Concerned Parent of Gay Man Speaks Out

This letter came to our church some time back. I have reprinted it here by permission exactly as written. The author of the letter requested I withhold all identifying personal information.

Dear Minister,

I am writing this letter in hopes that it will get to your desk and you will read it and research its content.

In 2009 our son came out to us and said he was gay. To us, it was a shock and surprise, to say the least. My wife and I love our son. We had to do much Biblical research, as well as studying the physical and mental studies on this subject. Our conclusion is that God created our son and that he has a different sexual orientation given to him at birth. It wasn’t just a choice.

My name is [Name Withheld] and my wife’s name is [Name Withheld]. We reside in California. We have been married for 35 years this May 20th, 2013. We have one child that God has given us. It seemed we could not conceive, so we prayed and kept trying and after seven years [our son] was born. Our son is now 27 years old. He’s been raised in the Christian faith. He is still following Christ, as we are.

After much Biblical study and the readings of psychologist and doctors in the medical profession, and prayer we have become knowledgeable in all three areas: Biblical, mental and Physical. We accept our son and many GLBT sons and daughters of parents who disown them. We even attend and inclusive Christ-centered church that has at least 95% gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender lovely Christian young people as well as older men and women in this church of over 122 attendees. I state all the above to bring the following insight to you and others who would listen and have an open mind and would make it a matter of earnest prayer and Bible research.

When the Surgeon General of the United States did a research on smoking and its effects on the human body, congress listened and the results brought forth laws that would stop smoking in many areas. The results pleased the majority of people and many denominations, and we are so glad to accept this smoking limitation so we can live in a healthy environment.

Now we have the American Psychiatric Association who did a comprehensive research on the human condition of gay people for a number of years. The results are similar to the findings of the smoking issue: concrete evidence of accepting the findings of professional men and women. And yet congress, ministers, and other people in high standing, ignore the findings of the APA and Medical field and allow discrimination and division in the United States of America and churches.

The APA took a stand after much lengthy study whether the gay orientation is a human choice or it’s a human natural trait of man and womankind. The consensus of the APA is to the place of maintaining that homosexuality is natural and most especially, that it can’t be changed. The APA also advises to its members to no longer present homosexuality as an illness or a problem of personal development.

With the advisement of the APA as similar to the Surgeon General, why can’t congress and the church intervene in this area to help save lives from suicide and mental anguish to those who are affected by this orientation to which so many people are haunted with and even can’t understand themselves?

Dear Minister of the Gospel, please help the parents of gay children and the Church of Jesus Christ to reconcile themselves to understand the way of life for their gay children and the gay orientation. I believe this will help save lives and curtail discrimination in the church among believers in time. Similarly, many parents didn’t want a Down syndrome child, but when it happened they accepted the child and took the challenge to love their child. I believe the parent to a gay child can learn to love and accept their child as they are after seeing the research studies by professionals who have studied this orientation and the ministers exhorting love and acceptance.

My wife and I would like to plead to you to “Set our children free”. As you know, a great man names Moses went before the Pharaoh and proclaimed a similar statement from God, “Set my people free”. These are the words that need to be proclaimed for the sake of a people confused, condemned, misunderstood and in bondage. But they are still citizens of the United States and children of God.

Thank you for your consideration. I do this for my child and the many children who are so misunderstood in this society. I would also like to recommend a book that has helped us, “God’s Gay Agenda”, author by Sandra Turnbull. God bless you for your consideration and prayer and study time on this subject.

Sincerely, In Jesus Name

[Name withheld by request]

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Biologos’s Case for Evolution

According to Biologos.org, Christians should consider embracing evolution. Why?

Here’s what they say “In a Nutshell.”

English: Caricature of Charles Darwin from Van...
English: Caricature of Charles Darwin from Vanity Fair magazine. Caption read “Natural Selection”. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

See if you can list the reasons it would benefit the Church to accept evolution.

Because evolution is a challenging subject, many Christians are tempted to simply ignore or reject it.  Yet considering evolutionary creation has important benefits for Christians both in our relationship with the Creator, and with our relationships with other people—believers and non-Christians alike.  First, Christians should study evolution because (like all the natural sciences) it is the study of God’s creation.  Creation itself is a complementary revelation to what is communicated in the Scriptures, and through it God shows how and when he brought about life, to his honor and glory.  Studying the creation is also an invitation into a deeper understanding of the attributes and character of Father, Son and Spirit. Second, considering evolutionary creation aids the Church in its gospel mission, supporting young Christians in their faith, helping answer critics, and equipping us to engage effectively in the wider culture.  An anti-evolution attitude can harm Christian young people by presenting them with a false choice between pursuing science OR holding to faith.  Similarly, a hostile attitude towards evolution can hinder evangelism when seekers hear that they must reject science to follow Christ.  On the other hand, studying evolution as a God-ordained process helps Christians refute arguments that science encourages an atheistic worldview.  Furthermore, as the church engages front-page issues raised by the rapid growth in science, medicine, and technology, a Christ-centered voice in such areas as bioethics will be stronger if based on a thorough understanding of the natural sciences, including evolution.

http://biologos.org/questions/why-should-Christians-consider-evolutionary-creation

 

Heresy: What is it? (Revised 4/24/13)

Filippino Lippi - Triumph of St Thomas Aquinas...
Filippino Lippi – Triumph of St Thomas Aquinas over the Heretics (detail) – WGA13118 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

From a Christian standpoint, heresy is “any teaching rejected by the Christian community as contrary to Scripture and . . . to orthodox doctrine. The term heresy is generally reserved for any belief that claims to be Christian and scriptural but has been rejected by the church as sub-Christian or anti-scriptural.”1

When we talk about heresy, we are not referring to atheism because atheism does not make its claim from within Christianity. We are also not talking about schism, which refers to division or faction within Christian fellowship or the sowing of discord among the brethren (both of which can happen as a result of heresy), but does not in and of itself have false doctrine as its root. As for heresy, Origen, the early church father said: “Heretics all begin by believing, and afterwards depart from the road of faith and the truth of the church’s teaching.”2

What makes heresy such an evil is that it comes from within the body of true believers from someone who had been viewed as a true believer. According to Pelikan:

“The presupposition of those works [the writings of the Ancient Church orthodox theologians against heresies] was that the primitive deposit of Christian truth had been given by Christ to the apostles and by them in turn to the succession of orthodox bishops and teachers, while the heretics were those who forsook this succession and departed from this deposit.”3

For Irenaeus, heresy was a deviation from the standard of sound doctrine. Augustine ultimately defined “heretics as those who ‘in holding false opinions regarding God, do injury to the faith itself.’”4

A.W. Tozer wrote:

“Perverted notions about God soon rot the religion in which they appear. . . . So necessary to the Church is a lofty concept of God that when that concept in any measure declines, the Church with her worship and her moral standards declines along with it. The first step down for any church is taken when it surrenders its high opinion of God.

“Before the Christian Church goes into eclipse anywhere there must first be a corrupting of her simple basic theology. She simply gets a wrong answer to the question, ‘What is God like?’ and goes on from there. Though she may continue to cling to a sound nominal creed, her practical working creed has become false. The masses of her adherents come to believe that God is different from what He actually is; and that is heresy of the most insidious and deadly kind.

“The heaviest obligation lying upon the Christian Church today is to purify and elevate her concept of God until it is once more worthy of Him—and of her. In all her prayers and labors this should have first place. We do the greatest service to the next generation of Christians by passing on to them undimmed and undiminished that noble concept of God which we received from our Hebrew and Christian fathers of generations past.”5

NOTES

1 Stanley J. Grenz, David Guretzki, Cherith Fee Nordling, Pocket Dictionary of Theological Terms (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1999), 58.

2  Origen, Exposition of the Song of Solomon, 3.4, quoted by Jaroslav Pelikan in The Christian Tradition: A History of the Development of Doctrine, Vol. 1, ( Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1971) page 69.

3 Pelikan, page 69. I think one of the things that makes heresy difficult to deal with is that it can seep into the Church so subtly and, since it comes from people within the body, it comes from people we likely esteem! As to the idea of the “succession of Bishops” etc., a case can be made that it was the onslaught of heresy that helped to hasten the Church’s catholicity, forcing it to solidify its continuity with Christ and the apostles thereby closing the door on heresy. So, apostolic succession becomes a byword and ultimately even a mechanism of control.

4 Pelikan, page 69, quoting Augustine in On Faith and the Creed and On Heresies.

5 A.W. Tozer, The Knowledge of the Holy, (New York: Harper & Row, 1961), page 4.

 

Old Time Tolerance and Intolerance

English: Title page of "A Dictionary of t...
English: Title page of “A Dictionary of the English Language,” written by Noah Webster. Image courtesy of the Yale University Manuscripts & Archives Digital Images Database, Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

By Scott Fowler

What Webster Thought

What is tolerance? In 1828 it meant “the power or capacity of enduring; or the act of enduring”1 as it still does today. For the sake of clarity, let’s call that kind of tolerance personal. That is, the act of enduring some undesirable hardship, etc. But in 1828 it also meant,

The allowance of that which is not wholly approved; to suffer to be or to be done without prohibition or hinderance [sic]; to allow or permit negatively, by not preventing; not to restrain; as, to tolerate opinions or practices.2

Let’s call this kind of tolerance social tolerance. Interestingly, the concept of social tolerance carried with it the idea that the one being tolerant had a right to do otherwise but had deigned to allow that which was “not wholly approved.”3 For example, we have all heard of Kings or Queens in the past who did not tolerate religions other than his or her own. We are also aware of nations today where religious plurality is outlawed. These are situations where, because of political power, a sovereign or a government has the power to enforce an intolerant stance against the freedom of religion. Imagine then, where such power exists, if the King or Queen or ruling party decided to tolerate other religions even though they themselves oppose those religions. That’s old-style social tolerance that “does not prevent.”

According to the 1828 Noah Webster dictionary, where there is the absence of such a power like an opposing sovereign state, etc., ,

 . . . there can be no tolerance, in the strict sense of the word, for one religious denomination has as good a right as another to the free enjoyment of its creed and worship.

So, in Noah Webster’s day, tolerance only made sense in a scenario where the acceptable standard was being challenged by some other standard or viewpoint,4 and the exercise of tolerance meant to allow and not prevent.

Looking at it from the negative, the definition of intolerance in Webster’s time meant,

Not enduring difference of opinion or worship; refusing to tolerate others in the enjoyment of their opinions, rights and worship. . . . Want of toleration; the not enduring at all or not suffering to exist without persecution; . . .5

The refusal to be tolerant meant you ultimately chose to prevent the undesired act or opinion. If tolerate meant to allow, or at the very least, not to prevent, then obviously if you were intolerant you did something to prevent or to disallow the abhorrent or disagreeable act or opinion, possibly even to the point of persecution.

Taken together, the old view of social tolerance and intolerance simply meant that you either graciously allowed an opposing opinion or you tried to prevent it. If you allowed it you were exercising tolerance. If you did not allow it, but sought to prevent it through force, etc., you were intolerant. But there was no sense that those who were being tolerant were relinquishing their standards or their beliefs. They were simply refraining from forcing others to comply with their viewpoints.

Modern Tolerance and Intolerance

Today, the concepts of social tolerance and intolerance are politically, socially, and emotionally charged. The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language defines tolerance in the following way,

The capacity for or the practice of recognizing and respecting the beliefs or practices of others; leeway for variation from a standard; the capacity to endure hardship or pain; to allow without prohibiting or opposing; permit; to recognize and respect (the rights, beliefs, or practices of others); to put up with; tolerance with respect to the actions and beliefs of others; official recognition of the rights of individuals and groups to hold dissenting opinions, especially on religion.6

The negative, intolerant, means,

Not tolerant, especially: unwilling to tolerate differences in opinions, practices, or beliefs, especially religious beliefs; opposed to the inclusion or participation of those different from oneself, especially those of a different racial, ethnic, or social background; unable or unwilling to endure or support.7

So, in general, to be socially tolerant is to allow other opinions and behaviors to exist at the very least by not preventing them. To be socially intolerant is to not be able to tolerate those same things. While the two different eras have many similarities, there is a decidedly different tone in the language used to communicate the meanings. In the 1828 Webster’s, the language suggests a restraining from acting badly to those who hold opinions that stray from the norm. The modern language nuances the meaning to reflect an acceptance or inclusiveness in those who are tolerant and a bias or prejudice in those who are not.

Revisioning Social Tolerance

D.A. Carson, in his book, The Intolerance of Tolerance, finds the distinction to be even more emphatic:

When we turn to Encarta’s treatment of the corresponding noun “tolerance,” however, a subtle change appears:

“1. ACCEPTANCE OF DIFFERENT VIEWS the accepting of the differing views of other people, e.g., in religious or political matters, and fairness toward the people who hold these different views.

This shift from “accepting the existence of different views” to “acceptance of different views,” from recognizing other people’s right to have different beliefs or practices to accepting the differing views of other people, is subtle in form, but massive in substance.8

At present, those who speak the loudest on behalf of the culture are asking for wholesale acceptance of its views on homosexuality, abortion, evolution, etc. Not simply an agreed upon restraint, but an embrace and celebration of its deviant views. Further, it regards any dissenting voice as bigotry and hate speech!

What Christianity demonstrates (when not being hijacked by groups like Westboro Baptist church or others who use the gospel to bludgeon the lost) is a willingness to restrain itself from persecuting those who hold deviating beliefs (which we have no right to do), but not a willingness to remain silent about them.9 For this reason, the believing Church can never satisfy the culture’s cry for tolerance. To do so would mean to deny the truth of God in Christ Jesus.

So, the culture is asking for what we cannot deliver and for something the culture itself does not understand.

The New Tolerance

Social tolerance for the Church has everything to do with truth. Social tolerance for modern-day culture is not about truth but about acceptance. For that reason the following statement about tolerance would be completely unacceptable.

Social tolerance should allow, even create, a safe zone where all claims to truth can be safely and fairly considered in an atmosphere of intellectual honesty until such a time that the truth becomes clear. Once that happens, all other claims to truth that contradict revealed truth become intolerable or at least fall into the category of things that are tolerated in the personal sense of the word.

NOTES

1 Noah Webster, An American Dictionary of the English Language (New York: S. Converse, 1828).

2 Ibid., see tolerate, tolerated, tolerating, and toleration.

3 Ibid., see entry under the word toleration.

4 This is a significant point. Whereas during the time of Christendom the Church would have been the norm, offering tolerance to those who did not agree with it, I think we now see the culture with its postmodern “values” with the upper hand in position of deciding what to tolerate.

5 Ibid., see intolerance, intolerant.

6 The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition, 2006, Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.

7 Ibid.

8 D.A. Carson, The Intolerance of Tolerance (Grand Rapids: Eeerdman’s, 2012), 3.

9 Of course, when we disagree with the culture it is perceived as persecution because our present society views any dissenting view or negative report to be hate and persecution.

Welcome to the Christ and Culture Update!

By Scott Fowler

This blog was specially prepared to support the Christ and Culture Update class which happens on Wednesday nights at 7:30 pm at the Smithtown Gospel TabernacleThe class serves several purposes. 

Introduction

Vast swaths of the moral fabric of the Church and the culture are being ripped away on a daily basis. Unfortunately, it is typical for evangelicals to be twenty years or more behind the times when it comes to being aware of paradigmatic changes taking place in the Church and the culture at large. The Christ and Culture Update class and blog is designed to help educate the Church in the area of Christian ethics known as Christ and culture.

Christ and Culture: Definitional

The class serves as a format to educate the believing Church concerning its need to be aware of the issues that arise where Christ and culture intersect. An important “primer” on the subject is Niebuhr‘s classic text, Christ and Culture. Niebuhr suggests five ways in which the Church has assayed to address the “problem of human culture,” which can be seen as postures the Church has taken in reference to secular culture. They are Christ against culture, Christ of culture, Christ above culture, Christ and culture in paradox, and Christ transforming culture. The discussion of these approaches or postures serves to get the conversation started but by no means suggests that these five represent an exhaustive list. Many since Niebuhr’s time have undertaken this area of thought, which is really Christian ethics, but in reality, Niebuhr himself points out, the problem of human culture and what the Church is to do about it is one that has endured since the Church began.

Tolerance

One of the principles constantly being haggled over at precise places where the Church and the culture intersect is tolerance. What current cultures refers to as tolerance and intolerance is vastly different from what the Church understands those concepts to be. For the believing Church, the heart of tolerance involves a commitment to truth. Daily new examples of the culture’s “intolerance of tolerance” come to light. So, this section of the class’s curricula is reserved for the discussion and defining of tolerance.

The Heresy Pantheon

The true and believing Church is being assaulted in unprecedented ways by those whom we thought were part of us but who are now calling the Church into heresy. These individuals show no hesitation or remorse when it comes to pushing their agendas. What they do, they do publicly. The heresy pantheon is a catalogue of the names and doctrines of those who demonstrate this modus operandi.

Current Events

Of course, the best way to get a handle on what is actually happening in the areas where Christ and culture intersect is to observe in real-time actual current events. The four particular “intersections” of Christ and culture where much is hanging in the balance today are evolution, homosexuality, abortion, and atheism.