By / Jun 4

President Joe Biden recently issued an official proclamation declaring June 2021 as Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer Pride Month. “I call upon the people of the United States to recognize the achievements of the LGBTQ+ community,” said Biden, “to celebrate the great diversity of the American people, and to wave their flags of pride high.”

The sexual identities “Pride Month” intends to celebrate run contrary to the pattern of God’s design for human sexuality as expressed in Scripture and revealed through nature. According to article 28 of the Baptist Faith & Message, marriage — which is defined as “the uniting of one man and one woman in covenant commitment for a lifetime” — is the sole biblical “framework for intimate companionship” and “channel of sexual expression.” As witnessed by President Biden’s proclamation, in recent decades the LGBTQ movement has gained wide acceptance in our culture.

Here is what you should know about LGBTQ Pride Month. 

What is Pride Month?

In the United States, Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer (LGBTQ) Pride Month occurs in the month of June to commemorate the 1969 Stonewall riots. The Stonewall riots, which occurred in New York City from June 28 to July 3, 1969, helped launch the social and political movement known as “gay liberation.” 

The Stonewall Inn, located in the Greenwich Village neighborhood of Manhattan, was a tavern operated by the Genovese crime family. The bar lacked a liquor license and violated many of the city’s health and safety codes (it didn’t have running water and the toilets frequently overflowed), which made it the frequent target of law enforcement. The mafia owners reportedly paid almost $9,000 a month (in 2021 dollars) in bribes to the local police, yet were still raided about once a month. 

At 1:20 a.m. on June 28, six police officers attempted to close the bar. About 200 patrons resisted, and a crowd of 500 gathered outside. When the crowd became violent, the police officers barricaded themselves inside the establishment. Rioters threw rocks and bricks and attempted to burn down the building to kill the police inside. A SWAT team quelled that disturbance, but two days later an even more violent riot broke out as thousands of protesters clashed with police. (Despite the violence and attempted murder against police, President Obama made the Stonewall Inn a national monument in 2016, and the NYPD police commissioner issued an apology on behalf of the police force in 2019.)

A year later, gay activists in New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles organized marches to honor the riots and promote “gay liberation.” The next year, Gay Pride marches took place in Boston, Dallas, Milwaukee, London, Paris, West Berlin, and Stockholm. By 1972 the marches were occurring in more than a dozen cities across the U.S. Since then, they have become ubiquitous in the U.S. and in other Western countries. 

Why is the rainbow flag associated with LGBT Pride?

The rainbow LGBT flag was a creation of Gilbert Baker, a designer and gay rights activist, who created the flag in 1978 as a new symbol for the gay libertarion movement. The original flag had eight colors, each of which had a representative meaning. “Pink is for sex, red for life, orange for healing, yellow for sun,” said Baker. “Green for nature, turquoise for magic, blue for serenity, and purple for the spirit. I like to think of those elements as in every person, everyone shares that.” Most of the flags today have only six colors, with the pink and turquoise removed.

Christians recognize the rainbow as the sign of God’s covenant with Noah. Where the LGBTQ movement has appropriated the sign of the rainbow as a symbol of affirmation or pride, the Bible reveals that the rainbow is meant to be a sign of deliverance from judgement. As Erik Raymond has written: “The God of the Bible owns the distinct honor, as he has long used the rainbow to illustrate his loving demonstration of mercy instead of judgment! God the loving Creator was angered by humanity’s rebellion against his will & so therefore justly demonstrated his judgment upon their sin. In Genesis 6 the Scriptures teach that instead of giving mankind what they deserve for their rebellion, he chose to save some from destruction. The mercy & faithfulness of God was demonstrated by the beautiful rainbow that filled the sky.”

Is Pride Month an official U.S. commemoration?

Three presidents have issued official proclamations commemorating Pride Month: Bill Clinton in 1999 and 2000; Barack Obama from 2009 to 2016; and Joe Biden in 2021. Donald Trump became the first Republican president to acknowledge Pride Month in 2019, though he did not issue an official proclamation.

A related commemoration occurs in October, with LGBT History Month. In 1995, a resolution passed by the General Assembly of the National Education Association included LGBT History Month within a list of commemorative months. 

Why has LGBT Pride become embraced by corporations?

During the month of June, it’s nearly impossible to find a large American corporation that is not engaged in promoting Pride Month. There is disagreement about whether the promotional activities are merely attempting to appeal to consumers or if something more nefarious is behind the marketing.

The practice is sometimes criticized as “pinkwashing,” a term used to describe the action of using gay-related issues in positive ways in order to distract attention from negative actions by an organization, country, or government. Regardless, Pride Month has become a massive cultural phenomenon that is impossible to ignore. And those who refuse to acknowledge or affirm LGBTQ causes will likely face even greater social pressure to do so in the years ahead. As Joe Carter has written: “Today, the American people fly a rainbow flag, wear an ‘ally’ pin, or change their social media avatars to show they observe LGBT Pride Month. In doing so, they show they’ve bent the knee to the LGBT cause and will not incur their wrath that will be poured out those who are not ‘affirming.’”

What is the purpose of LGBT Pride Month?

From its inception, the LGBT Pride movement has been about “sexual liberation.” As the prominent LGBT magazine The Advocate wrote in 2018, 

From its roots, Pride was a political act. And so is having the kind of sex we want to have with who we want to have it. That was a rebellion against the institution of monogamy and ideas about women as property. . . . Pride is the antidote to efforts to control and limit sex — which politicians are still trying to do.

For decades, Pride events have been frequently criticized (even by some LGBT activists) for overt displays of sexuality and championing of causal promiscuity. But as Alex Abad-Santos of Vox writes, that’s part of the point of Pride. “Queer history is often about resistance to norms and embracing radical existence,” he writes, “so engaging in respectability politics—the idea that marginalized groups need to behave or act in a certain way to validate the compassion shown toward them—flies in the face of those goals.”

For these reasons, it is all the more important for Christians to prepare their hearts and minds to stand against the tide of the LGBTQ movement. Christians must model Christlikeness as we bear witness to the truth of the gospel and about the beauty of God’s design for humanity. And we must do so without anger or fear, but with love, charity, and grace.

By / Jun 4

In this episode, Josh, Lindsay, and Brent discuss the 100th anniversary of the Tulsa Race Massacre, a Christian response to Pride Month, a major leadership change in Israel, and recent news involving the ERLC. They also cover new ERLC content including a critical abortion case headed to the Supreme Court, questions about content moderation on social media, and one city’s approach to combatting abortion through local ordinances.

ERLC Content

Culture

  1. 100 Years since the Tulsa Race Massacre. Churches are leading on racial unity.
  2. June is “Pride” Month. How should Christians think about that?
  3. A major shake-up in Israel’s national leadership. What’s that mean for the Biden Administration?
  4. A leaked letter from Russell Moore sparks conversations within the SBC about race and sexual abuse.

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By / Mar 23

Below is my response to an email I received that asked the following question: “I believe church should be for all of God’s children. No exceptions. I am a gay man. My question is, would I be fully accepted with no judgment and fully welcome and able to serve at Ashland Avenue Baptist Church?”

I have changed all of the identifying information, but other than that, my response is in full below. I hope that it will be helpful to others facing similar questions.

Dear D,

Welcome home to the beautiful Bluegrass. It is great to hear from you and to hear of your previous connection with Ashland. What a ministry this church has had for almost 100 years.

As to your question, it depends on what you mean by “I am a gay man” and what you mean by “accepted completely with no judgment and fully welcome and able to serve at Ashland Avenue?”

If by “I am a gay man” you mean that you struggle with same-sex attraction, recognizing any sexual activity outside of a covenant marriage between a man and a woman is sinful and that you desire Christian discipleship to walk in line with the Gospel as you struggle with this temptation, then we would rejoice at your honesty and openness and receive you gladly at Ashland. We have faithful and accountable members right now in that very situation and attempting to live celibate lives to the glory of Christ.

Of course, this is really no different than a man who struggles with heterosexual sexually immoral desires or any of the myriads of sinful desires we all struggle with as disciples of Christ. Sin is an equal opportunity offender and something that every Christian struggles with in unique ways.

If by “I am a gay man” you mean that you embrace a lifestyle of homosexual activity and you refuse recognize it as sin no matter what the Scripture says and you are looking for a church that will affirm homosexual activity and/or same-sex marriage that would be a different matter entirely. But there is no uniqueness to homosexual sin in regard to this approach. The same would be true if a man came to us and said “I am a ‘name the sin’ man” and by that he meant he planned to keep on sinning in that way and embracing it as a lifestyle no matter what the Scripture says. There is a world of difference between struggling with a sin and embracing a sin. God saves us where we are, but loves us too much too leave us where we are. He is at work conforming his people into the image of Christ.

As far as whether or not you would “be accepted completely with no judgment and fully welcome and able to serve at Ashland Avenue” that would depend on what you mean as well. We welcome all to attend our public worship services. Consider this your invitation to worship with us. We would love to have you in attendance. If you mean that you desire help in an accountable community of faith to struggle against sin then I would say that we are a community of believers whose hope is in the finished work of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of our sins—not our goodness. We are all struggling sinners attempting to follow our Lord and Savior and encouraging one another to do so.

On the other hand, if you mean that you want a church where any behavior you participate in will be affirmed and accepted in the membership of the church then the answer would be “no.” I do not think you would want to be a part of a congregation would tolerate any behavior or action among its members.

We are all broken in our sin and are in great need of acceptance by God through the atoning work of Jesus Christ. We are all guilty sinners who have rebelled against a holy God and who desperately need to respond to Christ in repentant faith. It is the awareness of our sin that reveals our need for redemption in Christ. Self-acceptance must not replace repentance and the liberating love of Christ that delivers us from bondage to our sins. Faith, sin and repentance are Christ-directed. Self-justification is man-directed and fashions God as a sort of divine therapist who helps us to accept ourselves.

You are right that God’s gospel is about his “love, acceptance, non-judging, and forgiveness for all” but such is the fruit of believers who trust God and agree with God about their sin in repentant faith. The comfortable and convenient thing would be to do away with the notion of sin altogether but such an approach would abandon the biblical gospel and would not be a demonstration of Christian love.

The apostle Paul told the church at Corinth,

Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God (1 Cor. 6:9-11).

Paul paints a beautiful picture of love, acceptance, and forgiveness for those who come to Christ in faith and repentance of sin. If we lose Paul’s grammar, we lose his gospel. If we shift his words to the present tense and say, “And such are some of you,” we are left with no one washed, no one sanctified, and no one justified.

I hope this response provides you respectful and direct answers to your honest questions. I struggle with my own sins so I could easily remove “homosexuality” from this letter and put my sins in those spaces and apply this letter to myself. The good news is that I do not have to be defined by my sins and neither do you. We can be forgiven of our sins and have our identity rooted in Christ and his grace.

I am thankful for the dialogue and your interest in my thoughts. I hope to see you soon at Ashland.

Blessings in Christ,

David E. Prince

This article originally published June 3, 2015.

By / Aug 12

This week RNS reported that the organization Young Life is facing pressure to overturn its policies on sexual conduct. For those unfamiliar with Young Life’s ministry, the organization exists to reach students in middle school, high school, and college. It also does specific outreach to teen moms, those with special needs, and young adults in military families And according to their website, Young Life is presently doing ministry in all 50 states and in more than 90 countries. 

Christians and sexuality

As a Christian ministry, Young Life has always embraced the tradition of biblical sexual ethics to which the church has held for nearly two millennia. But recently, the organization’s views and policies related to sexuality have come under scrutiny for excluding individuals identifying as LGBT. Though the policy is not publicly available, a copy obtained by RNS confirms that Young Life’s sexual conduct policy, which applies to staff members, “explicitly prohibits any sexual activity outside of heterosexual marriage.”

At the center of this controversy is the question of whether those who reject Young Life’s positions on sexuality should be eligible for employment with the organization. The RNS story opens by highlighting two individuals who recently worked for Young Life but had their employment terminated for conduct that violates the organization’s sexual conduct policy. In this case, both individuals are homosexual. After sharing their stories on social media about the way their service with Young Life ended, one of them used the hashtag #DoBetterYoungLife.

Since then, the #DoBetterYoungLife hashtag has gained considerable traction online. In addition to spawning multiple social media accounts and prompting hundreds of individuals to share stories of exclusion and pain related to their sexual identity or orientation, perhaps the most significant result of this movement has been a petition launched on Change.org that has garnered nearly 7,000 signatures calling for Young Life to repeal its sexual conduct policy and make other changes.

A complicated reality

Anyone taking the time to investigate can recognize that this is a complicated and multifaceted situation. The men and women speaking out on social media—many of whom are very young—are sharing stories of deep pain and hurt they’ve experienced as a result of being excluded or marginalized in various ways. These stories are moving and emotional and sad. Not only that, but many are marked by obvious sincerity.

At the same time, there is no real question about what Young Life should do, at least in terms of the substance of its policy. Young Life’s views on sexuality are, after all, not really Young Life’s views on sexuality. For Christians, the Scriptures set forth a clear and intelligible pattern, not only of what it means to be male and female, but of the nature of sexual intimacy and relationships as well. And these things are not ancillary to the Christian life, but central to what it means to faithfully follow Christ. For Young Life, and for any Christian organization, obedience to Scripture and fidelity to the Christian tradition requires that they maintain their prohibition on any kind of sexual activity beyond the bounds of heterosexual marriage.

For Christians, the Scriptures set forth a clear and intelligible pattern, not only of what it means to be male and female, but of the nature of sexual intimacy and relationships as well.

It has barely been five years since the Supreme Court handed down the Obergefell ruling that legalized same-sex marriage nationwide. But in intervening years, society’s attitudes toward homosexuality and LGBT rights have continued to shift rapidly. So much so, that it seems we’ve reached the tipping point where, in many cases, failing to affirm same-sex marriage and expanded protections for LGBT individuals is now likely to bring forth rejection and scorn and potentially even more significant consequences. And this is the reality Young Life is facing.

The RNS article cited a statement from Young Life’s president, Newt Crenshaw, responding to the situation which indicated the organization would be taking steps to review the stories of current and former Young Life members who had “experienced pain in our family based on their race, gender, sexual orientation or other factors.” Speaking as an outsider, I think this is obviously a commendable step for Young Life. Even when policies are substantially correct (as Young Life’s policy on sexual conduct assuredly is), there is still ample opportunity to address any means by which the policy may have been poorly implemented and to plan to better address such matters going forward.

Compassion and conviction

Though I’ve never personally been involved in Young Life, I know a number of people whose lives and faith were shaped in a profound and lasting way through the organization’s ministry. Moreover, it is clear that those who have spoken out about the hurt and pain they’ve experienced are often doing so as former insiders—those who’ve experienced the rich, loving community that Young Life creates for the thousands of students they minister to each year. That kind of love and community motivated by the gospel is the focal point of Young Life’s ministry; it is critical that they find a way to continue to model that for future generations without surrendering their core beliefs.

Young Life is not alone among Christian organizations thinking through ways they might better respond and minister to those whose sexual identity or orientation run contrary to the sexual ethics of Scripture. As Christian leaders seek to navigate these challenges, they should consider how they might imitate Jesus who was known for the tremendous compassion he showed toward those who were hurting or on the margins. Jesus was never guilty of compromise, nor was he ever bereft of compassion.

The church should be known as a community that loves and welcomes people, regardless of what kind of past, or baggage, or identity they might have. And loving and welcoming people includes what happens in our church buildings as well as the various kinds of ministries we create. Christians don’t have to back away from what the Bible says in order to love people as people and to point them to the hope, healing, and restoration that is available to them in Jesus. 

All of us should pray for Young Life’s leadership as they seek to address these matters in the days ahead and make whatever corrections are appropriate. And each of us can strive to care for those who are hurting even as we hold fast the things the church has always believed.

By / Jun 15

The Supreme Court of the United States released its long-awaited decision in the case of Bostock v. Clayton County, Georgia over whether sexual orientation and gender identity are included in the definition of “sex” in Title VII of the federal non-discrimination laws. The Court ruled, in an opinion written by Justice Gorsuch, that “sex” does, in fact, include sexual orientation and gender identity, despite the fact that legislators repeatedly voted against including those categories in the legislation. So, what now? 

That this case is not well-known in the American public, not much a part of the ongoing “culture wars,” might cause one to think that this is an unimportant case, but this would be the wrong conclusion. The precedents set here will have major implications going forward on how the public meaning of words at the time laws are passed should mean for how they are interpreted in the future. This will mean that legislators actually won’t know what they are voting to pass—because words might change cultural meaning dramatically between the time of passage and some future court case. 

The ruling also will have seismic implications for religious liberty, setting off potentially years of lawsuits and court struggles, about what this means, for example, for religious organizations with religious convictions about the meaning of sex and sexuality. This will mean not only that this is just the beginning of the legal discussion at this point, but also that Congress must clarify precisely what they intended, or intend now, in laws that protect women from unjust discrimination—laws that now are to be applied much more broadly. 

But, beyond that, there are other considerations for the church. This Supreme Court decision should hardly be surprising, given how much has changed culturally on the meanings of sex and sexuality. That the “sexual revolution” is supported here by both “conservatives” and “progressives” on the court should also be of little surprise to those who have watched developments in each of these ideological corners of American life. 

Whatever the legal and legislative challenges posed by this decision, they are hardly the most important considerations. What is most important is for the church to see where a biblical vision of sexuality and family is out of step with the direction of American culture. For 2,000 years, the Christian tradition, rooted in the Bible, has taught that human beings are limited by our createdness. We are not self-created, nor are we self-determining beings. God has created us, from the beginning, male and female—a concept articulated at the very onset of the biblical canon (Gen. 1:27) and reaffirmed by our Lord Jesus (Mk. 10:6). That’s because this creation order is not arbitrary but is intended to point beyond itself to the mystery of the gospel (Eph. 5:32). Here the church has stood, and will stand. 

That will mean teaching the next generation of Christians why such distinctions are good, and not endlessly elastic. We do that by rejecting both a spirit of the age that would erase created distinctions between men and women and those that would exaggerate them into stereotypes not revealed in Scripture. This will mean also that we train up our children to see how such are matters rooted not in cultural mores but in the gospel itself. And it will mean that we provide not just teaching but models. 

Those who decry the sexual revolution, but approve of, or participate in, sexual revolutions of their own—in excusing, for instance, adultery, sexual abuse, or pornography—will have, and should have, no credibility. Instead, what is needed is an ongoing demonstration of counter-cultural fidelity, accountability, love, and a recognition of the kinds of limits that make human life good and livable. And, at the same time, we can be the people who recognize that those who disagree with us are our mission field, to be persuaded, not a sparring partner to denounce. We must have both conviction and kindness, both courage and patience, both truth and grace. 

By / May 5

The global crisis precipitated by COVID-19 has changed many things. In the United States, the drastic steps we’ve taken to deal with the pandemic have fundamentally altered our normal patterns of life. But in at least some ways, this period of hardship and struggle has brought forth the very best in humanity. Stories abound of neighbors, friends, and even strangers going to lengths great and small to serve or assist those in need. And as a society, we've developed a new appreciation for the men and women working each day to perform the essential services all of us depend upon. It is heartening to see a collective sense of gratitude not only for doctors and nurses and medical professionals, but for truck drivers and grocery store clerks and the many factory workers sustaining our supply chains.  

Intolerance on display  

But despite this good news, some things haven’t changed. And perhaps a prime example is the intolerance displayed toward Christians and other people of faith. We’ve already witnessed this kind of behavior on multiple occasions from New York City Mayor Bill De Blasio. Over the weekend, Corey Johnson, the Speaker of the New York City Council, put forward a statement on Twitter demonstrating the same kind of intolerance. The statement was directed toward the humanitarian organization, Samaritan’s Purse, and its CEO, Franklin Graham, specifically the beliefs about human sexuality which Graham and the organization espouse. While Johnson acknowledged that Samaritan’s Purse stepped up to meet vital needs in New York “at a time when our city couldn't in good conscience turn away any offer of help,” he has since made the determination that it is “time for Samaritan’s Purse to leave.” Johnson derided Graham as being “notoriously bigoted” and “hate-spewing,” and said without irony that the “continued presence” of Samaritan’s Purse in New York is “an affront to our values of inclusion.”  

Honestly, Johnson’s words are difficult to read. Knowingly or otherwise, he is not merely disparaging Graham and the employees and volunteers with Samaritan’s Purse, but millions of Christians who also hold to the church’s historic teaching on human sexuality. As our culture rushes to embrace the sexual revolution, to affirm sexual libertinism, and to uproot any obstacles to sexual expression, it seems that dissenters to these efforts are to be written off as collateral damage. That’s unfortunate for so many reasons, but especially so because that kind of calloused dismissal doesn’t even meet Johnson’s own moral standard.  

In denouncing Graham and Samaritan’s Purse, Johnson stated that their presence in the city he serves is an affront to their “values of inclusion.” This is nothing less than cognitive dissonance on display. How it escapes Johnson that true tolerance runs in both directions is hard to fathom. But again, this is nothing new. To advance the sexual revolution, words like inclusion have taken on a very specific meaning—inclusion is about affirming what one approves while condemning what one despises. In this case, Johnson plainly stated that anyone who disagrees with his views of sexuality doesn’t merit inclusion, or really seem to matter at all.  

In his statement, Johnson also stated that New York is a city that “values diversity and compassion for all.” Surely these are laudable traits. Yet sadly, these words also ring hollow. Clearly Johnson thinks that only a certain kind of diversity is valuable and that only those with the correct beliefs are worthy of compassion. Apparently he’s willing to cast aside not only Graham and Samaritan’s Purse but the countless New Yorkers who hold the beliefs he so openly ridicules.  

Hated, but continuing to serve  

I wrote last week that the church will never give up its position on human sexuality. The upshot of that argument is that it isn’t really up to us because God has clearly spoken about these issues. The church doesn’t have the ability to change or reinterpret what God has clearly said. And all those who seek to live their lives in submission to Jesus and under the authority of God’s Word will never reject the sexual ethics set forth in the Scriptures—regardless of the nature or duration of pressure to do so.   

Analyzing Johnson’s response leaves one pondering many questions. Can he not see the stunning incongruence between the values he espouses and the way he disparages the very people who have voluntarily stepped up to provide critical services and meet vital needs in the midst of an unprecedented threat? Indeed, it strains credulity to think that those motivated by “hate” as Johnson alleges would willfully martial their resources and risk their health and safety in order to serve indiscriminately the people of New York. Does this really strike him as bigotry? If I were able to speak with Johnson, I would point out that one could hardly wish for better enemies.  

Christians will never be forced to choose between fidelity to Jesus and serving our neighbors in need (Christian or otherwise), regardless of how we are treated in return. In fact, this is the task before us: to show the world the love of Christ (1 John 4:7-21).

But as the people of God, we realize that Johnson is not our enemy, nor anyone else made of flesh and blood (Eph. 6:12). One need not agree with Franklin Graham’s politics or theology to recognize what motivated the organization he leads to volunteer to serve the people of New York; it was not hate, but love. And the sad thing is, in dismissing their religious convictions, Johnson overlooked the very thing that motivated Samaritan’s Purse to serve his city in the first place. In offering aid to New York, Samaritan’s Purse sought to put the gospel on display. In their service and sacrifice, they were being exactly what Christians are called to be, the hands and feet of Jesus.   

And this happens all the time. Chick-Fil-A is another organization that is frequently maligned for being “anti-LGBT.” Yet in the aftermath of the awful mass shooting at the Pulse nightclub, one of the best known gay bars in Orlando, Chick-Fil-A employees at multiple restaurants voluntarily went into work on a Sunday (the day Chick-Fil-A is traditionally closed in order for its employees to worship and spend time with family) to prepare and serve free food to those waiting to donate blood.   

Christians are people of conscience and conviction. But we do not hate people—regardless of how they feel about our beliefs. Not only that, but it is our faith and convictions that motivate us to show love, compassion, and mercy to those in need. It is sad to see Christians reviled because of their beliefs, but we should not be surprised when such takes place. Indeed, Jesus told us so (John 15:18). One thing we must remember, though, is that whatever worldly power or influence those who revile us may wield, our gospel wields the power of God (Rom: 1:16). Even those who oppose us most fiercely at any given moment, may well find themselves overcome by the grace of God found in the gospel. Some who revile us now will may soon become our brothers and sisters.  

It seems safe to say that in the future our beliefs, especially those concerning human sexuality, will draw more scrutiny, not less. But there is no shame in holding fast to these beliefs. Christians will never be forced to choose between fidelity to Jesus and serving our neighbors in need (Christian or otherwise), regardless of how we are treated in return. In fact, this is the task before us: to show the world the love of Christ (1 John 4:7-21). Take heart, brothers and sisters—in this world you may be called a bigot or worse, but Jesus has overcome the world (John. 16:33).  

By / Apr 30

This summer will mark five years since the Obergefell v. Hodges decision legalized same-sex marriage in the United States. Ahead of that decision, Christians were facing mounting cultural pressure to embrace the aims of the sexual revolution. Specifically, Christians were being challenged to jettison the traditional sexual ethic that has been a marker of orthodoxy throughout the church’s history, which spans two millenia. But if anything, in the years since the Supreme Court found its way to recognize a constitutional right to same-sex marriage, the pressure upon the church to compromise its views of human sexuality has only increased.

Some Christians have, in fact, evolved on the issue. One of the more shocking things to me personally was watching author and pastor, Josh Harris, take up the mantle of the LGBT movement. Growing up, I was profoundly shaped by Harris’ ministry, particularly his works on relationships and sexuality, so seeing his marriage come to an end and his subsequent overtures toward pro-LGBT causes has been both painful and disillusioning. Others, of course, were less shocking. There have always been Christians, even in positions of leadership and influence, who appeared uncomfortable with the Bible’s sexual ethics. Over the last several years, dozens of these men and women have either signaled or publicly announced that they no longer hold such views.

But even as some have forsaken the Bible’s teaching on issues related to sexuality, the majority report is just the opposite. Across the United States, millions of Christians have shown no signs of softening their commitment to the Bible’s teaching on human sexuality. And while this is surely puzzling to some observers, there are at least three reasons that we should expect this to remain the case — not simply in the short term, but forever.

1. A Christian view of sexuality isn’t subjective

The first reason that Christians won’t opt for a different view of sexuality is because this isn’t actually an area where choice is a significant factor. Those who are committed to a high view of Scripture recognize that God’s revealed Word is the only standard for our faith and practice. We are not free to revise or ignore the testimony of Scripture. And in matters related to sexuality, whether speaking of sexual orientation or sex and gender, the Bible sets forth clear and ample instruction.

The Scriptures declare that God has, from the beginning, made each person male or female (Gen. 1:27). A person does not choose his or her sex; existing as either male or female is a matter of biology. But more than that, it is a matter of design. Human beings are not simply the products of reproduction, but creatures that exist because of a Creator. And we don’t get to choose our sex any more than we choose to be created.

In the same way, the Bible only has one conception of marriage: the union of man and woman (Gen 2:24). As the Scriptures teach, the marriage bond is reflected in the sexual union. Sexual intimacy between husband and wife is the manifestation of the reality the Bible calls the “one flesh” union. And like one’s biological sex, the biblical vision of marriage is not subject to revision.

2. Compromising on sexuality is unloving

God is our Creator. And the God who created us is benevolent and kind. In his Word, he instructs us about how we are to live our lives. And the instructions we find in the Scriptures teach us how to live according to the “grain” of God’s design. Conforming one’s life to the pattern of God’s design is the key to flourishing. This is especially true when it comes to issues of sexuality, which have so much to do with our sense of identity and fulfillment.

Conforming one’s life to the pattern of God’s design is the key to flourishing.

All around us the culture says that freedom and satisfaction are found in the absence of constraints. In terms of sexuality, the message is even more specific: embrace your impulses, follow your heart, and seek pleasure wherever you believe it to be found. But God’s Word offers a completely different vision. Rather than solemnizing our search for pleasure, the Bible presents an ordered vision of sexual fulfillment. Sexual pleasure is not to be sought with abandon, but reserved for a relationship marked out by a covenant. More than this, seeking pleasure beyond the bounds of God’s design leads to brokenness.

To sin is to miss the mark, or to deviate from God’s design. And Christians are never free to bless deviations from God’s design. Same-sex marriage will undoubtedly grow familiar to our society, but even so, Christians holding to the ethics of Scripture will not substitute what seems normal with what is true. Whether facing pressure to compromise concerning same-sex marriage, transgenderism, or other issues, Christians must continue to dissent while lovingly pointing back to the goodness of God’s design. To do otherwise is to sow confusion into the hearts and minds of those who are out of step with God’s design.

3. The Judgement Seat is worse than criticism

Given the enormous pressure to accommodate alternate expressions of human sexuality, there will no doubt be more Christians who capitulate to these pressures in the future. But most will not, because to do so is terribly short-sighted. As Russell Moore often remarks, Christians do not live in view of the next 50-100 years, but the “next trillion.” Being on the right side of the culture at any given moment in time may bring temporary relief from one’s burdens, but much more important is the goal of being on the right side of Jesus. And his judgments on these matters have not changed.

Christians must always be cognizant of the fact that they will one day stand before God to give an account, for their lives, their actions, their beliefs (Heb. 9:27; Rom. 14:12). To deny or reject what God says is true in order to satisfy one’s critics or win the applause of men is to fundamentally miss the call of discipleship. Jesus’ words to those who would follow him are well known: deny yourself and take up your cross (Matt. 16:24). No amount of praise is worth embracing the sins for which Christ died.

There is no excuse for calling good that which is evil, and leads to hell. And for this reason, we can have confidence that the people of God, both now and in the future, will continue to stand firm not only with regard to human sexuality, but the entire witness of Scripture. This is because one cannot remain in submission to God’s Word while compromising the truths his Word clearly declares. God forbid we ever try.

By / Mar 11

What happened?

On Feb. 19, Brigham Young University (BYU) announced a wide array of changes to its Honor Code, which included removing a section on “Homosexual Behavior.” BYU is the flagship university of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, more commonly known as Mormons.

The previous honor code had a section on “Homosexual Behavior” which stated the following:

“One’s stated same-gender attraction is not an honor code issue. However, the honor code requires all members of the university community to manifest a strict commitment to the law of chastity. Homosexual behavior is inappropriate and violates the honor code. Homosexual behavior includes not only sexual relations between members of the same sex, but all forms of physical intimacy that give expression to homosexual feelings.”

The new honor code has removed this section in favor of using more generic language. The summary of the Church Educational System Honor Code explains that students must:

“Live a chaste and virtuous life, including abstaining from any sexual relations outside a marriage between a man and a woman.”

The Church Educational System Honor Code Related Policies, which gives more details, says

“Students must abstain from the use of alcohol, tobacco, and illegal substances and from the intentional misuse or abuse of any substance. Sexual misconduct; obscene or indecent conduct or expressions; disorderly or disruptive conduct; participation in gambling activities; involvement with pornographic, erotic, indecent, or offensive material; and any other conduct or action inconsistent with the principles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and the Honor Code is not permitted.”

However, this notably left many students, faculty, and alumni on both sides of the issue confused as to what now constitutes acceptable behavior or expression for students who identify as LGBTQ. Though the Honor code still includes “abstaining from any sexual relations outside a marriage between a man and a woman” in accordance with the church’s teachings on marriage, it remains unclear whether students can now engage in public displays of same-sex expression such as dating, kissing, and hand holding, or whether such acts constitute “obscene or indecent conduct or expressions.”

This lack of clarity has led to various interpretations of the changes. Some students, upon hearing of the changes, rushed to take a picture of themselves kissing in front of a statue of Brigham Young on BYU’s campus. Others have contacted the Honor Code Office, which supposedly told them that gay dating, kissing, and hand holding is okay. 

On the other hand, the school remains firm that nothing significant has really changed. Through their Twitter account, BYU initially acknowledged that there may have been some “miscommunication as to what the Honor Code changes mean,” but maintains that “even though we have removed the more prescriptive language, the principles of the Honor Code remain the same. The Honor Code Office will handle questions that arise on a case-by-case basis. For example, since dating means different things to different people, the Honor Code Office will work with students individually.” However, this still left the issue unclear. 

Christians need to strive toward the biblical ethic of love, which can simultaneously uphold the truths of Scripture about human sexuality, call all sinners to repentance, and maintain a caring and compassionate response toward those who have these particular temptations.

On March 4, BYU tweeted a letter from Elder Paul V. Johnson, the Commissioner of the Church Educational System, which finally appeared to offer clarity. In the letter, he reaffirmed the church’s stance on marriage: “marriage between a man and a woman is ordained of God and that the family is central to the Creator’s plan for the eternal destiny of His children.” He added that “same-sex romantic behavior cannot lead to eternal marriage and is therefore not compatible with the principles included in the Honor Code.” 

What does this mean for Christians?

The struggle that we see here at BYU is not new. Though BYU is not a theologically orthodox Christian school and the Mormon faith is considered by faithful Christians to be heterodox (Here is a helpful explainer on the differences between Mormons and Christians), the Mormon church has largely upheld moral standards concerning marriage and the family that are in line with orthodox Christianity. As such, the parallels here between BYU and what has been witnessed at other Christian institutions are uncanny.

Take, for instance, Azusa Pacific University (APU) in southern California, a Christian school founded on the Wesleyan Holiness Tradition. From August 2018 through March 2019, APU went through a series of flip-flops on the very same issue of whether students could openly engage in LGBTQ relationships and public displays of affection. While APU maintains that sex should be between one man and one woman in the covenant of marriage, it now, unfortunately, maintains a neutral or open stance on the romantic (or explicitly non-sexual) aspects of LGBTQ relationships.

The cultural pressure to change stances on the vast array of LGBTQ issues is being brought to bear on every Christian institution, and it won’t stop. Because of this, Christians need to know how to think through these issues well.

How should Christians think about this?

Christian schools and institutions are struggling with the pressure from our culture to embrace the entire LGBTQ agenda while still trying to maintain biblical standards about sexuality and gender and being pastoral toward those with unwanted same-sex attractions or gender dysphoria. Unfortunately, this has led some Christian institutions like APU to compromise on this aspect of LGBTQ romantic relationships and public displays of affection. Yet, as Albert Mohler explains, this is not consistent with a biblical understanding of human sexuality.

“The biblical worldview does not allow for same-sex or LGBTQ romantic relationships. APU has adopted an explicit contradiction of the scriptural understanding of marriage, sexuality, gender, and romantic relationships between men and women. You cannot compartmentalize romance. Romantic relationships are themselves deeply moral and they imply the fulfillment of the sexual. Any construct contrary to the Bible’s clear teachings about sex, gender, and romance is by definition unbiblical. No Christian can live in logical consistency with the biblical teachings regarding marriage and simultaneously celebrate same-sex couples and homosexual displays of affection.”

Christians need to strive toward the biblical ethic of love, which can simultaneously uphold the truths of Scripture about human sexuality, call all sinners to repentance, and maintain a caring and compassionate response toward those who have these particular temptations. The gospel demands it of us.

By / Jan 3

Recently, our church hosted an event called “Truth Talks,” covering the issues of gender and sexuality and led by Dan Darling and Josh Wester. Our purpose for the event was to help students and parents navigate these important topics from a biblical, Christ-centered perspective and to provide context for ongoing conversations between parents and children and within our congregation. We believe making disciples of Jesus and loving our neighbors well means helping Christians walk with people who share various views and live diverse lifestyles.

The statements included here are my takeaways from the event. I’m not sure which are direct quotes from Darling and Wester and which are my own summary statements. So let’s concede that the profound ones are theirs and the other ones are mine. I trust they will all be helpful.

  1. God created humans distinctly male and female by design and for a purpose, and we each, therefore, possess profound dignity and worth. No one’s background or behavior diminishes their value as human beings.
  2. As Christians, we believe the Bible and yield to its teachings even when those teachings make us uncomfortable. We can expect the Bible to challenge us, but our sensibilities do not lord over the Scriptures. Instead, we submit to the Bible as an act of faith in the God of the Bible.
  3. Sex is powerful. It’s very good when experienced in the context of biblical marriage between a man and a woman. It’s extremely harmful when experienced in any other context. In the sex act, we give a part of ourselves away. Within a covenant marriage relationship, that is a wonderful thing. Outside of biblical marriage, sex creates pain, insecurity, and brokenness.
  4. In the Gospels, Jesus affirmed gender distinctions in the marriage relationship as described in the Old Testament account of God’s creation of man and woman. As the Apostle Paul described the nature of Jesus’ relationship with the Church in his letter to the Ephesians, he affirmed the wonder and mystery of biblical marriage between a man and woman. So marriage is not an archaic notion, but an institution established and affirmed throughout Scripture and practiced for thousands of years. 
  5. We cannot claim to follow Jesus and ignore what he said about marriage and sexuality. Whether the issue is an unbiblical divorce, sinful heterosexual behavior, or a homosexual lifestyle, for example, following Jesus necessarily means honoring the commands of Jesus and, by grace, following them in every area of our lives.
  6. Not every natural desire (e.g., sexual initmacy) should be pursued or fulfilled. We do not determine what glorifies God or even what is best for us. God does that, and he has preserved and given us the Bible to show us the way.
  7. When we turn to Jesus, place our faith in him, and become a Christian, Jesus saves us from the penalty of sin, but we are still being saved from the power of sin. Sexual temptation, and the struggle with other temptations for that matter, are a natural part of the human experience, generally, and of walking with Jesus, specifically.
  8. We affirm biblical manhood and womanhood, yet many cultural stereotypes of masculinity and femininity are not biblical at all. So when boys or girls struggle to fit into those stereotypes, we direct them back to the Bible. We affirm them, their unique bent and interests, and show them that God knit them in their mother’s womb, and that they are fearfully and wonderfully made (Psa. 139).
  9. Feeling uncomfortable in the body we were born with is not completely uncommon or unreasonable. We are fallen creatures, marred with a sin nature. Discomfort is part of our story, but it is not beyond Jesus’ redeeming work.
  10. Children and adolescents will often struggle with their identity. The overwhelming number of children who struggle with gender identity work through it and find peace with themselves as they grow into the late teenage and young adult years. So show patience with them. We love and encourage them. We pour God’s Word into them and show grace and kindness as they learn how God has designed them.
  11. People who struggle with same-sex attraction and gender dysphoria, as well as those fully involved in a homosexual lifestyle, are people, fellow human beings whom God stamped with his image. They possess dignity, and they are worthy of respect.
  12. Speaking the truth is not bigoted or unloving. Being bigoted is bigoted, and being unloving is unloving. As Jesus’ followers, we look to Jesus as our example, and Jesus was never a jerk. Faithful Christians treat all people with compassion because loving people is not a compromise. It’s a command.
  13. People may think a biblical worldview of marriage, gender, and sexuality is weird and freakish. That’s because it is weird and freakish. That’s okay. Many things Christians believe are outside the cultural mainstream. For example, we believe that God in Christ robed himself in flesh and came to earth as a baby born of a virgin named Mary. It was miraculous and outside of the norm, but we believe it. And not only do we believe it, but as odd as it may be, we orient our entire lives around that belief. 
  14. Expect hardship and even rejection for your faithfulness to Jesus and his Word. The opposition of other people does not invalidate sound theology or undermine historic Christianity. Jesus said to expect persecution, and he promised to be with us every step of the way. So believers deny ourselves and stay the course as we invite people to experience new life in Jesus and to follow him with us.
  15. Many people who have adopted an alternate lifestyle are broken, hurting, and lonely. They, along with others, are skeptical of God and of Christians. They aren’t sure anyone will ever truly love them. So when we show kindness and respect, pray for them, and pursue genuine friendship, we offer them a more complete and compelling picture of the gospel. Loving our neighbors cracks the door open in a way that lets Jesus shine in and allows the Holy Spirit to do his work to redeem and restore.
  16. No sexual sin or brokenness (heterosexual or homosexual) is beyond God’s willingness or ability to redeem through the person and work of Jesus. So we faithfully show and share the gospel, inviting every person to come to Jesus.

Whether we are baking a cake, playing on a sports team, operating a school, running for public office, serving a church, or telling a story on the big screen, questions around gender and sexuality now dominate many everyday conversations. We care about these questions, we advocate for just laws and policies that protect religious freedom, and we speak the truth in love in the public square. 

But followers of Jesus care most about people, not just issues. We do not withhold love for individuals, for example, based on a person’s gender, sexual preference, or sexual history. Instead, we understand that sin mars the image of God in all of us, but it does not make any of us subhuman. 

Our theology tells us that God loves people and has provided redemption from sin through his Son Jesus for anyone who turns to him. That Good News not only tells us that God’s grace is greater than all of our sin, but it also gives us freedom to love other people in the same way God has loved us. 

So as we pass on the faith to the next generation, we pass on a clear and compelling word from God. We stand firmly rooted on millenia of biblical orthodoxy related to marriage and sexuality. Husbands and wives reflect the beauty of the gospel and the glory of God in marriage. By honoring marriage, we honor the Lord. And by honoring our God-given design, we honor one another. We then live out our faith with confidence by loving our neighbors, whoever they are and whatever choices they have made, trusting Christ in us to bear witness of his own redeeming grace. 

By / Dec 13

Jackie Hill Perry is one of those voices you can’t ignore. 

I knew before reading this book that Perry had experience with same-sex attraction (SSA). I also knew of her giftedness in communication. My big question in coming to this book was: How would Perry use her experience and giftedness? There are many winsome communicators out there who use their persuasive powers to lure their listeners into error. They wield their giftedness to confuse, deceive, and lead others away from the truth. How would Perry wield hers in her book, Gay Girl, Good God: The Story of Who I Was, and Who God Has Always Been? 

In short, she wielded it with tact, humility, and tremendous reverence for God and his Word. Christian communicators with “messy” pasts can sometimes go into morbid detail about their former sins, all in the name of “being real and transparent.” Perry did not do this. She did a spectacular job of sharing her experiences in a way that was not unnecessarily provocative or shocking. Sure, some things were hard to read—because of the prodigal story she tells of being in the far country. She was consistently thoughtful not only in what she communicated, but in how she communicated. 

Perry also writes about the Church’s failures without painting the Church as an insensitive, loveless villain. Sadly, many who bear Christ’s name have not treated those within the gay community with Christlike love. But the Church, with all her faults and warts, is beloved by Christ. Refreshingly, Perry demonstrates her love for the Church in how she writes about Christ’s bride. 

Her book shows every reader, Christian or not, same-sex attracted or not, that the path of Christ is not one of ease, but it is one of unfathomable reward and all-satisfying joy.

I was most pleasantly surprised at how clearly Perry allowed the reader to see the weaknesses in her flesh—especially the ones that were so pronounced during the beginning of her relationship with her now husband, Preston. When I think of Perry, I think of a strong, resilient, outspoken woman. This book showed me that underneath the strength that so many of us see in Perry is a person who, like the rest of us, is sometimes desperately clinging by faith to Jesus amidst a sea of frustrating, painful, and conflicting feelings. This transparency shows the reader where her strength is really coming from: God himself. 

Most of the book is a narrative telling the story of her life before, during, and after coming to faith in Jesus Christ. The book provides a helpful feature for readers’ use in discipleship and in the local church. The last section of the book is written and structured as a teaching resource to equip Christians to better understand God’s revelation of his design for human sexuality. 

The predominant theme throughout Gay Girl, Good God is that the Christian life is a cruciform life. She explains: 

“I’ve had countless conversations with many same-sex attracted men and women who are either trying to adhere to a biblical sexual ethic or have tried. Weary-eyes and burdened, they come to me, head almost bowed, to welcome me into their frustration. Eventually, they confess the reason for their cloudiness. ‘It’s just so hard,’ they say . . . I’ve always wondered if when they became a disciple, or thought themselves to be one, if they knew that following Jesus not only meant eternal life but also a crucified one. . . The crucified life is the life set on enduring until the end when once and for all, the cross is replaced with a crown.” (167-169). 

Her book shows every reader, Christian or not, same-sex attracted or not, that the path of Christ is not one of ease, but it is one of unfathomable reward and all-satisfying joy.