God’s Not Dead… But the Movie Franchise?

 

This past weekend I saw the new movie God’s Not Dead 2. My expectations were tempered by having seen the first movie. For those who may not have seen it, the original God’s Not Dead was the story of a Christian college student who found himself having to chose between writing “God is dead” for a Philosophy grade, or go head-to-head with his atheist professor defending God’s existence. In that movie, the apologetic elements were a natural part of the central story of the movie. While the film suffered many of the problems common to “faith” films, such as the excessively happy endings with few loose ends, (what my pastor aptly called a “Hallmark-y” quality) it at least portrayed the value of apologetics for strengthening the faith of believers and giving non-believers something to think about. It was a decent storyline with a combination of fine performances and clichéd subplots. The sequel was another matter.

In GND2, a high school history teacher is disciplined and sued for quoting Jesus’ words in the context of a discussion of nonviolent protests such as that of Ghandi and Martin Luther King Jr. The first crack in the plausibility of this was the reaction of the teacher, played by Melissa Joan Hart. You are a history teacher answering a student’s question about Jesus’ influence on Ghandi and King, and when you are asked to defend your actions, your first reaction is “But, that is what I believe.” Really? It took half the trial for you to realize, “Hey, wait! I was teaching history, quoting Jesus as a historical figure.” And then it becomes necessary to have Lee Strobel and J. Warner Wallace testify that Jesus is a real historical figure? I’m a huge fan of both of these men, but I couldn’t help but feel like their parts in the movie were forced.

Then (spoiler alert) when the verdict is announced, the group of Christians praying in front of the courthouse starts chanting, “God’s not dead, he’s fully alive.” Really? I like the Newsboys, but their appearance in the movie was almost as contrived as putting Stobel and Wallace on the stand in the trial.

Joining the list of disjointed subplots was a meeting of local clergy chaired by the late Fred Thompson announcing that the local prosecutor was subpoenaing their sermon notes, a subplot that went undeveloped in the rest of the movie beyond a threat by the prosecutor directed at the lone pastor who refused. Was this a case of “throw everything at the wall and see what sticks,” or the premise for a GND 3?

Lest you think I found nothing good in this movie, let me say what I liked. There was a character in the first movie, a left-wing blogger who was diagnosed with cancer. She (along with almost everyone else in the first movie) became a Christian. In the sequel, she discovers she has been healed. While this is an uplifting (if predictable) part of the story, I appreciate that the Hallmark factor was dialed back, and she was portrayed as struggling with doubts about her faith right after the healing. This was one of the most realistic things in the movie. Additionally, the main character retells how she heard God speak to her. I hear many people claim this, saying God told them a, b, or c, and you are left to think, ”Okay, I guess.” There is nothing in the alleged message that can be tested, and they show not miraculous power to attest it. I will not engage in a debate over whether God gives personal messages to individuals (he certainly can if he wishes.) It is not at all clear, however that Scripture teaches that we can expect him to. However, when asked what God told her, she said, “Who do you say I am?” This is a direct quote of Jesus from Matthew 16:15. The Bible clearly teaches that God will “bring to remembrance all I have taught you.” I admit some would question how I am using that quote, but the point is, it is entirely reasonable to think the Holy Spirit will bring to mind passages from what God has already said.

God’s Not Dead 2 looks and feels like it was made in the Bible Belt, for the Bible Belt. However, many of us, including me, live up here in the plumber’s butt crack sticking up over the Bible Belt. We long for the day when a movie is made that presents the Christian worldview that is not cheesy and heavy-handed, and does not rely on clichés of the Christian subculture.

Proverbs 16:22 says, “Like a gold ring in a pig’s snout is a beautiful woman who shows no discretion.” This proverb uses the incongruity of gold rings and pig’s snouts to make a point. I am not comparing the movie to a beautiful woman who shows no discretion. However, the incongruity of fine individual performances with a disjointed story line seem just as stark.

 

The Crusades: Just War or Just War? An Afterthought

How then should we understand the Crusades?

Jesus commands his disciples, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.  Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matthew 28:18-20) At no point does Jesus ever command us to promote the Gospel by force of arms. The Crusades were called and executed in the context of 700 years of conflation between ecclesiastical and political power. The Christian faith, which began as the faith of individuals who came to the faith and joined a community in the face of resistance from the governing authorities, had been reinvented as a community whose membership was mandatory, even on pain of death. In this context, and in the absence of access to the Scriptures by common people, it is not hard to imagine how people who cared deeply about such things as relics and holy places could be motivated to endure great hardship to carry the fight to Palestine. Such people, lacking sound leadership, could even be persuaded to commit heinous acts and think they were rendering service to God. All this is a valid criticism of Christendom, if by this you mean the church/state body that led much of medieval Europe. To use the crusades as a critique of Biblical Christianity is to attack a straw man.

The Crusades: Just War or Just War? Part 2

Happy New Year!

In my last post, I began to lay out the historical background for and description of the Crusades. This is a continuation of the same.

Although there has been a popular misconception of how tolerant Muslims are of people of other faiths living within conquered territories. As Stark describes it:

In principle, as “People of the Book,” Jews and Christians were supposed to be tolerated and permitted to follow their faiths. But only under quite repressive conditions: death was (and remains) the fate of anyone who converted to either faith. Nor could any new churches or synagogues be built. Jews and Christians also were prohibited from praying or reading their scriptures aloud—not even in their homes or in churches or synagogues—lest Muslims accidentally hear them.[1]

 

This is in addition to they way Jews and Christians were treated as second-class citizens. Nevertheless, these conditions were tolerable compared to what came with Seljuk Turk conquest.

While the cries of “God wills it!” may have been a response to the reports of what was happening in Palestine, the call for the First Crusade were not. Pope Gregory VII planned to call for the crusade in order to assist the Byzantine Emperor with the defense of Constantinople and the recovery of Byzantine territory from the Seljuk Turks. Byzantines had good reason to fear conquest by the Turks. In 1064 the Turks laid siege to the Armenian capital, Ani. Hoping to spare the inhabitants, the city surrendered. Stark relates the account of “an Arab historian Sibt ibn al-Gawzi (d. 1256), who claimed to be quoting an eyewitness: ‘The army entered the city, massacred its inhabitants, pillaged and burned it…The dead bodies were so many that they blocked all the streets.’”[2] Likely aware of these events, those who heard of the Turks treatment of holy sites and pilgrims in Palestine would have been credible. Rather than a “mandate to destroy the infidel in the Holy Land,” the First Crusade was a call to repel a vicious invader from the Byzantine Empire, and to liberate Jerusalem from an oppressive conqueror.

Haught’s article continues,

Gathering crusaders in Germany first fell upon “the infidel among us,” Jews in the Rhine valley, thousands of whom were dragged from their homes or hiding places and hacked to death or burned alive. Then the religious legions plundered their way 2,000 miles to Jerusalem, where they killed virtually every inhabitant, “purifying” the symbolic city. Cleric Raymond of Aguilers wrote: “In the temple of Solomon, one rode in blood up to the knees and even to the horses’ bridles, by the just and marvelous judgment of God.[3]

 

Madden relates the Rhine Valley incidents:

The most infamous of the anti-Jewish crusade leaders was Count Emicho of Leiningen. On a rather pronounced detour, he and his followers marched down the Rhine plundering and massacring Jews in the cities of Speyer, Worms, Mainz, Trier, and Cologne. Some local bishops did their best to protect the Jews, but many were killed all the same. In Mainz, Emicho’s men stormed the palace of the bishop, where the Jews had taken refuge.[4]

 

On these accounts, it would seem that the crusader armies went on an anti-Semitic rampage on the way to Palestine, which met with token resistance from local bishops. What really happened, however, is that three small groups of Germanic knights began to attack Jews. Principal among these was Emicho of Leiningen. In each of the cities mentioned in Madden’s account, the local bishop tried to shelter the Jews with mixed results. Volkmar and Gottshalk committed similar attacks. All three groups were destroyed when they tried to repeat this pattern in Hungary.[5]

As for the “religious legions plunder(ing) their way 2,000 miles to Jerusalem,” they must have been incredibly inept at plundering. As Stark tells us, “Large numbers of the poor noncombatants with the crusaders actually starved to death.”[6] (This incident was in the context of the siege of Antioch.)

Haught’s complaint that the crusaders “killed virtually every inhabitant, ‘purifying’ the symbolic city” needs to be examined in its historic context. As Stark explains

…the commonly applied “rule of war” concerning siege warfare was that if a city did not surrender before forcing the attackers to take the city by storm (which inevitably caused a very high rate of casualties in the besieging force), the inhabitants could expect to be massacred as an example to others in the future.[7]

Stark also argues that “no sensible person will believe Raymond of Aguilers’s report that “men rode in blood up to their knees and bridle reins.” In fairness, however, it does seem odd for a churchman to exult in bloodshed like this. In a similar, Haught claims, “As Saint Bernard of Clairvaux declared in launching the Second Crusade: ‘The Christian glories in the death of a pagan, because thereby Christ himself is glorified.’”[8] This case is a mixture of fact and fiction. Bernard did not say this in relation to the Second Crusade, but he did say it. Such a statement is incompatible with Christianity. Ezekiel 33:11 says “As surely as I live, declares the Sovereign LORD, I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that they turn from their ways and live.”

In spite of the documented rationale for the Crusades, which was one of defense of territory and the protection of pilgrims, there is still a popular notion that it was a war of one religion against another. I have argued above that this was the case for the Muslim, but it is not clear this was the case for Christianity. This is not to say there were no Christians who joined the crusades in order to fight Islam. There may have been an anti-Muslim attitude among a majority of crusaders. The goal of the crusades, however, was not the defeat of Islam, but the liberation of Christian territories. Nevertheless, Emran Qureshi and Michael A. Sells argue:

The crusade was, at least at its inception, the war of Christendom against the Muslims. With the Crusades, the Christian attitude toward the Muslims began to differ from Christian attitudes toward other known peoples. What distinguished the Christian attitude toward the Muslims was its fundamentally antagonistic nature.[9]

It is ironic to note that no mention is made here of the jihad that had been waged by various Muslim groups since Mohammed, particularly the invasions which the crusades were called to repel. That being said, it is popular in today’s culture to read any critique of a system, such as Islam, as an “attack” on the adherents. (Unless of course the system is Christianity, in which case it is fair game.) In his treatise On War Against the Turk, Luther is quite clear in his comments that it is Islam that the Christian ought to oppose in his disposition, and the invading Turk that must be opposed militarily.

[1] Rodney Stark, God’s Battalions: the Case for the Crusades, Reprint ed. (New York: HarperOne, 2010), 39.

 

[2] Ibid., 104

[3] Haught.

 

[4] Madden, 18.

 

[5] Stark, 138

[6] Stark, 159-160.

 

[7] Ibid., 168

 

[8] Haught.

[9] Emran Qureshi and Michael A. Sells, The New Crusades: Constructing the Muslim Enemy (New York: Columbia University Press, 2003), 206.

The Crusades: Just War or Just War? Part 1

Since Islam has been in the news lately and comparisons made between ISIS and the Crusades, I thought it might be helpful to offer some historical background here. In this post and the next one, I will present a paper I wrote in graduate school.

Background

The crusades were a series of campaigns launched against enemies of Christendom between 1095 and 1291.[1] They have been used as rationale for everything from skepticism and rejection of the gospel to the September 11 attacks. Accounts of the crusades from the period and since tend to either vilify or glorify them, with little in between. Critics often cite the crusades as evidence of the evil of Christianity. Crusades are seen as wars of colonialism against a peaceful Islamic civilization minding its own business until those mean, nasty Christians came to steal, kill and destroy. But is this an accurate picture? How did Muslims come to occupy Palestine, North Africa, Spain, and Anatolia? Did they come on bicycles wearing white shirts and ties, two at a time, bringing their message and winning converts? Did they win over the people through a series of camp meetings that led the masses to repent and accept Allah as their God and Mohammed as His prophet?

Like every war fought in history, the crusades had heroes, villains, beneficiaries and victims. In this paper, I will seek to set the record straight where the crusades are used to discredit Christianity. This is not, however, a defense of Christendom.

The structure of this paper will be to take criticisms offered and respond to them, whether by refutation, or concession where the criticisms are valid.

The Crusades

James Haught, in an article first published in Penthouse magazine, wrote, “The First Crusade was launched in 1095 with the battle cry “Deus Vult” (God wills it), a mandate to destroy infidels in the Holy Land.” [2] One would think from this statement that whoever called for the crusades just arbitrarily decided to tell Christians that they should go and “destroy infidels in the Holy Land,” who are simply minding their own business, because “God wills it.” Reality, as is often the case, is more complicated.

For Muslims, war was part and parcel with Islam, claims by George W. Bush that Islam is a “religion of peace” notwithstanding. Madden explains:

Traditional Islamic thought divided the world into two spheres, the Dar al-Islam (“Abode of Islam”) and the Dar al-Harb (“Abode of War”). The Dar al-Islam consisted of all of those lands directly ruled by Muslims and subject to Islamic law. Dar al-Harb, which included the Christian world, was the place in which Muslims were enjoined to wage jihad against unbelievers, capturing their lands and subjecting their peoples.[3]

Consequently, Muslims did not come to control the Holy Land, or Egypt, or Syria, or Persia through immigration, or friendship evangelism. They had conquered these lands by military force. This does not necessarily justify the first crusade, but the historic context needs to be considered as we evaluate it. Even at this point no call went out to expel the Muslim. Muslim treatment of Christians in the conquered territories did not seem to warrant such a response. It should also be noted that the cries of “God wills it!” came from those who answered the call, not those who issued it. It was a response to the reports of what was happening to the churches and pilgrims in the Holy Land.

In my next post, I will explain what changed and how it led to the first Crusade.

[1] Thomas F. Madden, The New Concise History of the Crusades, Updated ed. (Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2005), xvii.

[2] James Haught, “Holy Horrors,” The Secular Web, entry posted 1997, http://www.infidels.org/library/modern/james_haught/holy.html (accessed December 6, 2012).

 

[3] Madden, 3.

Balancing Safety with Security: Another Perspective

There has been a lot of discussion about the Syrian refugees and whether Christians should support allowing them to come to the U.S. Many of the concerns raised stem from the possibility that there may be terrorists mixed in, and the idea that Christians are underrepresented among them. (Jonathan Witt addresses this here.) Unfortunately all of the focus seems to be on these two issues. Maybe there is a third issue we are overlooking to our shame.

Syria is a Muslim nation, and under the best of circumstances, it is hostile to Christian missionary work. Add to that the current civil war, and you have a recipe for near certain martyrdom for any Christian who wants to go there to bring the Gospel. In this, I am reminded of a story I heard Ravi Zacharias tell about a man named Sami Dagher. As I recall, Sami Dagher was in Lebenon when Syria invaded in 1976. Dagher told Zacharias that he was complaining in his prayers about the Syrian occupation, when he felt God telling him that he had always complained that he could not bring the Gospel into Syria, and now he sent him 25000 Syrians and he was still complaining. (Paraphrased from memory. I could not find a link on the rzim.org site. I am sure I heard in in a  Let My People Think podcast.)

The point is, we can point out how the Muslim nations in the region are not welcoming any refugees if we want, but none of us are planning any missions trips to Syria any time soon. What we have is an opportunity to share the love of Christ with these refugees in a place where they can safely receive it. (I know there are still hazards from within their community.) Is that safe? Maybe not, but we are not called to be safe, we are called to be faithful. We can push for due diligence with respect to vetting the refugees, but they will probably come, and we need to be prepared to welcome them.

The mosque denied today could be the church denied tomorrow.

WXYZ in Detroit is reporting that the town of Sterling Heights has denied a building permit for a mosque. Now, I am not a Muslim, and I don’t live in Sterling Heights, so I have no direct stake in the matter. However, the reasons given by the planning commission to deny the permit can easily be used against Christian churches (and already has in a number of cases.) It’s a residential neighborhood. So what? People who pray five times a day, preferably at a mosque, should have to commute?

What was even more troubling to me was the reaction of the people there to the decision. The Independent Journal Review published a post about the crowd’s joy at the decision. I find it disturbing, as people were reacting to the mosque out of fear. Having a mosque in the neighborhood does not mean you are inviting a terror cell to set up shop. Moreover, if Muslim terrorists wanted to set up shop there, they could do it without the mosque.

Finally, Muslims are living in these communities. Do you really think denying permits to build mosques is going to make them go away? Maybe we can try something that seems to be lost. How about being good neighbors?

Hire Your Neighbor As Yourself 

As I listened to one of my favorite podcasts this morning, the issue of doing business with companies that support causes with which I disagree came up. As I reflected on the question, the thought occurred to me that maybe we hold these businesses to a double standard. We think we are standing for what is right if we withhold our business because we don’t want our money going to these causes, but what if the tables were turned? Suppose your employer called you in and said, “I hear that ten percent of our money we pay you goes to your church. We don’t support churches here, so, you’re fired.” Most of us would be outraged. We might even sue the employer for violating our rights. 

This is not to say that companies that support these causes have a right to our business, but maybe we are a little hypocritical in our approach. At the very least I think we are under no obligation to refuse to buy goods and services from them. 

Sci-Fi, Free Will and the Problem of Evil

Clay Jones, whom I lovingly refer to as  Dr. Evil, is an associate professor at Biola University and teaches a course called Why God Allows Evil. (That, and his DMin, are why I call him Dr. Evil.) Dr. Jones posted a fascinating article on how Sci-Fi stories resonate with us because we value free will. It can be found here.

A Response to Matthew Vines’ 40 Questions For Christians Who Oppose Marriage Equality: An Afterword.

A Response to Matthew Vines’ 40 Questions For Christians Who Oppose Marriage Equality

Afterword.

In my responses to Vines’ questions with respect to slavery and cosmology, I was a little hasty in calling these questions “red herrings.” In this case, however, I believe Vines was building an argument that can be stated as the following syllogism:

  1. The Church believed, based on information that was outdated, that the Bible teaches that slavery was acceptable.
  2. The Church believed, based on information that was outdated, that the Bible teaches the earth revolved around the sun.
  3. The Church believes, based on outdated information, the Bible teaches that homosexual behavior is always wrong.
  4. New discoveries tell us the Church was wrong about slavery and cosmology, and that the Church is probably wrong about homosexuality.
  5. Therefore, the Church ought to embrace homosexuality.

I realize this is a little oversimplified, but I think his view boils down to this. I already addressed the problem of using the slavery issue as an analogy. With respect to cosmology, it is not a moral issue, so changing one’s interpretation of Biblical texts carries no moral consequences. At the time the Church believed in the geocentric model, (earth as the center) it was based on Ptolemaic cosmology that was never intended to describe the world as it actually is (scientific realism) but simply offered a model for the study of the world. When Copernicus and Galileo showed the sun to be the center of the solar system, they were discovering how the world actually is. Up until that time, there was no reason to question geocentric interpretations of the Bible. This counterexample from Vines is much more vulnerable to the charge of being a red herring.

Another problem for Vines’ method, which seeks to build a case for reinterpreting Scripture on the basis that “the Church has been wrong about…” is that you can apply this to any doctrine. Why not question the command, “Thou shall not murder?” On this view, one could concede that abortion really is murder, but since preserving the mother’s happiness and career opportunities was unknown to the writers of the Bible, and they were sexist anyway, we could argue for allowing abortion even if we admit it is murder. Moreover, these writers were unaware of the expenses involved in caring for the elderly and disabled, therefore killing them would be okay. Make no mistake, I DO NOT BELIEVE VINES HOLDS THESE VIEWS! My point is that once you start down the road of “morality changes because the writers of Scripture didn’t know…” it can be a logical slippery slope. It also illustrates the risks of fallen human beings interpreting Scripture in light of their experience. It seems to me that since most Christians who interpret the Bible in this manner already agree with Vines. (That’s a guess. I could be mistaken.) If Vines wants to convince the rest of us, he needs to persuade us as to why we ought to adopt his method of interpretation.

A Response to Matthew Vines’ 40 Questions For Christians Who Oppose Marriage Equality Part 3

A Response to Matthew Vines’ 40 Questions For Christians Who Oppose Marriage Equality Part 3

  24.  Do you believe that the Bible explicitly teaches that all gay Christians must be single and celibate for life?

I believe that all Christians must remain celibate while they are single, and marriage is a man and a woman. If any Christian chooses not to marry a member of the opposite sex and restrict his sexual activity to his spouse, then he ought to remain celibate.

  25.  If not, do you feel comfortable affirming something that is not explicitly affirmed in the Bible?

If by “something that is not explicitly affirmed in the Bible,” you mean there is no verse that says, “All gay Christians must be single and celibate for life,” I do not affirm that sentence. See my previous answer to see what I do affirm.

  26.  Do you believe that the moral distinction between lust and love matters for LGBT people’s romantic relationships?

No. The relevant passages, Genesis 1 and 2, Deuteronomy 18, Romans 1, etc. make no distinctions with respect to motive. They form the basis for behavior.

  27.  Do you think that loving same-sex relationships should be assessed in the same way as the same-sex behavior Paul explicitly describes as lustful in Romans 1?

The issue is not lust only but function. Romans 1:26b-27a states, “for their women exchanged the natural function for that which is unnatural, 27 and in the same way also the men abandoned the natural function of the woman and burned in their desire toward one another…” No exception in any passage regarding same sex behavior is predicated on being “loving” relationships.

  28.  Do you believe that Paul’s use of the terms “shameful” and “unnatural” in Romans 1:26-27 means that all same-sex relationships are sinful?

I believe the passage, in context, reaffirms the sinful nature of same-sex sexual behavior. It is not predicated on two isolated words.

  29.  Would you say the same about Paul’s description of long hair in men as “shameful” and against “nature” in 1 Corinthians 11:14, or would you say he was describing cultural norms of his time?

Paul’s treatment of same-sex sexual activity is part of a larger set of passages dealing with sexual morality. His note about hair length is one letter to one church, suggesting a much more limited context. Therefore, the comparison is apples and oranges.

  30.  Do you believe that the capacity for procreation is essential to marriage?

Yes, if by essential you mean it is part of what the essence of marriage is. Essence means the “what-ness” of a thing. What is marriage? It is the union of two people whose essence is such that their intimacy produces offspring.

  31.  If so, what does that mean for infertile heterosexual couples?

Heterosexual couples that are infertile are no less essentially unions that produce children than an amputee is less human. The exception does not defeat the rule.

  32.  How much time have you spent engaging with the writings of LGBT-affirming Christians like Justin Lee, James Brownson, and Rachel Murr?

None. How much time have you spent engaging with the writings of traditional marriage-affirming Christians like Kevin DeYoung, Sean McDowell, and William Lane Craig? Your point?

  33.  What relationship recognition rights short of marriage do you support for same-sex couples?

With respect to public policy, live and let live. With respect to Christians in this situation, welcome to attend church, encouraged to end the romantic aspect of their relationship, but not qualified to lead, teach, or vote on church matters, and encouraged to submit to the clear teaching of Scripture.

  34.  What are you doing to advocate for those rights?

About as much as you are to advocate for the rights of bakers to refuse to make wedding cakes for same-sex weddings.

  35.  Do you know who Tyler Clementi, Leelah Alcorn, and Blake Brockington are, and did your church offer any kind of prayer for them when their deaths made national news?

With the possible exception of Clementi, I had never heard of them. Their deaths were tragic, but it does not follow that people’s struggles leading them to commit suicide obligates us to affirm whatever it is they are confused about. Moreover, if my church offered prayers for everyone whose death made national news, we would have no time for anything else. Nothing follows from how this question is answered. This seems like a set up for “you think you are right, so you are arrogant” except this would be, “you don’t grieve every gender confused person in the news, therefore your view is wrong.”

  36.  Do you know that LGBT youth whose families reject them are 8.4 times more likely to attempt suicide than LGBT youth whose families support them?

Do you know a family can accept a LGBT youth without affirming their LGBT youth?

  37.  Have you vocally objected when church leaders and other Christians have compared same-sex relationships to things like bestiality, incest, and pedophilia?

No, because when church leaders and other Christians note that Leviticus 18 passage that prohibits homosexual behavior is listed with prohibitions against bestiality, incest and pedophilia I know they are not comparing the behaviors. (There’s that fish again.) Moreover, it is entirely reasonable to ask, if you are advocating reinterpreting this and other passages against same-sex sexual behavior, what principled argument do you offer for why we should not embrace bestiality, incest or pedophilia? Who are you to say who should be allowed to love whom? The very same logic you use to defend same-sex sexual behavior can validly be applied to these questions.

  38.  How certain are you that God’s will for all gay Christians is lifelong celibacy?

How certain are you that it is not? Go back and read my answer to 24. Then note that certainty is not the same as truth. I can be certain about an issue and wrong, or uncertain and correct.

  39.  What do you think the result would be if we told all straight teenagers in the church that if they ever dated someone they liked, held someone’s hand, kissed someone, or got married, they would be rebelling against God?

They would open a Bible and show us we were mistaken, in fact, our elementary school kids could do that. Was there a point to that question?

40.  Are you willing to be in fellowship with Christians who disagree with you on this topic?

Absolutely, but if I wasn’t, all that would prove is that I am a lousy Christian, or a hypocrite. It would prove nothing about the truth of the issue.

I was quite disappointed by these questions. I thought Vines had more to offer than poor exegesis and arguments from emotion. No one ever claimed living the Christian life was easy. I might not even like all the moral principles that come with it. But since Jesus did so much for me, the only way I can rightly love him back is to obey him. That means I don’t get to pick and choose what that means. It also means that the same Jesus, yesterday, today, and forever, would let us know clearly if obedience to him changes.

Any Christian who is same-sex attracted can count on me to love him or her, as long as they understand that I am going to do my best to let 1 Corinthians 13 define what that means, including verse 6, “love does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices in the truth.”