Tag Archives: marriage

Same-Sex Attraction and the Church

Its actually a plausibility problem…

What the bible teaches about same sex relationships sounds implausible to most people 51mnsxoryhl-_sx331_bo1204203200_nowadays. It sounds totally implausible to ask people to turn their backs on same sex relationships and live a lonely life as a perpetually single person.  Not only does it sound implausible, it sounds unhealthy. Listen to what Melinda Selmys, a Roman Catholic who experiences same sex attraction says:

“Though shall not,” has consistently failed to persuade the postmodern world because it is madness.

She’s right, it in our world the idea that someone should say yes to the single life is absolute madness. And this is exactly where the problem lies, the church has unintentionally perpetuated the implausibility of a same-sex, single, celibate Christian life through a number of misteps. Ed Shaw, a pastor and the author of Same-Sex Attraction and the Church, seeks to address this plausibility problem by making what the Bible clearly commands seem plausible again.

Shaw’s thesis is that,

The reason that the Bible’s teaching on homosexuality sounds so unreasonable is because of a whole number of misteps that the church ahs taken over the years; a whole host of ways in which evangelicals have become too shaped by the world around us. (22)

What Shaw does throughout the book is highlight 9 misteps that the church has made, unwittingly making the same sex celibate life implausible. He begins the book with a very personal chapter, describing what life has been like pursuing a life of sexual holiness as a pastor who has same sex attractions. This is an important chapter because the plausibility problem is a deeply personal and emotional issue for him, not only as a pastor but as a same-sex attracted Christian. This chapter really sets the context.

So what are the missteps? Here are the 9 incorrect beliefs that the church has adopted, thus perpetuating the implausibility of a single-celibate same-sex life:

  1. Your identity is your sexuality
  2. A family is Mom, Dad and 2.4 children
  3. If you’re born gay, it can’t be wrong to be gay
  4. If it makes you happy, it must be right
  5. Sex is where true intimacy is found
  6. Men and women are equal and interchangeable
  7. Godliness is heterosexuality
  8. Celibacy is bad for you
  9. Suffering is to be avoided

Although these 9 topics have certainly influenced how the church processes issues of same sex attraction in the church, they have wide ranging implications. Personally, I have an ax to grind against belief 4 and 9. Even apart from issues of sexuality, the beliefs that “if it makes you happy, it must be right” and “suffering is to be avoided” have done so much to harm the mission of the church. Because the church has imbibed these values (especially the American church) people are slow to sacrifice for the sake of God’s mission. And perhaps even worse, students tend to abandon their faith in college precisely because they have bought into “happiness” as the goal of life, and hence their faith as well. I’ve seen it time and time again, people following Jesus because of the “happiness” and “blessings”

ed-shaw_medium
Ed Shaw is Pastor of Emmanuel City Centre in Bristol, England.

he has to offer them instead of simply following him because he is the Messiah. It’s a consumeristic view of faith. All this to say, the issues Shaw addresses have major implications even beyond the topic of same-sex attraction.

I highly recommend this book to those in ministry. I wish all my pastor friends would take the time to read it simply because I know that some of them unknowingly are perpetuating these harmful beliefs in their churches (2 and 5 seem to be especially common in the circles I find myself in.) This would also be a helpful book for all sorts of leaders in Christian ministry to read. We would really benefit from being more careful about how we address issues of family life and relationships, as elevating certain topics in sermons or bible studies can unwittingly alienate a large segment of our Christian brothers and sisters.

Even though you may not agree with the details of Shaw’s proposal, this is an invaluable resource for those seeking to disciple their flock in the areas of sexuality and beyond.

NOTE: I received this book from IVP in exchange for an impartial review.

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The Eternal Subordination of the Son and Divorce in the Southern Baptist Convention

HT: Scot McKnight

Wade Burleson — I’ve seen very few willing to state the matter so boldly and to point the finger not only at false thinking but also at the condition of marriages in the SBC:

How can the divorce rate in every state in the union be declining while at the same time the Southern Baptist divorce rate is accelerating? Because divorce rates are in the culture at large are declining, if Southern Baptists were “accommodating culture,” then our divorce rate would be also declining.

Pay close attention to this categorical statement in the resolution:

“The acceleration in rates of divorce in Southern Baptist churches has not come through a shift in theological conviction…

I disagree. I propose one of the major reasons for the increasing divorce rate in the Southern Baptist Convention is precisely because of a shift in theological conviction during the 1990′s and early 2000′s.

Many of those who were in positions of leadership during those years promoted a doctrinal error called The Eternal Subordination of the Son.  Few Southern Baptist lay men and women even know what that doctrine is, but when you go to a church led by a Southern Baptist pastor who believes it, the emphasis of the teaching will be on “the authority of the husband” and “the subordination of the woman to her husband.” This pastoral demand that a Christian wife alone (not the husband) is called to be subordinate and submissive is based on the false belief that Jesus the Son is eternally subordinate and submissive to the Father.

The Word of God teaches a mutual submission of husband and wife to Jesus Christ–the creator God who became Man (Emmanuel)–and a mutual submission to each other (see Philippians 2:3, 5-7; and Ephesians 5:2 and 5:21).

When the emphasis in any Christian environment–be it a church, home, or ministry–is on one’s alleged superior authority and demand for another’s unconditional submission, a separation in relationship is imminent.

A desire to exert power, control others, and demand submission is unnatural to God’s design for His creation. …

Here’s the catch. Southern Baptist leaders have made the tragic error of believing that a husband should rule and a wife should be submissive because the Bible demands it. Truth be known, the Bible calls any desire to control and dominate–be it the husband or the wife– “the curse.” The divorce rate increases when Southern Baptists call “the norm” what the Bible calls “the curse.” When the first man (Adam) sought to rule over the first woman (Eve), Adam was manifesting a curse, not meeting a commandment (Genesis 3:16).

Jesus came to reverse the curse. Redemption causes curse-filled people to become grace-filled people. Those who seek to rule over others by exerting authority, when they come to see what Jesus says about life, will turn loose of trying to control other people and will only seek to love and serve, NEVER exerting any alleged authority. Again, Jesus said that “the Gentiles lord over others” and “exert authority,” but “it shall not be this way among you”(Matthew 20:24-26).

One Year Anniversary

Exactly one year ago I got married to my best friend and constant companion. It has been a year full of sweet moments, exciting moments, and crazy moments. I get to spend every day with the woman who gives me encouragement, comfort, and strength. Given our involvement in ministry we both need that encouragement, comfort, and strength. People tend to speak as if God simply rained down those things upon us, at times he does, but most often he uses other believers who are close to us to grant us those things. I am thankful I have her by my side…

Wedding Decoration 5

My wife is compassionate and determined. Gentle and strong. Unwavering and passionate. Most of all she is loving. She loves Jesus and she also (thankfully!) loves me. She desires to follow Jesus passionately, which is so cool. This often leads us into crazy adventures. And this is only year one…. I look forward to the many more adventures that the Lord has in store for us as we live out this mission he has given to us to take back ground for the Kingdom.

Satan Hates Sex!

God loves sex. Satan hates it.

You probably think that I have got things backwards – the enemy loves sex, because it’s the downfall of so many relationships (and non-relationships)…. Broken hearts, abuse, deviancy, pain, are all things that people experience in sex – how could the enemy not love it! But he does hate it. The enemy hates sex. The enemy hates it because it is God’s creation – God’s love for us, pleasure towards us, and desire to give us great gifts are all expressed through sex. Sex is a divine gift given to us. Sex points us to a deep relationship, deeper than any other relationship we can have with people, in which body and soul enter into pure intimacy. Sex is also a connective link into what it means to worship. Worship is expressed in awe and gratitude. When we have sex, the way its meant to be, the result is that we are amazed by God’s goodness. We are amazed by a gift that we could not create on our own or deserve as if we earned it. So, God loves sex.

God Loves Sex combines, psychological insight, a fictional narrative, and biblical scholarship on Song of Solomon. Dan Allender and Tremper offer a fantastic summary of this biblical book:

As we have observed from the Start, the Song of Songs is not a narrative with a plot that has a beginning, middle, and end. It does not tell a single story. The Song is a collection of love poems, though these love poems serve a common purpose and thus have an organic and coherent feel to them. The common purpose is first to celebrate physical intimacy, but there is also the warning that love is risky and not easily experienced. (149)

As Allender and Longman use Song of Solomon (Longman’s area of expertise) and psychological insight (Allender’s areas of expertise) with a good dose of fiction mixed in (the story of a small group on sex) the authors explore what the Bible really says about sexual desire and sexual intimacy. Here are a few things they cover, just to name a few:

  1. The Nature of Desire
  2. The Intrigue of Beauty
  3. Fantasy and Sexual Play
  4. Struggles Toward Intimacy
  5. The Glory of Sex
  6. Marriage

Overall I thoroughly enjoyed the book – the fictional narrative was very entertaining and Longman’s interpretation of Song of Solomon was thorough, aware of the most recent scholarship, but at the same time not too academic (perfect for this book’s audience). This book does a fantastic job of recovering the beauty and intimacy of sex. It reminds us that God really does love sex, and as followers of Christ we should too. In fact, as followers of Christ we need to makes sure that we are experiencing the fullness of the gift of sex as God intended us to have it.

The Song of Solomon refers to sex in a garden quite a bit – its probably a hint towards the glory of sex in the Garden of Eden.

House of Hartt

I don’t normally blog about this kind of stuff (decorating, weddings, etc.) – but I’m just so thankful to Corinne from House of Hartt that I couldn’t help share my appreciation for her and her team’s work at our wedding!

Amelia and I got married in January and Corinne from House of Hartt was our decorator. As you know from reading this blog – I’m really into books and I write a lot – my wife loves the vintage feel – so Corinne provided everything that we needed to pull of a vintage library/book themed reception. Let’s just say that it was amazing! She absolutely went above and beyond what we expected.

We got so many comments from our guests talking about how amazing everything looked. People especially liked the background she made (from scratch) behind our dinner table.

Wedding Decoration 6

Corinne used high quality materials, which included some vintage furniture and props – like a tons and tons of books which matched our theme (titles) and even our wedding colors, she brought some antique type writers, even a library card catalog. The highlight was the furniture that she brought. It all looked so elegant!

We loved how it looked and our guests loved how it looked!

 

Wedding Decoration 5

Wedding Decoration 1

Wedding Decoration 3

Niebuhr, Christ, and Culture (Pt. 1)

Niebuhr’s book Christ and Culture is a classic book on the history of the interaction between Christianity and the culture around it. Over the next few days I’m going to share some thoughts I have on this book….

Are his five types accurate?

I think that Niebuhr’s typology pretty accurately represents my experience interacting with other Christians and their views on Christ and culture. However I would say that most Christians that I have interacted with would not classify the types of stances in terms of five categories, rather they would classify them in three. These three would be: 1-Christ against culture, 2-Christ affirming culture, and 3-Christ and Culture in some complicated blend of the two. The churches that I grew up in always tended to see Christ and culture as two incompatible things, however now I do not see things as being so simple. (Thankfully the church I am currently at also sees it as a complicated matter.) Life tends to be difficult to break up into dichotomies like Christ against or Christ for culture.

Am I drawn to any of these types?

The understanding of Christ and culture that I am most drawn to (at this point in my life) is the understanding of Christ the transformer of culture. However, I really do not want to go as far as Niebuhr does in affirming the liberalist project as it is displayed in the work of F.D. Maurice. I agree with Niebuhr in saying that one day culture will be “converted,” however I thik D.A. Carson brings up a good point in Christ and Culture Revisited when he speaks about the conversion of culture needing to be understood in terms of the larger narrative of Scripture. I believe that it is a misunderstanding of The Kingdom of God as taught by Jesus that leads to Liberal Protestantism’s (as well as Fundamentalism’s) hope that culture can be converted now. A proper understanding of the Kingdom of God affirms that one day culture will be converted, but since we live in the now/not yet of the Kingdom, the conversion of culture will not occur until the eschaton. One extreme example of the now/not yet conversion of culture that I have witnessed is in the area of politics. When it comes to the difficult issue of homosexuality, some Christians campaign for the conversion of culture to a biblical understanding of marriage as being between a man and a woman. Although I believe that this is the biblical definition of marriage, it is difficult to say why culture around us ought to act in a biblical manner. It seems to me that the desire to convert culture to a Christian understanding of marriage is hoping that culture is converted now. This is a failure to understand the now/not yet aspect of the conversion of culture.

The Missional Coffee Cup

I couldn’t decide. One made my life easier. The other had a bunch of bells and whistles but seemed like such a hassle. Both served fulfilled their purposes in their own ways. So I just stood there. Staring at both boxes. I knew I had to make a decision…

Which coffee maker would I choose?

Amelia and I were getting married in a few months so we went to Bed, Bath, and Beyond to pick out our coffee maker. To tell you the truth it was hard to pick out which one we wanted for our new home. They all seemed so technologically advanced. Its as though they were being made by NASA to brew coffee on the moon.

None of these were an option for us...
None of these were an option for us…

I was torn between two coffee makers though. The first coffee maker was a Keurig system. Boy that would have made my life so much easier. I just pop in a Keurig cup and I have one cup of coffee in less than a minute. Amelia doesn’t drink coffee, so getting a traditional brewing system seemed like so much of a hassle. I would have to brew 6 cups of coffee if I wanted to drink one cup! The Cuisinart system was really cool though, but it seemed so impractical! It takes longer to brew and it brews too much coffee. But then again, this system had a cool water heating feature for tea. All to say, the decision was a difficult one to make. That is until we added another criterion to the set –

Which coffee brewing system is more missional?

That seems like a ridiculous question, but bear with me. Being on mission does not simply consist of activities. Being on mission is a way of life. So we had to ask ourselves, which system helps us to be more effective for the mission God called us to?

Pros of the Keurig – It is a quick brewing system. It makes one cup (which is the perfect amount for me).

Cons of the Keurig – It makes just one cup at a time.

Pros of Cuisinart System – It makes many cups at once and you can make tea at the same time!

Cons of the Cuisinart System – It makes many cups at once, so I would waste coffee. It is to slow to make coffee in the morning.

Let me fill you in on the deciding factor – It makes many cups at once and you can make tea at the same time. This isn’t really a benefit for me, but I saw this as having a greater missional impact than a Keurig maker.

A huge part of being on mission is spending time with people, being able to open up your home to those far from Christ, and showing hospitality. Think about some of Jesus’ most impactful conversations with people… many of them were over dinner. In his day (as in ours) dinner is a time of getting to know people and engaging in meaningful conversation. In our day we engage in meaningful conversation with friends at home with a glass of wine or a cup of coffee. If Amelia and I wanted to open up our house for our non-Christian friends we needed to be able to offer them that glass of wine or that cup of coffee. Picking the Keurig system was just impractical for showing hospitality and being on mission. Yes it made it harder for me to have coffee in the morning, but the result is that it will be a lot easier to serve people and show hospitality to her work friends or our neighbors.

I could have chosen to have a coffee cup by myself. Instead I choose to have a missional coffee cup.

Question:

  • Its easy to think of being missional as a major life decision, but it really starts with making smaller choices (like which coffee brewing system to buy). What small steps could you take towards living a missional lifestyle?