Gospel Coalition joins the gay celibate movement (7); the heart of the issue...

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For a man ought not to have his head covered, since he is the image and glory of God; but the woman is the glory of man. (1 Corinthians 11:7)

Evangelicals have no doctrine of sex. We have Biblical commands we are scrupulous to obey and Greek words we are scrupulous to defend the meaning of, but we have no theology of sex.

Actually, though, it's worse than that: we are opposed to any theology of sex.

Yes, some of us still believe the husband should be the head of his wife. Some of us also still want the father to be the head of the home and the guy preaching Sunday morning to be an actual guy. Some of us, also, still think our church's elders should be guys.

Other than those few things, though, we believe in little more than body parts. Probably women should still be the sex that gestates and men should provide food for gestating women. Also, in most Christian homes, it's likely still good for the mother not to have to put her kids in daycare—especially while she's nursing.

Beyond men having servant leader, tie-breaking authority in private Christian places and Christians having certain scruples concerning the proper use of body parts, though, we have no theology of sex. This is the reason Evangelicals have no problem with the "gay Christian" lobby as long as these "gay Christians" living with one another in "spiritual friendships" promise not to have sex with each other. If they go off the reservation and say they're going to go ahead and have sex with each other, after all, we finally find our principles and tell them it's sin. But without the improper use of body parts, there is no sin. Identity is one thing. Body parts are something else. Body parts are serious business. They're visible. They don't lie and they have to be obeyed...

Obeyed physically, that is; not emotionally or mentally or spiritually. After all, what would it mean to obey body parts spiritually? Is there some way of listening to a sermon or having fellowship or praying that is heterosexual rather than homosexual? Are women supposed to pray in a womanly or feminine way? Are men supposed to pray in some sort of manly or masculine way?

This is the origin of false statements such as, "there's no place in the Bible where heterosexuality is commanded," " the Bible never says that heterosexuality, in general terms, is a good thing," and "Godliness is not heterosexuality." If sex is only body parts, no one needs to identity with the body parts which mark them man or woman. Heterosexuality is not necessary for a man or woman to live a life that is pleasing to God.

What if sex has meaning beyond body parts?

Then the whole "complementarian," "gay Christian," "Godliness is not heterosexuality" scheme blows up.

When sex becomes personhood and meaning that are given us by God which we are to confess before the watching world, all of a sudden dichotomous thinking and feeling and living become a key part of the Christian's sanctification. Then holiness in a man is different than holiness in a woman. Then men should seek to be manly and a women should seek to be womanly in their respective holinesses. Then it becomes clear that heterosexuality is, in fact, godliness.

Another way of getting at this is to say that the pastor or counselor working with a seeker who wants to stop hooking up with their gay or lesbian partners, and to turn to Jesus, should not apply the question of repentance to physical relations alone. Sex has meaning far deeper than how body parts are used in human intimacy. It would be conniving at the particularities of gay and lesbian sin to avoid bringing up the sexual identity God gave the seeker at the moment of his or her conception. We would have to go on to call him or her to turn away from their homosexuality and embrace heterosexuality. We would have to command him to turn away from his effeminacy and love and live his masculinity. To turn away from her bull dykeness and love and live her femininity.

The seeker must repent of his effeminate sexual relations, but even more his effeminate identity. He must repent of his homosexuality and embrace his heterosexuality. God made him a man and the beginning of his new life in Christ must be to confess his manhood.

But what if you have no theology of sexuality? What if you hate being called a "sexist" and don't want anyone to label your thinking "binary?" What if you've published and sell a version of the Bible that removes effeminacy from the sin list in 1Corinthians 6:9, 10? What if you believe manhood and womanhood have no meaning outside of copulation, baby-making, and baby raising? What if you believe Adam being created first has no meaning for anyone other than Christians in the privacy of their homes and churches? What if you've published and sell a version of the Bible that removes "fit only for old women" from 1Timothy 4:7? What if you've taken the word "obey" out of the wife's vow in the marriage liturgy you use with your congregants? What if you've preached sermons reassuring your congregants that 1Corinthians 11:6 has nothing to do with Christian worship today, and that 1Corinthians 11:14, 15 have nothing to say about the meaning of sex and the length of our hair? What if you believe Eve being deceived has no meaning for anyone other than Christians—and really, no meaning for Christians, either. What if you believe Original Sin is inherited from Adam and Eve, and not just Adam? What if you preach that Paul was wrong when he said man was the glory of God but woman the glory of man?

If some or all of these things are true of you, then sadly, you have no idea how to lead this seeker to confess his manhood because manhood remains a mystery to you. This is why when someone announces that "there's no place in the Bible where heterosexuality is commanded," " the Bible never says that heterosexuality, in general terms, is a good thing," and "Godliness is not heterosexuality," it sounds perfectly fine to you. After all, you've never thought about heterosexuality as an identity. To you it's merely the proper insertion of the proper body parts.

But those of us who have spent decades working with gays and lesbians know that homosexual physical relations are only the tip of the iceberg of the work of sanctification God does in their lives. Sex is so much more than copulation. Sex is who we are. Sex is who God made us and there's no part of life that escapes it. To pursue God's heterosexuality, his "male and female He created them," is to pursue holiness in matters as disparate as male clothing and female clothing, fatherhood and motherhood, male speech and female speech (and silence), male hair length and female hair length, male glory and female glory—the list is endless.

Like most things I know, I learned this through my mistakes. Years ago a young man moved from the East coast to Bloomington in order to attend our church. He had gotten caught in homosexual bondage and wanted our pastors and elders' help toward repentance.

We have had many opera singers in our church through the years and this man sang opera, also. But he was no tenor or bass. He was a countertenor. In the olden days, young boys who showed promise as singers were castrated to keep their voices from changing. For instance, back in the early twentieth century, Alessandro Moreschi was a member of the Sistine Chapel Choir and served as its Director of Soloists. Moreschi is known as "the last castrato." Fathers aren't castrating their sons so they can sing in the Vatican's choir any longer, but countertenors sound like a castrato. (I know because I have seventeen tracks by Moreschi on my computer.)

Our countertenor told us he was done with homosexual relations and I thought that was all that was needed, all we could ask. Yes, he dressed like Little Lord Fauntleroy, which is to say effeminately. Yes, he was effeminate in his gestures and fluttered his eyes like a woman. Yes, he hung with all the gays when he was out gigging, but that was his job, wasn't it? You couldn't very well tell him to quit his job. And really, what's wrong with a man singing falsetto? Tiny Tim tiptoed through the tulips and the whole world laughed, so what's the big deal? 

We understood this whole "Godliness is not heterosexuality" thing quite well. We considered ourselves ever-so-progressive and enlightened, so we didn't call him to any heterosexuality other than avoiding putting his body parts where they didn't belong. What more could we ask?

He offered to sing a female aria from the Messiah one Sunday during Advent and I was happy for him to be making his contribution to the Body of Christ. When he got up to sing that Sunday, people were fishing in their purses and wallets for their offering, so at first they didn't notice that the woman's voice belonged to a man. The children noticed, though, and quickly brought their fathers and mothers up to speed. We watched as every child in the church elbowed his mother and whispered, "Mom! It sounds like a woman but it's a man!" One older elder did a double take, then reached in his pocket for his glasses and stared with incomprehension.

At the pastors meeting that week, one of our pastors said we'd been wrong to let him sing. "He's a man and he shouldn't be leading us in worship by singing like a woman."

I didn't listen, and later in the week as the buzz went through the church, I had several opportunities to explain to my own family and others in the church that this young man was a trained countertenor and this was how he sang. That he'd given performances around the world and we should not treat him like a pariah just because his voice wasn't stereotypically male. You all know the stuff I said because you would have agreed with me.

Sadly, though, as the years went by, this man went back into sinful sexual relations. Our elders and pastors worked with him for years, sometimes at great personal and financial expense. When he was working as an understudy at one of the opera companies on the East coast for a few weeks and falling into sinful sexual relations, our session put one of our men on an airplane to go out and try to get him to quit his job and come home. He refused and, after several days appealing to him to flee his sin, our emissary gave up and came home. We had a subcommittee of the elders who met with this man many times to hear his confessions of sin and pray for him. Finally, after countless tearful confessions and elders' admonitions and exhortations and prayers, with great sadness our session held a trial and excommunicated the man. It was very pathetic. He was one of the very few we've excommunicated through the years who fulfilled his vow to submit to the elders by attending his trial and listening to his verdict firsthand, but there was no repentance then, nor has there been any repentance since.

After announcing his excommunication to the church, I came to see my own failures which contributed to his sin. I had not called him to be a man. I had not called him to sing like a man. I had not called him to dress and walk and relate to his women-friends as a man. I had not taught him to be a man. I had utterly failed him and this series of posts is a tiny part of my repentance.

Since then, it has been very clear to me that it is my calling and duty to teach men to be masculine and women to be feminine. I am called by God to teach the souls under my care that from the beginning God made them heterosexual, not homosexual. From the very beginning God made them male or female. God did not give them any gender identity. He made their body male or female and, to quote an old feminist line from the seventies, "Our Bodies, Ourselves." To put it bluntly, the Christian theology of sexuality begins with the statement, "Godliness is heterosexuality."

If you, dear brother or sister, are struggling with same-sex desires, don't make the terrible mistake of thinking you can limit your repentance to the physical realm. Don't think celibacy is enough. It's not. When you smile and laugh and make love and talk and and walk and dress and get a haircut and garden and teach and drive and worship and study and draw and work and read the Bible and sing and pray, it all must be done to the glory of God keeping in mind—always—that Adam was created first, then Eve; that it was not Adam who was deceived, but Eve; and that man is the glory of God but the woman is the glory of man.

So now I speak to men and women about their hair length, calling them to grow in godliness by confessing their sex through the length of their hair. It's no clearcut thing since masculinity and femininity of hair varies by culture, but no one ought to deny that hair length is taught by the Word of God to be a statement of faith. Of sanctification. Of Godliness.

If you want to argue, just realize your argument is with God. As the Apostle Paul put it:

But if one is inclined to be contentious, we have no other practice, nor have the churches of God. (1 Corinthians 11:16)

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(This is the last in a series of posts [firstsecondthirdfourth, fifth, and sixth] on the Gospel Coalition's declaration, "Godliness Is Not Heterosexuality.")

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!