jasonbwatson

June 27, 2013

Upholding Biblical Principles

I seem to blog entirely too much about homosexuality recently, but it also seems to be in the news entirely too much recently, so I guess that’s how it goes. On June 13 ABC News ran a story about a student at Grace University in Omaha, NE–a Christian school–that dismissed a student “just months away from her college graduation” because she fell in love with a fellow Grace student who was also a female. This happened two years ago, but is (conveniently?) just now coming to national attention.

According to the school’s executive vice president, the handbook reads that “any student involved in sexually immoral behavior, including premarital sex, adultery, and homosexual acts, is at minimum placed on University probation and may be subject to a Judiciary Hearing.” This is not an unusual policy for a Christian school, and it is one that is entirely consistent with biblical principles. So what’s the big deal?

Well, according to a change.org petition created by the student’s now-wife, Grace University suspended the student, took away her scholarship and then expelled her for her continued relationship with the female student, just one semester shy of her graduation. According to ABC’s report, the petition asks that Grace forgive the student’s outstanding tuition debt and protests alleged discrimination. The now-wife writes in the petition, “Danielle’s life was completely turned upside down and her academic career ended simply because she fell in love with another woman.”

Well, let’s see… First of all, what discrimination? The handbook clearly states that homosexual relationships violate the school’s policy and will result in discipline. Since the student in question violated the policy and was then disciplined, this is no more discriminatory than if the school disciplined students for using illegal drugs or plagiarizing, offenses I think it is safe to assume are also clearly forbidden in the handbook. This student undoubtedly signed an agreement stating that she had read and agreed to adhere to the school’s policies. Given that she was within a semester of graduating, she probably signed it more than once.

The now-wife also quoted from a letter received from the university which reads, “…it would be impossible for the faculty of Grace University to affirm your Christian character, a requirement for degree conferral.” In my opinion, the school is to be commended for taking this stand. If one of its requirements for its graduates is that the faculty of the school be able to attest to the Christian character of the students, and a student is persisting in sin, it would, as stated, be impossible to give that affirmation, and therefore graduation should have been denied.

According to the school, it is seeking repayment of federal loans and grants from the dismissed student. I can see no problem with this position, certainly not as to the loans, since a loan is a legal agreement requiring one individual to repay the other according to the specified terms. I would hesitate to require the repayment of grants, since there is never an expectation that grants be repayed, but loans certainly should be. Ultimately, I suspect this is not really about the money. The dismissed student is no doubt unhappy about the way things turned out, despite the fact that they resulted from her own choices, and she is apparently not wanting to repay the loans since she was prevented from graduating, but more than anything else it seems she–or perhaps her “wife” since she is the one making all the news–is more concerned about making noise about the school upholding biblical principles. And for that, I say again, Grace University is to be commended.

June 26, 2013

News From the North

I have written in this space on numerous occasions about the inevitable result of legalizing same-sex marriage in the United States (or anywhere, for that matter) and the fact that if marriage is going to be redefined no one will be able to stop that redefinition at men marrying men and women marrying women. Once what has always been (marriage being between one man and one woman) is no more, there is no longer any legitimate way to prevent further redefinition. I have specifically warned about the potential for polygamous marriages seeking legal recognition, or what some have now started calling “polyamory.” Well, just across our border to the north our Canadian cousins are now seeking just that.

My Christian Daily includes a report today entitled “Polyamorists want legal recognition in Canada,” a report that begins with this statement: “A group of polyamorists say they want the same legal status as other relationships, following the group’s first national convention in Canada.” According to the report, “The group defines polyamory as having ‘more than one intimate relationship at a time with the knowledge and consent of everyone involved,'” and “[t]he group say they ‘live all gender combinations’, and are ‘queer-friendly’.”

This is incredibly relevant given that the U.S. Supreme Court is expected to rule today on two cases involving homosexual marriage. According to the Chicago Tribune, “The court was due to rule on the constitutionality of a federal law that denies benefits to same-sex married couples and a California state law that bans gay marriage. Those cases, argued in March, could shape the debate over whether gay men and women should have the right to marry.” As just described above, though, the decision will have ramifications beyond just that–if they rule that homosexual marriage is acceptable, they will throw the door wide open for an unlimited number of possible redefinitions of marriage. The Tribune reports that most experts believe it unlikely that the Court will issue “a broad decision proclaiming a fundamental right for gays to marry.” And while I agree that it is unlikely, I am afraid that I have found it difficult at best to predict what SCOTUS will decide on most cases, so I am not at all celebrating right now.

Then-president Bill Clinton signed the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) into law in 1996 after it passed Congress with overwhelming support. Earlier this year he notably called for DOMA to be overturned because, he said, times have changed since he signed the law, and homosexuals should now have the right to marry. Times have changed in that homosexuality is much more openly portrayed and accepted in American culture, particularly in Hollywood, but at the same time times have not changed in that human beings, in their sin natures, will always seek to ignore, manipulate, redefine and avoid God’s Word, which has not changed, and will not change, and clearly states that homosexuality is a sin.

The justices are expected to meet just minutes from now as I am writing in order to announce their rulings. We need to be in prayer now and continue to be in prayer after the rulings are announced, whatever those rulings may be, because even if the biblical definition of marriage is retained today, it will continue to be under attack tomorrow.

June 4, 2013

Who We Are

WORLD Magazine columnist Janie B. Cheaney is a good writer. I enjoy reading her columns, and I often find them to be well thought out and even thought-provoking. I have also found, however, that I seem to disagree with her at least as often as not. Such is the case again with her column entitled “The heart of the matter” in the June 1, 2013 issue. The subtitle of her column is “Homosexuals and the rest of us sinners are who we are, and that is the problem.” Unfortunately, Cheaney’s premise is wrong, and she makes several assertions throughout her column that are wrong.

Cheaney begins her piece with a quick rundown of some of the more prominent conservatives to have endorsed same-sex marriage. But then she starts the second paragraph with this: “So-called gay rights (for lack of a better term) is the third great civil-rights movement of the last 60 years, and the most vexed. Here’s why: Racism challenged society, feminism challenged the family, but sexual identity challenges our very being.”

I have argued in this space on numerous previous occasions that gay rights is not a civil rights issue, and I was disappointed to say the least that Cheaney has jumped on board with those who say that it is. And the reason that it is not is because the conclusion of Cheaney’s explanation is exactly wrong. Sexual identity does not challenge our “very being.” Our “very being” is that we are human beings created in the image of God. If you want to go further than that we are male and female human beings. But that is the extent of our “very being.” The identities that have been created in recent years, neatly summed up in the letters “LGBTQ” are man-made labels to describe chosen behaviors and preferences, but they are not identities. Cheaney calls them “a range of identities with unfixed borders,” but that is wrong. The unfixed borders part of the statement may be accurate; after all, the Q stands for, depending on who you ask or where you look, “queer” or “questioning,” but means, in either instance, someone who is uncertain of which label fits them.

Still, labels is all they are, not identities. For one thing, identities do not change; the very beginning of the definition of “identity” is “the state or fact of remaining the same one or ones, as under varying aspects or conditions.” They are further not identities because those behaviors abbreviated by LGBTQ describe personal preferences and possibly personal behaviors, but not who a person is. The same is just as true of a heterosexual as a homosexual, by the way. Heterosexuality is defined as, “sexual feeling or behavior directed toward a person or persons of the opposite sex.” Neither feelings nor behaviors are identities. I am certainly not identifiable by my feelings–and thank God for that, by the way! Nor am I identified by my behaviors. You may be able to learn a lot about me by what I do, but none of those things are me. Many labels can be applied accurately to me–husband, father, son, brother, teacher, friend, fan, reader, writer, colleague, employee, and on and on I could go. But if you took away each and every one of those things you would not eliminate me; I would still exist if none of those labels were still applicable, and therefore none of those things are my identity.

Cheaney uses a man named Christopher Yuan as an example of her point. Of Yuan she writes, “His identity was inseparable from his sexuality, and by his early twenties he knew he couldn’t change it. He was and always would be gay.” Therein lies the problem, though; his sexuality is separable from his identity.

Cheaney goes on to explain that sin is a matter of who we are. She writes, “‘This is who I am’ unwittingly bears the human soul. Sin is not primarily a matter of what we do but who we are. We are liars, idolators, adulterers, hypocrites, perverts. That is why we lie (to ourselves especially), worship the creature rather than the Creator, stray from our true lover, pretend righteousness we don’t have, and misuse God’s gifts to our own selfish ends. But most of those sins can be hidden, even within the church. The homosexual’s peculiar burden is that his sin can’t be hidden.”

Let’s take that apart a bit. First of all, yes, we are sinners–all of us. Scripture makes it clear that every human is a sinner, and that every human is born a sinner. Sinner, therefore, could accurately be included as part of our identities. And while Scripture also makes it clear that to be guilty of any part of the law is to be guilty of all, that does not mean that every person has actually committed each act. James 2 makes it clear that when we break God’s law in any way we are guilty of it all. James 2:10-11 reads, “For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become accountable for all of it. For he who said, ‘Do not commit adultery,’ also said, ‘Do not murder.’ If you do not commit adultery but do murder, you have become a transgressor of the law” (ESV). That does not mean, though, that if I have committed adultery I might as well also commit murder. It does not mean that if I have lied I might as well also steal. It simply means that it does not matter which of God’s laws I break, by breaking them I fall short of the glory of God and am therefore unworthy to spend eternity in His presence (Romans 3:23).

However–and this is a very important however–the fact that I am a sinner does not mean I have free license to sin. By God’s grace my sins have been forgiven, and with the leading of the Holy Spirit and my yielding to Him I do not have to live a life of sin. Paul makes it very clear that just because God’s grace enables the forgiveness of sins does not give me freedom to sin (Romans 6). So yes, some sins can be hidden, and some much more easily than others, but the fact that we are born sinners does not mean we have to sin continually, and certainly does not mean that we should sin.

So, to my second point, Cheaney says that homosexuality cannot be hidden. I disagree. If homosexuality is a feeling, it can definitely be hidden. People hide their feelings all the time. If homosexuality is an action it can be both hidden and avoided. Plenty of people throughout history have engaged in homosexual activity and hidden it, I am sure. But the real point is that no one has to engage in homosexual behavior! As I have stated repeatedly, even if I were convinced that people are “born homosexual” (I am not) they still have the choice to practice homosexuality. And this is why gay rights is not a civil rights issue. People can not choose or change the color of their skin, and people cannot choose their gender, either (though with the “technology” available these days they can have it medically changed).

At the end of her column Cheaney quotes Yuan as coming to realization that the Bible does condemn homosexuality as a sin, and that God called him to be holy. “My identity was not ‘gay’ or ‘homosexual’ or even ‘heterosexual,’ for that matter. But my identity as a child of the living God must be in Jesus Christ alone,” she quoted Yuan. And in that regard Yuan is quite right. The problem is that she prefaced that by writing that God “was not calling him to be straight, but to be holy.” The problem is, one cannot be holy and be a practicing homosexual. If the Bible says homosexuality is a sin (it does) and the Bible says that Christians are to be holy because God is holy (it does) one cannot then argue that it is possible to be both holy and homosexual (it isn’t). Am I saying all homosexuals will go to hell? No, I’m not. Homosexuality is a sin, but God forgives the sins of those who ask, homosexuals included.

My point, though, is that Cheaney is wrong about homosexuality or heterosexuality being anyone’s identity. It simply is not. I also disagree wholeheartedly that homosexual is what anyone “just is.” Who we all are is fallen human beings, created in the image of God but born in sin and therefore ineligible for eternal life. My identity now, praise the Lord, is a sinner saved by grace. And that is a identity anyone can have who is willing to call on the name of the Lord.

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