God and the "Gay Christian"? A Biblical Response - Chapter 2

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God and the Gay Christian addresses the morality of homosexual conduct, specifically within “committed, monogamous same-sex relationships” (41). In the introduction and first chapter, most of Vines’ energy went into framing the debate as a matter of personal suffering (i.e., here’s what happened to me and is happening to homosexual Christians everywhere) and as a matter of progress (i.e., the church should improve its understanding of homosexual morality just as it has improved its understanding of other matters in Scripture).

Chapter 2 continues Vines’ efforts to frame the debate in these terms. (Kindle location numbers appear here rather than page numbers.)

The importance of progress

The section “New Information, New Viewpoints” sets the stage for the chapter by recounting Galileo Galilei’s famous 17th century conflict with the Roman Catholic church. To Vines, it’s a classic example of a traditional interpretation of Scripture that Christians, with the aid of science, eventually discovered to be in error. Read more about God and the "Gay Christian"? A Biblical Response - Chapter 2

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The Inaugural Speech of John Adams, 1797

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When it was first perceived, in early times, that no middle course for America remained between unlimited submission to a foreign legislature and a total independence of its claims, men of reflection were less apprehensive of danger from the formidable power of fleets and armies they must determine to resist than from those contests and dissensions which would certainly arise concerning the forms of government to be instituted over the whole and over the parts of this extensive country. Relying, however, on the purity of their intentions, the justice of their cause, and the integrity and intelligence of the people, under an overruling Providence which had so signally protected this country from the first, the representatives of this nation, then consisting of little more than half its present number, not only broke to pieces the chains which were forging and the rod of iron that was lifted up, but frankly cut asunder the ties which had bound them, and launched into an ocean of uncertainty.

The zeal and ardor of the people during the Revolutionary war, supplying the place of government, commanded a degree of order sufficient at least for the temporary preservation of society. The Confederation which was early felt to be necessary was prepared from the models of the Batavian and Helvetic confederacies, the only examples which remain with any detail and precision in history, and certainly the only ones which the people at large had ever considered. But reflecting on the striking difference in so many particulars between this country and those where a courier may go from the seat of government to the frontier in a single day, it was then certainly foreseen by some who assisted in Congress at the formation of it that it could not be durable. Read more about The Inaugural Speech of John Adams, 1797

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Book Review - Basil of Caesarea: His Life and Impact

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Image of Basil of Caesarea: His Life and Impact (Biography)
by Marvin Jones
Christian Focus 2014
Paperback 176

If you grew up in American evangelicalism, like I did, your grasp of church history, especially of the church fathers, may be relatively weak. Like a good fundamentalist, I grew up knowing all about D.L. Moody, George Whitfield, and Billy Sunday. I also had heard of Martin Luther and John Calvin, although I had more suspicion of them. But the church fathers were Roman Catholics from who knows when, and they didn’t have anything to teach me.

This idea, mind you, was “caught,” not “taught.” Church history has much to teach us, and the church fathers wouldn’t so easily fit into the mold of Catholicism as we know it. The early church fathers, especially, are worthy of study, and to them we owe thanks for an orthodox understanding and articulation of such important doctrines as the deity of Christ, the Trinity, and the deity of the Holy Spirit.

Overview

Basil of Caesarea (329-379 AD), a Greek-speaking Bishop in what is now Turkey, was so important a figure in the fight for biblical orthodoxy, that he is remembered as Basil the Great. He may be the most significant church father that most people haven’t heard of. Athanasius gets more notoriety for defending the Trinity contra mundum (against the world), but Basil was right there with him. Basil’s writings against the Arians, and his work On the Holy Spirit, helped to provide the church with some of the terminology that would eventually make up the orthodox definition of the Trinity: “one essence, but three persons.” Read more about Book Review - Basil of Caesarea: His Life and Impact

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God and the "Gay Christian"? A Biblical Response - Chapter 1

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The traditional Christian understanding of homosexuality is wrong. Dead wrong. Cruel, even. Why, you ask? Simple. It’s wrong, Matthew Vines argues, because it makes homosexuals feel bad about themselves.

Vines’ argument

Vines argues that experience has a critical role to play in interpreting Scripture. “While Scripture tells us not to rely solely on our experience, it also cautions us not to ignore our experience altogether.”1 Vines points to Matthew 7:15-20, which is his anchor for all of Chapter 1:

Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves. Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles? Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit. A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire. Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them. (Matt 7:15-20)

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Grace Toward the Godly of the Past — Aphorisms for Thinking About Separation

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Aphorism 7: Our patterns of application of separation today must include the grace we allow the godly of the past.

Gurnall’s work is peerless and priceless; every line is full of wisdom; every sentence suggestive. This “Complete Armour” is beyond all others a preacher’s book: I should think that more discourses have been suggested by it than by any other uninspired volume. I have often resorted to it when my own fire has been burning low, and I have seldom failed to find a glowing coal upon Gurnall’s hearth. (Charles Haddon Spurgeon, 1834-1892, quoted in The Christian in Complete Armour abridgment and modernization printed by The Banner of Truth Trust)

I am in full agreement with Spurgeon. The Christian in Complete Armour is a spiritual delight and treasure trove. Much of my preaching and illustrating from Scripture relies heavily on Grunall’s example and even remembering his sermons warms my heart to Christ.

Let’s consider a little background on William Gurnall (1616-1679). He signed the Act of Uniformity in 1662, which imposed The Book of Common Prayer, required episcopal ordination, and made the crypto-Catholic Charles II the “only supreme governor” of the Anglican Church. At least 2,000 ministers refused to sign the act and lost their churches. Men like Bunyan, Owen, Howe, and Baxter were persecuted because of the act.

So if we understand the commands to separate to go beyond disbelief and apostasy, when did it stop being a sin to obey these commands in the case of Gurnall?  Does anyone believe Paul would have signed off on the Book of Common Prayer as a burden to the conscience of pastors and congregations or accepted Charles II as the “supreme governor” of the church? Read more about Grace Toward the Godly of the Past — Aphorisms for Thinking About Separation

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Defending Diversity in Our Unity

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E pluribus unum! The seal of the United States bears this Latin motto meaning “out of many one.” It expresses our heritage as a free society. We form a unified nation comprised of citizens representing diverse ethnicities, languages, customs, values, and religious convictions. Our union is not achieved despite our diversity; our diversity strengthens our union, much as a compound of chemicals forms a stronger substance.

Achieving and maintaining unity amidst diversity is a delicate undertaking, particularly in the realm of religious belief. I offer here a few reflections on that project.

Since 1791, our government has assumed the role of protecting freedom of conscience in religious matters. The First Amendment to the Bill of Rights restricts governing authorities from enacting laws or wielding influence that necessitates or encourages religious conformity, and/or prohibits citizens from freely exercising any religious belief not employed as a cover for illegal activity. The government is to remain neutral on religion, while securing and protecting the freedom of all citizens to embrace any religion their conscience approves, or none at all.

In the history of nations, such liberty is a fresh concept. In ages past, nations viewed religious belief similarly to the way free societies view taxation today; namely, it was the duty of governing authorities to dictate terms to their subjects. When our government imposes taxes upon us, most of us dutifully comply without asking a lot of questions. Innocuous grumbling abounds, but we accept the necessity of taxation and the reality that nonconformity leads to prosecution. Read more about Defending Diversity in Our Unity

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God and the "Gay Christian"? A Biblical Response - Introduction

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Shifting tides

Homosexuality is a big issue in American culture today. Like a stack of dominoes, the moral floodgates of our culture, already dangerously weak, have collapsed. There have been a veritable flood of victories by triumphant homosexual activists on every conceivable front. In the election of 2008, both then-Senator(s) Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton stood against so-called “gay marriage.” This position seems hopelessly naïve to political sophisticates today. Texas Gov. Rick Perry, considered a likely GOP candidate for President in the upcoming 2016 election, recently remarked, “I may have the genetic coding that I’m inclined to be an alcoholic, but I have the desire not to do that, and I look at the homosexual issue the same way.”1

Faced with a near instant backlash of public opinion, some of it from fellow Republicans, Perry hastened to set the record straight:

I got asked about an issue, and instead of saying, ‘You know what, we need to be a really respectful and tolerant country, to everybody, and get back to talking about — whether you’re gay or straight — you need to be having a job and those are the focuses I want to be involved with,’ instead … I readily admit, I stepped right in it.2

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Book Review - Here is Our God

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Ours is an age of conferences. Dozens of conferences vie for our attention, from a variety of ministries. For those who cannot attend, livestreaming is a way to experience the thrill from afar. Another common way to expand the reach of a conference is to turn the series of messages into a book. The success of such books is usually limited, but in this book we have an exception. 

Here is Our God: God’s Revelation of Himself in Scripture (Crossway, 2014), is the latest book from The Gospel Coalition. This book is actually a compilation of the messages from the women’s 2012 TGC conference. Reading the book, however, I am not transported to the scene of thousands of women meeting together in a conference. Instead the message of each plenary session is powerfully communicated in this book, and the entire theme of the conference—suitable for men and women—comes together in this one short volume. Read more about Book Review - Here is Our God

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