Yesterday I ran into an article entitled "When Religion Looses Its credibility" by a pastor in the Baptist church named Oliver "Buzz" Thomas. The article was in the online version of USA Today for Monday November 19th. In it Buzz argues that Christianity really may have been wrong all along about its stance against Homosexuality, now I am not going to post the article word for word but just answer the key highlights throughout the article. I encourage anyone reading to read his article in its entirety first by clicking here. I will deal with Thomas' arguments from here on out by responding to key passages, his words will be in blue.
Thomas begins the article with this statement/comparison:
"Galileo was persecuted for revealing what we now know to be the truth regarding Earth's place in our solar system. Today, the issue is homosexuality, and the persecution is not of one man but of millions. Will Christian leaders once again be on the wrong side of history?"
First of all these issues are totally different categories, the earth being the center of the solar system is a scientific matter, whether homosexuality is immoral is well a moral matter. Both relate to the Christian world view but my point is that the analogy is sloppy from the start. Second, whether or not the earth was the center of the universe was not debated based upon scripture, The Roman Catholic church held this view because that is what Aristotle taught...NOT the Bible. Now Homosexuality on the other hand is certainly mentioned in the Bible and certainly described as an immoral practice. Am I entitled to say this is a faulty comparison fallacy on Thomas' behalf?
"Despite what you might have read, heard or been taught throughout your churchgoing life, homosexuality is, in fact, determined at birth and is not to be condemned by God's followers."
Hold the phone here. Thomas assumes that if some behavior is genetically linked to individuals by birth that then that behavior is not to be frowned upon. Where did he get that conclusion from? The Bible? No, this is the touted line of the secular culture. Is Homosexuality a behavior that is linked to genes? I don't know. But you know what it doesn't matter one lick whether the behavior is linked to the genes when we are determining whether a behavior is moral or not. From what I understand similar gene links are found in serial killers, do we then make the conclusion that serial killers are not doing immoral acts because their genes predispose them to commit these acts? No, therefore the assumption Thomas makes here is faulty, we don't base morality on genetics...you would think Thomas would know that being a pastor.
Now this next statement is what I really found to be the most disappointing:
"All this brings me back to the question: What if we're wrong?
Religion's only real commodity, after all, is its moral authority. Lose that, and we lose our credibility. Lose credibility, and we might as well close up shop."
"Religions ONLY REAL commodity"?! All that religion has to offer is a moral outlook on the world and if we get that wrong we're done says Thomas. I am sorry but those aren't the words of somebody who believes that Jesus Christ is the savior of the world...I don't think you can be a Christian and say that all religion has to offer the world is a moral outlook. As a Christian yes my religion gives me a moral foundation/outlook but much more I have the gospel of God, the message that though man is fallen and rebellious through faith in Jesus Christ people can be made right before this holy God and have life everlasting and joy ever increasing. The apostle Paul said to the Corinthian believers:
"For I decided to know (teach) nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified." (1 Cor 2:2)
According to Paul his commodity that he gave to the Corinthians was not a nice moral outlook but Christ crucified. Why? Because Christ crucified is the gospel, Christ crucified is the good news, this is the message that saves souls from hell and the wrath of God almighty. If we as CHRISTIANS are asked: "What is the one thing you have to offer the world?" the answer will be some form of CHRIST and HIM CRUCIFIED. Because there is No other Name Under Heaven By Which Men May Be Saved Except the Name of Christ Jesus. (Acts 4:12)
"This time, [He just gave another Galileo analogy] Christianity is in danger of squandering its moral authority by continuing its pattern of discrimination against gays and lesbians in the face of mounting scientific evidence that sexual orientation has little or nothing to do with choice. To the contrary, whether sexual orientation arises as a result of the mother's hormones or the child's brain structure or DNA, it is almost certainly an accident of birth. The point is this: Without choice, there can be no moral culpability."
I will come back to the discrimination rhetoric later, but here he makes his point which he stated earlier again "Without choice, there can be no moral culpability." Sure, from the throne of the pontiff. Unfortunately, for Thomas that's not how God sees it. In Romans chapter 9 we see the sovereignty of God in His election of people to Himself and His sovereignty of man's free will. Oh, yes people make choices but God governs those choices without mitigating their moral responsibility to Him, it is funny the apostle Paul deals with this sort of a notion as it reads:
"You will say to me then, "Why does he still find fault? For who can resist his will?"
But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, "Why have you made me like this?" Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honored use and another for dishonorable use?" (Rom 9:20-22)
Now this is in reference to the sovereignty of God I cite it because it is a form of determinism that God governs our wills yet Paul rejects the argument that goes:
1) if God is sovereign over men's actions then He can not hold them accountable for their actions
2) God is sovereign
.:3) Therefore men are not accountable. (MP 1,2)
This sort of thinking leads to all sorts of rash doctrinal denials for instance:
1) if God is sovereign over men's actions then He can not hold them accountable for their actions
2) Men are accountable before God
.:3) God is not sovereign (MT 1,2)
Anyway, the point is that Paul dealt with this issue of moral responsibility and God's sovereignty, which, according to Paul governed man's action in a way that did NOT mitigate his moral accountability to God for those actions. Likewise with Thomas' example, just because a behavior is linked to genes does not absolve man of accountability for that behavior. (Just substitute genes for God in the above proofs to see this in logical form) Thomas assumes that determined behavior=absolution of accountability for that behavior which simply is an unwarranted assertion.
Ultimately, as a Christian who believes in the sovereignty of God genetic links to homosexuality don't bother me at all, because morality is not dependent on free choices. Men in their fallen state are "slaves of sin" ,"dead in sin" and "hate the light" says the New Testament so how free are our choices? Morality is objective outside of our ability to fulfill it or not...God doesn't grade on the curve because we are fallen (That would be to compromise His holiness). AND God is sovereign over our genetics. If Thomas had not struck out earlier as to what Christianity has to offer the world he would have a message that breaks the power of a fallen corrupt nature and sets free slaves of sin.
"Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality,
nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.
And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God." (1 Cor 6:9-11)
Next Thomas "turns" to scripture:
"So, why are so many church leaders (not to mention Orthodox Jewish and Muslim leaders) persisting in their view that homosexuality is wrong despite a growing stream of scientific evidence that is likely to become a torrent in the coming years? The answer is found in Leviticus 18. "You shall not lie with a man as with a woman; it is an abomination."
I just wonder how naturalistic science can give us rulings on whether actions are moral or not. How can science test morality?
"As a former "the Bible says it, I believe it, that settles it" kind of guy, I am sympathetic with any Christian who accepts the Bible at face value. But here's the catch. Leviticus is filled with laws imposing the death penalty for everything from eating catfish to sassing your parents. If you accept one as the absolute, unequivocal word of God, you must accept them all."
Has this man been to Seminary? I mean good night this is a basic concept of transition from Old to New Covenant. What he said above sounds more like unbelief in the authority of the Bible than an honest scholarly investigation into the meaning and how to apply it today. Well in a nutshell there are different types of law in the OT moral and ceremonial, homosexuality being sin is moral like don't steal, ceremonial for example would be regulations on the garments, what foods were to be eaten etc. In Christ both are fulfilled. Yes sassing your parents DOES deserve death but Christ took our death. These are basic concepts which somebody who is a pastor should know.
"For many of gay America's loudest critics, the results are unthinkable. First, no more football. At least not without gloves. Handling a pig skin is an abomination. Second, no more Saturday games even if you can get a new ball. Violating the Sabbath is a capital offense according to Leviticus. For the over-40 crowd, approaching the altar of God with a defect in your sight is taboo, but you'll have plenty of company because those menstruating or with disabilities are also barred."
Again we see his inability to transition from Old Covenant to the New, liberal theologians have done this silly rhetoric so much I really don't bother to respond anymore...Frankly because Christians don't say things like this. All he is trying to do is say Leviticus needs to be thrown out/it doesn't apply anymore which is a gross over simplification of the matter.
"The truth is that mainstream religion has moved beyond animal sacrifice, slavery and the host of primitive rituals described in Leviticus centuries ago. Selectively hanging onto these ancient proscriptions for gays and lesbians exclusively is unfair according to anybody's standard of ethics. We lawyers call it "selective enforcement," and in civil affairs it's illegal."
Um not at all, this is not a selective hanging on. These passages DO apply today, ALL of them. The difference is that we are in a New Covenant and Christ became our sacrifice Thomas coincidentally can't make that link which I think every evangelical can in basic terms. Christ is our sacrifice, Christ is our substitute for the punishment required in breaking these Levitical laws, and Christ is our ceremonial cleanness (kosher laws).
"A better reading of Scripture starts with the book of Genesis and the grand pronouncement about the world God created and all those who dwelled in it. "And, the Lord saw that it was good." If God created us and if everything he created is good, how can a gay person be guilty of being anything more than what God created him or her to be?"
I can't read things like this from a PASTOR and not reach the conclusion that this man is either purposely trying to mislead people or willfully ignorant. Thomas' question: "How when God created everything and said it was good can we say homosexuality is wrong?"
Basic sunday school answer to the question is that there was a fall Thomas, you know Genesis chapter 3 the book you just referenced. This is BASIC Christian doctrine and I don't know how Thomas can HONESTLY act ignorant of the fall of man theologically when he is a pastor. I think this is simply disingenuous.
"Turning to the New Testament, the writings of the Apostle Paul at first lend credence to the notion that homosexuality is a sin, until you consider that Paul most likely is referring to the Roman practice of pederasty, a form of pedophilia common in the ancient world. Successful older men often took boys into their homes as concubines, lovers or sexual slaves."
"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. " (Rom 1)
Thomas is simply going on the liberal theology line in which their "research" found that when Paul speaks against men sleeping with men he REALLY means men with boy sex slaves....oh ok.
So far Thomas has tried to discredit the passages/books of the Bible that condemn homosexuality as sin with frankly pretty sloppy "research" and disingenuous exegesis of Genesis and Leviticus. Now he uses the worn out Jesus never said anything about homosexuality line:
"For those who have lingering doubts, dust off your Bibles and take a few hours to reacquaint yourself with the teachings of Jesus. You won't find a single reference to homosexuality. There are teachings on money, lust, revenge, divorce, fasting and a thousand other subjects, but there is nothing on homosexuality. Strange, don't you think, if being gay were such a moral threat?"
Let's apply this reasoning, Jesus never mentioned homosexuality so homosexuality must have been a ok in Christ's mind. Well lets substitute some things in for homosexuality to show how ridiculous this reasoning is.
Jesus never said anything about child molestation therefore it must not have been a big deal to Him.
Jesus never said anything about smoking methamphetamine therefore it must not have been a big deal to Him.
Jesus never said anything about black slavery therefore it must not have been a big deal to Him.
Jesus never said anything about smoking pot therefore it must not have been a big deal to Him.
Jesus never said anything about abortion therefore it must not have been a big deal to Him.
Jesus never said anything about NASCAR therefore it must not have been a big deal to Him.
Well I think the point is clear that the standard Jesus never said...is a poor one. And anyone who studies the Bible will know that Christ the Spirit and the Father constitute One God eternally existent, thus it was Christ who inspired the book of Leviticus so Jesus DID say stuff about homosexuality.
Also Jesus' purpose much to the chagrin of the liberal theologians was NOT to give us a nice moral code or example to live by that was NOT the mission of Christ. Christ came "to seek and to save the lost" and by His finished work on the cross we are made right with at holy God. I also think the statement of Christ on marriage is pretty explicit as to what He thought it should look like:
"Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife,
and they shall become one flesh.' So they are no longer two but one flesh." (Mar 10:7-8)
"On the other hand, Jesus spent a lot of time talking about how we should treat others. First, he made clear it is not our role to judge. It is God's. ("Judge not lest you be judged." Matthew 7:1) And, second, he commanded us to love other people as we love ourselves. "
This is ridiculous, I refer you to my "Hey it says judge Not!" article if you don't know what is wrong with the way this guy is interpreting Matt 7:1.
"So, I ask you. Would you want to be discriminated against? Would you want to lose your job, housing or benefits because of something over which you had no control? Better yet, would you like it if society told you that you couldn't visit your lifelong partner in the hospital or file a claim on his behalf if he were murdered?
The suffering that gay and lesbian people have endured at the hands of religion is incalculable, but they can look expectantly to the future for vindication."
Jesus never said anything about discrimination, must not have bee a big deal to Him.
As for gays not being able to visit their partner or risk loosing houses because they can't get married is ridiculous, it's called a living will get one if you want to give your possessions to specific people when you die. And I don't think any hospital will turn someone's partner away because they don't have a marriage license. These arguments are just smokescreen.
"Scientific facts, after all, are a stubborn thing. Even our religious beliefs must finally yield to them as the church in its battle with Galileo ultimately realized. But for religion, the future might be ominous. Watching the growing conflict between medical science and religion over homosexuality is like watching a train wreck from a distance. You can see it coming for miles and sense the inevitable conclusion, but you're powerless to stop it. The more church leaders dig in their heels, the worse it's likely to be."
How is whether or not homosexuality a moral practice a scientific issue? Also for the numerous times Thomas has referenced this "growing pile" of facts he doesn't reference any studies at all. Not that it would matter to me because I don't think that has any bearing on whether or not an action is wrong.
Oliver "Buzz" Thomas is a Baptist minister and author of an upcoming book, 10 Things Your Minister Wants to Tell You (But Can't Because He Needs the Job).
Well I think the whole article was ridiculous and full of disingenuous exegesis at best and purposely deceptive at worse. I go back to Thomas' quote which reads:
"Religion's only real commodity, after all, is its moral authority. Lose that, and we lose our credibility. Lose credibility, and we might as well close up shop."
I think that if all you think Christianity has to offer is a moral vision you need to close up shop. Stop calling your liberal church a church and deceiving your members into thinking they are Christians when they never heard the gospel, never repented of their sins, and never submitted themselves to Christ as Lord . This is when religion looses is credibility, when we have disingenuous "pastors" telling people who are going to hell that they are ok because hey it says "Judge not."