Gospel Coalition joins the gay celibate movement (2); the plausibility problem...

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(This is the second in a series of posts (first) on the Gospel Coalition's post by Ed Shaw, author of a book promoting the "gay celibate Christian, "spiritual friendship," "Side B" movement. This movement is the sweet spot today among Evangelicals wanting to appear kinder and gentler in our post-Obergefell world. The Gospel Coalition's error is typical of the error of the church today with respect to this battle, and thus worthy of careful study and consideration. If you persevere through this series, we hope you will gain wisdom in knowing how to preach to, disciple, and love men and women caught in homosexual sin.)

No good tree bears bad fruit, nor does a bad tree bear good fruit. Each tree is recognized by its own fruit. People do not pick figs from thorn bushes, or grapes from briers. The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For out of the overflow of his heart, his mouth speaks. (Luke 6:43-45)

A couple days ago, the Gospel Coalition ran a piece written by Ed Shaw in his new book, Same-Sex Attraction and the Church: The Surprising Plausibility of the Celibate Life. Note the subtitle, particularly the word ‘plausibility.’ In his response to Doug Wilson's criticism of the Gospel Coalition's error (here and here), Denny Burk defended the Gospel Coalition and Shaw, agreeing that Christianity and the church have a plausibility problem among sodomites:

The point of the book is to explain why many same-sex attracted people find Christianity so implausible. The requirement of celibacy is so devastating to them that they simply cast aside the faith altogether. Shaw is trying to highlight “missteps” that churches often make that make Christianity seem implausible and that thus alienate same-sex attracted Christians. The British title expresses this better: The Plausibility Problem: The Church and Same-Sex Attraction.

In other words, the purpose of Shaw’s book is better expressed by its title over in the UK where “plausibility” moves from the subtitle to the title. Same-sex attracted people often find Christianity “implausible” because of the requirement of celibacy, so they “cast off the faith.” Churches make mistakes that “make Christianity seem implausible" and “alienate same-sex attracted Christians.”

The problem Shaw’s book addresses is that both unbelievers and believers find Christianity “implausible.” Think about this.

It reminds me of a recent exchange I’ve had with the father of a young man who has molested several very young girls...

Christian parents in fellowship with this man, his wife, and his young adult son have asked for there to be protective steps taken to guard their young children and this young man from his besetting sin when he’s in the same home with them and their children. The man and his wife refuse to allow those protections, responding that placing their adult son under that sort of suspicion is contrary to the Gospel. He shouldn’t have to be reminded of his crimes and court-ordered protective steps when he’s among Christians. He’s repented, so why can't these Christian fathers and mothers see their son as he is in Christ? Why must they rub his nose in his sin? This is to deny God’s grace in their son’s life and to discourage him from following Christ. If this is the response their son receives from the church, he’ll turn away from Jesus.

You see the problem with talk of the implausibility of Christianity in the eyes of child molesters and self-described sodomite Christians, right? If the church demands certain steps to be taken to protect these believers and their potential victims from their besetting sin, child molesters and sodomites get angry and accuse fellow believers of being hurtful. Such protective steps are so "devastating to them that they simply cast aside the faith altogether.”

Every sin has its signatures, and one signature child molesters and sodomites have in common is narcissism. Because of our current refusal to admit that generalizations are true and helpful, I quickly add that Donald Trump being a narcissist is no indication he’s either a child molester or sodomite. Also, that not every child molester and sodomite is a narcissist. Still, generally speaking, child molesters and sodomites are narcissists. And after decades of loving and discipling those with these besetting sins, it’s my conviction that one of the most insidious dangers those ministering to them must beware of is allowing themselves to be pulled into these men’s narratives of being victimized, ill-treated, weak, misbegotten, unloved, misunderstood, mistreated, and oppressed. Nothing is anywhere or ever their own fault. Everyone’s against them. They have not a friend in the world. No one loves them enough for them to be healed. No one listens to them enough for them to be accepted. No one trusts them enough for them to have faith that God accepts them. 

If they are alcoholics, it’s your fault. If they are drug addicts, it’s society’s fault. If they are depressed, it’s their fundamentalist sister’s fault. If they can’t throw a frisbee, it’s their brother's fault. If they can’t swim, it’s their father’s fault. If they keep rutting on Craig’s List, it’s the fault of the elders of the church who don’t love them and accept them, just the way they are.

Of course, right now readers are tempted to dismiss what I’ve written as being the nasty stereotype of a misanthropic pastor who has a jaded view of “same-sex attracted people.” He calls them “sodomites,” which is most decidedly not the label they choose for themselves. And basic to constructive dialog is that a minority should be granted the dignity of self-definition. 

But trust me, there are many men who read this blog precisely because it is faithful to hold out to them the horror of their besetting sin, calling it “sodomy” by which they are reminded of God’s judgment against the men of Sodom who died in their sins of pride, greed, and the inhospitality of doing everything they could to bugger the sojourners in their midst.

Also, I’m guessing readers are more sympathetic to my statement that child molesters are narcissists who blame everyone else, and never themselves. If so, please understand that the reason we’re prepared to admit the truth about child molesters when we’re unwilling to do so about sodomites is that sodomites have spent the past four decades demanding victimhood status. Child molesters haven’t begun to make that claim. In public.

Privately, though, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had them make that claim to me. It’s almost habitual.

So if sodomites tell us the church has a plausibility problem, let the hair on the back of your head stand up! Don’t try to use gel to get it to lay down. The problem with the church's witness to same-sex attracted men is not that everyone blames them, but rather that we are unwilling to blame them, calling them to repentance and faith. Speaking the truth is love, and placing the blame for effeminacy on the effeminate is truth. They may not be the only ones worthy of blame, but that they are to blame for their sin is indisputable.

Not my brother nor my sister but it's me, O Lord,
standing in the need of prayer.

Jesus told the Samaritan woman at the well that her people were wrong. Salvation was, in fact, “from the Jews” (John 4:22). Jesus blamed the Samaritan woman at the well for her six husbands, and it was the beginning of her salvation. When she went back to her village to testify to the Gospel, she told everyone the glorious truth, that she had found a man who blamed her for everything possible:

So the woman left her waterpot, and went into the city and said to the men, “Come, see a man who told me all the things that I have done; this is not the Christ, is it?” (John 4:28, 29)

Of course "the men" knew what she was speaking of when she said "all the things that I have done." John brings the account to an end:

From that city many of the Samaritans believed in Him because of the word of the woman who testified, “He told me all the things that I have done.” So when the Samaritans came to Jesus, they were asking Him to stay with them; and He stayed there two days. Many more believed because of His word; and they were saying to the woman, “It is no longer because of what you said that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves and know that this One is indeed the Savior of the world.” (John 4:39-42)

Jesus didn't have any plausibility problem with the Samaritan woman. Rather, the naming of her people's error and her own many sins convinced this dear Samaritan woman of Jesus' love for her, and she came to true Christian faith.

Tim Bayly

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

Want to get in touch? Send Tim an email!