Theological revisionists have, over the years, perfected a way of broaching the issue of homosexuality (and other forms of sexual brokenness that make up an ever expanding alphabet soup of virtuous vices) that is long on emotion and short on substance. Veterans of the ecclesiastical wars that have been fought over the last half century are hardly impressed, much less persuaded, by the now worn out refrain that this is a “very painful and complicated issue.” The rising generation of clergy in the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA), however, have lately shown themselves to be disturbingly susceptible to the siren call to be more “winsome” when engaging the revisionists who continue to beat the drum of “very painful and complicated.”
A word of caution, therefore, is warranted to our young colleagues about the dangers of too soon abandoning the field of battle when the real conflict has barely even begun. The real issue at stake, both now and in the stormy decades preceding, has nothing to do with sex and everything to do with who we are as the church and how we propagate the saving Gospel of Jesus Christ in the midst of a secularized culture that is increasingly hostile toward and bigoted against that Gospel.
Veterans and rookies alike would do well to remember that sex (and the various perversions of it that have challenged the church over the last half century) is merely the presenting issue, that is, the point of engagement for a much deeper argument.
Human sexuality, placed within the wider context of the doctrine of creation, is a relatively simple matter. God created human beings, male and female, in his image and likeness (Genesis 1:27). In marriage, as ordained by God, that image and likeness is given full expression as two human beings, male and female, become one flesh (Genesis 2:24). For Adam and Eve, prior to the Fall, their relationship with God and with one another was one of idyllic, blissful perfection. They “were both naked and were not ashamed” (Genesis 2:25).
“Pain” and “complication” came with the Fall. Yielding to the Serpent’s deception (which entailed perverting one simple commandment of God into a complicated set of rules and regulations), Adam and Eve rebelled against God and threw all of creation out of harmony with God’s design. Sin so darkened the minds and hardened the hearts of many that even the simplest elements of God’s will became not only difficult but impossible for them to comprehend. “Claiming to be wise,” Paul says, “they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and reptiles” (Romans 1:22-23).
At the root of all human sinfulness is idolatry, “exchang[ing] the truth about God for a lie and worship[ing] and serv[ing] the creature rather than the Creator” (Romans 1:25). Absent the truth about God, human beings are also absent the truth about themselves. The result is utter confusion, ultimately manifest in the abandonment of the most basic of all human relationships.
“For this reason,” Paul continues, “God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error” (Romans 1:26-27).
When the debate over homosexuality began, it was a basic conflict between two competing views of morality. But morality must have some objective basis, so traditionalists soon began attempting to elevate the discussion to one of the authority of Scripture in matters of faith and practice. In so doing, they exposed the revisionists’ true agenda, which was not to legitimize a sinful behavior, but to neutralize and denigrate the Word of God and all the essential doctrines emanating from it.
Revisionists, in a manner that was skillful only in their own eyes, first twisted the meanings of particular Scripture passages, then claimed they had been “mistranslated,” and finally abandoned them altogether as “antiquated.” It serves no purpose simply to quote Scripture to revisionists. To them, it has no authority, particularly with regard to their favorite sin.
What is left for traditionalists is the doctrine of creation and the Fall. The fact that God created human beings male and female ought to speak for itself. Yet, revisionists have even found a way to get around this inconvenient reality. Once again, it goes back to their rejection of the authority of Scripture. As they reject the New Testament implications of the Fall (as articulated by Paul and other writers), so they reject the Old Testament foundations for it, as well. Revisionists who reject the notion that God’s original design was a good and perfectly ordered creation will likewise reject the notion that the present creation is something less than God intended. Thus, revisionists will inevitably reject any notion of a final restoration of creation and of final judgment.
Revisionists are left to offer nothing but a moribund apologetic for the present state of creation. Homosexuality and other expressions of human brokenness are seen not as impediments to be overcome by the grace of God, but as gifts from God to be celebrated. God is neither the loving Father who created human beings in his own image, nor the righteous Judge to whom all human beings must one day give account. Rather, he is a generic deity who may have had a hand in creating the world but tends not to have much interest in its redemption, unless it involves eliminating the so-called “bigotry” of those who tenaciously hold on to the notion that he loves sinners so much that he sent his Son to die for them on the cross.
Ultimately, revisionists are left to embrace nothing but chaos because they have no sense of direction. They do not know where they came from and do not care to know where they are going.
Yes, homosexuality is “painful and complicated,” but only for those who are too obstinate to accept the truth about it and, thus, suffer the devastating effects of sin in their lives. For in rejecting the truth about homosexuality, revisionists reject the truth about God; and in rejecting the truth about God, they reject his offer of forgiveness and new life in his Son Jesus Christ, who came to save, heal, and restore a creation which was serene and in perfect harmony with God’s simple yet profound design before sin made everything “very painful and complicated.”
It is not easy to be “winsome” when reminding a world awash in hyper-sexualization that its present course can only lead to destruction. But the somber task of declaring the bad news that the wages of sin is death often falls upon the church in order that it may ready a people to receive the Good News that the free gift of God is eternal life in Jesus Christ our Lord (cf. Romans 6:23).