“For consider him that endured such contradiction of sinners against himself, lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds” (Heb. 12:3).
Comes now the Ninth Short-Circuit Court of Appeals, upholding legislation in California that bans licensed counselors from helping young people who want to deal biblically with same-sex attraction. The law bans counseling that seeks to steer young people away from gender confusion. Confusion. It’s not just a good idea. It’s the law.
And this reveals, in high relief, the ratcheting techniques used by the forces of totalitolerance. A howl was set up against reparative therapy, causing even some stalwart Christian leaders to back away from it, and now, since we have ceded that ground, they are proceeding to take it. It is now against the law in California for a godly pastor to urge a teenagers to mortify his perverse desires, and how did we get here?
Incidentally, taking a stand for reparative counseling does not obligate you to endorse anything and everything someone might do in the name of reparative therapy, any more than a stand for free speech means that you agree with every stupid op-ed piece ever written. There could be hucksters out there running Acme Reparative Clinics, and I don’t care because this was supposed to be a free country. Because not only is Acme out there giving us a bad name, but the apostle Paul is out there too.
“Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God” (1 Cor. 6:9–11).
Some of you used to be gay, he says, but you called on the Lord, and prayed it away. Notice the tense of the verbs. Such were some of you. But you are washed. This does not mean that various temptations to lust just vanish, presto. But it does mean that it is no more permissible for Christians to claim a gay celibate identity than it is for them to claim an identity of celibate pedophilia, or the identity of being an incorrigible celibate flirt.
So what would we think of a celibate flirt? Suppose we were talking to a man who said he was maintaining the biblical standard of fidelity in marriage, but who said that he was also committed to the innocent recreation of flirting his head off with numerous women. All that matters, says he, is that the illicit and prohibited coitus does not in fact occur. That being excluded, all he ever does is tell a few inappropriate jokes, lower his voice confidentially, exchange a few knowing glances, and so on. Is he sinning?
Some of you might be wondering . . . is this a trick question? Of course he is sinning. What is the set up here? If it is sin to get somewhere, it is a sin to act like you are going there. We need not have much patience with those who acknowledge that the Bible says that it is a sin to catch a trout, but who go on to argue that it never says that it is a sin to stand by a trout stream with a fishing rod casting lures.
I want to argue that homosexual acts are indeed sinful, as anyone who knows his Bible can also tell you. But that is not the only sin related to all of this. I also want to argue that to embrace the gay identity, independent of whether any sexual relations occur, is also sinful. The gay vibe is a sinful one. That vibe is one of effeminacy. In the passage above, it is a sin to be effeminate (1 Cor. 6:9-11)—the word is malakoi, soft. It is not just a sin to play the soft one in bed; it is sinful to conduct yourself throughout the day as one who could play the soft one in bed.
This is a problem that the church really needs to work through. I am going to sketch a cartoon here, not because I accept the universal applicability of the cartoon, but because I need to make a point about how we define sin.
Suppose we are dealing with someone who has bought into the “gay but celibate” proposal. On the one hand, he really is celibate, and he is not in any problematic friendships. In other words, he is not in any sexual relationships, and he is not teetering on the edge of one. But on the other hand, let us also say that he is a walking, talking stereotype of someone who is light in the loafers. He talks with a lisp, he is limp-wristed, he walks like Liberace in a pair of skinny jeans, he is really into fabric design, and so on. In other words, sex aside, sexual activity aside, everything about him screams gay. Without any sex at all, and without any sexual activity on the horizon, he is being effeminate. And that is a sin.
As soon as something like this is openly stated, the water around us fills up with squid ink. Someone will immediately produce a gay activist who used to be a Navy Seal, one who has multiple decorations, who can do more one-handed push-ups than his Christian critics could do with two hands 40 years ago, and ask why I am calling him soft. But of course I wasn’t calling him soft. Engaging in homosexual sexual practices is one sin. Being soft is another sin. Not every person is guilty of every sin. A man can be a thief, and not be a murderer.
In ancient Rome, as long as a man limited his penetrative activity to his wife, his slaves of either sex, or prostitutes of either sex, he was considered entirely normal. If he accepted the degradation of being the passive partner, then that was disgraceful. In that era, their definition of masculinity was very important to them. It was all screwed up, but it was still important to them. The masculine one was the one who penetrated, and the penetrated could be either male or female. Rome didn’t care about the identity of the recipient.
But Scripture does. If a tough, hard-bitten Roman soldier called a slave boy to his bed, the Bible condemns his particular homosexual act. The act need not be “effeminate” to be sinful. Something can be an abomination without being girly. But if the slave boy cultivated a persona that was common back then, that of being a dainty boy (puer delicatus), then that was a separate sin.
There is much more than can be said about all of this, and which needs to be said. The problem we have is that our leadership is fighting an ongoing rearguard action against the sexual revolution, and each incremental defeat sets us up for the next round. And the rounds are shorter these days. The waves are coming in more quickly now.
So to end with a test question, a little thought experiment. When a righteous California pastor (who is a licensed counselor) defies this wicked law, and provides scriptural guidance to a teen that he baptized, and who grew up in his church, and the inevitable howl goes up, and all the respectable Christian leaders pull their skirts away from that man, what will you do?
“But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil” (Heb. 5:14, ESV).