The debate over homosexual behavior has taken many surprising turns. The national debate has involved a Fast Food franchise and a maker of Duck Calls. It has involved extremes from Fred Phelps and his clan to groups like GLAAD comparing the whole thing to the civil rights movement of the mid 20th century.
What is missing from all of this is honest discourse. And what is missing from those who tell us that what they are doing is ok is "why it's ok?".
We hear arguments like:
So, for the Christian who believes that God teaches homosexual behavior is sin and that those who practice this need repentance and forgiveness, the message they give to LGBTQ people is very important.
Ultimately, the discussion boils down to desire. It's at this point that the discussion breaks down most often because neither side really understands their desires, their position as a human being in a fallen world, and how God views all of humanity.
So let's take a look at desire. Most homosexuals would say that they desire romantic/sexual relationships with those of the same sex and that they did not choose these desires anymore than a heterosexual chooses their desires for opposite sex relationships. I believe this is true, but not for the reasons most homosexuals or Christians believe. [though, I believe these homosexual desires developed at an early age rather than a person being born with them "out of the box"]
I do not believe God created people with homosexual desires. Homosexual desires are a result of the fallen, sinful state every person finds themselves in. It's no different than my desire to sleep with multiple women or someone's desire to get as drunk as they can, etc. Desire is not the benchmark for God's holiness or His creation. People desire many things - Money, Sex, Power. All of our sinful actions can be traced back to a desire. As a Christian, we must see ourselves before our salvation. The bible says we were "enemies of God". Enemies. At our hearts, we were evil. So it should not be surprising that people have sinful desires.
A big question here is "how do I know my desires are sinful?". The only real answer to that is to put it up against God's standards. We know from Romans 1 that homosexual behavior is sinful. Now, notice that I said homosexual behavior. Having a desire and entertaining that desire are two different things. Simply being attracted to the same sex is not sinful in itself [that is, that the desire exists] unless you were to dwell on such thoughts [as Jesus says, "if a man lusts in his heart...]. This is an important distinction for a Christian to make as he/she approaches those in the LGBTQ community in conversation about this issue. It is no more sinful than being tempted. Jesus was tempted in all things, but did not sin.
Now, instantly, someone will say "well, Jesus never said homosexual behavior was a sin!". Well, what did Jesus say? In Matthew 19, the Pharisees asked Jesus about the lawfulness of divorce. His response tells us many things about the Old Testament:
"He answered, “Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female, 5 and said, ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? 6 So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.” 7 They said to him, “Why then did Moses command one to give a certificate of divorce and to send her away?” 8 He said to them, “Because of your hardness of heart Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so. 9 And I say to you: whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery.”
Here, Jesus not only affirms the OT, but He also tells us what God's design for marriage is. Held up against this standard, the only holy marital desire is that of a heterosexual nature. We must ask ourselves if we should give in to any desire we have? If I have a desire for lying, should I lie and not be held accountable because I was born that way? What about theft? We could list many more but you understand the point.
So, when someone says they can't help the way they feel, they are correct. Only the indwelling of the Holy Spirit as a result of salvation through faith and repentance can change desires. But, desire is not an excuse for sin. And it may be that the desire itself does not change, so the Christian must then choose to remain pure and, perhaps, unmarried.
When we as Christians see our own selfish desires that are to be crucified daily, we can understand a homosexual's position and can offer understanding. Truth with gentleness and respect.
And for those in the LGBTQ community, understand that God does love you just as you are. But you are in no different a position than I or anyone else. Salvation comes by grace through faith in Christ alone. And repentance leads to faith.
Be prepared to have honest conversations. Discard bumper sticker slogans. Let go of the Us vs. Them mentality.
Is There Any Evidence Outside of The Bible For the Events Surrounding the Crucifixion and Resurrection of Christ?
As we celebrate Easter, we are subject yet again to the onslaught of "historical" specials detailing the "real" facts surrounding Christianity. Surprisingly, there are still those out there who believe Christ Himself did not exist - a retelling of pagan myths.
So how can we verify the existence of Christ outside of the Bible? Is there any historical evidence?
The answer is a resounding YES! There are many pieces of evidence for the existence of Jesus of Nazareth and for his crucifixion by the Romans. Let's focus on one particular ancient historian - Tacitus.
Tacitus was a Roman historian and senator (AD 56 - 117). He served under Emperor Vespasian (who laid siege to Jerusalem). In his Annals of AD 116, he wrote about the fire of Rome during the reign of Nero and described the following:
Consequently, to get rid of the report, Nero fastened the guilt and inflicted the most exquisite tortures on a class hated for their abominations, called Christians by the populace. Christus, from whom the name had its origin, suffered the extreme penalty during the reign of Tiberius at the hands of one of our procurators, Pontius Pilatus, and a most mischievous superstition, thus checked for the moment, again broke out not only in Judaea, the first source of the evil, but even in Rome, where all things hideous and shameful from every part of the world find their centre and become popular - (Annals 15:44)
It is clear that Tacitus is no friend of the Church. In fact, he is a sympathizer with persecution. But here, he outlines several historical facts for us.
1. Tiberius was Emperor during the time of Christ's death
2. Christ was crucified by Pontius Pilate in Judea
3. Nero persecuted Christians and blamed the fire in Rome on them to defer suspicions away from himself
4. Christians taught that Jesus rose from the dead (the superstition)
5. Rome became a center for the Christian faith and was spreading throughout the world from there
The basic picture painted by Tacitus is one painted by the Nicene creed.
For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate,
Tacitus shows that indeed Christ lived and died by Pontius Pilate on a Roman Cross and his followers preached that He was resurrected.
This is but one piece of evidence in a tremendous cumulative case that points to Jesus being the risen Son of God.
When we think of objective morality, we think of a moral code that from outside ourselves - that is, it's not reliant on the collective opinions of human beings, but is transcendent of that. And as Christians, we believe that morality is grounded in God.
However, many atheist argue that even if God exists, morality would not be objective. "How is that?" you may ask. Well, it depends on what we mean be objective and subjective.
When something is subjective, it means it depends on the subject (in this case, us) for it's meaning. So, if I say chocolate ice cream is the best, it's a subjective opinion as it's based on the subject, me. When we say something is objective, we mean that it's mind independent. It's doesn't rely on opinion to determine it's truth. So, if we say objective morality is dependent on God to determine it's truth, atheists will argue that it then is not really objective as it depends on a mind (God) and is therefore subjective. It is here where 2 misunderstandings arise both for the theist and the atheist.
We need to be careful when we use the term "Objective Morality". Dr. William Lane Craig purposefully uses the term "Objective Moral Values and Duties". This is because those abstract objects - the values and duties - even if created by God have an intrinsic value unto themselves. For example, if God created green grass, the grass would still be green in and of itself no matter if an intelligent mind were behind it. The grass is still objectively green. The same would be said for moral values and duties. The values and duties have intrinsic moral distinctions in and of themselves. So rape is still wrong objectively even if God determined that truth which brings us to our next misunderstanding.
When we say God is the standard for morality, we aren't simply stating that God decided this was right and this was wrong. We are saying God Himself is the standard - that is - His character is the standard for determining moral truths. It is not as if there is a higher moral standard that God ascends to as that would make that standard God. It is for this reason that the infamous Euthyphro Dilemma fails. "Is the pious loved by the gods because it is pious, or is it pious because it is loved by the gods?" It is odd that Plato's question posed to the Greek gods is then posed to God, but it is a fair question. However, it's a false dichotomy as God's character is the standard for moral truth. So something that aligns with God's character is good while anything that departs from His character is evil.
Now we have seen that in fact, moral values and duties are objective and the argument against this fails.
If you've sat in Church recently, you've probably heard sermons on being a better parent or having a better marriage. There may be classes on how to manage your finances better or on being a better leader. And while these are based on sound, biblical principles, we can mistake Christianity for a self betterment plan. It's at this point that our faith can become nothing but a therapeutic moralistic deism.
What I mean is this, many preachers preach messages that are all about us. We strive to have better lives - to live the American dream in some cases. We want to be successful, heal all of our pains and anxieties and have the best life now. Problem is, God doesn't promise us this. We tend to think if we are just good people and live our lives by a moral code and acknowledge God, we are then Christians. But the bible teaches something else.
Over and over again, Jesus said "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand." Repentance is a change of mind, heart, and direction towards our sin. It is turning away from sin while turning to God. It is then that the Holy Spirit dwells within us as we are made new creations in Christ - forgiven for our sins and made righteous in Christ as we are reconciled to a Holy God. There are no promises of success in life. In fact, the early Christians suffered greatly because of Christ. Jesus told His disciples in the upper room "I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33 ESV)
If we come to Christianity because our lives are falling apart due to divorce, job loss, or sickness, Jesus cares about those things and helps us to deal with them. But there is no promise of a resolution that we want. And if we have not acknowledged our sins before Him, we are still in them and are enemies of God. We come to Him on His terms, not ours.
The danger is a watered down Gospel that is nothing more than the same type of feel good, self help message that gurus the world over are teaching. If the message you are consistently hearing is about a better you and not about reconciliation and submission to a Holy God through Christ Jesus, it may be time to seek God's guidance as to where you should fellowship.