from
    [appearing "proud" about accepting a man sleeping with his father's wife - i.e., 1 Cor 5]
    ?

  • scotmcknight

    Doug, fill out your question with more information. Where is the word “proud” from?

  • Paul

    Your analysis of Jesus v. Pharisees is spot on. My understanding of the situation is that problem lies not in accepting sinners in the church. We are all sinners and the door should be open to all. If not, I would have been locked out a long time ago.
    The problem seems to be in the condoning of sin. In both of those times in scripture, the sinner was accepted. The sin was not. The woman at the well saw that He knew everything about her. Her sin was exposed and forgiven. Being divine puts Jesus in a different position than us as we minister to others.
    I think the “frowning” comes from Stanley having a large audience and thus a large responsibility in his messages. Those that teach are held more accountable, by both God and man at times. At this time in history, all groups are more vocal and moving quicker than ever before. The issues of same sex marriage and denying homosexuality as a legitimate lifestyle is equated with bullying and hate speech. I think the feeling by many is this-those blessed with a pulpit that influences many have a great responsibility and opportunity. Not to preach politics but to set the record straight. In the same way David asks “who is this Philistine that calls out my God,” I think many wanted him to address an obvious societal issue.
    People always seem to know how to minister better than another. Grace and mercy seem to leave conversations amongst Christians first. Still, Jesus forgave sins he didn’t condone them. There came a time when He threw people out of the temple for defiling it. So there are some times to make a stand right?
    Jesus’ time was spent “to save the world, not condemn it.” But, He will come again to judge. I personally think that I do a disservice to others when I don’t let others know, no matter how uncomfortable it makes me, that what society is saying will lead to harm. As for Andy Stanley, that is a decision for him to make on his own.

  • CGC

    Wow,
    Andy Stanley getting criticized and denouced for something he did not say. Sheesh, every minister and Bible teacher beware if this is the road you think we should go down. Next time, it might be you!

  • http://www.toddlittleton.net Todd

    Scot,
    Last week I offered some thoughts on the subject. http://www.toddlittleton.net/lands-al-ibi-or-mohler-selects-which-sins-may-be-minimized-by-his-silence.

    Mohler leads the way in all things lead down the slippery slope to liberalism. If “troubling” is the new worry word, “liberalism” is still the nefarious bogeyman.

  • Steve

    After reading both Andy’s illustration and Al’s comments i am a little confused. I can see Al’s point. Andy has gays attending his church because they want to here the Bible being preached. They need to here the truth of their sinfulness and the grace of God through Jesus. After reading it, it sounds to me like Andy skirted the issue due to the fear of offending the gays in attendance. We need to recognize that the gospel is offensive and preach it to the fullest.

  • scotmcknight

    Steve, “skirted” is a judgment of a motive, no?

  • JohnM

    Scot, I’m with Jeremy Bouma – same kind of questions.

    I suspect half the objections here to what Abert Mohler said are owing to the fact that it was Albert Mohler who said it. :)

  • scotmcknight

    JohnM,
    They judged Andy to the point of filling in the lines of what he meant on the basis of what he didn’t say in a ministry context they do not share in a city in which they do not live in view of Scriptural passages on which they most certainly already agree.

  • Kris Oliver

    Children are hungry, millions without health care, poverty at record levels…and we stand off in a corner having a theological pissing match about one of our territorial markers. No wonder non-believers look at us and say…no thanks.

  • Allen Adkins

    I would wonder if Mohler made an attempt to contact Stanley privately before the public criticism to understand/ clarify what was or was not said, and to give Stanley an opportunity to make any corrections to his original statement as necessary. I know there are times for leaders to admonish one another publicly for the good of the Church like the example of Paul and Peter, but there also must/needs to be that one on one conversation for clarification and correction of what was said.
    On another note, I will add statements like this are one of the reasons I have backed off being a “groupie” of celebrity pastors.

  • Scott Gay

    You have to notice that our positions have been strong against homosexuality, mild against divorce, and non-existent over evil speaking. Doesn’t this show that it is in direct relationship to the propensity of members to be liable to have the issue? I think paranoia is a factor in our cracked eikon nature- who wants to deal with it?
    In response to an ecclesiological issue on mainline spirituality two days ago I mentioned that process thought may offer a possibility for Christians to steer between a legalism on the one hand and a situationism on the other. It is not liberalism to believe that you can be something and becoming something at the time. However, it is an evolution in thought life.

  • Mike Bauer

    Jeremy – you nailed it brother.
    Scot please answer some of his questions because this post is rather confusing.
    Stanley’s position is backwards and nearly hypocritical. How can he condemn one sin and not even see to mention the other? Yes, reconciliation of the woman and her ex-husband was the point of the illustration. It’s an amazing story of forgiveness through grace. But there is still a glaring hole. Yes, Jesus accepted sinners and we should too. Absolutely. But for Stanley to mention the obvious sin of adultery and not the equally obvious (according to Scripture and tradition) sin of homosexuality is neglecting his duty as pastor and shepherd. What is he doing if not leading the flock away from their sin and toward the Great Shepherd? How is he acting pastorally when he does not care to point out sin in his congregates’ lives? And if he did talk to the homosexual couple about this sin (which is entirely possible. No one knows the full story yet) why did he not mention it in the same breath as the adultery? Mohler was right to call for answers from Stanley. Now we ask for answers from you Scot. Maybe I’m not understanding your point. No one is judging Stanley’s obligation (and fulfillment of the obligation)to fellowship with sinners, but why does he not fully extrapolate that sin? Why does he not dig deeper?

  • CGC

    Scot,
    Brilliantly said! I mean, there are a hundred different reasons why someobody did not say something to even “I forgot.” One of the things I hate in theological book reviews are all these critiques of what the author should of said but didn’t. Please! Christian book reviews should be on what the author said, not on what he didn’t say. From my perspective, this is just another example of what’s wrong with the church, not what right with it!

  • scotmcknight

    Mike, I did respond … and CGC is saying much the same thing. Do you see that the very point of the biblical passages is that Jesus didn’t say what the Pharisee/disciples thought had to be said. Why? Did Jesus not know? Perhaps it is because he he did know that he didn’t say.

  • http://bookwi.se Adam Shields

    I tried this once and got blocked as spam. I will try again.

    My understanding of the illustration (I am a member and was there for the sermon) was that Andy was approaching the guys [homosexual couple] over a sin that all would agree was sin. Approaching them over homosexuality would not worked because there was not an agreement on that as sin.

    The church has two levels of volunteers. Some things (parking lot, handing out programs, etc.) can be done by pretty much anyone and include a lot of non-members. Others (any teaching roles, leading small groups, working with children all leadership roles) require a higher level of commitment and affirmation of a convenant that rejects sins that Northpoint believes would compromise their ability to serve in those roles.

    You can see one of the covenants at this link http://www.northpoint.org/site/page/studentvolunteer/

    I tried to put some of the language in the post but got caught on the spam filter. Here is the being of the part on sexual behavior. “We teach that sex was created by God as an expression of intimacy between a man and woman within the context of marriage. Volunteers who embrace lifestyles or behaviors that conflict with this teaching will eventually find themselves having to pretend to be something they are not or believe something they don’t. In an effort to protect you from a potentially awkward situation, we ask the following:”

    Part of my issue with Mohler’s comment is that it is wrong on the position of the church. But a larger issue is that he could make the same argument with actual positions that churches have been making publicly. Instead he made the argument based more on what Andy didn’t say than what he did say. That just seems to be a bad way to make an argument.

  • http://makelifegood.com Barry D.

    Who am I to pass judgement on a situation where I don’t know all the facts? Who am I to pass judgement on any ministry that is doing more to reach people than I could ever dream? With that said, the issue for me in this situation is the position of repentance. It is troubling to me that the issue of homosexuality was not addressed as sin. I certainly appreciate that North Point welcomes all and ministers to all. But sin (any sin) being lived openly and with knowledge in the church in not acceptable and should be addressed. The incestuous relationship occurring in the Corinthian Church, and Paul’s admonishment for the leaders to deal with that matter seems to me to be a clear guide in these situations.

  • scotmcknight

    Adam’s last paragraph is precisely the point.

  • Matt

    I’m with Andy. When James said “Mercy triumphs over judgment,” he probably had his older brother in mind. Quote of the year.

  • http://www.novuslumen.net Jeremy Bouma

    To some extent I can see what you’re saying, Scot. But the fact is, the reason Stanley gave for the two practicing gay people being unfit for ministry service is because of adultery, not homosexual practice. Then he used it as a teaching tool before his several thousand person congregation—which left his and NP’s position on homosexual practice ambiguous.

    He wasn’t ambiguous about their position on adultery, saying loud and clear if you’re committing adultery you can’t service in this church, and rightly so. Andy drew the line at adultery not homosexual practice. This begs the question, Why? I’m with Steve: Andy skirted the issue. He didn’t even address their homosexual practice.

  • http://www.novuslumen.net Jeremy Bouma

    Now to be sure, Mohler’s original post on the subject equating the megachurch phenomenon with liberalism or to a slippery-slope toward liberalism was ridiculous and didn’t serve his argument. But the question still remains: Why didn’t Andy call out their homosexual practice as much as their adultery?

    That’s a fair question, one that deserves fair engagement, me thinks.

  • http://www.danwhitejr.blogspot.com Dan Jr,.

    Great response Scot,
    I had some thoughts on the Appropriateness of Ambiguity and Andy Stanley over at my blog>http://www.danwhitejr.blogspot.com/2012/05/andy-stanley-and-appropriateness-of.html

  • http://bookwi.se Adam Shields

    Jeremy,

    I said above why I think Andy didn’t call out homosexual practice as sin. It is because the guys didn’t view it as sin. Part of this series was to work toward relationship, not toward being right. So I believe that it is more important (and effective in the long term) to pass on sins that one party does not regard as sin and maintain the relationship so that you may have the opportunity to confront that sin later.

    I don’t believe I Cor 5 works here because these guys are not members and there is some wiggle room because this is a mega church and the church is not celebrating in their homosexual practice as occurred in the Corinthian church.

  • Matt

    I’m surprised no one has addressed the issue of church discipline. It’s one thing for a church to welcome unbelieving homosexuals to worship and hear the gospel. It’s another thing entirely to not address the sin of unrepentant practicing homosexuals—or the greedy, swindlers, slanderers, idolaters and drunkards—who claim to be believers, and to allow them to continue in fellowship (see 1 Cor. 5:9-13). North Point’s own covenant above seems to indicate that people who continue in unrepentant sin will merely find themselves in a “potentially awkward situation,” not that they will face direct calls to repentance or eventual excommunication if they persist in sin.

  • http://multihatpastor.com Steve Cuss

    How long has Andy Stanley been faithfully preaching the Gospel?

    How quickly did his entire theology get called into question for one sermon illustration?

    Perilous times we live in, when a national leader can publicly denounce a highly respected preacher and cause all kinds of strife.

    I listened to Andy’s message – he mentioned the tension created when you follow Jesus and love like Jesus loves. He then shared a pretty stunning example which immediately made (and is making) everyone deal with that tension. It kind of stays with you and makes you wrestle with it, which surely is part of his point.

  • Joe Canner

    Steve (@7:35am): “We need to recognize that the gospel is offensive and preach it to the fullest.”

    Since when is preaching against homosexuality (or divorce and remarriage for that matter) part of the gospel?

  • scotmcknight

    Matt, your “not” statement is not only a false dichotomy but an accusation against a church that is groundless. Do you know the substantive content of your “not” clause? (I know enough here to know you are mistaken.)

  • http://www.novuslumen.net Jeremy Bouma

    Hi Adam, thanks for your input. You said “Part of this series was to work toward relationship, not toward being right.” I’m sorry but this is logically inconsistent. Apparently it wasn’t a problem to be right on the adultery issue, but it was on the homosexual practice issue? Did Andy “maintain the relationship” by calling out their adultery in a way that calling out their homosexual practice wouldn’t?

    It’s no surprise that calling out adultery as sin is far more socially acceptable than calling out homosexual practice is. I don’t want to say that’s why Andy did what he did. That’d be a question of motive. But what I think can be asked is why not? Why not call out both as sinful for the sake of the integrity of the church, their own lives, and the lives of these families?

  • http://everythoughtcaptive.pcpc.org Patrick Lafferty

    By Stanley’s definition what would constitute an act outside the bounds of his synthesis of grace and truth? To argue against “resolving the tension” he’s unwittingly abandoned any means by which we might know if our actions fall outside his new, and larger, bounded set of appropriate applications. I appreciate his desire to ensure mercy is evident. But hasn’t he in fact “lost” something by making his ultimate objective, it seems, for everyone “just to get along”? Am I erring if I acknowledge a man’s abiding and deep same sex attractions but still call him not to follow them? Is that less gracious?

  • http://www.waulkthisway.blogspot.com Joshua Waulk

    @Adam Shields,

    Brother, you asked, “Can you think of a better example of loving a difficult person than inviting your ex-husband and his current boyfriend to your home regularly for meals and family celebrations and to church?”

    My answer is, why yes, yes I can. Contrary to the way of my more theologically liberal friends, I find great compassion and the wisdom of God in saying “No” to an individual or group caught up in gross, *unrepentant* sin. Contrary to what is found throughout the “Patheos Way”, the scriptures in both the OT and NT give rise not only to the grace, mercy, and love of God, but to the justice of God which is intended to bring many to *repentance*. This word, *repentance* is largely missing from this conversation. In fact, it’s no were to be found! In its place has been inserted the idea that if I just “love the sinner” enough, have them over to dinner enough, invite them to church enough…this will somehow bring them to…Jesus? Is that the idea? My experience is that within the church, this manner of “calling sinners to repentance” is no call at all. In fact, it’s nothing more than a clever way of avoiding conflict. Let’s be honest, when was the last time you sat across from someone at Starbucks, and after you were done “washing their feet”, looked them square in the eye and said, “Now, stop sinning. Stop engaging in pornography. Stop beating your wife. Stop!” It could be that you’ve dine this 100x’s lately. But, you’d be the extreme exception and not the rule.

    When I was in my mid-twenties, I was caught up in a life of abject treason against God. In more ways than one. I made a train wreck of my life and the lives of several others. I’ll spare you the details, but as a recovering sin-addict, I know this: sinners love their sin more than they love our pandering. If we refuse to engage the conflict of sin, if we refuse to *lovingly* look someone in the eye (after washing their feet and sipping a latte w/them) and communicate their lostness to them, then the reality is that *we don’t love them*. We just hate conflict and we don’t really trust the hard parts of the Gospel to do what it’s designed to do.

    I wish someone had done this to me…

    (One last thought…in all the hubbub of this story…I’ve not heard one person ask this question: What about the child of this couple? How *wise* is it to force her to sit down at the table with Daddy’s future husband?)

  • Jeff Martin

    Dr. McKnight,

    I certainly enjoy your emphasis on mercy over judgement. It is a sorely needed message today. Though I think you might have used this incident as a stepping stone to preach that message because I do not think they are directly related.

    The incident brings up natural questions to me, as to how did the homosexual couple get into a leadership position in the other church to begin with? I believe that is the real question. But certainly I love the fact that homosexuals feel comfortable going to this church.

    Homosexuality is a hot topic today, as was adultery for Jesus at one point and so hopefully all churches are preaching about it in the way of Robert Gagnon

  • CGC

    Wow Dan jr,
    What a great blog and great response. I hope everyone reads your response concerning Andy Stanley. Your blog is now going to be on my daily reading list! Thanks . . .

  • http://LostCodex.com DRT

    Much like Adam Shields said in the first response, this is an amazing story on a couple of different levels. The ex-wife is the image of Jesus. She has forgiven her former husband and has decided to mend the relationship. Wow. If she can show that type of respect, dignity, and love for someone, who is the church to condemn such a private matter publicly?

    And take Mohler (please), his real problem is that the gay relationship was not publicly condemned!

    I agree with Adam Shields, this is a sad story in missing the point and Al Mohler really needs to think twice about what he is doing.

  • http://communityofjesus.wordpress.com/ Ted M. Gossard

    Amen, Scot! So true. I am considered the same, just because I don’t take the same approach others do. In my own much smaller world (than Andy’s). Not that I can compare what little I do to his ministry, but I do feel a kinship with him on this. The hardest battle today is with other Christians, sad to say.

  • http://disorietedtheology.wordpress.com Paul A.

    Agree entirely with Kris and Adam. This is another example of people focusing on something that has nothing to do with the true gospel, and it assumes facts not in evidence: Namely, that homosexuality is universally considered sinful, which it no longer is. But of course expressing *that* opinion would be considered another step down the road to liberalism – or perhaps already living there.

  • Phil Miller

    Who cares what Al Mohler thinks anyway? I certainly don’t. This story just goes to show that all ethics are situational and that unless you know all the details, it’s very dangerous passing judgment on those involved. I’ve read multiple accounts of what happened, but at the end, it’s really not any of my business. It’s not my church. I don’t know any of the people involved. I just think these sorts of things end up causing more of a distraction than anything. It just reinforces to many people that Christians would rather prove they’re right than do anything that looks like humility.

  • Jeff

    All pastors understand that you can’t address every issue in every message. Is it possible that Andy’s congregation already knew his stance against homosexuality and therefore it wasn’t necessary to address it? I don’t know. Still, with visitors present, knowing that his messages are broadcast and read by many, and given the biblical illiteracy of most church people, it is a bit surprising that even one sentence of explanation wasn’t offered. Or it’s possible that in that it didn’t fit the immediate context of the point he was making.

  • http://kristinrichardson.net Kristin

    I’m a bit dismayed by this idea of “the sin of silence over sin.” As you rightly bring up, Jesus was often silent about sin. Apparently to Mohler though there is never a time to be silent. A much more edifying discussion might be about how to discern when to be silent and when to speak out.

  • http://bookwi.se Adam Shields

    Jeremy,

    I would say that confronting the men on the sin of adultery (which they admitted was a sin) led them leave the church for a period. But the wife continued to pursue them. Andy did not allow their sin to be completely ignored, he confronted them over sin that they recognized.

    Later, at the end of the illustration the men and the ex-wife and her child were all worshiping together at Northpoint. The point isn’t that the sin problem is solved, it isn’t. The point is that they continue to be in relationship so that the sin may be addressed.

    In the end, conviction of sin is not primarily about one person confronting another person. It is about the Holy Spirit convicting another person. Being in relationship helps contribute to helping a person hear from the Holy Spirit.

    Andy concluded the series yesterday. One of his points was that the way we are as people usually has far more to do with the way we have been treated than the way we believe. We can believe correctly and act wrongly. But if we follow Christ’s command we will strive to act differently than we have been treated. It is that difference in how we act that really draws people to Christ. I am sure those men will listen to the ex-wife (and Andy) differently because of what they have done.

    During our baptisms we watch a short video of the person being baptised talk about how they found God. Yesterday the woman that was baptised talked about being sexually abused as a child. Once she was married she and her husband confronted her abuser. But it wasn’t until this past year that she realized that she had never forgiven the abuser and that over this year she has made a number of steps toward reaching out to him including speaking to him over the phone and meeting him in person. She said that without forgiving him she was unable to really feel the love of Christ’s forgiveness.

    I think that is a perfect illustration of how we present love in situations like this. It is not that the woman dismissed her abuser’s sin. It is that there is something greater than the abuser’s sin.

  • http://missional.ca Jamie Arpin-Ricci

    This is just an assumption, but I suspect the Andy’s silence is pastoral. In the illustration, he clearly points that adultery is sin, sharing the story of the family in question. That illustration is possible because the family, as a whole, has worked through that issue and have come out the other side. Therefore it is a story that edifies without alienating or exposing unresolved issues of members before the wider community.

    Perhaps, and again this is just an assumption, Andy is not commenting publicly on the issue of homosexuality in the context of this story because that aspect of the story is still in process, still being explored and engaged carefully, safely and appropriately (from both sides). This assumes nothing about his position on the issue, but reflects that such a public silence might reflect pastoral discretion.

    Scot, I appreciate your take on this. Thanks!

  • Michele Helms

    I was there that Sunday with my family, it is not our home church but we enjoy visiting. I loved his message that day….UNTIL he gave that example. I agree fully with Jeremy and his observations so I will not repeat them here. A point that seems to be being made is that Andy addressed the sin that was “admitted to”….so are you saying that we should let people who are living in open sin serve as long as they don’t see the sin or until they do see the sin and only then do we deal with the issue. There is such a difference between inviting sinners..myself included:) to the table…welcoming them into our churches and homes….and putting them in places of service. In the same way that hospitals should not turn away sick people…that would be preposterous!

  • Chris Seay

    Once again Scot! Beautifully said.

    I too am with Andy!

  • Rhonda

    1. God blesses those who are merciful, for they will be shown mercy. Matthew 5:7 (NLT)
    2. Let’s allow the Holy Spirit to convict each of our hearts of sin rather than us condemning others.

  • scotmcknight

    Michele, don’t forget Andy Stanley did not say he addressed the sin they admitted to; that is someone else’s interpretation of what he said and why he said what he did. I value your view since you were there, but I would urge us all — especially when it comes to sermons because they are never complete — to listen to his (and anyone else’s) in light of the church’s ministry and all sermons and publications etc before any judgment is rendered.

  • brad

    Scot,
    Thanks for your thoughtful post. I appreciate the manner in which you’ve drawn attention to Jesus’ model of mercy and inclusion. Throughout my Christian life, I’ve tried to major on the gospel narratives. But, I have to say that I do find myself in tension when I read Paul’s words on the topic of sexual immorality (thus, Andy Stanley’s sermon about “gracie and truthie”). You’ve focused upon Jesus’ inclusiveness in this post. I would find it valuable if you would take a moment to comment on Paul’s exhortation to exclude the unrepentant sinner (1 Cor 5 & 6). Do you see tension between Jesus and Paul? If so, how do you resolve it?

  • scotmcknight

    Brad, No I don’t see tension between Jesus and Paul. There are about twenty angles on issues like this but I will reduce it to this: there is a time to denounce (Jesus did this; Paul did this), there is a time to exclude (Jesus did this; Paul did this), and there is a time to ministry mercy to the broken. All of us have to discern when to denounce, when to exclude and when to include in mercy. On this one, I see no tension between Jesus and Paul, for after all it is Jesus’ words that set the pattern and tone for “excommunication” (Matt 18) and “excoriation” (Matt 6, 23).

  • Luke Allison

    I’m always fascinated by the need in some to “call out” sin. A certain kind of person seems to repeat this idea over and over again. I’m becoming fairly convinced that there is a specific psychological profile for the people who are drawn to the theological circles where “calling out sin” is more important than treating people like people.

    It’s almost as if we’re looking for a person to check off a particular box, “They called out homosexuality! They’re in!” rather than looking for strategic ways of dealing with a living, breathing, human being.

    Anyway, Mohler and company don’t have to worry about dealing with real, live gay people, because I highly doubt any of them will ever step foot in their churches. They’ve made sure of that. So, no worries, brah!

  • http://rookiepastor.com Josh Tandy

    Thanks Scot, better put than anything I could have said.

    Looks like we have a new wedge issue.

  • Jim

    Do evangelicals see any problem with publicly whipping a brother over his perceived sin of omission?

  • http://johnmarkharris.net John Mark Harris

    Prostitute? Are you sure?

  • http://www.novuslumen.net Jeremy Bouma

    Michele Helms said “A point that seems to be being made is that Andy addressed the sin that was “admitted to”….”

    I thought the same thing. Andy you said “he confronted them over sin that they recognized.” Unless I’m misunderstanding you, are you saying we should only confront people over sin they recognized? That had the men not recognized they were committing adultery, Andy would have been remise in calling them on it and dismissing them from ministry service?

    Scot, your comments regarding placing this sermon and this illustration in the context of Andy’s broader ministry is appreciated. I’m sure the problem isn’t that Andy and NP now view homosexual practice as normative. From my perspective, the problem is that he publicly addressed the sin of adultery at the expense of the sin of homosexual practice.

    And I want to ask, why not do both? If he did address their homosexual sin, why not say so? And if he didn’t, why not? And why not say both are sinful, especially as a pastor with rock-star status who influences hundreds of thousands of people around the country? For me and others the ambiguity is problematic.

    BTW Luke Allison…thanks for predictable ad hominem. Thanks for moving the conversation along, Brah.

  • Justin Taylor

    Scot,

    Two questions.

    (1) Could you point us to something fuller that you’ve written on church discipline? I’m not sure the discussion will go anywhere meaningfully if that issue is not on the table.

    (2) If Andy Stanley ends up holding to the position that (a) homosexual practice is not God’s best but that (b) its unrepentant practice is not grounds for church discipline, will you still defend him?

  • Ann

    Luke…I am so with you on this one. I just don’t get it. As Christians, why do we have to “call it” out sin? What am I missing, when I see nobody able to live up to Jesus’s example, but feeling ok, even righteous about naming other people’s sins? I recall a story about a plank. Can’t our God make whatever changes/speak to/move the heart his people without our so called “help” of calling out each other’s sin? I think if realizing the Kingdom of God is our goal I can think of better ways to use our God-given energy.

  • http://timhatchagain.com Tim

    The only issue that really needs clarifying in this debate is simply this:
    Why draw a line in the sand for a volunteer in your church who is committing adultery and not draw a line in the sand for a volunteer committing homosexual sex?

    Its THAT simple.

    I would appreciate an answer. Either you treat all sinners equally in confession, grace, forgiveness and mercy or you start playing fast and loose with God’s standards making yourself the judge. In Luke 7, Jesus forgave but didn’t fail to mention that she had many “sins.” In John 8, he commands the adulterous woman to leave her life of sin.

    Jesus addressed sins that were generally accepted in His day with stronger warnings and woes (Consider hypocritical leadership in Matthew 23). The sins that were already firmly denounced, Jesus treated with greater mercy and grace. Surely in the context of our culture where homosexuality is being shifted to a more palatable “behavior” rather than sin, those who bear the name of Christ should reflect his attitude and actions which may indeed make us more enemies than friends… kind of like what Jesus experienced.

    That being said, I appreciate both Andy and Mohler for their contributions to this critical issue of our time.

  • http://www.fishingtheabyss.com/ Chris L

    Scot – Great article (as usual), with kudos to Adam, Steve, Joe and Dan Jr (with an excellent article, as well).

    I have an adult son at North Point (950 miles from here), and I listen to Andy every week. What struck me as most glaring in Mohler’s criticism toward (and implied demands of) Pastor Stanley was that by his very actions, Mohler was demonstrating that he didn’t really listen to the point of the sermon, nor does he seem to understand the overall point(s) of the series.

    I thought it was rather obvious from the early comment in the sermon (about folks leaving “gay friendly” churches to attend NPCC, because the former spend most of their time affirming that lifestyle, while the latter preaches the Bible), that “preaching the Bible” and “affirming the lifestyle” were mutually opposed to one another.

    I am reminded of another “megachurch” a few hundred miles to the north of here, whose pastor and staff answer questions about his church’s “stance” on the subject this way: 1) Do you or a close friend/family member struggle with homosexuality?; 2a) If so, please come in and meet with us and we will discuss it (they believe the practice is a sin, but deal with the nuances and messiness of walking with someone who struggles with it); 2b) If not, what is it to you?

    I thought the entire “Christian” series at North Point was excellent, and it’s sad to see the Christian busybodies and discernmentalists barging in with their sanctimonious demands that Stanley give them clarity on a sin they don’t struggle with.

  • http://www.submissionallife.com Matt Tebbe

    Justin –

    You didn’t address your questions to me – and Scot will choose whether to answer you or not – but it seems that your 2 questions are a part of the larger issue that Scot alludes to with Mohler, et. al. Instead of engaging substantively with what Scot wrote – saying, “hey man, I really appreciate your take on this and it helps shift the way I approach these sorts of things.” or “That’s an invalid approach to this issue, here’s why” – It seems what you’ve done is ask scot for answers that will help you determine if he is ‘right’. And, if he can prove that he is right, or you can prove he’s not right, then that will somehow bring clarity and light to this issue. That’s my take on what’s happening here, you may disagree.

    But doesn’t Scot discuss that in his above post as insufficient at best and totally missing the point at worst in pastoral/ethical/discernment issues?

    It’s hard to read your questions and believe that you have engaged with what Scot has said above. Of course, that could be due to my lack of comprehension and/or understanding. So if I’ve misread you, apologies. But, I’ve seen this manner of engagement among others associated with the Gospel Coalition and it is frustrating (to me). Peace to you.

  • Bob

    I wonder if anyone listened to the following couple of sermons. This single message is part of a larger 7/8 part series about being disciples of Christ. I think it would be important to listen to the entire series to understand the context of the specific message mentioned.

  • Luke Allison

    Jeremy Bouma,

    Hmmmm….

    Ad Hominem:
    1.(of an argument or reaction) Arising from or appealing to the emotions and not reason or logic.
    2.Attacking an opponent’s motives or character rather than the policy or position they maintain.

    Isn’t this whole conversation one big ad hominem against Andy Stanley? And so very predictable! Since Andy Stanley’s theology and arguments are very easy to ascertain (through books and sermons), it makes no sense that he would be suspected of capitulating to “the spirit of the age” if indeed Mohler (and you) didn’t already suspect his whole methodology and character.
    How’s this for moving the conversation along? There’s no Christian consensus on homosexuality.

    I can’t help but notice that the only time you make comments on here is when someone needs to be “called out” for their sin, a la Rob Bell, Jeff Cook, or in this case Andy Stanley.
    How is that for ad hominem?

  • Jon Tresisteen

    The vitriole Andy Stanleys’ message generated, demonstrates it’s need.

  • http://johnmarkharris.net John Mark Harris

    North Point is simply telling them they can’t serve in a leadership position, correct? I think a member of the church who divorces their spouse or commits adultery shouldn’t be welcomed to even fellowship until repentance and reconciliation is sought. Isn’t that in keeping with the biblical model? I mean, these are not “visitors” right? These are members of the body.

  • Rhonda

    Justin Taylor,
    This post is not a conversation about church discipline so please do not attempt to derail this conversation. Thanks.

  • Robert A

    Not that this will get far but I’ll say what I’ve said elsewhere:

    1. Anybody who listens to the whole sermon can see that Andy is speaking of a broader ethic of love and grace.
    2. As a Southern Baptist, I am infinitely repulsed by how our leaders, Mohler and Burk, have terribly handled this situation.
    3. As a young Southern Baptist I am again considering my place within this convention after the despicable acts of Land, Mohler, Burk, etc etc etc

    There is clearly not enough grace going on and too much pursuit of a “gotcha” moment.

  • scotmcknight

    Justin,

    Good to hear from you.
    1. I haven’t written anything on church discipline; I assume North Point has something about it in its own policies, etc.
    2. I won’t respond to contingencies like that.

  • Chad

    Considering the cultural context of the New Testament (the writers were “theologizing” within their culture, just as we should continue to theologize within ours-Dunn), is homosexuality clearly a sin? Was slavery? What does seem clear is Jesus’ emphasis on loving people (Scot’s “Jesus Creed”). Perhaps there is an appropriate reason to differentiate between a loving, faithful homosexual relationship and a hurtful, deceiving heterosexual relationship.

  • T

    Maybe there has been direct (and appropriately private) confrontation of the homosexuality in addition to the public policy for volunteers. Maybe not. Mohler’s article seems to say that the homosexual couple left the church and returned (only) at the ex-wife’s invitation to a Christmas service–and this was mentioned by Stanley as an example of the woman’s forgiveness through Christ and of her reaching out. There is no indication whatsoever that this couple is continuing in the church at all, let alone in any kind of leadership. Her willingness to do this should be applauded.

    I do think that today’s homosexuals are very similar to the adulterous women, the tax collectors, and the similar “really bad” sinners of the NT that were so beaten down by the religious culture and the leaders of it at the time. If it is hard for me to really trust God’s forgiving love at times, I can’t even imagine how that might be for someone caught in a sin that the church so loudly and even viciously condemns.

    And Scot is right. After reading Mohler’s article, I kept thinking of all the “bad sinners” of the NT that Jesus refused to condemn in the way and time that the religious leaders so badly wanted him to. Just think of all that was wrong with “Samaritan” theology and practice! And yet Jesus used a Samaritan (without saying what they do against God!) as an example of love that fulfills the law. If we use Mohler’s line of thinking, Jesus was giving tacit approval to all things “Samaritan” when he told his parable. How could Jesus even mention a Samaritan without making it clear how seriously they continued to violate God’s law? But he did–approvingly. What the Pharisees considered to be of first-order importance simply wasn’t of first order importance to Jesus. I’m inclined to think Andy is following Jesus on this one. I think Chris L above nails it.

  • Rick

    Rhonda-

    “Let’s allow the Holy Spirit to convict each of our hearts of sin rather than us condemning others.”

    So the adultery issue should not have been brought to their attention either?

  • Jason

    “Tension” was the big idea of the sermon. Andy’s big idea is creating his big idea in all Christendom. I kinda love it! I think Andy threw down the gauntlet in this issue. Can we do it this way? In the tension and let Jesus and His Spirit guide us? That is what Andy is asking the church.

  • Seth

    I would echo what Jeremy Bouma says above.

    It makes no sense to attack Al Mohler based on his comments about “something that wasn’t said.” As a preaching pastor, you are responsible to be faithful to Scripture in your sermons, and Andy simply elevated the sin of adultery over homosexual behavior throughout the entire story by mentioning adultery several times as sinful and neglecting to mention homosexuality, which was an obvious “shock value” part of the illustration, and in reality (as evidenced here) overwhelms even the helpful part of forgiveness and grace.

  • Andy J. Funk

    Don’t know much about the situation between Mohler and Stanley, but according to this blog, mostly in the comments, people appear overly concerned with pointing out sin. If we are to take the Jesus way, perhaps we would do much better by learning to show restore relationships without demanding that individuals nail down exact sins, and expect perfect consistency. When we rail against homosexuality as the great sin, we forget all the sins which implicate ourselves in the destruction of relationships. If the church should address homosexuality as strongly as most here suggest, and remain consistent as those same suggest, with all sins, then we would truly find ourselves not focusing on homosexuality…why? Because the hate we allow within our hearts for others is much more destructive to our humanity than any homosexual person could be. Our complacency with regard to justice for the poor, and the lack of standing with the condemned in our world will hurt the church and our faith/salvation much more than what gay people bring to our churches.

  • Rhonda

    Rick,
    Yes, perhaps God is sufficient to convict.

  • Joe Canner

    Many of the comments thus far (even some of those supporting Andy Stanley and/or denouncing Albert Mohler) seem to assume, without an ounce of doubt, that Scripture unequivocally restricts Christians in a monogamous same-sex relationship from church leadership or service. Perhaps Stanley felt he was on firmer ground confronting adultery (something that Scripture seems to be clearer on) than the same-sex relationship. Even if not, perhaps it’s time we all took a good hard look at what Scripture does and doesn’t say on the subject. In the meantime, we should let the local church and the individual, both guided by the Holy Spirit, to work things out.

  • Seth

    Rhonda- There is a big difference between condemning someone and holding people accountable.

    The biggest problem here may be that the purpose of the church for those in the church has been lost. The biggest reason we should go to church is to be exhorted, encouraged, challenged, and held accountable in the context of worshiping our Savior together in one place through hearing the Word preached, singing, and giving.

    Many go to church to hear an inspiring message. They have grown up with that as the church’s purpose. There is a “family” aspect that is lacking. In a family context, if someone is doing something wrong or that is detrimental to the family, you tell them for their good, not because you want to feel superior. The church has gradually lost the ability to effectively hold people accountable for their sins in a loving way so as to grow healthy disciples that bear fruit.

  • holdon

    If sin amongst us christians does not engender a serious effort to “win your brother” (Mt 18:15), forget it. Forget all talk about church discipline if it is not based on that; not just in words but in deeds. “Pay attention to yourselves” Luke 17:3.

  • http://www.lambpower.net Steve D

    It seems to me that there is an awful amount of hulabaloo about a sermon illustration that was intended to make a particular point. There is a contingent of Christians who want all sermons to call out all sin all of the time. By calling out one sin (adultery) Stanley did not automatically endorse the other sin (homosexuality) or any other sin for that matter. When one looks at a body of work (sermons,books,essays) that Stanley has produced, it cannot be said that he has endorsed homosexuality.

  • http://timhatchagain.com Tim

    Rhonda,
    Like when David committed adultery with Bathsheba?
    Or when Sampson was eventually destroyed by Delilah?

    As a Pastor I have dealt with much of the carnage from people who practice adultery while in positions of leadership in the church. We need to remember – sin BLINDS us. We need someone to help us see what we can’t when we are caught in its grip.

  • J @ North Park Sem

    I figured it was only a matter of time before this issue blew up on the blog again. And it’s a hot enough issue to split a church and denomination. I’m still struggling with the issue at a seminary where we talk frequently about it and have folks all along the continuum of the debate (notice I didn’t say “sides” of the debate). But unfortunately, I’ll have to pare it down to two “positions” for the sake of clarity.

    BOTH positions have something important to them at stake. A traditional interpreter of scripture has at stake how you read and apply the Bible… if several seemingly clear statements of scripture can be overturned, what else can be? The foundation for one’s systematic theology and even gospel could crumble if the Bible isn’t clear when it is clear.

    A gay person has, at stake, one’s own gender and sexual identity and humanity… if the most natural of human desires that one experiences has to be both controlled and FORSAKEN, how much of one’s personhood, identity, and self-understanding crumble?

    On the church issue, Luke Allison said it best above. Too many Christians want the battle lines drawn, and to know who is with us and who is against us, and for leaders to “call out” others and declare publicly and explicitly… and without regard for any kind of pastoral sensitivity… “such and such is evil and we will do _______! I agree with so and so!”

    The issue is way too complicated pastorally to reduce it this way. If Pastor X says to the congregation, “Homosexuality is a sin and God hates sin. We might publicly call out anyone who is living in sin as part of church discipline, by the way. If you are struggling with this sin, come and talk to us, we want to help you…” who on earth is going to feel welcome to talk to that pastor??? But this is exactly how someone like Mohler wants pastors to handle it.

    I tend to favor a traditional interpretation of scripture, but please, both the work of interpretation and the work of ministry is way too complex on this issue than how it is presented nowadays.

  • JJ

    The comments on this post are so indicative of the clear divide in the American Christian church today. The emergent/megachurch types race to presume on grace and mercy while turning a blind eye to sin and biblical imperatives beyond “Serve poor people” and the Young Restless Reformed crowd are so sick of that “liberal” viewpoint – they desire to see proper exegetical understanding of the Word and addressing sin as we are instructed within the local church. Since we are ALL sinners – both groups are probably swining the pedulum too far either way. Having been a part of both church families – i can say Mohler has a point here. In a congregration of 3,000 plus with guidance from the Willow Creek model – the pastors had very little ability to have any true understanding of the lives of the congregation and the ability to shepard the flock was greatly impacted. There was honestly noway for a pastor in that setting to no if he was giving the sacraments to an openly homosexual couple or a serial murderer. Almost zero church discipline and basically chaos. That’s an issue. I don’t think Mohler is differentiating between sins here – I think he’s using a major sin to call out the faulty church model.

  • ChristisLife

    No matter how much this discussion goes goes back & forth, one thing cannot be denied- Andy’s teaching illustration clearly made a point of adultery being sinful, while not addressing the obvious sin of homosexuality.
    He opened himself up to people rightfully needing clarification. The way I see it, what “he didn’t say” or “did say” is not the point now, his lack of clarification is.
    Does Andy believe that homosexuality is sin (as the bible describes it to be)? Or not?
    He is a huge public figure with a wide audience that deserves a public explanation of his belief, for it is he who brought this question on himself.
    Furthermore, for many years I’ve been passionate about living a Christian life being intentional with personal evangelism, so I have friendships with gays & lesbians and by God’s grace have followed Jesus by extending LOVE and TRUTH. I can say with full confidence that this particular sin traps a person in terrible bondage, that produces anything but a “gay/happy” life.
    They live with a constant struggle to prove (to others and themselves) that they are “normal”, resulting in many mood swings, melt-downs and hating themselves. No matter what we do, we cannot “undo” what God has done. We cannot define something “right” when He says it is wrong and it makes no difference it it’s 2012 or back in the time of Sodom & Gomorrah. Salt anyone?
    Our rebellious sin towards a holy God, no matter the kind will always reap pain, guilt & shame. God’s clear answer is repentance, forgiveness & restoration. God IS love. If we think we can “love” better than Him, we will fail miserably.
    Andy, just answer the question.

  • Percival

    This is a comment slightly off the point, but could we all stop using the Samaritan woman at the well as an example of a woman of low morals? Even today in the Middle East when someone “has” a man or a woman, it indicates they are espoused, NOT ‘shacking up.’ The idea that this woman was living with a man who was not her husband makes no sense culturally or linguistically.

  • Rick

    Joe Canner-

    “perhaps it’s time we all took a good hard look at what Scripture does and doesn’t say on the subject.”

    Scot did an excellent series years ago (while still at Beliefnet), called Jesus and Homosexuality.

  • Terry

    Sigh… I think that throwing divorce into the ring of sins is so harmful. But, that’s a whole other discussion, isn’t it.

    I have noticed very often that many followers of Christ believe that Grace equals Permission. So, out of fear, we do not offer grace so that everyone knows that we’re “against” the right things. The other part of the fear is that if we offer Grace our communities will become “messier” than we really want them to be. So, since fear is an ineffective motivation for Christ followers, choosing to limit grace fails every time. (I would say that failing to proclaim the truth is a failure as well.)

    I love the use of the Luke 7 woman as an illustration. Jesus did not tell her that he was cool with whatever she wanted to do. He saw her for who she was, where she was and intervened in her life accordingly, telling her to sin no more. I think that Jesus shows his way of being with people in treating each person he interacted with as individuals, based on KNOWING them. Since this worked for Jesus, it’s probably safe to say, it’s a good model for us as well.

  • http://www.lambpower.net Steve D

    @Percival

    I believe that Jesus mentioned specifically that she had 5 husbands and that the man she was presently living with was not her husband. That’s where we get the idea that she had low morals.

  • Joe Canner

    Rick, I’ve only been a regular here for about a year. Do you have a link to Scot’s series?

  • http://www.fishingtheabyss.com/ Chris L

    @Christislife – If you want to know his “stance” on Christians and sin, listen to Parts 1 – 8 in the series. If you still demand an answer to the question, you have missed the point and need to go back and listen to them over again until you understand that you’re just being disputatious… (a word that shows up in several sermons in the series, BtW).

  • Richard

    I, For one, am thankful that Jesus didn’t wait for us to repent before he died for us. He didn’t spend much time convincing us of our individual sins beforehand either. That’s because grace makes room for repentance, not the other way around.

  • Gene

    Since when is preaching against homosexuality part of the gospel?Since it is one of the things that keeps people out of the kingdom of God, it certainly would seem to be a gospel issue.

    Here’s one argument (among others) that I just don’t understand. Many here, including Scot, are saying that Mohler is wrong to judge Stanley on what he didn’t say. But doesn’t it seem that Stanley didn’t say something on purpose? It was an intentional omission, not an accidental one. As others have pointed out, he had no problem calling out the adultery. But why not the homosexuality? His problem wasn’t his fear of calling out sin. He did that. His problem was that he wasn’t willing to call out certain sins.

    Some say, “Well it was agreed adultery was a sin; it wasn’t agreed homosexuality was a sin.” Really? You think in that congregation of thousands that everyone agreed adultery was a sin? Of course not. And even if people didn’t agree homosexuality was a sin, it still is. And sidestepping that won’t help.

    The grace of God comes to those who acknowledge sinfulness. So sidestepping the reason one needs God’s grace won’t help.

    Appealing to Jesus’ eating with sinners in insufficient because we are not told that JEsus, like Stanley, avoiding calling their sin sin. In fact, in his encounter with the woman taken in adultery (assuming authenticity), he specifically did confront her sin, forgave her, and told her stop it. When you compare Jesus’ method with Stanley’s, Stanley seems to fall short.

  • Percival

    Steve D, 11:14

    There are many reasons someone could have had 5 husbands, but we know that it was men who initiated divorce thus ending a marriage. She could have been divorced 5 times or widowed a number of times. However, the text does NOT say that she was living with a man who was not her husband. I believe it says, “The man you now have is not your husband.” This indicates she was espoused to him but he was not yet her consummated husband. We need to put on some Middle Eastern glasses here.

  • Rick
  • TimHeebner

    Following Mohler’s logic,

    Jesus, who specifically clarified his position on adultery but did not clarify his position on homosexuality, must be pro-homosexual.

  • http://www.fishingtheabyss.com/ Chris L

    @Gene – I can think of a plethora of reasons.

    1) To begin with, the point of the story was the woman’s response to being wronged by her ex-husband. It was his adultery and subsequent breakup of the marriage that was the cause of her pain, not that he committed adultery with another man.

    2) It seems to me that adultery and divorce are a problem within the church more often (by a couple orders of magnitude) than homosexual sin. As such, it seems that the former needs more emphasis than the latter (even though the latter makes the rest of us feel a whole lot better calling out, since we don’t struggle with that particular sin).

    3) In retrospect, if he did it on purpose, I would say it was a brilliant illustration of the hypocrisy and myopia within the Evangelical church in America, where failing to call the tax collectors “sinners” at every possible turn draws howls from the modern Pharisees of the Gospel Coalition and their ilk.

    The way Jesus dealt with grace and truth was scandalous, particularly among the religious leaders of his day. While I would never claim that Andy is Jesus, I would say that, with this illustration and what it has revealed about modern church leaders, he has done a wonderful job modeling the teaching style, intent and response of the One he serves.

  • http://www.lambpower.net Steve D

    @Percival
    John 4:16-18
    ‘Jesus told her, “Go get your husband and come back here.”
    The woman answered, “I have no husband.”
    Jesus said to her, “You are right to say you have no husband. 18 Really you have had five husbands, and the man you live with now is not your husband. You told the truth.” ‘

    I believe that the 21st Century term for this is “shacking up”. She admitted that she was living with someone who wasn’t her husband. She had low morals. That was part of the point of the story. Jesus spoke with 1-A Samaritan Woman (He wasn’t supposed to speak with any woman let alone a Samaritan) 2- A woman of questionable morals (continuing the accusation atht He spoke and associated with ‘sinners’).

  • Joe Canner

    Gene: Assuming for the sake of argument that I Corinthians 6 is referring to a monogamous same-sex relationship between consenting adults (not at all clear, not even to previous translators), why don’t churches that preach about homosexuality preach just as much about, say, greed.

    For that matter, if we make I Cor 6:9-11 about the gospel, what happens to salvation by grace?

  • Luke Allison

    JJ,
    “The emergent/megachurch types race to presume on grace and mercy while turning a blind eye to sin and biblical imperatives beyond “Serve poor people” and the Young Restless Reformed crowd are so sick of that “liberal” viewpoint – they desire to see proper exegetical understanding of the Word and addressing sin as we are instructed within the local church.”

    That is not a particularly informed or balanced viewpoint at all. You may as well just say, “The emergent/megachurch types (since when are these two even close to being lumped together?) are all NOT CHRISTIANS while the YRR are trying faithfully and tirelessly to fight for the beautiful and difficult truths of TRUE CHRISTIANITY.”

    Until we can come close to admitting that both sides are trying to be true to the Scriptures and to Jesus, we’ll never say anything new.

  • Percival

    Steve D.
    Check some other translations. “Live with” is not accurate.

    Many Arabs today retain these customs and terminology. The word translated as “husband” is not necessarily a person that she is living with yet. That is, the marriage is legal but not yet consummated.

  • http://www.lambpower.net Steve D

    @Percival

    I checked 4 translations
    KJV,NIV,The Message, and NCV.

  • ChristisLife

    uuhhh, excuse me @Chris L, you’re accusing me of being disputatious? Wouldn’t that make YOU disputatious?
    You also misquoted me. I never said I wanted to know Andy’s “stance on Christians and sins”. I said people deserve clarification from ANDY, (not his “defenders”) on homosexuality, since his (not yours or anyone else’s) illustration has caused such controversy.
    Peace brother..

  • Daniel

    Most enjoyable read. Appreciate your thoughts, Scot (and everyone’s comments too).

    After reading through this thread, I found myself wondering if sexuality & identity, serves better in this conversation than just focusing on homosexuality.

    More specifically, to participate in J@North Park Sem’s comment, do I as a heterosexual have any more at stake when it comes to my gender, sexual identity, and humanity?

    Appreciate this blog!

  • http://bookwi.se Adam Shields

    To everyone that wants Andy to respond I think it unlikely. He preached a sermon last summer “the difference between Church and Hate”. It is a long sermon that is mostly about church strategy and meant mostly for northpoint insiders. Part of it detailed why he thinks it is helpful to start conversations like this and not conclude them. If you are interested the sermon can be found at http://northpoint.org/messages/ and go back to July 3, 2011

  • Percival

    Steve D,
    Now I have to get disputatious! You didn’t check very closely. It does not say “living with” except in some of the more interpretive translations.

    New International Version (©1984)
    the man you now have is not your husband

    English Standard Version (©2001)
    the one you now have is not your husband

    New American Standard Bible (©1995)
    the one whom you now have is not your husband

    King James Bible (Cambridge Ed.)
    and he whom thou now hast is not thy husband

    International Standard Version (©2008)
    and the man you have now is not your husband

  • Gene

    I would say it was a brilliant illustration of the hypocrisy and myopia within the Evangelical church in America, where failing to call the tax collectors “sinners” at every possible turn draws howls from the modern Pharisees of the Gospel Coalition and their ilk.

    The way Jesus dealt with grace and truth was scandalous, particularly among the religious leaders of his day.

    There’s something really funny about reading these two sentences next to each other. Seeing someone with a totally judgmental statement invoke the scandalous nature of Jesus’ dealing with people is priceless.

    Let’s face it: Those of you who are against “judgmentalism” are judgmental. Those of you who are against Pharisaism just Pharasaical. That’s why we have to get back to actual truth rather than emotional tirades about things.

  • CGC

    Hi Everyone,
    In regards to the Samaritan woman, we have heard it preached so many times she was a woman of low character and low morals but where in the text does it say that? Could it be that the woman rather than being viewed as a kind of “Harlot” was really a victim of a system where men did whatever they wanted when it came to marriage and divorce? Men used her and through her aside and so did the next guy and so forth. Possibly the last guy didn’t even bother to marry her and all she knew was to be under the protection of some man? Maybe if she was a victim (a sinner for sure but not sure about “the great sinner tag”) then that is why Jesus showed so much compassion on her and alot less on Nicodemus?

  • Gene

    @Joe Canner:

    Assuming for the sake of argument that I Corinthians 6 is referring to a monogamous same-sex relationship between consenting adults (not at all clear, not even to previous translators), why don’t churches that preach about homosexuality preach just as much about, say, greed.

    Not at all clear? It would be hard to imagine how it could be much clearer. But the churches I am familiar with preach just as much about greed as homosexuality.

    For that matter, if we make I Cor 6:9-11 about the gospel, what happens to salvation by grace?

    Nothing at all. Paul, who wrote these verses, was a champion of salvation by grace alone. In fact, v. 11 shows this grace by pointing out that “Some of you were like this, but you were washed, sanctified, and justified.” That verse very clearly teaches that the change is something done to them and for them (passive). They didn’t do change themselves.

  • Luke Allison

    Gene,
    “Not at all clear? It would be hard to imagine how it could be much clearer. But the churches I am familiar with preach just as much about greed as homosexuality.”

    Have you done the homework on these passages? It’s extraordinary the things you find.

  • holdon

    CGC,

    Just read the lines, not between the lines. :) The woman said that Jesus told her “all she had done”. You make it: “all what others had done to her”.

  • Gene

    Luke

    Have you done the homework on these passages? It’s extraordinary the things you find.

    Yes, but it’s not really extraordinary. It is the consistent testimony of both Scripture and nature.

  • http://brentwhite.wordpress.com Brent White

    I’m a United Methodist pastor here. Far be it from me to side with Al Mohler, but Stanley’s silence (assuming CT reported it correctly) was interesting, to say the least. The CT post is right: Stanley certainly _knew_ what he was leaving out by his silence. I would anger a lot of people in my church if I used that same illustration, and you know how open-minded we United Methodists are. (I say that as someone who strongly endorses the UMC’s traditional stance on homosexuality.)

    It’s funny. As a Wesleyan Christian (and worse, a UMC Wesleyan Christian), I’m on the left side of the evangelical spectrum. I need to constantly remind my people what the Bible says and why it matters, which makes me seem like a bit of a Bible-thumper (especially among my UMC clergy friends). Our tendency is toward very cheap grace that says that sin doesn’t matter. In my context, it would be irresponsible for me to use an illustration like that—because it reinforces the tendency toward cheap grace.

    In Stanley’s context, on the right side of the spectrum, he probably feels exactly opposite: that to condemn homosexuality would be piling on, and reinforce his tradition’s tendency toward judgmentalism. Yes? No? You know that world a lot better than me.

  • Percival

    Re: Samaritan woman (for the final time, I promise). The fact remains that men initiated divorce. For her to be considered a fallen woman makes no sense in the overall story except that we have heard it explained so often to be so. Divorced or widowed, makes her unfortunate. Also, the fact that we assume that most people live to a ripe old age is not supported by the reality of life and death in the ancient world. Upon reflection, it seems we think that Jesus is only interested in the sins people commit. This makes us jump to the conclusion that the phrase, “He told me everything I have done.” is equal to the phrase, “He told me every sin I have committed.” However, the story shows this was a woman who had the respect of the elders and the people of the town. This is yet another story where Jesus chose a woman to be a witness to him. It’s a more beautiful story than we first thought.

  • TJJ

    I think I understand the point/intent of Andy’s illustration, and I agree with that main point, as well as the main points of the sermon overall. Nor do I have any unclarity or problems about the Northpoint’s position on homosexuality. I also have heard many messages by Andy over the years and have never had any substantive/significant issue with what he has preached or taught. He has preached often over the years on sexual issues, and has not at all shied away from preaching on the tough issues.

    Accordingly, I am fully inclined to give Andy the benefit of the doubt on this illustration. And I also find statements like Mohler’s unhelpful and divisive and judgmental.

    However, I do agree the illustration given by Andy is unclear and that it raises, unnessisarily, other issues not necissary to making the point, that are in fact so distracting as to obscure the main point. (The illustration was not about homosexuality)

    As such it was clumsy at best. But most who attend that church and/or who listen and hear Andy on a regular basis, and thus heard that illutration as part of the larger context of the church and/or Andy’s ministry, they probably understoond his main point of the story.

    But for the sake of all those who listen to Andy on the Internet or TV and who don’t have the benefit of that larger context to place it in, I think a fuller, clearer statement by Andy addressing the questions and stated unclarity would be helpful and appropriate, and I hope Andy will do so, not in a defensive or combative manner, but in a spirit of kindness.and with a desire to be clear and correctly understood.

  • Luke Allison

    Gene,

    “Yes, but it’s not really extraordinary. It is the consistent testimony of both Scripture and nature.”

    Hmmmmm….
    How consistent in Scripture?
    There is no consensus within the scholarly community on what these words mean.
    Gordon D. Fee (ardent liberal that he is) says that the words malakoi and arsenokoitai are “difficult.” Many have argued that Paul is referring to pederasty, since no other form of homosexual relationship really existed in the 1st Century.

    The context of 1 Cor 6:9 is rather clear: Those who unjustly sue and tear each other down in pagan courts are just as unrighteous as robbers, drunkards, the greedy, and the malekoi and arsenokotai.

    A good scholarly understanding of pederasty in Greco-Roman culture leads us to some very interesting and disturbing stuff, but one thing it doesn’t lead us to is anything resembling modern “gay” culture. Unless, of course, your picture of gay culture is of wild orgies, pink tutus, and satyr phalli.

    There is really no way we can say anything about these passage is obvious or “plain”, unless we’ve already come to the text with a stance against homosexuality. This kind of “obvious” knowledge is not inductive.

  • TJJ

    Brent, I appreciate your comments very much and I think your point is likely very true and accurate. Thanks!

  • scotmcknight

    Brent, yes, I suspect you are right.

  • Luke Allison

    TJJ and Brent,

    I believe there’s a pastoral/academic issue here too. Is it pastorally wise to elevate something so culturally sensitive as same-sex relationship above something else publicly? What precedent does that set for how the members of the community involved in a gay lifestyle interact with pastors?

    It’s easy to sit back in offices and set boundaries, making the “calling out” of sin a gatekeeping issue. It’s much more complicated to interact with real live people in a way that reflects the heart and presence of the Spirit of Jesus within the Body.

    This is one of the emergent “critiques” of broader evangelicalism that I resonate with whole heartedly. We fence in the good news of Jesus as Israel’s Messiah with unnecessary barricades. The story begins to look less and less beautiful as we pile more and more rabbit trails onto it.

  • Thomas

    The ironic part about Luke, Steve Cuss, Scot all congratulating Andy on his willingness to walk in the tension and not specifically name the sin of homosexuality, is that is EXACTLY what he did in the same sermon with adultery.

    So which is it? Scot, why not think Andy was been pharisaical for explicitly excluding people on the grounds of adultery, but being like Jesus when he does not explicitly say homosexuality is a sin?

    It is the selectiveness of Andy in this case (and many comments on here) that troubles me. Why Andy exclude those committing adultery but not those engaging in homosexual acts? So Scot, how can you pat Andy on the back and say he is like gentle non-judgmental Jesus, when he pushes people out based on their SIN of cheating on their spouses?

    I guess if many evangelicals suffer from homophobia, maybe Andy suffers from adulteryaphobia?

  • http://www.fishingtheabyss.com/ Chris L

    @Brent – I would say you are probably right, as well.

    @Percival – As someone who frequently goes first to the Hebrew/Cultural contextual interpretation, before considering the modern interpretations, I would say that I agree with you, somewhat (that we don’t know for sure how “loose” the Samaritan woman’s morals were). There are clues in the passage (that she’s alone w/ Jesus, coming to get water at an odd time, etc.) that she is living in some sort of shame. At the same time, it is also reasonable that we don’t consider the number of previous husbands to be indicative of “low morals”, or that she is currently betrothed to a sixth man. Even so, her response (and Jesus’ knowledge of her situation) would still render nearly the same interpretation of Jesus’ actions as the traditional view of this interaction of Jesus’.

    @Gene Those of you who are against Pharisaism just Pharasaical. I’m not sure you understand what “Pharasaical” actually means – otherwise, using your definition, we could just read Matthew 23 and call Jesus a Pharisee for calling out the Pharisees. Jesus’ rebuke of the Pharisees is all about missing the forest for the trees and pursuing the letter of the law above loving one’s neighbor. So, unless Al Mohler has a problem with homosexual temptation in his own life (in which case, I expect he wouldn’t be asking his questions so publicly, though I could be wrong), there is no difference between his actions and what Jesus spells out in Matt 23:23-24. Dr. Mohler is just straining gnats and swallowing camels.

    Echoing Adam, I too would recommend Andy Stanley’s single-sermon “series” from last summer, “The Separation of Church and Hate” ( http://www.northpoint.org/messages/the-separation-of-church-and-hate ). Even though he didn’t call it out by name, yesterday, he made the central point of the sermon several times – Sometimes Christians are faced with a choice: We can choose to make a point or we can choose to make a difference. Al Mohler, Denny Burke, Ken Silva, et al, have chosen to “make a point” when what Jesus calls us to do is to make a difference in the world.

  • Rick

    Adam and Chris L-

    I listened again to that 7/2011 sermon from last year, and again reminded that I first heard him speak on that when he was a youth pastor. It is a good sermon.

    However, the point of the sermon was how to address those outside the faith, and/or outside the church. His thought was that we cannot expect those outside to faith to the same expectations as those in the faith.

    What does that mean for those who are attending his church, serving on a volunteer team, ect…? Are they representative of those in Acts 17, or of those in 1 Cor 5?

  • Luke Allison

    Thomas,
    “It is the selectiveness of Andy in this case (and many comments on here) that troubles me. Why Andy exclude those committing adultery but not those engaging in homosexual acts? So Scot, how can you pat Andy on the back and say he is like gentle non-judgmental Jesus, when he pushes people out based on their SIN of cheating on their spouses?”

    It’s one sermon, Thomas. Andy Stanley is extremely intelligent and extremely strategic. His church actually has lots of people attending it who are looking/seeking/walking through the process of coming to faith. Why put an unnecessary barrier in front of them?
    I for one haven’t accused anybody of homophobia (fear of homosexuals?) so your adulteryphobia statement doesn’t make sense to me.
    Again: There is a huge amount of work online which would tell me that Andy Stanley is not in danger of apostasy (and do the Reformed get to define what that is? Terrifying thought.) The only reason why Mohler and others would accuse him of this was if they already had huge problems with his methodolgy and questioned his “in” status.
    The Confessional Evangelicals are disgusted by the more “relevant” megachurches because they perceive their methodology to be man-centered and pragmatic. Any excuse to oust them from the circle….
    So I see this as Al Mohler’s version of “farewell, Rob Bell.” In other words: “Now we know what we’ve always suspected.”

    Here’s the problem: The assumption is that a person has to become a conservative evangelical in order to be called a Christian. So much for half the world’s population of Christians. So much for the early church fathers. So much for Paul. And so much for Jesus.

  • http://www.fishingtheabyss.com/ Chris L

    Rick – If you look at their volunteer guidelines, for example ( http://www.northpoint.org/site/page/studentvolunteer/ ) there are a number of standards listed, including sexual standards against those engaged in adultery, “shacking up”, or SSR’s. While I live 950 miles from Atlanta, I have heard second-hand stories about their hiring and volunteer procedures that are much more rigorous that most of the smaller churches I know (we have had NPCC staff/volunteers/contractors I’ve spoken to at conferences up here in Indiana), and most of their church discipline is handled through their small groups and campus pastors.

    They do hold volunteers in “leading/teaching” positions to a higher standards than they do the volunteers who greet and help people park (though even they have a statement similar to the one I posted above that they must agree to).

    In terms of this sermon series and Message #5 (that has causes all the furor), I thought it was pretty clear that Andy’s framing of NPCC’s practice (“preaching the Bible”) and those of the liberal churches (“affirming gayness”) was to suggest that the two were mutually exclusive terms without (to use Brent’s phrase, above) “piling on”. All it seems like now, though, is that Mohler and company are demanding a pile-on.

    @Rick “The ironic part about Luke, Steve Cuss, Scot all congratulating Andy on his willingness to walk in the tension and not specifically name the sin of homosexuality, is that is EXACTLY what he did in the same sermon with adultery.

    While I’m not Luke, Steve or Scot, I’d take a stab at this one – 1) I’d be willing to wager that there are probably upwards of 100 adulterers in the church for every one person who struggles with same-sex attraction; and 2) The story was about the woman and her journey from condemnation and bitterness (toward her husband) to one of grace and forgiveness (for the sins committed against her). In this particular story, it was the adultery and divorce which were the source of her bitterness, so it makes sense that it is the sin that was referenced and dealt with.

    Imagine that Andy had told the exact same story, but in it he had called out the husband’s homosexuality and not called out the infidelity. Would we be having this conversation right now? That, in itself, should speak volumes, since it pretty much proves the point Stanley was making, overall, with the sermon series.

  • Gene

    Luke,

    You bring up Fee. He agrees with me that the words refer to consenting homosexual partners. This was well known in the first century, and Paul is quite clear that they will not inherit the kingdom of heaven, but there is hope for them, like the others, in Christ.

    The testimony of the Scripture is clear and consistent that sexuality is reserved for monogamous marriages (i.e., between a man and a woman).

    It is interesting in your list of sins that you omit the fact that Paul listed fornication and adultery. In fact, Fee says this list is heavy on sexual sins and that is why these two terms also refer to sexual sin.

    Aside from all this, we are still back to the issue of why Stanley felt liberty to talk about one sin and not the other. The idea that he was trying to avoid being judgmental doesn’t pass the smell test. I doubt anyone has ever accused Stanley of being hyper-judgmental.

  • Gene

    Chris, I am well aware of what Pharasaical means, and no, Mohler is not one. Pharisees held up a standard of the Law that wasn’t actually the Law. They focused on minor matters (tithing mint, dill, cummin), while rejecting the other matters. And Christ’s words to them is not to forget the smaller ones and focus on the larger. It was to do them both.

    Those judging others as Pharasaical are judging by a law that doesn’t exist (i.e., Thou shalt not call out people for certain sensitive sins) while not only omitting the smaller issues of the law, but the larger ones like sexual sin.

    It’s hardly straining out a gnat and swallowing a camel to be concerned about sexual sin.

    Furthermore, it’s hypocritical (like Matt 23) for people to sit in judgment on Mohler for sitting in judgment on others and not submitting themselves to judgment. If Mohler is wrong for judging, then so are those who judge Mohler.

    If you reply that judgment is okay in certain circumstances (and I agree that it is), then we are back to what are the circumstances. I think sexual sin is one of the acceptable circumstances, and I think so because Jesus said so all through the Bible.

    There is an all too common error that we can’t judge and love at the same time. But we must. In fact, we cannot love without passing judgment on sins.

  • http://www.fishingtheabyss.com/ Chris L

    Aside from all this, we are still back to the issue of why Stanley felt liberty to talk about one sin and not the other.

    Uhm. How about “because 99% of his adult audience has been, or will be, tempted by one sin; less than 1% of his audience has been, or will ever be, tempted by the other; and 100% of the Christian busybodies outside his church who give Christianity a bad name will have conniptions over the 1%, thus proving Stanley’s larger point about “Christian” vs. disciple?”

    Seems pretty simple here, and no need for a “smell test” for anyone but the haters.

  • http://www.fishingtheabyss.com/ Chris L

    It’s hardly straining out a gnat and swallowing a camel to be concerned about sexual sin.

    You’re killing me now. Jesus’ yoke – the filter through which all of the laws of Torah are weighed – is the shema (Love the Lord your God) and “Love your neighbor”. As Jesus noted, all other laws hang on (flow from, and are lesser than) these two laws.

    Mohler (who, last time I checked, isn’t a member of NPCC, nor has any authority to ask someone at NPCC for the time of day, let alone to demand an answer to his “hot list” of sins.) was/is demonstrating that the law is more important to him than love, and is rather clearly choking on the camel in his throat here. NOBODY at NPCC owes Mohler (or any other non-member) an answer to the question, and if the questioner(s) every actually bothered to listen to the sermon series in question, they’d be ashamed for pushing for an answer in the first place.

  • Seth

    Chris L – “NOBODY at NPCC owes Mohler (or any other non-member) an answer to the question, and if the questioner(s) every actually bothered to listen to the sermon series in question, they’d be ashamed for pushing for an answer in the first place.”

    This last post of yours demonstrates to me a level of misunderstanding in how the Church of Jesus Christ is supposed to relate to one another that I can no longer sit silent on. Christ spoke highly of humility – I could resort to some form of name calling in how you are policing this blog, but that is not the point of the discussion. What is the point is that this discussion, the frustrations, and the wrestling with our own faith is good. Hopefully we are digging into Scripture to hear Him, not to justify a point We want to make to look right. What isn’t good is when we lose sight or have a misguided view of our brothers and sisters from other churches who live their lives for His (and not their*) glory.

  • MF

    I have to say that TimHeebner had it right:

    “Jesus, who specifically clarified his position on adultery but did not clarify his position on homosexuality, must be pro-homosexual.”

    Even if Paul goes on to talk more explicitly about it, by Mohler’s logic, Jesus has omitted to specifically mention it… therefore Jesus is obviously on a slippery slope to liberalism :)

  • http://www.fishingtheabyss.com/ Chris L
  • http://www.fromlaw2grace.com Howell Scott

    I can’t speak for anyone else who wrote about this issue, but as one who did and as one who was also quoted in the CT article, I will only reiterate that I hope that I misunderstood what I thought I heard (or perhaps didn’t hear) in Andy Stanley’s illustration. I am not a member of NPCC and I do not think that Andy Stanley owes me or any other non-member any explanation of what was, to many people (both members and non-members), a confusing illustration. However, Andy Stanley and NPCC can’t have it both ways on this issue. It is hard to argue that no one outside of NPCC has any right to “question” what Andy said, particularly when his sermons are not only available on the internet, but he makes a point to address those who are watching. His ministry is public. He therefore opens the door for folks to at least ask questions, even if he doesn’t want to answer.

    I have had this discussion with Adam on my blog, but we have not been able to see eye-to-eye on this. For the sake of argument, let’s assume that Andy Stanley’s illustration was misunderstood and that he was trying to make one point (either about the ex-wife’s reconciliation with her ex-husband and his partner or about adultery being sin), but that his failure to mention the sin of homosexuality was not some intentional shift in his beliefs on the matter of homosexual conduct. It’s obvious that the illustration, even if untentional, has caused confusion, not only with folks like Drs. Mohler and Burk (not to mention myself), but also with some members of NPCC. When I have written or spoken in such a way that my words were misunderstood, I usually go out of my way to clarify what I meant. Wouldn’t it be fairly easy for Andy Stanley to issue some type of clarification as to how he and NPCC practice grace and truth with this issue? I won’t say that I am “troubled” by his continued silence, but I am certainly perplexed. Thanks and God bless,

    Howell

  • Luke Allison

    Gene,

    “You bring up Fee. He agrees with me that the words refer to consenting homosexual partners. This was well known in the first century, and Paul is quite clear that they will not inherit the kingdom of heaven, but there is hope for them, like the others, in Christ”

    Yes, he does, but not after admitting that they are “difficult.” Also, he critiques his own opinion by saying “malakos is seldom, if ever so used. Since it is not the ordinary word for such homosexual behavior, one cannot be sure what it means in a list like this.” That’s on page 244 of his Eedrmans 1 Corinthians commentary.

    And again, it’s not nearly as “well-known” as all that. There is no consensus on it. I don’t know where you’re getting the idea that consenting gay partners were well-known in the 1st Century. What did Calvin think about the word malakoi or malakos?

    It doesn’t make any sense to assume that Paul would use a word like malakoi in a way that none of his 1st Century readers would understand as a universal condemnation of all homosexual practice. Scripture can’t mean now what it did not mean then. To assume that this word means 21st century monogamous gay relationships is to impose a context on the text that is foreign to it. This is hermeneutics 101.

  • Gene

    Let me end my participation with this.

    @Chris, The suggestion that only 1% will ever be tempted by a certain sin is probably way optimistic, but irrelevant. We do not choose which sins warrant mentioning based on the percentages. And the idea that Mohler is demonstrating law is more important than love is, quite frankly, absurd. Love means you don’t let people self-destruct without talking about it. It is unloving to allow homosexuals to continue without confrontation. It is soul-damning according to Scripture. At best Stanley was confusing on the issue in this message.

    @Luke, I am confused as to why you add “consenting” to the issue. That makes no sense apart from an apparent emotional ploy to allow certain behaviors. Consent has never been a biblical standard. The fact remains that homosexuality, whether one likes it or not, is not a recent thing. It is condemned in the OT Law, and that was 1500 years before the time of Christ. So by the first century, it was certainly in existence and is well attested in the first century. I agree with you that Paul would talk about something that would make no sense to his readers. So he didn’t. They would have well understood the issue. I think you are talking about something that would make no sense to them. Again, I rest my case with the fact that the Bible is clear and consistent, and historically this has been recognized .

  • Gene

    Last should say, I agree with you that Paul wouldn’t talk about something that made no sense.

  • Luke Allison

    Gene,

    Fair enough. Here’s where I’m confused: this is seriously a matter of interpretation. I’ve read good historical sources which say the exact opposite of what you’re saying, and good historical sources which say something closer to what you’re saying. So which one is true?

    You’re not interacting with the actual lexical evidence, which is interesting because I thought that evangelicals were “the Bible people.” Between this issue and the critiques I read on the New Perspective, I’m beginning to think Evangelicals are every bit the people of church tradition that the Catholics and Orthodox are.

    Regardless of my opinion of your interpretation of this issue, I still would count you as a brother and share meals,fellowship, and loving discussion with you. My main issue comes with the fact that it doesn’t seem as if Mohler and company (who you seem to be lumping yourself in with) would care to do the same for me, based on MY interpretation of the issue. This is unfortunate.

    What if we’re wrong about the gay community? What if, based on three verses in the NT and Old Covenant prohibitions (also not referring to modern monogamous gay relationships) we’ve completely ostracized and abused an entire subset of people? Just think.
    We were wrong in the past about divorced people. We were wrong about women. We were wrong about black people. We were wrong about those who didn’t do church in our languages. We were wrong about witches. We were wrong about the Anabaptists. Is there a possibility we could be wrong here too? Just a thought. It’s not as if we don’t have precedent for it.

  • John S

    I find this whole discussion mind boggling. Read the book “Unchristian”, and ask why the truth point makers are not making a difference in our society. Point making builds walls between Jesus and the lost. Grace is the elixir that draws men and softens their hearts to hear the truth. I’d rather be a bridge builder to the lost than a wall builder. Stanley is a bridge builder. I think Jesus stories show there is a timing element to truth being spoken. Are you personally convinced to change your mind when someone calls you out, or when someone accepts you as you are in the hope of influencing you in the future.

  • http://azspot.net Naum

    The Old Testament condemns usury and permits slavery; but Christians now read Scripture as allowing interest on loans and forbidding the ownership of other human beings. If you take both of those readings as the finally delivered Word of God Written on the subjects in question, you have a problem. But if you view those Old Testament prescriptions as amniotic fluid and the New Testament ones as the child who was in the womb of Scripture all along, your problem is solved. You discard the former and keep the latter.

    Or, to take a harder case, consider another conflict. Both the Old and the New Testaments disapprove (to say the least) of homosexual relationships; but many Christians, myself included, now see that position as untenable in the light of the delivered Word’s drawing of all persons to himself. Naturally, if you’re locked into reading every scriptural pronouncement as literal truth, you have to condemn same-sex marriages, no matter how committed the partners may be to the Bible’s standards of fidelity and charity. But if you can see your first reading as a culturally determined shadow of the way things ought to be (that is, an umbilical cord which served to nourish the values of marriage back then), and the second reading as the true and final image of how all sexual commitment now stands in the presence of the Word himself as finally revealed, same-sex marriages cease to be a difficulty for you. As I said, that’s a harder case. If you’re not with me on it, I understand perfectly. Even if we both accept the image of Scripture as the womb of the Word, you’re free to say that those disapprovals aren’t just an umbilical cord to be disposed of, they’re the Word himself speaking. But the image also leaves me free to see things the other way around. The beauty of thinking in images is that we can agree to disagree without having to run each other off the farm.

    ~Robert Farrar Capon

  • http://prophets-priests-poets.info/ Chris L

    @Gene Love means you don’t let people self-destruct without talking about it. It is unloving to allow homosexuals to continue without confrontation. It is soul-damning according to Scripture. At best Stanley was confusing on the issue in this message.

    Love does not demand that you publicly confront someone over their sin.

    If your goal is not just to make a point, but to make a difference, confrontation of sin – particularly ones that the church has a history of uncharitably singling out – then you handle any such confrontation individually, as part of your relationship with the individual. Stanley wasn’t confusing at all with the point he was trying to make. Only the “Christian” busybodies looking to make a point, not a difference, have had their sanctimonious egos hurt.

  • JohnM

    Luke – “We were wrong in the past about divorced people. We were wrong about women. We were wrong about black people. We were wrong about those who didn’t do church in our languages. We were wrong about witches. We were wrong about the Anabaptists.”

    Wow! That’s a lot of “we”. Who are you guys who were so wrong about…everything? :) I’m guessing not witches. :)

  • http://communityofjesus.wordpress.com/ Ted M. Gossard

    My earlier comment was done after simply reading the post, but I stand by it with this one additional thought. If I had been able to read more, including the comments, I would have been quite reticent to comment as I did, in fact I wouldn’t have. I either would have made a more careful, and longer comment, or would have not done so at all. At my work I have short breaks between what can be quite hectic, physical work, so I really could not give this post and comments and links (and actually would like to read more if I had more time) what is needed to make a better comment.

    It is clear that some of us in the family of Jesus are having a disagreement. I’m glad for the place here where we can discuss it through or make our points known.

    Let me add my own echo or sense that Andy is trying to be the presence of Jesus, or emulate Jesus in what he is doing.

    I once was in a church in which a young man who had talked during Sunday school hour according to an elder in the back, was told he should not come back again. This young man had an earring, and was polite. He was an attender of a school the church ran. The young man agreed he wouldn’t. My ears did not detect anything wrong from the young man’s lips, but only that the elder was so very much in the wrong. I guess I’ve seen enough of that kind of thing, so that I may sense something like it is present, even if it well may not be.

    Friends, and friend who I know who commented contrarily. I am not putting you down. It is good that we can try to think through and talk out these things here. Thanks, Scot, and everyone.

  • Luke Allison

    JohnM,

    Ha ha…yeah. The post sort of got away from me,

  • Meri

    There are many many instances in the Bible where something we consider a sin was not addressed straight on by God, or Jesus, for that matter. Jacob had two wives, and we actually refer to this as a great OT love story. So polygamy is ok with God?

    Both OT laws and NT preaching seem to openly discuss how to treat slaves and how believing slaves should respect their masters. Does this mean slavery is ok with God?

    I think not.

    The heart of God is to teach us, not condemn us. At times certain actions are condemned, at others not so much. The dinstinction, I think, is finding that teachable moment. Jacob learned what it felt like to be betrayed by Laban as he himself had betrayed Esau. Slaves and masters learn to treat others with respect even when social and political structures are unjust.

    Getting your teaching point across is more important than addressing every single evil that exists in a given situation. We have to allow for grace to cover the sins we put aside while we deal with ones that can be more successfully addressed first and pave the way to healing in other areas in the future.

  • http://LostCodex.com DRT

    Andy Stanley give one heck of a sermon, love it.

    I still have my hypothesis that the reformed perspective makes people believe that they should see blood in the water because they feel their god wants to see blood in the water, and one must strive to be like god, right?

  • Ivory

    No preacher will cover every known or perceived sin in one sermon. That is not the point of Dr. Mohler’s or others questions for Pastor Stanley.
    Pastor Stanley is the one who used this illustration and the at the end pointed to this ‘modern family’ and proclaimed them to be the ‘microcosm of the church’.
    This is where the problem exists for many who believe the church is the redeemed of Christ–repentant, forgiven sinners who have renounced their sins and are clothed in the righteousness of Christ.
    Grace and truth are not in conflict…they go together.
    The most merciful thing anyone ever did for me was showing me my sin, and calling it sin. God used this boldness of truth to bring me to repentance and salvation.
    That is mercy.

  • Ted

    No one has asked this question of linguistics, so I will… Stanley said the man was committing adultery. While that term refers to breaking the marriage covenant, must it refer specifically to male-female covenant breaking, or can it also refer to male-male, female-female?

  • CGC

    Hi Percival,
    Thanks for some good thoughts on how to read the bible. The frustrating thing of blogs at times is we get to see so many of us (especially protestants) interpreting the Bible from our individualist perspective because we have lost what it means to read the scriptures in a catholic or corporate sense and the church still has no idea what it might look to read the scriptures in a global sense. Blessings . . .

  • Mike
  • Richard

    Anyone else notice that the most active posts (re: comments) on this blog are always about Christians attacking or defending other Christians?

  • http://shanescottonline.com Shane Scott

    Scot,
    It is impossible to comment fairly on something like this, because unless one is a member of a particular congregation and privy to all the facts, who knows how fairly a situation has been represented. Having said that, in principle, my concern over this story is how church discipline factors in. It is one thing to say that we as Christians should be loving and welcoming to sinners. But just as Paul distinguished relations between Christians and the world, those on the “outside,” from the relationship of fellow Christians in a congregational setting in 1 Corinthians 5, the story as presented suggests that there was no disciplinary action taken. (Maybe I overlooked something – that’s easy to do). Admonition, and if necessary, corrective discipline, are acts of love (at least they should be).

  • Tom F.

    I apologize for the length: I really believe that all of this would help to move the conversation forward. Others are free to disagree. :)

    Mohler is all over the place, but I agree with him in one important respect: it is much easier to understand currently why adultery is wrong than why these relationships are wrong. Thus, it is much easier to use adultery as a sermon illustration. You don’t use as examples things that are confusing.

    The sorts of arguments brought about against homosexual relationship (HS, for spam filter purposes) relationships reveal this difficulty in understanding the wrongness of HS. Looking briefly over Mohler’s articles on it, it is just presented as brute ethical fact: God intended us to live in heterosexual relationships (or celibate), and that’s the end of the matter. When asked why God intended it this way, or what good this pattern points towards, the answers are circular. Committed heterosexual relationships glorify God because they reflect God’s intention. But the question in the first place was why God intended it that way

    Can you imagine defending the Bible’s strictures against adultery in the same way?

    Question: Why does the Bible condemn adultery?
    Answer: Because God didn’t intend us to live in that way.
    Question: Well, what’s bad about living that way?
    Answer: It doesn’t reflect God’s intention for how we are to live.

    You can see Mohler advance this sort of argument against HS here:
    http://transcripts.cnn.com/TRANSCRIPTS/0601/17/lkl.01.html

    Mohler’s non-circular arguments against HS revolve around the damage that HS relationships do to heterosexual marriages. You can see one example here: http://www.albertmohler.com/2004/01/15/the-case-against-HS-marriage/

    Mohler makes several sociological arguments, which are not pertinent to this particular discussion. In any case, what is very telling is the change in ethical reasoning when he shifts to the theology: God has ordained marriage as between a man and a women, and that’s the end of the story. There is no ethical reflection on why God might have ordained this. Don’t mess with it or question it or God will strike you down in judgment.

    My basic point is this: conservatives on this issue do not help their cause by appealing to brute theological or scriptural fact. Ethical arguments based this way are harder to understand, to remember, to explain, and thus to use in sermon illustrations. Conservatives need to decide if they’re preferred ethical theory (appears to be divine command theory) is worth the practical cost: the increasing marginalization of ethical commands which are not able to be connected into more basic ethical understandings (i.e., do no harm, love your neighbor, love God, seek the welfare of the place you are living in).

  • Tom

    What most troubles me about this whole dust up is that Al Mohler and a whole lot of others seems to have jumped to the conclusion that Andy Stanley is soft on homosexuality without talking to Andy Stanley. I am sure that Andy Stanley has a secretary that screens whose calls gets through, but I kind of think that he would have taken a call from Al Mohler.

  • CGC

    Hi Mike and all,
    I read the blog on why Any Stanley’s silence is not golden. It is not clear whether you agree with this person’s thoughts or not but here’s my quick response. One, someone could just as much make the argument that Jesus silence was not golden. Why did he not defend himself? Why not give clarity to accusations that were not well grounded? Secondly, I think Andy’s views on homosexuality and his church’s position are well documented. Why does Andy have to clarify again when the information is already there? People are reading into his silence something that is not there! Lastly, if Andy did respond with a firm denouncing of homosexual behavior at this time, what would happen? It would be in all of his local newspapers and the Christian media that Andy Stanley and his church are firm on their stance against the gay lifestyle. What message would that send to all gay seekers attending their church? What would that say to all the gay people in his area that were considering looking into Andy’s church for being a safe place to study the Bible? What eternal implications could all this have with making a stumbling block for the gospel where there is not an obvous one yet?

    The sad truth is it seems to me that Andy Stanley is so far ahead of people on what it means to be Christ to people who do not know Christ, that others simply don’t understand him and even attack what they don’t understand!

  • http://www.pastordavidholt.com David Holt

    In Andy’s sermon he says we “need to call sin, sin” but he fails to call homosexuality sin, only adultery. Yes, we need to love all homosexuals and accept them as people. In addition, loving someone is being willing to call their sin, sin so that they can repent of that sin and find mercy and grace at the cross.

  • http://www.gospellight.com Dr. Gary S. Greig, Gospel Light, Regal Books

    Very powerful observations. Thank you Scot! Mercy triumphs over judgment and mercy means pointing those who are broken to Jesus, not looking down on them, but understanding that there but for the grace of God, go every one of us potentially. “Let him who thinks he stands take heed, lest he fall” (1 Cor. 10:12-13). As you articulated it, Scott, Jesus’ example mercy and truth-telling shows that humility is the only appropriate disposition, from which to speak the truth in love.

  • Ron Tilley
  • Tom F.

    Ron, thanks for the link. It was helpful to go back and see what Scot had said in the past.

    While in many ways, the discussion in those posts is several steps above the normal discussion on this topic in the church, I was still left unsatisfied. It seems that at the end of the day, we are still simply confronted with the text of scripture, and the text of scripture says HS relations are wrong. But why?

    Why is HS wrong?
    Because God didn’t make us like that.
    But what is is precisely about consensual, non-violent, non-exploitative HS relations that is damaging to us or to our relationship with God?
    (Silence.)

    Fine. Whatever. I guess to get to call yourself an evangelical you have to just accept it. Look, God must know that on such a difficult issue like sexuality we would really need a lot of guidance on this topic. And yet, agonizingly frustratingly, there’s not. A few verses here and there.

    I agree the exegesis of the texts says that HS is wrong. I don’t think you can pull off other exegesis to make these texts say otherwise (though I respect those who think they can as being exegetes of integrity). But on the ethical/theological level, it just doesn’t make any sense to me. I feel a huge amount of tension on this front, and no one seems to be willing to address it. Conservatives seem to simply say: well, too bad. It doesn’t make sense, live with it. Or worse, I am questioning God, and this is tantamount to rebellion. I know Scot is not saying this, and I thank him for that, but 8 posts on the topic, and all we get is “it goes against the natural order” (I know I am oversimplifying, but I’m frustrated).

    I don’t know that this situation is maintainable for the long term. I doubt I’m the only evangelical who feels this way (that the scripture is difficult to integrate into a meaningful ethic, as opposed to a prohibition that stands on its own.) I can get to why HS relationships might not be the ideal. But I can’t get to an absolute prohibition. I just can’t see it.

  • http://LostCodex.com DRT

    Tom F.

    That seems to be a good articulation of the problem. I have now come down on the side that HS is OK for the following reasons:

    1. Most of the OT references are indeed more about exploitation
    2. The two that are not seem to be tow’ebah and that seems to be more like a cultural prohibition than anything else.
    3. The Pauline text simply says, as Scot’s earlier posts indicate, that it is not the natural way.

    So the most compelling arguments seems to be number 3, to me. But we now have many data about the frequency and causes of HS, indicating that while not mainstream, it is a natural outgrowth of the range of behavior in many species, including our own.

    And of course Paul would have thought that it was unnatural, since that is the information he had.

    HS has the unfortunate position that those who recreationally engage in it seem to be as numerous as those who are honestly that way. So that confuses the situation quite radically.

    I would love to see a new discussion on this topic, particularly in light of Obama’s latest confession (no, he did not say he is gay…).

  • CGC

    Hi Tom,
    Actually, I think much of our sexuality, even within marriage is about exploiting the other person for our own personal needs if we are honest. And in your question, what’s wrong with consensual, non-violent, non-exploitive sex? I quess one could ask what’s God got against recreational sex as long as nobody is getting hurt? (of course, that usually is the problem despite people’s claims otherwise). DRT brought up marriage and Obama thing but I do find it interesting that marriage is not even mentioned for whatever reason in your question?

    The way I hear this by others is usually what’s wrong if two people are committed to each other and in love? Love usually is the trump card over and against everything else. So rather than answering the question, I will just add my own to possibly show what’s wrong with some of our questions. What is damaging to our relationship with God if we love completely two people at teh same time and we are all happy in the situation? How far down the rabbit hole do we want to go on this?

  • http://LostCodex.com DRT

    CGC@158 (ah, a number to use…)

    “How far down the rabbit hole do we want to go on this?”

    Everything is on a continuum and hence all the slippery slope arguments. What is the difference between marrying one same sex person and having multiple spouses? More than one spouse. That’s it. Strictly a cultural morality and cultural morality is relevant.

    I think people confuse sins against god with sins against the social contract. There is a big difference.

  • CGC

    Hi Drt,
    Actually, marriage, covenantal faithfulness, were not even brought up in the question. And God was only introduced as what is God’s problem anyway? I think Tom still deserves an answer to that one but all I was doing is showing how our questions presuppose many things to begin with that leads to places we might not neccesarily want to go. So far, marriage is not even a boundary marker much less are monogamous relationships. I suspect Tom does want that in the equation but so far it’s not been said. That’s the argument but is it sound? Is it? Actually, it’s one thing for Christians like Obama to say I think God’s Word affirms gays and God would be for gay marriage today even if it didn’t exist in Jesus’ day. Tom is saying, God’s Word is actually against same sex marriage or the gay lifestyle and that doesn’t make sense to me so there is a huge disconnect here for him. So either Tom’s reading of scripture is wrong, Tom’s wrong, or God is wrong? Actually, maybe I missed it but I did not see society or social contracts as part of Tom’s post or anything I was referring to either but I could be missing something?

  • CGC

    Hi Tom,
    Well, the absolute prohibition may not be absolute? We need to be careful of idolatrous absolutes. Okay, I will give some ethical and theological sense that you may have not considered but I do so with fear and trembling also knowing that there are good arguments on the other side as well.

    1. Marriage is an exclusive relationship that resembles God’s exclusivisity with us. Christian marriage is life-giving, faithful, and shows how difference and selfishness can become mutual and complemenary and sacrificial for the other. Since people want to talk about same sex marriage, I think it falls short on several levels.

    2. Some other body part substitutes the x organ because in the same x act, there is something missing. There is a loss of the symbolic wholeness and completeness of the two becoming one. Same x marriage may imitate male/female marriage, but the actual union set forth naturally still falls short. Nor can this union bring forth more life. Actually, gay marriages to some degree have to be dependent upon those who can procreate to have a family. Even a gay couple that can not have children and choose to adopt still more resemble the marriage of those who can have children versus those whose nature of the relationship is not even supposed to have children.

    3. I think there are so many confusions between same x intercouse that confuse friendship with the female-male xual bond of marriage. I also think there is a loss of the spiritual meaning of the x act since the other is not profoundly “other” because they are the same. I think Scot’s argument goes deeper “out of order” because marital x is about the reconciling of opposites which again is deficient or not as true within the context of same x relationships.

    4. “One flesh” is not just about intimacy, but structured congruity. A person who is male in essence is not completed xually by joining with another of the same essence (or females). Similarly, there is structural incongruity in x relationships between parents and their adult offspring, two siblings, human and animals, and adults and children, etc.

    I will say all this is tentative and I know there are good responses by others to all these issues that argue for monogamous gay marriage.

    I will say no matter where people end up in this discussion, I am troubled by those who are against gay marriage who rather than encourage and love this group more talk in demeaning ways about them. I am also troubled by church leaders who supposedly support monogamous gay marriage or relationships are often sounding like they endorse the whole promiscous gay lifestyle in the process. I quess I am sick to death of the ‘all or nothing take no prisoners’ approach I often see on both sides of this issue.

    PS – trying to get around the spam issues . . .

  • CGC

    Number 2 should have said, “even a male/female couple that cannot have children and choose to adopt . . .”

  • Tom F.

    DRT- Thanks for your engagement. Agreed: it doesn’t seem to me to be hard to explain why “recreational” relations of any kind are wrong. And yes, that does muddy the waters on this issue. Good point.

    CGC- the argument against polygamy is, in my mind, much easier. Human beings are finite, and it is not possible for a human being to promise themselves to two different people. There is no way to make a covenant that could be honest, someone would always only be promising a part of themselves. It would thus be exploitative, unless the relationship is really not about promising oneself anyway. (Most polygamy in the world is economically motivated, not sexually or romantically motivated.) And this is really an awful example anyway: God made an exception for polygamy! So, in light of the fact that HS might be a reflection of the brokenness of the world (perhaps as polygamy once was), why no exception/compassion for HS?

    In short, the rabbit hole need not go all the way down. And besides, I’m not saying I want to find a way to justify HS behavior (or condemn it). I’m interested in a way to show why the Bible says its wrong. Thanks for the thought though.

    CGC-second post
    2- “symbolic wholeness”- yeah, but its a long way from male organs and female organs to one flesh. If “one flesh” can be acheived in different circumstances besides the norm, than why not in HS relationships. For example, what of impotent men who use other methods? What of infertile couples? What of couples who “refrain” from relations for a time? Like I said, I can get to why HS is not the ideal, but I can’t get to why it can’t fall into this other set of exceptions we have.

    3- Not sufficiently other- I get what you are saying here, but I just don’t think this gets you far enough. If relationship with the other is what is about, and you need both genders, than it would seem celibacy is out the door. Or if celibates can encounter their gendered opposites in the community of the church, than why can’t HS couples do the same?

    4- Structured congruity- I think you would have to unpack your terms a bit more. “Completed xuality”- is it an ethical obligation to be “completed xually”? Suppose that we grant this premise that HS doesn’t offer “completed xuality”- it still seems a stretch to say that it is wrong not to be “completed sexually”. Again, celibates seem to be the problem here. If celibates are obligated to be “completed sexually”, than they must be doing this in the church or some other way. If celibates can meet their ethical obligations for “xual completeness”, than why not HS couples?

    Anyway, good thoughts, and I appreciate at least your engagements.

  • CGC

    Hi Tom,
    Well, I can see how you have been thinking through on these issues and that’s good since I wonder how many people just take a position from a book they have read or let someone else do the thinking for them? And I will say for those people who are in monogamous committed gay (g) relationships, there’s something better about that situation as far as I am concerned than the many people who can get married but simply decide to live together (many for a long time to the point of having kids and functioning as a family without any concern for marriage—-usually one person wants it and the other refuses for whatever reasons).

    I know I am treading on thin ice here but my experience is that the g-lifestyle often leads to many relationships, cheating on partners, and even multiple partners at the same time among men (and my experience is g-women do seem to live in monogamous relationships where the men seem like they can’t do this). I could be wrong in all this from my experience but I do wonder why g-women can live in monogamous relationships with the promiscous lifestyle being more the exception whereas men its the reverse with men living in monogamous relationships is the exception and certainly not the norm?

    And yes, God made an exception for polygamy and divorce and holy war and slavery, etc. I believe its because of the hardness of our hearts when Jesus speaks about why did God allow divorce in response to the religious leaders of his day. Our faith and understanding are always growing so I for one think there are not only celibate g-Christians in the world but also g- Christians who love God and Christ and are struggling with their xual identity or xual decisions like everyone else. If xual falleness alone excludes us from the kingdom of God then half the preachers and men in our churches are going to hell over their xual addiction to pornography (I simply don’t believe that even though I think these kinds of problems hurt us more spiritually than we realize).

    As far as infertile couples, impotency, or wherever else people are broke or broken, my concern is do we want these to become ideals or the norm? This is what it seems to me what the g-community expects and demands. So on the one hand, I think grace does make exceptions but on the other hand, what are we doing when we take things that fall short and make them the norm? For example, if we are going to argue for g-marriage, why not argue for polygamy or any of the other issues that fall short as far as I am concerned from the ideal?
    Or to put it another way, are people going to argue for polygamous marriage today like they do g-marriage? Obvously Tom, you see problems with the polygamy issue as you struggle through with the g- issue.

    I don’t think the church has thought through well enough on what is marriage much less the good point you mention about celibacy or singleness. Despite how we understand celibacy or singleness, one could use the argument of singleness in ‘x’ to argue for almost any position. Let me relate one episode on the singleness issue. I was at a conference that was sponsored by a government agency promoting g-sensitivity and g-marriage for the church (which was also sponsored by a Protestant mainline denomination). The argument was for those of us who argued for a celibate g- lifestyle over a x active one, that made g/s be less human and they could not be whole people if they did not engage in x. So I asked how single people who do not engage in x, are they not whole people? Somehow our culture has become so dominated by ‘x,’ I wonder how this conversation takes place in other contexts outside of America?

    Anyhow Tom, however you reconcile all this stuff, and I hope you do, I pray you find peace no matter where you come down on the issues. Shalom!

  • Tom F.

    CGC, thanks for the good thoughts and kind words. Going to let you have the last word on that one, so that the thread can die. :)


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