An excellent pastoral word concerning sodomy...

Several friends have made their home within St. Ebbes (Anglican) Church while doing grad work or on sabbatical at the local university. St. Ebbes' pastor (rector), Vaughan Roberts, is a single man who has written a book on seven temptations Christians face. Not ashamed to confess his need for God's grace, Pastor Roberts acknowledges he faces each of the seven temptations himself. One of those temptations is same-sex attraction.

Given the endless drum-banging by homosexualists demanding the normalization of sodomy, Vaughan Roberts' description of the work of sanctification in this area of his life is a spring of clear water.

For years, now, ministers of the Word and Sacrament in Christian churches that identify themselves as Evangelical, Reformed, or Bible-believing have been adopting a posture that allows them to hold on to their jobs while avoiding this breach in the wall. With blood flowing, we're determined it won't be our blood, so we blather on about not hating the sin or the sinner; about the need to distinguish between those who identify as gay men or lesbians, and those who act out on their gay and lesbian desires; about the superiority of monogamy to promiscuity; we equivocate, trotting out the old canard that God loves everyone just the way they are—no exceptions; and then softly, to our closest friends, we allow that the church across the centuries really was quite unkind to gays, and a reappraisal of the ancient texts and the Church's approach to this particular part of the diverse human community is long overdue.

Other pastors don't bother with such talking points: in the face of the teaching of Balaam everywhere around us, we're simply silent. We're prophets of God with nothing to say about the very thing the entire world is in an orgy of conversation and litigation over. One former member of the pastoral staff of a well-known Reformed church in New York City recounted how the church's senior leadership lived in terror of the New York Times coming out against their congregation because of Scripture's condemnation of homosexuality. Reflecting that terror, any inter-staff communication related to the subject was stamped in red ink, "CONFIDENTIAL."

Speaking tongue in cheek, we all understand this is precisely what's needed for the Reformed church to get a foothold there in New York City, isn't it? The Apostle Paul had to go easy on the "ignorance" of the Athenians... the feminist rebellion of the Ephesians, and the intellectual pride of the Corinthians; Jesus had to go easy on the hypocrisy of the Jews; and now Reformed pastors have to go easy on the sodomy of New Yorkers. Tongue back in cheek.

Most wicked of all, though, are those wolves who claim the Glorious Name of Jesus Christ as justification for their betrayal of sodomites. Brian McLaren is one such man, having officiated at a ceremony celebrating the sodomitic union of his son. Steve Chalke is another. Like Vaughan Roberts, Chalke lays claim to an Evangelical identity within the UK, but a paper he's just issued denying that sodomy is an abomination before God could not be more opposite Roberts' witness.

That Godly and wonderfully helpful witness is on full display in an interview Pastor Roberts granted a fellow shepherd in another university community nearby. Read it and rejoice that our Heavenly Father has many thousands who have not bowed the knee to Baal!

As you read, though, keep in mind that the gap in the wall is a dangerous place. Not wanting to see the spiritual power of Pastor Roberts' interview lessened by criticism, I'd nevertheless be remiss if I didn't warn Baylyblog readers of a place where we must be wise as serpents as we wage war against principalities and powers.

Pastor Roberts laments the fact that "Media reporting ...can give the impression that we (in the Church) think this particular sin is especially heinous." This implies that to consider sodomy an "especially heinous" sin is to err.

Not true. Writing under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, the Apostle Paul declares:

Flee immorality. Every other sin that a man commits is outside the body, but the immoral man sins against his own body. Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body. (1 Corinthians 6:18-20)

Sexual sins are worse than other sins. Yet this flies in the face of one of the more prevalent sentiments among Christians today, that all sins are equal.

They're not.

The charge of 'sacrilege' or 'blasphemy' makes a man's hair stand on end. Similarly, the Apostle Paul above makes clear that sexual sin is particularly to be avoided because it's a sin against the temple of the Holy Spirit. Later in 1Corinthians 6, the Apostle Paul lists the sins some of the Corinthians had been in bondage to prior to their conversion and sanctification:

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. Such were some of you; but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God. (1 Corinthians 6:9-11)

Calvin comments:

By effeminate persons I understand those who, although they do not openly abandon themselves to impurity, discover, nevertheless, their unchastity by blandishments of speech, by lightness of gesture and apparel, and other allurements. The fourth description of crime is the most abominable of all — that monstrous pollution which was but too prevalent in Greece.

...The design of the Apostle (is) to humble them, by calling to their remembrance their former condition; and, farther, to stir them up to acknowledge the grace of God towards them. For the greater the misery is acknowledged to be, from which we have escaped through the Lord’s kindness, so much the more does the magnitude of his grace shine forth.

Thus the Westminster Larger Catechism teaches:

Question 150: Are all transgressions of the law of God equally heinous in themselves, and in the sight of God?

Answer: All transgressions of the law of God are not equally heinous; but some sins in themselves, and by reason of several aggravations, are more heinous in the sight of God than others.

Question 151: What are those aggravations that make some sins more heinous than others?

Answer: Sins receive their aggravations, From the persons offending: if they be of riper age, greater experience or grace, eminent for profession, gifts, place, office, guides to others, and whose example is likely to be followed by others. From the parties offended: if immediately against God, his attributes, and worship; against Christ, and his grace; the Holy Spirit, his witness, and workings; against superiors, men of eminency, and such as we stand especially related and engaged unto; against any of the saints, particularly weak brethren, the souls of them, or any other, and the common good of all or many. From the nature and quality of the offense: if it be against the express letter of the law, break many commandments, contain in it many sins: if not only conceived in the heart, but breaks forth in words and actions, scandalize others, and admit of no reparation: if against means, mercies, judgments, light of nature, conviction of conscience, public or private admonition, censures of the church, civil punishments; and our prayers, purposes, promises, vows, covenants, and engagements to God or men: if done deliberately, wilfully, presumptuously, impudently, boastingly, maliciously, frequently, obstinately, with delight, continuance, or relapsing after repentance. From circumstances of time and place: if on the Lord's day, or other times of divine worship; or immediately before or after these, or other helps to prevent or remedy such miscarriages: if in public, or in the presence of others, who are thereby likely to be provoked or defiled.

So we see some sins "are more heinous than others," and that on many different accounts listed above, sodomy is one of those particularly heinous sins. This is the reason we continue to speak of this sin as "sodomy" rather than "homosexuality" or "the gay lifestyle." It is our desire to remind tender souls of the terrible end of those men of Sodom who tried to sodomize the angels of the Lord.

Language associating this abominable perversion with the fire and brimstone by which God consumed the Sodomites is pastorally helpful. Dare I say it? To use this language is one proof of our tender love for those battling this temptation.

Should not all believers desire to be pastorally helpful among this present evil generation? Ought it not be the goal of our words and communications that the mere mention of sodomy one day soon may once again awaken in men revulsion and horror?

The entire interview is, as I said, a wonderful and godly pastoral help to struggling sinners. I'll end with this part I found particularly healing and wise:

This perspective should transform how we view all the difficult circumstances in our lives. We’re not called to a super-spiritual positivity which denies the frustration and pain; nor are we to embrace a passivity which spurns any opportunity to change our situation. But we are to recognise the loving hand of God in all we experience and see it as an opportunity for service, growth and fruitfulness.

Those of us tempted to love wine, gossip, fornicate, be greedy, or to be effeminate have the privilege of casting our burdens on the Lord knowing He cares for us. We owe a debt of gratitude to Pastor Roberts for this humble service to the Church of our time. Let us pray for his purity.

Tim Bayly

Tim serves Clearnote Church, Bloomington, Indiana. He and Mary Lee have five children and fifteen grandchildren.

Comments

Excellent interview with Pastor Roberts!  Godly wisdom through trials drips from his words!

Thanks for pointing me to it.

God bless brother! 

I very much appreciated that interview, and it put me in mind of a conversation my fiancee and I had with some friends a few nights ago, the gist of which was simply that we don't trust grace.  We're all fine with a culturally acceptable level of sin- it's just so fashionable for us to admit that maybe we've struggled with online pornography, or pride, or wrath- especially those last two, because they're so "spiritual," but when we confess to struggling with same-sex attraction, or hard drugs, people even in the church are much more likely to mouth the platitudes we believe grace to be and then say, "well, we won't have that guy for Sunday lunch."  There are certain sins that are so culturally offensive to us--rightly so--that many of our churches don't really have a provision for ministering to those struggling with them.  And the error the liberalizing church makes is to say "we'll be so accepting of your sins that we won't call it a sin."  One of the things I found frustrating about evangelicals I knew in college, when I was a mocker of the gospel, was that so many of them lacked the grit and stomach to minister to the truly messed-up.  They couldn't bear to hear a word about the struggles of someone with same-sex attraction without going for the smelling salts.  I appreciate Roberts' point--when someone in this boat comes to the church only to find that people would rather talk about ANYTHING but this squeamish, offensive topic, he or she gets no support, no exhortation, no ministry, and consequently, falls right back into the sin and does it privately, lest he give offense to those in the church who sin in socially acceptable amounts and ways.  I was encouraged greatly by seeing this point, as I have a friend struggling with the very thing.  Thank you for posting!    

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