What exactly is "unnecessary offense to the Gospel"?

Or, what does Jay Leno know about Sodom that we've forgotten?

In response to the post, "Why 'sodomite' instead of 'gay' or 'homosexual'?" one reader objects, writing:

The use of 'sodomy' "provide(s) an unnecessary offense to the gospel.

I'm grateful we agree 'sodomy' is an offensive word. But why is it offensive, and is the offense bad or good?

For two thousands years Christians have used words with 'Sodom' as their root to refer to men copulating with men. And this use has always been offensive because it's explicitly reminded those reading or listening of what happened at Sodom--namely, God's destruction of Sodom by a fire from Heaven.

Make no mistake about it. That's the center of the issue. That's why I asked in my original post whether we are ashamed of God's judgment of the Sodomites? Or whether we are willing for that judgment to live on in our language as an example, warning those souls tempted by this sin?

If this association is not "Gospel," what is it? What exactly do I need to hear when my heart is unbelieving and I am having sex with other men?

Clearly, I need to hear the Gospel of God's judgment on the Sodomites, and God's forgiveness through the blood of Jesus Christ sent to cover that sin of mine.

Let me say this gently. I fear it's not our love for the Gospel and sinners that's caused us to drop this word that's been in use for 2,000 years. Rather, it's our indifference to the Gospel and our love for appearing sensitive, reasonable, and kind to the watching world.

Allen Bloom was right to point out that the only moral absolute left in America is the duty to get along with each other. This sickness has become a principle to Christians who think niceness is at the very top of the traits pious Christians will have.

But then how do we preach the Gospel while avoiding "offense?" Which offenses are "needless?" And what preacher of the Gospel in Scripture shows us this principle in action--John the Baptist? The first martyr, Stephen? The apostle Peter? Paul?

Certainly not Paul. He honed in on the very center of the Athenians' sin and preached a sermon to the Areopagus that was carefully calculated to associate their sin with the judgment of God in a way that any intellectual, then or now, would spit tacks over:

(Paul's Gospel message to the Areopagus ended this way:) Being then the children of God, we ought not to think that the Divine Nature is like gold or silver or stone, an image formed by the art and thought of man. In the past, God overlooked such ignorance, but now He is declaring to men that all people everywhere should repent, because He has fixed a day in which He will judge the world in righteousness through a Man whom He has appointed, having furnished proof to all men by raising Him from the dead."

Now when they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some began to sneer, but others said, "We shall hear you again concerning this." (Acts 17:29-32)

The above sermon would have to rank right up there at the top of extraordinary examples of "needless offense to the Gospel." Condemning "images formed by the art and thought of man" that were on every street corner of Athens? Referring to the idolatry of Athens' intellectuals as 'ignorance,' and warning them that they would come under God's judgment? Finally, Paul ended with the stupidity of the resurrection of the dead. There was plenty of "needless offense" to go around, wasn't there?

Now I don't say any of this flippantly. I'm simply trying to get us to look at our basic premises in this day when the cloying sentimentality of "God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life" is the definitive statement of the Gospel among Bible-believing Americans. Before we sacrifice the church's two-millenia usage of 'sodomy' and its cognates to a purportedly more effective presentation of the Gospel , at a minimum we ought to be able to demonstrate that we are more effective in the presentation of the Gospel than were our fathers in the faith.

Take another example. In 1Corinthians 6:9 Paul used the perjorative (offensive) term 'malakos' to describe ex-sodomites who were members of the Corinthian church. Was this "needlessly offensive?" Was he wrong.

To answer these questions, we must understand his use of this term as it was heard by those to whom he wrote. So what were the connotations 'malakos' carried in Paul's day?

In Aristotle, the tyrant Thettalus, when his advances are rebuffed, insults Harmodius, calling him malakos, a pansy (Ath. Pol.18.2). ...the tyrant's lust transforms a good Athenian boy into that lowliest of creatures, the kinaidos, the shameful personification of passivity. (From Victorian Wohl's "The Eros of Alcibiades.")

Here's another statement of the word's meaning in Paul's time, this one from the World Knowledge Library's definition of the English word, 'effeminacy':

The Greek word is 'malakos' (or 'soft') and is still used in modern Greek in that sense. 'Malakoi' was a common Greek term meaning men who were effeminate; it is a term of shame.

Or this from Omnipelagos:

The Greek word for an effeminate man is - malakos (literally "soft"), which is still used in modern Greek in that derogatory sense. (Emphasis not in the original.)

Did you notice these two definitions both used another term Christians have dumped onto the ash heap of history--the word 'effeminate.' Can any one of us demonstrate our use of this term in the past ten years? Have we heard it in our pastor's sermons? Have we posted it on our blog? Can we find it on the web site of the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood?

Brothers, the words 'sodomy' and 'effeminate' are deader than a doornail. But their absence from our language doesn't bother me nearly as much as the navet demonstrated by those who defend the killing of these words by claiming their use is an obstacle to the proclamation of the Gospel.

And don't marginalize the brother who made this claim on this blog--he was only saying what all of us, including myself, think. Not one of us is willing to preach and teach and write in any way like the prophets of Scripture and church history. Why?

Certainly not because we've progressed, because we've grown and developed and evolved in our evangelistic skills. That's the modern conceit, but it's ludicrous.

Rather, we refuse to use these words and many others like them ('brothers' for a mixed-sex group, for example) because we refuse to take up our cross and die with the evangelistic preachers of old whose fate Jesus described in this way:

Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you build the tombs of the prophets and adorn the monuments of the righteous, and say, "If we had been living in the days of our fathers, we would not have been partners with them in shedding the blood of the prophets."

...Therefore, behold, I am sending you prophets and wise men and scribes; some of them you will kill and crucify, and some of them you will scourge in your synagogues, and persecute from city to city, so that upon you may fall the guilt of all the righteous blood shed on earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah, the son of Berechiah, whom you murdered between the temple and the altar. (Matthew 23:29 ff.)

Of course, an easy path of escape would be to claim Paul would say things in his letters that never would make it into his evangelistic sermons. But again, check out his evangelistic sermons to see if any football stadium or Trinity Broadcasting Network programming or evangelistic preacher featured by Preaching Today would ever dare to speak as boldly and biblically as he did? Read Scripture honestly and the answer is clear.

I leave our readers with the same question I asked in my earlier post, and made reference to a number of times in this one: since we can demonstrate across two millennia of Church history the use of words taking 'Sodom' as their root for sexual relations between two men of the male sex, why have we all abandoned this use today? I'll close with two exhibits for the defense of the continuation of Christian's use of the words 'sodomy' and 'sodomites'.

First, every time the liberal media attack what they refer to as "sodomy laws" and every time they report on the latest court ruling repealing these laws, it would be hard to find anyone confused about what the laws prohibited. Same-sex sexual intercourse, of course. And while some of these laws had secondary application to other sexual practices, when they were repealed it was clear the gay or homosexualist community had pocketed another victory.

Second, a couple nights ago I'm told Jay Leno put an ad on camera, making the comment as the ad was displayed, "If I were a parent, I don't think I'd want my kid camping here."

The ad was for "Sodom Mountain Campground." Here's text from the bottom of the campground's web page:

Sodom Mountain and Southwick Acres are only 4 miles apart. Guests at Southwick Acres are invited to enjoy scheduled activities at Sodom Mountain.

Uh, I think me, the wife, and kids are gonna have to pass on this one.

'Sodomy' worked for two thousand years of Church fathers. And still today, it works for lawyers and justices and radio announcers and journalists and Jay Leno. It keeps God's judgment of Sodom's sodomites alive in our minds across the centuries.

So again, why should Christians avoid it?

Comments

Tim,

I agree that Christians should not purge the word "sodomy" from our language. It provides a specific shame for a sin that God finds abominable. Sodomites need to know they have sinned before God because you cannot repent of your sin unless you know you're a sinner!

Jesus was often very offensive, as Bob Enyart pointed out in his editorial, "Nicer than God".

The things you have said and written on the use of the word "sodomy" encouraged me to use it in my guest column in the H-T last month.

--Scott

Hi guys,

Just stumbled onto this Blog.

It is truly fabuous, and have been already greatly blesed.

Many thanks.

Will contribute too, (if that is allowed; and okay) ....over the next few days.

Kindest Regards,

Dave Robinson (Robbo)

Brisbane. (Queensland) Australia.

Hi Robbo,
Welcome aboard the blog. Glad you stumbled across it, and those of us who hang out on this site will look forward to your contributions.
Yours truly, Adam

I use the word "sodomite" and never use the word "gay" in that context, but I also sometimes use the word "homosexual" when referring to males and females collectively because, as I understand it, the word "sodomite" does not include lesbians.

Joe, that's similar to my practice. There are times when I use 'homosexual' and 'lesbian'. And sometimes I use 'sodomites' for both men and women. What does everyone use? Other than 'sodomy' and 'sodomites', are there words with a connotation of a negative moral judgment that communicate shame? (And I'm not talking about words like 'f-ggot' and 'queer'.)

"The world expects the Christian to be different and looks to him for something different, and therein it often shows an insight into life that regular church-goers often lack. The churches organize whist-drives, fetes, dramas, bazaars, and things of that sort, so as to attract people. We are becoming almost as wily as the devil himself, but we are really very bad at it; all our attempts are hopeless failures and the world laughs at us. Now, when the world persecutes the church, she is performing her real mission, but when the world laughs at her, she has lost her soul. And the world today is laughing at the church, laughing at her attempts to be nice and make people feel at home. My friends, if you feel at home in any church without believing in Christ as your personal Saviour, then that church is no church at all, but a place of entertainment or a social club. For the truth of Christianity and the preaching of the Gospel should make a church intolerable and uncomfortable to all except those who believe, and even they should go away feeling chastened and humble." --Martyn Lloyd-Jones

"Pervert" and "reprobate" are words with a connotation of a negative moral judgment that communicate shame, that are not limited to homosexuals but do include them.

I did a search for Rob Enyarts "nicer than God" article, and I thought it was absolutely fantastic. Heres the link in case anyone is interested.

http://www.ericsons.net/379/nicer-than-god

By the way Tim, I deeply agreed with and appreciated your post here as well(as usual,- and especially what you guys have written on images).

So thanks alot, and please keep it up.

As I've claimed before on this blog, Fred Phelps and his ilk have done more for my causes than has any pride parade. Call me all the dirty words you can think of; it will only hasten your decent into irrelevancy in the world in which I and most other people live.

But truly Tim, and quite independent of my pro-homosexual leanings, Sodomite is simply archaic; that's the long and short of it. Sorry history swallowed one of your favorite words. I will say that bringing any archaic word back into usage is a true rarity, so my prediction is that you won't be too successful in your "let's call them sodomites" campaign.

I make a point of using "homosexual" instead of "gay" as a point of word accuracy ("gay" means colorful or cheerful), but shy away from "Sodomite" because the sin in Genesis 19 isn't just homosexual lust, but rather attempted homosexual rape.

This has been an interesting discussion. I have spent the better part of the last couple hours reading both of the related articles and the comments that followed each. I hope, without being redundant, I can offer a few thoughts that might be profitable. And hopefully I will be able to communicate these in the spirit I intend to.... one that is not trying to attack Christians nor support anything that is Biblically indefensible, but also one that would plead with Christians today (particularly those who are of the thinking that would be in agreement with the author of these posts) to examine whether or not they truly are living as Christ would toward homosexuals.

Already I have revealed my cards I suspect, as I would not implement the term "sodomite" in the way suggested by the author. I believe the term is (1) inaccurate, (2) extra-biblical (or even possibly unbiblical) and unnecessary, and (3) extremely unhelpful. To elaborate:

(1) IT IS INACCURATE.

In the comments section of the first post Mr. Bayly attempts to address comments made on another blog that he "did not take Sodom's explicitly stated sins very seriously." After reading the entirety of his post and what followed, it seemed very obvious that the person who made that comment was referring to Mr. Bayly's nearly complete ignoring of the Ezekiel text and almost total exaltation of the Jude text. However, a commitment to basic hermeneutical principles requires this imbalance to be addressed rather than just brushed off by repeating one's previous statements. One text cannot simply be pushed aside because it does not fit conveniently into one's argument.

There is a subtle arrogance (of which I am far too often guilty myself, don't get me wrong) where we sometimes have a tendency to assume we know what God's motives are or were in a particular situation. Mr. Bayly assumes that God's primary (or perhaps only?) motivation for destroying Sodom was because of same-gender male sex. However, nowhere does Scripture indicate that God's motivation was homosexuality (neither primarily nor exclusively). Certainly homosexuality was among the sins mentioned in that city, and certainly the judgment of the city included judgment on that sin. But, it is indefensible to say that we know God's motivation (that thing which moved Him to the extreme action of raining fire from Heaven) was the sin of homosexuality. At best, that is an inference drawn from Jude 7. And, that inference perhaps would not be too far out of line were it not for the Ezekiel passage.

We are taught, when interpreting the Bible, that clear passages should assist us in determining those that are less clear. So, let us suppose we are approaching the Bible and asking, "What was the sin of Sodom? Why did God destroy that city?" Wonderfully (or inconveniently, depending on your perspective), God has given us one of the most clear, direct answers to that He possibly could have given. Ezekiel 16:49 says, "Now this was the sin of your sister Sodom...." Now, pause and think for a moment. If God's motivation for the judgment of Sodom was so definitively homosexuality that we ought to infuse the name of the town with that meaning, don't you think this would have been a good place to mention that? But no, in the most explicit, clear, unambiguous statement concerning Sodom's sin in all of Scripture, God says through the prophet, "This was the sin of your sister Sodom: She and her daughters were arrogant, overfed, and unconcerned; they did not help the poor and needy. They were haughty and did detestable things before me." Granted, you could legitimately (and likely should) include homosexuality in the mention of "detestable things," but that is hardly the defining statement of God's explicit motivation.

Mr. Bayly then defends his over-emphasis of one of the sins of Sodom above the others by comparing "Sodomite" to another town-name-turned-pejorative, "Laodicean." However, his agenda causes him to make another error. He says that, since Laodicea had more sins than just being lukewarm, and since we still accept the term "Laodicean" as a legitimate Biblical term to describe someone who is lukewarm, we must therefore accept the term "Sodomite" as a legitimate Biblical term to describe a homosexual. Where this argument fails is that, in Revelation 3:14-18, "lukewarmness" is undeniably emphasized as the MAJOR cause of the threat of judgment against Laodicea. THREE TIMES he says they were "neither cold nor hot" and then again repeats that they are "lukewarm." There is no doubt whatsoever that the reason God would spit them out of His mouth (and the reason for which "Laodicea" was infused with new meaning) was lukewarmness, even though presumption and complacency are mentioned in the context. This must make us ask, does homosexuality receive anywhere near such an emphasis in the accounts of Sodom? We have already seen that, in the most clear passage in Ezekiel 16, homosexuality is at best alluded to indirectly (entirely dependent upon other passages for such an allusion). Even in Jude 7, "strange flesh" is as close as you can get, and that term cannot legitimately be said to refer exclusively to homosexual activity in the sense "sodomite" is argued for in these posts. In fact, an honest reading of the account of Genesis 19, if approached with no agenda, would force a reader to admit that homosexuality is only one of several sexual sins mentioned, including rape and orgy. So, while "Laodicean" flows quite naturally from the emphasis of Revelation 3, "Sodomite" must be purposefully selected by those who wish to place an emphasis where Scripture, quite frankly, does not.

One small caveat before I continue- it is this same unintentional arrogance of assuming we know the motivations of God that causes many to assume they "know" why God brings judgment upon a person or a nation. Repeatedly in this blog, Mr. Bayly has said he is absolutely certain that God's judgment on Sodom was because of homosexuality, just as HIV/AIDS is "absolutely" God's judgment on homosexuality today. This is based on nothing more than pure human logic. Is there a Scripture passage that states that HIV/AIDS is God's judgment on homosexuality specifically or exclusively? Has God revealed to us today WHY in the 1960's or 70's he allowed this disease to rise up? One may say that it makes good logical sense to assume these things, but is it ever our place as humans to assign motive to God's working in nature? Can I say a tsunami in Malaysia is God's judgment on Islam? It makes sense perhaps, but who am I to make that determination? Who am I to claim to know the mind of God? May we be VERY careful when we make such claims to know the motivation of God in anything in which He Himself has not told us directly.

(2) IT IS EXTRA-BIBLICAL (or even possibly UN-biblical) AND UNNECESSARY.

The foundation of my argument against the term "Sodomite" was in the first part, so the next points will likely be shorter. My second reason for believing we should not use the term "Sodomite" to refer to homosexuals is that it is an extra-biblical term used when biblical terms are quite sufficient and more precise.

Mr. Bayly says, concerning the term "sodomite," that he "can't find another construction that is as helpful, spiritually, in referring to the practice of same-sex sexual intimacy." Well, "spiritually", [i.e. - that construction that would be used by the Spirit], would it not be better for us to use the terms as the Spirit gave them in Scripture? For all the opposition to the term "homosexuality" in these posts, it is almost completely ignored that that is the exact term that many godly Bible scholars from varying backgrounds have used to translate 1 Corinthians 6:9. Were the translators of the New American Standard Bible, the New International Version, the New Living Translation, and the New King James Version all among those that Mr. Bayly claims are using "deceptive Biblical scholarship" to undermine Scriptural teaching on homosexuality? Did all of those men, through carelessness or liberal agenda, "[throw] to the side two millennia of biblical scholarship and pastoral language" without so much as a second glance? Or could it be, perhaps, that as these faithful servants of God dedicated themselves to the sober task of developing faithful modern translations of the text of Scripture, they realized that they could respect history while still recognizing that history is not an absolute guide. According to Mr. Bayly, these translators, by using the term "homosexuals," have not been "faithful witnesses to our Lord and His Truth."

[As a side note, Mr. Bayly's inserting the emotionally-charged and self-created concept of being on the "lunatic fringe" is among the numerous examples in these posts where deliberately provocative language distracts from our "reasoning together."]

In a rather odd paragraph, Mr. Bayly states, "Scripture condemns sodomy over and over again, and in our libidinous and sexually anarchical culture, it's critically important that we continue to use biblical language to confess the Faith. Thus we speak of fornication rather than 'premarital sex' or 'living together'; we speak of 'committing adultery' rather than 'cheating on his wife' or 'having an affair.'" I say this is odd because he argues for "biblical language," using the perfectly legitimate examples of "fornication" and "committing adultery" (both terms used in Scripture) to support a term not found in Scripture even one time: "Sodomy." Even more strange is that these sentences appear in the context in which he is arguing against biblical language found in the term "homosexuality." This strange insistence (in the face of all evidence to the contrary) that this term "sodomy" is somehow "biblical language" while "homosexuality" is not, is to me, quite baffling.

I suspect this odd "blind spot" is caused by a fear (pretty much admitted to in the posts) that any change in the terminology of one's argument is de facto losing ground of the merits of one's argument. In other words, if we agree that "sodomite" was a bad choice from the start, we are afraid that we somehow will weaken our resolve to stand with Scripture on the teaching of the sin of homosexuality. I ask, if we drop "sodomite" today, is the argument of Scripture weakened? Obviously not....in fact, I guarantee Mr. Bayly can make his entire Biblical defense of the sinfulness of homosexuality without using the term "sodomite" a single time, and nobody would feel he has watered down or weakened the message. Sadly, in our misplaced commitment to an extra-biblical term, we consequently spend all this time on these "foolish disputes" (Titus 3:9) rather than focusing our energy on reaching those who have such desperate need of truth.

(3) IT IS EXTREMELY UNHELPFUL.

This entire argument, I believe, is an evidence of the gross misalignment of priorities affecting the vast majority of conservative evangelicals and fundamentalists today concerning those involved in a homosexual lifestyle. As I began this lengthy comment, I said I hoped that what I type here may cause some Christians to examine themselves concerning whether or not they are truly living as Christ would toward homosexuals. If Christ were here today, it is likely he would receive criticism on this blog for being a "friend of homosexuals." I understand that my saying that will undoubtedly cause offense, but please know I don't say it with a critical nor condescending attitude. But I do sincerely believe it to be true. For, just as the Pharisees in Christ's day criticized Him for being a friend of prostitutes and sinners and would never have dreamed of having such close and consistent contact with those folks, most fundamentalists today have little or no contact with those in homosexual lifestyles. And I'm not talking about the token counselees or work associates. I'm asking, have you or anyone like-minded you know, ever been so involved in showing the love of Christ to homosexuals that the hypocrites piously looked down their noses and assigned you that label which, while intended to be disparaging, was exalted to honor by the One who wore it first: "friend of homosexuals." Would you allow yourself to get that close? I'm afraid that, from what I have seen on this blog, that would be very unlikely.

In what is proclaimed to be "standing strong for truth" and not "bowing the knee to Baal," too often we protect our little pet phrases that, when laid bare, are shown actually to serve as a nice comfortable buffer, to keep us at a slight distance from the homosexuals. They allow us to shake our heads with concern and sadness, but then walk by on the other side with the priest and the Levite. Again, you may not like me to say that, but again I ask, have you ever been down there binding the wounds of this hurting community that has often suffered terrible blows from family, friends, and society? Do you understand how the homosexual, so ravaged by his desires and confusion, only sees the scorn and rejection of religious people, because the Christians always keep their distance, seldom stepping beyond the safety of protest signs to show true love? It's easy to be critical of the homosexuals, to view them as living riotously and carelessly, rejecting God without a second thought. But just beneath the carefree exterior, so many of those men and women, made in God's image, are so trampled and beaten down that they no longer see that image or believe it could even be there. You can say the homosexual is welcome to come to church and that he would not be turned away. But that is like the priest saying the man on the road to Jericho was welcome to come to synagogue if he truly wanted help. These are people who often will never come to you. You must go to them. You must kneel down. You must get your hands dirty. You must risk the criticism of the religious elite. And then, someday, you will hear the praise of the One who says to you, "Every time you offered that cold cup of water to one of these My children, You did it to me." I'm afraid I have not yet seen such a spirit here. In 34 posts on "sodomy", only one has even a slight emphasis on the need for Christians to reach out to homosexuals with the love of Christ.

I will conclude this comment with a slight apology for its length (though I attempted to be as concise as possible while still making my case), and I will tell you a bit about myself. I put this at the end hoping some might be more receptive to what I said having not yet heard about me. I grew up my entire life in a fundamentalist home, brought up by parents who love me and to whom I am very close to this day. I was never molested nor abused. I have a wonderful relationship with my mother and father, and I would not trade them for any other parents in the world. I attended Christian school from kindergarten through 12th grade, followed by Christian college and then a masters degree in seminary. However, from the time I was an elementary-school boy, as early as 3rd grade, I remember being attracted to other guys. As I hit puberty, this attraction developed into a sexual attraction. This continued to be a struggle throughout high school, college, and seminary. However, being a believer, I knew that to act upon these feelings that I had not sought nor desired would be sinful, and I never once acted upon those desires the entire time. But I lived a life of constant turmoil. For who could I go to for help with this? I tried a couple times. They always ended badly, with rejection and even retaliation by those who became uncomfortable around me when they knew my "secret." I wanted to scream, "But I have never acted on these things! Don't you understand? I don't want this to be who I am! Won't someone help me? This monster is growing and I don't know how to stop it on my own!"

I still feel that frustration. But it was not an excuse for my giving up trying after I left seminary. When one final event resulted in public humiliation though I had not been involved with a guy even then, I simply stopped. Well, almost. Truthfully, I became Jonah, running as fast as I could from where God was telling me to go. What was the point in my going and dealing with my "Ninevah"? It would only result in more rejection for me, right? So I ran all the way into the welcoming arms of those who shared my sexual attractions. For several years, I tried to find the joy and the treasure that had seemed so tantalizing when I looked longingly out the church windows. And, for a while, I mistook the excitement and acceptance I found for that joy. But God, who will not allow His true children to be plucked from His hand, would never allow me to abandon Him entirely. In the dark hours of night, I would find myself reading the promises of forgiveness and restoration, wondering how things got as far as they did.

And then God allowed my world to drop out from under me. He used a series of circumstances, one after another after another, to bring me so low that I could not lift my head again. And it was then that I saw He was there, the shepherd calling out to this one lost sheep who had wandered away. Like Jonah, I had been thrown overboard, swallowed, and thrown up onto the beach, amazed that I was alive, but not entirely certain I wanted to be.

And that is where I am now. I find myself once again looking to Christians for some glimmer of Christlikeness in their attitudes toward homosexuals. Tonight, I found much of what I experienced before; a gaze so laser-focused on the actions of the extreme homosexual agenda that almost no emphasis is given to exhort, challenge, and encourage Christians to reach out to the hurting ones. I have been on both sides of this fence. And I will tell you that here where I am now, where all of my friends are gay, the vast majority of them are not the ones you write about in these posts. They are guys and girls like me, in their 20's and 30's, overcome by something they didn't seek and don't understand, beaten down by unloving families and rejecting churches, eventually turning their backs on the only One who actually would show them the unconditional love they so desperately seek. There's only one way they will see that love. It's through you. Or not at all.

This says it all: "Let me say this gently. I fear it's not our love for the Gospel and sinners that's caused us to drop this word that's been in use for 2,000 years. Rather, it's our indifference to the Gospel and our love for appearing sensitive, reasonable, and kind to the watching world." Everybody is a practical universalist. Since God loves everybody, etc., "getting along" is the only real issue of importance left. NOne of us has the slightest difficulty using the clearest and bluntest language available when it comes to warning people away from cliffs, quicksand, ocean undertows, etc. We know the danger is real. We won't risk anyone coming to grief because we pussy-footed around it. But the danger of God's judgment? It would be one thing to recognize that outsiders don't know their danger, indeed have been innoculated against it by the Evil One, and may not hear us unless we are circumspect in our language. But we are circumspect in talking with other Christians, which means that we reinforce one another's tacit belief that it really isn't all that big a deal.

Some of us are trying to get too cute here. If I asked 100 people what adultery means, they would say it's sex between a married person and someone other than the person's spouse. And yet adultery encompasses, in the words of the shorter catechism, "all unchaste thoughts, words, and actions." So are we now going to have aggrieved adulterers (in the common sense) telling us to rethink the use of the word? The fact is that Jude 7 and the history of the church (where the Holy Spirit dwells) makes it clear that sodomite is a valid term to describe homosexuality, just as adultery is a valid way to describe illicit sex by a married person. Both connote judgement, which is the point.

Second, just as a man cannot stand w/out two legs, truth doesn't stand if God's holiness/wrath and His love aren't both emphasized. And today, holiness/wrath is getting the short end of the stick.

Last, I've noticed that when I sin against my wife, I sometimes look almost by instinct to blame her reaction to my sin instead of blaming myself (much less blame myself doubly for causing her to stumble). And this tendency, which our self-absorbed culture aggravates, is evident with this issue. It's the fault of those mean people out there who keep pushing me away, it's society, etc. No! First and foremost, it's me.

James M,

Thank you for your thoughtful and - in my judgment - accurate post. I believe you speak for the vast majority of people who view themselves as Christians. Even the vast majority of Christians who view homosexuality as sinful do not espouse name-calling and an unrelenting judgmental attitude as a rule.

I have posted here often lately and have actually received e-mails warning me of the Baylys' spiteful brand of Christianity.

It sounds like our upbringings were quite similar. For my part I'm content enough in my agnosticism (though I subject it to a good deal of scrutiny), and am happy in my loving same-sex relationship of over 8 years. I wish you luck finding whatever you're looking for.

As I'm sure you've noticed, the Baylys will never admit that they have been wrong about anything on the subject of homosexuality (maybe on any subject whatsoever, not sure on that). As best I can tell their edicts become, to them and their flock, something akin to the Catholic Catechism.

If we believe that unrepentant homosexuals will not inherit the kingdom of God (1 Cor 6:9), then it is unloving (and effiminate, I might add) to not warn you and others to repent, and it is unfaithful to not exhort Christians to avoid downplaying the coming judgement and thus tacitly approve those who practice sin (Rom 2:32).

The Bayly's are simply doing what they have been called to do. Their "spiteful" view is simply what Scripture teaches. Your issue isn't with them, it is with the living God.

Ryan and Jack,

Your exchanges are, I think, illustrative of this problem.

Jack, you rightly state that Christians have a duty to warn unrepentant sinners to repent, and you talk of how it would be unfaithful to emphasize God's love at the expense of His judgment/holiness. However, in my opinion, you have missed the point that, for the average homosexual, the judgment/holiness message is coming through so clearly that they cannot see the love at all.

I'm afraid that you see God's attributes as being competitive rather than complementary. As I heard a preacher say once, when we speak of the attributes of God (love, mercy, holiness, judgment), they are not aspirations, they are accomplishments. God's holiness is not in tension with his love. Rather, when we speak of His holiness, it should cause us to stand in awe of His love; and when we speak of His love, that love should humble us in light of His holiness. So much of your and others' arguments here seem so concerned to emphasize holiness and judgment that you are apparently afraid to place any emphasis on love less you appear to compromise. Am I wrong? Read through the 34 posts on "sodomy" on this blog and tell me if there is any balance whatsoever in the emphasis.

Emphasis on God's holiness separated from an emphasis on his love is why homosexuals so often refer to Christians as "haters." Mr. Bayly lamented the lack of modern-day prophets who emphasize the judgment of God, but just as there is a need for such preaching, there is equally a need for prophets who weep with compassion over homosexuals.

Do you remember what happened just before the destruction of Sodom in Genesis 19? God devoted an entire chapter (Genesis 18) to show us the reckless compassion of Abraham for the very people God was about to destroy. And, although God's judgment was certain, Abraham is commended for his compassion. Throughout Scripture, the prophets who spoke out about God's judgment, those whose hearts were such that God could use them, did not thrive or find exhiliration at the message they communicated. Instead, the soberness of the message broke their hearts because they had such love for those they spoke to.

Can you see the depth of love Moses had for the children of Israel, that he would directly and boldly ask God to destroy him and spare them? In your commitment to speaking the truth, can you say that your heart has been stirred to the depths that you would ask God to show His transforming love to homosexuals even if it meant personal loss for yourself? If so, I'm afraid you do a very poor job of communicating this, because 1 Corinthians 13 love is usually pretty easy to identify.

And one other note, it is inaccurate and offensive to women to equate effeminacy ("Having qualities or characteristics more often associated with women than men") with cowardice and lack of love. I would encourage you to be much more careful and precise in your terminology.

Ryan, you and I probably know better than most here how mean-spirited and hateful Christians can be towards homosexuals. It's hard to see objectively from within the walls of the church, but from the other side, we see only the protesters and preachers and politicians who would never spend an hour with us in person but who will denounce us publicly at every turn.

There is likely some accuracy in your assertion that some here will never admit error, lest they feel they are ceding ground to the "enemy." Thus, their own errors are held to tenaciously even though a bit of healthy self-examination and adjustment would do far more for their argument than refusing to let go of their little "pet" ideas.

However, to the extent that people here or Christians in general act contrary to the love that Christ commanded, they act contrary to (but not in refutation of) the faith they espouse. But I am afraid that you have rejected the message because of the deficiencies of the messengers. Or, if I may resort to clich, the bathwater smelled so bad to you that you threw out the baby to get rid of it. I say this without criticism or any sort of judgmental attitude, because I did the same thing for a long time, and I'm only tentatively returning to examine this even now.

There's a lot of dirty bathwater on this blog and in churches today. But, although it is far too often couched in an attitude of judgment and criticism that never grew from a heart of love, the message is true. All of us, no matter what our background or orientation, will give account of ourselves to God.

But it is not this God of judgment that I am looking toward today. He is not looking at you or me with the hard eyes of justice, but rather he calls us with the tender eyes of a Father calling His children to jump up in His lap and stay a while, reveling in the love and acceptance that we so long for. It is a love that he offers equally to those who are homosexual and to those who are judgmental churchgoers. Both must be unconcerned about anything besides His approval.

But until we stop devouring one another over pedantic, personal vendettas, these conversations (and Christians' interaction with homosexuals in general) will continue in this circle of anger and frustration indefinitely.

I reject it because I choose to believe that the Bible is a work of man, not God. I don't blame the messengers, though they have certainly been blameworthy lately!

James,

I am absolutely positive of this fact, and I'm not willing to give an inch. I'm also not being proud or even subtly arrogant. I am simply grateful to the Lord for revealing truth to us through his Word.

Here is the fact. ". . . Sodom and Gomorrah and the cities around them, since they . . . indulged in gross immorality and went after strange flesh, are exhibited as an example in undergoing the punishment of eternal fire." Are you willing to have it continue to be an example, or are you determined that this example not be shown to the world today? So, yes, from Eze 16:49-50, from the account in Genesis, and from the verse in Jude I am sure about why God destroyed those cities. It was because of their sins.

I am also sure of why they are exhibited as an example. It is because they indulged in gross immorality and went after strange flesh. Are you really prepared to argue that they should not be exhibited as an example at all?

Ryan has more than once come to the heart of the issue in these two posts. He states it most succinctly when he says, "I reject it because I choose to believe that the Bible is a work of man, not God."

James, you have unintentionally separated God's love from his wrath and justice when you say, "But it is not this God of judgment that I am looking toward today." Just because you say that it must not be done doesn't mean that you aren't doing it. You have not called us to repent of our sin simply by saying that we will all "give account of ourselves to God." When you call me to jump up in the lap of God without calling me to repent first, do you expect me to understand that there is something blocking me from doing this?

Ryan, James is right, we will all give an account to God for our thoughts, words, and deeds, and God has made it clear to us in His word that all have sinned and fall short of His glory. I know very little about you, but I know one thing for sure. You are a sinner, just like me and every other person ever born. You and I can both wish that God did not condemn our own particular pet sins, but He has, and He is alive, and it is a fearful thing to fall into His hands. The cross is where we can fully see both God's love and His wrath. They are not at odds with each other. If either were missing, we would not have Christ crucified. Jesus paid the price that every sin deserves when after leading a sinless life he was crucified. This death is the judgment that you and I deserve, and it clearly shows us God's wrath and justice. But the beauty of it is that we clearly see God's love as well, because He sent this perfect sacrifice out of His love for us so that we could be reconciled to Him. Without Jesus, we will not and cannot be reconciled to Him. There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads down to destruction.

Repent and believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved.

Sincerely,
-Joseph

P.S. James, your assumption of how much you know about the people writing here from reading 2 posts is amazing - and wrong.

P.P.S. Speaking of subtle arrogance, this phrase might also qualify for that label in some contexts, but it could be just plain condescension "refusing to let go of their little 'pet' ideas." Or this one "Ryan, you and I probably know better than most here how mean-spirited and hateful Christians can be towards homosexuals."

P.P.P.S. As for the word effeminate, let me be very "careful and precise in [my] terminology." ICor. 6:9-10 "Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, will inherit the kingdom of God."

Aren't we similarly ashamed of God's judgment on the covetous? I've never heard of the word "covet" outside the church. Maybe it's gotten to the point where most people wouldn't even know what it means, let alone understand that being called "covetous" is a term of shame.

Maybe the word has already been killed, "deader than doornail." Maybe it's worse than that. Covetousness is so woven into the fabric of culture, it's almost a virtue. We call it "ambitions," "dreams," "desire", "capitalism." These words have more sanctified uses, but it is plain that these words often disguise the loathful sin of the covetous.

It seems like the arguments given suggest that we should actively revive "covetousness" in its "connotation of negative moral judgment that communicates shame," and use it to call unbelieving covetous people to repentence and to the cross. Are we prepared for that? Or did my logic fall down somewhere?

I'm not necessarily saying we shouldn't use "sodomy" as a word. But if we do so out of principle, it seems like we should use "covetousness" and a host of other words in a similar manner.

The one I always like to throw out, due to its rampant presence in this society, is "glutton."

Jiho,

I don't think that any of us are opposed to the word covetousness, and I think that we frequently use the word greed in its place, since it is a more common biblical word and it retains the negetive connotation.

Every sin described in the Bible can be talked about in less judgmental terms, this is not a new thing. The issue at hand here is that we have a Biblical word used to describe a sin that Christians are insisting ought not to be used. Show me the Christian that will write down a principled argument for not speaking of covetousness, and you will have a point.

Eric,

If we routinely said covetous/greedy people are in danger of hellfire (citing I Cor 6:9-10), I'm fairly certain that we'd be the audience to some principled arguments that says we shouldn't. The arguments would be something in the lines of "This gives unnecessary offense to the gospel." It might only be a guess, but the reason we don't hear this is because we generally don't communicate God's judgment on covetousness.

I've heard many sermons about greed and the allure of mammon. But to use an old saying, what does that have to do with the price of tea in China? A hypothetical failure to address sin B does not make it OK to downplay sin A. And if this is the old 'hypocrisy' argument, then well Sobran's words come to mind: "The best principles may be espoused by crass hypocrites (and they usually are). But if we consider a principle refuted every time its advocates fail to live up to it, we'll soon be left with no principles at all."

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