The recent publication of The Nashville Statement has unsurprisingly evoked strong condemnation from the broader culture. I live in Nashville so I was prepared for Mayor Megan Barry’s quick and unequivocal condemnation. It’s to be expected as she is who she is. She never claimed to be a Christian in any meaningful sense. What concerns me most is the confusion that is coming out of various corners of Christendom.
A friend sent me an article earlier today from the Huffington Post entitled, “I Am Still A Faithful Christian” written by a man named Matthias Roberts. Mr. Roberts is a “theologian” who hosts a podcast called “Queerology”. The basic point of Mr. Roberts article in Huff Post is to state that he and others like him are faithful Christians and men like R. C. Sproul, D. A. Carson, and John MacArthur (popular evangelical theologians) are harsh and hateful people that do not know what the Bible teaches. Mr. Roberts believes that Jesus’ silence on homosexual behavior has liberated him and therefore he can be a faithful follower of Christ and practice homosexuality. Mr. Roberts states that he believes on Jesus, professes faith in Jesus, and has seen the fruits of the Spirit in his life. Ipso facto he is a faithful Christian. Yet even the text he cherry picked out of the Scripture in an attempt to prove his genuineness works against him. The man is quoting the Apostle Paul in Galatians 5:22-23,
“22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.”
Now this man’s general ploy is to claim that Jesus never condemned homosexuality as sin and that the Apostle Paul corrupted the “true way” and cannot be trusted as a teacher. Therefore all the Apostle Paul says in his writings which very clearly condemn the practice of homosexuality as sin is not admitted into this man homosexual affirming theology or what he likes to call “Queerology”. But….. and this is a big but, he quotes Paul on the “fruits of the Spirit” giving the Apostle authority as an author of sacred Scripture. Paul himself predicts this type of response from men like Mr. Roberts in Romans 2:15,
“15 They show that the work of the law is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness, and their conflicting thoughts accuse or even excuse them”
Here we have a man that makes his own rules, accepts what he wants out of Scripture and disregards what he doesn’t like. He accuses evangelical pastors of sin because they believe the Bible accurately communicates the whole range of sin while excusing himself on unfounded grounds. Here we have a man that selectively receives authors of sacred texts. He even selectively receives, in the case of Paul, one portion of Scripture while denying others by the very same author. In this case in particular he even excepts one “part” of the text but rejects another “part”. Go back and look at Galatians 5:22 quoted above. Specifically look at the underlined portion, “against such there is no law.” Mr. Roberts has a major problem. The very text he quotes comes down on his head as the fruits of the Spirit are composed of things that do not violate the “Law of God”. Practicing homosexuality is easily found in Scripture to be against the Law of God. Therefore, one cannot be regenerated by the Holy Spirit and able to affirm and practice things not in keeping with the Holy Spirit’s nature and character as affirmed by Paul and Mr. Roberts himself per his quotation of Paul as an authority. No matter. Mr Roberts will likely quickly abandon ever quoting that text or any other text by the Apostle Paul ever again. Not meaning to be nasty here, but I wonder if he even knew where the “fruits of the Spirit” text was found, or who authored the phrase.
The friend who sent me the article was not surprised however by Mr. Roberts ridiculous assertions. This person was surprised that a friend that had attended a reputable evangelical college, whose father was a missionary, who attended an evangelical church, and who works presently in an evangelical ministry posted the article on social media with the caption, “I stand with him.” I dare say there are a great many more of these people in evangelical churches than we probably currently think. I pastored students for many years. Most of them now in their early 20’s. Among the young ladies in that group almost all of them currently are being tossed on the waves of homosexual acceptance and its partner in crime third wave feminism. Both at their root reject the Bibles teaching on gender and sexuality. They either generally deny Paul as an inspired author or think we’ve progressed beyond his backward hetero-patriarchal view and therefore parts of what he wrote are no longer Scripture though they once were. Confused? Radical social theories on so-called equality have ventured into the real world and into real churches and are laying waste to the hearts of young women and men who are leaving evangelical churches in droves because they believe in a historical Jesus, professed faith in him, and see the fruits of what they think are the Spirit in themselves. They think, like Mr. Roberts that they have in their back pocket a “Get Out of Hell Free Card” because they walked an aisle somewhere, sang some nice words about Jesus frequently, continue to think He is a good teacher, and someone dunked them or sprinkled them with water at some point in the past. They think the fruit of the Spirit is a feeling apart from a standard (against such there is not law) and the standard is no longer God’s Law but their own feelings. But the call of Jesus is to “lose your life” and “take up your cross and follow Him.” But many in the modern church believe that Jesus would never ask Christians to do anything hard like abandon their sexual preferences (lust) or submit to authority (humility) or lay down their own way of life and submit to another (law).
What further astounds me about all this is the way evangelical church leadership has in general responded to the current world we are living in. We take no responsibility for not making disciples. Some how it is Hollywood, or Facebook, or our children’s worldly friends, or some other boogey man who is responsible. The truth is that the church has been so consumed with entertaining her parishioners and trying to get people into her Sunday services that we failed to take account of what the methods we were using were going to do over a long period of time. For 50 years we’ve been working a great bait and switch game where we entertain them into the doors and then at some point, once we had them in the building, we planned on making the switch and starting the discipleship part. The problem is we never got around to making disciples and teaching a full orbed faith that one could live by and that provided answers to difficult questions. A faith that provided the rational and the power to repent of and forsake sin. As my grandmother used to say, “We’ve made our bed so now we get to lie in it.”
Friends there are just no easy answers here. We just have to start making disciples again. Stop the frills, the entertainment, and the baiting and switching. We have to begin with the Truth that Christ Jesus died on the cross to save us from the wrath of God and to deliver us from the power of sin so that we can repent of sin. We must learn the answers to the hard questions by getting to know God’s Holy Word more thoroughly. Finally, we must live out the “way” of Jesus with others in a biblical community, holding each other accountable, and submitting ourselves to one another in real love. Real love never chooses to willfully violate the Law of God. The fruit of the Spirit, or the evidence that someone is a faithful Christian is found not in their acceptance of the sin of others. That is a false human love. Instead it is found in their refusal to accept sin in themselves, to repent of it, and to help others repent of it as well. Mr. Roberts is not a faithful Christian. But that is not because I say it, but because he has accepted sin in himself and has encouraged others to do the same. Seems like the Apostle Paul has something to say about a person who does this. It even comes right after the Apostle discusses homosexual sin, the particular sin that Mr. Roberts and other accept and affirm.
26 For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; 27 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.
28 And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done. 29 They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, 30 slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, 31 foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. 32 Though they know God’s righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die*, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them.
*Please note that the author is not advocating the death penalty or violence be done to anyone in disagreement with his point of view by quoting Romans 1:32 as that is not what Romans 1:32 is advocating. The Apostle Paul is making the point that all men have sinned and that the penalty for sin is death and that God judges men as sinners. For this reason Jesus Christ came to die. To deliver humankind from the wrath of God and to bring us into a place of mercy and forgiveness in Christ Jesus. This is the Gospel, the good news of Jesus Christ. All who believe can have eternal life. The authenticity of a persons faith however is demonstrated by their repentance of sin and turning to the way of God. Without repentance faith is, as St. James says, dead. Meaning, it is not a real and living faith. Again, faithfulness is the mark of a real disciple. A disciple who has a real faith, who really accepts the authority of Jesus, and who really has the indwelling Holy Spirit, brings forth the fruit of the spirit against such there is no law.