Conclusion & Appendix
Conclusion: Walking with God and Walking with Each Other in Truth and Grace
As a concluding note, we ought all to take stock of the way our own individual prejudices and personal histories come into play when we weigh the arguments on a controversial topic like this. To help us soberly consider the matter, we may need to face some of the implications. The interpretive â€“ again, think big picture â€“ issues at stake when we consider the topic of homosexuality and marriage are bigger than we might realize.
For one, if we locate the legitimacy of marital union solely in consensual loving relationship, the moral logic of monogamy is at stake. This is not to say that liberal Christians on the progressive side of the homosexual practice issue are in favor of polygamy; rather, it is to say that there is no clear consistent logic to forestall a move toward polygamy or even incest. Why shouldn’t four or thirty people who love each other and want to commit to each other be allowed to do so? Jesus does not even explicitly address polygamy. Maybe other New Testament authors only knew of exploitative polygamy. These are the kinds of objections that seem unavoidable once marriage is detached from biblical prescriptions and long-time consensus on such.
More troubling still is the fact that the authority of the Bible and the grand narrative of Scripture are at stake. When we consider theological liberalism as a historical entity, one which began in the late-eighteenth century as an accommodation of the Bible to modern knowledge and values, we see that adjusting the Bible’s clear language in this case bows to individual authority and cultural credibility in the same way. An inerrant Bible and its story of the Lord preparing a holy place for himself and his people fade away in the process of this interpretive shift on homosexual practice.
What this presses on us more than anything is not the importance of judgmental law, but the absolute necessity of Christ’s grace to us confused sinners. Only Jesus saves people from their sins and makes all things new.
What about Same-Sex Marriage?
This book has been almost entirely about the Bible and its teaching. We turn now in the appendices to look at some ancillary but important matters.
We might wonder whether the exegetical conclusions reached in this book aren’t a bit irrelevant to the issue of same-sex marriage. What if a person agrees completely that homosexual practice is wrong, but also believes that, like idolatry or gossip, we should not legislate against it? There are a few important points relevant to that good question.
For one, the state excludes all kinds of relationships from being called “marriage.” Eight-year-olds, threesomes, and a host of family combinations cannot get married. There are no laws about whom one can love or whom one can live with: the issue here is defining marriage. And that is no small point. The state traditionally has not sought to define marriage; rather, marriage was seen as “pre-political.” The state recognized what marriage had always been.
In fact, there are a number of important issues which state-recognized same-sex marriage reengineers. Same-sex marriage “assumes the indistinguishability of gender in parenting, the relative unimportance of procreation in marriage, and the near infinite flexibility as to what sorts of structures and habits lead to human flourishing.” If the state is supposed to, at the very least, support human flourishing, these changes would appear to be counterproductive at best.
In terms of fairness toward homosexual individuals, there is a hidden assumption here. If same-sex marriage is an equal rights issue, one must assume that same-sex marriage is marriage. This redefines marriage as “a demonstration of commitment sexually expressed.” Formerly marriage was oriented toward the well-being of the child, which is why the state had a stake in supporting it. The new more sexually-oriented definition devalues all marriages since “family” is replaced by “sexual and emotional connection.”
Same-Sex Attraction: Three Building Blocks
Next we turn to address the controversial issue of whether same-sex attraction is itself sinful. This involves a complex of issues like orientation, attraction, and desire. While not offering all the answers, we can say a few things for further reflection.
We must have biblical faithfulness first on our list. While same-sex lust–often the big issue–is clearly sinful, just as it is for opposite-sex lust, there may be room for a neutral ground of approval. Think of a daughter recognizing that her father is handsome without desire or lust surrounding it. Sexual sin bubbles up in all kinds of ways no matter one’s “orientation”: we must keep biblical norms in view in either case.
It is also very important to be pastorally sensitive and culturally conversant. If a young man struggling with same-sex attraction in tears confesses such desires to his pastor, we already know he feels sorrow and shame and seems to know that he should live in purity of thought and deed. We ought to lead with tender words of Christ’s mediation, the way that sorrow over sin, even potentially sinful feelings, is evidence of the Spirit’s work in us, and that unbidden desires plague all of us, but Christ gives freedom. In all this, too, we must be careful of the terms we bring into the discussion. “Orientation” often means far more than sex–it can be a community or a pattern of friendship. We must think carefully about the meaning of our words in the context of a cultural shift.
The Church and Homosexuality: Ten Commitments
As a means of applying the material in this book, we should consider how we communicate on the issue. Whom we are addressing should dictate how it is wise to speak: to those who despise us and our beliefs, we ought to be bold and courageous; to strugglers against same-sex attraction, we should be patient and sympathetic; to those who are plainly living in sin, we want to be straight-forward and earnest; to those beaten up by the church, we want to be winsome and humble.
Furthermore, we might consider committing as a church to handling this and related issues according to a few principles. We should strive to 1) encourage leaders to preach the Bible chapter by chapter and to avoid hobby horses, 2) tell the truth about sin, especially prevalent sins in our communities, 3) guard the truth of God’s word and protect people from error, 4) call people to faith in Christ, 5) tell people the good news about Jesus dying in our place to restore all things as a holy city, 6) treat all Christians as new creations in Christ, 7) extend God’s forgiveness to all who come in broken-hearted repentance, from the greedy to the homosexual, 8) ask for forgiveness when we are rude or thoughtless, 9) strive to be a welcoming community, and 10) seek to love one another in the ecclesiastical context of preaching, encouragement, church discipline, and striving toward holiness together.