Follow-up

In addition to Barry’s post about the forthcoming The Gospel and Sexual Orientation and my post about Dan Savage, here are a few more related and helpful things that have come across my desk lately:

“Is the Megachurch the New Liberalism?” Al Mohler addresses both the general question of megachurches’ theological pragmatis and a very disturbing sermon from North Point’s Andy Stanley, which strongly intimated the legitimacy of homosexual lifestyles.

A Christian Psychology of and Response to Homsexuality–I listened to this address from Sam Williams to the Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary just before I heard Dan Savage’s memoir. With a slightly different approach than I’m used to, I found it extremely helpful and plan on returning to it soon. He especially does a good job applying the gospel: “The gospel changes the most important things initially, and it changes everything eventually.”

Do you think homosexuality is disgusting?” Ed Welch’s answer to this question may or may not surprise you, but it will challenge you. “I deeply desire to imitate Jesus in tone and content. I want to approximate his way of inviting others, especially his way of inviting those who couldn’t imagine being invited by the Lord. “

6 Comments

  1. timbloedow May 3, 2012 at 12:46 am #

    I find Welch’s piece to be quite troubling, mixing categories as he does. I understand what’ he’s saying about wanting to connect better with people the way Jesus did, but I still think he’s off. I don’t know many people who are “into” nouthetic counselling, but after you sent out the email alert for this post and I read Welch’s article, this is what I sent to a friend who is training in nouthetic counselling as I soon hope to:

    “I’m getting rather uncomfortable reading some of the supposedly nouthetic stuff from the latest generation of nouthetic counsellors. I think I have a good grasp on the importance of mercy and grace and humility with people in order to counsel them well, and I don’t think the Lafayette stuff I’ve listened to so far goes outside of Biblical parameters in that respect though it sounds more sensitive than maybe previous generations like Jay Adams himself. But I’ve read a couple of things by Ed Welch lately, and especially the piece below, that sound so soupy, goopy and sappy and I think go too far in that direction. Here he deals with the question of whether homosexuality is “disgusting” and he concludes no because the Bible doesn’t set it apart from other sins.

    “Firstly, that’s nonsense. It might not set it apart in the text he quoted. But it does in Romans 1 where it’s identified as not simply a sin, but also a curse. Secondly, if it’s no different from any other sin, then it’s not that homosexuality is then not disgusting, but rather that all the other sins are disgusting along with homosexuality. Nobody in their right mind can say that mixing sex with the back end is not disgusting. That’s insanity.”

    If you think I’m off somehow, I’d be glad for a reply.

    • Jared Olivetti May 3, 2012 at 6:14 am #

      Hi Tim,

      As always, I’m glad for the opportunity to interact on things of importance.

      Here’s where I might agree with you: clearly the Scriptures portray homosexual acts as something that is less natural than heterosexual acts. They are a further perversion of God’s good gift of sex.

      Here’s where I do think you’re off: Welch’s piece was not intended to be a Biblical treatment of counseling people in the throes of homosexuality. Rather (like my post yesterday), it was intended to get Christians to check their hearts and motives. I feel that you’re condemning Welch’s post for not being what you wanted it to be instead of taking it for what it is.

      A couple other thoughts: you wrote, “I think I have a good grasp on the importance of mercy and grace and humility with people in order to counsel them well…”–I want to be careful not to judge you because I don’t know you personally and haven’t seen your ministry. But these words sound not only possibly prideful but also naive. I can identify with Welch’s post because I personally have so slight a grasp on the importance of mercy, grace and humility in counseling, as do many young reformed guys. What you call gooey and sappy may be what Jesus and Paul call love.

      Finally, the last sentence of what you wrote to your friend seems to illustrate Welch’s point: if anyone reading these comments struggle with temptations to homosexuality, it’s easy to imagine them being offended by the crass, off-handed, simplistic way you describe something you (likely) don’t have any experience with. I’m not arguing the disturbing nature of the sin, but pointing out that Welch’s exhortation toward love and imitating Jesus’ tone with those who need him is truly important.

      I hope this all helps.

      In Christ,
      Jared

      • timbloedow May 3, 2012 at 9:14 am #

        Thanks Jared. I still think Welch stepped over the line. At outset of his article, he notes that in his hypothetical scenario, the person is associating the sin with himself, so if he had replied that he found homosexuality disgusting, the person would have interpreted it as him finding the homosexual disgusting. That’s of course realistic. Most of the public debate in favour of homosexuality identifies it as a point of identity. We should be aware of that, but we shouldn’t let that theological error, which is what it ultimately is, cloud our approach to people.

        I knew I should have been more careful with my words: “I think I have a good grasp on the importance of mercy and grace and humility with people in order to counsel them well” – and almost qualified them, but I didn’t. That was intended to be understood more from an academic perspective, not a personal one. That was the perspective from which I was criticizing Welch here, not in terms of how he has actually counselled any particular person, let alone in contrast to any particular case study from my experience. What I take issue with is what I interpret as an imbalanced theological framework coming through in the way he suggests understanding disgust and homosexuality.

        I don’t have homosexual acquaintances I’m dealing with. I deal with homosexuality in a public and political context. If God brings Christians into a Dan Savage’s life to minister to him as a friend, then that’s wonderful. But in his very public activity, he is an abuser, a bully, a hater, frankly a thug. And when I say this, I don’t primarily have the Christians in mind whom he constantly defrauds with his lies. Rather, I have in mind all the ordinary people struggling with sexual confusion and homosexual temptation who can’t be helped by Christianity because of powerful spokesmen like him who have made it politically and socially off-limits to talk about deliverance from homosexuality, so even young people who are sexually confused have far less access than could be possible to real help. Instead they are told that they should become comfortable in their sin and learn to embrace it. His “It Gets Better” slogan has been used even by politicians in Canada to unite with a now internationally recognized movement as an internationally recognized symbol against homosexual bullying. Yet from a Biblical perspective, this is an abusive campaign against homosexual youth because it encourages them to remain enslaved to their sin. I see Dan Savage as one of those abusers and victimizers that the Scriptures call down judgment upon in the pleas you see in the Psalms for instance for God to mete out justice on behalf of the victims of oppression and injustice.

        If we can’t think of people in our own experience who fit the bill as the abusers of oppressed victims, and those who warrant God’s judgment in history for their oppression, then I think we sentimentalize and spiritualize these passages out of their true meaning, the way I used to do when I was dispensationalist and pentecostal. And if we don’t spiritualize such passages, then Dan Savage fits the bill as a dangerous oppressor even of “his own people.” We know that God can and will even use an ass to speak to people, so we need to be humble enough to hear what he might be saying even through a Dan Savage (as per an earlier post). But, in so doing, we had better not have a false humility that then keeps us from leveling the appropriate, Biblical judgment against him that is warranted by his works. Christianity is not only about what God is doing in our own personal lives in making us humble; it’s also about using us where we are at any given time in His comprehensive Kingdom advancing work, which has multiple dimensions to it.

        Maybe I made too much of the proximate relationship of the recent posts on homosexuality on this site in light of my assessment of Dan Savage, but I still think Welch steps over a line into unbiblical perspective, and I am concerned about the desire to have all things be used as tools in healthy self-assessment turning into a pietistic, individualistic approach to life that inhibits our commitment to wider, more comprehensive application of God’s Law-Word in this world.

        In Kingdom service,
        Tim

  2. timbloedow May 3, 2012 at 12:49 am #

    My ref. to Lafayette was not to our Lafayette RP church, but a Baptist church in the city which apparently has a rather well-known and successful nothetic counselling ministry: http://www.faithlafayette.org/counseling .

  3. Jared Olivetti May 3, 2012 at 9:57 am #

    Tim,

    I don’t want to prolong this unnecessarily, but let me respond briefly.

    First, I agree with your thoughts about Dan Savage. In my post about him, I decided to use the opportunity to instruct the church rather than deal with him–partly because the purpose of this blog is to edify believers, and not always by tearing down unbelievers. But yet you seem (if I’m reading you right) to be frustrated that I didn’t write everything you’d like me to.

    And that’s my frustration with your comments about Welch. Instead of dealing with his article as it is, you chastise him for what you see as an improper theological framework. My point is: he wasn’t writing about his theological framework, but about the heart of the counselor. Your comments seem to “go beyond what is written” (2 Cor. 4:6) in an unfair way, assuming things he simply wasn’t addressing. If you’d like to really know Welch’s theological framework, instead of inferring it from an article not intended to address it, can I encourage you to spend time reading some of his books and articles at ccef.org? I have found no reason at all to question his theology or commitment to Scriptures.

    In Christ,
    Jared

    • timbloedow May 3, 2012 at 11:05 am #

      Fair enough, Jared. But I don’t want to be misunderstood in my judgment of Welch either. I probaly wasn’t clear again, but where you make the inferrence from my comments that I am criticizing his theological framework, depending on what you mean, I think you are correct, but not if that implies sweeping criticism. I’m criticizing his application re. heart of the counsellor as well as what I infer from that of his theological framework as it pertains to the issue.

      Maybe I’m thinking like an apologist because I figure that ideas have consequences and conclusions logically developed imply certain premises, and one can’t fully divorce the one from the other. But I’m not trying to slag him in general. And as noted initially, I have read more than just this from him and didn’t like everything, though I thought some was helpful. And the friend who I noted initially also responded with strong praise for some of what he’s done such as “When People Are Big and God is Small,” but shares my concerns reflected here about other work of his.

      And I don’t think I have an expectation that you should deal with Savage in a website devoted to edifying believers. I guess I’m saying I wasn’t that edified this time, and I think it’s because I have a hard time with the idea that it can be helpful to divorce key aspects of real-world context to make a “spiritual” point about individual piety. One could be conventional and say it’s because I’m not humble enough, and that may be true. But such a response can also be a convenient throw-away line because who’s going to challenge such a statement? But maybe we need to “exposit” these experiences and incidents in a similar fashion to the way we approach the Scripture and avoid proof-texting and taking it out of context.

      Maybe I’m too pedantic on that point or maybe I just don’t like being addressed by a mule (Savage, not you 🙂 ).

      In Christ,

      Tim

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