August 5, 2013

A Pope, Archbishop, and Pastor walk into a bar

by Clint Archer

This isn’t a joke. Per se. But it could be.Tutu

When Pope Francis declared last week, “who am I to judge?” in reference to gay people who “seek the Lord,” the media went haywire. Dr. Al Mohler, the president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary has a helpful article telling everyone to calm down, as the Pope hardly said anything new. All Christians believe that sinners need to be treated with respect and compassion, as Jesus modeled and commanded. And when a person who is struggling with any sin, and is “seeking the Lord” he should not be judged or condemned, but rather helped and counseled. So, the Pope and I agree on something (I know, it’s a cold day here too).

There is another prominent cleric, whom I seldom agree with on the issue of homosexuality, who made a cameo appearance in last week’s prurient media cycle.

The colorful Anglican Archbishop Desmond Tutu has amassed an impressive treasury of struggle credentials (the Apartheid version of ‘street cred’). As a Black man staring down the barrel of White South Africa, Comrade Tutu spent the ‘80s vociferously lobbying the West to support economic sanctions against the draconian racist regime.

This much is known by everyone who owns a world history text book printed later than 1994 (or U2’s Rattle & Hum CD).

Tutu then championed the cause of post-election peace with his hatchet-burying  committee, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. This effort secured a Nobel peace prize for his mantelpiece, and a lifetime open mic on the airwaves of the New South Africa.

For better or for worse, when Tutu talks, the people hear the squeaky, sanctimonious, gaffe-prone voice of the Church in Southern Africa.

Last week, at the UN-backed “Free and Equal” campaign in Cape Town, Tutu made this portentous claim,

“I would refuse to go to a homophobic heaven. No, I would say sorry, I mean I would much rather go to the other place,… I would not worship a God who is homophobic and that is how deeply I feel about this.”

It may surprise you, but I agree with the Archbishop on this latter point. Christians can all agree that God has no phobias, and therefore doesn’t fear gay people. Nor is God more offended by their sin than He is by yours and mine. When you opine about a god who fears humans (regardless of their sexual proclivity), you are no longer talking about the God of the Bible (see Psalm 2 for confirmation of God’s insouciance of human threats).

So, along with Rev. Tutu, I do not worship a god who harbors a phobia about sin, sinners, or sinful behavior of any stripe—hetero- or homosexual.

In fact, as an evangelical Christian I agree fully with the Nobel laureate’s sentiment that gay people, like all people, need to be protected against violent persecution, which was the point of the UN’s campaign (South Africa’s new constitution is already at the vanguard of how nations should protect citizens from discrimination of any kind).

What the Archbishop and I disagree on, however, is whether God has the right to decide what offends Him or not. (I think the Pope would side with me on this one too.)

Tutu2The New Testament clearly lumps acts of homosexuality in the same garbage can as other sins, including heterosexual acts outside of marriage (see 1 Cor 6:9; 1 Tim 1:10; Rom 1:26-27).

I know there is a cry of “born that way” that is meant to function as a strikethrough in the Bibles of people who eschew discrimination. But they should be pleased to know that the Bible is indiscriminate in its condemnation of all people—we are all “born that way.” Heterosexual lust is a perfectly natural, normal, hormonally fueled tendency among most men and women from puberty until death; that doesn’t mean it is inoffensive to God, and it certainly doesn’t provide a warrant to re-label it as non-sinful.  Yes, it’s natural to sin, that’s because we are born sinners by nature. And that is why we need a Savior to save us from the guilt of that sin, and from the sins themselves.

To call God “homophobic” because He lists homosexual acts as sinful is to send your straw man down a slippery slope to land on the thin edge of the wedge.

Let’s contemplate some other human activity God calls sin: gossip, slander, envy, lying, malice, heterosexual lust, immodesty, discontent, anxiety, etc. Is God afraid of a bevy of mean schoolgirls (to pick on one of many social cliques who exhibit the above sins on a daily basis)?

The Archbishop’s blustery comments are inappropriate for one speaking for the Church in Africa.

And to speak so cavalierly about Heaven and Hell is to belie another region of misinformed theology. Heaven is by no means “homophobic” and will be populated by men and women who have embraced Jesus as their Savior from a plethora of sins, including homosexuality. There is no sin the blood of Jesus did not atone for.

I commend the Archbishop’s desire to reach out to gay people and protect them from bigotry. But if we are not reaching out with the gospel that Jesus saves us from all our sins—not just the ones the media are lobbying to normalize—then we have missed the point of the outreach, and have made a joke out of the cross of Christ.

Clint Archer

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Clint has been the pastor of Hillcrest Baptist Church since 2005. He lives in Durban, South Africa with his wife and four kids.
  • Riaan

    This was a very helpful article, especially a refreshingly biblical (gospel-saturated) take on “we’re all born that way” thinking. Thanks, Clint!

    • Thanks Riaan. I feel strongly that a right understanding of our original sin nature will drive us to a lower view of ourselves, and thus make us more loving toward other sinners. We are all beggars feasting on the lavish banquet of God’s grace and salvation in Christ.

  • Rick Koenig

    Good perspective, thank you. I would like to suggest there is a problem with terminology as it’s used in this day and on this topic. You can gather from their context that many people misuse “homophobic” as though it means hating homosexuals or homosexuality. They use it as the most derisive term that they can spell (and misunderstand.) I don’t have a current example at hand but it’s something I’ve noticed many times. Watch for this and see if you don’t agree.

    To me this blurs the issue. Let’s at least insist on proper use of terms in discussions.

    Soli Deo Gloria

    • You make a good point. I guess that even if I took Tutu’s point to mean that God hates gays, my point would be a parallel one: God hates all sin, mine and yours and everyone else’s too. Praise be to God that He makes a way for us to be perfect and acceptable and righteous before Him through Jesus!

    • Sherryn

      Ironically, ‘homophobia’ by definition actually refers to an irrational
      fear of gay people, not a hatred of them. God fears gay people? I can’t see that in the Bible anywhere. I agree with you Rick…the correct use of language would be most helpful to the facilitation of constructive dialogue.

  • kevin2184

    Thanks Clint. This is one of the best articles I’ve read on this topic. Truly (and speaking of one whom the Lord has saved out of this sin).

    • You’re welcome Kevin. I appreciate your feedback.

    • Sherryn

      Thank you Kevin, for your honesty and your ongoing witness to the saving grace of our Lord Jesus Christ.

  • Michael

    God hates all sin, but not equally so. God finds all sin offensive, but there are degrees of sins as there are degrees of punishment for those sins (Matt 10:15; Matt 11:22; Luke 20:47; Lev 18:22 ). And sexual sins are even more offensive to God because of the one-flesh union (1 Cor 6:16). Even one sin will send someone to hell (without Christ’s redemption) but we must be careful not to imply that God is not just, by punishing all sins with the same punishment.

    • Hopefully no one would think the post was implying God is unjust. All sin deserves punishment, and some sins do have more devastating consequences on self and others. Thanks.

  • AndyG

    To most, the term homophobic has been inappropriately applied to imply fear – or fear of. It would be better understood as to mean ‘dislikes’, or ‘disgusted’ – or even ‘repulsed’. ‘Scared of’ is then, with the help of gymnastics, turned into a form of hate speech… Satan changed the normal meaning of the words that God intended as early as Genesis Chapter 3 already – and we see nothing new. He is still employing the same antics – and using archbishops and popes and governments to freely get his agenda into mainstream acceptance. And they are too puffed up to even realize it.

    The same tactics have often been employed in language. Trying to be clever or trying to control, words are declared taboo and outlawed in an attempt to force an ideology or belief. What they foolishly forget and what is overlooked, is that this does not address the heart – (the source of all sin), and instead, they attempt to dress the emperor in new clothes. And it turns out the emperors are not wearing any, (or should that be the ‘queens’)..?

    • Thanks AndyG. The parts of your comment I understand I also agree with!

  • Nate

    Very nicely done. So much of this is lost in many responses from those who call themselves Christians. Helpful and appreciated!

    • Thanks for your encouragement.

  • Melissa Collins

    Excellent!!

  • Harry

    Thanks Clint. I could almost infer from your article that all sins are the same? Christ on trial spoke of a greater sin. When speaking of God’s wrath against human wickedness, Paul identifies truth suppression with exhibit A: lesbianism.

    You make a good point, that Lady GaGa misses in ‘Born that way.’

    However, when homosexuals use that phrase, are they not stating God made me this way, therefore it is good?

    The theological inference is God made sin. Now that sounds more like Satan to me? Thoughts.

    • While it is biblically accurate that some sins are more wicked than others, in the discussion about who will be in Heaven or Hell that point is moot. Those who have not committed the more wicked sins will not escape God’s wrath against their own sins. We ALL were born with the need for a Savior, and His work on the Cross is sufficient to expunge ALL types/degrees of sins.

      It may also be true that some who say they were “born that way” imply that God is responsible for their sin. This is why the special revelation of God’s word needs to be taught compassionately and patiently to inform people that although they were born with a sin nature, they have no excuse for rejecting the offer of salvation through Jesus. God has the right to set the standard according to His holiness, and in His grace has attained it on our behalf through the sacrifice of the perfect Lamb of God.

  • Larry

    Agreed! Excellent post Clint.

  • Sherryn

    Excellent post Clint. The ‘born that way’ argument just doesn’t cut it for Christians. I was born with ADHD, and although a believer from a young age, a lack of awareness of the ADHD combined with my not-at-all-unique sinful nature it made for a wild and often traumatic decade or so in my young adult life. However, I have searched the scriptures and can find no excuse for my sin listed under the banner of “it’s not me, it’s my ADHD”. I know some will not agree that the two are comparable, but I would beg to differ. My ADHD brain and easily overloaded sensory system are a big contributor to who I am, as much as my sexuality is. Perhaps even more so.

    I am now teaching my ADHD/Tourette’sSyndrome/Asperger’s Syndrome kids the same message…our differences may make it more challenging at times, but they are never an excuse for sin. It is a hard lesson to learn, and I regularly fall on my face and have to cry out to the Lord yet again for his help!! It requires much honesty, patience, compassion towards each other, and hearty doses of repentance and forgiveness. Exactly what we need to offer and encourage in same-sex attracted Christians. But we can’t condone the sin or we aren’t loving them with the love of Christ. This is a hard issue that many Christians are grappling with, and it is great to see so many thoughtful comments here. xxoo