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lgbt-ks

LGBT Movement: Part 3

LGBT Objection: In the Old Testament, Homosexuality was a capital crime that was punishable by death, but now we are under the new covenant.  How does that affect the practice of homosexuality?

Response: Answering this question requires an understanding concerning the relationship of the OT laws to the NT.  Does the OT laws remain in effect in the NT?  If so, do all of them remain in operation or do certain OT laws remain in operation in the NT?  For example were the OT laws that prohibited the wearing of wool and linen woven together (Deut. 22:11) and eating of certain foods still in effect today?   How can we best understand the OT laws?  In regards to ceremonial aspects for the Jews such as the sacrifices, he referred to His body as being the ultimate and final sacrifice (John 2:21; Mark 14:36).  His death made it possible for us to approach God.  Thus the OT sacrificial system is obsolete.  In regards to cleanliness and food laws, see Mark 7:19; Acts 10:9-16.  He touched lepers and dead bodies and did so by not being unclean.  As for Civil laws that would for example carry out capital punishments for grave crimes, they were carried out in the Jewish nation-state.  In the New Testament, the role of punishment is left only to the government, not the church.  If righteous government, would would not be immoral, if it implements punishment by death for adultery, rape, homosexuality, etc.  The church’s role is to minister the Gospel of grace.  When this topic of how the civil laws are to be exercised, it is not uncommon for anyone who dares to affirm God’s justice concerning grave sins as being antiquated. Society will call you not only being antiquated, but will call you bigot, hater of people, etc.  However, we need to keep in mind that these critics who argue this way are actually battling against God.  God determines what sin meets the criteria for the death penalty.  At the end of the day, even Paul himself did not detest the notion that rebellion from sinners against God deserve death.  He states in Romans 1:32, “And although they know the ordinance of God, that those who practice such things are worthy of death, they not only do the same, but also give hearty approval to those who practice them.”  It is important to note that in order to be nuanced, that this divinely appointed penalty is applicable to both the Old and New Testaments. The apostle Paul taught that grave sins (i.e. homosexuality) that are done in opposition to God deserved the death penalty (Romans 1: 24– 32). However, it is important to note too that not every rebellious acts (i.e. adultery, homosexuality) act in the OT did not bring the death penalty right away (1 Kings 15:11-12).  At times, the Lord administered grace.  But at the end of the day, if we want pure justice, everyone deserves to die.  As a result, we would be wise to not argue against God.  But God being rich in mercy and grace, offers salvation through His Son even for homosexuals.

On another note, if the NT reaffirms a OT law it is wise to note that the law still remains in effect. So the prohibition against homosexuality is a morally universal law and is applicable today.  Whether it was during Moses’ time or Jesus time, homosexuality was prohibited.

Since the term law is mentioned, here is my more detailed analysis concerning the the Mosaic Law that maybe helpful. Please also see my further thoughts below.  It does not make the prohibition of homosexuality complex or cumbersome in anyway (Scripture is very clear concerning the sin of homosexuality), but it the below analysis I hope will help one have a better handling of the OT laws or be used as a launching pad to do further research.

Introduction

The discussions of the different perspectives of the law have existed for many centuries and are not discussions that are easy to cover.[1]  One of the greatest theological minds ever produced in America, the Reformed theologian Jonathan Edwards (1703-58) has this to say regarding the subject of the law, “There is perhaps no part of divinity attended with so much intricacy, and wherein orthodox divines do so much differ as stating the precise agreement and difference between the two dispensations of Moses and Christ.”[2]   I think before we tackle the issue surrounding the law, it is imperative for us to first understand what the law is. In the opening line, Alva J. McClain says this concerning the law, “Much of the controversy which has attended the Christian doctrine of salvation by grace has arisen about the place of the law in relation to the Christian believer.  Various motives, some good and bad, have led men to raise the issue.”[3]  In light of the issue surrounding the law, the purpose of his essay is to examine the usage of the Mosaic Law in general New Testament usage and to see whether the Law of Moses is tripartite or indivisible[4].

In order to accomplish that, let’s cover what the New Testament has to say about the Mosaic Law before covering the issue of the whether the Law of Moses is tripartite or indivisible.  I believe by doing an analysis of what the New Testament says about the Mosaic Law will help dispel some misconceptions and the various wrong notions surrounding the law.  In regard to what the law is, I think Alva J. McClain covers the issue well.  McClain says that the written Mosaic Law, including the entire Pentateuch, the indivisible unity of the law, the penalties of the law, the Sermon on the Mount’s interpretation with reference to the original meaning of the law, Christ’s fulfillment of the law; and the Mosaic law itself, testifies to the existence of such an earlier divine law that is not limited to just the Mosaic Law.[5]

New Testament View Concerning the Mosaic Law?

The first point McClain makes is that the law is not only limited to the Mosaic Law, but also covers the entire Pentateuch.  In Matthew 5:17 when Jesus mentioned the law, there was an understanding that the law comprised of the first five books.[6]  Moreover, the same identification concerning the law appears in Luke 24:44 and Acts 28:23.  Apostle Paul refers to the first five books when he commands women “to be under obedience, as also saith the law” (1 Cor 14:34; cf. Gen 3:16).  One other example of his acknowledgement of the law is when Paul defends his ministry in 1 Cor 9:9 by quoting a passage from Deut 25:4 by noting that it was written “in the Law of Moses.”[7]

Second point is about the indivisible unity of the law. McClain is not against the three descriptions of the law, which is moral, ceremonial, and civil, but he thinks it is wrong to divide the law.[8]  He uses verses like James 2:10 and Matt. 5:19 to justify his point.  James 2:10 says, “For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles in one point, he has become guilty of all.”  Matthew 5:19 says, “Whoever then annuls one of the least of these commandments, and teaches others to do the same, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever keeps and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.”

In his third point, he stresses the importance of the penalties that cannot be detached from the law. Rom 4:15 says, “for the Law brings about wrath, but where there is no law, there also is no violation.”

Fourth point is the Sermon on the Mount’s interpretation with reference to the original meaning of the law.  On the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus makes reference to the law in its original inner meaning.  In Matthew 5:17-19, Jesus points out the importance of the law by saying that not “jot or one tittle” can pass away.  Christ did not come to abolish the Mosaic Law and place another law of His own; rather He is reaffirming the law.  Christ upheld the law to the highest degree, which is why He held people accountable.[9]  Here are some passages that shows Christ upholding the spiritual intent of the Lawgiver: “the honor of God (Matt 22:18-22), the Sabbath (Matt 12:1-14; Mark 2:23-28; 3:1-6; Luke 13:10-21; 14:1-24), honor of parents (Mark 7:1-13), murder (Matt 5:21-24, 43-48), divorce and adultery (Matt 5:27-32; 19:3-12), fasting (Mark 2:18-22), and ceremonial rituals (Matt 15:1-30; Mark 7:1-23; Luke 11:37-54).”[10]    Based on some of these passages mentioned above, it is clear that God did not abrogate the law, but rather, he reiterated and kept it.  At that same day, Christ also rebuked the mishandling and misunderstanding of the religious leaders’ view towards the law, by saying in Matthew 5:19, “Whoever then annuls one of the least of these commandments, and teaches others to do the same, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever keeps and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.”  According to Dr. Robert Thomas—here is what he says about Jesus confrontation of the religious leaders in regards to Matthew 5:17,

Far from breaking the Old Testament teachings, Jesus came to bring them to fruition by contrasting the true intent of the Law with the common rabbinic interpretations of His day.  The key verse of the sermon, therefore, is Matthew 5:20.  The righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees was not adequate to gain entrance into the Kingdom because it dealt only with external behavior.  Qualifications for entering this promised Kingdom are what Jesus outlines in this discourse (cf. Matt 7:21, Sec. 71).[11]

In McClain’s fifth point, he argues that Christ fulfilled the Mosaic Law because he was born under it (Gal 4:4). While under the law, Christ obeyed the law perfectly.  Because of His perfect obedience to the Lawgiver, Christ absorbed the punishment of the law for His elect.  To say that Christ came only to obey the law would be a misnomer.  He not only came to obey and fulfill the law, but He also commanded others to obey it (Matt 5:17-19).[12]  Not only did Christ had the authority to tell others to obey the commandments, but He also had the authority to simplify the complexity of the Mosaic Law by focusing on one word: love[13] Because Christ is greater than Moses (John 5:36-47), he authoritatively summarized the Mosaic Law in two commandments: to love God and your neighbor (Matt 22:37-40; cf. Lev 19:18; Deut 6:5).[14]

The last point by McClain, argues that the Mosaic Law points back to a prior divine law, which can be seen in the Garden of Eden (Gen 2:15-17).  The divine law, which can be traced back in Eden, which was not written on two tablets, manifests itself in the law of sacrifice (Gen 4:4 with Heb 11:4), the law of tithes (Gen 14:20), the law of circumcision (Gen 17:10-14), etc.  Again, they were given unwritten law.  On another note, Adam and Eve were given the ability to develop the moral law.[15] But the written law became necessary in the later generations because of the sin and the hardness of man’s heart.[16]  The question that some ask concerning the topic of the law is, “why did God give the law to Israel?”  The law was given to Israel for three main reasons: ceremonial implementations (i.e. offerings and sacrifices, ritual purity, feasts and festival, which includes the Day of Atonement, and the laws of holiness), to model a high ritual of holiness and purity; and to show them that through the law they were guilty and in need of a High Priest.[17]  The law was “not” given to the redeemed community to acquire salvation, but was given as an instruction on how to respond to salvation in an honorable way towards Yahweh.[18]  Also the giving of the law also provided the means for Israel to show God’s glory to the surrounding Gentile nations.[19]

Hence, we can clearly identify with the Bible that the discussion of the Mosaic Law that is found in the Pentateuch is important because God devoted much significant portions of the law in the Torah.  God devoted much attention to it because God expected His chosen people to live in accordance to the Mosaic Law during the Old Testament times, but Christ was the anomaly to the Jewish people—He was able to fulfill all of its requirements.[20]

As stated earlier, the NT passages seem to refer to some kind of continuity when it comes to the Mosaic Law.[21]  For example, Galatians 3:24 says, “Therefore the Law has become our tutor to lead us to Christ, so that we may be justified by faith. [22]  And as stated earlier, James 2:10 says, “For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles in one point, he has become guilty of all.”  Since God commands believers to obey His commandments, all believers should have a desire to obey all of God’s requirements of us.[23]  However, the question is, what commandment do we obey?  Do we obey all of the Mosaic laws?  Do we obey some and ignore some?  Do we obey all or do we ignore all?  In order to answer these questions, it is imperative for us to discuss whether there is a concept of the Mosaic Law being tripartite or indivisible.  I believe that will help settle the dust.

Tripartite Division of the Mosaic Law

Definition of the Tripartite Division of the Law

The proponent of the tripartite division of the Mosaic Law holds that the Mosaic Law is divided into three different categories: ceremonial, civil, and moral.  Believe it or not, this discussion has relevancy to the discussion earlier of whether punishment by death is still a viable option now.   Ceremonial laws can be seen with the observance of the Sabbath (located in the Decalogue), the sacrifices, and the functions of the Levitical High Priest.  The purpose of the ceremonial law is to point to Christ because the ceremonial elements are illustrative shadows of what is to come.

For the civil law, these are laws for murder, manslaughter, adultery, homosexuality—just to name a few.  The just punishment ratio should generally be an “eye for an eye.”  The purpose for the civil law has to do with God’s law in regards to the “government” (not the church) and society moral’s responsibility to its citizens and God.

For the moral law, these are commands to tell the truth, because God is a God of truth.  Within the moral law, God commands us to love because God is love; He commands us to marital faithfulness because He is faithful; He prohibits us against homosexuality because He desires heterosexual marriages.  Hence, the moral law reveals God’s absolute eternal commands that are grounded in His character and His will.  The moral law is not only eternal, but it is universal and applicable for today.  The moral laws are not only limited to some of the Mosaic laws, but would also include the laws of Christ.  Laws of Christ also express absolute eternal commands that are grounded in His character and His will.

On another note, when speaking about the OT laws, according to Luke 16:16, Luke says, “The Law and the Prophets were proclaimed until John; since that time the gospel of the kingdom of God has been preached, and everyone is forcing his way into it.”  In other words, the law and the prophets continued until the time of John, who is the last OT prophet.[24]  OT laws were no longer written after John.  Other laws that were new were the laws of Christ (Gal. 6:1-5; Rom. 8:2; 1 Cor. 9:21; John 14:15; John 13:34-35, etc.)

Proof that the Mosaic Law is Tripartite

To argue for a tripartite division of the law successfully, I believe that I must cover Matthew 5:17-19 first in order to give a detail treatment to the tripartite division of the law.  I believe this passage is the grounds for whether the concept of the tripartite division of the law is correct or not.

It is inconceivable to expect that Jesus expected his disciples to teach obedience to the commandments that He disregarded.[25]  Some will justify this premise by using the fulfillment of the new covenant in Jeremiah 31 to say that we are no longer under the law.[26]  But how can that be accurate when the notion of sin in New Covenant is connected with or defined as the transgression of the Law of Moses (9:5-6; 13:22-7; 16:10-12; 17-18; 18:23)?  Clearly the Law of Moses, which is part of the moral law, has a place in this.  Moreover, in the Book of Matthew, on a few occasions, when sin is defined by the immediate context, sin is linked with the Decalogue (5:27-30).[27] Consequently Matthew gives his reader no reason to think that he understands sin any differently to Jeremiah—which is to sin is to transgress the law.  There is no double standard when it comes to defining sin.  Sin is transgression of God’s moral law.  It can be found in the Decalogue and many other laws in the OT.  Any argument that states that Jesus redefined the law inevitably leads to the conclusion that he also redefined sin.[28]  This is why it is important to know that Jesus did not redefine or abolish the law.  The word “abolish” (καταλύω, katalyō), is used by Jesus to refer to the temple and of a building and body.[29]  What you can see from this term is that Jesus did not come to abolish or destroy the OT laws or the OT.  OT laws and the prophets are inseparable entities that are equal in Scripture (Luke 24:27).[30]  Instead, Christ came to fulfill it.

One question that arises often is in regards to the word “fulfill.”  Some will ask, “How did Jesus fulfill the Law and Prophets?”  He fulfilled the Law and the Prophets in His person, teaching, obedience, making his followers obedient, his fulfillment in the soteriological aspect (cross), and the eschatological aspect.[31]  It is a shattering claim that Jesus can claim that He fulfills the Law and Prophets, which equals the entire OT Scripture.  No human can do what Christ did.  It is nothing short of a miracle.

Another nuance to consider when observing Matthew 5:17, is to interpret it in light of a wider context.  That context, I believe, must include the OT.  I think that the “analogy of Scripture” or what some call “antecedent theology,” should be implemented for passages like Matthew 5:17—especially if the context inherits OT terminology.[32]  Confining Matthew 5:17 to Matthew 5 or just the Book of Matthew itself are inadequate and are unhelpful methods.[33]  Hence, it is beneficial for the reader to recognize that Matthew interacted with the OT context in order to discover the nuances and complete manner behind Jesus’ fulfillment concerning the Law and the Prophets.[34]  Moreover, the debate over Matthew 5:17 is not so much on whether there is continuity or discontinuity of the law for Christian ethics, but it is a text to affirm Jesus’ fulfillment of the law and prophets together.[35]

On another note, I think that the use of Jeremiah 31 (New Covenant) alongside Matthew 5:17, provides some coherence in the discussion of the law. Matthew’s use of the OT context, such as the samples from Jeremiah 31, shows that Matthew presents the same assumptions about the law, sin, and covenant as the Prophet Jeremiah.[36]  This is one example of antecedent theology.  As a result, Jesus fulfillment is therefore in coherence and in harmony with the original intention of the Mosaic Law; and as well as the prophets’ hermeneutic and application of that law.[37].  Jesus does this in Matthew 19 as well when discussing divorce and remarriage.

The reason why the law cannot be abrogated, reconstructed, or inoperative for today, is because in Matthew 5:18, Jesus pointed out that “not a jot or tittle will pass away until heaven and earth pass away, and until all is accomplished.”[38]  As a result, any concept that argues for abolition becomes an untenable position.[39]  Even if all has become accomplished because Christ has fulfilled the law with reference to his life and work, that does not give any grounds for abolition of the law.  The phrase “passing away of the heaven and earth” answers that.[40]  The notion of the law being abolished would not be in harmony with passages in Psalm, which speaks of God’s Word as statutes that are sure (Ps 93:5), everlasting (Ps 119:160), and are fixed in the heavens (Ps 119:89).[41]  These passages convey that God’s words are accurate and everlasting.[42]  The question to answer is, “What are the inoperative laws that were fulfilled by Christ?  I think that approach will help one see what laws continue and which ones do not continue.

As for Matthew 5:19, Jesus reiterates the law by pointing out that all of God’s laws are not to be annulled.  They have all been fulfilled.  But not all of the laws will be operative for the Christian today.  For example, the ceremonial law has stopped because Christ stopped it from continuing because He is the greater sacrifice.  The ceremonial sacrifice related to the ceremonial law was intended for the Jewish community.  The civil law on the other hand, is not operative today either because it is applicable only in a theocratic realm (but maybe beneficial and wise for the state to follow some of the OT laws in order to curb sin effectively [i.e. murder, adultery, rape, homosexuality]). The only law that continues for Christians are the moral laws such as the Decalogue (except for the Sabbath; see Colossians 2:16) that is grounded in the holy, eternal character of God.  However, it should not be the basis for justification, but should just be an outline for sanctification.  Hence, I think this approach suffices because it does not destroy any law.  Some of the Mosaic laws that were case laws (Some say Deut. 24:1-4, which is a case law, no longer applies) that had temporal jurisdiction, are not applicable today either, but are temporal.   Although the specific laws or case laws that no longer have jurisdiction today—they still remain, (“jot and tittle”) because they are part of the legal framework that conveys and undergirds the principle and notion that Israel’s dependence, was upon God alone (Deut 8:16-19).[43]  So when Jesus is saying “not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the law until all is accomplished,” He includes laws that no longer have jurisdiction as well.  [44]Philip Ross says it best, “Though abrogated in so far as they regulated specific actions, they remain embedded in a corpus juris that will stand until the end of time.  Their ongoing relevance is by way of memorial and foretoken.”[45]  As a result, I do not see the case laws as a defeating blow to the tripartite division of the Mosaic Law.  Even though the case laws have no jurisdiction over Christians, it is still valuable in the sense of its “ongoing relevance by way of memorial and foretoken” as stated by Ross.

But for the most part, the civil and ceremonial laws that did not have temporary jurisdiction are paused until the millennial reign.  However the moral law still continues because the moral law reveals God’s absolute eternal commands that are grounded in His character and His will.

Implications of the Tripartite Law of Moses

The moral Law of Moses, which includes the Decalogue, is timeless, changeless, and universally applicable today.  The Spirit of God does not operate on a vacuum, but He applies the Word of God, which includes His law to the heart and conscience of every believer.[46]  Although, the believer just like the unbeliever has a conscience that bears witness to the presence of God’s own norm within him or herself, the Bible does not presume that the believer’s conscience does not need more instruction.[47]  We are to have a desire for it to permeate society pervasively.

For Apostle Paul, the moral law, which Christians are to obey is revealed in the Scriptures, especially (but not exclusively) in the Decalogue: Romans 7:7, Romans 8:4-13; Romans 12:1-2; and Romans 13:9-10 to name but a few.  Romans 7:7 says, “What shall we say then? Is the Law sin? May it never be! On the contrary, I would not have come to know sin except through the Law; for I would not have known about coveting if the Law had not said, “You shall not covet.” In Romans 8:4-13, we see that when Paul mentions Christ and the Spirit in reference to sanctification and obedience, he is describing its terms not of Christ’s, but on grounds of the law’s requirements that is being fulfilled in us or by us (ἐν ἡμῖν, en hēmin).[48]  Here in this context, Paul provides a framework for Christian ethics in order to enable believers to obey the moral requirements of the law via the agency of the Holy Spirit’s power to enable us to obey the law’s requirements.[49]  In Romans 8:7, Paul makes it clear that in the context regarding the ungodly mind, the unbeliever is unable to subject himself to the law of God, but the godly can because we do not suppress it.  In Romans 12:1-2, Paul takes up the matter of the moral outpouring of justification and picks up his earlier emphasis on the law.[50]  Paul picks up the earlier emphasis of the law by speaking of the law under the synonym of “the will of God” (τὸ θέλημα τοῦ θεοῦ, to thelēma tou theou) with his earlier description in 7:13 concerning the law as  being “holy and just and good.”[51]  Clearly in this context of chapter 12, Paul is telling the reader to discern and obey the law of God.[52]  In Romans 13:9-10, before Apostle Paul turns his attention to idols, he concludes his thoughts regarding ethics by referring to the most of the second half of the Decalogue: “he who loves his neighbor has fulfilled the law.”[53]  The Decalogue is in verse 9: “’You shall not commit adultery, You shall not murder, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,’” and if there is any other commandment, it is summed up in this saying, “’You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’”  What is interesting to note is that while Apostle Paul is quoting the sixth, seventh, eighth, and tenth commandment, he also mentions other moral laws by saying “and if there is any other commandment.”  It appears that the moral law is not only limited to the Decalogue (except for the Sabbath), but also different laws such as the Law of Christ.

While much has been discussed regarding the moral law, it is important to note that the Spirit of God uses His Word to enable believers to grow in harmony with Christ by fulfilling the law (Rom 8:3-4; 13:10; Gal 5:14).[54]  Since Christ expects fruit in our lives, obedience is necessary. You cannot obey if there is no law.  Obedience and the law are two sides of the same coin.  However, that does not mean that the grounds of our salvation is based on the works of the law, rather the purpose of the law is Christian growth in grace, not our justification or merit.[55]  In Galatians 3:21 where Paul says, “Is the Law then contrary to the promises of God? May it never be! For if a law had been given which was able to impart life, then righteousness would indeed have been based on law.”  Bible commentator, Moses Silva, says that this text is the crux of Paul’s interpretation of the law.[56]  Silva continues by saying that Apostle Paul did not oppose the promise and law, but rather Apostle Paul sees the promise and the law as the instrument that helps receives the promise.[57]  In other words, grace is necessary for the obedience to the law of God.

Many fear that the use of the law for Christian ethics because it may usher in legalism.[58]  Because some fear the heresy of “Galatianism,” many will say that we are not under the so-called Mosaic Law.[59]

The law is a moral compass that helps leads believers in life when it comes to biblical ethics (i.e. same-sex marriage, divorce and remarriage, etc.), but it is not made to inject power or give life and righteousness apart from the works of grace.[60]  Because of the fear of the settle dangers of legalism, many will say we are under the law of Christ, not the Law of Moses (Rom 6:15; Gal 3:24-25).  According to Shorter Oxford Dictionary, legalism is “adherence to law as opposed to the gospel; the doctrine of justification by works, or teaching which savors it.”  Hence, adherence to the law as a moral compasses or outline for sanctification is not legalism.

Instead of asking, “Are we under the law of Moses?” the correct question would be, “What part of Moses’ laws are we under; and does the New Testament negate the use of the moral Law of Moses such as the Decalogue for normative Christian life and practice?”[61]  Here is what John Gerstner says concerning the application of the law for today, “Christ’s affirmation of the moral law was complete.  Rather than setting His disciples free from the law, He tied them more tightly to it.  He abrogated not one commandment but instead intensified all.”  When it comes to the Christian relationship to the law, here is what Dr. Robert Reymond said, “In sum the norm or standard of the Christian life is the law, and the motive power to keep it is the new life in Christ, that is, life in the Spirit, which exhibits itself as a life of obedience, that is, of love.”[62]

Mosaic Law is Indivisible

Definition of the Mosaic Law Being Indivisible

Proponents of this view believe that whether the Mosaic Law is applicable to believers today is based on the grounds of whether the Mosaic Law is indivisible or not.[63]  Since the law is indivisible, it is a non-negotiable when trying to divide the law. Hence, since one cannot divide the Mosaic Law into three parts: ceremonial, civil, and moral, one cannot apply the Mosaic Law to the New Testament believer.

Proof that the Mosaic Law is Indivisible

The tripartite division of the law (traditional approach) according to this camp has problems because the traditional approach has arbitrary distinctions in terms of the tripartite division of the law.  The tripartite division of the law, which is the traditional approach, does not interpret the legal material accordingly in the narrative texts and it also overlooks the law’s theological context.[64]  According to this view, all laws are theological; therefore, it is difficult to determine whether a certain law belongs in the moral category.[65]

In order to not overlook the law’s theological context, there are three major points that must be followed. The first major point is to recognize that the Mosaic Covenant is closely associated with Israel’s land conquest of their enemies and their occupation of the Promised Land.[66]  The term “land” occurs almost 200 times in the Book of Deuteronomy that implements the term with the life of the land God promised.[67] He points out in his essay that the connection between the Mosaic Covenant and the land is so strong that it cuts across the distinction between the so-called civil, ceremonial, and moral laws.[68]

Second major point in order to not overlook the law’s theological context, is to recognize that the blessings that come from the Mosaic Covenant were conditional.   For example, the law must be interpreted in light of contexts in the narrative.  The context is that God delivered His people from the their slavery in Egypt and He promised them a land for them to dwell in.[69] The giving of the law is connected with God’s chosen people, Israel; and the law cannot be isolated and presented by itself as some kind of moral law.[70]

In lieu of the discussion concerning the theological context of the law, many will ask, “Why did God give the Mosaic Law to His people, Israel?”[71]  First of all, it must be understood that the OT exalts the giving of the law in an exalted and lofty position.[72]  The law was not given as a divine torture chamber, a means of salvation, or a way to build up points, but the law was given to reveal the holiness of God as stated in passages like Leviticus 11:44-45 and 20:26.[73]  Leviticus 11:44-45 says, “For I am the Lord your God. Consecrate yourselves therefore, and be holy, for I am holy. And you shall not make yourselves unclean with any of the swarming things that swarm on the earth.  For I am the Lord who brought you up from the land of Egypt to be your God; thus you shall be holy, for I am holy.  Leviticus 20:26 says, “Thus you are to be holy to Me, for I the Lord am holy; and I have set you apart from the peoples to be Mine.”  The law also was given to Israel in order to demand conformity to it (Joshua 1:8), to demonstrate man’s sinfulness (Lev 4:2, 22, 27; 5:15, 17; cf. Rom 3:19-20; 7:7-12).[74]

Let us now focus most our time concerning the Scriptures that are used by some to prove that the Mosaic Law is no longer a functional law for Christians today.  Some of the Scriptures this camp uses are Heb 8-9 and Gal 2:15-16; 3:25.  Galatians 3:24-25, which is a major passage used, states, “Therefore the Law has become our tutor to lead us to Christ, so that we may be justified by faith. But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor.”  Hebrews 8:13 another major passage says, “When He said, “A new covenant,” He has made the first obsolete. But whatever is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to disappear.” The emphasis as you can clearly see, is that the old covenant has been replaced by the new covenant.  Other verses they will use is James 2:10 and Galatians 5:3.  Gal 5:3 says, “And I testify again to every man who receives circumcision, that he is under obligation to keep the whole Law.”

The jugular text used by both groups to justify whether the Mosaic Law is tripartite or indivisible is the debate over Matthew 5:17-19, which states,

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.  Whoever then annuls one of the least of these commandments, and teaches others to do the same, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever keeps and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.

Since the phrase “Law and the Prophets” are used, Jesus is not only referring to the Mosaic Law, but the Old Testament in its entirety.  Most of time, whenever the New Testament uses the law, law of God, law and prophets, Scriptures, or Word of God, the NT is speaking about the whole OT.[75]  The only time it is not referring to the entire OT is if the context gives you a narrower definition.[76]

Proponents who uphold the indivisible nature of the Mosaic Law will say that in verse 17, Jesus does not say “abolish” and “observe,” but says, “abolish” and “fulfill.”[77]  In other words, Christ did not come to observe or to keep the law, but He came to fulfill it.[78]  Here Jesus was not stating that the Law is eternally binding on the New Testament Christians today, because if that were the case, then we would need to keep the sacrificial and ceremonial laws, which violates some portions of the NT.[79]  What Jesus did was that he did not come to brush off or to sweep away the righteous demands, because if that was the case there would be no point of Him coming to this earth, but what Jesus did is fulfill the righteous demands of the law that we could not fulfill.  Daniel Hays, who wrote an article in BibSac called “Applying the Old Testament Today,” wrote this concerning the righteous demands of the law, “As the climax of this aspect of salvation history, Jesus fulfilled all the righteous demands and all the prophetic foreshadowing of the Law and of the Prophets.  In addition Jesus was the final Interpreter of and Authority over the Law and its meaning, as other passages in Matthew indicate…Jesus was not advocating the continuation of the traditional Jewish approach of adherence to the Law.  Nor was He advocating that the Law be dismissed altogether.  He was proclaiming that the meaning of the Law must be interpreted in light of His coming and in light of the profound changes introduced by the New Covenant.”[80]

In regards to Matthew 5:18-19, they conclude that He did not come to abolish or ignore the Law of Moses and the Prophets, but Jesus teaches that He is the fulfillment concerning the message of the Law and the Prophets.[81]

What we can conclude from this camp is that the Mosaic Law is no longer applicable to us as a law because the law no longer functions as the terms of the covenant for us.[82]

CONCLUSION

After analyzing both sides of the argument of whether the Law of Moses is tripartite or indivisible, I think what Walter Kaiser states is best in terms of reconciling the issue,

Now we must recognize that there is a certain truth to the claim that the law exhibits a unity and stands as a unit.  It is also true that the Bible does not classify laws according to a scheme such as moral, civil, and ceremonial.  But that argument holds true for most of theology as well. Nowhere does the Bible summarize most of our schemes found in systematic theology. The word “trinity,” for example, is never found as such, but that does not mean that it is an improper conclusion. The only [290] question should be: is this categorization fair to the Biblical text? On that point there is a large body of teaching.

First of all, the ceremonial legislation had a built-in warning that it would only remain in effect until the real, to which it pointed, came. This built-in obsolescence was signaled in the text from the moment that the legislation on the tabernacle and its services was first given. It is contained in the word “pattern” found in Exod 25:8, 40. This meant that the tabernacle, its priests, it sacrifices, and its associated ritual looked forward to the redemptive work of the Savior. In the meantime men and women had to be satisfied with that which was only a copy, a pattern, a shadow, a type of the real, the actual, the antitype that was to come. When that came all models, copies and patterns would be instantaneously rendered obsolete…A fair interpretation of the Bible demands that we recognize a fundamental difference between those aspects of the law that reflect God’s character and those that symbolically point to the first and second coming of Christ and command only a temporary hold over believers with a stated expiration period.

As a result, I would concur with Kaiser.  Although the law seems to be in a unit, the law does have fundamental differences.  There are laws that reflect God’s character and there are laws that symbolically point to Christ as the substance of the ceremonies that take place.[83]  The laws that reflect God’s character such as the Decalogue would still be applicable to Christians (except for the Sabbath).  If the Decalogue and other laws from the Mosaic Law, which reflects the character of God, is only applicable to the Jews, then that would be a double standard.  For example, in Romans 2:12-16, it appears that Gentiles are under the same standard set forth in the law of God.[84]  What is interesting to note is that Leviticus 24:22 undergirds the idea that Jews and Gentiles are under the same standard, “There shall be one standard for you; it shall be for the stranger as well as the native, for I am the Lord your God.”  Scripture makes it clear that when it comes to God’s standard, there is no double standard of morality.[85]  In order to prevent a double standard of morality, this is where I think categorizing the different categories of the Law of Moses is helpful (i.e. ceremonial, civil, and moral).  If we could do that with the persons of the Trinity, what makes it wrong with implementing the same concept to the Law of Moses.  Also, it is true that at times, you will have a mixture of the moral and ceremonial being interwoven (i.e. Psalm 40:6; Psalm 51:16-17), but the moral will trump that for the Christian, because the ceremonial law is inoperative for Christians.  You also see the moral and civil being interwoven (Ex. 20:8).  The example of Ex. 20:8, in reference to the Sabbath is not applicable to us because the NT fulfills it and is inoperative per Colossians 2:16.  What about Leviticus 20:13?  That is both moral and civil.  This is where the distinctions are helpful.  The moral binding truth still applies to Christians concerning the moral prohibition of its sin, but the civil component can only be exercised by the government because in the New Testament, according to Romans 13, he is the only minister (assuming he is righteous) that has been given authority to administer justice.  The church is not Israel; therefore, it is not called to perform capital punishment on behalf of God.  We minister the Gospel.

Another point to consider is that Solomon’s Proverbs were not just applicable to the Jewish people, but for all; and what many proponents that are against the concept that the moral Law of Moses being used today, such as the Decalogue, fail to understand that Proverbs is nothing more than a reiteration or popularization of the precepts and truths that can be traced back to the Mosaic Law.[86]  If we want to get rid of the moral law of Moses, then we should not implement Proverbs in our lives.


[1]Willem A. VanGemeren, ed., The Law, the Gospel, and the Modern Christian: Five Views (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 1993), 14.

[2]Ibid., 14.

[3]Alva J. McClain, “What is the Law?”  Bibliotheca Sacra 110, no. 440 (October 1, 1953): 333.

[4]Ibid, 333.

[5]Alva J. McClain, “What is the Law?”  Bibliotheca Sacra 110, no. 440 (October 1, 1953): 333–340.

[6]Ibid., 333.

[7]Ibid., 334.

[8]Ibid., 335.

[9]Willem A. VanGemeren, ed., The Law, the Gospel, and the Modern Christian: Five, 38.

[10]Ibid., 38.

[11]Robert L. Thomas and Stanley N. Gundry, The NIV/NASB Harmony of the Gospels (Peaboy, Massachusetts: Print Press, 2003), page 65.

[12]Alva J. McClain, “What is the Law”?  Bibliotheca Sacra 110, no. 440 (October 1, 1953): 339-340.

[13]Willem A. VanGemeren, ed., The Law, the Gospel, and the Modern Christian: Five, 39.

[14]Ibid., 39.

[15]Ibid., 21.

[16]Willem A. VanGemeren, ed., The Law, the Gospel, and the Modern Christian: Five , 21.

[17]Ibid., 31-32.

[18]Rick Holland, “Preaching  the Old Testament” (Unpublished syllabus, The Master’s Seminary, 2002), 3.

[19]Ibid., 3.

[20]Michael A. Grisanti, “OT757 Exegesis of Deuteronomy: The OT Law and the NT Christian: What Do the Two Have to Do with Each Other” (unpublished syllabus, The Master’s Seminary, 2010), 1.

[21]Ibid., 1.

[22]All Scripture is quoted from the New American Standard Bible: 1995 Update.

[23]Michael A. Grisanti, “OT757 Exegesis of Deuteronomy: The OT Law and the NT Christian: What Do the Two Have to Do with Each Other” (unpublished syllabus, The Master’s Seminary, 2010), 1.

[24] John MacArthur, “Christ and the Law, Part 1” (sermon, Grace Community Church, Sun Valley, California, February 18, 1979), PDF file, http://www.gty.org/resources/sermons/2209/christ-and-the-law-part-1 (accessed May 3, 2012), 11.

[25]Philip S. Ross, From the Finger of God: The Biblical and Theological Basis For the Threefold Division of the Law (Fearn, Ross-shire, Scotland: Christian Focus, 2010), 206.

[26]Ibid., 213-214.

[27]Philip S. Ross, From the Finger of God: The Biblical and Theological Basis For the Threefold Division of the Law, 213.

[28]Ibid, 214.

[29]John MacArthur, “Christ and the Law, Part 1,” 8.

[30]John MacArthur, “Christ and the Law, Part 1,” 12.

[31]Philip S. Ross, From the Finger of God: The Biblical and Theological Basis For the Threefold Division of the Law, 214.

[32]Philip S. Ross, From the Finger of God: The Biblical and Theological Basis For the Threefold Division of the Law, 215.

[33]Ibid., 215.

[34]Ibid., 215.

[35]Ibid., 215.

[36]Ibid., 215.

[37]Ibid., 215.

[38]Philip S. Ross, From the Finger of God: The Biblical and Theological Basis For the Threefold Division of the Law, 215.

[39]Ibid., 215.

[40]Ibid., 215.

[41]Ibid, 215.

[42]Ibid, 215.

[43]Philip S. Ross, From the Finger of God: The Biblical and Theological Basis For the Threefold Division of the Law, 218-219.

[44]Ibid., 219.

[45]Ibid., 219.

[46]Willem A. VanGemeren, ed., The Law, the Gospel, and the Modern Christian: Five, 42.

[47]Ibid., 42.

[48]Robert L. Reymond, A New Systematic Theology of the Christian Faith, 2nd ed. (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, 1998), 773.

[49]Ibid., 773.

[50]Ibid., 773.

[51]Ibid., 773.

[52]Ibid., 773.

[53]Ibid., 773.

[54]Willem A. VanGemeren, ed., The Law, the Gospel, and the Modern Christian: Five, 42.

[55]Ibid., 42.

[56]Ibid., 42.

[57]Ibid., 42

[58]Robert L. Reymond, A New Systematic Theology of the Christian, 771.

[59]Ibid., 771.

[60]Willem A. VanGemeren, ed., The Law, the Gospel, and the Modern Christian: Five, 42.

[61]Robert L. Reymond, A New Systematic Theology of the Christian, 771.

[62]Ibid., 773.

[64]Daniel J. Hays, “Applying the Old Testament Law Today,” Bibiotheca Sacra 158, no. 629 (2001): 21.

[65]Michael A. Grisanti, “OT757 Exegesis of Deuteronomy: The OT Law and the NT Christian: What Do the Two Have to Do with Each Other), 3.

[66]Daniel J. Hays, “Applying the Old Testament Law Today, 27.

[67]Michael A. Grisanti, “OT757 Exegesis of Deuteronomy: The OT Law and the NT Christian: What Do the Two Have to Do with Each Other), 3.

[68]Ibid., 27.

[69]Michael A. Grisanti, “OT757 Exegesis of Deuteronomy: The OT Law and the NT Christian: What Do the Two Have to Do with Each Other, 3.

[70]Ibid., 3.

[71]Ibid., 3.

[72]Ibid., 3.

[73]Ibid., 3.

[74]Ibid., 4.

[75]John MacArthur, “Christ and the Law, Part 1,” 11.

[76]Ibid., 11.

[77]Michael A. Grisanti, “OT757 Exegesis of Deuteronomy: The OT Law and the NT Christian: What Do the Two Have to Do with Each Other), 5.

[78]Ibid.,  5.

[79]Daniel J. Hays, “Applying the Old Testament Law Today,” Bibiotheca Sacra 158, no. 629 (2001): 29.

[80]Ibid.,  29.

[81]Michael A. Grisanti, “OT757 Exegesis of Deuteronomy: The OT Law and the NT Christian: What Do the Two Have to Do with Each Other), 6.

[82]Ibid., 6.

[83]Walter C. Kaiser, Jr., “God’s Promise Plan and His Gracious Law.” JETS  33, no. 3 (1990): 289-302.

[84]Ibid., 295.

[85]Ibid., 295.

[86] Ibid., 295.

Bibliography

 

Abbott-Smith, George. A Manual Greek Lexicon of the New Testament. 3d ed. Edinburgh,England: T. & T. Clark, 1950.

Bahnsen, Greg L., Walter C. Kaiser Jr., Douglas J. Moo, Wayne G. Strickland, and Willem A. VanGemeren.  The Law, the Gospel, and the Modern Christian: Five Views. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 1993.

Beale, G. K., and D. A. Carson. Commentary on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament. Grand Rapids, Mich: Baker Academic, 2007.

Frame, John M. The Doctrine of the Christian Life. Phillipsburg, New Jersey: P & R Publishing, 2008.

Feinberg, John S., and Paul D. Feinberg. Ethics For a Brave New World. 2nd ed. Wheaton, Illinois: Crossway, 2010.

Grisanti, Michael A.  “OT757 Exegesis of Deuteronomy: Exposition Handout 3.”  Unpublished syllabus.  The Master’s Seminary, 2010.

Grudem, Wayne A. 1994. Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine. Leicester, England: Inter-Varsity Press.

Hays, Daniel J. “Applying the Old Testament Law Today.” Bibiotheca Sacra 158, no. 629 (2001): 21-35.

Holland, Rick.  “Preaching the Old Testament.”  Unpublished syllabus.  The Master’s Seminary, 2002.

Kaiser Jr., Walter C.  “God’s Promise Plan and His Gracious Law.”  JETS  33, no. 3 (1990), 289-302.

Kaiser, Walter C. Preaching and Teaching from the Old Testament. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Academic, 2003.

Kitchen, John. The Pastoral Epistles For. Woodlands, Texas: Kress Christian Publications, 2009.

MacArthur, John. “Christ and the Law, Part 1.” Sermon, Grace Community Church, Sun Valley, California, February 18, 1979. PDF file. http://www.gty.org/resources/sermons/2209/christ-and-the-law-part-1 (accessed May 3, 2012).

MacArthur, Jr., John. The Macarthur New Testament Commentary: Matthew 1-7. Chicago, Illinois: Moody Press, 1985.

McClain, Alva J. “What is “the Law”?” Bibliotheca Sacra 110, no. 440 (October 1, 1953): 333-341.

Meyer, Jason C., and E. Ray Clendenen. The End of the Law: Mosaic Covenant in Pauline Theology. Nashville, Tennessee: B&H Academic, 2009.

Pentecost, Dwight J. The Words. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House, 1891.

Quarles, Charles L. Sermon on the Mount: Restoring Christ’s Message to the Modern Church. Nashville, Tenn: B & H Academic, 2011.

Reymond, Robert L. A New Systematic Theology of the Christian. 2nd ed. Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, 1998.

Ross, Philip S. From the Finger of God: The Biblical and Theological Basis For the Threefold Division of the Law. Fearn, Ross-shire, Scotland: Christian Focus, 2010.

Sandy, Brent D., and Ronald L. Giese Jr. Cracking Old Testament Codes: A Guide to Interpreting Literary Genres of the Old Testament. Nashville, Tennessee: Broadman & Holman.

Thomas, Robert L., and Stanley N. Gundry. The NIV/NASB Harmony of the Gospels. Peaboy, Massachusetts: Print Press, 2003.

Varner, William C. The Book of James a New Perspective: A Linguistic Commentary Applying Discourse Analysis. Woodlands, TX: Kress Biblical Resources, 2010.

This is a classic debate between Christian apologist James White and Barry Lynn of the infamous Americans United for the Separation of Church and State concerning whether or not Homosexuality is compatible with Christianity.

James WhiteThe beginning hour of the debate video does have some glitches.

Here’s the debate:

 

fourth-of-july-pictures

I’m not a blind nationalist who idolize America, ignorantly thinking the US is always right. Nor am I someone who thinks America is always wrong, using a simplistic Marxist approach towards history that question everything that is American. I’m an American born to a father who grew up ostracized in a Communist country because my grandfather once owned land and being abandoned my dad had older folks whisper stories to him about America. I’m a kid whose mom was a Laotian refugee after the Vietnam War and told us stories of the incredible kindness of Midwestern Church folks who sponsored them to this country. My immigrant parents struggled with English and didn’t graduate Junior high and yet this country allowed my siblings and I to have the chance for higher education. And a second chance considering in high school I sunk so low as a 1.7 GPA in high school. I’ll remember the many soldiers from dozens of countries we trained with that was surprised that America has such a thing as the GI Bill and VA homeloans. We can debate whether Iraq was right but I will always remember the Iraqis who greeted and show kindness to my fellow Marines, being glad that Saddam was gone and that was months after the invasion was over. I ponder about my recent trip overseas and a Pastor saying “I’ll never see what voting is in my life.” I’m glad that our Constitution has the Bill of Rights including the freedom of speech, expression, press and religious liberties. I love talking to people from other countries and I’m amazed at the nuance people can have of what is good and what is bad about America. I think we Americans can be mature in a naunced and critical (in the right sense of the word) appreciation and love for this country. Or at least be thankful. I’m grateful for all things that might seem trivial: A country where I can access Google, Gmail, Youtube, WordPress and Blogspot without censorship, its many public libraries from sea to shining sea and for the many people of America in different chapters in my life.

Matthew vines

In part 1 I pointed out that Gay apologist Matthew Vines presupposes a humanistic consequentialist’s theory of ethics and noted how that contributed to his conclusion that same-sex relationship is morally acceptable.  I have also pointed out the difficulties of Vines’ humanistic consequentialist’s ethics.

Here in part 2 I want to examine more closely Vines’ misplaced role of experience over Scripture concerning the subject of temptation, sin and observing what is good and bad fruit.

Vines In His Own Words

On page 13 Vines gives an account of someone in his church making this charge against him:

‘You’re elevating your experience over Scripture,’ a frustrated member of my church told me over coffee.  ‘I don’t accept that.’

Vines does profess that experience should not take precedence over Scripture on page 15 but then he cites Matthew 7:15-20 (“by their fruit you will recognize them”) and Acts 15:8, 10 (Gentiles having the Spirit) as proof text which supposedly show that

…experience should cause Christians to reconsider long-held interpretations of Scripture.  Today, we are still responsible for testing our belief in light of their outcomes–a duty in line with Jesus’ teaching about trees and their fruits” (Page 15-16).

The role of experience as the basis “to reconsider long-held interpretations of Scripture” becomes apparent when Vines faced the reality of ceaseless ordeal of homosexual desires and temptations.  Vines describe the experience:

But as my dad came to realize, while gay Christians can choose not to act on their sexual desires, they cannot eradicate their sexual desires altogether.  Despite the prayers of countless Christians for God to change their sexual orientation, exclusive same-sex attraction persists for nearly all of them.  The failure of reorientation therapy is why the ‘ex-gay’ ministry Exodus International shut down in 2013.  It places gay Christians who adhere to the traditional biblical interpretation in an agonizing, irresolveable tension.  In order to truly flee from sin as well as the temptation to sin, they must constantly attempt what has proven impossible: to reconstitute themselves so they are no longer sexual beings at all” (Page 18).

Which leads Vines to argue against the “bad fruit” of celibacy for homosexual Christians:

But mandatory celibacy for gay Christians is more than many of them can bear.  It produces bad fruit in many of their lives, and for some, it fuels despair to the point of suicide.  Such outcomes made it difficult for my dad to see how the church’s rejection of same-sex relationships could qualify as a good tree that, according to Jesus, produces good fruit” (Page 19).

The Problem with Vines’ use of experience to argue for Same-Sex relations

  • If Scripture takes precedence over experience as Vine professes, it shouldn’t be experience that “cause Christians to reconsider long-held interpretations of Scripture.”  While experience can make one question one’s interpretation ultimately it should be Scripture itself that makes one reconsider and correct one’s own interpretation of Scripture.  Note also that experiences must also be interpreted by Scripture since Scripture takes precedence over experience.
  • There is a dangerous hubris behind Vines’ notion that “experience should cause Christians to reconsider long-held interpretations of Scripture.”  Don’t forget that Vines is a young man when he reconsidered the long-held interpretation that Scripture prohibits same-sex relationships (he’s still young by the way).  While the church in its history can err, one must be cautious in assuming that one’s finite experience right away should be the basis of rejecting the interpretation of many wise and godly saints who came before us in their interpretation.  Again I am not denying that at times the majority could be wrong–but it must be demonstrated from Scripture itself and not merely one’s young experiences and opinions.
  • I don’t think Vines is correct to say “we are still responsible for testing our belief in light of their outcomes–a duty in line with Jesus’ teaching about trees and their fruits.”
    • Here we see Vines’ discussion about outcomes of our belief is a reflection of his humanistic consequentialist ethics which was refuted in part 1.
    • The goal of a Christian life is to lovingly obey God for His glory and not finding the outcomes of our beliefs per se.
    • Vines also overrates experiences.  I don’t I need to test my beliefs in the sense of finding the outcome of all my beliefs before I know what is right or wrong, true or false.  For instance, I don’t need to stand in the street and find what is the outcome of being hit by a car before I know it is bad.
    • Furthermore, Vines takes Jesus out of context here.  Jesus’ discussion about trees and their fruits is not telling us to test our beliefs according to their outcomes; it is about watching out for false prophets.
  • I think it is dangerous the way Vines argues that same-sex relations should be permitted on the ground that those who experience same-sex attractions “cannot eradicate their sexual desires altogether.”  Can those who are serially adulterous, fornicators, sexual abusers argue for their sins using the same argumentation?  Furthermore, as Christians, just because there will be a struggle with sin to the day we die, does that mean we must reject the concept of sanctification and the need to pursue holiness even as our old nature war inside us?
  • Contra Vines’ claim that homosexual desire is unbearable for a Christian struggling with same sex attraction beyond the experience of someone who is heterosexual, one must remember 1 Corinthians 10:13: “No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it.”  Surprisingly Vines quotes this verse but states the very opposite claim in the following sentence.
  • We measure good and bad fruit according to the standard and norms of Scripture.  Even if homosexuality does not produce any other bad fruits, remember the fruit of homosexuality is already bad in of itself because homosexuality is a sin.
  • Concerning the bad fruit of suicide of those who are struggling with their homosexuality, we must remember that its hard for us to see the heart of what’s going in the person who choose to commit suicide.  Here is a clear example of the need to evaluate experiences according to the Bible.  2 Corinthians 7:10 does provide us a window of what kind of sorrow one might have that lead them to suicide: “For the sorrow that is according to the will of God produces a repentance without regret, leading to salvation, but the sorrow of the world produces death.”   In this case we see that those who did commit suicide experienced a worldly sorrow that lead to death instead of a godly sorrow that leads to repentance and no regret.  Thus if one is genuinely born again and practice godly repentance it leads not to the fruit of death and other undesirable ungodliness, but the fruit of the Spirit.

bruce_jenner

Can A Leopard Change His Spots?

Jeremiah 13:23

“Can the Ethiopian change his skin

Or the leopard his spots?

Then you also can do good

Who are accustomed to doing evil.”

Here is a pastor’s perspective that Pastor Edward, a graduate from TMS and a pastor from Southern CA (www.anaheimcommunitychurch.org), wrote concerning the LGBT movement.  We pray that this piece will help stimulate your mind and encourage you to be Christ’s witnesses to a dark world.

We as humans are used to change. We find change to be both positive and negative. Often change is sought to modify a situation of dissatisfaction. For instance…

We have gained weight…we change our diet and exercise.

Our automobiles begin to wear out…we sell the old and buy a new car.

Our family grows and our house is cramped…we sell the old smaller house and buy a newer larger house.

If we do not like our physical appearance…we alter it (hairstyle, make-up, new clothes, dental work, plastic surgery).

Somehow, we believe that an external or situational change will put and end to the old and begin a new, more pleasant situation.

We look for new opportunities to “start again” to “start over” to make a “fresh start” or a “clean break”.

The truth is, most situational and external changes do not change anything at all (not fundamentally).

I usually keep politics and social issues out of the pulpit (I just want to preach the Word book by book and address the issues that Scripture addresses).

But this morning (because of a major social issue that “came out” (pun intended) this week), I want to spend some time looking at the Bruce Jenner fiasco. While many people would disagree with my word choice, I believe that fiasco is appropriate in this situation. What Bruce Jenner (and those who are singing his praises) calls a victory and a success and an act of bravery and courage, I call a sad attempt to mask the true issues that have made Bruce so confused and miserable.

In case you are not aware of what took place this week, Bruce Jenner was revealed on the cover of Vanity Fair as Caitlyn Jenner — in Bruce’s mind (and in the minds of millions of his supporters), Bruce Jenner no longer exists; Bruce has transformed into Caitlyn. A man has ceased to exist and a woman has taken his place in this world.

The sexual / gender perversions and confusion in society are not going away anytime soon; they will almost certainly be an issue until Jesus returns (whenever that takes place).

The LGBT community is making progress in promoting its agenda and is becoming ever more aggressive in its attacks against anyone or any group who or which disagrees with their warped world views. The “transformation” of Bruce to Caitlyn is being praised as a breakthrough for the LGBT community.

Many supporters are thrilled that Bruce’s transformation was a “success” and that the initial response to his gender reassignment (as they call the process of mutilating one’s body from one gender to another through a series of drug treatments and surgical removal and construction of sexual organs) was widely embraced.

As soon as the Vanity Fair cover went viral, Bruce’s Twitter account took just four hours and three minutes to hit the 1,000,000 follower mark (as of Wednesday the follower count was 2.32 million).

It is clear that many people in our world are in support of this situation; which is a sad and eyeopening commentary on society’s opposition to God and His Word.

Often, as Christians, we think “That’s horrible, but it really has no impact on my life.” That simply is not true. All areas of our society will be impacted by this event and others like it that will certainly follow.

It is not just LGBT supporters who are and will be impacted by this situation. The fallout from this situation will permeate all areas of society and culture. This type of perversion and distortion of mankind’s natural and God-determined sexual identity (male or female) will be taught to school children (at all grade levels) as the new norm. Children who are still learning how to read and spell and write will be told that they are whatever they feel and think they are (because after all, in the fallen minds of Jenner’s supporters, it is your feelings that determine the reality of your identity and existence not your physiological, biological, and genetic make up). I am afraid that in the not so distant future, whether or not a baby is born with male or female anatomy, the proud parents really won’t be able to declare that their new bundle of joy is male or female. What parents will have to do is wait until that child grows up and is able to verbally and physically determine which gender it (it will come to the point where we cannot even refer to a baby / young child as he or she until that child reveals their preferred gender) wants to pursue. Human sexuality will cease to be determined by one’s genetic make-up and will be replaced with a subjective perception of sexual identity.

The extreme and logical conclusion of this type of thinking will result in a society where there are no objective norms or boundaries. It will be a society where everyone does what is right in its own eyes. When natural, God-determined physical / sexual identities and roles are erased from society’s vocabulary, there will be no way of enforcing laws or standards as we know them today. Homosexuality, lesbianism, pedophelia, beastiality, marriages between multiple spouses, and many more perversions will simply be the new norm. If we as a people continue down this path, we will undoubtedly become the new Sodom and Gomorrah.

I wish that I could say that this support and praise for Bruce’s transformation (and the homosexual agenda in general) was limited to the secular and non-Christian world. Unfortunately it is not.

Episcopal Church…

This excerpt from the Episcopal Church’s Webpage describes its position on the issue…

In 1976, the General Convention of the Episcopal Church declared that “homosexual persons are children of God who have a full and equal claim with all other persons upon the love, acceptance, and pastoral concern and care of the Church” (1976-A069). Since then, faithful Episcopalians have been working toward a greater understanding and radical inclusion of all of God’s children.

Along the way, The Episcopal Church has garnered a lot of attention, but with the help of organizations such as Integrity USA, the church has continued its work toward full inclusion of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) Episcopalians. In 2003, the first openly gay bishop was consecrated; in 2009, General Convention resolved that God’s call is open to all; and in 2012, a provisional rite of blessing for same-gender relationships was authorized, and discrimination against transgender persons in the ordination process was officially prohibited. To our lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender brothers and sisters: “The Episcopal Church welcomes you!”

http://www.episcopalchurch.org/page/lgbt-church

Presbyterian Church USA…

Likewise, in March 2015, the PCUSA modified it’s statement on marriage.

“Marriage is a gift God has given to all humankind for the wellbeing of the entire human family. Marriage involves a unique commitment between two people, traditionally a man and a woman, to love and support each other for the rest of their lives. The sacrificial love that unites the couple sustains them as faithful and responsible members of the church and the wider community.”

http://www.pcusa.org/news/2015/3/17/presbyterian-church-us-approves-marriage-amendment/

The change is subtle but it kicks the door wide open for any and all non-traditional marriages to be accepted and encouraged by the PCUSA.

Every day, more and more professing Christians are abandoning God’s Word and embracing man’s so called wisdom and progressive thinking.

Any and all lines that used to demonstrate a distinct difference in worldview and practices between Christianity and the rest of the world, are being systematically erased. At this rate, there will be more tares filing places of worship than will be wheat.

This is why I have chosen to address this issue today. My goals in addressing this issue are to answer the following questions…

What was Bruce trying to accomplish through this transformation?

How has the secular world responded to Bruce’s transformation?

What does the Bible say about Bruce’s transformation?

How should you as a Christian Biblically respond to this transformation?

What was Bruce trying to accomplish through this transformation?

Bruce Jenner, in an extreme and saddening attempt, was and is trying to “change his spots”. In recent statements, Bruce (Caitlyn) said the following…

“I have high hopes that Caitlyn is a better person than Bruce. I am very much looking forward to that.”

http://abcnews.go.com/Entertainment/caitlyn-jenner-bruce-poses-vanity-fair/story?id=31447196

“Bruce always had to tell a lie. He was always living a lie. Every day, he always had a secret. From morning till night. Caitlyn doesn’t have any secrets.”

“I’m so happy after such a long struggle to be living my true self. Welcome to the world Caitlyn. Can’t wait for you to get to know her/me.”

“[As] soon as the Vanity Fair cover comes out, I’m free.”

http://www.msn.com/en-us/news/other/bruce-jenner-makes-debut-as-woman-on-vanity-fair-callme-caitlyn/ar-BBkuOdn?ocid=iehp

In Bruce’s mind, his goal in all of this is to…

1) Become a better person

2) Become a truthful person

3) Become a happy person

4) Become a free person

It is very clear, by Bruce’s own admission, that he was (and I believe is still) very miserable as the man Bruce Jenner. Bruce was so dissatisfied and fed-up with being his natural born self that he went to the greatest extreme he could imagine in an attempt not to simply change Bruce, but to exterminate Bruce altogether. The world believes that Bruce’s transformation was a success…but did he really succeed?

Just in case you are unaware or uncertain of just what took place during Bruce’s transformation, consider the following…

“Caitlyn Jenner did not want to look like a pretend woman when she transitioned from a man to a woman. Caitlyn told Vanity Fair it was extremely important that she presented herself as feminine.” – TMZ

Read more: http://www.tmz.com/2015/06/02/caitlyn-jenner-vanity-fair-video-look-like-man-indress/#ixzz3bwDRy8u2

“Jenner tells Bissinger about how she suffered a panic attack the day after undergoing 10-hour facial-feminization surgery on March 15—a procedure she believed would take 5 hours. (Bissinger reveals that Jenner has not had genital surgery.) She recalls thinking, ‘What did I just do? What did I just do to myself?’ A counselor from the Los Angeles Gender Center came to the house so Jenner could talk to a professional, and assured her that such reactions were often induced by pain medication, and that second-guessing was human and temporary.”

http://www.vanityfair.com/hollywood/2015/06/caitlyn-jenner-bruce-cover-annie-leibovitz

“It’s been a busy couple of months for Caitlyn Jenner. Vanity Fair was by her side as she underwent her initial facial feminization and breast implant surgery in March, but RadarOnline.com has learned that there’s still one procedure she didn’t want to discuss until her docuseries: According to an insider, Caitlyn scheduled her gender reassignment surgery for after completing the Vanity Fair feature story documenting her transition to becoming a woman. According to the Vanity Fair blockbuster feature with a stunning Caitlyn on the cover, the journalist completed the bulk of their interview in March and April. The article states that she had not yet had a full sex change at that time.”

http://radaronline.com/celebrity-news/caitlyn-jenner-sex-change-vanity-fair-interview/

So what actually happened to Bruce during the procedure?

1) Feminization of his facial features (a 10 hour process)

2) Panic attack (as he realized the magnitude of his extreme actions)

3) Breast implants

4) A sex change (the mutilation of his male organ to “create” a female organ)

What has happened to Bruce Jenner? Simply put, a false front has been built in order the hide the true and unchangeable interior design; HE IS STILL A MAN. As TMZ reported, Bruce (Caitlyn) did not want to look like a “pretend woman”. No matter how many procedures Bruce has and no matter how many drugs Bruce takes and no matter how many dresses Bruce wears and no matter how much make up Bruce applies, HE IS A PRETEND WOMAN.

For all of Bruce’s time, money, and discomfort…he has accomplished absolutely nothing. He has not achieved his goals.

How has the secular world responded to Bruce’s transformation?

It is clearly obvious that many millions of people all over the world support, embrace, and stand with Bruce’s decision to become Caitlyn. Here are just a few quotes from some of his most famous supporters.

Laverne Cox (Transgender / Orange is the New Black)

Laverne Cox (who was born and still is a man, was the first Transgender person on the cover of Time magazine, is a star in the hugely popular Netflix show Orange is the New Black, and until Jenner’s Vanity Fair cover, was the “poster child” for the Transgender community) had this to say about Jenner’s transformation…

“I am so moved by all the love and support Caitlyn is receiving. It feels like a new day, indeed, when a trans person can present her authentic self to the world for the first time and be celebrated for it so universally.”

“Yes, Caitlyn looks amazing and is beautiful but what I think is most beautiful about her is her heart and soul, the ways she has allowed the world into her vulnerabilities,”

“I hope, as I know Caitlyn [Jenner] does, that the love she is receiving can translate into changing hearts and minds about who all trans people are as well as shifting public policies to fully support the lives and well being of all of us.”

Laverne Cox – https://www.facebook.com/topic/Laverne-Cox/226167757491563? source=wtfrt&position=7&trqid=6155871773453517806

On a recent Good Morning America piece, Jenner’s step-daughters had this to say about their newly transformed parental figure…

Kim Kardashian – “How beautiful, how proud, live life your way.”

Kendall Kardashian – “Be free now pretty bird.”

It has also been announced (the day after the Vanity Fair cover was revealed) that during the next month’s annual ESPYS (ESPN Annual Award Show) Jenner will receive the Arthur Ashe Courage Award.

So according to the secular world, Bruce is / will or has accomplish(ed)…

1) Authentic (Cox)

2) Amazing, beautiful (physically and heart and soul) (Cox)

3) Change hearts, minds, and shift public policies (Cox)

4) Living (his) way (Kim K)

5) Free (Kendall K)

6) Courageous (ESPN)

Despite all the support that is pouring in throughout the world, there are many who disagree with the process and success of Jenner’s transformation. Here is one such person who represents many in the medical world.

In a 2014 Wall Street Journal article, Dr. Paul McHugh (former psychiatrist in chief at Johns Hopkins Hospital) had this to say about the transgender issue (though not directly addressing Jenner’s transformation, the transgender issue and procedure is the same)…

“At the heart of the problem is confusion over the nature of the transgendered. ‘Sex change’ is biologically impossible. People who undergo sex-reassignment surgery do not change from men to women or vice versa. Rather, they become feminized men or masculinized women. Claiming that this is civil-rights matter and encouraging surgical intervention is in reality to collaborate with and promote a mental disorder.

We at Johns Hopkins University—which in the 1960s was the first American medical center to venture into ‘sex-reassignment surgery’—launched a study in the 1970s comparing the outcomes of transgendered people who had the surgery with the outcomes of those who did not. Most of the surgically treated patients described themselves as ‘satisfied’ by the results, but their subsequent psycho-social adjustments were no better than those who didn’t have the surgery. And so at Hopkins we stopped doing sex-reassignment surgery, since producing a ‘satisfied’ but still troubled patient seemed an inadequate reason for surgically amputating normal organs.

It now appears that our long-ago decision was a wise one. A 2011 study at the Karolinska Institute in Sweden produced the most illuminating results yet regarding the transgendered, evidence that should give advocates pause. The long-term study—up to 30 years—followed 324 people who had sex-reassignment surgery. The study revealed that beginning about 10 years after having the surgery, the transgendered began to experience increasing mental difficulties. Most shockingly, their suicide mortality rose almost 20-fold above the comparable nontransgender population. This disturbing result has as yet no explanation but probably reflects the growing sense of isolation reported by the aging transgendered after surgery. The high suicide rate certainly challenges the surgery prescription.”

Dr. Paul McHugh – http://www.wsj.com/articles/paul-mchugh-transgender-surgery-isnt-thesolution-1402615120 (June 12, 2014)

Despite all the supporters that Bruce has in his corner, medically, physically, biologically, genetically, Bruce has failed in his attempts at creating a new person. And make no mistake, that is what Bruce and many others like him have tried, are trying, and desire to do. The idea that one’s mental perception of oneself (along with pharmaceutical and surgical procedures) can reverse or evolve one’s physical identity is simply impossible. What makes matters worse is the fact that many who undergo this procedure are no better off mentally than before the radical mutilation process. So if gender reassignment is not the answer, what is?

What Does the Bible Say About Bruce’s Transformation?

So does the Bible specifically address the transgender issue? If you are looking for a specific mention of the word “Transgender” in Scripture, you will never find it. The reason being, the term transgender did not exist and the transgender process was not possible when Scripture was written. However, this does not mean that the Bible does not address the fundamental issues at the core of human sexuality and gender.

Whether you choose to use the term transgender, Gender Identity Disorder (GID), or gender dysphoria (which is the choice of the DSM V), what is being described is a desire to change one’s sex (physical traits through hormone therapy and / or surgical procedures) or to fulfill the role of the opposite gender. Transgenders usually describe themselves as “trapped” in a body that does not match their gender. As we have already seen, the desire is that the transgender person will become the person they believe is their true identity but which has been trapped inside the physical prison of their assigned gender at birth.

Contrary to secular opinion, the Bible has quite a bit to say about human sexuality. From the earliest pages of Scripture, God makes it very clear that He created mankind “male and female He created them” (Genesis 1:27). And and all variations / deviations from God’s intended plan for His creation are unbiblical.

One of the key issues that transgenders bring up when asked about their decision to become another gender is one of dissatisfaction with what they call their assigned birth gender (being born male or female). Transgenders believe that because they mentally and emotionally desire to be the opposite gender, their birth identity (male or female) is a mistake that needs correction. However, in Psalm 139, we are told that God specifically fashions each and every individual, “For You formed my inward parts;You wove me in my mother’s womb. I will give thanks to You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Wonderful are Your works, And my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from You, When I was made in secret, And skillfully wrought in the depths of the earth…” (139:13-16).

The Bible makes it clear that God does not make mistakes. God never has a “Plan B”, there are no contingencies with God, He never second guesses what He has done and because He is omniscient, He knows all things past, present, and future (including our maleness or femaleness at birth and throughout our lives). His wonderful work leaves no room for mistakes; therefore, no one is born with the “wrong body.”

The Bible also has much to say concerning the sinfulness of distorting God’s created order. Once sin entered the Garden of Eden and man was cast out, the depravity began to grow at a rapid pace. Consider the following statements that Scripture makes about sexual sins…

Genesis 19:1-7 – “Now the two angels came to Sodom in the evening as Lot was sitting in the gate of Sodom. When Lot saw them, he rose to meet them and bowed down with his face to the ground. And he said, ‘Now behold, my lords, please turn aside into your servant’s house, and spend the night, and wash your feet; then you may rise early and go on your way.’ They said however, ‘No, but we shall spend the night in the square.’ Yet he urged them strongly, so they turned aside to him and entered his house; and he prepared a feast for them, and baked unleavened bread, and they ate. Before they lay down, the men of the city, the men of Sodom, surrounded the house, both young and old, all the people from every quarter; and they called to Lot and said to him, ‘Where are the men who came to you tonight? Bring them out to us that we may have relations with them.’ But Lot went out to them at the doorway, and shut the door behind him, and said, ‘Please, my brothers, do not act wickedly…’”

Deuteronomy 22:5 – “A woman shall not wear man’s clothing, nor shall a man put on a woman’s clothing; for whoever does these things is an abomination to the Lord your God.”

Jude 7 – “Sodom and Gomorrah and the cities around them, since they in the same way as these indulged in gross immorality and went after strange flesh, are exhibited as an example in undergoing the punishment of eternal fire.”

Romans 1:18-32 (26-27 cited) – “For this reason God gave them over to degrading passions; for their women exchanged the natural function for that which is unnatural, and in the same way also the men abandoned the natural function of the woman and burned in their desire toward one another, men with men committing indecent acts and receiving in their own persons the due penalty of their error.”

I could go on and on citing passages that explain and condemn various sexual sins but the point is this, no matter if the gender distortion has a genetic, hormonal, physiological, or psychological cause, the Bible clearly and consistently labels any sexual activity outside of marriage or not between a man and a woman as sin and as rebellion against God’s ordained plan. The punishment of such sins being not only physical death (which all sinners suffer, heterosexual or homosexual, or other-sexual, for “the wages of sin is death” – Romans 6:23a) but spiritual death.

The things that Bruce Jenner and others like him are seeking will never be found by mutilating their bodies and parading around as the opposite sex. Their desires can only be satisfied when an internal change takes place because…a leopard cannot change his spots.

No matter how hard and passionately a sinner tries to better himself, he simply cannot change his nature (sin nature that is). No matter how many people approve of others’ perversions and call them natural, authentic, heroic, or any other positive and encouraging terms, God still calls their actions sin and sin must be punished by God or He will cease to be God (because a judge who does not punish a criminal is not just but corrupt).

However, with all this bad news comes some good news, sin can be forgiven and lives can be changed through faith in Christ. Earlier we looked at Jeremiah 13:23 which says… “Can the Ethiopian change his skin or the leopard his spots? Then you also can do good who are accustomed to doing evil.” The understanding here is that man cannot change his sinful nature; man is unable to change himself from the inside. All of man’s external attempts to transform himself are merely external and ultimately futile.

All the desires of man (acceptance, love, freedom, purpose, etc.), are satisfied only in Jesus Christ. When a sinner repents and embraces the good news of Jesus Christ, an internal transformation takes place. The believers in Corinth are an example of such a change: “And [effeminate, homosexual, etc.] is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God” (1 Corinthians 6:11). There is hope for every sinner, homosexual, transgenders, and all sinners included, because of God’s forgiveness available exclusively through Jesus Christ.

How should you as a Christian biblically respond to this transformation?

1) Pray that people will accept the transforming gospel

Luke 13:34 – “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, just as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you would not have it!”

Romans 10:1 – “Brethren, my heart’s desire and my prayer to God for them is for their salvation.”

2) Remember that you were transformed by the gospel

Ephesians 2:1-5 – “And you were dead in your trespasses and sins, in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience. Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest. But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved).”

1 Corinthians 6:9-11 – “Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, will inherit the kingdom of God. Such were some of you; but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God.”

3) Live a life that is an example that you were transformed by the gospel

Ephesians 4:1 – “Therefore I, the prisoner of the Lord, implore you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called…”

Matthew 5:16 – “Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.”

4) Share about the transforming power of the gospel

1 Peter 3:15 – “…sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence…”

Romans 1:16 – “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.”

We as Christians must never compromise the divine truths of God’s Word. We must always call sin sin. But we must do so with compassion and passion. Compassion for the lost and passion for the souls of men to be truly transformed by the saving gospel of Jesus Christ.

Matthew vines

Introduction

Matthew Vines has written a book titled God and the Gay Christian in which he argues that “Christians who affirm the full authority of Scripture can also affirm committed, monogamous same-sex relationship” (Page 3).   Al Mohler and the faculty at Southern Seminary has published a book-length response titled God and the Gay Christian? A Response to Matthew Vines, which they have made available as a free e-book.  In their responses Al Mohler, James Hamilton, Denny Burk, Owen Strachan, and Heath Lambert addressed the biblical, theological, historical, and pastoral issues raised by Vines’s best-selling book.  

Matthew Vines’ research for his book was not done in a vaccum.  Throughout the book Vines reveal the precommitments he had before he began his research.  It is important to address the core arguments that Vines has presented (and Christians have already done so such as the faculty in Southern Seminary) but I also think there is an important role in considering Vines’ problematic pre-commitments since these pre-commitments shapes his theological method which then lead to his conclusion that “Scripture affirm same-sex relationships.”

Here in this post I want to address Vines’ pre-commitment concerning his meta-ethics.  Specifically I want to argue that Vines holds on to a humanistic consequentialist view of ethics that is seriously deficient.

Vines In His Own Words

Unlike other gay theology literature Vines professes to have a high view of the Scriptures:

In my view, the Bible can’t be reduced to a collection of great literature, stories, and poetry  It’s God’s written revelation to humanity, as the accounts of Jesus’s life and ministry in the Gospel make clearer to me than anything else.  Jesus said that ‘Scripture cannot be set aside’ (John 10:35), and since childhood, I’ve made discerning God’s will through prayerful study of Scripture a priority” (Page 11).

But when it comes to his view of the foundation of ethics, even God’s revealed rules within Scripture is not as highly regarded by Vines as much as his ethical theory.  In fact, the Bible’s ethical norm is subject to the scrutiny of the higher court of his meta-ethics and we see that with how he approached the Bible’s condemnation of same-sex relationship on page 12 :

I had a second reason for losing confidence in the belief that same-sex relationship are sinful: it no longer made sense to me.

My mom taught her Sunday school students that sin was ‘missing the mark’ of God’s will for our lives. But while the Bible helps us understand God’s will, neither my parents nor my church referred only to the Bible when I asked questions about morality.  They also explained why something was right or wrong, and why the Bible said what it did.  By understanding the reasons behind Scripture’s teachings, I could apply its principles to all circumstances in my life, including those it didn’t directly addressed.

But as I became more aware of same-sex relationships, I couldn’t understand why they were supposed to be sinful, or why the Bible apparently condemned them.  With most sins, it wasn’t hard to pinpoint the damage they cause.  Adultery violates a commitment to your spouse.  Lust objectifies others.  Gossip degrades people.  But committed same-sex relationships didn’t fit this pattern.  Not only were they not harmful to anyone, they were characterized by positive motives and traits instead, like faithfulness, commitment, mutual love, and self-sacrifice.  What other sin look like that?”

It is important to keep in mind that according to the previous page before this block quote (page 11) Vines described how his ethical outlook led to his struggle with the case against same-sex relations before he came out as gay and before he started researching for his book.  His evaluation of Scripture according to his ethical theory fundamentally tipped the scale of his research towards the direction that same sex relationship ought not to be condemned.  Seeing how important his ethical theory is, we should analyze more closely his ethical theory as it is expressed above.

Vines’ Ethical theory Humanistic and Consequentialist

Is Vines’ Ethical theory Humanistic?

Vines’ ethical theory is certainly humanistic, that is, it is man-centered.  As seen in the above quote, Vines’ rejection of traditional view on same sex relationship is because “it no longer made sense to me.”  There is a sense in which Biblical Christianity will not be fully grasped by finite man; we expect some aspect of mystery with true Christian doctrines if it is genuinely from the Word of God.  Ultimately what determines truth for the God-centered Christian is not how much it “makes sense to me” (that is, conforming to one’s previous pattern of thought) but whether or not the doctrines are genuinely taught in Scripture even if one might have unanswered questions.

A man-centered or humanistic theological approach on the other hand is very different.  It would have man as the final arbitration of what is right and wrong and according to what makes “sense to me.”  The fundamental question being asked is not whether the teaching is in the Bible; even if there is a teaching from the Bible the crucial question is whether it makes “sense to me.”  Therefore what one cannot make sense of according to one’s finite mind and presuppositions ought to be rejected.

The man-centered nature of Vines’ ethical system is further evidenced above when Vines talked about “reasons behind Scripture’s teachings.”  Of course there are times one can see that there are good reasons for Scripture’s moral teaching.  However Vines goes further when he explains the pattern of his mother and church that it’s not enough to be satisfied with going “only to the Bible when I asked questions about morality.”  Vines goes on to say “They also explained why something was right or wrong, and why the Bible said what it did” with the implication that one ought to know why the Bible said what it said.   So when one doesn’t know the reason behind the Bible’s command and prohibition Vines then find that there are then good “reason for losing confidence” in that belief as it was with the case of prohibiting same-sex relationship: “I couldn’t understand why they were supposed to be sinful, or why the Bible apparently condemned them.”

Is Vines’ Ethical theory Consequentialist?

Vines’ ethical theory is not only humanistic, it is a humanistic consequentialism.  That is, for Vines knowing the consequences of one’s conduct are the ultimate basis for any judgment about the rightness or wrongness of that conduct.  Vines believed that something is wrong and sinful only when it causes damage.  So if it doesn’t cause any damages that a human being can know of, it is not sinful.  Vines presupposes this when he said “With most sins, it wasn’t hard to pinpoint the damage they cause.”  He followed this with some examples and then concluded “But committed same-sex relationships didn’t fit this pattern.”

The Problem with Vines’ Ethical Theory

Here is my response:

  • Vines stresses more than once in the book that he has a high view of God’s Word like any other Evangelical including those not affirming of Same-sex relationships.  If he does believes in a high view of Scripture then he must have his humanistic ethical consequentialism be subject to the scrutiny of God’s Word rather than vice versa as he has done.
  • If Vines operate with the theological method that a proposition must be rejected when “it no longer made sense to me” what would remain of his Christianity?
    • Our study of every largely-accepted true doctrine in the Bible will always run into some aspect of mystery in which we don’t have an answer for.  Does that mean we must reject every Christian doctrines?
    • For instance, 1 Timothy 3:16 admits there is mystery of godliness does that mean that one should reject godliness?
  • While at times Scripture does discuss how certain sinful behavior causes damages to oneself and others, Vines have become reductionistic to think this is the only criteria of measuring whether something is right and wrong.
    • Nowhere in Scripture does the Bible say that what is sinful is only measured by whether something causes damages to others.
    • If consequences is the only way to measure what’s right and wrong in God’s eyes then it is surprising that Scripture doesn’t always give a cause-and-effect explanation for why everything that is a sin is wrong.
    • Scripture doesn’t exclusively present a purpose or result driven measure of right and wrong conduct.  Scripture’s discussion of ethics also acknowledges the deontological aspect of ethics (good acts include those as a proper response to duty for the sake of the duty even against one’s own and others well being) and existential aspect of ethics (focus on the internal character of a person that determines what is good).  A good resource on this is John Frame’s discussion of Triperspectivalism in his Doctrine of the Christian Life.
  • Surprisingly Vines himself is inconsistent with his belief that damages to oneself or others is the only basis to measure right and wrong when it comes to his view on Self-sacrifice.
    • Self-sacrifice (putting duty first before one’s well being) is a dentological virtue that goes against the grain that damages to a person per se is sinful.  According to Vines ethical system, self-sacrifice ought to be a sin.
    • We expect Vines to be against self-sacrifice and yet in the block quote above Vines listed “self-sacrifice” among the virtues of those in committed same-sex relationships.
    • If Vines see self-sacrifice as a virtue then it is not merely something that he sees is personally good for himself alone but this is a character trait that is good for others to have.  Thus by believing its a virtue Vines invite others to follow one’s duty even if it is “damaging” to oneself, an act that involves “damaging” others.
  • For the sake of the argument even if there is always a consequentialist reason behind all of God’s prohibition and command that doesn’t mean as Bible believing Christians one can disregard these rules when it is “hard to pinpoint the damage they cause.”
    • In all things, don’t forget we are finite and God is infinite!
    • The Lesson from the Garden of Eden
      • Remember: “God has said, ‘You shall not eat from it or touch it, or you will die.’” (Genesis 3:3b)
      • Adam and Eve might not be able to pinpoint exactly the damage disobedience to this might cause yet that doesn’t mean they should disobey God’s Law!
      • Furthermore, people today might still not know or discern the reasons why that tree was in the Garden in the first place but that doesn’t mean Adam and Eve or us can disobey God.
    • An illustration: A toddler might find it hard to pinpoint the damage that disobeying his father’s prohibition not to run on the streets might cause.  But that doesn’t mean it is right nor rational for the toddler to disobey his loving father’s prohibition!
      • This illustration is fitting for our context given that we are like the toddler in our finite knowledge compared to God’s vastly superior wisdom and knowledge.
  • Vines believe same-sex relationship is “not harmful to anyone” but fail to consider God in his belief that same-sex relationship is not harmful.
    • First, it is negatively against God.
      • Remember Vines’ examples of the damages of sins: “Adultery violates a commitment to your spouse.  Lust objectifies others.  Gossip degrades people.”
      • If violating a commitment, objectifying others and degrading a person is bad because it is “harmful to others,” what are those advocating same-sex relationships doing when they are violating God’s prohibition of same-sex relationship,  degrading God as less than God in their disobedience to His Divine prohibitions and objectifying God as something less than God when they go against His Word?
    • Secondly, it is negative against the participants of same-sex relationships.
      • Remember the way of a Sinner is hard!
      • 1 Corinthians 6:9-10 reveal the eternal consequences for such sinners: “Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God?Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor[a]effeminate, nor homosexuals, 10 nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, will inherit the kingdom of God.
  • Vines believe same-sex relationship is “not harmful to anyone” but fail to consider studies considering the negative impact of same-sex relationships
    • Time doesn’t allow me to go into more details as it’s worth being another message.
    • Remember, we are not dependent upon the statistics to make our case in light of all our discussion above concerning consequentialists ethics.

gay_scotus

LGBT Movement: Part 2

Alright all, here is another segment concerning the LGBT objections.  It is our prayer that the Lord will use this material to edify the body of Christ concerning the attacks against God’s Word concerning the Gospel.

LGBT Objection: Jesus never spoke out against Homosexuality.

Response:

  • To answer this question, we need to understand the doctrine of the Trinity.  Jesus who is the second person of the Trinity, was behind the judgment of Sodom and Gomorrah (Gen. 18-19) and the very person behind the prohibition against Homosexuals (Lev. 18:22; 20:13).  To deny that reality is to deny the eternality of Christ.  He was at creation. In fact, the world would not be a present reality if it was not for Christ (Col. 1:17).  Apostle John referred to His eternality in John 1:1, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”  He is described as the Word being with the Father not only at creation, but before creation.  If that is not enough, Jesus Himself mentioned his eternality in John 8:58 when confronted by the Jews.  “Jesus said to them, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was born, I am.'”  He was alive before Abraham was born.   In principle, we clearly know that Jesus was present at the condemnation of Sodom and Gomorrah and was the authoritative base that provided the prohibitions against homsexuality in Leviticus 18:22; 20:13.
  • It’s true that there are no statements in the NT of Jesus specifically giving an isolated condemnation against homosexuality. However, this is where they err by misrepresenting Scripture.  They are guilty of begging the question. To deny that Jesus never gave prohibitions against homosexuality is to deny the indissolubility of their union.  They can never be divided.  The Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit never works against one another.  They are always in harmony no matter the topic.  An eternal God demands an eternal sovereign will.  The God-head is never one step behind one another.
  • Food for thought for LGBT proponents. Just because Jesus did not address isolated sins individually such as rape, incest, bestiality, etc., are we to say that He sanctioned them?  That is faulty hermeneutics.  There are many things Jesus did and said, but they were never recorded (John 21:25).
  • By the way, Jesus, the God-man, in His hypostatic union, mentioned many of those sins (not individually) in Matthew Matt. 15:15-20; Mark 7:21-23.  It is not presented in the liking of the LGBT proponents, but He did address homosexuality.  It is found in this key word: πορνεία (porneia).  The word has a broad range that covers every kind of immorality, including beastiality (immoral intercourse with a beast), immoral intercourse with a close relative, etc.   Imagine one was to debate over the statement: “Congratulations Warriors, you are 2015 NBA Champions.”  The conjecture from the critic would be that it is not in reference to every single player in the Warriors uniform.  That would be a far-fetched conclusion because in context in terms of how that congratulatory term is used, has been predominately implemented in reference to every single player in the team. Even though the congratulatory remark does not list the individual names, it does not mean it was not addressed to every player.  The same logic applies to the passages in Matthew 15:15-20 and Mark 7:21-23, whereby the word porneia is used.  Jesus was condemning all of the sexually deviate behaviors.  Beloved, Christ is eternal.  He is truth.  He is holy.  He will never contradict Himself.
  • If the argument upholds the notion that Jesus was not against homosexuality because there was no individually isolated prohibitions, then that same ill logic needs to apply to other sins that Jesus did not address individually: pederasty, bestiality, necromancy, etc.  You see, the attempt to excuse homosexuality is nothing short of revisionist history.  They fall into a slippery slop when they blaspheme the institute of marriage as defined by God.
  • Why did Jesus condemn homosexuality?  He repudiated it because it was an abominable act that went against Gen. 2:22-24.  The fact that God made them “male and female” which was anchored in the foundation of creation, predicated against polygamy and any other deviant sexual lifestyles.  Hence, there is no condoning of same-sex relationship nor any room for more than two persons.  To do so would violate the permanent bond of the one-flesh union.  Only a monogamous relationship between a man and a woman can achieve the permanent bond of the one-flesh union.  To open-up the doors for same-sex relationships would entail a hostile act against the Gospel.  In fact, the Gospel only became a reality because the woman would bear a seed–the seed who would be Christ (Gen. 3:15).  And Christ would be the example for His people of how a marriage between a man and woman looks (Eph. 5:22-33). No one in the face of the earth held onto the definition marriage to the highest esteem than Jesus Christ did.  Remember what He said to the religious leaders in Matthew 19?

Some Pharisees came to Jesus, testing Him and asking, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any reason at all?” And He answered and said,“Have you not read that He who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? So they are no longer two, but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let no man separate.” ~ NASB

Next will be part 4.

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