Category Archives: Reformed Worldview

Jesus Said Nothing About Homosexuality?

Some claiming to be Christians assert there’s nothing wrong with homosexual lusts or behaviours.  Sometimes such “Christians” identify themselves as “progressive Christians.” At other times they refer to themselves as “sex-positive Christians.”  In a previous post, I addressed one of their arguments, namely that the Bible never spoke about homosexuality until 1946.  In this post, I’ll tackle a different one:  Jesus said nothing about homosexuality.

There are two ways to disprove this claim.  One is to consider how this claim has a far too narrow understanding of how Jesus speaks.  Simply by virtue of his divinity, the entire Bible is the word of Christ.  Because of his deity, Jesus Christ stands behind everything written in the 66 books of the Bible, including what the Old Testament and the New Testament both teach about homosexuality.  If Jesus is God, and if the entire Bible is the Word of God, then the entire Bible is also the word of Jesus.  So, when Romans 1:26-27 speaks of homosexuality in terms of “dishonourable passions” and relations “contrary to nature,” that is Christ speaking.  When 1 Timothy 1:10 includes “men who practice homosexuality” among those who are “ungodly and sinners,” that is our Lord Jesus speaking too.

The other way to disprove this claim is to actually look at the spoken words of Jesus as he carried out his ministry on this earth.  In other words, let’s look at the spoken words of Jesus in the Synoptic Gospels and John.  We can readily grant that Jesus never used the word “homosexuality” in his teaching.  We can also readily grant that he never directly spoke of homosexual lusts or relations.  This can be explained quite easily from his context.  Jesus was ministering primarily in a Jewish context where it was a given that homosexuality was out of accord with God’s will – after all, the Torah was clear in Leviticus 18 and 20.  Analogously, I’m quite sure that if you were to jump in a time machine and travel back to listen to Reformed preachers in the nineteenth century, there would likewise be very few mentions of homosexuality because of the broader cultural consensus on it.  There wasn’t a pressing need to address it.

Jesus did indirectly address homosexuality, however.  Amongst the Jews of his day, Sodom and Gomorrah were renowned for their sexual immorality.  The nature of that infamous immorality is described in Jude 7 as the pursuit of “unnatural desire.”  This type of desire and behaviour was regarded as repugnant.  So, when a teacher like Jesus invoked the names of Sodom and Gomorrah, he was calling up that reaction in his listeners.  Jesus does exactly that in Matthew 10:15.  He’s speaking there about any Jewish town which refuses to welcome the preachers of the kingdom of heaven.  He says, “Truly, I say to you, it will be more bearable on the day of judgment for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah than for that town.”  This is a remarkable statement.  For the Jews then, and for God’s covenant people today, Jesus was saying there is a sin worse than homosexual lusts and behaviours:  rejecting the preaching of the gospel.  Covenant unbelief is more abominable than homosexuality!  However, don’t miss the fact that the surprising nature of this teaching is based on an acceptance of what the Old Testament teaches about homosexuality:  it is an abomination.

We could also refer to what Jesus teaches about marriage and divorce in Matthew 19.  The Pharisees asked him whether divorce was lawful for any cause.  Before he answered, he affirmed what the Old Testament taught about the institution of marriage:  “Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh” (Mt. 19:5).  Jesus here affirmed that God designed marriage as a relationship between one man and one woman.  He affirmed heterosexual marriage as the only context in which sexual intimacy (“shall become one flesh”) ought to exist – consistent with the teaching of his Word elsewhere.

Imagine if someone were to argue, “Jesus said nothing about incest, therefore incest should be acceptable for Christians.”  Or imagine, “Jesus said nothing about pedophilia, therefore pedophilia should be acceptable.”  We could go down the list of all kinds of moral issues where Jesus “said nothing” and end up approving of everything and anything.

To claim that “Jesus said nothing about homosexuality” is just not honest to the facts of the Bible.  I’d therefore propose a new name for “progressive Christians.”  Let’s call them what they are:  “wishful thinkers.”  They just wish the Bible would support their easy-going acceptance of what the world holds about sexuality.  Then they create for themselves their own personal Jesus who will approve of their worldliness.  It’s just as Christ told us in his Word:

But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false prophets among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction.  And many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of truth will be blasphemed.  (2 Peter 2:1-2).        


The Domino Theory

A few weeks ago I visited the new Western Australia museum in Perth.  One of the exhibits was about Australia’s involvement in the Vietnam War.  There was a section explaining the Domino Theory.  The display had large, physical dominoes which visitors were invited to knock over to see the idea in action.  Every time someone would knock over the dominoes it’d make a loud noise reverberating through the gallery.  There was no quiet way to knock over those dominoes.

The idea of “the Domino Theory” was that if South Vietnam fell to the Communists from the North, soon communism would spread unchecked throughout other countries in Southeast Asia.  South Vietnam would be the first domino to fall and then it would knock down all the other dominoes in turn.  It appears that the Domino Theory was wrong, because South Vietnam did fall in 1975, but communism didn’t spread to every other country in the region.  The display in the WA Museum made the point with a question:  “Did the Domino Theory prove to be correct?”  The real point being, of course, that Western countries like the US and Australia went to war on a flimsy pretext.      

That’s just bad history.  We don’t know what would have happened if there’d been no Western involvement in Vietnam.  We do know that communism is a missionary cause – it’s inherently expansionistic, it wants to grow and spread.  Perhaps the lengthy involvement of the US and Australia and other countries actually prevented the domino effect, even if they didn’t stop the North Vietnamese.  Lee Kuan Yew, Singapore’s first Prime Minister, had another plausible explanation.  He argued that Western intervention gave time for other Southeast Asian countries “to consolidate and engage in economic growth.”  Such growth was inhospitable to communism.  The Domino Theory may have been at least partly a valid reason for war after all.

For several decades, we’ve been in a different type of war.  This war also involves dominoes.  This war involves a cause that’s inherently expansionistic.  It’s a war for hearts and minds, but it has far wider consequences.  It’s the Sexual Revolution, especially as it pertains to Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity (SOGI) issues.

The strategy of the SOGI “warriors” has been incremental.  They’ve patiently taken one slow step at a time.  The dominoes haven’t fallen in rapid succession, but in slow motion. 

In about 1995, I remember attending a town-hall meeting in Edmonton, Alberta with our MP, David Kilgour.  Kilgour, a member of the ruling Liberal Party, professed to be a Christian.  This town-hall meeting was to discuss proposed federal legislation which would grant benefits to the partners of government employees in same-sex relationships.  The building was packed for this meeting.  Many people spoke, most of whom were opposed to the legislation.  Some raised the possibility that this was a step towards formal government recognition of same-sex relationships, and maybe even same-sex marriage.  At the end of the evening, Kilgour spoke to the crowd.  He said that he appreciated hearing everyone’s concerns, then he added an assurance that this wasn’t going to lead to further developments.  He was wrong.  I knew he was wrong. 

How did I know that?  Because the SOGI warriors told me.  Their goal was never simply indifference.  That was just the first step.  Their goal was never simply toleration.  That was the next domino to fall.  The SOGI warriors’ goal was never even simply acceptance.  Their stated goal from the beginning of the Sexual Revolution has always been universal affirmation and celebration.  Every knee must bow to the Revolution. 

Today we’re in the last stage of this war.  In most of the culture around us, the last domino has already fallen.  Woe to the city hall that doesn’t fly a rainbow flag during Pride Week.  Woe to the politicians who refuse to march in Pride Parades.  Affirmation and celebration are now virtually mandatory.  It’s like a replay of the scene in Daniel 3 with Nebuchadnezzar’s golden image.  When the music played, everyone was required to bow in reverent worship. There’d be fiery consequences for those who didn’t. 

Just like Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, Bible-believing Christians today are the holdouts.  Sadly, many so-called Christians have bowed the knee in affirmation and celebration.  They’ve fallen.  But true Christians haven’t and never will.  We can’t, no matter what they threaten us with.  Our ultimate commitment is to the true God.  This true God promises that his people will not fall like so many dominoes:  “To him who is able to keep you from falling and to present you before his glorious presence without fault and with great joy…” (Jude 24).  In the meantime, our calling is to hold the line and fight with the only weapon we have:  the Word of God.  Against this expansionistic missionary movement, we need to keep on sharing the real gospel of Jesus which can truly change lives, and ultimately even cultures.


That Other Preacher, That Other Religion

He was so passionate, so intense.  He had a conspicuous religious fervour.  The man was on fire; he was preaching.  His pulpit was a small lectern in Tasmania’s Legislative Council.  The topic of his sermon was his “End-of-Life Choices Bill.”

Last week as I watched Mike Gaffney present his bill, at first it merely seemed to me that he was preaching.  But reflecting on it further, I came to realize he was a genuine master of the homiletical arts.   And Gaffney was using his homiletical gifts in service of his religion.

Tasmania (our home for the last 5 years) has held the line when it comes to state-sanctioned suicide.  Australia’s smallest state has faced several attempts to introduce legislation which would allow it, but so far each time those efforts have been in vain.  There’s great concern that this time will be different.  There definitely seems to be a strong degree of public support for it.

Reading or hearing those expressions of support, you often come across the idea that opposition to state-sanctioned suicide comes from religious people, whereas non-religious people (like Mike Gaffney) support it.  It gets framed as a religion versus no-religion debate, often with a few “separation of church and state” sentiments sprinkled on.  But is that really what’s happening here?

It’s all going to depend on how you understand “religion.”  If you understand “religion” to refer to belonging to an organized church (or synagogue, mosque, temple, etc.), the debate could be framed in these terms.  Specifically, most opponents of state-sanctioned suicide belong to Christian churches, whereas many supporters don’t.

However, most dictionaries will tell you that “religion” has a broader frame of reference.  For example, it can refer to sincerely held beliefs about what’s ultimate in life.  From a Christian perspective, whatever is ultimate in your life functions as a god, even if you don’t refer to it as a deity.  If it’s ultimate and functions like a god in your life, then regardless of what you call it, it’s a god to you.  And you’re a religious person.

He’d probably disagree with me, but Mike Gaffney is a religious person.  He’s devout in his commitment to an ultimate belief.  His ultimate belief appears to be personal autonomy.  It’s the right to individual self-determination.  Nothing is above that.  This is the root religious belief driving so many cultural trends:  transgenderism/LGBTQ, abortion, and state-sanctioned suicide.  This belief says that the individual is ultimate – the individual is essentially an autonomous god.  So if “god” says he is now a she, no one may question “god.”  If “god” chooses death for the child in the womb, no one may question “god.”  When “god” says that life is too much and “god” wants to “die with dignity,” then no one should question what “god” says.  Gods are always ultimate in authority and power.

It’s no wonder then that, given a pulpit, devotees of this religion can be such powerful, passionate preachers.  They’re on fire for their religion and will do everything in their power to spread it.  I was going to write “evangelize,” but that would give the impression that this religion of individual autonomy has good news on offer.  It doesn’t.  There’s no good news in a religion promoting death.  Christians have a religion of life – a gospel which proclaims a Saviour who is the resurrection and the life. We have a gospel which leads us to protect and honour life.  So why aren’t we just as, if not more, zealous than Mike Gaffney?


Homosexuality, the Bible, 1946 and all that

I’m just going to say it, no holds barred:  one of the shallowest objections to traditional Christian sexual ethics is that “the Bible didn’t even use the word ‘homosexuality’ until 1946.”  I’m gobsmacked that people actually get taken in by this special sort of tomfoolery.  I know a lot has been written on this canard already, but it can only aid the cause of truth to get one more voice sharing the facts.

Here’s the thing:  it doesn’t matter that the Bible didn’t use the word ‘homosexuality’ until 1946.  The point is completely irrelevant.  Let me illustrate with other phenomena.  Consider:

No Bible translation has ever used the word ‘evolution.’  Does it follow that the Bible has nothing to say about Darwinian macro-evolution?

No Bible translation has ever used the word ‘transgender.’  Does it follow that the Bible has nothing to say about the transgender ideology?

No Bible translation has ever used the word ‘racism.’  Does it follow that the Bible has nothing to say about that?

Christians understand that the Bible’s relevance is not bound up with the use of an exact word.  It would be juvenile to take a word designating a topic (any topic), check an online concordance and, failing to find the word mentioned, conclude that the Bible has nothing to say on that topic.  The classic example is the Trinity.  Imagine someone checking a concordance for any mention of the word ‘Trinity’ in the Bible and, not finding it there, concluding that the doctrine of the Trinity is not in the Bible.  No, the word isn’t there, but the concept or doctrine certainly is.  Christians realize that, to do the Bible justice, we have to take the totality of its witness — that goes far beyond the usage of individual words.

Language is always in flux.  During our family worship, we take turns reading from the Bible.  My wife and kids read from the ESV while I read from the KJV.  I’m always surprised at how words change over the centuries.  For example, the KJV uses the word ‘corn’ in several places.  When we think of ‘corn,’ we think of the crop developed from maize.  It’s a New World crop — it didn’t grow in Israel in biblical times.  However, the KJV simply used the word ‘corn’ to describe any type of grain.  The English language has changed and Bible translations change with it.  Today there’s no corn in modern English translations.

While language changes, biblical truth does not.  Bible-believing Christians didn’t suddenly start seeing homosexuality as a problem in 1946.  Nor did Bible-believing Christians wake up one morning in 1946 and decide that they needed to have a Bible translation that supported their views.  History matters and history testifies that Bible-believing Christians have consistently maintained that homosexuality is contrary to God’s will for humanity.  Let me give two examples to illustrate.

The Heidelberg Catechism was written in 1563 for the teaching of children in the German-speaking region known as the Palatinate.  Lord’s Day 41 deals with the seventh commandment, “You shall not commit adultery.”  Someone might read Lord’s Day 41 and note that it makes no mention of homosexuality.  But you shouldn’t conclude that Reformed churches therefore have no problem with homosexuality.  Answer 109 says that God “forbids all unchaste acts.”  One of the biblical proof-texts is 1 Corinthians 6:18-20, a passage which has traditionally been understood to refer, in part, to homosexual behaviour.  Zacharias Ursinus was the main author of the Catechism and he wrote a commentary on it — actually lectures to his seminary students.  While the Catechism addressed to children understandably avoids this subject, his commentary definitely discusses homosexuality.  He speaks of it as being “contrary to nature.”  Homosexuality, according to Ursinus, is a heinous sin and an abominable transgression.  True, he doesn’t use the word ‘homosexuality’ — he couldn’t because it didn’t exist yet!  Nevertheless, the concept is there.

You can see the exact same thing in John Calvin’s commentary on Romans 1:26-27.  Again, Calvin doesn’t use the word ‘homosexual’ and neither should you expect him to.   Yet he still speaks of “the dreadful crime of unnatural lust” and of a “filthiness which even brute beasts abhor.”  Calvin found what we call ‘homosexuality’ to be contrary to God’s will, even though he didn’t use the word itself.  Were he alive today, he would no doubt find it ludicrous that some would argue that the Bible has anything other than condemnation for such things.

What Christians need to learn today is another important word:  revisionism.  In an effort to make homosexuality acceptable to Christians, progressive sorts are constantly trying to revise our theology and history.  This revisionism ought to be self-evidently anti-biblical.  In other words, it isn’t true to the Scriptures.  However, it can appeal to those who, for whatever reason, wish for a happy union between Christianity and homosexuality.  It appeals to those who think:  “Wouldn’t it be nice if our Christianity wasn’t so counter-cultural?”  Yet:  let no one join together what God has put asunder.


Book Review: The Gathering Storm

The Gathering Storm: Secularism, Culture, and the Church, R. Albert Mohler Jr..  Nashville: Nelson Books, 2020.  Hardcover, 223 pages.

Albert Mohler has a well-deserved reputation as one of Christianity’s best culture critics.  He has a daily radio program (The Briefing) with thoughtful worldview analysis.  His blog (AlbertMohler.com) is on my must-read list.  When Mohler speaks or writes on a topic, you can be sure of two things:  1) he’ll be starting with the Bible as his foundation and 2) he’ll be aiming for the glory of God through the advance of the gospel.

He does it in this book on our contemporary cultural challenges too.  Here he’s addressing the overarching problem of secularism.  At the outset, I should say he’s writing as an American for an American audience.  I read it as an ex-pat Canadian living in Australia.  Some of the material in the book may seem irrelevant to people like me — the Appendix, for example, deals with the American Supreme Court and the role it plays in political decision-making.  You may have to stop and think about how that transfers to the Canadian or Australian situation (I think it does).  That said, Mohler does pay attention to developments elsewhere in the world.  He writes about situations in British Columbia, Alberta, France, and elsewhere.

The book contains both description and analysis.  If anyone has been paying attention, a lot of the descriptive material is going to be familiar.  He describes how secularism is a threatening storm in regard to civilization, the church, human life, marriage, family, and gender/sexuality.  Mohler’s analysis of these trends is where I found the real value for money in this book.

Let me share a few points of appreciation that might whet your appetite.

Already in the Introduction, Mohler explains that secular doesn’t mean “irreligious” or “non-religious.”  It means “that Christianity, which forged the moral and spiritual worldview of Western civilization, is being displaced.”  In the first chapter, he elaborates:

Secular, in terms of contemporary sociological and intellectual conversation, refers to the absence of any binding theistic authority or belief.  It is both an ideology, which is known as secularism, and a consequence, which is known as secularization.  The latter is not an ideology; it is a concept and a sociological process whereby societies become less theistic, and in our context that means less Christian in general outlook. (pp.4-5)

Elsewhere in the book he illustrates how secularism and secularization have religious and theological values.

The second chapter is entitled “The Gathering Storm in the Church.”  Mohler notes how the prophets of theological liberalism predicted that churches would need to adapt to the culture in order to survive.  He quotes a Baptist minister and lawyer, Oliver Thomas:  “Churches will continue hemorrhaging members until we face the truth:  being a faithful Christian does not mean accepting everything the Bible teaches” (p.30).  However, the truth is quite the opposite:  “it was actually liberal theology that lead to the evacuation of these churches” (p.19).  Mohler doesn’t discuss this, but I’d note that we heard the same canard from the Reformed Churches in the Netherlands about women in office.  Some from the RCN argued that the church can’t survive and grow while restricting the special offices of the church to men.  I wonder how that’s going for them.  If you look at the Christian Reformed Church in North America, after their decision to allow women in office in 1992, they’ve been on a steady downward trend in membership.  Adapting to the culture is not a recipe for growth.

That same chapter also issues a cry for the need for creeds and confessions.  Says Mohler, “Churches and denominations that have no confession of faith, or have a confession in name only, disarm themselves doctrinally” (p.36).  Quite right!  Historic Christian confessions which faithfully summarize the Bible are indispensable for keeping our doctrinal heads screwed on straight as the storm of secularism starts blowing in.

The chapter on gender and sexuality discusses the infamous Revoice Conference of 2018.  This conference was held to support, encourage and empower “gay, lesbian, same sex-attracted, and other LGBT Christians so they can flourish while observing the historic Christian doctrine of marriage and sexuality.”  This illustrates “the revolution’s demand on the church of Jesus Christ.”  One thing Mohler doesn’t mention is the fact that this conference was hosted by a congregation of the Presbyterian Church in America.  In fact, the epicentre of the Revoice controversy has been in the PCA and how the church and its courts respond to it.

One of the troubling things about the Revoice Conference was the idea that a Christian can identify himself/herself in terms of being gay or lesbian, etc.  In other words, you can be a “gay Christian.”  Mohler dissents.  The most significant problem “is the idea that any believer can claim identity with a pattern of sexual attraction that is itself sinful” (p.108).  Some associated with Revoice argue that the attraction itself is not sinful.  Mohler’s response to this is worth a careful read:

The issues here are bigger than sexuality.  As Denny Burk and Rosaria Butterfield rightly explain, we confront here a basic evangelical disagreement with Roman Catholicism.  Ever since the Council of Trent (1545-1563), the Roman Catholic Church has insisted that involuntary incentive to sin is not itself sin.  In the most amazing sentence, the Council of Trent declared: “This concupiscence, which the apostle sometimes calls sin, the holy Synod declares that the Catholic Church has never understood it to be called sin.”  Don’t miss the acknowledgement that the doctrine of Trent is contrary to the language of the apostle.  (p.109)

That was new to me; both the connection to Roman Catholicism, and how explicitly the Council of Trent repudiated biblical teaching on this point.

Finally, Mohler has a great chapter on the challenges facing our young people.  Again, the description is good, but the analysis is better.  But best of all is the way Mohler lays out a way to “apply the gospel power in order to engage the storm gathering over the coming generations.”  He argues that Christian parents have to lay hold of three things:

  1. Because it’s where the gospel is preached, church has to be the utmost and highest priority for Christian families.
  2. Christian parents need to both understand the challenge of technology, screen time, and social media and rise to meet that challenge.
  3. Christian parents have to disciple their children through family worship and quality family time.  (pp.140-141)

If I could add one item to this list:  recognizing the need for and value of Christian education.  After all, public education is one of the primary ways secularism seeks to indoctrinate our children.

I first became aware of The Gathering Storm through its promotion online through Mohler’s blog and other sources.  However, what really led me to buy it and read it was a friend and colleague from Canada who was doing a course for Christian school teachers on the biblical worldview and contemporary challenges to it.  I’d say that it is a must-read for Christian educators.  But no less so for parents and far more so for office bearers in Christ’s church.  I do wonder whether the storm is still gathering or whether it is upon us.  Whatever the case may be, none of us can be doing the ostrich thing.  We need to see what’s going on and then also realize that if we’re truly Christians, we have the solid foundation under our feet to weather it — and even see the gospel advance despite it.