Mentors are awesome!!!!
As a pastor, sometimes it’s tough to ask questions because I’m supposed to be the guy that has the answers to the questions. That’s part of why I started this blog. Sometimes I need the dialogue and unfortunately I sometimes have to resort to anonymity in order to get that honest dialogue.
My mentor though, is another great resource. He lets me use him as a sounding board. He’s somebody that I can ask questions without being judged. Somebody that I can ask questions that other people would be offended by.
This is a conversation that he and I had last week via text message. I tried to clean up the text language a bit but it’s still kinda rough. You should be able to get the idea though.
Me: Okay so I’m trying to figure out where the line is. Romans 14 says don’t judge one another, especially when it comes to Christian Freedom. 1Cor 5 Paul calls out a guy in sin and says kick him out. Where’s the line, we are allowed to disagree on the Ten Commandments (sabbath) and on clean food but not on other things. I’m struggling to see the difference. Could homosexuality by a “Christian Freedom”? If not… Why?
Him: I think the line is where there is clear do’s and don’ts in the Bible. Don’t murder is pretty clear. But no clear teaching on smoking for instance. Of course, some see the sexuality passages as nebulous but they really aren’t.
Me: So Christians can disagree on food and the Sabbath but can Christians disagree on hermeneutics? Cause I think that’s what a lot of the sexuality stuff is.
Him: Hmmmm. How is it hermeneutics? Do you think it’s a matter of interpretation? Or do you think that it is an issue of bibliology/authority of Scripture? Trying to understand.
Me: I think there is a growing group within the church that holds to the authority of scripture but doesn’t see the bible condemning monogamous homosexual relationships. They are reading the same Bible as me but they are reading it differently.
Him: Well I agree those folks are growing in number. The issue is what is causing them to read it differently? What commitments do u/they have that are different? Those differences are not necessarily just hermeneutic in nature. Could be value of scripture, theory of inspiration, etc. See what I mean?
Me: I get what you mean but I don’t know that I see them making a different decision related to inspiration, or authority, it’s cultural context, that is debated. Namely that orientation wasn’t a thing first century and that homosexuality then was predominantly homosexual rape. If that’s the case, which I’m not yet convinced of, then I can see how they can argue that the Bible doesn’t condemn same sex monogamy but rather same sex rape. At the end of the day I’m not convinced by their arguments but I’m also not convinced by Calvinism or Complementarianism.
Him: Hmmmm Interesting but nothing in the Biblical passages speaks of coercion or forced sex. I think you have to eisegete that into the text. The OT condemns rape and then separately condemns homosexuality. It would then follow that prohibitions against homosexuality in the OT don’t assume non consesual sex. First century Jews were more shaped by the OT than Greco Roman categories. So as Paul writes he is more likely to be thinking OT than cultural practices. Their argument requires eisegesis and special pleading and is just thin – nearly an argument from silence.
Me: I agree that the argument is thin but how do we deal with those that don’t agree. Romans 14 principle seems to say don’t judge, let God deal with them. 1 Cor 5 principle seems to say kick them out.
Him: Well don’t judge doesn’t mean don’t condemn sin. We are supposed to correct those who don’t repent of sin (Matt 18) even to the point of denying them fellowship (1 Cor 5). Condemnation/judging seems to be final declaration of eternal death sentence with no intent to further encouragement to repent and return to God.
Me: Any possibility that the issue of homosexuality is the modern equivalent of first century circumcision? I don’t want to be the foolish Galatian that adds being straight to the gospel of faith alone in Christ alone. Matthew 18 seems to be someone who has offended and refuses to strive for unity intentionally dividing the body. Modern homosexual Christians seem to be fighting for unity while conservatives push them away. Maybe I’m off track but it seems different.
Him: Different categories. Jesus and Paul base their sexual ethics on creation order. That is the standard and basis they continually go back to. This isn’t a unity issue. My citation of Matt 18 was simply to show that sin is to be confronted. There is no doubt in my mind that homosexual behavior is sin based upon my exegesis and consideration of the other interpretations as well. You know me. I am always open to revisit positions. I have on this issue and I have just not been convinced by the new understanding.
Me: That’s why I process with you and not somebody else. 1st century Jews were pretty convinced that circumcision was significant. Also pretty passionate about their view of the Sabbath. Paul said that neither issue was as important as they thought.
Him: Because they had been fulfilled by Jesus – not because they weren’t initially important. Jesus met the requirement of the ritual law. All believers were still called to recognize the morality of God’s values. Plus in the circumcision debate at the Jerusalem council gentiles were still asked to abstain from sexual immorality (according to Jewish preconceptions of that category) in acts 15.
Me: Okay that makes sense, so what do I do with someone like Rachel Evans. Evangelical, holds to biblical authority but is convinced by the new pro homosexual arguments. Is she still a Christian, is she still evangelical, can I treat her and those that agree with her as brothers and sisters or do I call out sin and then distance myself from those who refuse to repent?
Him: Well her interpretation is wrong and you can recognize that as such. Is she a Christian? I would think so. She is just in error. And we are called to reprove, rebuke and admonish etc.. (2 Tim 3:16-17). But here’s reality, she is probably not going to agree with you. I read lots of authors I disagree with. But honestly with her I think her doctrine of inspiration might not be just like mine so I recognize that when I read and spit out the bones as I digest what she wants me to hear.
Me: Cause for break of fellowship if it’s somebody in my church?
Him: I need to ponder that. I would probably preclude them from teaching and sit down and study the issue with them.
So here are my takeaways.
The categorical stuff makes sense to me now but hadn’t been explained before.
Homosexuality is in a different category than circumcision or Sabbath rules because it falls under sexual ethics rather than OT law. If we put it in the OT law category, then maybe we can throw it out when we throw out the no bacon rule. But if we put it in the sexual ethics category, which both Paul and Jesus link to the creation order, it’s something that sticks around.
What I loved most about my mentors responses is something that I’ve always respected about him. When I asked if this issue was a cause for break of fellowship his response was not yes or no. It was let’s sit down and talk about it. I think that’s the thing that is missing most in this debate. There are lots of people talking AT each other or worse hurling insults, but there are very few people that are publicly discussing it and in love, working through the issues. I’m not saying that it will be easy but I think hearts on both sides need to soften a bit and fight for unity in an attempt to understand and support one another.