Saturday, May 25, 2013

Hard Work

I'm working in the mud of the garden today, trying to get seeds planted before Memorial Day.  The roto-tiller gained 20 pounds in the process, and I need to get back out there and finish this project before it rains once again.

As I work, I'm listening to some podcasts that have to do with homosexuality.  I've done some reading again lately and am more sure than ever that this is a key issue.  It is a key issue for many reasons, but partly because we need to be led in this, as well as in all other areas of life, by God's Word and not by our feelings.

This isn't a subject I enjoy discussing or debating.  But, like working the garden, it needs to be done if we're going to have a good harvest in the end.

Yesterday I was listening to two interviews with Robert Gagnon, interviews that were done last year by Tony Reinke who works for John Piper's Ministry Desiring God.  You'll find them below.

Today I've been listening to Tony's interview of Rosaria Champagne Butterfield--it's worth a lesson as she tells her story and shares insights from scripture.  A certain part really caught my attention. Dr. Butterfield said:
It struck me as I was reading the Bible that God says, quite clearly, that anyone who is going to be a Christian has to give everything up.  Not just the easy things.  Christianity isn't for people who just like to be a little cleaned up on the on the surface.  And so, I don't know what my Christian friends might think of this, but I think it's important that anyone outside of the church feel invited and welcomed to ask any question of anyone who claims to know Christ, that no Christian should behave in squeamishness. 

I also think it's really important that the church reach out to the gay and lesbian community.  We the church... (I've been in both communities and I have to tell you which "we")... We the church... I think we have a delusion that we have been witnessing faithfully for years and years, the gay and lesbian community has not responded and therefore there is something hardened about that sin and we just need to move on.  I think the reality is that the Bible-believing Christian church has indeed sinned against the GLBT community by failing to share the gospel in love and in some ways failing to do what Ken Smith did to me--Ken practiced what is called "hospitality."  ...And hospitality is inviting the stranger in. [Ken Smith was the pastor who was instrumental in bringing Dr. Butterfield to Christ.] 
Oh that we would all share that kind of hospitality with all, including those who experience same-sex sexual attractions!  Tony Reinke's second interview with Dr. Butterfield, all about hospitality, can be found at this link: Hospitality On A Mission
Here is a link to the recorded interviews with Robert Gagnon (posted October 30, 2012)--a scholar who has done very important work in this area, and below you'll find Tony Reinke's introduction and a summary of the points of the interviews.  They are worth your time.
Tony Reinke writes:
    "In modern cultures like America, every Christian is faced with the problem of homosexuality. Churches are pulled into the tension, too, because 'there is no demilitarized zone in the homosexual debate.'
   "Shrugging isn’t an option. The implications are all around us, in schools, in politics, in denominational tensions, and — maybe most importantly — in determining how the Church lives out her faithful witness to a culture in desperate need of Christ.
    "With the marriage amendment on the Minnesota ballot [in the fall of 2012], and with a growing list of personal questions in my Moleskine notebook, I contacted Dr. Robert Gagnon, a professor of New Testament at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary and a man who has for many years bravely addressed homosexuality from a biblical and theological perspective. In 2002 he published the 500-page book The Bible and Homosexual Practice: Texts and Hermeneutics. A decade later his work remains the most thoroughly exegetical and hermeneutical book on homosexuality and the Bible (John Piper).
    "I put Dr. Gagnon on the line, peppered him with a dozen questions, and he kindly responded to each of them. The result is what I now get to share with you as episodes three and four in the Authors on the Line podcast series (iTunes).

Below are individual links to each recorded interview (podcasts) and a Tony Reinke's list of the questions considered in each:

The Church in a Homosexual Culture: An Interview with Robert Gagnon (32 minutes)
  • What are the biblical and the structural prerequisites for a sexual union that magnifies God and honors his created design?
  • From that, what constitutes sinful sexual practices?
  • Does the Bible say anything about gender reassignment surgery?
  • Is homosexuality a modern phenomenon? Just how pervasive was homosexuality in the Greco-Roman world of the Apostle Paul?
  • By voting yes to the Minnesota Marriage Amendment, are Christians oppressing the freedoms of the gay and lesbian community? Why or why not?
  • What advice do you have for churches seeking to preach against the sin of homosexuality, and make sure the church doors are wide open and welcoming to all those in the homosexual community?
Same-Sex Temptations in the Church: An Interview with Robert Gagnon (30 minutes)
  • What role does the Church play in demythologizing sexuality in modern culture?
  • In the life of a professing Christian, what makes homosexual practice “an act of unbelief”?
  • Should we be okay with a professing believer who self-identifies as “a celibate gay Christian”?
  • What advice do you have for Christian parents who are fearful that their children will experience same-sex attraction in the teen years?
  • What are churches doing well in engaging those who struggle with same-sex attraction? What are churches doing poorly?
  • What guiding principles will help us to love and reach out to our homosexual neighbors?

Going back to what Dr. Butterfield said about being available for questions and not being "squeamish" about what anyone may ask, part of being "not squeamish" means being well informed.  Listen to these interviews or read what she or Dr. Gagnon have written, and then let the Word of God go to work.  Be brave.  And then be hospitable to those who disagree.

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