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homosexuality

September 15, 2008

So Ray Boltz, a once-prominent figure in the world of Christian Contemporary Music, is gay. He came out to his family—he is the father of four grown children—in December of 2004 but only recently has the news trickled beyond that inner circle. Just a few days ago his story was featured in an article in the Washington Blade, “the Gay and Lesbian News Source of Record” in D.C. and it provides a rough time line of the recent years of his life. In 2004 he retired from singing and touring, in 2005 he separated from his wife and moved to Ft. Lauderdale to start a new life, and this year his divorce was finalized. He is now living what he describes as a “normal gay life.”

The news was not of too much interest to me on a personal level—I don’t know Boltz, do not own any of his albums and am not familiar with even his most popular songs (which seem to be “Thank You,” “Watch the Lamb,” “The Anchor Holds” and “I Pledge Allegiance to the Lamb.”). I know a little bit about him because of my many years of listening to Christian music but to me he is little more than just another face in a crowd. So it’s not like this news involves a man whose ministry I’ve known and loved. What fascinates me about this story is its worldview implications.

There are essentially two ways that humans can understand the world. The first way is the way we all understand the world until the Holy Spirit intervenes in our lives and gives us new eyes to see. This worldview is I-centered. I am the center of my own universe and the arbiter of all truth. I may not vocalize things in just this way and may not even think them quite like this, but it is ultimately what I believe. I believe that I am capable of looking at the world and understanding the way it works—who God is, who I am, the relationship between us, and so on.

The other way of seeing the world is God-centered. Here I acknowledge God as the center of all that exists and the arbiter of all truth. Everything that is true and everything that is knowable has its source in Him. Thus I can only interpret the world properly by rightly acknowledging God. This is, obviously, the biblical worldview. It is God who tells me who He is, God who tells me who I am and God who declares the terms of the relationship between us.

The first worldview allows me to acknowledge as truth only what I want to believe about myself; the second worldview requires me to acknowledge as truth what God says about me. The first worldview has to have as its premise that I am ultimately good while the second has as its premise that God is ultimately good. In the first view I sin against myself while in the second I sin against God. The contrasts could hardly be more pronounced.

Reading this story in the Blade provided an interesting perspective on worldview. Here is what Boltz said about the freedom he has found in declaring and accepting his homosexuality. “I didn’t have to be who I was in the past. I didn’t have to fit somebody else’s viewpoint of what they thought I was. I could just be myself and I met a lot of wonderful people.” He said also, “If this is the way God made me, then this is the way I’m going to live. It’s not like God made me this way and he’ll send me to hell if I am who he created me to be … I really feel closer to God because I no longer hate myself.”

He states with startling clarity that he rejects God’s assessment of who he is. No longer did He need to fit his worldview into anyone else’s—he was free to accept his own self-assessment. God’s assessment is that Boltz, like me, is a sinful man and one who is tempted and tormented by sin. He is a man who is corrupted by sin and so deeply corrupted that without God’s intervention he will more and more resemble the sin that inhabits him. And one sin that Boltz long wrestled with is the sin of homosexuality. This may well be a kind of besetting sin—a sin that has plagued him since his youth and one that has never lessened its pull on him. Each of us has sins we are more prone to than others and I know there are many Christians who fight lifelong struggles with sexual orientation. But I also know that God can give grace to overcome even that sin. A God-centered worldview would tell Boltz that, though he may be somehow inclined to homosexuality, this tendency is a result of sin and it is a tendency that God utterly rejects. A God-centered worldview would tell him that God assesses his sin and calls him to repentance. God does not condone his homosexuality any more than God condones any other sin.

Sadly, Boltz has an I-centered worldview. He declares without apology that he is gay and, digging a knife into God’s back, says that it is God who has made him this way. He rejects God’s assessment and instead assesses himself by his own standards and declares that he is good. He piles sin upon sin, accepting his homosexuality as good, rejecting God’s declaration that it is sin, divorcing his wife, living that homosexual lifestyle.

The lesson to me in all of this is the importance—the life and death importance—of seeing the world not through my eyes but through God’s. God has given us the Bible which allows us, like a pair of glasses that somehow illumines blind eyes, to see the world as He sees it. Through the Bible I find that I am not good but am instead utterly depraved. Incredibly and humiliatingly, I find that I have no ability to properly see and understand reality without Him. I find my desperate dependence upon Him to comprehend what may seem so plain and so obvious. I find that I need Him to interpret reality for me because, without Him, I’ll get it wrong every time. I need God to teach me to see myself.

March 17, 2008

In the book Sex and the Supremacy of Christ, Al Mohler has written a chapter entitled “Homosexual Marriage as a Challenge to the Church: Biblical and Cultural Reflections.” He provides seven useful principles that can serve as a framework for a Christian response to the issue of homosexual marriage. They are:

  1. We, as Christians, must be the people who cannot start a conversation about homosexual marriage by talking about homosexual marriage.
  2. We must be the people who cannot ever talk about sex without talking about marriage.
  3. We must be the people who cannot talk about anything of significance without acknowledging our absolute dependence on God’s revelation - the Bible.
  4. We must be the people with a theology adequate to explain the deadly deception of sexual sin.
  5. We must be the people with a theology adequate to explain Christ’s victory over sin.
  6. We must be the people who love homosexuals more than homosexuals love homosexuality.
  7. We must be the people who tell the truth about homosexual marriage, and thus refuse to accept even its possibility because we love and seek the glory of God for all.

As part of his third point, Mohler writes about the “yuck factor” that exists in the minds of many Christians and serves as their attempt to deal with homosexuality. Yuck factor is a term that I believe was first coined by C. Gerald Fraser in the early 80’s. It refers to “A revulsion or discomfort that influences a person’s attitude toward a thing or idea.” In other words, and to use Mohler’s definition, “it is an attitude of disgust that lacks any serious moral argument” (page 116).

I am convinced that the “yuck factor” towards homosexuality comes quite naturally to men (and boys). I think all men can remember their school days and think back of times when we expressed disgust at homosexuality. The very thought of what homosexuals do and celebrate brings boys to express the worst insults by implying these acts. It is possible that this shows some cultural conditioning, but I believe boys react naturally at the thought of men doing together what God designed for only man and woman to share (just as we feel natural revulsion to something as unnatural as death). After all, the union of man to woman is part of the perfect Creation ordinance and one that God has surely written on our hearts. Paul tells us as much in Romans 1.

Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles.

Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.

For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error.

God will give people up to passions that are in no way natural. What a warning this is to us.

Back in the days before I began my own company and started working from home, I worked at an office (with other people). I became friends with Scott, a practicing homosexual. He was known around the office as “Scott the Fag,” a moniker he used of himself. His story was probably quite typical. He had grown up in a weak church, came from a broken family, and up until university had chased (and often caught) girls. But during college he began to be attracted to men and soon became a practicing homosexual. He marched down the streets of Toronto on Gay Pride Day and brought boyfriends to office parties. He was proud of his lifestyle.

I would often talk to him and ask him pointed questions about his lifestyle. I asked if it was true that homosexual relationships bred abuse, and he felt that was true. I asked if it was realistic that the average homosexual man had twenty or thirty or even more sexual partners in a year, and he felt that if anything those numbers might be a little low. He told me about practicing a lisp and teaching himself how to walk like a woman in front of a mirror in his room. He was quite willing to admit to me that there was nothing inherently natural about the homosexual lifestyle. He knew this, but as humans are prone to do, justified his behavior as freedom of choice. At times I cannot deny that I felt some of the “yuck factor” towards him. When he and his boyfriend took to the dance floor, swirling across the floor, cheek-to-cheek during the ballads, it was more than a little difficult to feel normal about it. When he boasted about the fun he had during Pride Week, I had to walk away (though I walked away from many co-workers talking about their heterosexual exploits as well).

I found, as has Mohler, that while the “yuck factor” may be instructive, it cannot be trusted as a moral argument. Though we should not simply ignore our immediate reactions, we also cannot place too much emphasis on them. We must note that “human beings have demonstrated time and again that we can overcome any amount of disgust if we are determined to rationalize behavior.” We are masters of rationalization, able to turn anything to our advantage. I’m sure that as a child Scott found homosexuals just as yucky as the average boy. But as he gave himself over to sin, and even more so as God gave him over to sin, he began to rationalize it all away. We should also note that before the believer has been regenerated, he harbors the same “yucky” attitude towards God. The unregenerate man, in his heart of hearts, feels the same was towards God as young boys feel towards homosexuals.

As Christians it will be most helpful to keep the “yuck factor” to ourselves. I do not know that we gain anything in our conversations with and about homosexuals by expressing our disgust towards their actions. We can always plead “love the sinner, hate the sin,” but this falls flat when we can barely look in their eyes because of the disgust we feel for what they do. The “yuck factor” is not consistent as a moral argument. We must dig deeper than that.

It is most instructive to heed Mohler’s advice and to love the homosexual more than the homosexual loves his homosexuality. Do note that we can show love and grace to the homosexual while still hating and condemning homosexuality. All sin is dark and disgusting in the eyes of God. We often do things that are vile before the eyes of a perfectly holy God. He could as easily avert His gaze from us in His disgust. But we know that when we were at our most vile, He came to us and loved us more than we loved our sin. As Charles Spurgeon once said, “God is infinitely more willing to forgive your sin than you are to commit it.” Similarly, God is infinitely more willing to love us despite our sin, than we are to continually pollute ourselves with it. Should we not show the same grace to others?