Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Calling homosexual concepts straightly

A review of a document......


The document Human Sexuality and the ‘Same Sex Marriage’ Debate, A report of the Sydney Diocesan Doctrine Commission, October 2014 does not make any distinction between promiscuous homosexual practice and same-sex attraction insofar as Biblical denunciation of both activities.  The document alludes to how both promiscuous homosexual practice and same-sex attraction are sinful in that they both draw on eroticism – which is seen to be played out either as physical behaviour or as lust.  The document does however make a helpful distinction between same-sex orientation and same-sex sensual activity.  The distinction turns on how one may be same-sex orientated yet same-sex sensually inactive.  This distinction arises as same-sex orientation does not have an active component from which one would draw a conclusion in sin.

To analyse the document’s consideration of the same-sex orientation and same-sex sensual activity I considered a single chapter in depth.  That chapter; “Chapter Five - Ministering to Those Who Experience Same-sex Attraction” is the final chapter of the document.  The analysis took the form of considering how both the words “orientation” and “attraction” are used within the document.  I have attempted to succinctly record the usage of “orientation” and “attraction”. The added comments are (indicated thus).  It has been helpful to group consideration of the words “desire” and “inclination” with consideration of the word “attraction”.  The document does not make any meaningful distinction between “attraction”, “desire” or “inclination”.  Nor does the document discern meaningfully between “attraction” and “lust”.

 Analysis of two words

The word “Attraction” is used thirty-four times.  The word “Orientation” is used eleven times.  By word count alone one initially concludes that the Chapter is true to its heading.  “Orientation” is considered first as its occurrence is in the minority:

 “(O)rientation”, usually as part of the phrase “same-sex orientation”, is used such:


-       That O is multi-dimensional (ergo, there is no support for an argument solely in nature or “born that way”)

-       That regardless of causation some persons nonetheless adopt a deep-seated O

-       That while it is claimed impossible and cruel for O to be influenced to change, it is not impossible for O to change

-       That there is an imperative in ministering to people to bring their conversion to Christ, and growth in Christ, regardless of O.

-       That O can unhelpfully fused with self-identity.

-       That the world (the example given is a game show) can often identify people by their O

-       It is important to challenge the view that it is wrong to encourage a same-sex attracted believer to change their O, and that it is important to challenge the belief that change is impossible.

-       O is part of the brokenness of our disordered world (it is not according to nature) so that reorientation is clearly the ideal.

-       It is vital that the church help those dealing with same-sex attraction understand that O is not the core of their self-identity

-       Churches need to work hard to rid themselves of unhelpful attitudes towards O

Accordingly, the document does not specifically identify same sex orientation as sin.  Instead, the document identifies same sex orientation as “part of the brokenness of our disordered world”.  The document leaves one questioning when same sex orientation is a factor in an act of sin – say when one integrates their orientation so deeply into their self-identity that they start to idolise the identity that they have created.  Orientation is not an active word.  It is used as one would use its synonyms such as “direction” or “alignment”.  Orientation of itself is therefore not active without some other co-joined causal measure.  That causal measure will often be same sex attraction.  One imagines that there is a progression path that an individual may experience.  That progression path traverses from same-sex orientation, to same-sex attraction to same-sex carnal activity.  That path is in staged no differently than would arise in a heterosexual individual; from opposite-sex orientation, to opposite-sex attraction to opposite-sex carnal activity.  In isolation of any co-joint agent, opposite-sex orientation is not sinful, just as same-sex orientation is not sinful.

“(A)ttraction”, usually as part of the phrase “same-sex attraction”, is used such:

-       The heading of the chapter (ergo, one is drawn to the priority of consideration of A, rather than O).

-       To recognise that A and same-sex relationships are gaining more acceptance in society.

-       To recognise the two fold challenge of standing up for the Bible’s view of sexuality and how to minister to persons who experience A.

-       To pose three questions: 1) What are the reasons some people experience A?, 2) Secondly, is it possible for someone who experiences A to change? and 3) what is appropriate to expect of someone who continues to battle with A?

-       That in light of current societal views and the complexity implied by the three questions many experience difficulties responding to those who present as experiencing A.

-       That the chapter seeks to offer some clarification about the nature of A, and in the light of that to offer suggestions as to how we as churches might seek to care for those who experience it.

-       That understanding how and why people develop A is complex.

-       That genetic, hormonal and environmental factors may all play a role in the development of same-sex desires or A in any given case. (ergo, there are two important points here i) identification of A interchangeably used with “desires”, and ii) an indication that elements other than nature may be at play).

-       That genetic disposition towards A, as attributed from one or both parents, is quite low and not typical (ergo, there is little support for an argument in nature).

-       While there is said to be a biological component to A, no clear link to a particular gene has been proven.

-       Studies into environmental factors have not be definitive in identifying causation of A

-       There is little consensus about whether A is unchangeable

-       There is a spectrum and degree to A

-       In seeking to help those who experience A, a number of factors need to be appreciated and addressed

-       Those wrestling with A within the church may do so with great shame and secrecy

-       It is important to assist those dealing with A to understand that O is not core of their self-identity.

-       That the gay movement appeals to those who experience A to ‘come out’

-       Christians who experience A need to understand that they have been washed clean and set free from guilt of their sins.

-       That Christians can ‘live out’ unwanted A, without having to deny it, or be defined by it

-       That persons who battle against A and resist homosexual behaviour need to be continually affirmed in their determination to be faithful and to suffer for the sake of the gospel.  In the context of a Wesley Hill quote that is offered in the document this is a call for suppression of homerotic desires.

-       There are a number of important steps, both attitudinal and practical, which church communities need to take in order to positively care for and effectively minister to those with A.

-       Churches ought to be especially careful not to use offensive labels for homosexual people or pejorative speech that puts down those who experience A.

-       The call to abstinence for those with A can be positioned in the wider valuing of chastity for all who are unmarried.


“(D)esire”, usually as part of the phrase “same-sex desires”, is used such:


-       D are viewed as “dishonourable passions” and homosexual behaviour regarded as both “shameless” and “contrary to nature” (Rom. 1:26). It is for this reason that it is explicitly condemned in Scripture.

-       Like immoral heterosexual desire, and indeed all other sinful yearnings, D is one of the results of the fall and a symptom of a greater disease pervading all of humanity.

-       D are not from God, and should therefore not be embraced, indulged or acted upon


“(I)nclination”, usually as part of the phrase “same-sex inclinations”, is used such:


-       I does not give permission to engage in behaviour that goes against God’s word.


Consequently, the document specifically identifies same-sex attraction as sin.  The following are all active or doing words: “Attraction”, “Inclination”, “Desire” and “Lust” (lust is used singularly in the whole document within Wesley Hill’s quotation).  In respect to same-sex; “Attraction”, “Inclination”, “Desire” and “Lust”, can be used interchangeably. 


That which one can do; which one enjoys actively, can be subject of one’s suppression.


For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it. So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!” 

Romans 7:19-24, NIV


The document Human Sexuality and the ‘Same Sex Marriage’ Debate, A report of the Sydney Diocesan Doctrine Commission, October 2014 therefore does not make any distinction between promiscuous homosexual practice and same-sex attraction.  Both are Biblically denunciated.  The document does however make a distinction between both of promiscuous homosexual practice and same-sex attraction & same-sex orientation.


Note: this post is part of a series that stemmed from a talk linked here.  A response to that talk is linked here.

Nurture plays a role

Those in the church who play to the natural or 'born that way' basis of homosexuality are aiding the persistence of a moral imperative.  The moral imperative arises in giving persons who are homosexual, and their supporters, a base from which everything else must follow.  If something is set by nature then everyone has to have an answer – not just the one.  And, if it is from nature - a quirk of genes - then even the person’s biological parents perhaps think they had no control.

Yet, homosexuality is unlikely to be set by nature (or only by nature). Nurture also plays a role.  A talk I recently heard at a church can be read to imply that nature solely is at play (refer the green highlighted text on this linked post).

Many seem to wish only blissful ignorance of nurture when it comes to homosexuality.  Few parents doubt that they influenced a child’s well-being or education (‘he took up his father’s interest in cricket’, ‘we made sure she had the best tutors’), yet they seem willing to ignore their acts or omissions of influence on a child’s sexuality.  In a novel by Hugh Mackay, ‘Winter Close’, 2002, the protagonist identifies with parental acts or omissions.  The protagonist is a counsellor – a psychologist – and offers this reflection during a counselling session:

Protagonist: “I’m constantly surprised by the number of clients I see who
disapprove of their kid’s values, yet have trouble detecting their own
influence in shaping them.  No wonder their kids are confused.”

We parents reap what we sow.  We are somewhat like gardeners – applying fertiliser when necessary and weeding away undesirable elements.  The quote in part captures a notion of how people are often quick to externalise a problem rather than grasping how internal influences are to blame.

If by act or omission we nurture a particular sexuality, then that sexuality may arise. Christian parents have a powerful aide at their side in the form of modelling – modelling a sound heterosexual relationship, ensuring that their children are fostered in a church that depicts other heterosexual relationships and honouring God by identifying how marriage is itself a model of what God has eternally established for the church.  Christian parents can also monitor and guide children’s external influences – internet browsing and television viewing.


Offending the majority for sake of the minority

I've included below the full text of a talk delivered in place of a sermon at an Anglican Diocese of Sydney church on September 4th 2016. Two areas are highlighted in green by way of creating discussion in a separate post.

I have sought that the talk be taken down from the church's website.  The talk is still available for download at time of posting this blog entry.

Note: the transcript has been generated by software.  It contains some errors of translation.  As I have absolutely no concern for a part of the talk - the part about same-gender sex I've removed that section.

Thank you and thank you for those readings for clarifying the reading that was read for the first reading was correct. The Genesis reference on the screen wasn't quite correct. I think those readings were what was what I was wanting. I think it is. It is indeed good to be here this morning and thank you.
Thank you for this opportunity to mention briefly the work of Liberty and then also to think with you about this topic. What have been asked to share with you about this morning is how the Bible helps us think about homosexuality and how it relates to marriage.  And I'd like to make a three introductory comments.
The first thing to say is that homosexuality and marriage for some of us we can't see any particular connection between those two things. For others of us perhaps those of us he had by experience same sex attraction those of us who identify as gay or lesbian we might say there's a particular connection between marriage and homosexuality particularly in the context of current discussions around gay marriage. So I want to acknowledge our right up front that these are potentially personal issues potentially difficult issues for some of us perhaps all of us to think about.
A second introductory comment. I don't personally experience same sex attraction so you might feel that I'm not really qualified to speak on this topic at all. I acknowledge that many LGBT people have experienced a lot of hurt and pain. Some of you may have experienced a lot of hurt and pain perhaps as a result of what Christians and churches have said. So as we think about this complex topic I'd like to thank you in advance for being gracious and forgiving towards me for any shortcomings in what I say. As I said it can be a personal and difficult topic.
Thirdly let me comment on the word homosexuality. From now on I'm not going to use the word homosexuality. For two reasons. Firstly many LGBT people find the term offensive and some of you might find the term offensive. Secondly, and my concern with the term is it's ambiguous, what are we referring to. Are we thinking primarily of a same sex orientation. Are we thinking primarily of same gender sex. Because a sexual orientation and acting on it are of course not necessarily the same thing. For example, I have the opposite sex orientation, I’m heterosexual, straight, however you want to describe it. And I was single until I was married at the age of about 30 full. Now for those years before I got married I've never had sex. But I certainly did have an opposite sex orientation during all those years. So having a particular sexual orientation and how I may or may not act on it of course are two quite different things. This despite the obvious isn't it. So I think it's helpful to ask two separate questions to clear and specific separate questions.
First question what does the Bible say about same sex attraction or same sex orientation.  That's the first question. The second question is What does the Bible say about same gender sex. Because that is a different question. 
And now I'd like to give another attempt and a bit of an answer that question asked at the beginning and then to come back to that now because I think it's relevant at this point. That question was. How does the Bible help us understand same sex attraction or same sex orientation. Some I’m not now asking what does the Bible say about same gender sex. I'm not I'm not thinking about that. That's not the question now I'm asking. 
How does the Bible help us understand same sex attraction, same sex orientation. How would you understand the reality of same sex attraction. For example you could ask various questions. Is it a spiritual reality?. 
Is it a spiritual thing? or is it a psychological reality?. Is it sinful in and of itself?. Some Christians seem to argue that same sex attraction in and of itself is sinful is it. Or is it neutral?. Is it neutral?. 
What is it?. How do I think about it?. Theologically, what category does it belong?. 
Well I think to help us understand God's view on same sex relationships or indeed same sex marriage we need to get this as right as we can. I don't have all the answers. Actually none of us do but we need to work hard at getting it as right as we can. I want to quote from a Christian who has same sex attraction who is committed to the traditional understanding of Scripture. Wesley Hill who as I said spoke at a conference last year written the book ‘Washed and Waiting’ which I strongly recommend to you. Want to pick out a few words that from throughout the book he uses different words to describe his same sex attraction how he uses different words as he thinks about his same sex attraction. And I'll tell you the words that he uses because are his words not mine. His half Wesley Hill describes his experience. 
He talks about his bent and broken sexuality. He talks about his burden. He talks about his thorn in my flesh. He talks about disordered desires. 
Well what category did those words belong in?. 
They're not sinful words are the words of spiritual sin reality they're their words of suffering or burden or hardship or difficulty and he is a very trivial ill's example to illustrate and let me emphasize is trivial. I'm going to use the example of short sightedness because I'm very short sighted and if I take my glasses off year old it's a lovely blue. Am I going to post some questions I don't know answer them. This illustration is helpful. Did I choose to be short sighted. 
Is short sightedness naturally occurring?. 
Did God intend us originally to be short sighted?. I don't think so. If I understand Scripture rightly do I need to be ashamed of being short sighted. Well of course not and I certainly didn't enjoy being called Four Eyes at school will I'd be short sighted in heaven. If I understand Scripture rightly No I won't. And what category does short sighted us belong and will immediately we can say it doesn't belong in a spiritual sin category it is just the wrong category isn't it. 
It belongs in a suffering suffering is so much suffering but it's a burden hardship category isn't it. I think you get asked the same questions and I think I would want to as a Christian say you need to give the same answers for same sex attraction. So let's ask the questions and I'll answer them again. 
Do you choose to have same sex attraction?. Well of course not. What a silly question!
Is same sex attraction naturally occurring?. Well of course it is.
Did God intend us originally to have same sex attraction?. If I understand Scripture rightly, No, I don't think so. Do you need to be ashamed of having same sex attraction.  Of course not. Why would you. Why should you. When you have same sex attraction in heaven. If I understand Scripture rightly, No. And again you see it doesn't belong in the same spiritual category as is just it's apples and oranges. Totally the wrong category. 
In Genesis chapter 1 it says God saw all that he'd made and it was very good. But in Genesis 3 humanity seems to take a picture of how we all seen every person who born into this world seems and Genesis 3 explains it because of a scene full of illness suffering. Pain brokenness introduced into God's good creation although of course the precise link between our scene and the pain and suffering in the world is not always obvious. I'm not saying it is. I'm not suggesting that shortsightedness and same sex attraction are equally significant issues of course they are not equally significant issues. But what I am suggesting is that same sex attraction and short and a range of other things we can think of are examples of. 
Fallenness in creation. Now this can be of course quite offensive. It can be quite offensive to suggest that someone's six the reality of sexuality for those of us with same sex attraction is an example of fullness in creation. 
Minitel you would have noticed. I've noticed that the Christians who come to liberty for support the Christians men with same sex attraction who come to liberty for support. Do you really have this view. I have a similar view to Wesley Hill. They are quite comfortable with his wife thinking about same sex attraction that it rings true it's affirmed by their own experience and by Scripture. 
Which is that why did I have to be guy. I wish I could have been straight. You know get married have kids everything would be simple. It doesn't make everything simple but I understand the thinking. I understand the thinking. 
You say this to be nothing offensive in observing that they can every one of us including me has things wrong with this if I can use that term things that are examples of fall and that's are things that will not be present when God restores all things. We all struggle with different problems. We all struggle with different scenes. We all struggle with different weaknesses or struggle for example with doubt in God's promises. ROMANS expresses the reality of living in a full and well that's why I had this is a longer rating because for me I ryme insight is the most important passage in the Bible in thinking about same sex attraction even though it isn't mentioned the time. Romans 8 and up to one of two verses verses 22 and 23. We know the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. The time is 23. Not on this side but we ourselves. And who's the we ourselves that is those who have the first fruits of the Spirit. And those who had the spirit. We who are saved who are converted who are regenerated and trusted in Christ and have his sins forgiven here. Names are written in the Lamb's Book of Life. We who have the Spirit was the next thing he says we write. 
We who have the first word to the spirit. Ron. Inwardly. 
And if you like me outwardly and I we groan why because we are waiting for the adoption to sonship the redemption of our bodies. We are looking forward to the renewal of our minds and bodies. We will be afflicted with anything any more. Anything like short sightedness or same sex attraction or we could think of a range of different things. 
So what category does same sex attraction belong in. Is it sinful. 
Well acting on this same sex attraction in a sexual way is seen. It certainly can lead to sin. But I cannot see for the life of me that same sex attraction is a spiritual reality in and of itself. Let me give you a definition. I've come up with if it's helpful good if it's annoying put it aside but it is the best I could come up with. For me a Christian understanding of same sex attraction is that it's a naturally occurring distortion in our human sexuality which in some way is one of many expressions of fallenness in creation. It's simply one of many ways in which things are not as they were originally meant to be and represents one of many things that will not be present when God renews all things. 
Speaking of which I want to finish by reading from Revelation to 21 we have full not Paul. John speaks of our future. Revelation 21 is wonderful. Then I saw a new heavens and a new earth for the first heavens and the first earth had passed away and there was no longer any sea. I saw the holy city the New Jerusalem coming down out of the heavens from God prepared as a broad beautifully dressed for her husband. You see there of course the imagery again of the marriage and I heard a loud voice from the throne saying look. God's dwelling place is now among the people and he will dwell with them. That will be these people and God himself will be with them and be they God. He will wipe every tear from the eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pine for the old order of things has passed away than the prior. 
Heavenly father we do thank you in date for that promise that one day the old order of things will have passed away and it will have resurrection mind and bodies free from sin and all suffering and be rejoicing in your presence with all of your redeemed people for ever. We think if a word which is perfect to complete and tells us everything we need to know for life and godliness we pray for those amongst us who are struggling with same sex attraction or who have same sex attracted family and friends. Help us to better understand these issues so that we do not compromise your truth but at the same time we show love and compassion and understanding. Help us to serve one another and I pray particularly for those of us here who are gay and lesbian Christians faithfully persevering. Help them to say that I have a unique gift and vacation to offer us a perspective that we don't share that we are all in fact ministering to one another and our practice in Jesus name Amen. 

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Having no lamb

"When the time came for the purification rites required by the Law of Moses, Joseph and Mary took him to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord (as it is written in the Law of the Lord, “Every firstborn male is to be consecrated to the Lord”),  and to offer a sacrifice in keeping with what is said in the Law of the Lord: “a pair of doves or two young pigeons” Luke 2:22-24 NIV

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I keep returning to these verses.

Mary sought to be made clean after the birth of Jesus.  Leviticus 12:8 presents the option of presenting before the priests with:

- a pair of doves, or two young pigeons, or,
- a lamb.

Leviticus 12:8 provides between the two options for those who can not afford a lamb.

The Son of God, Lord of the most high, light to the world, the one who would rise on high and be recognised unblemished as the Lamb, the one who would take his seat before God; was first bought to the temple with his mother seeking her cleanliness in poverty.  Pure humility.

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There is perhaps nothing more mesmerising in the whole of Luke's Gospel - that the Lamb of God came before the temple for the first time in the most humble of ways.  That Mary had no money for a lamb, yet she was nursing the Lamb!


Monday, November 7, 2016

Audaciousness in Christ

John 9, particularly verse 27, suggests that Christians need, at times, to allow audaciousness flavour their evangelism.  The world is so good at selling a story with zing - Christians need to step-up and have their own tricks.

Luther perhaps was modelling a form of audaciousness when he nailed his Ninety-five Theses to the door of All Saints' Church in Wittenberg on 31 October 1517.  Galileo  rose from his inquisitors, depicting his own audaciousness - {a continuation of the assertion that the earth moved} - saying, "e pur, si muove" -- "even so, it does move."

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"He answered, “I have told you already and you did not listen. 
Why do you want to hear it again? 
Do you want to become his disciples too?” John 9:27

Verse 27 is the fourth interchange in a dialogue.   Luke's record identified the dialogue as between the healed man and some Pharisees who are investigating the healing.  The healed man had earlier specified the answer to the Pharisees question.   In verse 27 the healed man - from irony or perhaps frustration - identifies his answer again.  He identifies the answer by reference only and with economy.  It seems that the healed man cares not to satisfy the ignorance of his counterparts.

The audaciousness of the answer in verse 27 comes from the delightful inclusion of the question in response "Do you want to become his disciples too?".  This is audacious in that the Pharisees have high esteem as religious leaders and they have yet to show any respect for the healer; Jesus.  The question in response would have been quite an affront to them.  Indeed, verse 28 follows with Luke's observation that the Pharisees hurled insults at the man.

The other contextual issue that reveals the healed man's audaciousness is that the dialogue he has with the Pharisees is very revealing.  As the man's conviction and confidence firms through the dialogue, the Pharisees' opposition increases.  So, as the Spirit stirs the healed man to boldness, the hardened hearts of the Pharisees becomes more evident.  The question "Do you want to become his disciples too?" is a direct reflection of the man's audaciousness.

Luke does not record how many Pharisees there were; however, it is fair to say that there is audaciousness in the aspect of one un-schooled man addressing many educated men.

So, in these verses is a challenge.  Christian evangelism does not need to have softness and gentleness all of the time.  Sometimes, it needs audaciousness.  At both times the Holy Spirit will guide you.


Note: all links good as at 4 November 2016

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Church playing games

“All of us have witnessed some pretty amazingly ridiculous interpretations of Scripture, undertaken by well-meaning folk who are not much used to disciplined reading of any texts. When biblical scholars engage in the same game, of course, our tools are much more sophisticated. But make no mistake: many of us really do continue to play the game.” 
The Trials of Biblical Interpretation – Don Carson

The church is playing the game that Carson speaks of.  It is playing the game in respect to homosexuality. 

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It is playing the game in disciplining itself – not, humbly, to the identity of Christ – but, pretentiously, to individuals who custom their identity on sexuality.  It is playing the game by splitting hairs as to the Bible’s whole canonical message of homosexuality.  The splitting – as if such a split was merited at all – is of bad homosexuality; promiscuity - from good homosexuality; celibate same sex attraction.  [And the church knows that tacitly it is supporting promiscuity if it first supports celibate same sex attraction].

The game playing church will one day tragedise the game so that bad homosexuality is not bad any more.  Indeed, the church, in parts, has already made that leap. 

“We’ve attained the game’s topmost prize”, they say, 
“come see our openly homosexual clergy”.  

It is an insidious game with Orwellian tones.  Just as the Ninety-Eighty-Four novel had identified catchphrases such as “War is Peace” and “Freedom is Slavery”, the game has catchphrases such as “to endure we must be more inclusive”.

It is a lazy game because it adopts a worldly air in recognising that homosexuals number in most congregant’s families (‘best not offend’).  It is a laconic game because it is resigned to the Australian Government’s broadening of the legal definition of marriage.  It is a cagey game as the church has had failed attempts at homosexual restorative therapies and other such practices (‘pray the gay away’).

It is a devolution game as the church is playing the hand of the cultural Marxists and/or the libertarians and/or the humanists – the church first having failed to educate congregants to the artifices of such worldly influences.

It is a treacherous game that only serves to make the church more like the world.  It is a game of despicable betrayal as the church snubs those that built up the church in favour of those who, once brought into the fold, will only aid the church in its demise.  It is the cheap grace as identified by Bonhoeffer – the church selling grace on the market “like cheapjack’s wares”.

It is a deplorable game as the church should stand and plea homosexuality be seen for what it is. 

And homosexuality; in all its forms, is sin.

"I thought of a rather cruel trick I once played on a wasp. He was sucking jam on my plate, and I cut him in half. He paid no attention, merely went on with his meal, while a tiny stream of jam tricked out of his oesophagus. Only when he tried to fly away did he grasp the dreadful thing that had happened to him. It is the same with modern man. The thing that has been cut away is his soul."
George Orwell


Note 1: This is intentionally written as "elder brother".  It is written as a foil to those with liberal views.  It is not intended to be pastoral.  We are caught between the truth and the relative truth - these are the times. Approach Christ with open palms, not clenched fists.

Note 2: All links good as at 18 October 2016

Note 3: Here is a wonderful link to a story of redemption. The beauty of this story is that the women's emergence from homosexuality came from in-depth absorption of the Bible. 

Response to Liberty Ministries, Inc website content

This response follows my attendance at a talk by a Liberty Ministries representative on Sunday 4th September 2016 at an Anglican Diocese of Sydney church.  It follows my absolute disgust of the talk and of a particular answer to a question I put to the speaker during a post-talk question and answer session.  My disgust was affirmed by a fellow congregant who muttered afterwards a shocked repetition of a single, simple response “he [the speaker] is wrong, it’s all wrong”.
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Prior to attending the talk – being a talk that was performed in place of sermon delivery of one of the church’s clergy – I had reviewed the Liberty website.  I approached the talk with the mind that the Rector himself should have been delivering the talk (on homosexuality) given pastoral needs amongst his flock.  Indeed, it was to my disappointment to learn that the Rector did deliver such a talk to at least one of the day's services (the disappointment resting in lack of comprehension of the preaching roster/thus lack of ability to act on the roster).
With an emphasis on extracting the same parts of Liberty’s website that first drew my attention in the week prior to the talk, I have offered my most pressing feedback first then treated a few other issues.  To be forthright, a Liberty associate made the offer to submit this feedback.
1. Pauline pastoral letter referencing
Do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor men who have sex with men nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers now swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God. ((1 Corinthians 6:9-11)

We believe the Bible condemns same-sex lust and same-sex sexual activity, but not same-sex orientation (e.g. Romans 1:24-27). In 1 Corinthians 6:10 two Greek words are translated by the expression ‘men who have sex with men’. These words refer to the passive and active participants in same-sex sexual acts. Nothing is said about people losing their same-sex attractions when they believed in Christ. The passage speaks about a change of identity—being washed clean from sin, consecrated to God, and established in a new relationship with God in Christ. It also indicates changes of behaviour—people abandoned patterns of life that alienated them from God.

Four issues arise with the text above.  I express no concern about the Bible verse, only its use:
i)              There is a logical fallacy - an argument of ignorance (sometimes also referred to as an argument of absence).  The fallacy is identified by the words “Nothing is said…”, that is, “Paul did not say…”.
The problem here is that Paul also did not say anything about, say, murderers or pedophiliacs or those that practice bestiality.
My immediate reaction on seeing this is that Liberty are clutching at straws.  Paul did not mention persons with same-sex attraction (celibate) …. so …. don’t imply anything by Paul’s absence.  At the other end of the response spectrum, while using the logic that seems evident, I can use Liberty’s argument to advocate that, say, murderers need not stop murdering when they believe in Christ.
ii)              Paul’s text is used with the wrong emphasis.  The verses 1 Corinthians 6:9-11 are rich and beautiful.  They speak of the very fundamental nature of Christ’s mission.  The verses are creedal.  They are identifiable to God’s covenant promise to provide for all people through his son.  Words like “washed”, “sanctified” and “justified” make these verses worthy of a series of sermons.
In this way I cannot accept that Liberty choose to hone in on a list that Paul has used to illustrate sin “sexual immoral, nor idolaters….” and then argue from that list. 
The point here is that the list is not what gives us the fullness of meaning of the verses.  While I am reluctant to paraphrase, Paul is saying: “You were lost in sin once [here by-the-way is an incomplete list offering some examples], but now you are saved through Christ”. That is the essence – perhaps the sole essence - of how the verses should be used.
iii)           Paul is writing pastorally to a specific church.  Liberty have not taken into account that Paul’s letter was written to a specific church with specific observable characteristics.  We cannot assume that same-sex attraction (celibate) was evident in that church.  We certainly cannot assume that the modern day phenomenon of implying an identity tied to sexual persuasion was a feature in Corinth.
iv)          While Paul does not list same-sex attraction (celibate) he does list sexual immorality and idolaters.  It is plausible that persons experiencing same-sex attraction (celibate) are sexual immoral – through their lusts, or idolaters – through their craving after that which they can not have in God’s order.  A thorough study of Matthew 5:27-30 illuminate these notions.  Bonhoeffer in “The Cost of Discipleship” has a chapter dedicated to this.
2. Internal contradiction?
Just prior to the text covered above in “1. Pauline pastoral letter referencing” Liberty have this text:
“We believe that ‘all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God’ and all may be ‘justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus’ (Romans 3:23-24). This includes those who have engaged in same-sex sexual activity”. 

Allow me my own venture into logical fallacy – my own argument from absence. 
The expression “This includes those who have engaged in same-sex sexual activity” appears to be a setup for the text that follows.  What follows is a process of splitting hairs in that there is separately reference to “same-sex lust” & “same-sex sexual activity” – both identified as bad – and “same-sex orientation” – identified as good.  What is same-sex orientation if it is not same-sex attraction? And, how is attraction discernible from lust?.  It was in answering my question in the post-talk question and answer session that the Liberty speaker confirmed that to be attracted is to lust.
The problem is that the phrase “This includes those who have engaged in same-sex sexual activity” seemingly seeks to preclude some element of same-sex activity.  Liberty could instead use the phrase “This includes those who are homosexual”.
3. Playing it straight
The following statement includes reference to how Liberty does “not believe that it has yet been established that people are born gay”.  The statement continues to identify that there are “many contributing factors with same-sex attraction”.   In this way, I believe that the statement is consistent with views of others that same-sex attraction arises from some combination of nature and nurture - Patricia Weerakoon, for instance, who had previously spoken at the same church.

Liberty does not necessarily share the same philosophies, interpretations of Scripture, and methodologies as other ministries.  We want to make it clear that we:
·       do not tolerate homophobia or anti-gay vilification, although we affirm the scriptural teaching on sexuality;
·       do not advocate attempts at sexual orientation change.  Our goal is to help people live holy lives in God’s sight, as laid out in Scripture (1 Thessalonians 4:1-8);
·       do not suggest that Liberty or the support that it provides will result in people being healed of their same-sex attractions.  Ultimate healing and wholeness is found only in Jesus Christ when we meet Him face to face (1 John 3:2-3);
·       do not believe that same-sex attractions can be ‘cured’ or ‘fixed’.  Like all temptations that Christians struggle with, these issues need to be submitted to God in prayer, and we need support from a loving Christian community to persevere in trust and obedience;
·       do not offer professional counselling.  Liberty is a support ministry and we recommend people seek professional help where appropriate;
·       do not evangelise the gay community or engage in political lobbying;
·       do not believe that it has yet been established that people are born gay.  However, we live in a world of complexity and mystery, and there are doubtless many contributing factors with same-sex attraction, some of which science may yet be able to uncover.

The Liberty speaker did not identify that there were many contributing factors with same-sex attraction”.  Indeed, it is fair to say that many left the room believing that the speaker’s position was solely of nature.  The speaker specifically used an expression – multiple times – “born that way”. 
Critical here is that the speaker’s message was structured to turn on “born that way”.  The early part of the talk treated promiscuous homosexuality and dismissed it solidly as something that the Bible did not support.  Yet, “born that way” was then used to support the separation of promiscuous homosexuality (which for brevity I’ll label as bad homosexuality) and celibate same-sex attraction (which for brevity I will label good homosexuality).  Conservative Biblical scholars – Don Carson amongst them – do not support any separation of homosexuality.  That which the speaker sought to divide between good homosexuality and bad homosexuality is just simply homosexuality.
I am left doubting that Liberty personnel are all aligned around the belief shared on their website.  The speaker left me understanding that “people are born gay” yet the website posits that there is no such a comprehension.

In accepting the invite to offer feedback on the Liberty website content I also accepted the prospect to meet with Liberty personnel.  I hope that this feedback is fruitful and that it may inform any further discussion.



Note: all links good at 1 November 2016

Note: I feel that the church is playing games with homosexuality.  This linked post develops this idea. 

Note: After the Liberty experience I learnt of Mascord.  It seems that the pewsitter to a Sydney Anglican church needs to be quite discerning these days!