A video of Australian Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, has gone viral, as a Christian pastor asks the Prime Minister, who supports homosexual “marriage” and also identifies as a “devout Christian,” why he doesn’t believe what the Bible says about the sinfulness of homosexuality. You can hear his response here:
There’s a lot to address in his response. Al Mohler has already responded to the Prime Minister’s speech in his September 3rd episode of “The Briefing,” which you can (and should) listen to here. His treatment of this issue starts at around the 14:30 mark. Andrew Courtis provides a a transcript of portions of Mohler’s response here.
But I notice that Mr. Rudd makes a lot of the same arguments that we’ve actually already sought to address here at the Cripplegate (too bad he’s not a reader; we could have cleared all this up ahead of time!). And so I’d like to adapt the answers we’ve given to Rudd’s presentation above, not because I want to pick on him but because his reasoning represents that of an enormous amount of people who try to reconcile homosexuality with Christianity. It’s a bit longer than a normal post, but I hope it will be beneficial to you, and will serve those who erroneously believe that faith in Jesus and His Word can be reconciled with attempts to legitimize homosexuality.
Firstly, Rudd makes the argument that “the Bible also says that slavery is a natural condition,” and so if we really obeyed the Bible we should have all fought for the U. S. Confederacy. Now, it’s been ably demonstrated that comparing homosexuality to civil rights and slavery is unbiblical, facile, and just flat-out unreasonable. This post is already too long, so I’ll direct you to those resources for more in-depth responses on those issues.
But aside from that, that argument concedes the point that the Bible condemns homosexuality as sinful, but reasons, “Since we ‘disobey’ the Bible in all sorts of other ways, let’s feel very free about disobeying it in regards to homosexuality as well.” The same unbiblical reasoning is employed when folks speak about mixing fabrics and eating shellfish and pork. But of course, “We disobey a bunch of stuff, why not one more?” is just not the way a Christian thinks about God’s Word. Someone who loves God in the Person of Jesus Christ does not look for ways to legitimize their disobedience or to free themselves from what He’s actually said. The one who loves God loves His Word. The Word of God is the delight of the child of God (see Psalm 119; Job 23:12; Jer 15:16). If God’s Word is something you feel you have to get around or escape, that may be quite a good indicator that you’re not truly a Christian at all.
The Human Condition
Further, Rudd suggests that the human condition changes, and so society must adapt to such changes. I agree with Mohler’s response to this:
This is not an intelligent argument. This is a profoundly unintelligent argument. It is an argument made by someone who claims to be a devout Christian but doesn’t know anything about interpreting the Scripture. And instead [he] simply throws the Scripture under the bus, so to speak…. To suggest that the human condition and the social conditions change and therefore we have to abandon the Scripture, is to defy the very nature of Scripture itself as not only the inerrant and infallible word of God but a word that has endured not only through the ages but will endure for eternity. In other words, even as social and human conditions change, we need to recognize that that change has been a constant since Genesis 3. It didn’t await the last couple of decades of Australian history.
Mohler hits the nail on the head when he mentions that whatever “changes” there have been in the human condition, those changes have been constant since the Fall of man into sin in Genesis 3. That’s another way of saying that while societal conventions may change on a superficial level, the human condition does not change at its fundamental core. And what is that fundamental core of the human condition? Sin. Rebellion against God. Unbelief in Him and in His Word. The expression of our sin will change at the societal and cultural level, but the human condition has not changed. And it won’t change until the Lord returns to judge the wicked and renew all things. To believe otherwise is, as Mohler says, “to defy the very nature of Scripture itself… as the inerrant and infallible Word of God.” This is not something that “a devout Christian”—or any kind of Christian—does.
Born that Way
Much of the Prime Minister’s view seems to hinge upon his belief that homosexuality seems “natural” to people. He reasons that since sexuality is not a choice, for someone to be homosexual is natural; it’s “how people are built.” The implicit reasoning, there, is that human beings cannot be held accountable for moral wrongdoing if such actions are natural to them.
But this is also unbiblical thinking. See, every human being is born with a natural predisposition to love sin and hate righteousness. That is an effect of the Fall. We are all born with a sinful nature that rebels against God and all that is lovely and holy and to gratify our selfish lusts. But our natural state of sinfulness does not mitigate our moral accountability for that sin.
Some people are naturally inclined to one sin or another. For one, it might be drunkenness. For another, it might be lust and promiscuity. For another it might be greed. For another, laziness. And for another, sexual and emotional attraction to the same gender. But in all those cases, we do have a choice. The choice is, “Am I (1) going to give in to these impulses to drink heavily, to have sex outside of the covenant of marriage, to lust after money and wealth and power, which feel so right and seem so natural — or, am I (2) going to recognize that my Creator has commanded me not to do these things, and by His grace, am I going to fight these sinful inclinations?”
“Are you saying that people should not act upon their feelings? This is who they are! You’re telling them not to be who they are!” Yes, that’s right! That is precisely how the law of God speaks to us. It says to all of humanity, “Because your very nature is sinful, you desire sinful and evil things. But you must not do them. You must not act on those desires.” And the response from our society is, “That’s impossible!”
And they’re exactly right! The Bible says that it is impossible. Being a Christian—obtaining a righteousness by which we may be accepted into the holy presence of God—is not about making a few minor shifts in our character, behavior, or ideology! It’s not just about adhering to a few rituals, like church attendance or even Bible reading and prayer (all of which are essential!). Most fundamentally, a Christian is someone whose nature has been changed and renewed—someone whose entire fundamental constitution has changed as a result of a divine miracle operated upon our soul by the Spirit of God. Something is so fundamentally wrong with all of us that nothing we can accomplish in and of ourselves can fix us. We need an entirely new nature. We need, as Jesus told Nicodemus, to be born again.
It needs to feel difficult. In needs to feel impossible. If it didn’t, we would think that we can just go on and work our way to Heaven. But we can’t. If we believed that, we would deceive ourselves and do the worst thing we could do to ourselves: lull ourselves into complacency by believing we’re saved when we’re not. And that’s the point. We can’t look to ourselves for salvation. The inner transformation of the heart that salvation requires can only be accomplished by God. It falls to us, then, to humble ourselves, admit we can’t do it — any of it — and beg God to receive us by grace and mercy.
God’s commandments show us our sinfulness and the impossibility of doing anything about it in our own power. And in doing that, it points us to Christ, who only had righteous and godly feelings, and obeyed God in all the ways that we failed. And because He lived that perfect life and died on the cross in the place of sinners, if we purpose to turn from our sin, repudiate it, and cast ourselves on the mercy of Christ, trusting in His work alone to provide our acceptance with God, our natures can be renewed. When that happens, Christ dwells in our heart by faith through the Holy Spirit. And He gives us power from the inside to overcome those sinful feelings, not just so that we don’t do what we want, but in such a way that we begin to actually want different things—in such a way that we desire righteousness and holiness and truth.
Love: The Fundamental Principle of the New Testament
But more than the rhetorical comparison to slavery and civil rights, and more than the appeal to natural desires, choices, and normality, Rudd’s response is founded upon his view of love. He says, “What is the fundamental principle of the New Testament? It is one of universal love. Loving your fellow man. And if we get obsessed with a particular definition of that through a form of sexuality, then I think we are missing the centrality of what the gospel, whether you call it a social gospel, a personal gospel or a spiritual gospel, is all about.”
That strikes at the very core of the worldview of the contemporary “wisdom” that seeks to marry homosexuality with biblical teaching: “In the midst of all of your fundamentalist attention to details of various Bible verses, you’ve lost the big picture. The cardinal virtue that Jesus taught His followers was love. If you value love, what’s the problem with two consenting adults making a commitment to each other out of love? Love is love. To insist that homosexuality is sinful and to deny them the right to get married is simply not loving, and therefore not Christian.”
But this argument, like the others, simply doesn’t hold biblical water. (In explaining why, I’m going to reprint something I’ve written a while ago when addressing this issue, adapted slightly.)
Love as Unconditional Acceptance
The reason, stated simply, is: the wisdom of secular society has failed to define love biblically. To our self-indulgent, narcissistic, perennially adolescent, self-willed culture, “love” means nothing more than Carl Rogers’ notion of unconditional positive regard. To “love” someone, according to our society, is to affirm every decision they make and to applaud them just for being them. Bruno Mars’ hit song is the soundtrack to Western secularism’s gospel of unconditional acceptance: “You’re amazing, just the way you are.”
And that kinda thing feels good, doesn’t it? It feels really good to be affirmed without qualification—to be told that you’re amazing, just the way you are. And because of that, people have confused the idea of being affirmed, accepted, flattered, and made much of with true love. Loving me means making me feel good by making much of me. And this ideology of love as unconditional acceptance is woven into the fabric of the cultural consciousness of western society. To believe anything else is archaic, un-evolved, and priggish.
And then, those who have imbibed that definition of love turn to the Bible. And all of a sudden they start reading and hearing about love. God is love (1 John 4:8). For God so loved the world (John 3:16). The greatest commandment in the Law is that you love God and love others (Matt 22:37–40). Love your neighbor as yourself (Gal 5:14). By this everyone will know you’re My disciples: if you love one another (John 13:35). All of these wonderfully biblical concepts come flooding into their minds.
But then something tragic happens. Rather than surrendering their own preconceptions to the authority of God’s Word and seeking to understand how God defines love, they use their own distorted definition of love that they have imbibed from our society, and they foist that definition onto the Scriptures and onto their conception of God. So now, when they hear that “God is love,” they think, “God doesn’t ask people to change. God doesn’t judge people. God accepts everyone just as they are. And so Christians must do the same.”
Love Seeks the Objective Benefit
But this isn’t true, because this is emphatically not how God defines love. “In this is love,” says the Apostle John, “not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins” (1 John 4:10). “God loved the world in this way: He gave His One and Only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16, HCSB). “But God demonstrates His own love for us in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom 5:8). All of these passages and dozens more teach us that love is acting, even laboring, to secure someone’s greatest benefit.
These passages aren’t teaching us that God just thought we were so wonderful, just the way we were, that He would deliver His Son to death just to show us how great we were. No way. These passages teach us that God labors at great cost to Himself, and even suffers in the Person of Jesus Christ, in order to secure the greatest benefit of His beloved. When we were dead in our sin, cut off from God, and without hope, what would have been our greatest benefit at that moment? Answer: a perfectly righteous, wrath-propitiating, sin-bearing Substitute. And that is exactly what God gives us. God demonstrates His own love by benefiting us with Himself in the person of His beloved Son.
Biblically, then, love does not mean to accept someone unconditionally, to affirm them without qualification, or to make them feel good by making much of them. Biblical love labors for the beloved’s greatest benefit.
What is Our Greatest Benefit?
That’s the question, then, isn’t it? If love labors to secure the beloved’s benefit, what’s someone’s greatest benefit?
I’ll tell you what it’s not. Our greatest benefit is not to be made to feel good about ourselves! To be made to feel that every unrighteous desire we have is normal and natural and should be unconditionally affirmed! “Well hey, why not?” you ask. “That doesn’t sound too bad.” Here’s why: If all I do in my effort to love you is try to make much of you—to work for your own self-exaltation and unconditional affirmation, I rob you of joy. I rob you of true and lasting satisfaction and happiness. “How in the world do you figure that, Mike?” Because your own glory and self-exaltation (“You’re amazing just the way you are!” “Do what feels natural!”) might feel good for a little while, but they will not satisfy the longings of your soul for eternity. You just haven’t been designed that way. God didn’t design human beings to thrive on the glory of self. So the one who seeks to satisfy you by holding you up to yourself as an all-satisfying treasure does not love you. They lie to you, and lead you down a short road of naïve “happiness” to an eternity of misery.
But God did design you to thrive on the glory of Jesus Christ. Just as a car is designed to run on gasoline, you were created for the glory of God (Isa 43:7). He has designed your heart, your soul, your affections, your emotions—all of you—so that you are most satisfied by Him. He calls spiritual life the ability to see the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ (2 Cor 4:6). This means that love is helping someone to see and know and enjoy God in the person of His Son! That is the greatest benefit you can do for anyone! The vision of your own glory and self-exaltation won’t satisfy the desires of your heart. But the vision of His glory will!
So love is not making much of someone. Love is laboring, and often times even suffering—even being called hateful and bigoted—so that the beloved might find joy in making much of God forever, because that (i.e., making much of God) is what will most truly and lastingly satisfy them.*
Can you see why, then, Kevin Rudd’s version of “loving your fellow man” is not love at all? Can you see why the unconditional acceptance and affirmation that our culture calls love, is actually hate? Can you see why never warning someone that fornicators, idolaters, adulterers, effeminate, homosexuals, thieves, covetous, drunkards, revilers, and swindlers, will not inherit the kingdom of God (1 Cor 6:9–10), but encouraging them to engage happily in all these behaviors if it is natural to them, is the opposite of love? Because it is not in the best interest of sinners for Christians to affirm a lifestyle which, if unrepented of, will end in eternal destruction.
It’s like seeing a child running into the middle of the street, delightfully chasing one of his toys, tickled to death and seemingly enjoying himself—because he has no idea a truck is speeding through at 50 miles per hour. A good person—a loving person—does not stroke the child’s ego and encourage him in the fun that he’s having, because he doesn’t want to be judgmental. No, a good, helpful, loving person is going to yell, scream, warn, and even run in front of the truck to save that child. Christians—those who endeavor to obey Jesus in loving our neighbor as ourselves—refuse to affirm homosexuals in their sin and even speak out against it, because we desire to warn them that what seems like a delightful enterprise is actually going to end in tragedy, but that there’s still time to get out of the street. It is not hate to warn people of danger. It is hate to fail to issue such warnings.
We do not love like Jesus loved if we unconditionally affirm someone in a choice that robs them of true, abiding satisfaction and leads them to ruin. We love like Jesus loves when we graciously and patiently proclaim a message that has the power to free people from the bondage of their suicidal love affair with themselves—the power to liberate them into the freedom and the joy of making much of the glory of God. We love like God loves when we point people away from worshiping themselves and their own desires, and when we steer them toward their greatest benefit: God Himself.