Review

REVIEW: Summer 2016

“The Sin of Sodom Revisited: Reading Genesis 19 in Light of Torah” by Brian Neal Peterson, Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society, March 2016
“Christian Rock Singer Announces He Is Gay” by Jim Denison, Denison Forum on Truth and Culture, June 2, 2016
“Salty Christianity” by Richard Doster, byFaith, Q2.16.

by Dr. Ralph Blair

(PDF version available here.)

In 1979, the Evangelical Theological Society president was Marten H. Woudstra, Calvin Seminary’s most conservative professor. He was also the OT translation chair for the NIV Bible. As advisor on homosexuality for the Christian Reformed Church, he stated: “There is nothing in the Old Testament that corresponds to homosexuality as we understand it today.” Now, four decades later, ETS publishes Peterson’s anachronistic search for gays in ancient Sodom.

Sodom’s story is irrelevant to today’s gay issues according to Evangelical biblical scholars Stephen Hayner, Gerald Sheppard, Miguel De La Torre and James Brownson – all supporters of Evangelicals Concerned – and Christopher Wright, Richard Hayes, Joshua Jipp and even antigay scholars, e.g., Gene Haas and Robert Gagnon.

Ezekiel said Sodom’s sin was “prideful abundance without helping the poor and needy” (Ezek 16:49). Midrash tells of Sodom’s killing those who did indeed help the poor and needy. Raging mobs at Lot’s door (Gen 19) were bent on rapes, not gay dates. They meant to demean and subjugate male sojourners as mere women and their property. There’s nothing in the Bible of “a caring homosexual relationship between consenting partners” says InterVarsity’s New Bible Dictionary. It notes: “The Bible says nothing specifically about the homosexual condition” and the Evangelical author laments that, “too often [so-called antigay verses] have been used as tools of a homophobic polemic which has claimed too much.” Peterson is yet another of these homophobic polemicists.

When he says he’s against the “rise of same-sex ‘affirming’ interpretations of the Bible within the evangelical church”, he shows no awareness of Evangelical affirmation during his – and many of his readers’ – childhoods. He resents that, “Today, one is hard pressed to find a good contemporary biblical commentator willing to point out the clear sexual nature” of Sodom’s story. Of course the intended rapes were to be “sexual”, but violent abuse was motive and context of that “sexuality”. He can find no gay love at Lot’s door.

Peterson is upset over “the inhospitality” argument. But didn’t Ezekiel use it? Didn’t Josephus? Peterson insists that the men of Sodom wanted simply “to satisfy their sexual urges”. Does he find his gay fantasy more “exceedingly wicked” (Gen 13:13) than Sodom’s pride and neglect of the needy? Read more →

REVIEW: Spring 2016

“Celibacy at Gay Christian Network: What’s That All About?” by Stephen Parelli, Other Sheep Exec Site, January 12, 2016; “Why this Christian Lesbian was Not at the Gay Christian Network Conference” by Kimberly Knight, Progressive Christian Channel, January 11, 2016.

by Dr. Ralph Blair

(PDF version available here.)

The Gay Christian Network was founded in 2001 by Justin Lee, a young Southern Baptist who, since 1997, had been hosting online conversations on evangelical Christian faith and same-sex attraction. GCN’s first conference was held in 2005. With sensitivity, Lee has made room for those who are same-sex oriented and committed to celibacy (Side B) as well as for those aimed at a committed same-sex relationship (Side A). GCN presents conference speakers from both perspectives but has never supported “ex-gay” claims. Lee has been a keynoter for Evangelicals Concerned conferences in the east and west.

Founded in 1975, EC began our summer conferences in 1980 and, to date, we’ve had seventy-three. We’ve always been supportive of those on both Side A and Side B as it’s psychologically and spiritually unhealthy to violate conscience. However, we’ve always featured only Side A speakers. That’s because, back in those mid-70s, few evangelicals had “come out” and many of the openly gay men who came to our first EC Bible studies and conferences were only just beginning to explore Christian faith. Side B speakers would have been a discouraging distraction in their quest. By 2005, GCN conference folks were familiar with the Side B view from their conservative church backgrounds yet, out of this context, many have been able to move to Side A through GCN fellowship with solidly evangelical peers in committed same-sex relationship. Still, those who stay on Side B enjoy empathic, supportive fellowship with both Side A and Side B Christians.

In 1992, missionary Tom Hanks founded Other Sheep. Stephen Parelli now leads this LGBT group. Both men tried to overcome the homosexuality by “ex-gay” efforts and in heterosexual marriage. Both failed. Both now accept and embrace their homosexuality.

Parelli, a first-time attendee at a GCN conference, is upset and angry over the inclusion of Side B speakers. He claims he found it “a conundrum” that a Side B speaker “would expose the ‘ex-gay’ movement as a myth while defending celibacy, the exact same practical outcome of the ‘ex-gay’ movement.” Says Parelli: “I could see no real practical difference between [her] position on celibacy and the ‘ex-gay’ movement’s position.”

Read more →

REVIEW: Winter 2016

“A Denomination Hungry for Reconciliation: Grace, Race and the PCA” by Sean Michael Lucas, byFaith, October 19, 2015; “Tied in Knots: Americans Try to Redefine Marriage” by Alan Dowd, byFaith, October 12, 2015. 

by Dr. Ralph Blair

(PDF version available here.)

Even after the Civil War, in 1867, R. L. Dabney, a major Presbyterian theologian of the Old South, now considered a forebear of the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA), ended his 356-page “biblical” defense of slavery and attack on abolition by asserting: “Our people are now oppressed with present sufferings and a prospective destiny more cruel and disastrous than has been visited on any civilized people of modern ages. [But,] let the arrogant and successful wrongdoers flout our defence [sic] with disdain: we will meet them with it again, when it will be heard; in the day of their calamity in the pages of impartial history and in the Day of Judgment.” Evangelical historian Mark Noll notes: The slavery conflict “pushed theologians down the roads on which they were already traveling rather than compelling them to go in new, creative directions.” How typical!

Lucas, a PCA minister and Dabney scholar, reports that in 2002, PCA’s 30th General Assembly “named our sins from 1861-65 [but] not our more recent sins from 1961-65”. So, he calls the PCA to “confess our church’s covenantal and generational involvement in and complicity with racial injustice inside and outside of our churches during the Civil Rights era”. He argues: “Those recent sins of commission and omission – preventing blacks from worship in our congregations, … ‘biblical’ defenses for segregation, defending White Citizens’ Councils … need to be confessed and repented [so we can] see more clearly our own present-day failures to love our black brothers and sisters well and to use our positions and power to benefit them more than ourselves.” That, “too many (white) people ask, ‘Haven’t we confessed enough?’ and ‘Shouldn’t they confess too?’ demonstrates,” he says, “a general lack of understanding, imagination, and compassion”. Lucas admits: “It was disappointing to hear my fathers and brothers make arguments against the resolution. Not to know our history on these issues [is] not to be quick to recognize how they continue.” So, just how “hungry for reconciliation” is the PCA?

Outlawing slaves’ marriage and interracial marriage, and, even after Loving v Virginia (1967), ranting over race “mongrelizing”, now link to antigay rants propped up with other Bible verses. Lucas simply fails to note this link, but to Dowd, it’s not possible to connect these dots since he blasts marriage for same-sex couples. Once again, the roots are culture-based and stem from a self-righteous refusal to live Jesus’ Golden Rule.

Dabney’s views now disgust his Presbyterian heirs in the “pages of impartial history” he failed to foresee. Dowd’s views disgust many of his own evangelical contemporaries. All of this disgust reflects empathy freed from ignorance and outworn political agendas. Read more →

REVIEW: FALL 2015

“The Supreme Court: Greasing the Slippery Slope” by Eric Metaxas, BreakPoint, July 2, 2015; “Statement on Same-sex Marriage: PCA’s View” by L. Roy Taylor, byFaith, June 27, 2015; Jesus Outside the Lines: A Way Forward for Those Who Are Tired of Taking Sides by Scott Sauls (Tyndale, 2015), 240 pp.

by Dr. Ralph Blair

(PDF version available here.)

With the Supreme Court’s marriage ruling, “the two words that come to mind” – i.e., Metaxas’ mind – are “anything goes”.  Same-sex couples now can have just as legal a marriage as Metaxas has been enjoying and “anything goes” is what comes to his mind?  How about two other words: “Golden Rule”?  Billions are spent on porn and 40 percent of kids are born outside the stability of a marriage, but same-sex couples are granted the conservative, constraining framework of legal marriage and this means, “anything goes”?

Accusing Kennedy of “a generously-greased slope”, Metaxas slips on his own “slippery slope”.  There’s no causal connection between gay marriage and polygamy, pedophilia or who-knows-what’s in Metaxas’ mind. Polygamy failed long ago; Sarah and Hagar are still at odds. ‘60s “Open Marriage” fads failed, as do all inevitably competitive, jealousy provoking 3-ways. Ashley Madison adultery was designed by a double-incentive deceit since postmodern expectations are egalitarian.  But they forgot about hackers. And, news flash: Three new films reveal that human/android romance is a dud.  Who knew?

Accusing Justices of “making it up as they go”, Metaxas forgets that the Constitution requires interpreting for application in various circumstances – as does the Golden Rule.

2015 marks centenaries of Booker T. Washington and Fanny J. Crosby. Washington told Southern preachers: “If you want to know how to solve the race problem, place your hands upon your heart and then, with a prayer to God, ask Him how you today, were you placed in the position that the black man occupies, how you would desire the white man to treat you, and whenever you have answered that question in the sight of God and man, this problem in a large degree will have been solved.”  Inspired by Jesus’ summing up of the Law and Prophets, Crosby wrote: “Love the Lord, the first command, with thy soul and mind; Love thy neighbor as thyself, both in one combined.” Read more →

REVIEW: Summer 2015

“A Place for Conscience”, Kevin D. Williamson, National Review, April 20, 2015; “A Buckley Comes Out”, Sean Buckley, The Daily Beast, April 26, 2015; “Reparative Therapy: Is It Harmful?” by Nick Pitts, Denison Forum, April 16, 2015; “How Christians Turned Against Gay Conversion Therapy” by Jonathan Merritt, The Atlantic, April 15, 2015; “Sabrina’s Fable”, Mindy Belz; “Evangelical Shell Shock”, Marvin Olasky, World, May 2, 2015.

by Dr. Ralph Blair

(PDF version available here.)

Williamson wasn’t yet two years old when, in 1974, NR published a gay rights cover story by David Brudnoy and Ernest van den Haag. These two conservatives and Barry Farber, ‘77 Conservative/Republican mayoral candidate in New York, were Board members of our gay-affirming Homosexual Community Counseling Center.

Brudnoy noted Bill Buckley’s view that women’s liberation and the women’s liberation movement are not synonymous. “So too”, said Brudnoy, “with homosexual liberation and its apparatus. NR’s response to various liberation causes in flower over the past few years has been one of initial hostility, tempered later by a mellowing, a more sober consideration of the group’s aspiration, and then (at least with the Negro and female causes) refined into intelligent, forthright acceptance of the legitimacy of certain aspects of those thrusts for legal and societal equality.” This was true, too, of other conservative media, including evangelical. Said Brudnoy: “The time when NR’s hostility to all but ‘discreet’ [closeted] homosexuals should be customary in these pages has passed.” That was over 40 years ago.

Today, Williamson conflates a publicity stunt with serious efforts for “the moral status of homosexuality or the social desirability of gay marriage”. He claims black civil rights shouldn’t be a “template” for the same-sex struggle, but ignores similarities, e.g,, white citizens’ hostility to the moral status of integration and the social undesirability of “mixed race” marriage. He says it’s “question-begging” to align the two struggles, but it’s his circularity that begs the question. Yes, gays weren’t brought here as slaves and, if closeted, weren’t “segregated”. But blacks grew up around other black folk; gays grew up in isolation, thinking no one else was so “perverted” and “damned”. Black parents loved their kids – but selfish slaveholders separated kids from their parents; parents of gay kids separate themselves from their kids. It used to be a felony for blacks to marry whites and same-sex marriage is still against the law in many states.
Read more →

REVIEW. Spring 2015 Vol. 40 No. 2

Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society Book Review by Guenther “Gene” Haas, December 2014
“Tragedy, Tradition, and Opportunity in the Homosexuality Debate” by Ronald J. Sider, CT Weekly, November 18, 2014.
(PDF version available here.)

by Dr. Ralph Blair

Haas reviews Gracious Spaciousness: Responding to Gay Christians in the Church by Wendy VanderWal-Gritter. She led an Exodus group that Haas supported, but now she supports same-sex relationship (SSR) and he doesn’t. His over six pages of hostility, the longest review in this issue of JETS, is evidence of the need for her book.

He claims that, “as a book written by a professing evangelical and published by an evangelical publishing company [it’s] unique” in affirming “monogamous committed SSR”. But for many decades now, SSR has been affirmed by leading evangelicals – such as an ETS president and four of Christianity Today’s top-ranked authors of its first 50 years, including its No. 1 author. The president of Covenant Seminary during Haas’ student days helped to found EC. And evangelical presses published their books.

VanderWal-Gritter learned from “ex-gay” tragedies but Haas didn’t. Faulting her for going “contrary to the teaching of the church for two thousand years”, he’s at fault for thinking the church addressed, much less ever understood, same-sex attraction (SSA) or SSR. Until recent times, conservative churches opposed mixed-race marriage, mixed-race congregations and racial integration in general. And earlier, they supported slavery. All of it was backed with Bible verses no longer used for those purposes. Read more →

REVIEW. Winter 2015 Vol. 40 No. 1

Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society Book Review by Andrew M. Bowden, September 2014
“Marriage: Can We Have Justice Without It?” by Robert P. George, Plough Quarterly, Autumn 2014
“Judicial Activism, Judicial Abdication”, National Review, November 3, 2014
“Tim Cook: Is Being Gay a Gift of God?” by Jim Denison, Denison Forum, October 31, 2014
“Top Ten Harms of Same-Sex ‘Marriage’” by Peter Sprigg, FRC.org
“The New Normal” by Sophia Lee, World, September 20, 2014.

(PDF version available here.)

by Dr. Ralph Blair

Bowden, a grad student, grants that emeritus professor William Loader, whose Making Sense of Sex (Eerdmans, 2013) he reviews, “has established himself as an expert in the field of ancient Jewish and Christian views on sexuality”. But he complains that Loader now “lobbies against discrimination against homosexuals who should be allowed to express themselves like everyone else”. Like Bowden and his wife are allowed? He ridicules the idea that “such discrimination should be dropped just as it was towards slaves and women.” He says: “ Loader seems to assume that his research into ancient sexuality gives him the expertise to approve modern ‘developments’ and to disregard texts that differ. This raises an important question: If someone is an expert about ancient sexuality, does this also make one an expert about modern sexuality? Loader seems to think so, since he freely offers his opinions about modern sexuality, yet without the backing of any scientific research on the topic.”

To the contrary, it’s because Loader sees the difference between ancient assumptions and findings of scientific research, that he concludes as he does. But Bowden assumes that his own lack of such research in ancient assumptions, let alone his own lack of expertise in the scientific study of sex, gives him the expertise to reject Loader’s conclusions. Bowden and most of our fellow ETS members – though not all – impose their ignorance of homosexuality into ancient texts and today’s experience, while oblivious to relevant research. Read more →

REVIEW. Fall 2014 Vol. 39 No. 4

The Bible’s YES to Same-Sex Marriage: An Evangelical’s Change of Heart by Mark Achtemeier (WJK, 2014), 137 pp;

A Letter to My Congregation by Ken Wilson (Read the Spirit, 2014), 196 pp;

“Five Questions For Christians Who Believe the Bible Supports Gay Marriage” by Kevin DeYoung, The Gospel Coalition, 2014.

(PDF version available here.)

We’ve always been a pilgrim people, as Reformed theologian Peter Leithart knows: “At each juncture, God calls his people to shed old ways and old names, to die to old routines and ways of life, including ways of life God himself has established. We do not like this.  We do not want our world shattered, even if God rebuilds from the rubble.” Achtemeier and Wilson are fit for such a pilgrimage.

Dedicating his book “to my dear wife”, Achtemeier affirms a partnered life for gays. This contrasts with another Presbyterian’s dedicating his antigay book to his wife, as if he’d never heard of Jesus’ New Commandment. Laying down one’s prejudice for others ought to be a snap to laying down one’s life.

Whatever else Wilson and Achtemeier marshal in revising their earlier notions – and they engage Bible verses they’d read differently – their impetus is to do justice, love mercy and submit to Jesus’ summation of the Law and Prophets. Read more →

REVIEW. Summer 2014 Vol. 39 No .3

Romans 1-7 For You by Timothy Keller (The Good Book Company, 2014) 201 pp
“5 Ways to Debate Same-sex Marriage” by Jim Denison, Denison Forum, February 28, 2014
“Polarizing President” by Joel Belz; “For Better, For Worse” by Joel Belz
“From Gay to Joyous” by Marvin Olasky, World, February 8, 2014
“Pattern of Deception” by Joel Belz
“Milestone Melodies” by Marvin Olasky, World, May 31, 2014.

By Dr. Ralph Blair

(PDF version available here)

Yale’s Wayne Meeks’ work on Paul’s world advises knowing the social history “then and there [and warns not to]‘explain’ [their beliefs, thoughts and actions] by some supposedly universal laws of social behavior.”  Keller blunders badly here. He projects 21st century gay romance into an ancient power-structured world of sex abuse, saying: “As a cultured and traveled Roman citizen, Paul would have been very familiar with long-term, stable, loving relationships between same-sex couples.” No!  Keller’s scenario would have been meaningless 200, let alone 2,000, years ago. His agenda-driven fantasy flies in the face of what Brown University classics scholar and Christianity Today contributor Sarah Ruden explains of Paul’s world: “There were no gay households; there were in fact no gay institutions or gay culture at all”. As “cultured and traveled” as Paul surely was, he wasn’t aware of what wasn’t there.  Besides, romantic love, as C. S. Lewis explained, emerged in the Middle Ages.  Keller’s “gay” concoction contaminates his commentary. Read more →

REVIEW. Spring 2014 Vol. 39 No .2

Abusing Scripture: The Consequences of Misreading the Bible by Manfred T. Brauch, (IVP Academic, 2009) 293 pp;

First Peter by E. M. Blaiklock (Word, 1977) 113 pp;

Connecting Christ by Paul Louis Metzger, (Thomas Nelson, 2010) 328 pp. 

By Dr. Ralph Blair

(PDF version available here)

A kids’ quiz asks, “Which One Doesn’t Belong?”, e.g., red, blue, cat, yellow?  Grown-ups fail that test at I Corinthians 6:9.  Paul reprimands Christians who, in suing one another in pagan law courts instead of settling disputes among themselves, are as evil as thieves, swindlers, slanderers, drunkards, the greedy and those to whom he refers with a now indecipherable term. Yet, today, while suing each other in pagan law courts – especially over gay issues – careless and incompetent Christians use that obscure term to slander and otherwise abuse all lovingly committed same-gender couples

For wanting as loving a marriage as heterosexuals can have, gay folk get slandered and robbed – like the victims Paul had in mind.  Pushing today’s gay couples into that cryptic category is scriptural abuse that becomes spiritual abuse and more.  An eminent classics scholar, Blaiklock reminds us: “Like all minorities, [Christians, too] were slandered.  Their conduct was vilified, misrepresented and misunderstood.”  This is still the case. Read more →

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