Can we really trust what the Bible says about humanity, and even homosexuality? Pastor Kevin DeYoung takes on some of the most challenging arguments nonbelievers devise regarding homosexuality.
Can we really trust what the Bible says about humanity, and even homosexuality? Pastor Kevin DeYoung takes on some of the most challenging arguments nonbelievers devise regarding homosexuality.
Bob: Are Christians today becoming more worldly in how they think and how they act? Pastor Kevin DeYoung says it’s easy to see how something like that can happen.
Kevin: Worldliness is whatever makes sin look normal and righteousness look strange. That’s what we’re facing. It’s not so much that somebody handed out leaflets and convinced the whole culture to believe something different about marriage or sexuality. It’s much more subtle than that. It’s through a Facebook® feed, and a Twitter® feed, and through award shows, and through music, and through conversations that we begin to wonder: “Can we really trust what the Bible says? Maybe we’ve gotten this all wrong.”
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Thursday, May 28th. Our host is the President of FamilyLife®, Dennis Rainey, and I’m Bob Lepine. How can we keep from being conformed to this world and instead be transformed? We’ll talk about renewing our minds on the subject of same-sex marriage and homosexuality today. Stay tuned.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us on the Thursday edition. You know, I’ve pretty much gotten to the point where I just don’t even watch the award shows anymore, whether it’s the Academy Awards, or the Grammy’s, or the Tony’s, or the Emmy awards because, if you watch these shows, somewhere in the middle of the show, there’s going to be some kind of a pro-same-sex marriage / pro-homosexual agenda statement that’s going to be made by the people who are the cultural elite in our society.
Dennis: Yes. For me, what I think happens is—I think a lot of people, who follow Christ, kind of go: “Wooh! I can’t say anything. I’ve got to be really, really careful.”
That’s exactly what many of us do—we don’t say anything. We don’t stand up for the truth of what Scripture teaches. We’re afraid of rejection, or we’re afraid of being called judgmental; but I think there’s a great need today to just have a good dialogue. Let those who reason from the Bible / let those who have the authority of Scripture speak on its behalf and hopefully do so with a loving spirit.
We have a gentleman with us, Kevin DeYoung, who I believe has done a great job of doing that. Kevin—welcome back to the broadcast.
Kevin: Glad to be here. Thanks for having me.
Dennis: He’s a pastor—that’s part of why he is loving in his approach. He’s an under-shepherd of a church in East Lansing, Michigan—University Reformed Church. He and his wife Trisha have been married 13 years—have 6 children. He’s just finished a book, What Does the Bible Really Teach about Homosexuality?
What Bob’s talking about here—we’re all facing this—whether it’s a listener right now who’s a mom, who’s raising teenagers / who’s wanting to coach them in how to be able to live out their faith in the school where they go, or whether it’s a businessman by the water cooler. We’re all facing this issue.
Kevin: I think of one of the lines that I heard from one of my professors in seminary. He said, “Worldliness is whatever makes sin look normal and righteousness look strange.” And that’s what we’re facing. It’s not so much that somebody handed out leaflets and, through some syllogistic reasoning, convinced the whole culture to believe something different about marriage or sexuality.
It’s much more subtle than that. It’s through a Facebook feed, and a Twitter feed, and through award shows, and through music, and through conversations that we begin to wonder: “Can we really trust what the Bible says? Maybe we’ve gotten this all wrong. Maybe we need to change how we understand this.
“Maybe some of these new arguments I’m hearing really hold some water,” because what we have always thought seems to no longer have any culture attraction. In fact, it’ll get us labeled “bigoted” and “hateful” and “prejudiced” and any of number of epithets, no matter how nice or how big our smile is.
Bob: So let me ask you to respond to some of the arguments that all of us are hearing. And in responding, just help us—not only with what’s the truth of what we need to say—but how do we express it in such a way that represents Jesus well?
So, somebody comes up and says: “Look, I was listening to that one song on the radio. It says I was ‘born this way.’ These folks didn’t ask for same-sex attraction. It’s obvious that it’s something nobody grows up, wanting to be gay. If God made them this way, who are we to come along now and say you can’t be this way?”
Kevin: That song, which I only know is from Lady Gaga, but not because I listen to Lady Gaga—[Laughter]—
—is actually a good entree because there’s a half-truth—there’s a theological instinct there, which is accurate, and that is to say: “We cannot be other than who we truly are.” So, in one sense, we are born that way. As Christians, we affirm that we are born as sinners. So the good news of the gospel is: “Though you may be born that way you can be born again a different way.”
Now what the slogan means is something different than that often—it often has to do with biological determinism—that you had no choice in how you act. But how we act is different than what sort of urges or desires may come to us, unbidden. I think virtually every person I’ve known, struggling with same-sex attraction—“Yes,” they say, “this is not something I woke up and just decided to have,”—but all of us have inclinations and propensities to do things that aren’t right. I mean, that’s part of having the human condition.
We need to be born again and reshaped by the gospel and by the grace of Christ so that being in Christ now we can be a different way.
Just one quick story—I remember reading this several years ago—of a pastor who was talking to a young man in his congregation, struggling with same-sex attraction. They had a good relationship; and he was telling his pastor: “Look, I feel real tempted. I’m going to go back to this lifestyle tonight. I just can’t fight this anymore.” And the pastor said, “No, you’re not going to do that because that’s not who you are anymore.” What it was—was a profound reminder—
Kevin: —“You’re now in Christ. You’re not a slave to ever-increasing wickedness, but we are a slave to righteousness.” There is something true in that we can only act according to our identity; but our truest identity—if we’re believers—is in Christ.
Dennis: I have no idea if this has happened in your family—you have six children. There will come a time when one of your children will come back from the public school and they’ll say: “Dad, I was talking to a buddy at school. He says he’s homosexual / he’s gay—he was born that way.” How would you take your son under your arm, at that moment, and what would you say to him? I mean, you’ve written a book, What Does the Bible Really Teach about Homosexuality? Now, let’s apply it to where moms and dads live because they’re being confronted with this on a regular basis.
Kevin: Those sorts of conversations are already beginning to happen and need to happen. Anyone out there—you need to not be afraid to have these conversations.
I’d say to my son—and we’ve started to talk about some of these things: “Look, there are different ideas out there. You know there are people who aren’t Christians. You know that there are people who have different ideas about God, and heaven, and hell, and Jesus. Well, there are people who have different ideas about sex / who have different ideas about what family should be like. We want to always be respectful—we don’t want to be mean to those people / we don’t want to make fun of those people—but you know part of being a Christian is being different and that our authority is from the Bible. So, son, I want to talk about what the Bible says.”
Probably start—if you’re dealing with a younger kid—I think you can start with Genesis, and maybe that’s where you end for the day—just say: “Here’s how God designed men and women to be together and a mom and a dad to come together and have children. So, your friend at school…” because I know that my kids do have classmates at school who have two moms or have two dads and will run into those friends who announce to everyone that, “I’m gay.”
It’s just—you have to have a real frank conversation, with kindness and in a winsome way, but yet make sure your children know that this is going to be increasingly common/ not less so. We don’t need to be scared of it / we don’t need to be scared of people who do things differently—
—but yet, we don’t allow other people to determine what God’s Word says. We belong to Christ, and as Christians, that means we need to follow Christ—that’s the most important thing.
Dennis: I like how you answer it because you’re actually not getting narrowly-defined around a single issue. You’re helping your child know how to think about people who are going to differ with them all the way through life—
Bob: —about all categories of sin and behavior; right?
Kevin: Yes. They’re going to get different viewpoints on any number of issues—whether they go to a public school, or they’re home schooled, or they go to a Christian school—because they are going to live in this world, and they’re going to rub shoulders with people. There’s freedom to choose different kinds of ways of instructing our kids in the Lord; but, if they’re living in this world, they are going to have those conversations—and whether it’s from “I don’t understand the environment,” to “…sexuality,” to “…marriage,” to any number of things—we’re going to have to help our children.
Dennis: All this discussion we’re having right now assumes the mom and the dad know what they believe—
Kevin: Yes that’s right.
Dennis: —and where they stand on the Scriptures around this subject.
Bob: So, in high school, you’re having that conversation. Somebody turns to you and says: “You probably think homosexuality is a sin; don’t you? You go to church; right? You think it’s a sin.” And you say, “Well, yes, I think that’s what the Bible teaches.” And they say, “So you’re a bigot and a hater.” Now, all of a sudden, here you are—being pushed into a corner—where you go: “I don’t want to be defined that way; and yet it seems that, if I hold to what the Bible teaches here, that’s going to be my reputation around school. What do I do?”
Kevin: Well, if I had my wits about me, which is hard to do if you’re a 15-year-old—[Laughter]
Kevin: —I would ask some questions. You see, Jesus does this masterfully. Being courageous for truth doesn’t mean we be foolish with the truth. It doesn’t mean that we have to download everything we know every time we have an opportunity to speak. The wiser course is often to ask questions.
So somebody said: “So, you go to a church. You probably think homosexuality is a sin.” [You] might say, “Well what do you think a sin is?”
“Well, I think a sin is when you do something bad.”
“Do you believe that there are bad things?”
“Well, sure—yes, if people hit somebody or whatever.”
“Okay so you believe in sin.” You try to find some common ground. “Okay, so, are you okay that maybe we have some different understandings of what sin is?”
“Well yes. But this issue’s so clear; and if you think this, you’re a hater.”
“Well, why would that be hate?”
“Well because you think that the way somebody else lives their life is wrong.”
“Well, do you think my beliefs are wrong?”
“And do you hate me?”
“I don’t think so.”
Now, it’s never going to go that smoothly, but I would just encourage people out there—moms, kids, dads, anyone—ask questions. You don’t have to have a degree in apologetics / you don’t have to have multiple PhDs on this stuff.
Most of the people, probably—you know your Bible better than you think—you need to know it better than you do—[Laughter]—but ask questions. Be humble, and don’t be afraid of getting caught in a corner.
Bob: Okay, let me ask you about the Bible because here’s one that comes up: “I’ve read Leviticus. You’re not supposed to mix fabric; you’re not supposed to eat shellfish; and if kids disobey, we stone them. That’s what you guys believe; right? Homosexuality is wrong—I suppose you’re going to stone your kids when you get home; right?”
Kevin: No. So, I would start with Leviticus: “Have you ever read Leviticus?”—probably not—I’d say: “Did you know that Jesus quotes a verse from Leviticus more than any other verse in the Old Testament?—‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ That’s from Leviticus [Leviticus 19:18]. So, before we just set aside the whole book, we better realize that Jesus drew from the book often.” Yes, sort of lay some ground rules there.
Then we need to see what Jesus says on the Sermon on the Mount [Matthew, Chapters 5-7]: “You like the Sermon on the Mount?”
“Oh yes,”—most people like the Sermon on the Mount. “Jesus said, ‘I did not come to abolish the tiniest speck, not a jot or tittle, not a dot or iota of all that the Law and the Prophets said but’ He ‘came to fulfill it.’ Jesus is not in the business of just taking the Old Testament and saying, ‘Let’s put that aside.’”
Now, He fulfilled it—meaning He showed what its true meaning was and filled it up—but I just want to lay some conceptual framework before we get into the nitty-gritty because you’re not going to win that argument, on an emotional level, when you start talking about shellfish. You need to back up and say, “How do we approach the Old Testament?” And then, if you want to get to specifics, you can talk about how Paul uses the same word that’s used in the Greek translation of the Old Testament that he uses in Corinthians—and he uses it in First Timothy—he is obviously drawing from Leviticus.
Leviticus is obviously based on the divine design, laid out in Genesis, Chapter 1. There’s any number of other arguments. If you can, at least, get the big picture there—that surely to be a Christian—doesn’t mean that we just cut out the Old Testament because it seems strange to us.
Bob: Pretty hard to have a conversation with somebody on television—who’s asking shellfish questions / about the three tables of the Law—and explaining to them the ceremonial and civil law are different than moral law. Really, you can’t win in that regard.
Kevin: Yes. This is where I think we need to be honest enough and humble enough to know that, if somebody doesn’t want to have an argument, we’re not going to have an argument with them. If it’s not really an intellectual question, but it’s a form of derision—you know that famous line: “How can you refute a sneer?” Well you can’t.
Sometimes, we need to just say: “Before I answer that, I just want to know: ‘Are you interested in thinking about this with me and how I might answer that question, or do you already have your mind made up that Leviticus is ridiculous and we shouldn’t…?’” because most people—they’re throwing it out as just sort of bumper-sticker slogans.
We would do well to stop people short a little bit, in a humble way, and just say: “I will try to answer that…” or “I’ll read a book…” or “I’ll point you to my pastor, but only if you’re really serious about it. If this is just about you trying to stone me, then we can just skip the middle man and just move on.”
Bob: That’s good.
Dennis: What’s another typical way—
Bob: Well, I’ve got one for you—
Bob: —“Jesus never talked about this.” This is a big one! “You read your red letters? Jesus didn’t ever use the word, ‘homosexuality.’ Why are you making it such a big deal?”
Kevin: Which is not true because Jesus, in Matthew 19 and elsewhere, explicitly reaffirms the divine design of marriage in Genesis. So, Jesus had a view of marriage—He states it very explicitly and clearly. It’s also not true because Jesus talks about, in Mark 7 and elsewhere—He talks about the sin of porneia—that’s the Greek word. You can hear our English word, “pornography.”
Porneia referred to all sexual sin forbidden by the Torah—which would include adultery, and promiscuity, and fornication, and incest, and homosexuality, and bestiality—it included all of them. And Jesus said, “…out of your heart come this porneia”— this evil [Matthew 15:19]. To think that Jesus didn’t have in mind all that the Torah would have encapsulated is wrong.
Then, of course, the last thing I would say is: “The red letters aren’t more important than the black letters in our Bible because it’s all inspired by the Spirit. Jesus said He sent His Spirit to the Apostles to teach all the things concerning Himself. So, all of it is a record of God’s divine disclosure. We exalt and worship Jesus, but the whole Book is really ‘Jesus’ Book’ and no part is more inspired than another.”
Dennis: I’ve come up with one that likely occurs around the water cooler—it’s someone who says, “You really aren’t going to say then—that somebody who’s lonely / who’s looking for love—that you’re going to keep them from being able to be loved in a same-sex marriage relationship.”
Bob: Yes, this is the one I hear when I’m listening to network news shows. They bring out this couple—they’ve been together 25 years. They’ve always wanted to get married/ they’ve never been able to—finally, it’s legal in their community. They go down and they celebrate. It’s glorified as a wonderful breakthrough moment for this couple that has so desperately wanted to be able to validate their relationship this way. How do we respond to that kind of sentimental argument?
Kevin: That’s a great question. I actually had that almost exact same thing happen to me after a church event, one time, where I was speaking on this issue. There were many people who disagreed with me. The guy on the other side—was a well-respected professor—said to me, “Well Kevin, are you really comfortable just consigning gays and lesbians to a life of utter loneliness and destitution?—never have anyone to hug them, never have a roommate, never have anyone to care for them?”
I probably didn’t think of what to say in the moment but, since then, I’ve thought, “Of course, that’s not what we want to say; but where did the idea come in that the only real true expression of love is that which is expressed sexually?” Now there’s a challenge for us, as a church. We need to do better to care for all sorts of people in our church—single people / people who struggle with same-gender attraction. It should not be the case that somebody could be in our church—and because they’re not married—nobody ever hugs them, nobody ever touches them on the back, nobody ever prays for them.
To be single and celibate should not be some kind of death sentence—to be lonely and destitute. It should be, as the Bible says, an invitation to greater gospel ministry [referring to 1 Corinthians 7:7-8]. If to be single is somehow to be subhuman, then what do we do with the Lord Jesus Christ? What do we do with the Apostle Paul? That’s sort of a pastoral angle.
Then, if we think in a more cultural/political angle, when people say, “Well isn’t this a wonderful thing?—that the two of us can finally love each other?” Of course, the argument about same-sex marriage is not whether two people can love each other / it’s not even whether two people could have a ceremony to celebrate any kind of love they want. There is nothing at all that prohibits any number of people / any permutation of beings from having any kind of celebration they want in celebration of their love.
Same-sex marriage is about the State then recognizing that that relationship is to be called marriage, with all of the cultural, legal, political ramifications of it. It isn’t just about, “Well I can’t love the person I love.” No; no, people ought to be able to, in a free country, love who they want to love. The question is: “How is that love expressed?” and
“Does the State have a right to define that relationship as marriage?” or “Is marriage a—what’s called a pre-political institution—such that marriage exists before the State / marriage exists independent of the State?”
This is where we need to challenge some of our younger folks, who maybe have certain libertarian leanings and want to say, “Let’s just—look, if we really believe in just letting people make decisions, let’s get the State out of this.” I would say, “No, you’re actually seceding to the State a tremendous amount of power because now the State gets to define what marriage is; whereas, in the older model, the State merely recognizes what has its own institution, in and of itself.”
Dennis: Actually the State would be redefining what God defined.
Dennis: And truthfully, I think that’s where the real breakdown in the debate occurs—it’s: “Who has the authority to define what marriage is and what it isn’t?”
Dennis: As followers of Christ—if we have this view, based upon the Bible—I think we have the freedom to be able to define marriage in that way. The problem is going to be though increasingly it seems that’s not going to be the majority of our friends.
Bob: Well, it’s back to what we’ve already talked about—increasingly, the Bible is either going to be set aside as a source of authority in this debate / in this dialogue or it’s going to be—not just marginalized—but re-spun to say what it hasn’t said for the last two thousand years or “What we’ve failed to understand it was really trying to say for two thousand years,”—that’s what people are saying: “We just haven’t understood it until now. All those other people just didn’t get it.” When you marginalize the Scriptures on this subject, then your source of authority becomes something other than what God has said.
I’d really encourage our listeners to get a copy of the book you’ve written, Kevin, which is called: What Does the Bible Really Teach about Homosexuality? because I think you have laid out—in a very clear, very winsome, very compelling and yet compassionate way—the truth of Scripture about this issue.
And there may be no more divisive issue in our culture today than this very issue. Again, Kevin’s book is called, What Does the Bible Really Teach about Homosexuality? Go to FamilyLifeToday.com. Click the link in the upper left-hand corner of the screen that says, “GO DEEPER.” You can easily order a copy of the book from us, online. Or if you’d prefer to call us to order, our number is 1-800-FL-TODAY—that’s 1-800-358-6329—1-800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life and then, the word, “TODAY.”
You know, the reason we spend time addressing a subject like this is because we are convinced that the strength of marriages and families in our culture is probably the central issue that our culture is facing today. Whether we have strong healthy families, going forward into the next generation, is the defining issue about what the next generation is going to be like for our children and for our grandchildren.
FamilyLife Today exists to effectively develop godly families. Our conviction is that godly families can change the world, one home at a time. And we appreciate those of you who join us in this mission—you agree with us that this is the issue of our day—and I know many of you, this month, have made a donation in support of our ministry because of the matching-gift opportunity that was presented to us, back at the beginning of May.
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Now, tomorrow, we are going to continue our conversation with Pastor Kevin DeYoung as we talk about What Does the Bible Really Teach about Homosexuality? I hope you can tune in for that.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, along with our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I'm Bob Lepine. We will see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas.
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