There are real oxymorons – Unitarian Christians and Arian Christians – and there are what ought to be oxymorons but are only too real – flawed Christians and sinful Christians.
Is it any surprise? Biblical students and students of human nature should not be surprised. So why is it a great surprise that there are some homosexuals who call themselves Christians?
There are sinners of all shades calling themselves Christians and have done so for a very long time. It should not be a crisis but an opportunity to clarify what true Christianity is.
However, aged Eugene Peterson, 85 years old today, was challenged into changing his mind about biblical teaching on marriage by discovering homosexual Christians.
Peterson began to change his mind some time ago. This year he revealed that he would perform a ‘same-sex wedding ceremony’. The next day he backtracked when a storm of objection burst. LifeWay, America’s largest Christian book publisher, threatened to ban his books if he did not affirm a traditional view of marriage. He changed his tune, if not his mind, by saying that a same-sex couple would be welcome in his church today, but he would not perform a same-sex wedding “out of respect to the congregation, the larger church body, and the historic biblical Christian view and teaching.” If biblical authority is buried in this list, why is it buried beneath other sources of influence? Is this not peer group pressure supplanting biblical authority?
It is not uncommon for old men to wobble in their opinions. Sometimes they change their views because of Christian maturity, sometimes because of senility, sometimes in temptation, and sometimes by peer group pressure, especially from a group that wants a celebrity in its camp.
Peterson would attribute his change of mind to the first, his dismayed supporters opted for the second, Asaph’s advice for the third is to keep one’s temptations to oneself rather than offend the godly Ps 73:15 until the Lord resolves it Ps 73:17, but the most likely reason is ‘the sin that so easily besets us’ Heb 12:1 – peer group pressure.
Some keep their opinions to themselves but Peterson has chosen ‘to go public’. Wheels wobble just before they fall over, and if they are to remain upright they need an extra kick of energy to keep moving forward. Christians are to help each other and are often the Lord’s means to restore them to the paths of righteousness Ps 23:3, to keep them moving forwards. Call it peer group pressure if you will, but as peer group pressure is so real and powerful it should be understood by Christians and used for good and not for ill. Peterson acknowledges the role of Presbyterian mutual submission in his decision-making, so it is for the church of God to collectively address each issue from a biblical perspective.
When the Baptist Union began to wobble over biblical inerrancy in the 19th century, Charles Haddon Spurgeon withdrew from it so that the influence of a lifetime would not be cast on the wrong side of the debate. It seems that Peterson’s influence of a lifetime will be cast on the wrong side. He does not believe in separating from brethren in error, exalting his ordination vows to submit to his brethren over his ordination vows to be faithful to the teaching of Scripture. There comes a point when one must ask if one’s ordination vows are asking too much of a person. Martin Luther wrestled with such an issue over monastic vows of celibacy, and the Bible won his conscience. He forged a pathway from the opinion of the pope of Rome to the collective opinion of the pope of Rome together with his college of cardinals, moving from the pope ill-informed to the pope better informed, and when this proved ineffective he appealed to a general council. He was summoned to appear before the diet of Worms, called by the holy Roman emperor, and when the debate took place, he concluded with his Reformation battle cry that biblical teaching had won his conscience in the absence of any argument to the contrary. Similarly Athanasius stood ‘against the world’ in defending the divinity of Christ from Arianism. We need more international Reformers.
Comment on Peterson’s changing views continues, but in practice it is little different from the well-worn pathway of denominational decline in which churches fail to heed the apostle Paul’s advice: ‘The things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also’ 2Tim 2:2.
Just as denominations have split in the past over specific matters, so homosexual denominations now exist, because 1. churches have excluded homosexuals; 2. homosexuals, like others, have their own flawed theology and Bibliology and 3. like many others, these homosexual Christians want to assert their form of Christianity.
This behaviour is no different from the other forms of Christianity arising throughout the Christian era.
The same happened in Paul’s day. He warned the churches of Galatia about ‘some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ’ Gal 1:7. He warned the Ephesian elders: ‘of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them’ Act 20:30.
The same happened in John’s experience. He wrote: ‘They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us: but they went out, that they might be made manifest that they were not all of us’ 1Jn 2:19.
Peter also wrote about it: ‘But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies’ 2Pe 2:1.
Let us not be surprised with the emergence of a homosexual brand of Christianity – but let us challenge such to repent, to bring every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ 2Cor 10:5, taking their lead from those homosexuals in Corinth who followed biblical teaching 1Cor 6:9,11. At least there is some common ground on which to work where people profess to be followers of Jesus Christ.
Christians should follow Jesus: ‘He is gone to be a guest of him that is a sinner’ Lk 19:7 and ‘This man receives sinners and eats with them’ Lk 15:2.
Jesus said: ‘I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance’ Lk 5:32 and it is time for Christians to do likewise, calling sinners to Christian repentance, instead of Christians succumbing to secular repentance.