I want to see if I can tie some disparate threads together. But first, a bracing dose of Chesterton.
“Modesty has moved from the organ of ambition. Modesty has settled upon the organ of conviction where it was never meant to be. A man was meant to be doubtful about himself, but undoubting about the truth: this has been exactly reversed. Nowadays the part of a man that a man does assert is exactly the part he ought not to assert — himself. The part he doubts is exactly the part he ought not to doubt — the Divine Reason” (Chesterton, Orthodoxy)
So let us begin by noting that postmodern thought and postmodern rot are phrases that rhyme. This is not a coincidence, and is pregnant with meaning. In most institutions today, we are at the point where we are not dealing with the truth over here and error over there, but rather a scorbutic malaise that has gotten into everything.
Now of course, truth and error do not mix, just as truth and a general cultural malaise do not mix. But when the pomo-rot is well-advanced, you find it creeping into places that are generally thought to be still trying to hold the line against error proper. And it can look like orthodoxy for a bit, but more than a little neo is creeping into it.
Gradually, slowly, inexorably, the lines fall back, and it is yet another dismaying instance of a retreat to commitment. The fortresses that our fleeing soldiers are heading for may have different names — our tribe, our faith community, the text itself, our interpretive tradition, whatever. And after the rout is over, there we are, peering over the wall of our faith tradition, watching Rabshekah ride back and forth on his horse, listening to his interpretation of recent events.
We don’t get there all at once. If some Christian is on television and is asked the baiting question as to whether homosexual practice is a sin, he will reply (if he is trying to hold the line in any fashion) that “yes, it is a sin, but all of us are sinners, and God makes no distinction between sins, and I myself am a sinner, and have sinned just this week in ways that are every bit as bad. And it’s only Monday.” What he ought to say is “yes, it is a sin. A very bad one. Kind of gross, if you think about it.”
Now if he goes the former route, what is he trying to avoid? It is not the identification of homosexual sin as “sin.” He does that. What he is trying to avoid is his own sin, the “sin” of certainty, the sin of confidence, the sin of dogmatic pronouncement. The sin of acting as though God has spoken.
It shows up in other places as well. If we can all play “yea, hath God said” when it comes to various interpretations, then this leaves room for us and our individual choices. We doubt what God has said — but we never doubt what we want to do. We don’t doubt our lusts. We doubt what God says about them.
This is why liturgical dress among evangelical Protestants so frequently resembles the look you might get with a homeschool basketball team. To each his own! A cassock here, a surplice there, and of course, the
willy nilly stole. The real issue here is easy to miss — this is no debate between Hooper and Ridley over vestments. Both those worthy men followed the truth, and disagreed over what that truth required at a particular point. No, this is the result of the removal of confidence (because of postmodern rot) in a sure word from God, with the consequence that we are somehow free to choose according to our current whims. And that is what this generation loves to serve — it loves to serve suiting itself. And make no mistake, when men start suiting themselves, cross-dressing is not far off. The world is a smorgasbord, and you walk down the line pushing your cafeteria tray, picking up those things that appeal, and passing entirely over those things, like the healthful green beans, that do not.
But the spirit of idolatry begins long before the wood and stone shows up. “ . . . remember all the commandments of the Lord, and do them; and that ye seek not after your own heart and your own eyes, after which ye use to go a whoring” (Num. 15:39). Whenever God speaks a sure word, it never leaves our own hearts and our own eyes with the scope that they prefer to have.
It may look like I am lurching, changing the subject yet again, but I am not, really. When Phil Johnson was here in Moscow a few years ago, he mentioned his surprise at the different reactions he had gotten from young earth creationists and those who held otherwise. He had deliberately stayed out of that issue in his writing on Darwin, and was expecting the young earthers to assault him with shouts of wild alarm, and to be treated to the standard big tentery that passes for charity among the forces of moderation. But, he said, it went exactly the other direction. The forces of moderation were hostile, and the young earthers were all welcoming and stuff. Now why was this?
I believe that it has to do with the issues revolving around confidence and certainty. The ID movement — despite some claims to the contrary — have provided us with some slam dunk certainties. And make no mistake — certainty is the real enemy.
This is why I appreciate Lewis and Chesterton so much. Despite some strong disagreements about particular doctrines or practices, we stand shoulder to shoulder on the crucial importance of protecting the foundation of our ability to disagree. In order to have a real debate, a real discussion, we must become what Lewis called “old Western men,” and we must loathe the poison of subjectivism.
Honest question… Is it just a grin most of the time, or do you actually giggle while you type? Either way, keep typing.
-the Navy guy
Doug, I guess when I respond to folks (though I’m not on tv) with a similar query as to that of the television interviewer by saying that yes, it’s a sin, and I, too am a sinner, I don’t give that qualification that in order to weaken my stance as to what God’s word says, or to say that all sins are equal. I am concerned to say that there is forgiveness with Christ, for those who repent and trust in him, as well as to mitigate the impression of the interviewer that I am claiming superiority to the sodomizing… Read more »
My experience in evangelism is that while unbelievers may understand the word sin to mean a transgression of God’s law (or anything prudish Christians don’t like), they understand the word sinner to simply mean human being. All that they hear from the admission of “we are all sinners” is “we are all human beings” and their response is “Exactly, so leave me alone!” Specificity of the sin involved is what is necessary…but is also what brings the hostility. Again, few really care if they are called a sinner: all mightily object to being recognized as a fornicator, idolater, adulterer, homosexual,… Read more »
The gay agenda is for the normalization of homosexuality. They want the world, and Christians in particular, to agree that it’s all normal. When we tell them that homosexuality is sin, but that we ALL are sinners, in context that sounds like we are in basic agreement regarding what they see as the main bone of contention. We may be using different categories, but they will see it as the Christian way to agree regarding the normalization agenda. They say: “We are all OK”. We answer: “We are all screwed up”. They think: “Tomahto, tomayto. Same thing.” So, when we… Read more »
Just saw your comment. Thanks – it was helpful.
If the subject was rape or armed robbery, would Christians use the same “well, we are all sinners” mode of speech?
My general opinion is no, they would not.
No one trying to normalize rape or robbery.
RFB – well, yes. Child abuse, too. Again, some sins are worse than others, and will receive greater wrath, but there is still hope in Christ for those who repent of these sins as well as trust in Christ.
God hates certain sins worse than others. Pedophilia and unregenerate People who think they are saved are worse off than Muslims, for example
Rabshekah’s preaching of baldness, not beauty, before the Lord of heaven has been well received. The Church redefined worship before society redefined marriage. We are living in the consequences of our worship. We become how we worship.
I am not missing the point when I note that “deep thought” and “deep rot” rhyme just as much as “postmodern thought” and “postmodern rot”. Wilson wrote that in drunken scorn or cynical despair. Either way, I don’t want to hear any more about Wilson being a great writer. Everyone may agree that he is by the time of the millennium, but not before then. This is not a one-off. On Twitter he suggested that people seek pleasure “in order to” get a cup of wrath. News to me. News to them. My two-penny bet is that all this affects… Read more »
Perhaps it is true that every TV interviewer is well aware that a fundamentalist Christian must reply that homosexual conduct is a sin. Perhaps such an interviewer is “baiting” the Christian in that he is forcing an answer the Christian may be reluctant to provide. However, that doesn’t take into account the huge viewing audience who may well not realize, or believe, that homosexual conduct is viewed by many Christians as seriously sinful, let alone gross, let alone a special abomination that cries to heaven for vengeance. Perhaps the reason why people equivocate over denouncing homosexual sin as they would… Read more »
I think the two work together–Chesterton’s “fully lion and fully lamb” at work. I understand that you lean towards “the lamb” and that is good; I am not condemning your approach. I am merely defending my own and expressing my rationale so that when I do hurl a hunk of burning brimstone at a lost one, you will know my motive is yours even though the means are different.
Jill, Carole replied, in essence, what I also intended. If the point is that people do not “get it”, well that is Paul’s point as well. In the first Chapter of Romans, God speaks of minds that do not work correctly (reprobate or debased) as a consequence of denying God. Despite that fact, He is not ashamed nor does He mince any words in His word both describing what the end result of that progession is, and the judicial penalty: “Romans 1:28-30, 32 And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased… Read more »
Wait a minute, Jill, this is exactly the problem I think the Pastor is addressing. This is not a subject up for debate for reformed protestants. We are not arguing over Leviticus. Paul is very clear in Romans. How could he be more clear than Romans 1:27! Furthermore, homosexuality is obviously wrong using natural law. People who act on these lustful desires get sick and it is not what our bodies were made for. We must not suppress the truth. All of this pretending that homosexual lusts make you into third category of being is the game play that is… Read more »
The TV interviewer would be expecting the Christian to take the wimpy, apologetic, ashamed, polite, defensive stance (recall the Sarah Palin/Katie Couric interview). Or they will be expecting an angry, bitter, hateful, finger pointing, accusatory, holier-than-thou stance. Either one serves their purposes. The way we should approach such things is like an innocent dove, and a shrewd serpent. We should be calm, direct, unashamed, jovial, free, inviting, authoritative, secure. We should display humility and fear toward God, and fearlessness toward men. We should poke back, question poor presuppositions, freely change the questions to what should have been asked and to… Read more »
Not sure how it happened, but I forgot to mention love in my last post. It shouldn’t go without saying. We should display a genuine compassion for those who are lost and bewildered and bitter. It should be clear that we aren’t arguing for the sake of personal victory, but to win souls, and to see God glorified. It should be emphasized that God doesn’t just love, but that He is love, and that the salvation of the world is His idea and His agenda. We are grateful messengers of the good news. We love to see the Gospel turn… Read more »
I think Pastor Wilson displayed this fearless, loving truth well in the talks in Bloomington that you mentioned, particularly towards the end of the Q&A when he declared that “the whore becomes a virgin!” Of all he said in the lectures, this stuck with me the most and I hope it also did with those present, for it is such an apt picture of the gospel and what Christ has done for us in is death, burial and Resurrection. Praise be to God! It is no coincidence that Pastor Wilson was responding to a question meant to be a trap.
Re: “is homosexual practice a sin?” question.
Yes, I think it’s appropriate to indicate what a disgusting, “abominable” sin it is, and to further elaborate the New Testament speaks of sins that call for disfellowship, but I don’t think it’s inappropriate to pair the discussion with other sins the church has stopped emphasizing either: greed, gluttony, divorce, fornication. The perception is that we’re a one note samba on homosexuality. We can be sure about objective truth, and still make it clear we’re sure about all of it as well.
That’s an interesting point, Jim. Isn’t the focus on this sin actually coming from those who are trying to normalize the sin? I agree that they are doing a good job of making it look like Christians are preoccupied with homosexuality, but that is because they want us to sit by quietly as they change our culture and our values and our respect and gratitude toward God. Think of the demands that the folks who want to engage in this sin are making. While we did lose the battle of divorce as well, and we lost a lot, I think… Read more »
God is just.
Hi Carole and Timothy and RFB, I agree with you that acting on homosexual attractions is a sin. I wish it were not, but I think the Bible is clear that it is. Even when I try to wrap my head around modern exegetical arguments suggesting the real sin was not sodomy but lack of hospitality, it’s not persuasive. So we do have agreement there. I think where we may part company is that I don’t see gay sexual acts as especially abominable in comparison to other illicit sexual acts. I don’t see that what the two gay men next… Read more »
Jill, Without trying to legitimize any sin, there is a qualitative difference in the way that God deals with certain acts (in response to: “This is why I can’t answer the hypothetical interviewer’s question in a way that separates illicit gay sex from illicit sex overall.”) For example, examine the way that God deals with adultery versus fornication. The first is a capital offense, the second is a type of equity issue of defrauding, restitution and restoration. I would encourage you to read the entire first chapter of Romans in view of how God establishes the foundational premise of man… Read more »
Hi Jill, I liked your post very much, but I am not sure where I wrote that feelings themselves were sinful?? Did I say that? I thought I said that it was wrong to tell kids who have homosexual desires that they are ‘gay’. I think even saying that this is a category of people is foolish and very dangerous with young people since they have all sorts of desires. Often time kids are looking for a place to belong. I think our culture has celebrated this sin, given it a special status and honestly glamorized it to the extent… Read more »
This is a bit tangential, but “I hope my child sleep with men prior to marriage” is not only not unheard of, but pretty common. It’s now considered a normal part of adult relationships and to forgo this is considered to be asking for trouble in marriage, by rushing in too soon in order to fulfill sexual desire, or by not ensuring “compatibility” with the person you eventually marry.
Well, Jane, that is heart wrenching too, and if someone were to interview me and ask my opinion, I would tell them clearly that it is a sin. I don’t think I would change the subject and soften it by listing lots of other sins the atheist refuse to recognize though….
Carole, I agree, I just meant that particular example doesn’t work as a “reductio” for the average person anymore, since people don’t think that hoping for a fornicating kid is a bad thing.
What about pedophiles, Jill? Do we want also to tell them they can’t help their feelings? Is this akin to liking broad shoulders? I think also we are approaching this differently. I believe God’s will, will be done. I don’t feel the burden of having to convince or attract sinners to the Christian life. God will regenerate whom He will regenerate, but He has commanded that I speak the Truth. I think trying to figure out how we can present the gospel in the most attractive way, is futile. If I really believe that the Bible is true, I need… Read more »
Hi, Carole, I re-read your post and realized that I had misinterpreted a pronoun and its antecedent! I thought you were saying that the sinful “it” was the gay feelings rather than the gay conduct. Oh the pronoun problem of our mother tongue! Pedophilia is a really difficult example. I think that the pedophiliac does not, in fact, choose to feel that way. I think whether there is a hereditary factor, a brain injury, a chemical imbalance, or horrible childhood experience, the pedophiliac’s attraction to children is “built in.” I think that’s why it seems impossible to treat and why… Read more »
Hi RFB, I found your comments very helpful in one sense, and that is a connection I made between the citation from Romans and Satan’s remark in Paradise Lost (which I find easier to comprehend than Romans!) The turning point for Satan comes when he declares “Evil, be thou my good.” This breaks the great chain of being, and sets him on an irreversible course toward destruction. If I am understanding you, you are seeing a parallel with gay marriage. I do see a distinction between the gay person who despairingly falls into sin and the gay person who sets… Read more »