When I was in graduate school I took a class called Contemporary Issues in Theology and it was in one of my top classes of all time. We covered a total of six different heavy issues that semester…
- Women in Ministry
- Divine Foreknowledge
- Divorce & Remarriage
- The Providence of God
- Spirit Baptism
There was great dialogue in this class and I remember some of the discussion posts being more lively than other online experiences I have been a part of. Each of these classes discussed gave us primary books, some lectures and some online videos for us to interact with and then develop a personal (at least preliminary) position on. Each of the books assigned about these topics were presented in a very neutral manner, as was our book from the “CounterPoints” series. For the first five topics listed we were given books from this sort of spectrum and opposing view points model. Homosexuality though, we were told what to believe.
It’s a shame that my previous seminary didn’t feel comfortable enough with the dialogue to do anything except tell people what to believe, and again this was at the graduate level. (to be fair a book like this did not exist in 2012.)
The class said, as stated in the syllabus course objectives, yes I still have that because I keep everything,
The student who has successfully completed this course of study should be able to:
- Understand the contemporary discussion of the four major views on the Divine Foreknowledge of God, especially the open-theism view and to formulate their own views.
- Recognize the four evangelical views on divorce and remarriage and to articulate their own views.
- Present the four evangelical views of women in ministry and frame their own views about the role of women in the church.
- Discuss why there is suffering, pain and evil in the world if God is a loving God.
- Debate the four major views on The Initial Experience of the Holy Spirit and formulate their own.
- Verbalize the Biblical position on Homosexuality.
Every other topic got to be surveyed and debated. Every other topic got to be deconstructed and given a personal decision on. The #6 though… homosexuality… was a one perspective-based book explaining the conservative stance on homosexuality.
Did the professor not think the students could handle this level of dialogue? Was too much at stake? Did the leadership from the school feel too uncomfortable with the possibility of someone siding with the other viewpoint, that they could only set it up as a straw man?
What a change from that program to this program, where our second day of lectures in Capetown we heard, “God is a queer God.” In some ways, our whole two years together has continued to circle around the issues of gender and sexual issues. It’s not an exaggerating to say I’ve been looking forward to the blogs and responses that will take place in this week and next weeks dialogues.
I’m glad that this program gives us a book that does give two different subjects. And I’m grateful for Zondervan being brave enough to publish it. Zondervan said itself that a book like this would not have been possible a decade ago (this book was published in 2106) and that this is the first book of its kind. That’s because homosexuality is different. It just is. It’s an issue (more than an issue) that involves more than behavior but ties in to a person’s identity as well. This brings a different weight to it. Consider also, that this is the only blog we are allowed to not publish live. This is a heavier topic.
I think when boiled down, this issue is so much more significant because to many people, this issue has salvation implications tied in to it. Not in the sense that being straight sends me to heaven. Of course that’s not true. But if practicing homosexuality is open rebellion, then yes I think salvation could be an issue, in the same way any unrepentive sin could be. Unrepentive sin is the antithesis of saying, “Jesus is Lord of my life.”
The other issues, predestination, cultural problems, racisms, etc, very few people ever attempt to tie salvation implications to those topics.
So after this long preamble of talking around the issue, let me share with you what I believe, and let me also share with you one counterpoint that I found most challenging to my belief set.
What I believe
I believe, acting on the temptation of gay desires is a sin. I believe it’s just as much a sin a straight man or woman acting on their own temptations. I believe that while all sin separates us from God, sexual sin is different because it also is a sin against our own body. I believe you can be gay (non-practicing) and go to heaven and I believe you can be gay (non-practicing) and hold the highest levels of church leadership. I believe that people are probably born gay, but that doesn’t make it ok to act on it. I believe that I don’t have an answer for the intersex issue, but what is clear is consensual, monogamous, faithful relationships.
Is it the same as divorce/remarriage? I don’t know.
For those who argue the issue of homosexuality is the same sin as divorce and remarriage, I’ve also wondered… Let’s say you believe remarriage is a sin, even if the divorce was permitted. Is the act of remarriage a one-time sin and then it’s done? Or is every act of sexual activity an ongoing sin for the remarried couple? If the latter is the case, wouldn’t this force them to get divorced again?
Biggest Challenges for me to consider
But lastly, as I said I would do, the arguments that made me think and reconsider my viewpoint were on the issues of intersex. Dr. Megan DeFranza gave some really interesting statements that will stick with me. First, the frog! Woah! Second, the statement that contemporary Christian marriage is not biblical marriage! Double woah!
That being said, I still maintain my belief.
I am praying that this week will foster more understanding and appreciation within all of us.