REVIEW Spring 2018

“Does Genesis 2 Support Same-Sex Marriage? An Evangelical Response” by Brian Neil Peterson, Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society, December 2017.

by Dr. Ralph Blair

(PDF version available here)

Peterson is distracted by recent “cultural changes in the West”, but he fails to take note of the far greater conceptual and cultural changes from ancient times to ours.  He fails, too, to take note of progressive revelation that runs throughout scripture, and runs beyond that, through common grace.

Dallas Seminary biblical scholar Daniel Wallace has urged, wisely: “We need to nuance our faith so that we are in line with progressive revelation, especially the revelation that has come through God’s Son.  The NT gives plenty of evidence to this effect.”  Calvin College’s Theodore Plantinga has said: “Biblical history [is] the history of revelation [so] we must make progress in our study of God’s revelation.”

In contrast to legalists’ burdens and self-righteousness, Jesus’ “yoke is easy”, in part, because Jesus’ call for a moral life can be intuited from our experienced awareness of how we want to be treated.  So, we do know how to treat others.  Jesus met religionists’ trap questions by replying: “Love God with all you are and all you have” – including, he added, “with all your mind” – and, “love your neighbor as yourself.”  Then came his punch line that left them speechless: “This sums up all scripture!”

But Peterson’s “argument” against marriage for those of same-sex orientation veers away from Jesus’ summation and gets stalled in texts related to eras before the Law and even before The Fall.  For now, we can’t return to sinless Eden, nor are we in a world of but one man and one woman.  Some men and women need to “be fruitful and multiply”.  Some do, some don’t; some can, some can’t. Read more →

REVIEW Winter 2018

The Grace of Shame: 7 Ways the Church has Failed to Love Homosexuals by Tim Bayly, Joseph Bayly, Jurgen von Hagen (Warhorn Media, 2017), 165 pp.  

 by Dr. Ralph Blair

(PDF version available here)

Tim Bayly’s dad was the late Joe Bayly, IVCF editor, author of The Gospel Blimp, and, for a quarter century, a popular columnist at Eternity magazine.  In 1979, he wrote: “Most evangelical churches are very uptight about homosexuality, relatively very accepting of adultery, and the concomitant problems of desertion and divorce.”  Noting, “there is such a crusade against homosexuals”, he asked: “Why?”  His perceptive reply: “I think it’s because homosexual sins are their sins, heterosexual sins are ours.”  Tim Bayly included this wise observation in his collection of his dad’s columns, The Best of Joe Bayly (1993).

But now, with his co-authors, his son and another pastor, he’s who’s “very uptight about homosexuality” (i.e., others’ sins, not ours).  Indeed, their new book is a moral panic.

They obsess over “effeminate sodomites”, their label for gays.  But Ezekiel said that the sin of the real Sodomites was that, having plenty for themselves they arrogantly refused to help the poor and needy. Then, these Sodomites appeared at Lot’s door, intent on self-righteously raping despised sojourners into submission.  They weren’t looking for dates.

Tim Bayly has castigated what he scorns as the “scandal” of “effeminate worship [at] the hole of Redeemerism”, i.e., Tim Keller’s Redeemer Presbyterian Church in America and he’s mocked Keller’s “effeminate” evasion on “sodomites”.  Bayly’s left the PCA and now heads a “manly” church, a branch of which, his son, Joseph, is planting.

Their book’s title is a phrase that can refer to God’s grace that alerts us to our sin and our need to repent.  But, in sensing shame, one must discern if it’s biblically based in true guilt or in a conscience twisted by false teaching.  Luther counseled: “God does not save imaginary sinners.  So, be a sinner of real sins, but let your trust in Christ be even more real.”  This is no excuse to sin willfully; it’s good counsel to take real sin seriously. Read more →

REVIEW Fall 2017

“I’m a gay man, happily married to a woman.  And I’m not the only one”, LifeSiteNews, March 27, 2017; “The Case for Dating Non-Christians” by David and Constantino Khalaf, Progressive Channel, Patheos, December 7, 2016;  For Those Tears I Died by Marsha Stevens-Pino (Canyon Walker Press, 2016), 249 pp.; To Drink from the Silver Cup by Anna Redsand (Terra Nova Books, 2016), 313 pp.

 by Dr. Ralph Blair

(PDF version available here)
Nobody would fall for this headline: “I’m a heterosexual man, happily married to another man.  And I’m not the only one.”  Yet, LifeSite’s headline is just as flaky, concocting a superficial “complementarity” of genitalia, as if the presence of a penis plus a vagina makes a good marriage, regardless of the sexual orientations of the two persons present.

A good marriage goes far deeper than genitalia or anatomy.  Psychosexually involuntary, mutual fascination with the other person, along with the sharing of their most basic values and their willingness and skill as team players, forms the basic triad of marital success.

But when antigay busybodies push others into mixed-orientation marriages, the fix is in that fixes nothing.  The tragic results are dysfunctional families and, usually, divorce.

The Khalafs, a “progressive” Christian gay couple, gets right what LifeSite gets wrong.   But, arguing for Christians to date non-Christians diminishes the matter of shared values that the Khalafs observe in their own marriage, i.e., both value progressive Christianity.  Screening for a committed partner, the big deals for each must align.  If each is merely nominally Christian, the couple shares that value.  If one is evangelically committed to Christ and the other isn’t or is committed to a rival worldview, conflict and a sense of disconnection is coming when neither “gets” what’s so meaningful or so offensive to the other.  They contend: “Dating is difficult enough.” And a seriously mismatched marriage isn’t?  Why, in searching for a life partner, would one ignore very predictable sources of conflict and isolation?  They contend: “The more filters we select, the fewer people meet our criteria.”  Well, too picky is one thing, but ignoring what’s significant is something else.  Besides, when a person is wisely screened out, that’s a very successful screening.

“For Those Tears I Died” is a well-loved praise song that Marsha Stevens wrote when she was just 17, back in the ‘60s Jesus Movement.  The Encyclopedia of Contemporary Christian Music calls her “the mother of Contemporary Christian Music”.  Her famous song’s title is now the title of Stevens-Pino’s autobiography.

For nearly half a century, millions have identified with her words that were, to her, very personal.  Her angry, drunken, preacher father was abusive and he sexually molested her. Her childhood was a constant effort to escape his attacks.  Yet, with faith in Jesus, she wrote, prayerfully: “You said You’d come and share all my sorrows, You said You’d be there for all my tomorrows; I came so close to sending You away, But just like you promised, You came here to stay; I just had to pray.  And Jesus said, ‘Come to the water, stand by My side, I know you are thirsty, you won’t be denied; I felt ev’ry teardrop when in darkness you cried, And I’m here to remind you that for those tears I died’.” Read more →

REVIEW: Summer 2017

“Nicholas Wolterstorff’s Cheap Shots: Why the Christian Philosopher’s Case for Same-Sex Marriage is Shallow” by Wesley Hill, First Things, November 1, 2016;  “The Tyranny of Decadence” by Peter Jones, truthXchange, June 5, 2017. 

 by Dr. Ralph Blair

(PDF version available here)

More than a decade before Wesley Hill graduated from college and two years before InterVarsity published the 1995 Christianity Today Book of the Year award-winner, Philosophers Who Believe, featuring Wolterstorff and ten others, Wolterstorff keynoted an Evangelicals Concerned gay/lesbian-affirming summer conference.  He’d have done so sooner, but for his heavy schedule of academic writing and speaking.

Hill hadn’t started elementary school when Wolterstorff was wrapping up his 30-year-tenure as philosophy professor at Calvin College.  Before Hill was born, Wolterstorff was traveling the world, giving the Free University of Amsterdam’s Kuyper Lectures, Oxford University’s Wilde Lectures, The University of St. Andrews’ Gifford Lectures, Southern Methodist University’s Tate-Willson Lectures, Princeton Theological Seminary’s Stone Lectures, Yale University’s Taylor Lectures, Regent College’s Laing Lectures and major lectures, too, at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.  He’s also held Visiting Professorships at Harvard, Princeton, Yale, Oxford, Notre Dame, the University of Texas, the University of Michigan, Temple University, the Free University of Amsterdam and the University of Virginia.  He’s “been around the block” – and not only as a solidly Christian philosopher.

While not responsible for when or even if we’re born, how about some humility later, before charging full blast against such a seasoned thinker as Wolterstorff?  Hill mocks his case for same-sex marriage as “shallow”, “flippant”, “superficial”, full of “cheap shots” and even unbiblical.  He cavils over Wolterstorff’s smiled aside on gay procreativity in this lecture given at a church, as if this grieving dad had never written Lament For a Son.

What’s most odd about Hill’s attempt to rebut Wolterstorff is how he begins his attack.  He objects to Wolterstorff’s following Jesus’ lead in Jesus’ response to a question he was asked: “What is the great commandment?”  Jesus summed up all the commandments and all the prophets in this twofold statement: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.  And love your neighbor as yourself.”  This self-evident, pragmatic rule of reciprocity is in all three Synoptics.  Clearly, it was very well recalled. Read more →

REVIEW: Spring 2017

“Religious Freedom for Me but Not for Thee?” by Paul Crookston, National Review, February 21, 2017;  “Europe’s Islam Problem and U.S. Immigration Policy” by Shannon Gilreath, Washington Blade, January 19, 2017.

 by Dr. Ralph Blair

(PDF version available here.)

National Review’s Collegiate Network Fellow and Gordon College graduate, Crookston, rightly notes: “America’s enshrinement of religious freedom is as exceptional as it is valuable”.  Here, he reports on disputes within the Southern Baptist Convention over an amicus brief filed by SBC’s International Mission Board and SBC’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission.  Along with similar support from the National Association of Evangelicals and Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, this brief has backed the right of Muslims to build a mosque in New Jersey.  The court has ruled in the Muslims’ favor.

Baptist opposition to religious freedom flies in the face of historic Baptist support for such freedom in the founding the Rhode Island colony as a haven for Baptists, as well as for Quakers, Jews and all others, safe from persecution by intolerant Puritans.  Yet, an angry SBC preacher objects: “I want no part in supporting a false religion.”  Of course, in America, his right not to hold what he takes to be false belief exists alongside another’s right to hold that belief.  So Crookston rightly assesses the angry protester to be mistaken.

Ironically, though Crookston doesn’t refer to it specifically, the Federal government is assaulting the religious liberty of his own alma mater through its Title IX restrictions on the college’s views on homosexuality.  He does note: “Unfortunately, many on the left snidely put ‘religious liberty’ into scare quotes, arguing that it’s time to put florists out of business in order to assert the state’s absolute right to legislate progressive morality.” Read more →

REVIEW: Winter 2017

“Keller, Moore, De Young on How to Speak to Our Culture About Sex”, Ryan Troglin, ed., The Gospel Coalition, August 23, 2016.

 by Dr. Ralph Blair

(PDF version available here.)

In 1954, C. S. Lewis was asked about homosexuality.  He recalled 1918, when he was an atheist and his closest friend, a devout Christian, confided that he was homosexual.  He’s said that Arthur “fulfilled the Gospel precept: ‘he judged not’. …  I learned charity from him and failed, for all my efforts, to teach him arrogance.”  Lewis dedicated Pilgrim’s Regress to him.  After their lifetime of letters, Lewis could reply to his recent inquirer: “All I have really said is that, like all other tribulations, it must be offered to God and His guidance how to use it.”  In 1955, he noted the “hypocrisy” and “nausea” on the topic, adding, “I think that of very little relevance to moral judgment.”  He wrote: “Those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience.”  In 1960, he assured a homosexual artist that he stood with him and with all his kind against the antigay “busybodies”.

Four Gospel Coalition busybodies now share their antigay views while biblically and historically ill informed and up against the revisions of their fellow “Reformed and ever reforming” Christians.  Presbyterian Church in America pastor Tim Keller, the Southern Baptist political ethicist Russell D. Moore, mainline Reformed Church in America pastor Kevin De Young and TGC editor Ryan Troglin, a 2015 Southern Seminary graduate, do show some nuance here, but they’re all held hostage to ignorance and church politics. Read more →

REVIEW: Fall 2016

“Sexuality and Gender” by Lawrence S. Mayer and Paul R. McHugh, The New Atlantis, Fall 2016.

 by Dr. Ralph Blair

(PDF version available here.)

Plain Reasons for the Growth of Sodomy in England, a 1728 tome, blamed tea and the  “pernicious influence” of Italian opera.  Today, there’s still alarm over the growth of what folks still confuse with that ancient xenophobic gang’s attempted rapes at Sodom.  During the intervening centuries, same-sex orientation and relationship for which we’ve not been adequately prepared has been blamed on astrological quirks, demons, masturbation, fluoride, trauma in utero, genes, smothering mothers, distant fathers, child sex abuse, “lifestyle choice” and almost anything else but the kitchen sink.

A conservative policy group focusing on “crucial moral and political questions” has published this survey of selected studies culled by Mayer, a psychologist, and McHugh, a psychiatrist, though the authors claim not to be dealing with “morality”.

“Born that way” is an oft-repeated catchphrase that does catch the fact that everyone – whether heterosexual or homosexual – feels “born that way”.  But these authors’ assumed purpose is that, in the case of homosexuals, “born that way” must be debunked.

Also, the authors reject the view that, “homosexuality or heterosexuality is in any given person unchangeable and determined entirely apart from choices, behaviors, life experiences, and social contexts.”  But, the data from many decades of failed “ex-gay” efforts and prior decades of psychoanalysis indicate the immutability of the orientation of one’s sex drive, at least in males, whatever fluidity some females may experience.  Of course, one’s circumstances, e.g., religious scruples or the unavailability of a preferred sex partner, may prompt a male homosexual to marry a woman or a heterosexual prisoner to rape a cellmate.  But neither case demonstrates any “fluidity” of sexual orientation.

Oddly, the report claims the term, “orientation”, is itself, “highly ambiguous” and that it “can refer to a set of behaviors, to feelings of attraction, or to a sense of identity”.  But, the very common, everyday use of the term is for the direction of one’s involuntary sexual attraction.  All who tried for so long and failed to get rid of their sex drive’s same-sex direction, still sense their orientation as anything but ambiguous. They chose to change their behavior and identity but that never changed their involuntary sexual orientation. Read more →

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 →

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