by Eric Teetsel and Owen Strachan
We don’t spend our time patrolling the lineups of Christian conferences, but this morning we happened upon a list of speakers at the upcoming Q event in Boston. We were dismayed to see the names David Gushee and Matthew Vines, each speaking on one of two panels featuring Christians with different views about homosexuality.
For anyone who isn’t already familiar, Q is an approach to Christian cultural engagement that includes national events hosted around the country, regional networks, publications, blogs, and online lectures. According to the organization’s website, Gabe Lyons was inspired to found Q by the work of Charles W. Colson, author of the Manhattan Declaration.
Q was birthed out of Gabe Lyons’ vision to see Christians, especially leaders, recover a vision for their historic responsibility to renew and restore cultures. Inspired by Chuck Colson’s statement, “Christians are called to redeem entire cultures, not just individuals,” Gabe set out to reintroduce Christians to what had seemed missing in recent decades from an American expression of Christian faithfullness; valuing both personal and cultural renewal, not one over the other. Re-educating Christians to this orthodox and unifying concept has become central to the vision of Q.
Gushee and Vines profess to be Christians, yet their objective is to revise orthodox Christian teaching on human sexuality. Vines is the author of God and the Gay Christian: The Biblical Case in Support of Same-Sex Relationships and founder of The Reformation Project, whose mission is to “train Christians to support and affirm lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people.” Gushee, who once authored a book about marriage based on principles of biblical sexuality, has issued a mea culpa for those views, and is now an outspoken advocate for homosexuality.
There are clear and irresolvable differences between the ways of Christ and the ways of the world. Though, sometimes, biblical truths are found in unexpected places. With the Bible as their touchstone, Christians ought to dive deeply into the battle of ideas without fear, confident that all truth is God’s wherever it is found. Q has regularly modeled such fearlessness by engaging with leading thinkers from non-Christian viewpoints. We have personally benefited from their intellectually stimulating work. We are thankful for it, and we want it to flourish.
We also relish debate within the Church on a range of issues, but not everything is up for debate. The fundamentals of the faith are not up for grabs. False teaching on the fundamentals from within the Church is dangerous in a way that differs from the lies that swirl outside of it. Jesus offered a stern warning about such teachers:
Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus you will recognize them by their fruits.
Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’
“Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it. (Matthew 7:15-27 ESV)
The entire second chapter of 2 Peter is a stern warning to false teachers. It concludes with these words:
These are waterless springs and mists driven by a storm. For them the gloom of utter darkness has been reserved. For, speaking loud boasts of folly, they entice by sensual passions of the flesh those who are barely escaping from those who live in error. They promise them freedom, but they themselves are slaves of corruption. For whatever overcomes a person, to that he is enslaved. For if, after they have escaped the defilements of the world through the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and overcome, the last state has become worse for them than the first. For it would have been better for them never to have known the way of righteousness than after knowing it to turn back from the holy commandment delivered to them. What the true proverb says has happened to them: “The dog returns to its own vomit, and the sow, after washing herself, returns to wallow in the mire.” (2 Peter 2:17-22 ESV)
I rejoiced greatly to find some of your children walking in the truth, just as we were commanded by the Father. And now I ask you, dear lady—not as though I were writing you a new commandment, but the one we have had from the beginning—that we love one another. And this is love, that we walk according to his commandments; this is the commandment, just as you have heard from the beginning, so that you should walk in it. For many deceivers have gone out into the world, those who do not confess the coming of Jesus Christ in the flesh. Such a one is the deceiver and the antichrist. Watch yourselves, so that you may not lose what we have worked for, but may win a full reward. Everyone who goes on ahead and does not abide in the teaching of Christ, does not have God. Whoever abides in the teaching has both the Father and the Son. If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not receive him into your house or give him any greeting, for whoever greets him takes part in his wicked works. (2 John 1:4-11 ESV)
By making their case for homosexuality on supposedly biblical grounds, Vines and Gushee sow confusion within the body of believers. The crux of the matter is this question: “Is there room within Christianity for different understandings of human sexuality?”
If the answer is yes, then the orthodox Christian understanding of sex has already lost. In our time, Christians are wrestling with the desire to communicate their love for their same-sex attracted neighbors while standing firm on the truth, as love requires. The chance that this paradox might not exist is a seductive option. If the solid rock of scripture is turned to sand, many will err on the side of silence, and some will go further and affirm homosexuality. Either way, confusion is a victory for sin.
On the topic of human sexuality, Gushee and Vines have, tragically, offered the church false teaching. By granting them a platform to propagate their lies under the imprimatur of a Christian conference claiming the mantle of Colson the Q conference enables them to undermine the integrity of scripture and, ultimately, harms those souls Christians are called to serve. Whether on race, sex, orientation, or any other matter, false teaching deserves no such platform.
Colson once wrote, “I know what it means to be redeemed from my sins. Now I live to help others find that redemption behind bars and in the culture. My prayer is that those who feel bound to homosexual behavior or any other sin will realize they don’t have to live in defeat. Freedom awaits them if they forsake their ways and follow Christ—no matter how strong their temptations.” Like him, our issue is not with men and women who feel some level of same-sex attraction. We are deeply encouraged by those who are committed to celibacy despite a propensity to same-sex attraction. Our issue is with those who twist the words of Scripture to approve of homosexuality. Faithful friends like Sam Allberry and Wesley Hill have embraced celibacy, but Vines and Gushee would tell them that their conversion required no such choice. Out of love for brothers and sisters who experience same-sex attraction we stand against the teaching of Vines and Gushee.
As co-laborers on a mission to carry out Colson’s vision, we long to move forward together with Q, assisting and holding one another accountable along the narrow path of life. As brothers in Christ, we encourage Gabe Lyons and his team to reaffirm their stated commitment to “faithfullness, valuing both personal and cultural renewal” by rescinding invitations to Gushee and Vines and replacing them with voices able to articulate God’s beautiful vision for sex, marriage, and family.