I grieve for Brandon and Jen Hatmaker, not because I know them in any way personally, but simply because I believe them to be yet another couple with tremendous influence who are leading others down a dangerous path that makes light of what the scriptures teach on the nature of sin. In this case, it is the particular sin of homosexuality. The full shame is not found in the fact that yet another person of influence has bowed the knee to ever-changing whims of progressive sexual morals, but that they’ve wrapped it up under the guise of an historic faith.
You see, for me, the issue is not simply that they’ve supported homosexuality; anyone who is aware of the Hatmakers’ statements has known for some time now that they have, up until very recently, been avoiding elucidation on the issue of same-sex marriage and have often given statements hinting at their closeted position. The genuine issue that I take, and this is the same for all who would purport that life-long, homosexual unions are God-honoring so long as they are monogamous, is simply found in the footnote of these ideals. The footnote being: you can accept same-sex marriage (with key qualifiers) and claim the Christian faith, so long as you pepper your acceptance with a few bible verses, prove your due diligence in exegesis, and say you still believe in the authority and inerrancy of the scriptures.
In reality, the scriptures are simply being subjected to some form of tokenism. For example, one might say they believe in the inerrancy of the scriptures – yet argue that the narrative of Jonah never happened as a historical reality. This same person could then make the claim they believe in the inerrancy and authority of the scriptures, wherein I would agree with them. However, their functional definition of these terms is radically different than the one who might hold to a literal interpretation of the book of Jonah – and this is without assuming (rightfully) that their hermeneutic of the entire Bible will be radically different simply because of how they would approach studying various genres of biblical literature. Both people are saying terms like “inerrant” or “unblemished,” yet the reality is that they perceive these terms in different ways, and thus, the same passages of scripture are interpreted in two completely different manners. Ultimately, those differing interpretations have radically different spheres of authority that one must place themselves under when the logical conclusion thereof is reached.
Yet not all interpretations are equally valid – and while not all differing interpretations lead one down the road to Hell, some effectively do. This is one of those interpretations. The Hatmakers are correct to deduce that homosexuality is listed among various other sins that are “committed against another person, was an abuse of God’s gift of sex, and completely against His [sic] dream for marriage.” Yet the problematic hedging of terminology here is that first and foremost, when one sins, they sin against a holy God (Psalm 41:4, 51:4). This is often a discussion altogether absent from those who purport same-sex, monogamous relations, and it is often absent here because it is not firmly held elsewhere in their doctrinal repertoire.
Man’s primary offense is always against God and while that is often seen in the scope of our human relationships as we sin against one another, the standard is not set by those we wrong, but the God of those whom we’ve wronged. We would not know whom we’ve sinned against were it not for the Law of God (and the summation of the Law and the Prophets) revealing mankind’s sin (Matt. 22:38-40). The problematic inference though is that one finds the oft cited reason of “love” being used to support same-sex, monogamous relations, without any contextual support for how God defines love throughout the biblical corpus. Part of that love includes abiding in God’s love through obedience to the scriptures – yet we find ourselves in that same “war of terms” that we began in simply because people are changing the meaning of words by implanting subjectively based reasoning into the text as if it has been orthodox teaching all along.
Beyond this though, these same lists the Hatmakers are effectively minimizing are those where we see the apostle Paul condemn gossip, slander, and divisiveness (1 Cor. 6:9-10; Gal. 5:19-21; Eph. 5:5). It seems they were indeed correct to understand that each instance of homosexuality “mentioned in the Bible was sin, no doubt.” However, they ultimately ascribe this transition as one of the Holy Spirit convicting them of the truth in the matter. Might I be so bold as to suggest that an altogether different thing happened? Due to the guilty conscience of Jen and Brandon Hatmaker, they appeased that guilty conscience by allowing their thoughts to defend their position (Rom. 2:15). In seeking to rectify all the pain they have seen among the LGBTQ community, I believe they changed their definitions and working theology to be “on the right side of history.” Why? Because ultimately, telling someone that something they desire so badly is sinful, wrong, harmful, and contrary to God’s intended means of a relationship, can really wound a person.
Might I suggest, as did Rosario Butterfield, that the wounds of a friend are faithful, but the kisses of an enemy are deceitful? More clearly: if you love someone, you will tell them the fullness of the gospel and invite them, alongside your wretched self, to sit at the foot of the cross where all sinners come for forgiveness and new life. Yet that new life involves a life that flees from sin and actively walks in a worthy manner of the gospel’s calling. We are not freed from sin in order to abound in sin. We are called with the purpose of obedience to the scriptures simply because God created these good works so that we might walk in them. Often times, this looks like being on the wrong side of history to those who are perishing, yet ultimately, it is on the right side of eschatological history.
While the Hatmakers are among those whom may be standing on the “right side” of a nation’s history, they are standing on the wrong eschatological side. Christianity is an historic faith, one that may be fraught with pitfalls along the way, yet has been sustained and guarded, not only physically, but doctrinally, in those same historic precepts laid down by the various apostles and other N.T. writers. This has not been a contested doctrine in the history of the church, for even the presupposition of Christ was that of upholding traditional marriage between a man and woman (Mark 10: 5-9). Some may argue that consensual, monogamous, homosexual relations were not part of a society addressed by the NT authors – yet in the end, this is relatively irrelevant. There is nothing within scripture that would suggest this is remotely accepted or validated in any sense and it would seem self-evident that such clarity would be brought forth if indeed the intent was contrary to the historical position on the sinfulness of homosexuality.
For that reason, we are dealing with many, whom though they occupy the physical building commonly known as a church, are not the ekklesia – the Body of Christ. It is not a small thing to play with the text of scripture and lead others down a path to Hell. Thus, we must prove that distinction when we hear things like, “…the church can do so much better in handling this conversation and that we can do so much better in how we treat one another along the way.” Why? Because though the statement in and of itself is correct and noble, the under-girded positions are not. They are at odds with the teaching of the scriptures and lead one, under the auspices of love, to the gates of Hell. Friends, we all deserve damnation. All of us. The only reason any of us can escape the due punishment for our sins is through the cross of Christ, that is, by repenting and believing the gospel.
James forewarned those who wish to teach of the strict judgment that could potentially await them. These are words all would-be teachers need to heed with the utmost sobriety they can muster. The one who is not servant to the text, but instead supplants the text and makes it servant to them, is not approaching the office with the sobriety and aptitude of one qualified to teach. This same one who is qualified to teach is to teach the things in accordance with sound doctrine (Titus 2:1) and take watch over their doctrine closely, for by doing so, they will save themselves and their hearers (1 Tim. 4:16). The inherent ramifications of false teaching is that it can lead one not only outside of orthodox teaching, but the household of the faith, if indeed they have not been called to salvation. When we teach others that something is no longer sinful that the bible condemns, we are departing from that historic body of truth handed down by the apostles, and thereby, leading others down that same road. I don’t believe the Hatmakers are unaware of this. Rather, I believe they reject the historic consensus of the church and are willingly and knowingly placing themselves outside of the historic church in order to affirm that which they want the scriptures to say, rather than what they actually are revealed to say on this matter.
As a fellow acquaintance commented, we must be willing to accept that “there is no biblical argument for affirming homosexuality, period. The case for it is exactly as good as the case for adultery, theft, and worshiping false gods. Those who claim to have a biblical reason to accept ‘loving, committed gay relationships’ are massaging the Bible to fit their conclusions, not the other way around” (Gregory Shane Morris).