Post #21: Understanding Homosexuality by pastor and author David Glesne dialogues with Straight Into Gay America by pastor and author Lars Clausen
I especially appreciated your most recent post because I think it brought greater clarity for me as to your perspective and how you have come to pattern your life. It is a good thing when a dialogue can result in greater understanding and clarity. Thanks for sharing your story so openly and honestly.
I think what I will do here is follow your most recent post and make comments and/or ask questions as they arise in my mind as I read. I’m not so concerned then with a seamless response as with just responding to thoughts that come to mind as I read.
Different Sides of the River
The subjective and objective views of reality come into sharper contrast with this imagery. The objective view of reality side of the river flows from God being there and speaking to human beings (revelation). God reveals that He is a holy God with a moral character and a God of love. In other words we live not in an amoral universe but in a moral universe in that morality is rooted in an ultimate personal reality. There are some things that are congruent with God’s character (right or good) and some things that are against His character (wrong or evil). We can call these moral absolutes. God’s moral law (centered in the 10 commandments and in Jesus’ two great laws of love) then flows from His moral character, which are not arbitrarily rights and wrongs but firmly rooted in His character.
In this objective view, then, love and holiness can never be separated for they are both equally rooted in God’s character and being. God's love is always informed by holiness. Love shows me how to do something, it doesn’t tell me what to do. So in God’s love, the internal moral compass is holiness. We see this lived out in the life and teaching of Jesus when he says, “If you love me, you will obey my commandments.” Here true love is defined by holiness, the commandments that tell us what it means to love God and to love one’s neighbor. Love is not just a contentless emotion or feeling defined by a particular situation, but has a definite content as it is rooted in God’s holiness.
If I understand the subjective world view on your side of the river properly, it is a view that holds to no moral absolutes but “lives from an irrational faith in the absolute centrality of compassion, making all things subject to its critique.” I would venture saying, then, that while you would deny absolutes, you nevertheless hold to one absolute – compassion. It seems to be the one thing upon which everything in your subjective view hangs. But it is an absolute that is relative. So perhaps we need to rephrase it and say that relativity is absolute. So, yes, from the subjective side of the river, everything -not only on your side of the river but on my side of the river - is viewed through the lens of the relative and is viewed as subjective. When one starts with the subjective and works consistently outward from that starting point, one is never able to break out of the tent of subjectivity to anything objective.
Here are some questions that come to mind: From your side of the river, do we live in a moral universe? If so, what is the basis of morality and that moral universe? On what basis can you say something is right or something is wrong, something is good or evil? In what is that right or wrong, that good or evil rooted? What happens on your side of the river if one person’s compassion says an action is right while another person’s compassion says that very same action is wrong? When one person says something is good and another says it is evil? How do you live together in society? How does society function when “everyone does what is right in their own eyes?”
Fullness of life
You acknowledge that your tent is a low one, Lars, not knowing answers to the most basis metaphysical question of why something is here rather than not being here (origins), or the question of how we can know anything for certain (epistemology), or the question of knowing right and wrong (morality). I hope I am representing your thoughts fairly here – and tell me if I am wrong. Rather, you “seek only after the fullness of life in the context of love.”
From the objective view side of the river come these questions: Have you not in fact put yourself in the place of God and become the moral arbiter of the universe? I can’t help but think of a couple long ago who were tempted to become like God - knowing good and evil, who were temped to grasp something of God. Their hope was that through this grasping they would have a fuller life and know more of what it is to be a human being – to know more of the fullness of life. But instead of laying hold of a fuller life, they laid hold of death as God had said they would. My question is, at the end of the road of the subjective, will one encounter fullness of life or a loss of humanness? I think of the sequence of Van Gogh's self-portraits as under the low ceiling, he pictures himself becoming increasingly less and less human.
You make the statement that my tent is causing damage to many LGBT people, that there is damage caused that need not be. Let me broaden this a bit. From the objective view side of the river, after human beings broke relationship with God by rebelling against God and falling into sin, we are now all born in sin and are held captive by its compulsive impulses. And I like my condition. It is very comfortable. It feels very natural. I like my sin. I’m very content in it. I’d rather not be disturbed.
But God’s holiness and Law is proclaimed to me and it tells me I am a sinner, I am separated from God by true moral guilt, I am out of relationship with God, I am living at odds with the character of God himself, I need a Savior to rid me of my guilt and restore my relationship with God. The Law is unrelenting. It condemns me. It kills me. But I don’t like being killed. It hurts bad. I don’t like dying. It doesn’t feel good. In fact, I’m offended by God and His Law. The Law causes me huge damage and that’s not an insignificant by-product of its work. That is its main purpose and work on me. So the Law not only causes damage to a small minority who identify themselves as LGBT people, it causes damage to me, and to every other sinner on this planet.
So why does a loving God kill me with the holiness of His Law? Why does a loving God cause me so much damage? God kills me with His law so that He may give me LIFE through His Son, so that I might see my need for a Savior and turn to Christ who pays the ransom and restores my relationship with Him! The cross of Christ has always been an offense to people. It always will be an offense. Yet the cross is our only hope. In our feel good, therapeutic culture, where people are offended so easily, the offense of the cross is especially intense it seems to me. So even the Law does damage and kills me, the Law is good, because it drives me to Christ who reconciles me to God and gives me his righteousness and holiness as a gift. There are social dynamics peculiar to LGBT persons in our day, that is true, but when it comes to standing as sinners before the cross we all stand in exactly the same place.
Reflection from inside the big tent
You ask me to look again at the scientific data that I use. Looking at scientific data carefully is always wise counsel. This conversation has reminded me of the importance of that. As a friend of mine tells me, that is especially the case when one thinks of the distinctions between the “hard sciences” and “soft sciences”. He tells me that hard sciences like physics and chemistry have more broadly-agreed basic concepts, and relationships between those concepts, that together largely provide coherent understanding of their field that gives greatly increased control and predictive capabilities in their field. But there are no hard sciences with respect to human behavior and human society. There are lots of theories, and some amount of statistical data, but no stable generally-agreed body of knowledge that support prediction and control. As one of our readers has commented, statistical data is hard to come by.
In our discussion, it has been very easy to discredit sources and data and studies. It has been extraordinarily more difficult to provide data and research of one’s own. Lest one settle too quickly into putting uncritical confidence in certain scientific associations and researchers of the day, it may profit one to read an article such as “The APA and Psychology Need Reform” by Nicholas Cummings, a past president of the APA, who chides the APA for giving into the temptation to sell out its science and profession to political ideology and political correctness. (http://www.narth.com/docs/cummings.pdf)
You ask me to look again at my claim that the Bible is unambiguous in its judgment on homosexual behavior. In Part II of my book Understanding Homosexuality I spend a significant amount of time addressing the revisionist interpretations of the last 60 years. I have dealt with the major revisionist arguments. I have done this to see if the revisionist arguments held together. I am fully aware of the frequent attempts made by revisionist scholars to neutralize the historical teaching of Scripture on this subject. My conclusion has been that the revisionists have failed to make a good and convincing case from Scripture.
You ask me to look again at how culture changes the interpretation of the Bible over time. Again, I have addressed in my book the two issues you mention – slavery and women – and given reasons why I believe these are in reality bad analogies to use in the homosexuality debate in the church. Here again, I think, the two world views come into play. From the subjective viewpoint, each individual context tends to give the meaning. From the objective viewpoint, each individual context has a context, the bigger context of God being there and speaking into the smaller context giving it His meaning.
Parents and children
I would remind you of page 163 of my book where I describe three basic ways parents react when sons and daughters inform them that they are gay or lesbian: a) defend their child’s sexual behavior – all grace and no judgment and no reconciliation needed; b) disavow their homosexual children – all judgment and no grace and no reconciliation possible; c) neither reject their child nor accept the behavior of their homosexual children – acceptance but not approval – judgment, grace, and a genuine yearning for reconciliation that informs and directs the relationship.
It is a gift that we can have this respectful conversation. It is a good thing when iron sharpens iron. I wish you and your family and our readers a most blessed Christmas Season!