My response (below) continues an on-going dialogue. To see it in its entirely, please go to David’s blog or to my blog.
Thanks for your predictably thoughtful response. This was my favorite line:
- Treat us [gays] as an anthropological challenge! Better than treating your friends like a condemned herd of goats.
I must say I certainty appreciate that you don’t call me a “bigot” or a “hate-monger” as so many do. I’m glad that we can cut through all of the degrading labels and jargon.
There is some truth that I treat you as “condemned.” (And, on one level, I deeply regret this!) But I know that you realize that we are convinced that God regards everyone who refuses to repent of their sins as condemned (John 3:18). And I think that you also understand that, for us, it would represent the supreme cruelty to extend a false hope of salvation to someone who refuses to repent.
To deal with your first sentence: I am not free to assess the gay lifestyle from strictly a pragmatic assessment - an “anthropological study.” Fundamentally, I am mandated to regard this lifestyle through the lens of Scripture. If I am a disciple of Christ, I have no choice but to submit to His Word – all Scripture. And this unequivocally informs me that gay sex is wrong.
While we both agree that our interpretations of Scripture are highly vulnerable to our psychological and cultural baggage – and a lot of it we can’t seem to shed – this awareness has warned me to take greater care. Although I may never be perfectly objective, I do think that it is possible to “achieve” a high degree of objectivity (or perhaps I should say, “receive”) and certainty about many of our interpretations.
In contrast to the Christian understanding of the centrality and authority of Scripture, you exalt “experience” and “faith” in your experience. You write:
- Scripture and theology only provide the categories that such experience takes on. If we deny our experience in the service of abstract argument, we risk becoming eventually soulless.
Consequently, you make your experience more authoritative than Scripture. For those who reject Scripture, this is certainly understandable. However, you call yourself a “Christian” and even a pastor – a shepherd. However, Jesus had affirmed the supremacy of His Word in many ways:
- If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you…If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father's commands and remain in his love. (John 15:7, 10)
In addition to this problem, you face other difficulties. Experience does not speak on its own. It too requires interpretations before it can say anything. You have argued that a fulfilled gay relationship proves that it is a good thing. However, many claim the same thing about their adulterous relationships or even their “Bonnie and Clyde” lifestyle. Are these too therefore good?
Morality can be difficult to assess using pragmatic measures. Often, sexual relationships start out with a flurry of good feelings. Do these temporary feelings mean that it is the right thing? The adulterer often claims that his lover is the “love of his life,” while his four children are waiting for him at home.
Even more fundamentally, do good feelings always equate with the right thing to do? Often the right thing to do is to do the emotionally costly thing, like being a whistle-blower. In short, we are easily led astray by our feelings.
Besides, if you want to evaluate the gay lifestyle on the basis of experience, you also have to look at the frightful stats. They consistently reveal that this lifestyle is fraught with great costs – suicide, depression, substance abuse, STDs, and a greatly shortened life-span. If you want me to do an “anthropological study,” I cannot disregard these costs.
You conclude that,
- Fundamentalists [that’s me!] are idolaters, mistaking the letter for the spirit of the scripture.
If we are making an idol of God’s Word, then aren’t you making an idol of your experience and feelings? It cuts both ways. However, if God is our supreme worship, then His Word must provide the guidance.