Below is an excerpt from Chapter 13 of Don’t Call It a Comeback: An Old Faith for a New Day (Crossway, 2011), edited by Kevin DeYoung. I had the great privilege of working with Pastor Kevin DeYoung on this article. I also must give credit to Kevin for at least 90% of the final product. I am thankful that he allowed me to put my name on his ideas.) A link to the full article is provided after the excerpt.
All of the articles in the book are very well written. I encourage you to get the book for all of your college-aged students in your ministry. The book was written with the 20 – 30-something in mind.
Homosexuality Grace, Truth, and the Need for Gentle Courage
By Eric Redmond and Kevin Deyoung
The fiasco will probably seem dated by the time this book hits the shelves, but it was a big deal for a few days. On October 1, 2009, late-night TV comedian David Letterman announced to his studio audience that he had had a sexual affair with one of his female staff members. There was a mixed reaction from the public. Some thought that Letterman was receiving his just desserts and deserved to be mocked as he had mocked others. Others said it was no big deal. As Tom Shales from The Washington Post commented, “Letterman can continue to lampoon sleazy political figures with no real fear of hypocrisy, however, because a TV comic is not an elected official responsible for the well-being of the nation or its citizenry.” So Letterman gets a pass because he’s a “comic, not a cleric or a congressman.”(1)
But then what do we make of Tiger Woods? After news broke of Tiger’s many paramours, he lost sponsorships, public esteem, and eventually his marriage. He withdrew from upcoming tournaments and checked himself in to a sexual addiction clinic. Is Letterman okay, but Tiger not?
Anytime sex is in the news, you can count on Americans being fascinated by it. What you can’t count on is the public’s reaction. For one report, there are laughs. For another, gasps. Sometimes the sins are thought egregious. Other times they are mere personal indiscretions. It’s as if our society wants sexual standards, but it doesn’t want them standardized.
Yet, in the face of this inconsistency, evangelical Christianity main- tains a theological case for a biblical sexuality that applies to all. There is a code of conduct defined and described by the Scriptures: a covenanted union of one man for one woman (until the death of either) as the Lord’s standard for all people in every society. Given this standard, Christians need to confront a variety of sins: pornography, adultery, premarital sex, unlawful divorce and remarriage. It’s not that we are killjoys, scared that people are enjoying themselves somewhere. Rather, it’s because we believe the Word of God, and believe God’s Word is good for us, that we feel compelled to uphold the Scripture’s stance on sexuality. And this stance includes the prohibition of homosexual behavior.
How to Talk the Talk
Homosexuality is a complicated and personal topic for many people. It is often difficult to discuss. More and more, many of us have friends or family who are gay. No doubt, some individuals reading this chapter struggle with same-gender attraction. So whenever we talk about homosexuality, we are talking about something very personal, often painful, and always controversial. But we cannot avoid this issue. It demands careful thought and a careful response. Homosexuality is not the only important issue for Christians, but it is one we cannot ignore.
It is unpopular in many quarters to critique homosexuality. “Progressive” justices seek to normalize and protect the homosexual “rights,” and some large denominational church bodies have approved the ordination of openly gay priests and ministers. The media presents homosexuality as acceptable and American as mom and apple pie. The Christian critique in this environment often sounds strident or bigoted. Sometimes, sadly, it is. But our attitude must be one of humility. To be a Christian is to acknowledge that we once were rebellious toward God and, in fact, are still fighting against rebellious impulses in our hearts. So we speak to those indulging in any sin from a point of meekness, as those who have been shown mercy and forgiveness, not as those worthy of God or morally superior to others. Our critique is strong, but, we hope, also humble. We have no righteousness of our own, and the only truth we speak is what we see in God’s Word.
In the Beginning
God’s plan from the beginning has been for one man and one woman to become one flesh in the covenant of marriage. When no suitable helper was found for Adam, the Lord God made a woman (Gen. 2:20, 22). She was bone of his bone and flesh of his flesh, and the two became one flesh (Gen. 2:23–24). God made the man and the woman to fit together, quite literally. In the creation, God intended for man and woman to exist in a state in which they could enjoy one another in an exclusive, lifelong “one flesh” union that would result in “filling the earth.” This kind of union only comes about in a heterosexual marriage.
We have good reason to think this one man–one woman union was and continues to be God’s design for human sexuality. For starters, marriage is given before the fall and pronounced very good (Gen. 1:31). What is good about it is not simply that Adam had a meaningful relationship, but that he was given a helper suitable for him—not an animal, not another man, but a woman, Eve. Moreover, Jesus reaffirmed God’s design for a one man–one woman marriage in Matthew 19:4–5: “Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’?” Heterosexual monogamy is God’s normative design for marriage. The Bible refuses to commend whatever deviates from this pattern—be it adultery, bestiality, polygamy, fornication, or homosexual behavior.
Sexuality in the context of heterosexual marriage is not only good, but exclusively good. Only heterosexual marriage relationships can show forth the complementary design of men and women. According to the apostle Paul, one of the purposes of marriage is to show forth the mystery of Christ and the church (Eph. 5:32). If marriage can be construed as a man and a man or a woman and a woman, what is left of the glorious mystery of Christ and the church? We are left with only Christ and Christ or church and church.
Similarly, only heterosexual marriage relationships can fulfill God’s design in marriage to be fruitful and increase in number (Gen. 1:28). To be sure, sex is given for more than procreation. But just as surely, we cannot deny that God intends for children to be the result of the marriage union. Speaking about the covenant of marriage, Malachi 2:15 says, “Has not the L made them one? In flesh and spirit they are his. And why one? Because he was seeking godly offspring” (NIV). Granted, some heterosexual couples cannot have children because of barrenness, impotence, old age, or other medical reasons. Their lack of reproduction does not make their union inappropriate. But that we live in a fallen world where the gift of children does not come to all couples is beside the point. What still stands is God’s design. Part of God’s plan for marriage is godly offspring. The issue is not whether every couple will be able to have children, but whether the marriage union itself reflects God’s original design for two people to come together who were given sexual organs to reproduce, one with the other.
Why Not Homosexuality?
The rest of Scripture confirms the Genesis design for marriage and sexual union. In particular, three clusters of passages teach that homosexual behavior is contrary to Scripture and displeasing to God.
1Tom Shales, “Let’s Remember That Letterman’s a Comic, Not a Cleric or a Congressman,” The Washington Post, October 6, 2009, accessed October 21, 2009, http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/10/05/AR2009100503982.html?nav=rss_email/components.
Read the whole chapter here. Special thanks go to Crossway for making the chapter available for posting. Congratulations to Pastor DeYoung on another great book!
DeYoung, Kevin, ed. Don’t Call It A Comback: An Old Faith for a New Day (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 2011). Article used by permission.