Our culture is telling us that it’s “okay to be gay,” and that virtually every kind of “sexual orientation” should be affirmed. It’s telling us that “gayness” is unalterable, except perhaps when it’s not because of “gender fluidity,” and it’s increasingly hostile to “heteronormativity.” By now, it should be clear to anyone who takes the Bible and Christianity seriously, the real issue is, to flip the terms in Niebuhr’s first category, “Culture Against Christ.”
[Note: This article is Part 1 of a projected series.]
Currently, a battle is being waged for the soul of my home denomination. In the theologically conservative Presbyterian Church in America (PCA), the question is being asked: What did Paul mean when he wrote, “such were some of you,” and how should we apply it in the life of the church?”
On one side are those who say, “This truth must govern how we both think and speak about ourselves. We are no longer ‘sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers.’ True, those were things that dominated the cores of our beings before we came to Christ. They were even things that people called us. So, they became de facto names for us—i.e., how people identified us. But they are no longer who we are. It was who we were but is not who we are, and we should no longer identify ourselves by any of those terms.” (1 Cor. 6:9-10 ESV)
On the other side are those who say, “Wait a minute! We still struggle with these things. The temptations have not gone away. We doubt they ever will. So, we think we should speak as if we still are those things—as if they identify us. And besides, we want to communicate the Gospel to our culture in a winsome and welcoming way. We want to be like Jesus, and didn’t He identify with sinners? So, why can’t Christians who struggle with same-sex attraction while remaining celibate refer to themselves as ‘gay Christians?’”
These are the two sides in the battle or at least the two most vocal ones. I hope I’ve represented them accurately. If not, I’m sure someone will let me know.
Perhaps at one time, this was a cordial debate or even a minor fraternal squabble. It seems those days are now past us. I will spare you the details, but on various fields, the calls have gone out, the troops have been marshaled, and the battle has been joined.
“Haven’t you heard it’s a battle of words?”1
One of the first objections many conservative believers raise in response to the idea of anyone identifying as a “gay Christian” is, “We don’t allow people to identify as ‘adulterous Christians,’2 so why in the world would we let them identify as ‘gay Christians?’ Why would believers think they can make sin part of their Christian identity?”
Those who raise this objection would say 1 Cor. 6:9-10 teaches that all Christians who came to Christ out of homosexuality are fundamentally “ex-gay,” just as all who came to Christ out of a pattern of adulterous behavior are “ex-adulterers.” As Al Mohler put it, “The larger problem is the idea that any believer can claim identity with a pattern of sexual attraction that is itself sinful.”3 Regardless of how much we continue to struggle with temptation, our union with Christ is what identifies us now and that union entails a decisive break with sin—a past-tense crucifixion of it, in fact: “…those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.” (Gal. 5:24, ESV, italics added, cf. Rom. 6:6.) Those things no longer represent us.
As we might have expected, comparing “gay Christian” to “adulterous Christian” has generated pushback from the other side. One “LGBTQ Christian leader,” wrote, “Please, please, please don’t use this analogy. I know what you mean, but this one really ticks gay people off, and it gets you nowhere.”4
“Us and Them,” song by Richard Wright and Roger Waters, from Dark Side of the Moon, by Pink Floyd, 1973.
Examples could be multiplied here: “promiscuous Christians,” “pedophile Christians,” “drunkard Christians,” “thieving Christian,” “murderous Christian,” and so on.
R. Albert Mohler Jr., “Torn Between Two Cultures? Revoice, LGBT Identity, and Biblical Christianity,” August 2, 2018, https://albertmohler.com/2018/08/02/torn-two-cultures-revoice-lgbt-identity-biblical-christianity.
Justin Lee, “Questions from Christians #5: ‘Isn’t calling yourself a gay Christian like calling yourself an adulterous Christian?’” August 5, 2013, Geeky Justin, https://geekyjustin.com/questions-from-christians-5-isnt-calling-yourself-a-gay-christian-like-calling-yourself-an-adulterous-christian/.