Christian leaders seek repeal of anti-sodomy laws...

(Note from Tim Bayly: As I've noted in recent posts concerning Ted Haggard's advocacy of the repeal of anti-sodomy laws that are already on the books of our nation and states, other prominent Christians have blazed the trail he is on. One I'm especially aware of is Dr. David C. Jones who is a member of my own Ohio Valley Presbytery and served for many years as a professor at our denomination's seminary, Covenant Theological Seminary. Some years back I sent the following letter protesting Dr. Jones' position. In response to the letter I received a quite-graceful response from Dr. Jones and another letter from Covenant's president, Bryan Chapell. But neither of them responded to the substance of my letter. And so, the argument I make below remains my conviction about all those Christians leaders who seek the repeal of anti-sodomy laws in the name of Christian compassion.)

March 9, 2001

Rev. Dr. David C. Jones
Covenant Theological Seminary
12330 Conway Rd.
St. Louis, MO 63141-8697

Dear Dr. Jones,

At some point this past year, I came across your comments published in Christianity Today (October 4, 1999) arguing that "(the practice of sodomy) is not the state's business," that sodomy ought to be made legal, and that sodomites deserve to have their civil rights protected because no one made in God's image ought to be "put down" by "jokes or sneers or whatever..."

Here are a few pertinent excerpts:

Van Leeuwen: One of the major questions is how to think about domestic partnerships. Some policymakers have suggested that we should have domestic partnerships but we shouldn't think of them in terms of sexual orientation...

Another example is Lee Bryant, a Canadian woman in her early seventies, who is a celibate lesbian. At 72, Lee is still an adjunct teacher at the community college, trying to make ends meet. She shares a household with another woman, Betty, a British immigrant to Canada who is on a British pension...

The state has a compelling interest and Christians have a compelling interest in people's emotional and economic commitments to one another. If people can demonstrate that they are emotionally and economically committed to one another, then they should have some of the tax benefits in that particular culture that would be given to a married couple.

David Jones: I worked one summer at Camp Nathaniel in Kentucky when I was in college and spent some time with two single women who were part of that organization and owned a home together and lived together in a perfectly chaste relationship. If one of them went to the hospital, I would expect the other to be able to serve as next-of-kin.

* * *
Richard Mouw: You're saying that the law should recognize persons who live together and have deep and abiding friendships, whether or not those friendships are genitally intimate.

David Jones: It's not the state's business whether they're chaste or not.

People are hesitant to address any of the domestic-partnership issues be cause they fear that it will lead to the implementation of some larger agenda from the gay and lesbian community. The removal of the sodomy statutes stalled when people perceived that it was part of a larger agenda.

* * *
Richard Mouw: You're going on record now as opposing sodomy statutes?

David Jones: Yes. I don't think they're necessary. At the same time, we should oppose laws that would make it mandatory for Christian schools to hire practicing homosexuals or a Christian couple who own a rental property to rent to a gay couple if it is against their conscience.

We must be intolerant of persecution of gays just because they're gay. We must send out the message that persecution of gay people, especially--but not only violence toward them is wrong. We cannot tolerate the various ways in which people, by their jokes or sneers or whatever, put down people, who are made in the image of God, just because of this sin.

Since you and I both hold our membership in Great Lakes Presbytery, I write asking if you would be so kind as to assist me in coming to a better understanding of the Biblical support behind these statements?

What would cause one to speak of a class of persons, unified by their self-professed commitment to rebellion against God's Moral Law, as deserving of affirmative civil rights action? Then too, on what basis would one seek the repeal of laws against a sin universally proscribed across nations and time? Do you see Scriptural support for the legalization of other sexual perversions also?

This is what Scripture says concerning this sin. It warns men that "it is because of these things that the wrath of God will come upon the sons of disobedience" (Colossians 3:6); that "the Law is good, if one uses it lawfully, realizing the fact that law is not made for a righteous person, but for those who are lawless and rebellious, for the ungodly and sinners, for the unholy and profane, for those who kill their fathers or mothers, for murderers and immoral men and homosexuals and kidnappers and liars and perjurers, and whatever else is contrary to sound teaching" (1 Timothy 1:8-10); and that the civil authority has been delegated by God the power of the sword as "an avenger who brings wrath on the one who practices evil."

Every person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God. Therefore whoever resists authority has opposed the ordinance of God; and they who have opposed will receive condemnation upon themselves. For rulers are not a cause of fear for good behavior, but for evil. Do you want to have no fear of authority? Do what is good and you will have praise from the same; for it is a minister of God to you for good. But if you do what is evil, be afraid; for it does not bear the sword for nothing; for it is a minister of God, an avenger who brings wrath on the one who practices evil. Therefore it is necessary to be in subjection, not only because of wrath, but also for conscience' sake" (Romans 13:1-5).

Pertinent to this discussion, our subordinate standards state that God has armed the civil authority "for the defense and encouragement of them that are good, and for the punishment of evil doers" (Westminster Confession of Faith XXIII, 1). Our standards also indicate that efforts by the civil authority to support marriage, working to "remedy" attacks upon marriage such as "adultery" and "willful desertion," are entirely proper--indeed, most excellent.

Would we also say that men who belong to a murderous fraternity, known publicly for their love of shedding the blood of innocents, ought to be protected from expressions of revulsion by the general law-abiding populace? Ought we to repeal laws condemning bestiality because it is not the state's business what men do in the privacy of their barns?

Over the years, a good portion of my pastoral care has been spent working with women and men tempted by homosexual desires; currently a significant subset of our congregation here in Bloomington is composed of such beloved brothers and sisters. As you may well understand, then, this is a matter of grave concern to me. The removal of laws condemning sodomy is, as I see it, destructive of these souls, robbing them of the educational function of the law at the very point of their greatest temptation.

Please help me to understand how a fellow presbyter comes to such convictions under the Word of God and prayer.

Under His mercy,
Your brother in Christ,

Timothy B. Bayly

Comments

Tim, your controversy with Dr. Jones brings to light a path into such disagreements which can be walked on more or less neutral grounds. Dr. J. says that good friends who live together should be treated essentially the same as married couples and it's not the state's business whether or not they are sexually connected. A response to that which people other than Christians might share with Christians is that the state has an interest in heterosexual, faithful marriage as the nursery of children and the building block of communities. Marriage is held together, not only by children if present, but precisely by sexual connection (Christians know this by revelation--"one flesh"--but lots of non-christians know it, too). The sexual connection of homosexuals does not bind them together in the same way (witness, for example, the 11 partners apiece in a five-year period which a survey found to be the mean among supposedly "committed" homosexual couples) and if there is no sexual connection, friends can and do split whenever they please. Therefore the state does not have the same interest in maintaining such relationships and, in fact, has a strong interest in not putting them on the same plane as marriage. This is only a sketch, but it is roughly how I would argue, not within the church (where I argue, as you know, a lot, on the ground of revelation), but outside it.

The state already regulates sexual behavior in all sorts of ways; let a heterosexual, monogamous married couple try to unite in the public park during everyone's lunch hour, and watch the regulating happen. The challenge is to figure out what parts of the universal moral law (as opposed to moral laws directed exclusively to the Body of Christ) apply to unsaved society, and how to enforce them. Even the Westminster Confession says that the civil laws of Israel have lapsed, and the only applicable aspect of them are principles of general equity. But marriage is a human-race ordinance based in creation, not a Church ordinance based in election/redemption. You would think from these evangelical libertarians that there isn't a holy God in heaven who still kills people for hating Him and breaking His laws.

Mr. Brooks:

Your comment that God kills people that break His laws is exactly the attitude and approach that is causing Christians to be defeated on social and moral issues in the courts and public opinion.

If my theology is correct, I believe we all are unable to keep His laws, therefore worthy of death.

Also, I think if Christians approached this issue in a loving manner toward homosexuals, rather than a hateful one, that we would be more successful in converting the lost (including homosexuals) and the general public, to considering our views and possibly applying them into life and culture.

I'm not saying Christians should back down from their convictions. But, my experience with fellow Christians when discussing the subject of homosexuality, usually gets pretty ugly. I see hate rather than compassion. Is homosexuality any worse a sin for the lost than being a thief or murderer?

About six or seven years ago, I finally convinced a gay friend of mine to go to church with me (not the church I currently attend). It just so happened that the preacher touched on this subject. One of the things he said was that all gays should be put out on a raft into the middle of the ocean and have their eyes plucked out by wood peckers.

Do you think this attitude and approach made my friend want to have anything to do with the church? I strongly believe that homosexuality is wrong, however I was about to walk out of church that day, and probably should have.

I think Jesus would want us to approach them with love and compassion. If we share the gospel with them and they ultimately deny it upto the end of their life, then it's God's job to judge them, not ours.

>Is homosexuality any worse a sin for the lost than being a thief or murderer?

Do you propose legalizing those activities?

Absolutely not! And, I don't propose legalizing breaking and entering either, but you're not going to stop it no matter how many laws you pass or amend.

Homosexuality is going to happen regardless of the laws. If we do succeed in getting same-sex marriage banned throughout the country, we still have not solved the more important problem. Saving the souls of those caught up in this sin. They're still going to be practicing homosexual acts regardless of if they're married or not.

I'm just proposing a different approach. What we're doing now is not working.

>Absolutely not! And, I don't propose legalizing breaking and entering either, but you're not going to stop it no matter how many laws you pass or amend.

>Homosexuality is going to happen regardless of the laws. If we do succeed in getting same-sex marriage banned throughout the country, we still have not solved the more important problem. Saving the souls of those caught up in this sin. They're still going to be practicing homosexual acts regardless of if they're married or not.

>I'm just proposing a different approach. What we're doing now is not working.

Okay, if the law doesn't stop thieving or murder and the law doesn't stop homosexual conduct then why retain one set of laws and not the other? By your standard what we are doing regarding robbery and murder "is not working" just as laws banning homosexual conduct are not working. What sort of "different approach" should we take to theft and murder? Read through your reply, it is very illogical. The only reason that comes to mind for treating them differently under your ground rules is that two activities are still generally frowned upon by opinion makers in this country while the other is not.

My point to Mr. Brooks was simply that he as a man, is categorizing one sin as worse than another.

As far as thieves, murderers, I don't know have the slightest what to do with them. Lets just kill them all..oh wait, according to Brooks, God does the killing.

I don't read Bill as disagreeing with Tim on this issue. He's simply suggesting that anger accomplishes little.

It seems to me that the kind of preaching-to-the-choir sermon he speaks of is never right, no matter who the target is. Such sermons forget that we are all saved by grace.

Bill is not arguing that we should stop outlawing crimes, or fail to prosecute them, merely that in private approach anger is counter-productive and verging on wrong.

Bill, I suspect you would also agree that there is need for indignation at the shameless breaking of God's law, no matter who does it. That's the point Jack is making.

David

>It seems to me that the kind of preaching-to-the-choir sermon he speaks of is never right, no matter who the target is. Such sermons forget that we are all saved by grace.

I'll concur with that.

It is very, very easy to malign anyone that talks about the wrath of God as a hate-filled person, or to slander them (as is insinuated here) as someone who actively wants people to be destroyed by the wrath of God. They will convince themselves that I'm saying the same things as that cultist psycho Fred Phelps and his swarm of pests.

But God drove Adam and Eve out of the garden to their (eventual) deaths. He killed tens of thousands of Israelites for murmuring against Him; He opened up a chasm and sent an entire clan (the family of Korah) down to their deaths. He incinerated two entire cities because of the extreme degree of homosexual sin and oppression of the poor there. God killed Uzzah for touching the ark. He killed Ananias and Saphirra for lying to His face, and He also killed Herod with intestinal parasites for receiving glory that only belonged to Him.

God created hell, with perfect foreknowledge of what would transpire in the Garden -- and He went ahead and created it anyway. God's wrath is just as real an attribute of His as His love; and it's His wrath that makes His love redemptive, rather than an empty sentiment.

Paul's exposition of the Gospel begins with the holiness and wrath of God (Romans 1). The love and grace of God are meaningless if they're taught without a background context of holiness and judgment. It was Christ who preached that His listeners should do anything necessary, including chopping off their own hands, in order to avoid going to hell. Even when we say "Christ died for us", we're by reflexive logic saying, "We're so bad we deserved to die in this horrible way."

Our goal is a Christian society, not a "conservative" one. That demands preaching the wrath of God, the reality of death, and the horrors of hell, as the Apostles and Puritans did; and laws play a role in that happening. If we still lived in a guilt-ridden, hell-haunted culture, your desire to only talk about divine love might be appropriate. But we live in a Zen-ist, self-worshiping, corrupt culture swimming in its own filth. It needs to be warned, with great seriousness and a desire to avert the wrath of God. That's what the prophets did -- they warned of the temporal and eternal wrath of God, with the hope of saving people from it.

The God of the Old Testament is Jesus' Father. Christ approved of the Old Testament laws, including their severity.

It would be heretical to only talk about the wrath of God, but there is no danger today of that happening. What we have now is the heresy of denying God's wrath, which is the same as denying His righteousness. But as long as God is holy, then the wrath of God is a practical, imminent danger to all nations. The moral law has a civic and a salvific application. Will God send people to hell for commiting homosexual acts? Yes, along with every other failure to perfectly adhere every waking hour of the day to His laws in thought, motive, word, or action.

There is no reason to turn from sexual immorality -- whatever form of it we practice, whether homosexuality, sleeping with your girlfriend, adultery, or imagining sexually immoral things -- and turn to Jesus Christ, if we're not going to hell. To say that God doesn't kill people for sinning exposes either a great lack of knowledge of the Scriptures, or rejection of them. The fact that sinners don't want to obey good laws has nothing to do with what our laws ought to be.

Is homosexuality worse than prostitution? Jesus brought prostitutes into his fold and taught compassion. Maybe prostitution shouldn't be legal, but Jesus still taught that we should love those in the trade. It doesn't sound like you preach compassion and love for homosexuals.

Dear Kiddo, yes, we do preach compassion and love for sinners, including those tempted by and involved in sodomy. In fact, there are a number of people in our congregation who have this particular temptation who are deeply loved and have been for years, now. And it's partly due to my desire to protect them and other such vulnerable souls that I speak out against those Christian leaders who are trying to legalize sodomy.

Why do we love these brothers and sisters? Because all of us at Church of the Good Shepherd came to the Cross of Jesus Christ covered in our filth and sin, without hope in this world or the next. But while we were still God's enemies, Christ died for us and now Jesus is not ashamed to call us His brothers, as God Himself is not ashamed to be called our God. (Hebrews 2 & 11)

God be praised, in Jesus Christ there is complete forgiveness of sins!

Why should anyone preach about hell? Because we don't want them to go there! You need to understand that it's the same God Who created hell and executes wrath, and at the same time says "Turn, will we ye die? I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked" (Ezekiel 18). When you see Christ weeping over Jerusalem, you see the Father also; but it's also the Father in the Son who said, "All praise to you, Lord of heaven and earth, who has hidden these things from the wise, and revealed them unto babes! For so it seemed good in Your sight."

There are angry Christians who deliberately act in an insulting way -- I know a few on the web -- and then in a twisted way convince themselves to be doing the Lord's work because people are mad at them. That's sick. But the opposite is also true -- there are Christians who seem to think that the worst thing that could ever happen is for a non-Christian to be angered at what we say. But if you're popular with everyone, then you're not preaching the Gospel (Paul said). Law reveals God's righteousness, sometimes in the one of the few ways lost people have to hear it. Repealing anti-sodomy laws sets our legislation at odds with the law of nature, and takes away a source of natural revelation for the ungodly, to which they might respond with conviction and repentance.

Jack Brooks
Pastor, Georgetown Evangelical Free Church

"Brothers and sisters", "sodomites" they're all the same.

Kiddo;
I do not think anyone here is suggesting we not show compassion and reach out to homosexuals. The rub seems to be 2 sides of the same message? God's "NO" as well as God's "YES".

What would NOT be compassionate to those in open defiance and rebellion against God, would be NOT warning them of God's wrath and pending judgement if they do not repent. One must have an idea of what they are being saved FROM.
The Gospel message is as much what we are being saved from as to what we are being saved to.
If we are ashamed of God's "NO," we are ashamed of the Gospel.

Loving is not only defined as befriending those caught in the deceptiveness of sin and showing genuine kindness; which I hope we all do. At some point, however, the gospel must go forth to those souls. The "NO" of God along with the "YES." If we do not, we are not being loving. We'd be more concerned over what "men" think of "us" than the condition of their souls and the Holy nature of our Triune God. We'd be more concerned with our reputation, rather than God's.

Mr. Brooks.

I agree with what you say about God wrath. I don't deny it or want to debate you on that point, because I DO agree with you.

The danger I see in your first comment is what is quite common among the Christian church, and that is thinking we know God's will and purpose in individual lives. If someone were killed in a car accident and happened to be gay, we seem to say, that was God's wrath and he killed him because he was gay. But, if someone else dies in a car accident and he is not gay, but 'only' an adulterer and a thief, then we tend to think it wasn't God's WRATH, but God's WILL that he take this person home. Because we have categorized the sin based on our preception of the severity of it.

We are all sinners, we all die, so I guess He kills us all for one sin or the other.

Mr. Brooks, I think you and I are on the same page as far as what we believe about God and death. However, I think as christians we need to focus (to the lost) on His grace more often, and when we do talk to them about His wrath, maybe just be cautious that we do it in a loving way.

Back to the original point of the post, I do believe that sodomy laws are a waste of time though. Sure, if we make sodomy illegal, it looks good for a culture that we are making an attempt at morality, but what good does that do {for the Kingdom} if the hearts of men are still wicked and desire it and practice it behind close doors. Laws won't change hearts.

With respect,

Bill K.

Please post the reply by Jones. He is a real treasure of the PCA and I would be really happy to see anything he has written.

Homosexuality is only one of many sins and isn't the most widespread sin in the culture. However, (1)It is an area, like feminism, where the enemy is focusing an attack on the church, and (2) It is a sin that people have convinced themselves and others is not really sin. This is shamefully aided by a support network in many churches "who, knowing the righteous judgment of God, that those who practice such things are deserving of death... approve of those who practice them" (Rom 1:32). Let's not lose sight of the sin, as the worldly Christian ghetto has, because of a desire to be more compassionate than thou.

BTW, I don't think most of these pastors are against anti-sodomy laws on libertarian grounds. Most would turn around and support all kinds of big-government debt forgiveness and other 'compassion' programs. There's no consistent political/philosophical outlook in play here. Which leads to the question, exactly why are they opposing such laws?

Dear Mr. Barlow,

Sorry, but I don't think it best to do so. I own copyright to my own writing, but not the writing of Dr. Jones. You can read more about his thinking on this subject, though, by following the links I've already provided:

http://www.ctlibrary.com/ct/1999/october4/9tb050.html

http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2004/110/11.0.html

Also, here are some links I just found googling "David Jones" with "Covenant" and "homosexuality":

http://www.presbyteriannews.org/volumes/v5/4/ethics-professor-opposes-an...

From the pro-sodomy evangelical group, Evangelicals Concerned (search for "Jones"): http://www.ecinc.org/Records/rec_fall99.htm

An article citing Dr. Jones from the New Oxford Review:
http://www.newoxfordreview.org/note.jsp?did=1299-notes-ct

>Back to the original point of the post, I do believe that sodomy laws are a waste of time though.

See my original postings to you.

I'm assuming you're pointing out that I said "absolutely not" regarding the legalization of this law, then said it doesn't really matter.

To clarify: I do believe that christians have to take the stance of banning such a practice. what kind of christian would we be to fight to have it legalized. However, in reality, its going to happen whether there is a law or not. Just look at what prohibition did for the increase of gang crime and bootleggin. I'm sure there were many a christian fighting to ban alcohol, but to no avail.

>I do believe that christians have to take the stance of banning such a practice. what kind of christian would we be to fight to have it legalized. However, in reality, its going to happen whether there is a law or not.

Okay, sorry I misread you. Glad we agree.

Dear Sirs...

(No need to post)

As an 83 year old Christian, I have long been an admirer of your dad's writings, and am presently reading through some of his books again. It is often mentioned that your dad and mother suffered the loss of three sons in their first 20 years of marriage, and that four children survived and all are presently involved in ministry...the two of you and your sister Debbie... Question: what is the name, age and gender of the fourth? I guess it isn't too important, but I'd like to know.

Blessings and best wishes for a fruitful ministry.

Tom Harvill here.

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