On Wednesday, October 21st at noon, our very own Dr. Graham Cole will be facilitating a Table Talk discussion on homosexuality and the Bible and Christianity.
On Tuesday Cole delivered a “Dean’s Hour” lecture entitled “Following Christ in a LGBTIQQAAP’s World.” In many ways, this talk served as an introduction to the conversation that will continue at the Table Talk on October 21st.
In this post I’d like to relay some of the key points of this recent talk as a way to stimulate your thinking and prepare you for further conversation at our Table Talk.
First, Dr. Cole addressed the context in which we engage these matters.
(A) For many of us, these matters are extremely personal. Either we experience same-sex attraction ourselves or we know others–friends, family members–who do. We cannot engage this issue as a purely theoretical one.
(B) Furthermore, we engage this issue in a drastically changing culture, a culture of which the fast-past political changes are symptomatic. We live in a world in which these matters are cast as civil rights issues and opposition to them is addressed with a shaming rhetoric and ostracizing actions.
(C) And, finally, whereas in past times we may have engaged homosexuality and lesbianism, now we are aware of other identifiers and expressions of sexuality (and gender) such as the transgendered, bisexual, asexual, pansexual, etc.
(D) We are living in an ever-changing world. And this ever-changing world brings us to thinking about recent government decisions such as Obergefell. We are now also living in an ever-changing legal world where concerns arise over losing tax-exempt status and preserving religious liberty. But the political climate is such that even individuals such as queers opposed to marriage equality are silenced.
How does all of this effect the church? Cole supports Russell Moore’s statement that such changes in our culture may be “bad for America, but it’s good for the church.” These changes will likely result in the demise of ‘folk evangelicalism,’ in which ‘cultural Christianity’ thrives, and the rise of a church that is clearly distinguished from its society. That is a good thing, as bad as it may be for our society.
Cole noted that recent Supreme Court decisions raise questions regarding religious liberty. For many in our culture, religious liberty is shrunk down to worship. Noteworthy is the failure to consider religious practice, i.e., living Christianity outside of the home and church walls such as in the public square, as under the cover of religious liberty. Cole stated provocatively, Christians are essentially forced to practice atheism in the public square.
Cole argued that our Bibliology–our view of the Bible–ultimately must flow out of Christology, specifically how Christ viewed scripture. Scripture is the authority for what we ought to believe. And when we look at the key Biblical texts on same-sex sexual behavior, a rather consistently negative picture emerges. “There’s not a positive text of scripture on this subject,” Cole said.
However, as evangelicals, although we are often quick to stress the negative strands of scripture on these topics, we too often fail to emphasize the positive and beautiful strands of Biblical teaching on gender, sexuality, and marriage. Taking Christ seriously, we must take this testimony of scripture seriously as well.
But we must do more than merely hold to scripture with conviction. We must act wisely as we engage the church and society.
In our overly sexualized culture, “sex has replaced the soul”; and many things that are not inherently sexual are often times tied up with a sexual identity and orientation. As Christians, we need to practice discernment in order to sort out these cultural associations and clustered-attachments.
“God is not as interested in our happiness as in our holiness,” Cole stated, loosely citing C.S. Lewis. If we are going to be a people that “holds the line” on these issues, we need to become a community in which such convictions make sense, a community that strives after holiness no matter what the issue.
But, not only are we to be holy, we are to be loving. We are not out to offend. We are not to go out of our way to offend. Yet, at the end of the day, we can’t control whether or not people take offense. People will take offense. And following Christ in this world may mean facing shaming rhetoric. But, as much as we are able, we ought to be characterized by “convictional civility.”
In summary, Cole argued that the central issue at stake in the Christian relation to these controversial matters is loyalty. It all boils down to loyalty. Bearing the name “Christian” is a statement of our fundamental, primary loyalty–loyalty to Christ. If we believe in Christ, if we follow Christ, and if we come to grips with his view on scripture and scripture’s take on this topic, we will remain convictional on these matters. And being convictional, and facing all that means in our society (e.g., marginalization, shaming rhetoric, etc.), we would do well to re-read and give more attention to those parts of scripture that speak of the normal place of the Christian in society–marginalized, persecuted, etc.
As Cole closed he said, “Friends, the Dean’s Hour is over; but Table Talk is coming.” Certainly it is!
I hope you benefited from this summary of the key points from Dr. Cole’s lecture. And I hope you are able to attend our Table Talk Wednesday, October 21st at noon.
* This Dean’s Hour was video recorded. So if you are interested, you should be able to track that video down eventually.