Along with the many freedoms we enjoy in America, many citizens have come to expect to be able to exercise their Christianity for nothing.
That is, to accept Jesus, be forgiven your sins, and go to heaven at no cost to themselves.
That is the concept embraced at least by so-called “gay evangelicals,” who with special vision see a “just can’t help it” exception in the Christian Guidebook that authorizes them to continue in homosexuality, free of judgment. The New York Times, in an article Tuesday datelined near my hometown (Raleigh), discussed sympathetically this growing segment of evangelicalism as though Bible literalists someday will no longer be able to deny its legitimacy within Christianity:
“Scripture clearly, pervasively, strongly, absolutely and counterculturally opposes all homosexual practice,” Dr. [Robert A. J.] Gagnon [associate professor of New Testament at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary] said. “I trust that gay evangelicals would argue otherwise, but Christian proponents of homosexual practice have not made their case from Scripture.”
In fact, both sides look to Scripture. The debate is largely over seven passages in the Bible about same-sex couplings. Mr. Gagnon and other traditionalists say those passages unequivocally condemn same-sex couplings.
Those who advocate acceptance of gay people assert that the passages have to do with acts in the context of idolatry, prostitution or violence. The Bible, they argue, says nothing about homosexuality as it is largely understood today as an enduring orientation, or about committed long-term, same-sex relationships.
In other words, they have dredged up an old argument: That the Bible has no relevance to modern society. You see, being gay today is so different from the homosexuality of the Biblical period, which was devoid of “enduring orientations” and instead was all about lustful men seeking out Willy and Nilly to fulfill their desires. The apostle Paul obviously couldn’t imagine the world’s moralized homosexuals circa 2006 when he (First) told the Corinthians (in chapter 6):
9 Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, 10 nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God.
Do you see that “idolatry, prostitution or violence” context? Neither can I.
Nevertheless, the gay evangelicals spot an exemption for themselves, which implies a denial for the need to repent from that particular sin. Would they argue a similar case for any of the other transgressions mentioned by Paul?
But hey, the idea of repentance is so first century anyway. Those Caligula-era rubes had some seriously sick behavior from which to turn away, in contrast to the more refined, modest conduct of the current day. It’s not confined to the gays either; you need look no further than the non-condemnatory ministry of the popular Joel Osteen to find evidence of that.
It’s all enough to make you feel sorry for former Rev. Ted Haggard, whose three-year relationship with a male prostitute was revealed last month. That ridiculous “homosexuality is sin” concept duped him into admitting that he was “guilty of sexual immorality” and that he had “repulsive and dark” impulses.
I guess the unrepentant can be forgiven for their confusion. After all, Paul also told the Romans (3:23), “the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Gifts are supposed to be free, right? Too bad the apostles, and Christ Himself, added this:
The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance. (2 Peter 3:9)
For godly sorrow produces repentance to salvation, not to be regretted; but the sorrow of the world produces death. (Paul in 2 Corinthians 7:10)
I say to you that likewise there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine just persons who need no repentance. (Christ in Luke 15:7)
All should come? Godly sorrow? Joy in heaven? You’d think Lord Jesus and His miracle-performing followers could have seen 2000 years in the future and adjusted accordingly. Silly them.