The Wider Picture Today. Testing Times
The article from the ESV Study Bible was written before the UK introduced Same-Sex marriage. It has proved to be prophetic. Christian Adoption agencies who refuse homosexual adoption have been closed down, and the threat of governmental prohibitions against criticising homosexual conduct has also materialised. The organisations Christian Concern and The Christian Institute both cite cases where Christians are now losing their jobs merely for disagreeing with homosexuality per se, and so require their legal services (https://www.christian.org.uk/news/teacher-sackedafter-sharing-marriage-beliefs-during-staff-training/).
Pastoral advice and prayer which upholds the Bible’s teaching on sexual ethics was recently branded as ‘conversion therapy’ and outlawed in Victoria, Australia. The state’s Attorney General has said religious educators, teachers and ministers will be ‘reeducated’ by the Government to prevent them breaking the law. This entails liberal ‘progressive’ Christians being used by the State to ‘re-educate’ orthodox ministers (See https://www.christian.org.uk/resource/australian-pastor-on-victorias-extremeconversion-therapy-ban/). How chilling is that! Not dissimilar to the old Marxist compulsory re-education into ‘scientific atheism’ of those who disagreed with communism. The UK will be introducing its own conversion therapy bill this year.
The Christian Institute helpfully explains how ‘conversion therapy’ is:
…a wide umbrella term chosen by LGBT campaigners. It covers abusive practices by quack medical practitioners and charlatan preachers which are largely illegal already. But campaigners want to go much further and criminalise repentance as well as preaching, prayer, pastoral care and even parenting that fails to endorse liberal theology. Coercive and abusive behaviour should be caught by existing law. But it is wrong for biblically faithful preaching, prayer, pastoral care and parenting to be in the sights of lawmakers.
Dr Stuart Waiton, a senior lecturer in Sociology and Criminology at Abertay University, said the conversion therapy ban was ‘the most horribly dangerous authoritarian piece of legislation by a country mile’. (https://www.youtube.com/@letuspray4551) See ‘Round Table’ video discussion)
Unfortunately, even within the Church some authorities have been giving in to this kind of intimidation. Christian Concern reports the case of Dr Aaron Edwards, theology lecturer, sacked and threatened with a counter-terrorism referral by Cliff College for allegedly bringing the college into disrepute. His crime? To tweet that:
Homosexuality is invading the Church. Evangelicals no longer see the severity of this b/c they’re busy apologising for their apparently barbaric homophobia, whether or not it’s true. This is a Gospel issue, by the way. If sin is no longer sin, we no longer need a Saviour.
Dr Edwards writes, ‘Anyone concerned about academic freedom, Christian freedoms and free speech should be deeply concerned by what has happened to me.’ Interestingly the secular organisation Free Speech Union will be defending Dr Edwards in court. Toby Young, General Secretary said:
Expressing orthodox Christian beliefs should not be grounds for dismissal from a purportedly Christian organisation. I look forward to Alastair Campbell defending Aaron Edwards’ right to free speech, just as he did Gary Lineker’s. Defending Free Speech means defending the right of people to express views you do not agree with, not just those you agree with.https://christianconcern.com/news/evangelical-bible-college-fires-lecturer-overtweets-on-sexuality/)
Sympathy for People Treated Unjustly
Stories are circulated that lead one to sympathise with homosexuals who have received a lack of love from members of the Christian community. Of course such situations are wrong, but from the above examples it can equally be said that faithful ministers of Jesus Christ who hold to the biblical, moral teaching about homosexuality, who have no personal animosity towards homosexuals themselves, are being targeted and discriminated against for their views.
But to disapprove of homosexuality is not to hate homosexuals. Amy Orr-Ewing writes:
It is important to draw a distinction between ‘homophobia’ – an irrational hatred or hostility towards homosexual people – and a disapproval of homosexual practice for confessing Christians on biblical grounds. The Evangelical Alliance states: ‘We cannot however accept that to disapprove of homosexual practice on biblical grounds is in itself irrational, hateful or hostile’ The tendency of the gay lobby to brand anyone who disagrees with their position as ‘homophobic’ is regrettable because it fails to consider the nuances of biblical interpretation and the consciences of believers.”‘Why trust the Bible? Answers to Ten Tough Questions’ p120
Dave Gooderidge, a Baptist Minister, puts the essential point well:
The vast majority of people in our churches are only interested in one thing: Will we be kind to those who are LGBTQIA+? The assumption is that an orthodox position means a church is hateful therefore you get: ‘We don’t want to be hateful so we must change our theology’. This is patently untrue – we can be loving, kind and gracious to all whilst at the same time holding the traditional view. X- Out-Loud have clearly demonstrated this.
X-Out-Loud exists to give a voice to those who have left the LGBT community and defends their rights to tell their story. There are many testimonies on their website (xoutloud.com) from people of diverse cultures who describe their stories of freedom from same-sex attraction/ relationships and discovered redemption in Christ.
Matthew Grech, one of the founders of X-Out-Loud, now finds himself facing possible imprisonment under Maltese conversion therapy legislation, merely for sharing his testimony: Matthew said,
I am committed to keep sharing my testimony because I don’t want other men and women to go through what I went through in my upbringing and adolescence. I don’t want them to be victims of unwanted sexual feelings. I don’t want them to be robbed of the biblical side of the story surrounding sex, sexuality and marriage. I don’t want the masses to believe the ‘born gay, cannot change’ ideology, allowing that to go unchallenged.
The X-Out-Loud organisation add,
This is incredibly scandalous as sharing one’s story must be a fundamental freedom. It’s really disturbing that many are led by governments that hinder the very people it should be protecting in court…This is not just an attack on Matthew’s testimony, this is an assault on Christianity and the work of God.(https://xoutloud.com/matthew-grech-facing-criminalcharges-for-sharing-his-ex-lgbt-story/)
In the light of this wider picture, orthodox ministers must not give in to worldly intimidation, but remain faithful to Christ. Just as these courageous individuals described here. And there are other, more fundamental reasons why we must remain faithful:
As Christian Ministers we have a high calling to teach in Christ’s Name, and not come with ideas of our own. We are Christ’s ambassadors (2 Corinthians 5:20). Jesus himself says, ‘If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free’ (John 8: 31, 32). Again, we come in his Name, not our own. We will be judged more strictly (James 3:1)—for what we teach can edify Christ’s flock, or deceive and endanger them (2 Timothy 4:2-4). We dare not be found teaching those things that are in opposition to his will.
Christian Ministers should also note that the Scriptures take a dim view of any who profess to teach in Christ’s Name who promote immorality in their teaching, rather than speak against it as sin. Jude1:4 states, ‘For certain men whose condemnation was written about long ago have secretly slipped in among you. They are godless men, who change the grace of our God into a license for immorality and deny Jesus Christ our only Sovereign and Lord.’
Michael Green says of this statement,
The Old Testament (Dt.13:22, Mt.7:5, Je.23:14, Ezk.13:9), the teaching of Jesus Mk.13:22, Mt.7:15) and that of the apostles (Acts 20:29, 30, 1 Tim. 4:1ff, 2 Tim.3:1ff, 2 Pet.2:2, 3) all contain ample warnings against the advent of false teachers. There will always be those within the sheepfold who have not passed through the door, but have climbed up some other way; and they will always be a menace to the sheep (Jn. 10:1) … they are treating the fact that God graciously accepts sinners as an excuse for flagrant, shameless sin (p160, 161 ‘2 Peter and Jude’).
The heresy is an old one; that of Antinomianism (Greek anti, ‘against’ and nomos, ‘law’): the false teachers were preaching immorality as a way to live, though it be against God’s moral law and offends his holiness.
The Fate of False Teachers
Jude goes on to describe three judgments God brought against immoral/sinful activity from the Old Testament (including Sodom and Gomorrah who ‘gave themselves up to sexual immorality and perversion’ (7). But, according to Jude, these judgments prefigure the Day of Judgement to come. Of verses 14 and 15 Green writes ‘Jude now confirms this final analysis of his opponents with a prophesy of inescapable judgment, the judgment which will accompany the return of Christ’ (p177). (‘2 Peter and Jude’ Tyndale New Testament Commentaries. Michael Green.)
The only hope for the false teacher and the practitioner of immorality is in genuine repentance (turning from such preaching, resisting the temptation to immoral activity) and finding forgiveness through Christ’s grace and mercy. Thus, the balance ‘Hating the sin, loving the sinner’ is maintained. As Jude puts it ‘Save others by snatching them from the fire; to others show mercy mixed with fear- hating even the clothing stained by corrupted flesh’ (23).
The true end of discipline, as it is described in the Scriptures, is to bring about such repentance, forgiveness and restoration. (2 Corinthians 2:5-11, Matthew 18:15. See also https://thecripplegate.com/the-goal-of-church-discipline-repentance-untorestoration/)
The Biblical witness is that homosexuality is gross sin. (See “Homosexuality and Christian Ministers”/ ESV Study article). Our forebears were correct to say that any sexual activity outside of heterosexual marriage – including homosexuality – was deemed to be gross misconduct. The Lord Jesus Christ clearly affirms that marriage is ordained between a man and a woman. Though the State has acted in disobedience to God’s ordinance, the Church has a duty to be faithful to Christ. Therefore, the current disciplinary procedures should remain for ministers who practise homosexuality.