Tag Archives: G.K. Chesterton

The LGBTQIA Movement: Questions Needing Answers

lgbtqia-1

There’s a lot of talk and press these days about the LGBTQIA movement. This letter string represents an acronym of the first letters in a growing list of sexual identities such as Lesbian/Gay/Bisexual/Transgendered/Queer/Questioning/Intersexual/Asexual/Androgynous. With all the confusion and politicization surrounding the issue, it’s very hard to know where to begin and, like the expanding list of initials in the moniker, where it will all finally end.

The movement raises a number of important challenges to the traditional ways people understand what it means to be human, challenges that deserve thoughtful responses from the Christian community. Many of the issues pertain to the following questions and problems:

  • What does the Bible say about human sexuality in general, and the moral status of homosexual behavior in particular?
  • How did the LGBTQIA movement come to hold their views on these issues?
  • What relationship does human sexuality have with personal identity?
  • Can people who struggle with sexual identity truly change their orientation?
  • From a pastoral perspective, how should Christians respond and what should they expect and prepare for as the LGBTQIA movement continues to gain cultural acceptance?

In this mini-series, we will briefly address these and other relevant concerns regarding the difficult but important issue of human identity and sexuality. I will especially try to touch on aspects of the debate that in my estimation are often not raised or adequately dealt with in the Christian community. Before looking more closely at the complex question of human identity and its relationship to sexuality, we first will touch on some general biblical issues regarding it.

I begin by admitting that dealing in detail with every passage of scripture addressing homosexuality in particular or human sexuality in general is not possible in a piece like this. Whole books have been written on the subject. For those who care to look more deeply at the question, an excellent recent example is Kevin DeYoung’s, What Does the Bible Really Teach about Homosexuality? We can, however, make some initial observations about the Bible and the question of human sexuality.

First, biblical teaching on sexual purity should incorporate broader questions of human nature and identity, not merely atomistic passages dealing with specific sexual issues, as important as these are. There is a tendency to quote individual verses of scripture and forget that they are part of a broader coherent complex of biblical teaching on human sexuality. If we fail to give a fuller Christian perspective and carefully construct a more compelling narrative of what it means to be genuinely human, we likely will only succeed in further alienating, confusing, and talking past our non-Christian audiences.

Second, biblically speaking, sexual ethics flows out of the loving and righteous character and will of God. When God gives a prohibition in this area, it is neither capricious nor arbitrary. There is always a good reason for the prohibitions God gives, even when that reason is not spelled out for us, and even when we fail to see what it could possibly be. Usually time reveals the reason, but even if it doesn’t, we trust God is far wiser and more righteous than any of us can dream or imagine. As the One who made and designed us, He knows what is ultimately best for every human being.

Third, all attempts I have read to provide biblical justification for homosexual activities and unions (for example) have worked very hard to redefine words and bring socio-historical backgrounds to bear in a way that sounds more like an exercise in hermeneutical gymnastics than a genuine attempt to hear what the text is actually saying. In seminary we called this process “eisegesis,” the attempt to read into the text what was not really there in order to make it say what we want it to say. Instead, we must always submit ourselves to the divine authority of God’s word, hearing and obeying what it actually says, no matter how hard or countercultural it might appear.

Fourth, and closely related, it is significant to mention that throughout history, the vast majority of biblical interpreters and scholars have taught that the Bible condemns homosexual sex, as well as a number of other related sexual behaviors, which are described together as aberrant and inappropriate expressions of human sexuality. It should always give us serious pause when we are tempted and encouraged to sweep away the overwhelming majority position of church history simply because contemporary ethical mores on human sexuality have changed and because some Christians in the church have become advocates of that new morality.

Technological advance has sometimes tempted us to conclude that whatever is new is “better,” an improvement over the old and out-of-date. In Christian ethics, however, “progressive” moral campaigns, far from being ethical advances, are frequently ethical regressions. They end up acquiescing to the spirit of the age, rather than submitting to the Spirit of the Lord.

As G. K. Chesterton put it so eloquently on page 159 of The Everlasting Man, “We cannot pretend to be abandoning the morality of the past for one more suited to the present. [Christian morality] is certainly not the morality of another age, but it might be of another world.”

In the next installment, we will examine in more detail some biblical perspectives on the complex question of human identity, especially as it relates to human sexuality.

When Stuff Is Not Enough

Indoor Market

Not long ago, the Obama administration claimed that any long-term resolution to the problems in the Middle East must primarily address the social, political, and especially economic systems that give rise to fanaticism.  This is a step in the right direction, and certainly an advance from the ideology that says we should just “bomb them back to the stone age.”  But the problems being addressed and the solutions brought to bear upon them are only partly right.

There is a consistent short-sightedness in western secularism that struggles to understand why people would give their lives for anything other than essentially material gains.  This is hardly surprising given its basic assumption that virtually all human behavior is fundamentally reducible to political and material explanations.  After all, when all that exists is matter and energy in its various forms, why look for something beyond the physical to live for and find hope and happiness in?

For secularism, any claim to a religious or metaphysical motivation can only be a smokescreen for the real reason for human behavior, namely the craving for possessions, passion, and position.  In the contemporary vernacular, we call this the pursuit of money, sex, and power.

There’s no question radical Muslims are interested in obtaining such things for themselves.  But to reduce all rationales solely to the physical is to miss critical aspects of humanity that are very often much more important than merely material ones.  In short, stuff is not enough because social, political, and economic systems have distinctly religious and spiritual components that cannot and must not be passed over as incidental or unimportant.

Because secularists often ignore or badly underestimate these determinative factors, they tend to “thin out” and miss the deeper and more complex features of human life systems.  If you disallow spiritual explanations because you do not think the spiritual realm is real or important, you will have a hard time explaining why someone would give their lives for the greater glory of their God (or gods).  And you will not appreciate the deeply spiritual side of human nature.

In view of this, it is tragically ironic that in the current conflict, Islamic militants are very clear about their distinctly religious motivations.  And yet, these motivations are frequently ignored or reinterpreted in socioeconomic terms in an attempt to provide more plausible secularist explanations for how thousands of young men and women can be so readily convinced to give their lives for essentially non-material gains.  But in the minds of these Muslims, they are not terrorists.  They are faithful followers of Allah, offering up their lives in unsullied service of him.

Western secularism has a hard time understanding fanaticism in part because it does not see an ultimate non-material set of reasons for living and dying for anything or anyone beyond this life.  Consequently, very few in the secular west are genuinely fanatical about anything.  As long as we can maintain a reasonable level of personal peace and affluence we remain anesthetized to the greater things beyond this life.

If there is any counterpart at all in the west today, it is the proponents of the “new sexuality.”  They are not terrorists, of course, but they are fanatics and will stop at nothing until absolutely everyone—to the last man, woman, and child—is either convinced or cajoled into affirming that the LGTBQIA movement is not merely permissible, but morally right.  But moral rights are not material; they are transcendent.  They lay claim to you whether you agree with them or not.

Thus, to permit a perspective and set of activities is one thing.  To demand acceptance and celebration of them is wholly another.  Fanatics are not interested in plurality.  They are interested in conformity.  But they want conformity because they think they are right, not merely because it offers certain material and social advantages.  Similarly, in Islam, the resolution to any moral question is clearly a religious and ideological one that cannot be settled by or reduced to purely pragmatic and material concerns.

G. K. Chesterton puts it best in The Everlasting Man when he states that secular socialists are “always stubbornly and stupidly repeating that men fight for material ends, without reflecting for a moment that the material ends are hardly ever material to the men who fight.” He goes on to astutely observe, “There is a religious war when two worlds meet; that is when two visions of the world meet; or in more modern language when two moral atmospheres meet. What is the one man’s breath is the other man’s poison. . . .”  Which is poison and which is breath and why?  The ultimate answer is not determined in a laboratory, through political showmanship, or even in the marketplace.  No, the solution that we seek must be sought and found elsewhere.

Yes, we live in a world at war, but contrary to secularist views, the enemies we engage are not merely material.  Ephesians 6:10-20 reminds us that our struggle with evil is not against flesh and blood.  It is, at its root, a spiritual battle.  The sooner we understand and embrace this, the better equipped we will be to face our real enemies with clarity, resolve, and effectiveness, using weapons that are not of this world but instead are divinely powerful for the destruction of godless fortresses and false ideologies—our own included.