Burk vs. Du Mez: Why are evangelicals evolving on doctrines linked to LGBTQ issues?

"Here is my question: What does it mean to state that 'homosexuality is sinful'? Is this a discussion of homosexual orientation or of sexual behavior?" - Terry Mattingly

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dgszweda's picture

The older I get the more I realize that the theology that we were often exposed to in the in the 70's, 80's and 90's growing up, was just not sufficient (on so many issues).  Sure it was easy to oppose LGBTQ issues, because really the vast majority of society was doing it.  We could oppose it with basic and simplistic language like ,"God made Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve".  We weren't taught a deep comprehensive theology around this subject and how to engage society as it changes its attitude.  We didn't fully understand what the Holiness of God, really meant.  Or what it meant to live for Christ.  Because many of us were weak and societies messaging and acceptance of an LGBTQ agenda quickly and radically changed, too many Christians were unprepared to deal with it.  Churches didn't know how to speak to it.  People who sat in pews and had never met a gay person and only saw a gay person on TV, were fully unprepared when they now had close family members who were gay, or children who were struggling with their identity.  In my opinion, this is the fruit that we are seeing today.  The church reaps what is sows.

josh p's picture

I think though that this has basically been the history of the church. Some challenge to orthodox Christianity arises and the church is driven deeper into the scriptures for an answer. It's a good thing. It's difficult to anticipate all the things that might come up too so it's almost like this is the only way to do it. 

Joel Shaffer's picture

Living in Du Mez's home city of Grand Rapids, I happen to know some things about the church that she attends  It is attempting to take an ambiguous middle of the road approach that is neither fully affirming  nor fully rejecting their LGBTQ neighbors (although they want to be viewed as if they are being totally inclusive ).  From what I understand where they are on the issue of homosexuality at this point and juncture, they are insinuating that homosexuality behavior is sinful but homosexual identity with celibacy is not sinful and can be pursued as a legitimate option for those who are same-sex attracted.  As an example of this posture,  they recently had someone who identifies as a gay celibate pastor speak at their church.    Having interacted with leaders from the CRC for the last 30 + years of doing ministry in GR, what I've realized is that many within the denomination will make decisions on social issues guided by their confessions (Belgic, Canons of Dort, Heidelberg) as well as what looks respectable among the educated elites in the GR and the rest of the world, which often leads to purposely coming across quite unclear and ambiguous. Almost as if they're ashamed of their stance on sexuality.  Several of my CRC and RCA brethren and sisters are starting to leave those denominations and looking to join the PCA because they're tired of the unclear and ambiguous stance and posture towards this area of Biblical sexuality.  Also there is a progressive movement within the CRC that want to move the CRC into becoming fully open and affirming, which will eventually split the denomination. 

When Du Mez says that she is studying this issue with her church, this doesn't mean that she and her church are on a inevitable slippery slope towards becoming open and affirming.  I've also known of a few pastors and their churches in the GR area who studied issues such as sexuality or the issue of women elders and ended up aligning with historic Christianity rather than the liberal non-orthodox position.   At the same time, it wouldn't surprise me if the church and Du Mez eventually became open and affirming either.  The best thing we can do at this point is to take her words at face-value instead of assuming and assigning motives  and assuming slippery slope actions that haven't happened yet. 

Larry's picture

Moderator

looking to join the PCA because they're tired of the unclear and ambiguous stance and posture towards this area of Biblical sexuality.

Revoice may make this choice untenable.

My gut is that all this is posturing to appear to be acceptable in the world's terms. Twould be better not to talk in terms of orientation. It has no real biblical meaning so far as I can see. Sinful desires are sinful. Temptation itself is not necessarily sinful. If we resort to biblical categories, we can fairly easily resolve the discussion.  

Andrew K's picture

"But I’m going to do so in conversation & communion with my LGBTQ sisters & brothers in Christ."

This is what I keep coming back to. 

It means not only does she accept people in these categories as regenerate believers, she  also considers them not in sin and herself in full, Christian fellowship with them.

Bracket notions of celibate/monogamous homosexuals for just a second and think about the "BTQ" aspects. You know what those mean, right?

Did she overstate? I don't know. But if she hasn't clarified, this is indeed a huge deal.

And before you argue that she's not theologian and shouldn't be held to that standard, remember that she is a professor of history and gender studies, an academic with a PhD from Notre Dame, and a best-selling author. She knows what she's saying.

Andrew K's picture

I feel like I need to revisit this just briefly, to clarify my points:

Notice how even in the attached piece, homosexuality is essentially the point of the wedge, with the rest of the acronym forcing its way in close behind, unnoticed.

Let's say the homosexuality, as I mentioned, is allowable--provided it's within Biblical parameters of celibacy or monogamy or whatever. 

OK, let's look at bisexuality (B): here we have an individual who admits they are attracted to the opposite sex but rejects being restrained by that role due to sexual feelings they also for the same sex (I could say "gender" here, but then things become insanely confused, so we'll stick with "sex"). How can we not tell them obedience for them involves renouncing this identity and living out what they were made for? It shouldn't be an especial hardship for them right, since they still get to live with and have relations with someone to whom they feel sexual attraction?

The transgender (T), as I'm sure we're all aware, is someone who rejects the sex they were assigned with and uses a variety of social behaviors, drugs, and surgical interventions to role-play the opposite sex. Typically they mutilate their bodies beyond the ability to reproduce in the process. If a transgender abandons these activities, obviously he/she no longer keeps the identity. So what is a "transgender brother or sister"?

The Q (queer/questioning) is somewhat more vague. The most common interpretation is that this is somewhat who questions or rejects the fundamental, gender binary/sexual dichotomy that God created and society reinforces. Such roles seen as restraining individual sexual/identity autonomy, and therefore a negative force (sometimes the negative force) for suffering within society. But how can a believer question that "God made them man and woman"?

How can any of the above be compatible with Biblical faith and the Christian life--except as a past of which one is repenting and fleeing? Du Mez says, "Because of the gospel." 

But these strike at something in some ways even more fundamental than the gospel: these identities are a rejection of nature. 

I have more respect for JK Rowling. She's staked out an unpopular but logical position on these issues (one that I happen to disagree with) and stuck with it. And she doesn't even identify herself as a "conservative" Christian. 

WallyMorris's picture

dgszweda is too hard on churches. Yes, we can always improve our teaching and theology. We usually don't teach "deep, comprehensive theology" on some social/cultural issues until they become "issues". Difficult to anticipate the future. He may not have been taught "what it meant to live for Christ", but I was. And I have emphasized/taught that in specific ways for 40 years. Were Christians "unprepared"? Yes, somewhat. But that's how social change usually is. Then we deal with it. To say that we are now reaping what we sowed is too harsh and simplistic.

Wally Morris

Charity Baptist Church

Huntington, IN

amomentofcharity.blogspot.com

Joel Shaffer's picture

Full Disclosure: At my church are several same-sex attracted folks who don't give a hoot about "what is deemed acceptable on the worlds terms" when it comes to the LGBTQ. Neither does our church.  They use the language of same-sex attraction as a descriptor.  And they don't see SSA as their primary identity.  They are not using the phrase to express sinful sexual desires for someone else. Rather that they don't have the normal attraction to the opposite sex that God designed for men and women towards each other. They realize that the effects of sin and the fall not only corrupted their hearts, but also have damaged their physiological makeup as people and that they have been ransomed, forgiven, being healed and restored in Christ, which is their only hope in life and they cling to his promises. They are committed to living faithful to a Biblical sexual ethic and daily deny themselves and take up their cross to follow Jesus. Not only have they been misunderstood and shunned by conservative Christians who often give overly simplistic comments and answers (if you just get married, the SSA feelings should go away, or have you prayed and fasted and saturated yourself with God's Word to help you? ) and they have been viciously attacked by the progressive left. They are considered traitors in the worst sense by the left who believe they have internalized homophobia and are using it as a weapon to go against the LGBTQ community in the culture war. 

One SSA man in our congregation happens to be one of our worship leaders at our church. He grew up in IFCA churches. Realized he was SSA since he was a young teen. Devoted himself to the Scriptures and Prayer and Church to deal with the different feelings he was having but still struggled. Graduated from Masters College.  Became a worship leader at a prominent GARBC church in the GR area.  Married a young lady in the church that pursued him.  Was counseled and believed that marriage would make the SSA feelings go away. They didn't.  She realized that he was still struggling, which caused their marriage to struggle. They still had 2 kids.  The church fired him because of the marriage struggles. She divorced him because he was having a difficult time with sexual intimacy with his wife.  The GARBC church didn't know how to handle the situation because, as David has said, they "were unprepared to deal with it and didn't know how to speak to it."  He started to attend our church and was discipled by several of the elders of our church.   He still holds out a faint hope that his marriage will be restored. But realistically realizes that he will be celibate for the rest of his life.  He has cultivated deep friendships with people in our church and he is like a brother to both me and my wife (We are in the same small group together so we do aspects of life together) He has more courage than just about anyone I know because he reaches out to the gay community and shares the gospel. He has experienced deep rejection from many within that community. But there are others within the LGBTQ community that haven't and are intrigued by his faith story and deep commitment to Christ, including giving up his sexual desires for the sake of Christ.    

Dan Miller's picture

I am _____. How should this be filled in by Joel's friend, for instance?

Identity is a set of attributes that are true about the person in question. Attributes in the sense we're talking about are conditions of the soul. Kind, angry, charitable, patient, impatient, lazy, diligent, SSA... All of these can be thought of as dispositions of the soul. While they are not final actions, they lead to actions that are not affected, but are consistent with inner desires. And even if in a deliberate, affected way one acts in ways inconsistent with his soul, he is still _____. 
So I might be impatient, but I know I should be patient and I deliberately attempt to wait patiently. Or I am uncaring but I try to show concern for others (and I marvel at how good other people are when they do it).

But I believe as Christians, we have another identity with regard to attributes of the soul and actions. "My life is hidden in God with Christ." I have another identity - a perfect, given identity. I am  perfect. 

-----

So with regard to sin, I have two identities, saint and sinner. If I'm asked, "Are you _____?" Should I answer yes or no? For a Christian, both are true and a proper answer ought to include both. 

Larry's picture

Moderator

Joel, I hope you will go back and read my comments for what they were intended and not take them to refer to some sort of situation that you are talking about. It's difficult of course to pass judgment and what a church did or should have done or didn't do or shouldn't have done. 

Again, I would simply suggest that SSA isn't the kind of language the Bible uses. It is a descriptor of varying value. Certainly individuals struggle with sinful desires. Typically they are called "inordinate" desires. The question still is whether or not "attraction" is a biblical category distinct from temptation. And how we are to discuss and address it in the lives of people. We are commanded to have right loves and right affections. What would we say to someone who says "I am attracted to getting drunk"? Or "I am attracted to blondes" while being married to a brunette? Or "I am attracted to anger"? Or "I am attracted to porn"? Do we have a separate category for these things? I don't know that we do. We typically talk about those things in terms of repentance.  It seems like in the larger discussion, this kind of language is an attempt to use a category created by those who are defending something, not fighting it.

Why would someone's SSA even be widely known? That should be a private matter. The fact that it is being talked about is perhaps an indication of a bigger issue. Perhaps, I say. I just can't imagine the generic kind of public conversation that would come up in.

Maybe we need to challenge the whole public nature of sexuality as one of those things that needs not to be discussed widely in public aside from a very discreet conversation. It ends up that perhaps we are violating biblical commands and principles on modesty. There are some things that should not be talked about (Eph 5:3).

Jay's picture

This conversation would progress if Denny weren't so interested in proving that Du Metz is what he has been calling her publicly since Jesus and John Wayne came out.  It's the academic equivalent of "Kristen, have you stopped beating your [husband] yet?"

Either Denny seriously doesn't comprehend what she has been saying (possible given the vitriolic response by Burk to her book) or he's simply trying to force her to make an admission that she literally cannot do yet because she is studying the discussion (as she states).  From what I have seen of Burk and CBMW (or really most of the responses to books and authors like Du Metz), I do not believe this is a good faith conversation with the goal of understanding.  This is simply "gotcha" Twitter at its' worst, probably so that Burk and Co can trumpet their gotcha to their audience.

If you don't believe me, read the other quotes that are cited by Burk in the OP.

"Our task today is to tell people — who no longer know what sin is...no longer see themselves as sinners, and no longer have room for these categories — that Christ died for sins of which they do not think they’re guilty." - David Wells

Jay's picture

I do not understand the difference between why my desires as a heterosexual man for other women (that I am not married to) are in any way different from the desires of homosexual men for other men. Paul (and the other NT writers) do not differentiate between the two, but command that all unlawful sexual desires should be put to death.

"Our task today is to tell people — who no longer know what sin is...no longer see themselves as sinners, and no longer have room for these categories — that Christ died for sins of which they do not think they’re guilty." - David Wells

Dan Miller's picture

Jay wrote:
I do not understand the difference between why my desires as a heterosexual man for other women (that I am not married to) are in any way different from the desires of homosexual men for other men. Paul (and the other NT writers) do not differentiate between the two, but command that all unlawful sexual desires should be put to death.

I agree. One difference is that circumstances could change for you - if you lost your wife, then desires for some other woman would become good, assuming you remarried. But there's no change of circumstances scenario that would make homosexual desire good.

But that change of circumstances is not part of your question. The answer to your question is that they are both illicit desires. 

Dan Miller's picture

Larry wrote:
...

Why would someone's SSA even be widely known? That should be a private matter. The fact that it is being talked about is perhaps an indication of a bigger issue. Perhaps, I say. I just can't imagine the generic kind of public conversation that would come up in.

Maybe we need to challenge the whole public nature of sexuality as one of those things that needs not to be discussed widely in public aside from a very discreet conversation. It ends up that perhaps we are violating biblical commands and principles on modesty. There are some things that should not be talked about (Eph 5:3).

Larry, I agree, except for this last part - sorta. Some public self-revelation can be helpful both in discipleship and evangelism. I think that the struggle with porn, for instance, is something that could use some more exposure within churches. Many need to hear, "You and not alone. I struggled with X illicit desire also. You can get help." I can understand a young person who struggles with SSA never hearing this and just thinking, "The church has nothing to offer and since the desire isn't going away, Christianity simply doesn't work for me - I must not be a Christian."

Larry's picture

Moderator

I do not understand the difference between why my desires as a heterosexual man for other women (that I am not married to) are in any way different from the desires of homosexual men for other men.

On the one hand, this is the point. You don't go around proclaiming yourself this way ... as a "non spouse attracted person," so why would someone go around proclaiming SSA?

On the other hand, one is an ordinate desire, at least of sorts, and one is inordinate. But no matter the exact parsing, the issue is the same. Why identify in such a way?

Larry's picture

Moderator

I think that the struggle with porn, for instance, is something that could use some more exposure within churches.

Of course, but I think that is entirely different than identifying as PS (porn struggler). And that may not even be useful in a private conversation. It is probably enough to acknowledge the reality of the struggle generally. 

Andrew K's picture

Dan Miller wrote:

 

Jay wrote:
I do not understand the difference between why my desires as a heterosexual man for other women (that I am not married to) are in any way different from the desires of homosexual men for other men. Paul (and the other NT writers) do not differentiate between the two, but command that all unlawful sexual desires should be put to death.

 

I agree. One difference is that circumstances could change for you - if you lost your wife, then desires for some other woman would become good, assuming you remarried. But there's no change of circumstances scenario that would make homosexual desire good.

But that change of circumstances is not part of your question. The answer to your question is that they are both illicit desires. 

I.e., one is contingent, one is immutable.

In other words, one runs counter nature and as such is unnatural and inherently unlawful (Romans 1:26-27); the other is, as you say, unlawful by circumstance and not unnatural at all.

Thus, they are quite different; and I disagree that Paul and the other NT writers don't make a distinction (see above). Certainly all sexual sins are to be mortified, but that does not mean all sexual sins are somehow equivalent.