It's taken a while to get around to it, but here are a few responses to one reader, James', comments on the two earlier posts, "Why 'sodomite' instead of 'gay' or 'homosexual'?" and "What exactly is "unnecessary offense to the Gospel?" I realize this discussion has been drawn out over quite a bit of time, but that's the nature of this wonderful time of year called "summer." Things take longer because other things interrupt. And I've been loving the interruptions.
So now, on with the responses.
James writes: 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.
James, my purpose in what I've written has never been to give an historical analysis of all the sins of Sodom for which she was judged. Rather it has been to defend the church's historic use of the word 'sodomy' to designate same-sex carnal relations, and to establish that this was one of Sodom's central sins according to the text of Holy Scripture.
Homosexualists have spent decades promoting a revisionist interpretation of the Genesis account, seeking to remove sodomy from the list of sins God judged when He destroyed Sodom. And to that end, they emphasize all the sins of Sodom that have nothing to do with sexual immorality.
But again, my purpose is not to analyze Sodom and her sins. Rather, it's to defend the church's historic usage of the terms 'sodomy,' 'sodomitic,' and 'sodomite' as being faithful to the text of Scripture. That's what's under attack.
No one has ever denied the other sins of Sodom...
Rather homosexualists have sought to destroy any linguistic connection between God's destruction of Sodom and same-sex sexual sin.
Think about it: why on earth would I spend time arguing that Sodom was also guilty of the sin of pride when, so far as I can tell, there's absolutely no one denying it? But millions are denying that Sodom was guilty of sodomy, so that's where we should focus our defense.
James writes: 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.
James' quote marks seem to settle the matter but a search in the "Sodomy" subject archive of this blog will show he made up his quote.
Still, if the actual quotation is fake, did he get the sense of it right?
Well actually, it's not me but my brother, David, who has been most explicit on this subject. Here's the most pertinent post:
David wrote:Those who deny the connection between human catastrophe and divine judgment often throw out the presence of "innocents" among the victims of catastrophe as proof the catastrophe could not be related to judgment.
As a hemophiliac who saw half the hemophiliacs of his generation die from AIDS (contracted from exposure to contaminated blood), I have little trouble making that connection.
By God's grace I was spared that illness, though I did receive another blood-born disease (HCV) often linked to illicit behaviour. Nor do I hesitate to view HCV as God's judgment on sexual profligacy and drug addiction.
But had I come down with AIDS, that would not have lessened the obvious link between AIDS and God's judgment on sodomy. Jonah's shipmates weren't running from God yet they suffered God's judgment on his sin. Nor were Lot's sons-in-law Sodomites in the transitive sense of the verb. But they died with those who were.
Few of the hemophiliacs I knew who died of AIDS would have hesitated to link AIDS to sodomy. In fact, I suspect some of their families resented sodomites for spreading the disease and selling blood which infected others with their disease. Nor would those who were Christians have blinked at understanding AIDS as divine judgment on sodomy.
Finally, had I come down with AIDS, it would have been quite possible to understand it as God's work in my life calling me away from sin. Indirectly, it could have been judgment. Indirectly, my HCV is judgment. It is the product of sin in general, and of my own sin in particular. God is chastising me as a son in accord with His promise in Hebrews 12. But it is not direct judgment of a sinful act.
When God allows the act of sin itself to carry with it the penalty of death, the man who denies any link to divine judgment is simply a fool.
Again, like my defense of the church's historic use of the words 'sodomy' and 'sodomites', David is seeking to defend the church's historic teaching that God is active in this world and our lives not only in mercy, but also in judgment. And since few are denying His mercy, it remains for us to defend the breach in the wall--namely, His judgment. And here's the most explicit statement David makes:
When God allows the act of sin itself to carry with it the penalty of death, the man who denies any link to divine judgment is simply a fool.
So James, is David right or wrong?
But James doesn't argue that David's wrong. Instead he assumes that David is wrong, assuming also that those reading his comments will be as offended as he is that such a thing is even uttered in this late day.
Arguments today are not settled by logic, but rather by sympathetic associations. The man who does the best job of manipulating his readers' sympathies gets the win.
But not here on this blog, James. This place is dedicated to the Lord Jesus Christ and His timeless truth written in His Word, the Bible. And that means you can't win here simply by arousing sympathies and portraying your own angst and pain. You must demonstrate the truth of what you write from Scripture.
Does this mean that we don't care about your pain? No. We care very, very much. We have sympathy and grieve for you as we have for ourselves and many others caught in the web of Satan's deceit.
Yet it is precisely that sympathy and grief that causes us to warn you away from the sin of sodomy, and to remind you that the connection between male sodomy and AIDS is one of the clearest examples given to us today of the truthfulness of the Holy Spirit's statement:
Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, this he will also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life (Galatians 6:7,8).
So repent, dear brother, before it's too late and the preliminary judgment of God resident in STDs changes into the eternal judgment of God resident in Hell.
James writes: (I'm) not trying to attack Christians (but) to examine whether or not they truly are living as Christ would toward homosexuals.
If you, James, have chosen sodomy over Jesus and if all your friends are sodomites, as you report to us, it seems crazy for you to undertake educating those who do call themselves Christians concerning what approach our Lord would take towards sodomites.
When we find out that you think Jesus would be more gentle and helpful and considerate and non-judgmental than you falsely report concerning His followers, should any of us be shocked?
It's not a seminary-trained unrepentant sodomite that I want teaching me how to approach sodomites evangelistically, but rather a non-seminary trained and repentant former sodomite who now loves and obeys Jesus.
James writes: There is a subtle arrogance ...where we ...assume we know what God's motives are or were in a particular situation. Mr. Bayly assumes that God's primary ...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).
"Nowhere does Scripture indicate" God judged Sodom for its sodomy? Get real, James. There's a good reason no one in church history agrees with you--that is, until sodomites started repeating such sophistry in the past twenty years or so. Scripture is absolutely clear that sodomy is at the center of the Sodomites' wickedness:
Now the two angels came to Sodom in the evening as Lot was sitting in the gate of Sodom. ...Before they lay down, the men of the city, the men of Sodom, surrounded the house, both young and old, all the people from every quarter; and they called to Lot and said to him, "Where are the men who came to you tonight? Bring them out to us that we may have relations with them."
But Lot went out to them at the doorway, and shut the door behind him, and said, "Please, my brothers, do not act wickedly." (Genesis 19:1a, 4-7)
To engage in male sexual relations is to "act wickedly." Yes, by pursuing this perversion in the way they did, they were also acting in an arrogant and inhospitable way, but it's the perversion of same-sex carnal relations that the Church has always recognized as the center of the Sodomites' sin. And in case we missed it in Genesis 19, the Holy Spirit clarifies it at the end of Scripture:
...just as Sodom and Gomorrah and the cities around them, since they in the same way as these indulged in gross immorality and went after strange flesh, are exhibited as an example in undergoing the punishment of eternal fire. (Jude 7)
The Sodomites "acted wickedly" by "indulging in gross immorality" and going "after strange flesh." Man with woman equals normal flesh; man with man equals "strange flesh" and "gross immorality."
James writes: 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.
I agree, and here is that silver bullet text James is looking for:
...Sodom and Gomorrah ...indulged in gross immorality and went after strange flesh (and) are exhibited as an example in undergoing the punishment of eternal fire. (Jude 7)
James writes: ...we should not use the term 'Sodomite' to refer to homosexuals (because) it is an extra-biblical term used when biblical terms are quite sufficient and more precise.
The word 'Sodom' appears in both the Old and New Testaments, forty-seven times in all. And you say it's "extra-biblical"?
The name of the city most notorious in world history for same-sex carnal relations, and also most notorious in world history as an example of God's wrath and judgment, becomes the name of those who act and do as the Sodomites acted and did. City named in Scripture; sinful behavior described in Scripture; God's wrath and judgment of this city and her behavior recorded in Scripture; name and behavior clomped together and used throughout church history.
Adding a 'y' or 'ite' to 'Sodom' doesn't make the words 'sodomy' and 'sodomite' "extra-biblical." Each of these words comes straight from the Bible.
James writes: According to Mr. Bayly, these translators (of 1Corinthians 6:9 in the New American Standard Bible, the New International Version, the New Living Translation, and the New King James Version) by using the term "homosexuals," have not been "faithful witnesses to our Lord and His Truth."
I've never written or said anything remotely like what James here claims since I've never given any thought to whether 'homosexual' is a good translation of the Greek word 'arsenokoites' in 1Corinthians 6:9. But since he's raised the question, let's look at the meaning of this word as defined by the most respected lexicons used by Bible scholars today:
The Greek 'arsenokoites' translated by 'homosexual offenders' in 1Corinthians 9 and 'perverts' in 1Timothy 10 is defined in Thayer's Greek-English Lexicon as "one who lies with a male as with a female, a sodomite." Further, in Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament, Bauer, Arndt and Gingrich define 'arsenokoites' as: "a male who practices homosexuality, pederast, sodomite."
Note well that both lexicons of biblical Greek use the term 'sodomite' to define the Greek word 'arsenokoites'.
Honestly, what more can I say?
James writes: 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.
Then too, James also writes: (With Bayly) almost no emphasis is given to exhort, challenge, and encourage Christians to reach out to the hurting ones.
Before James made this accusation, I preached a sermon that directly bears on this matter. So may I encourage readers to please go to our church web site and download the July 23, 2006 sermon titled, "He Deceives Himself."
For three decades, now, I've worked with people tempted by same-sex intimacy, both male and female. Some are now happily married with children; some still single. Some have been given victory over this temptation by the Holy Spirit; some still struggle daily; and others are falling--right now. All of us at Church of the Good Shepherd love these brothers and sisters, and we'll continue to love them. In fact, when we had a man in town who worked full time with the sodomite community calling them out of their sin, he sent them to our church because he knew we would love and accept them with open arms.
But should this be a surprise to James? Absolutely not.
He claimed to have read the pieces on sodomy on this blog. But those pieces make it clear that it is love for sodomites and a heart-felt desire to see them repent that is the basis of all we've written on the subject.
If James hasn't seen this love, it's because he's more interested in justifying his sin and his hardened heart than in repentance returning to the Shepherd of his soul. Well, like Paul Simon put it, "a man sees what he wants to see, and disregards the rest."
But for the record, here is the end of a piece I posted to this blog on April 4, 2006. The piece is titled, "Sodomy and Pastoral Care," and I'm hopeful it will communicate what is the heart of my concern in this matter.
But it must be remembered that the modern morass of sexual immorality didn't happen overnight; it was in the making for decades as Christian leaders chose personal job security over church discipline. Those of us who are pastors bear a large portion of responsibility for the horrible mess Christians find themselves in today for we have failed to "preach the Word, in season and out of season." We have failed to "correct, rebuke, and encourage with great patience..." (II Timothy 4:2)
After years of overlooking fornication, followed by years of remarrying adulterers, is it any wonder the church is now filled with sodomites crying out for equal time? How can we deny them when we have refused to exercise God's judgment against sins such as divorce, fornication, abortion, and the love of money within the church?
No, we must return to God's way, to God's Word, and proclaim the wickedness of all sin, not just the sin that is still disliked by our flock. We must condemn the sins of our evangelical flocks or we will have no integrity.
Finally, it must be remembered that although "the wages of sin (are) death" the "gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord." There is no sin beyond the power of the blood of Jesus. No sin. None.
Therefore it follows that we should love sinners, caring for them tenderly. If Jesus came "to seek and to save that which was lost," surely today He would sit down to eat with intravenous drug users, sodomites, and other notorious sinners. And surely we should, too.
If conservatives expect the church to listen to Scriptural arguments against the endorsement of sodomitic relations, then as we proclaim God's Word on these matters we must have good works that are evident and commend our leadership to all.
Let a call go out from evangelicals within the PC(USA) to raise up churches, pastors, and individual families who are ready and willing to serve the AIDS patients, in death as well as in life, before repentance as well as after repentance. And let's follow St. Augustine's charge: "With love for mankind and hatred for sins." Sodomy is sin, but it's forgivable.
All of us live by grace.