Rodgers’s explanation—like her previous one—is long on personal experience and short on Bible
Written by Denny Burk | Monday, February 8, 2016
If she has a reasoned biblical rationale for her views, she doesn’t really share it. In fact, she says that when she held to the traditional view, it wasn’t based as much on biblical teaching as it was on her trust in what certain Christian leaders were telling her. When she stopped trusting those leaders, she stopped holding the traditional view. In other words, it doesn’t sound like her former faithfulness on the issue was rooted very deeply in God’s word.
I just read another public account of someone who is walking away from what the Bible teaches about marriage. Former Wheaton employee and self-identified “gay Christian” Julie Rodgers explains why she has embraced gay marriage. She has written about this previously, and I have responded previously. Nevertheless, this latest account is also worth some reflection. She writes:
Your beliefs don’t shift in an instant. We research and agonize, bouncing between hope and despair, until one day we hear ourselves say something a former version of ourselves never would have said. That’s how I came to support same-sex marriage in the church. When I came out as a teenager in Baptist circles in the Bible Belt, I never would’ve imagined God would still like me if I married a woman one day. And I want to try to explain, in theological(ish) terms, how I ended up here.
She goes on to tell the story, which I won’t rehash in full here. I will simply encourage you to read it for yourself. I offer here a short list of reflections on what she has written:
1. The apostles teach us that there is no greater joy than to see brothers and sisters walking faithfully in the truth (3 John 4). Likewise, they also teach us that there is almost nothing more heartbreaking than to see someone falling away from it (1 Tim. 1:19; 4:1). This issue of homosexuality is so fraught with emotion and pathos, and it only adds grief to grief to see so many running their faith aground over it. Such a public falling away can only cause sadness. There can be no joy in it.
2. Rodgers perceives that church leaders keep moving the goalposts on what Christian faithfulness looks like for same-sex attracted Christians. Although I don’t entirely agree with her account of things, I think she is right that some evangelicals have not always taught with biblical and theological clarity on this issue. We’ve been clear that homosexuality is immoral. But we haven’t always been clear about how a Christian can struggle well against unwanted same-sex attraction. But that is no argument for abandoning the faith once for all delivered to the saints (Jude 3). Rather, it is an argument for us to speak and to love and to minister in ways that reflect what the Bible actually teaches. Jesus’ teaching really is good for us—all of us. It is the path to life (Matt. 7:14). Abandoning what Jesus teaches us about marriage will not lead people to Jesus but away from him (Matthew 19:4-6).
3. Rodgers’s explanation—like her previous one—is long on personal experience and short on Bible. If she has a reasoned biblical rationale for her views, she doesn’t really share it. In fact, she says that when she held to the traditional view, it wasn’t based as much on biblical teaching as it was on her trust in what certain Christian leaders were telling her. When she stopped trusting those leaders, she stopped holding the traditional view. In other words, it doesn’t sound like her former faithfulness on the issue was rooted very deeply in God’s word. That may have something to do with her recent declension from it. In any case, we can draw a lesson from this. All of us need to have our consciences bound to the explicit teaching of God’s word, not to the traditions of men. Again, this is an argument for greater biblical and theological clarity in the life of the church, not less.
4. Rodgers connects this issue to the long-standing gender controversy among evangelicals. She reasons that if evangelicals are going to allow for egalitarian readings of scripture, then they must accept gay-affirming readings as well. She writes:
Thoughtful Christians have taught that all of Scripture points to a theology of marriage that involves one man and one woman in a lifelong commitment with a green light for sex in that context alone. This is based on the idea that the Bible is our ultimate authority, but it’s complicated by the fact that we bring an interpretive lens to the Bible. When we support women’s equality in all areas of leadership in the church, we trust one interpretive lens over another. Both sides are sincere Christians and both view the Bible as authoritative––they just differ on how the Bible, which was written in a patriarchal context in the 1st century, should apply to empowered women in the 21stcentury.
Complementarians have been saying for decades that egalitarian readings of scripture will eventually give way to gay-affirming readings. While we are thankful that many egalitarians never made this leap, we cannot help but observe that their theological children have no problem making the connection. And they are doing so based on reading strategies that they learned from their egalitarian mentors. This was inevitable.
5. The Lord’s arm is not too short to save (Isaiah 59:1). He can always reach his children wherever they are. He will speak. They will hear his voice and come to him (John 10:3-5). Permanent departure from his word only leads to desolation in the end. I am hoping and praying that the departures we are seeing now will only be temporary—that the Lord would eventually get through to them. His patience and mercy are more vast than we can imagine. Perhaps the Lord would be pleased to draw back those who have turned aside. That is how I will be praying anyway.
Denny Burk is Associate Professor of New Testament and Dean of Boyce College, the undergraduate arm of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. This article first appeared on his blog and is used with permission.
I like it that you put quotes around “Gay Christian” as, according to my Bible, such a person doesn’t exist.