Tuesday, June 11, 2019

Open letter to SBC President, J. D. Greear

Dear Dr. Rev. Greear,
Congratulations on your likely reelection as SBC President later today. I appreciate so much of what you preach. I have four concerns that I wish to express to you.
First, please stop trying to argue about homosexual practice both that all other sins are "equally depraved" in God's eyes (a manifest falsehood) and (in a self-contradiction) that "quite a few other sins are more egregious in God’s eyes than homosexuality," all in an effort to make homosexual practice "not that bad." Presumably you wouldn't argue that way about man-mother consensual incest, a comparable case of severe sexual immorality. Indeed, such incest is, if anything, a somewhat less severe form of sexual immorality since only homosexual practice is a direct assault on what Jesus regarded as the foundation of sexual ethics: "Male and female he made them" (Gen 1:27) and "For this reason a man ... may become joined to his woman and the two shall become one flesh" (Gen 2:24).
The fact that any sin can exclude someone from the Kingdom of God if personal merit is the means of salvation does not mean all sin is equal in all respects. A good health care plan should cover all injuries equally but that doesn't mean that all injuries are equal.
Not only is it bad exegesis and bad logic to make such arguments about homosexual practice, leading to the harmful consequence of accommodation and eventual acceptance of homosexual unions in the church, but it is also bad pastoral theology. In the story of the sinful woman who washed Jesus’ feet with her tears, wiped his feet with her hair, and kissed them with her lips, Jesus explained to the Pharisaic host that the one who was forgiven more, loves more. One doesn’t have to lower the severity of sin in order to reach out to an offender.
If you still persist in insisting that the Bible supports these contentions of yours, please read my article “Is Homosexual Practice No Worse Than Any Other Sin?” If you have any further questions after doing so, I would welcome a discussion.
A related concern: Please stop saying that "we have to love our gay neighbor more than we love our position on sexual morality” as if love and truth were a zero-sum game where love increases only as truth decreases. We can't truly love anyone by discarding the commands of God. I know that you know that, but statements such as the above undermine the importance of truth in loving others.
Another corollary: You like to say that “God doesn’t send people to hell for homosexuality,” i.e., for committing homosexual practice in a serial, unrepentant way. Paul says otherwise in 1 Cor 6:9-10 where he lists "men who lie with a male" with others who will not inherit the kingdom of God (1 Cor 6:9). I agree with you that what ultimately sends us to hell is "refusing to allow Jesus to be the Lord and center of your life." Yet to say that serial-unrepentant homosexual practice can send one to hell is not materially different from saying that rebellion against Jesus manifested in serial-unrepentant homosexual practice can send one to hell.
Second, please stop saying that we should not “stigmatize sexual sin,” claiming that such action “shows extreme ignorance of the gospel." And please stop saying that we should not put “sexual ethics … at the center of Christianity." You would presumably never make the same remarks in connection with mistreatment of women or racism. To do so would undermine the church's resistance to matters of genuine concern in the church and society at large. The male-female foundation of marriage is anything but a peripheral matter in Scripture. It is established from creation on and made the basis by Jesus for extrapolating other principles in sexual ethics like the limitation of two persons to a sexual union (monogamy). We don't need less stigmatizing of sexual sin in society. We need more.
Third, please stop insisting that Evangelicals should be “among the chief advocates against … discrimination against the gay and lesbian community in our society." Expressed in this unqualified way, it sounds like you are urging Evangelicals to support "sexual orientation" and "gender identity" so-called "non-discrimination" laws. Such laws have been used in local and state venues, and (if Democrats have their way) will be used on a national level, to beat every Evangelical in America and destroy our civil and religious liberties.
You say: "One of the reasons that we stand against any discrimination or bullying and will count ourselves among the fiercest advocates for the preservation of their dignity and rights [is] because we recognize gay and lesbian people are just like us--made in the image of God ... and deserving of all the dignity and respect we desire." Yet the kind of "rights," "dignity and respect" demanded by "LGBTQ" advocates include "drag queen story hour" for children, mandatory "LGBTQ" indoctrination in schools and at work in order to achieve a "safe" environment, and the "right" to require people to contribute their professional talents directly in support of "gay weddings" and men dressing like women and entering women's restrooms, locker rooms, and sports. Any actions that promote homosexual expression or transgenderism are by definition effacing, rather than enhancing, the image of God stamped on male and female. Just think of the immorality that would be promoted if Christians were called on to be the fiercest advocates against discrimination of persons in an adult-consensual incestuous union and ask yourself whether that would be an appropriate ethical stance on the part of Christians.
Fourth, please stop saying that it is "great" if an Evangelical votes for the candidate of the Infanticide, GenderQueer, and Mandatory Speech Party. Such civic behavior is not excusable for a Christian so long as one is "clear about the wickedness of abortion" and "the preciousness of religious liberty and the right of conscience." It makes no sense to say that abortion is wicked and religious liberty is precious but it's fine and dandy to vote for candidates who make abortion and "LGBTQ" coercion their twin idols. If a person votes for such candidates, obviously that person considers abortion and LGBTQ-coercion at best only marginal concerns, if concerns at all.
I am glad that you have come out against homosexual practice, as would be expected of any SBC leader. I am glad too that you want to love persons who experience homosexual impulses and even engage in homosexual practice. We need more of that. Nothing I have said here should diminish that love. Jesus reached out in love to the biggest economic exploiters of his day (tax collectors) while intensifying God's demand for economic justice. Likewise, he pursued sexual sinners while intensifying God's demand for sexual purity and warning of eternal consequences for those who did not repent.
Robert A. J. Gagnon, Ph.D.
Professor of Theology 
Houston Baptist University

1 comment:

  1. Well I have said before, it is actually far easier to argue for legitimizing incest from the Bible, than it is to argue for legitimizing homosexuality.

    (Disclaimer: I am not actually arguing for legitimizing either of them.)