Christian Apologetics and Homosexuality: Jesus, The Loving Lawgiver

 mt sinai

This post marks the conclusion of this series dealing with the question, “How can Christians claim the Bible forbids homosexual acts, but then ignore all the other Old Testament laws? In rebutting the question, I’ve made several negative arguments. I disagree with its implications and its presuppositions. I disagree with its theology and its mischaracterizing orthodox Christianity. So, is there anything positive I can say? There is, but nothing about the question.

Instead of dealing any more with the question, I want to offer a positive argument about the topic of homosexuality and the Law of God. If the question presents wrong thinking, then what is right thinking? What is Christ’s teaching? I touched on this in the third post when I stated, “By describing the law as ‘holy and righteous and good,’ Paul juxtaposes the character of the law with the character of the Lawgiver.” That is key. Understanding the Lawgiver provides clarity, confidence, and comfort regarding His Law.

Surely the boldest statement I’ve made thus far in the series is this: “The New Testament firmly upholds the prohibition [of homosexuality] as seen in the teaching of Christ….” This is primary not because I said it, but because it points to the only begotten Son of God. If Jesus Christ has revealed His position on a matter, then it is forever settled.

Who is Jesus and why should I listen to Him?

This may come as a shocking revelation to some: Jesus is God. Actually, it should shock each of us. Try to take in the severity, meaning, and implications of that. I will take it even further. Jesus is Yahweh. That is right. Jesus is the Covenant-making, Law giving God of both testaments. There are some who erroneously speak of God by addressing the Father as Yahweh and the son as Yeshua. Don’t misunderstand me here, I know that God the Father is not God the Son. I am saying that the names Yahweh and Yeshua refer to the same Person, the Son. Where is the proof of that? We have to look at both the Old and New Testaments.

Exodus 3. Moses approached a bush that was on fire but was not consumed. The burning bush was a theophany, a tangible manifestation of God. God instructed Moses to remove his sandals for he was on Holy ground. God did not pick a holy place, suitable for Him to appear. No. The ground was made holy because of the very presence of the thrice-holy God upon it. God is impeccable, utterly righteous. At this occasion God commissioned Moses to be His spokesperson. He ordered Moses to return to Pharaoh and demand Israel’s release. Moses then asked God a question: “Now they may say to me, ‘What is His name?’ What shall I say to them?” God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM”; and He said, “Thus you shall say to the sons of Israel, ‘I AM has sent me to you.’” God revealed His covenant name “YHWH”, the Tetragrammaton (“four letters”) from which our English Bibles translate the Hebrew “Yahweh” as “I AM.”

Now fast forward to the New Testament. John 8 records Jesus’ confrontation with the Jewish leaders, the scribes and Pharisees: “Jesus said to them, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was born, I am.’ Therefore they picked up stones to throw at Him, but Jesus hid Himself and went out of the temple.” Why did the Jews pick up stones to kill Him?  Because they were carrying out the punishment of blasphemy from Leviticus 24:10-16. Jesus indeed made His point and they got it. By saying “I am,” He laid claim to the covenant name of God that had been revealed to Moses in the burning bush. Perhaps it could be translated this way, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was born YHWH.” It is a double entendre communicating His eternal self-existence and His identity as Yahweh. Philippians 2:9-11 says it well “For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”

All of this proves the importance and the profundity of the truth, Jesus is the Lawgiver. Jesus is King of kings and Lord of lords. He is the Sovereign who makes the Laws. He is the one who established the Moral, Ceremonial, and Judicial Law of Moses.

God’s Law is delightful

What is the correlation to our topic? I merely have to connect these dots: just as the Lawgiver is holy and benevolent, so are His Laws, including those about sexuality. Surely most, Christians and non-Christians, agree that at a minimum Jesus was holy and good. The Bible is filled with descriptions of the utter benevolence and lovingkindness of God demonstrated by the giving of His law. Just read Psalm 119.

Since Jesus, the Lawgiver and Creator, has made men to marry and have sexual relations with women exclusively—one man married to one woman—then this is what is noble, good, holy, and right. It is not restrictive, it is best. The Psalmist writes, “How can a young man keep his way pure? By keeping it according to Your word.”

For my final conclusion, I say that I can understand how the biblical truths conveyed here can be utterly frustrating to someone struggling with same-sex attraction. The truth may defy your “natural” feelings and even conflict with your understanding of God. But I want to encourage you to consider that while such emotions are real, they are sinful, and they can be changed into peaceful conformity of righteousness through the saving and sanctifying work of God in Christ. And we all have equally deep struggles against sin. These same things apply to every boy, girl, man, and woman who struggles with heterosexual promiscuity as well. You are not a worse sinner than any other. The God of Romans 8 can forgive you too by paying your penalty, removing the curse of the Law, and changing you by giving you a new heart, making you a new creation  with a renewed mind, “created in righteousness and holiness of the truth.” Flee to Him by faith and with repentance. Jesus says to you even now, “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.”

 

 

Advertisements

Christian Apologetics and Homosexuality: I know who doesn’t ignore the Old Testament Law.

three greats

The entire purpose of this blog series is to address the question “How can Christians claim the Bible forbids homosexual acts, but then ignore all the other Old Testament laws?” If its logic and implied conclusion is valid then the LGBTQ apologist has succeeded in correcting the traditional Biblical Christian’s error, removed the moral obstacle, eased the consciences of Christians and homosexuals, and progressed in gaining universal acceptance of homosexuality as not only an accepted practice, but even a good and moral practice.  The question at hand is worthy of critique because embedded within its foundational premise is a widely believed but somewhat distorted evangelical doctrine taken from Romans 6:14 and Ephesians 2:8, “We are saved by grace and not by law.” This popular doctrine is shared by traditional, evangelical Christians and LGBTQ Christians alike. The LGBTQ apologist is saying that traditional evangelicalism simply needs to apply the truth consistently. If evangelicals were only consistent, non-hypocritical, then they would see what we see—that homosexuality is okay. It is a powerful, emotive proposition. Liberal, Protestant churches accepted homosexuality long ago, and now with “gay marriage” being the law-of-the-land, some evangelical Christians are being persuaded as well. The reasoning in this question seems to satisfy some in their quest for a biblical justification for homosexuality. It is a monumentally important question.[Please note that I am in full agreement that salvation is by grace alone through faith alone. My contention is that the distortion arises from convoluting this doctrine of salvation with sanctification.]

This fourth installment of the series continues my analysis and rebuttal of the primary question above. I maintain that the question itself is full of erroneous presuppositions, theological error, and should therefore be dismissed altogether. This series will hopefully serve to correct the LGBTQ apologist and to give the evangelical Christian assurance that his theological heritage, resting on its biblical foundation is solid and must not be abandoned. I fear though, that he does not know his theological heritage.

The Evangelical-Reformed Connection

One error in the question is its sweepingly false notion that it properly identifies and represents orthodox Christian doctrine. It begins, “How can Christians claim…?” Though, the questioner identifies and represents a popular Christian doctrine, zie has not identified and does not represent historic, Protestant, Christian doctrine. (See the third blog post which addresses the doctrine.) The popular doctrine is novel within the scope of Church History. This should cause the Christian to pause. As Paul warns in Galatians Ch. 1, “I am amazed that you are so quickly deserting Him who called you by the grace of Christ, for a different gospel; which is really not another; only there are some who are disturbing you and want to distort the gospel of Christ.”

Modern, Evangelical Christianity is Protestant. Its branch of the Christian family tree forked at that major division known as the “Protestant Reformation.” Like it or not, your doctrine was forged by the likes of John Calvin, the father of Presbyterianism. For instance, that bastion of evangelicalism, Dallas Theological Seminary, was started by a Presbyterian, Lewis Sperry Chafer. It’s safe to say Chafer was not thoroughly Reformed, but “DTS stands on the shoulders of great men [Reformed Theologians] like Spurgeon.” I cannot cite the quote, but I recall hearing it during a chapel service I attended sometime between 1993 and 1997.

 The Tripartite View of the Law in Church History

John Calvin’s teaching on the division of the law into Moral, Civil (Judicial), and Ceremonial may be the most recognized statement of the “Reformed” tripartite view of the Law, (See section 14 here from Institutes of the Christian Religion.), but it’s not the first. A look at Calvin’s footnote shows that he draws upon the teaching of Thomas Aquinas’ Summa Theologica. That places the doctrine back to the 13th Century. Yet, Aquinas was not the originator either. He drew from the well of theological thought that had even much earlier origins. One of the most recognized church fathers, Augustine of Hippo, expressed similar doctrine in the late 4th century. I can recommend this article from the Westminster Theological Journal 61:2 (Fall 1999): 175-207 for a more thorough source treating the historical development of Aquinas’ view of the Law. Another excellent resource is Jonathan Bayes’ article  from Reformation Today, Issue 177. To be fair, I will include this blog from the Gospel Coalition and this interview of Dr. Thomas Schreiner for opposing views. However, my purpose here is not to defend the doctrine so much, but rather to prove that the doctrine of the threefold division of the law has a long and distinguished pedigree in church history.

Returning to John Calvin (1509-1564) as my historical place marker, I now move forward chronologically. The great Reformed confessions of Protestant doctrine that stand as faithful, though not inerrant, expressions of biblical truth consistently teach the tripartite division either formally or practically. By “practically” I mean they may use the alternate phrase “the three-fold purpose of the Law” which expresses how the Law pertains to the daily life of the New Testament Christian. Namely, the Law is to be a mirror, a restraint of evil, and a guide of what pleases God. Some of the confessions of faith and creeds include the Reformed Church’s Belgic Confession Article 25 (1618); the Presbyterians’ Westminster Confession of Faith (1646) chapter 19; The Congregationalists’ Savoy Declaration (1658) chapter 19; and the Reformed Baptists’ 2nd London Baptist Confession of Faith (1689) chapter 19.

In addition to Augustine, Aquinas, Calvin, and these confessions of faith, the threefold division of the law is supported by such stalwart theologians as John Owen, Jonathan Edwards, and Charles Spurgeon, to name only three of many. I know there are other great theologians who differ. But again, my point is that the doctrine has a rich tradition with highly regarded proponents and is shared by vast numbers of Christians now and in times past. And it is also my point that this tradition is arguably representative of historic, orthodox, Protestant doctrine. For the LGBTQ apologist or the evangelical Christian to represent the popular, contrary doctrine as normative Christian doctrine is simply an error.

In conclusion, it is clear that the modern evangelical Christian—be he either unsympathetic to or embracing of the LGBQT perspective—should be aware that to be among those who think negatively about Old Testament Law is to be out-of-step with much of historic Christianity, with the Apostle Paul, and with Christ who said of Himself, “Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill. ‘For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass from the Law until all is accomplished….’”

Christian Apologetics and Homosexuality: The Role of the Old Testament Law for the New Testament Christian

Should Christians embrace homosexuality as normative since they ignore the rest of Old Testament Law?

The significance of this question is huge. LGBTQ apologists are attempting to entice Christians away from orthodoxy by arguing for Biblical precedence on this very point. And the angle by which they approach this is the popular evangelical doctrine, “We are not under the Law but under grace.” Why do I call this a “popular evangelical doctrine” and not “biblical doctrine” since it is a quote of the Apostle Paul in Romans 6:14?

A Background of Controversy

I do so because the popular doctrine skews the balance of biblical doctrine by having one truth eclipse another. Prominent Dispensational theologians from my alma mater, Dallas Theological Seminary, were engaged in a highly visible, public debate with John MacArthur in the late 1980’s and 1990’s in what is known as the “Lordship Salvation” vs “Free Grace” controversy. At stake was the centerpoint of Christianity, the Gospel. One side accused the other of “easy believism” and “antinomianism” (without law) while the other accused “legalism” and “works-based salvation.” The debate affected arguably millions of Evangelicals. As John MacArthur states about his book that launched the debate, The Gospel According to Jesus, “There are now [2003] about half a million copies in circulation, and the book is still in print. That is almost unprecedented for a polemic book dealing with a theological issue.” Evangelicals were faced with a decision to make: which side are you on? Is the Law good or is it bad? Does it have a place for Christians or not?

The Free Grace controversy was such a hot topic for the Dispensationalists for the same reason it concerns our question about there being a biblical argument for homosexuality. The topic hit very close-to-home on a fundamental tenet of Dispensationalism, namely the duality of, or separation between, the Old Testament and the New Testament. That foundation was part of the backdrop for stressing “saved by grace alone through faith alone” and “once saved always saved” but at the expense of any expectation of personal holiness (see Hebrews 12:14). The practical effect in the pew was a very pejorative view of Old Testament law. For them, to view the law favorably was tantamount to being a Pharisee, Jesus’ earthly antagonist. The doctrine communicates that there is absolutely no place for the Old Testament Law for the New Testament Christian. And this doctrine now finds welcome support by the LGBTQ apologist. The “Free Grace” doctrine, with its staunch opposition to the Law, is now being used by LGBTQ apologists to promote a theological argument favorable to homosexuality. I’m not making an ad-hominem argument against my Dispensationalist brothers’ doctrine.  The point is, you can see the doctrine residing in the question: “How can Christians claim the Bible forbids homosexual acts, but then ignore all the other Old Testament laws?” It is no wonder that the LGBTQ apologist can stump some Christians by asking the question; because a large number of Christians do indeed ignore all the “other” Old Testament laws.

The Ten Commandments are for Today

The Covenantal position, in my view, provides the best biblical theology for addressing the  role of the Law for the Christian. I point to Reformed theologian John Calvin’s statement of the doctrine of the Law, not as proof, but for a definition: “We must bear in mind that common division of the whole law of God published by Moses into moral, ceremonial, and judicial laws.” (See section 14 here from Institutes of the Christian Religion.) With the Law of Moses divided into parts, we are able to make better sense of the Apostle Paul’s multiple uses of the term “law” in the book of Romans. It helps us understand which laws remain and which do not. While Romans 6:14 seems to support the LGBTQ / Free Grace position and disfavors the Law: “you are not under law but under grace,” Romans 7:12 speaks favorably of the Law, “So then, the Law is holy, and the commandment is holy and righteous and good.”

In Romans 7:12, Paul juxtaposes the character of the law with the character of the Lawgiver. The Law is holy and righteous and good, because God is holy and righteous and good. It is that quality of the Law that gives it the nomenclature “Moral Law.” The Ten Commandments are uniquely set apart in Scripture, written in stone by the very finger of God amidst smoke and fire and fear. They serve as standards, transcending the 613 civil and ceremonial laws that governed ancient Israel socially and religiously. It is not hard to make the connection that the 613 laws were detailed, specific out-workings of the ten. Christ had this perspective too it seems, evidenced by His further summarizing the Law of Moses this way:“…you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the great and foremost commandment. The second is like it, ‘you shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets.”

The point being made here is that the Moral Law is eternal. It cannot and must not be ignored today. It expresses what is holy and righteous and good for all of mankind, God’s preeminent creature, made in the very likeness of God. The Moral Law existed prior to its being codified on Mt. Sinai; it permeated the temporary Mosaic Covenant laws; and it continues to govern the consciences of the New Testament believer. For example, it was sin to murder before Moses, during Moses, and after Moses. As to the new covenant believer, what other Law could God have meant when He spoke through the prophet Jeremiah saying, “But this is the covenant which I will make with the house of Israel after those days,” declares the Lord, ‘I will put My law within them and on their heart I will write it; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people.’”?

For the above reasons, it is evident that the question posed:  “How can Christians claim the Bible forbids homosexual acts, but then ignore all the other Old Testament laws?” perpetuates a wrong, but popular, doctrine that Old Testament Laws are to be dismissed. They are not. The Moral Law remains.  Let us go forward with confidence in the manner Paul writes in Ephesians 5:3 “But immorality [porneia-sexual sin] or any impurity or greed must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints….