“What does the Bible teach about everything?”
I knew Dr. Kevin DeYoung’s book What Does the Bible Really Teach about Homosexuality defends the “traditional Christian” view of marriage, the view that God intends marriage to be between a man and a woman. After opening my discussion [February 2, 2023] on today’s struggle with homosexual behavior in the church with comments on Peter Gomes’ The Good Book [February 2, 2023], it is time to turn to another view on this issue. Gomes is a pastor and he is gay. DeYoung is a pastor who is not accepting of Gomes’ behavior. “I believe same sex sexual intimacy is a sin” [DeYoung, 17]. How clear does an author need to be?
Yet when one turns to DeYoung’s book, he begins his introduction with “What does the Bible teach about Everything?” Why?
The synopsis of “everything” takes about four pages. Some might think he gives The Bible a short shrift but the four pages are remarkably well-written.
Here is a synopsis of his synopsis [if you will].
DeYoung points out the central character of The Bible is God Himself, an “eternal, infinite and, in His essence, unlike anything that ever was, is, or will be.” Of course God created all things including men and women, making them in His image. You know the story: the first man and first woman doubted the word of God and took a bite of forbidden fruit, causing sin to enter the world, introducing sin into all of our lives. They were driven from an idyllic garden, from the tree of life and God was left to find a way to live with unholy people.
From this point on, humans have been looking for a way to return to that tree, that Promised Land, that Canaan where God would be their God and they would be His people. The Bible becomes a story of people who cannot keep their promises, breaking covenants with God over and over, only to be restored by a benevolent God to the status of His chosen people.
God dwelt among man in the tabernacle and finally in the temple, a sort of Garden of Eden on earth. God put His tabernacle in the middle of the Israeli camp and His temple in the middle of Jerusalem, a symbol of how God was intended to be central in the lives of His people.
Eventually the temple was destroyed [twice], a sign that God was punishing His people and once again, they had squandered their opportunity to have a right relationship with Him.
Finally God tried a new idea, sending a flesh and blood version of Himself to earth in the form of His Son Jesus Christ, what DeYoung calls “a better Moses and a second Adam.” He would experience the wrath of God that we should experience and die the death that we deserved because we were sinners; He was not. He promised if we believe in Him, “all the promised blessings—forgiveness, cleansing, redemption, eternal life—become our promises, too.” The long-awaited restoration to right standing with God will be ours. The chance to enjoy the fruits of the Tree of Life will be ours. Nothing will interfere with a holy God and His holy people. “The way things were—the ways things should be—will finally become the way things are forever and ever” [DeYoung, 14].
Why does DeYoung spend four pages taking us on a “big picture” view of The Bible? The reason for doing this is that he is saying that homosexuality is not the prime focus of The Book, “it’s not what the church has been singing and preaching about for two thousand years” .
Yet today it seems that homosexual behavior is the only thing God is concerned with in today’s church. My church, a denomination that was formerly affiliated with the United Methodist denomination, had a meeting where the entire congregation discussed the ideas that administrators and pastors should not serve the church if they were openly homosexual. That homosexual marriage should not be allowed in our church. DeYoung’s book goes right at those ideas: “homosexual activity [is] a sin that must be repented of, forsaken, and forgiven.” At my church’s meeting, member after member stood and recited the following reasons that homosexuals should be allowed to lead in our church and marry in our church. They said I have lots of gay friends and they are nice people; I think labelling their sexual orientation a sin is a sin. I have family members who are gay and I love them; I think labelling their sexual orientation a sin is a sin and the denial of church rights to gay people is akin to discrimination that many in our country did to African-American people as Americans practiced slavery and denial of basic civil rights.
Those people who spoke up have left my church.
No one, not one person, asked a question about God’s Word. There are scriptures that condemn homosexual activity as sexual immorality. What do we do with those? Do we remove them from our Bibles? Do we say that they are not relevant anymore? Eighty percent of Americans feels that the gay lifestyle is ok, so that should be a high enough percentage to overrule God’s Word?
God’s Word is about much more than homosexual behavior, the reason DeYoung starts his book with “What Does the Bible Teach about Everything.” At my church meeting, we were [to borrow his phrase] “getting up close to the trees” when we should have been stepping back to “make sure we were gazing upon the same forest” [DeYoung, 9]. We were forgetting that the Bible is about a Christ who has come to convict us, to challenge us, to change us and is coming again. Christ came to call us to repent of our sins so we can live forever with God in His new creation. Not repenting of our sins leads to eternal punishment and God’s wrath.
Those excluded from “the Garden” are “the cowardly, the faithless, the detestable, murderers, the sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters and all liars” [Revelation 21: 8, 27]. What are we do as Christians with this “hot button topic?” Do we make so much of it that we ignore the totality of God’s Word? The Bible is so much more than rules against homosexual behavior in Leviticus and Romans 1. Conversely, do we ignore what God says about homosexual behavior, glossing over His warnings because our friends and family are excellent people, they just happen to be gay?
As we begin DeYoung’s book it is important to recognize that his view is one view, the traditional view of human sexuality, that it should be limited to one man and one woman in the Godly framework of marriage. He pulls no punches. He tells the reader up front what he believes. He just encourages the reader to keep three things open: their minds, their hearts and their Bibles.
I encourage anyone who reads this blog to do the same. There are good discussions all around this issue and it is my humble opinion that the only way a person can determine how they really feel about human sexuality is to explore other views, weigh other arguments and then turn to God’s Word. The Bible is “The Good Book” that will guide us through these times, especially if we are “humble, honest and hungry for the truth” [DeYoung, 22].
Disclaimer: I am a learner like you. I am not a seminary trained theologian. I have a PhD in communication but not in theology. I am a Sunday School teacher. I do have a “natural curiosity” about my faith. I want to learn more and through my learning, I want to grow closer to God. I volunteer in several places at my church but I am not a paid staff member. Officially, I do not represent the church. As Thom Rainer would say, I try to be a good “Church Member” but that is really all I am–a member of the church, like you.