One question the Christian will have to field in todays culture is: “Do homosexuals go to heaven?” Now—here is the thing we must investigate if we are going to be any good at reaching the culture—why would someone ask this question?
I can think of 11 reasons why someone might ask this:
1. They want to know what sort of person I am—they want to see what my initial answer is–this is a litmus test question.
2. They are a homosexual, or may know someone who is—and maybe they want to know how to answer them.
3. They want Christianity to look bad.
4. They want to prove that the Christian God is unloving toward some types of people.
5. They are trying to get a list of the things that are deal breakers for salvation.
6. They have a problem with autonomy.
7. Maybe they want a hopeful answer.
8. Maybe they are caught up in a promiscuous lifestyle and want to know what to do about it.
9. Maybe they are hurt or confused and want help.
10. They want to know if there is someone out there who loves them regardless of what they do.
11. Maybe they are reflecting the culture. Maybe they see this as a question to make me stop talking and run for the hills.
When people in the secular culture ask about homosexuality and Christianity, and how they can coexist, they aren’t really asking about whether or not homosexuality is right or wrong. It is deeper. They are asking something that lays much deeper than this question, but rarely will they ask it outright. There is an assumption that lies far beneath the question that we must address. If we do not address it, we will get nowhere–very fast. Someone once asked a rabbi, “Rabbi, why do you always answer a question with a question?” To which he replied, “Why shouldn’t I answer a question with a question?” There is something here to consider. Notice when Jesus converses with the skeptics, he always asks questions. We must be willing to see the questioner and not the surface layer of their question. There is more there than just giving answers. We aren’t answering questions to be defensive, or to win a philosophical debate. We aren’t answering questions at all. We are answering the questioner.
See, the problem with the way many understand apologetics today—is they think that to give an “Apologia” is a defensive act. This is absurd. Apologetics are inherently evangelistic. You could say Apologetics and Evangelism are different sides of the same coin. Too many people think that apologetics means that you evangelize them and then you apologize for it afterward.
I am a guy who is very concerned with questions. I love answering questions, and I love asking them. But here is a rule of thumb that I live by: “If you give the right answer to the wrong question, it is still the wrong answer.”
Now, the question, “Can homosexuals go to heaven” is the wrong question. We cannot answer it without causing an argument. It is a bit like a game I played as a kid. I would go up to kids on the playground and ask them if their mother knew they were stupid. If they replied, “yes,” then they were stupid and their mother knew. If they replied, “no,” then they were stupid and their mother didn’t know. If they refused to answer or said, “I don’t know,” then they were so stupid they didn’t understand the question. This is called the fallacy of faulty dilemma. You know the Bible displays every form of logical fallacy? Jesus faced every form of logical fallacy known. In fact, you could teach logic and use nothing for your text except the Gospels.
Sometimes Christians answer by saying something theological. What about the statement, “love the sinner, but hate the sin?” Is this a proper way to look at the issue they are raising? I think we have to keep in mind the question of identity. The problem with this line when talking to homosexuals is this—it isn’t about just the fact that they don’t see homosexuality as sin—it is deeper. For evangelicals, “sin vs. sinner” makes the clear distinction between who someone is and what someone does. This would be the difference between their ontological existence and their personal essence. This is the difference between brute biology and epistemological knowledge about who we are. When someone says, “I am a homosexual,” they are admitting to you that their very identity is informed by what he does. Today’s culture has been inculcated with too much Wittgenstein, Sartre, and Camus to have a firm grasp on this misunderstanding of reality. You can look at it this way–In Philosophy, around the enlightenment, it became clear that all reality lay in one realm. You could call this a lower level. With this pure description of reality based on reason alone, there was no secular hope. What happened next? Well, man–who denied God invented a irrational leap toward a non-rational upper level. This is exactly what Sartre speaks about in Nausea. Reality doesn’t function at two levels–this is a major problem with this way of thinking. Reality functions as one. This is what we mean when we say “unity in diversity.”
You see—the homosexual question is really a question of identity. The rational verses the irrational view of the self. When the gay lobby asks this question (Can homosexuals go to heaven), they aren’t really saying “am I allowed to do this?” they are saying, “am I allowed to be ME?” When the answer is, “No,” they don’t hear, “You cant do this.” They hear, “you don’t have the right to exist.” With this fundamental misunderstanding of personhood, I can easily see why someone would feel very threatened when they hear me answer, “No.” We must be sympathetic to this.
Culture has indeed lost its understanding of what identity is. How can we expect them to understand identity when they don’t even posit the unified reality of spirituality and the world of reason?
There is also the question of fulfillment. Now, of course, no Christians ever fall into the trap of thinking that they can be more fulfilled in life by sleeping with someone before marriage, commit adultery, or engage in pornography or sexual activity, right? (sarcasm)—truth is, we are all sinners, and all sexual sin is wrong. On another note—why is it that the same feminists who were arguing to be treated as a humans and stood shoulder to shoulder with Billy Graham in the 60’s and 70’s now wear shirts that say, “I am a porn star?”
The thing is—we also live in the culture. This has unfortunately affected the Church as well. If you are single, something must be “wrong with you.” If this is true, Mother Theresa must have been very unfulfilled. Now—im joking—but this raises the question:
“Can I ever find fulfillment if I am not allowed to do this or that?” This is a powerful issue. Look, if I said, “Hi my name is John White and I am a heterosexual. I’m happy to meet you…”—If this were a badge I wore, this would be strange right? Yet, when it comes to homosexuality, it is suddenly not strange. Why is that? We must ask, Is there more to us than our sexual proclivity?
We must make a distinction between “being” and “doing.” As humans were are more than this.
I was asked this question one time while talking to youth (“can I go to heaven if gay?”). Now, the questioner didn’t like my reply—he retorted with, “I didn’t choose to be this way and He (God) made me this way.” Now—I think it is incredibly disingenuous to assert that Christians are alone in their disputation of the idea that people are gay by “nature” or that sexual proclivity is pre-determined. Have you read Peter Tatchell, the outspoken gay rights guy? It is interesting that a gay activist would condemn any search for a gay gene as “the flawed theory which claims a genetic causation for homosexuality.” Consider what liberal activist and author of the brilliant book, Sexual Personae Camille Paglia has said: “No one is born gay. The idea is ridiculous. Homosexuality is an adaptation, not an inborn trait.”
Mainstream opinion is that we may be genetically inclined to all sorts of behavior but it does not mean we have no control over all those different issues. Just look at the life of Henri Nouwen. He was a longtime professor at an Ivy League institution, and while viewing Rembrandt’s painting of the Prodigal Son–he made the decision to leave his professorship and move to Canada–to help the mentally impaired. He knew that calling was more important than biological existence. He never fulfilled the desires of his sexual proclivity—why? Because of Christ. He knew that who he was is different from what he did.
Now—the Gospel clearly says that no one can change themselves—we cannot do it, no matter how hard we try. BUT, for us what is impossible may be possible with God. If there is a way out of this lifestyle, somehow, God needs to bear some of the responsibility in bringing change.
Now—a friend of mine was doing a lecture and a guy who asked him a similar question was the head of a “Christian Gay-Lesbian” movement on a college campus and due to the answers of my friend (basically what I have said thus far) the young man said that this was the first time he had not got up and walked away in the middle of answers given at a Christian meeting.
His area of concern was that, “I cannot help myself…It’s my nature.”
You know there is a reason why porn is made free on the internet right? Autopsies done on homosexual men found that a lobe within their brains was very well-developed. Brain is like musculature that can be trained and also stimulated. Brain will eventually crave stimulation when it ceases to be exercised. Take a less controversial area like porn—people feel powerless and they cannot stop. The reason it is made free on the net is because if you can get people hooked on it at a young age with specific images and patterns, they will not be able to break free easily. It takes 9 years for the brain to go back to normal. That means if you have people locked in a certain pattern of behavior, either (A) they are going to need the healing of the brain equivalent to that of a shriveled hand OR (B) they are going to be on a path of spiritual warfare for 9 years – you can’t do it alone this is why church is important, but also why it is catastrophic when church life has become so superficial, that people feel they can no longer share with The Church things they are wrestling with because they have to pretend they are better than they really are to be accepted. Many Churches today are poor with discipleship and poor at communicating at people that “we are in the long haul with you on this.”
I don’t think “right or wrong” is the hard part to address in this problem. The homosexual community is segmented in their beliefs just like the Christian community is. I think we can safely say to the person struggling with homosexuality that within the teaching of the Bible, homosexuality is a lifestyle neither endorsed of nor approved of for the reason that marriage exists between a man and woman in the Christian sense.
What I have found is that secular homosexuals will accept this—while Christian homosexuals reject it vehemently.
It gets deeper, however.
We may hear this question: “If Christians are supposed to love everyone, why do they hate homosexuals?”
It is like here in America, and in the West at large, we can never get away from the entire sex issue. Our newspapers and tabloids and even televised media are full of the sordid details of the affairs of celebrities—while the church is presented as “out of date” or unapologetically “bigoted” at any point where it seeks to uphold Jesus and his teaching on morality. It seems like we in our culture are coming from such different perspectives. How do we even begin to address these issues? I think one place to start is to realize that many people (as I said in the previous posts) see their identity defined by what they do sexually. You could say that the culture does not understand in any meaningful way the differences between ontological existence and essence.
So the first major question: Do Christians hate homosexuals? To be truthful, it is right to acknowledge that some people who call themselves Christians have acted hatefully toward gays, and I would be the first to express my sorrow toward the victim of this hate and to repudiate this behavior by the self-proclaimed Christian. I have come across numerous people who are in the church, but are struggling and grappling with the issue of sexual identity, and feel that they have been hurt or ostracized in some way by the church. I endeavor to always keep this in mind when dealing with people as I present what the Bible says about the practice of homosexuality—I always try to keep in mind that this is sensitive ground—but essential. I think the best answer to the question is to say that Christians should love people in the gay community.
The next permutation of the question is to say—“yeah, but if you don’t hate homosexuals, aren’t you a bigot to say that it is morally wrong to engage in homosexual activity?” This is one of the first questions I encounter when talking to a gay person—and honestly it can be quite a serious barrier to someone taking an investigation of the gospel to a deeper level. What is a bigot? It is a person who is intolerant of the views of others. Is this true of the Christian faith at large? In my opinion, it doesn’t have to be. I can speak for Christendom when I say, Christians are prepared to tolerate other people and their views—BUT—this doesn’t in any way mean that Christians have to agree with those views. What does the word tolerate imply? Simply that if you tolerate something you don’t agree with it—rather, you put up with it and respect the other person and their right to express that view that you disagree with. If I agreed with their view, there would be nothing left to tolerate.
If you were to take me out to dinner and I ordered the most expensive thing on the menu—and you paid for it all—what would you say if you overheard me talking to someone later and I said of our dinner, “I tolerated it. James was tolerable. I tolerated him.”? I don’t know anyone who wants to be tolerated. I do know many people who want to be respected. The Christian ideal says that people are equal but ideas are not. This runs counter to the secular narrative which says all ideas are equal, but all people are not. If in fact all ideas are equal, then that statement is false—because the statement, “all ideas are not equal” is excluded necessarily from being equal.
So—the next issue—if we aren’t bigots stuck in the middle ages—isn’t it about time that we as Bible believing Christians caught up with society and quit being stuff shirts? The homosexual will often note that the texts in the Scripture which speak against homosexual practice should be taken as being in a particular cultural context with is completely irrelevant to a western liberal society. Really? It is argued here that in a society where homosexual partnerships are culturally acceptable—the Biblical texts simply do not apply. They are outdated and because of such—the church should catch up to the “moral evolution” of society…
The problem with this is that what lays directly behind this idea is that the Bible was composed in a context that was equivalent to the Victorian era in Britain where any sex outside of marriage was repudiated. This is absurd. Homosexuality was widely and rampantly practiced in the Roman Empire as well as the Greek civilization. The practice of homosexuality was often seen as an integral part of a young boy’s education. Now, some Roman writers may have protested against the sexual abuse of slaves—but the fact is—where it was consensual, homosexual practice was celebrated. This is the context in which the New Testament was composed. Now—if the scripture is not fully conditioned by culture and dependent upon a moralism outside of themselves, what are they actually saying? It is also interesting that the Old Testament was composed in a similar predicament. The Canaanite and Assyrian civilizations around Israel accepted homosexual practice—and yet several OT texts rule out homosexual practice as a lifestyle choice for Hebrews. I can hear the objection now—“But what about wearing clothes of mixed fibers and eating shellfish?” Well the fact that these prohibitions were lifted come down to Jesus’ claims to have fulfilled the law. The New Testament upholds the moral law in both Jesus teaching and the teaching of the other apostles. Now, I can see how the secular culture would see it arbitrary to hold onto some of the OT and not to others—but for Christians—we do this because of Jesus teaching and the entirety of the teaching of the New Testament.
It is clear that the practice of same-sex activity is not unique to Western Culture in the 20th and 21st centuries. What is unique to our current day is the view that people are by “nature” homosexual. The next question posed would be, “How can a loving God deny people the right to be who they are by nature?” So—we are back at identity 101. What makes me what I am? This is the real issue of disagreement. This is the point of tension. The Christian individual is not defined by sexual proclivity or activity. I affirm that this may be a portion of our expression of ourselves, but it is not the ultimate definition of our nature. The Bible says we are created in the image of God and that life is precious. The individual has significance and full dignity just by being human. This may sound simplistic, but however we behave and whatever our proclivities we are precious.
I do not propose to have all the answers. This is a difficult issue. I am simply noting that there are likely a whole range of factors that together make up sexual orientation—these can be environmental, hormonal, possibly biological conditions, and behavioral conditions. The point is that people despite their proclivities, have the ability to make choices. As a Christian who takes a strong view on Scripture I would want to affirm the full dignity of every person but also make a clear differentiation between personhood and the behavior of a person.