Christians and Homosexuality

Hey TD!

One of the topics most asked about during T&T Night was the issue of homosexuality.  It is clear that many of you are wrestling with how to think about it, converse with others about it, etc.  I read this interview last week in Tabletalk magazine with a former homosexual academic that was helpful.  It’s not THE answer to everything, but it is thoughtful, tasteful, and understanding.  I hope it will be useful for you. – Arthur

An Unlikely Convert: An Interview with Rosaria Butterfield

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Tabletalk: Your book is titled The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert. Could you explain some of your “secret thoughts,” and why you were an “unlikely convert”?

Rosaria Butterfield: I considered myself an atheist, having rejected my Catholic childhood and what I perceived to be the superstitions and illogic of the historic Christian faith. I found Christians to be difficult, sour, fearful, and intellectually unengaged people. In addition, since the age of twenty-eight, I had lived in monogamous lesbian relationships and politically supported LGBTcauses. I coauthored Syracuse University’s first successful domestic partnership policy while working there as a professor of English and women’s studies. I was terrified to aliate on any level with a worldview that called me, my life, my community, my scholarly interest, and my relationship sin. Add to this that I was working on a book “exposing” the religious right from a lesbian feminist point of view. I approached the Bible with an agenda to tear it down because I firmly believed that it was threatening, dangerous, and irrational.

But when I came to Christ, I experienced what nineteenth-century Scottish theologian Thomas Chalmers called “the expulsive power of a new affection.” At the time of my conversion, my lesbian identity and feelings did not vanish. As my union with Christ grew, the sanctification that it birthed put a wedge between my old self and my new one. In time, this contradiction exploded, and I was able to claim identity in Christ alone.

TT: How has your story been received by Christians?

RB: The protagonist of Secret Thoughts is Pastor Ken Smith, who modeled to me organic Christian hospitality and the life-sustaining action of neighboring. Christian readers have responded to Ken’s example and have been encouraged by it.

TT: How has your conversion to Christianity been received by your former colleagues?

RB: At the time of my conversion, my colleagues and students treated me with suspicion and confusion. Understandably, many friends felt betrayed, exposed, and criticized by my conversion and the changes in heart, life, and writing that this produced. When a person comes to Christ and repents of sin, this turning around makes enemies out of former allies. And while this aftershock eventually led to Bible studies and many opportunities to share the gospel, it also destroyed friendships and allegiances. The exclusivity of Christ has rugged consequences.

TT: How do you respond to someone who says that one can continue to live a homosexual lifestyle and yet also be a Christian?

RB: First, I always start by asking for clarification about what she means by “Christian,” often requesting that she share her testimony (and offering to share mine as well). She may tell me that she is a Christian because she believes in Jesus and said the sinner’s prayer at a certain moment in her childhood. She also may tell me that she has a “high view” of Scripture and believes that the historic Christian church has misrepresented the issue of homosexuality. As I listen, I pray for the Lord to give me not only the words to say, but a transparent kindness that can uphold the weight of these words. I say I am glad that she believes in Jesus, but I share that the Bible calls for more than that, as even the trembling demons believe in Jesus. The Bible defines a Christian in a fuller way, including an understanding that:

(1) God set me apart from before the foundations of the world.

(2) The Holy Spirit removed my heart of stone and replaced it with a heart of flesh, leaving me with justifying faith.

(3) Jesus Christ infuses sanctifying grace through His hard-wrought love and blood.

(4) Repentance and belief go together, as both are gifts of God and fruit of Christian living. Without repentance there is no salvation.

Sometimes at this point in the conversation, she will ask me where she might meet this Jesus, because this is a different Jesus than the one that she knows. We open the Bible together, and I invite her to my house for dinner and church. Alternatively, if she tells me that she just interprets the Bible differently than I do, I then discuss how Jesus is inseparable from the Bible, and how the Bible is a unified revelation of God, fully true, inspired, and inerrant. At some point, if God allows, I suggest that we start reading the Bible together, reading systematically and not topically.

As you can see, I do not ask my questioner about why she identifies as lesbian or what this means to her, or when she first felt like a lesbian or had her first sexual experience. It is not that I don’t care, but if I start with her, I start in the wrong place. Instead, I start with the triune God, and call out the soul-orientation of any person with whom I speak.

TT: What is the biggest misconception that evangelicals have about those who are a part of the “homosexual community”?

RB: Reformed Christians know that God’s elect people are everywhere, but one big misconception evangelicals have is the wholesale writing off of all people who identify as gay as God-hating reprobates. Another misconception is that a person’s homosexuality is the biggest and most life-defining sin of her life. When Ken Smith, the pastor the Lord used in my conversion, first met me, he knew that being a lesbian was not my biggest sin. My biggest sin was that I was an unbeliever.

TT: What counsel would you give to Christians as they attempt to preach the gospel to those who experience same-sex attraction?

RB: First, we need to apologize for “gay jokes” that we said or condoned in silence.

Next, we must: (1) counsel people who have repented from homosexual sexual pasts and feel called to heterosexual marriage; (2) encourage people who live daily with unwanted homosexual desires and feel called through justifying faith to celibacy, helping these brothers and sisters to resist temptation, secure accountability, and rely on the Word and on the fellowship of the saints to renew minds and affections; (3) lift the unearned burden of guilt off of the parents of children who identity as gay or lesbian; and (4) create meaningful community from within the membership of the church. To offer intentional commitment to members who are lonely and isolated, the church must demonstrate in everyday ways how we care for each other from cradle to grave. In the LGBTcommunity in the 1990s, I learned the power of accompanied suffering, of standing together in grief as we faced the AIDS virus. The hospitality gifts I use today as a pastor’s wife, I honed in myLGBT community.

Pastorally, the Westminster Standards give us much wisdom about sanctification and offer helpful correctives to the unbiblical teachings of our day. It is important to tell people who struggle with sexual sin that their struggle is not proof that God is not working sanctification in them, because God knows that sanctification is both imperfect and incomplete in this lifetime. For the church to lovingly counsel those who experience unwanted homosexual desire, she must steer clear of parachurch ministries that hold to a false understanding of sanctification (that it is complete in this lifetime) or an over-actualized eschatology (that God wants you to experience perfection this side of the second coming). The Reformed church is much more competent to counsel because of the systematic theology that informs our understanding of law and grace.

TT: What three things would you tell a Christian young person who is experiencing same-sex attraction and is tempted to selfidentify as a homosexual?

RB: (1) Don’t embrace labels that God doesn’t use. God does not rank-order His beloved sons and daughters. If you are a believer, then your identity is in Christ and Christ alone. MemorizeColossians 3:1–4, remembering that “you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God” (v. 3). Meditate on what it means to take refuge in Christ. And remember that union with Christ and the communion of the saints go together, so don’t isolate.

(2) As you practice the ordinary means of grace—Bible reading, psalm singing, taking the sacraments—do so with the communion of the saints. Don’t isolate. Be a fully present member of your church. If you struggle with unwanted homosexual desires, tell your pastor, elders, and friends so that they know how to pray for you and love you. But don’t think that the fact of these feelings makes you a dangerous person. A dangerous person is someone who either does not know what sin pattern percolates within him or foolishly believes that if he hides it, he is controlling it.

(3) Know your enemy. Unwanted homosexual desire is not the unforgivable sin. It is a vestige of the fall, and as such, is a vestige of original sin, the ultimate “pre-existing” condition. Daily, I ask the Lord: Lord, how has my original sin distorted me, how is my indwelling sin manipulating me, and how is Satan enlisting me? Your temptation pattern does not define you, but you must be armed for the battle, knowing that victory is promised, in God’s timing, incomplete but powerful here on earth, and complete and full in eternity.


Dr. Rosaria Butterfield is a pastor’s wife, full-time mother, and speaker. She is author of The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert, a book detailing the experiences of her journey to Christianity. A former tenured professor of English at Syracuse University, Dr. Butterfield started a college ministry upon her conversion to Christianity in 1999. Dr. Butterfield is a member of First Reformed Presbyterian Church of Durham, N.C., where her husband, Rev. Kent Butterfield, serves as senior pastor.

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A Rich Look Inside the “Highland Hymn”

Hey TD!

Many of us have been enjoying the hymns from the “Glory to the Holy One” CD.  The better we know the thoughts and intentions behind the hymns, the more we will enjoy and be enriched by them.

Once again, Randall Van Meggelen, gives us rich reflection and vision for perhaps the favorite hymn of the collection, “Highland Hymn.” Read. Meditate. Dream. Rejoice! – Arthur

Highland Hymn” is, to date, Dr. Sproul’s only hymn written after the music was composed. In listening to Jeff Lippencott’s work, Dr. Sproul’s imagination was carried away to the Scottish Highlands and the beatific vision from a Scottish perspective. Dr. Sproul explains, “The core theme of this hymn is going to be the beatific vision. When we go back to the Scottish Reformation, they looked ahead to the final glorification that every Christian experiences when we will see Him as He is, which will change us forever.”

Rich in scriptural allusion, “Highland Hymn” includes both negative and positive categories to portray the beatific vision. “The end of pain and earthly ills” comprise all sufferings (Romans 8:18), including hunger, thirst, tears (Revelation 7:16-17), death, sorrow, crying, pain (Revelation 21:4), and corruption (1 Corinthians 15:52-54). “When we see Him face to face on that day” (1 Corinthians 13:12; Revelation 22:3-4; 1 John 3:2) addresses the heart of the beatific vision. Dr. Sproul comments, “This is going to be the moment of unspeakable bliss for every believer.” The believer’s eternal delight is in God Himself. “Heaven is not heaven without Christ” (Jonathan Edwards); “The Lamb is all the glory of Emmanuel’s land” (Samuel Rutherford).

Highland Hymn” also depicts the believer’s present state. Though our knowledge of God and enjoyment in Him is limited (1 Corinthians 2:9; 1 John 3:2), we already enjoy a degree of sweet delight in communing with God, “the sense of God’s love, peace of conscience, joy in the Holy Ghost, and hope of glory” (Westminster Larger Catechism 83; Romans 5:1-5). “The beatific glory view that now our souls still long to see” (1 Peter 1:8-9). What unspeakable joy awaits all believers who, with hope of glory, long for that day when “lutes will sing, pipers play, when we see Him face to face.”

Lyrics

Above the mists of Highland hills
E’en far above the clear blue skies
The end of pain and earthly ills
When we shall see His eyes

Refrain
Lutes will sing
Pipers play
When we see Him face to face
On that day

His face now hidden from our sight
Concealed from ev’ry hidden gaze
In hearts made pure from sinful flight
Is the bliss that will amaze

Refrain

We know not yet what we will be
In heaven’s final blessed state
But know we now that we shall see
Our Lord at heaven’s gate

The beatific glory view
That now our souls still long to see
Will make us all at once anew
And like Him forever be

Refrain

TD This Friday – T&T Night

Hey TD’ers!

This Friday night, we will be hosting our annual guys and gals night, affectionately known as T & T Night!  It’s always a blast, always delicious, always eye opening, and always edifying.   This is a very honest, frank, and open evening, where we’ll talk about anything and everything … aiming to find God’s perspective on the issues in our lives.

We will be meeting from 6:30 p.m. – 10-ish.  The girls will be meeting for dinner at Jenny’s home while the guys will be meeting at my home.  We both will have potluck dinners, so please sign up within your small groups.

If you have any gender specific questions that you would like to make sure we discuss, let your counselors know.  Or, if you prefer anonymity, feel free to submit questions/ideas via the TD web site – http://www.td.mbcla.org.

Looking forward to another great time together! – Arthur

Life, Instagrammed

Hey TD’ers,

Life isn’t always what it seems on Instagram or Facebook, is it? In fact, usually not even remotely so.

I watched the video above and read the accompanying story, Split Image, last week, and was left with an ache … an ache for young, beautiful UPenn student Madison Holleran, an ache for her parents and family, an ache for her friends and community.  It’s obvious that NONE of her “friends” on social media saw this coming at all; neither did her family, though they knew Madison wasn’t really herself.

One thing I’m interested in is what you TD’ers think and feel about this story, in particular, and this whole realm of life, in general.  What are your thoughts?  Do you identify at all with her – her struggles, her success, her situation?  Perhaps it’s a friend.  Perhaps it’s you. How does the Bible relate and speak to those in depression?

We’d love to hear any thoughts you have about this story or related issues, TD!

Here’s the link to the accompanying ESPN W article: Split Image

– Arthur

TD Celebrates “Glory to the Holy One”!

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What a marvelous time we had at the inaugural concert of the “Glory to the Holy One” national tour, as theologian, RC Sproul, award-winning composer, Jeff Lippencott, and Ligonier Ministries introduced a new collection of modern hymns for God’s people.

It was a musical and lyrical breath of fresh air as we indulged in moving music set to such rich and soul-strengthening texts.  Each hymn was like an engaging Bible study experience, with texts so rich and pregnant with theological meaning for the Christian sojourner in this journey called “life.”  One of our dear sisters said she cried while listening to nearly every song, imbibing and savoring the texts.

Below, Randall Van Meggelen, gives us a rich reflection on one of the hymns, “The Secret Place”. Consider. Reflect. Savor. Relish the Truth! – Arthur

The Secret Place,” from Glory to the Holy One, is based on Psalm 91 and expresses the superlative comfort of safely dwelling “in the secret place of the Most High” (Psalm 91:1), where there is “no better place now for us to dwell.” Indeed, “no greater comfort can He afford” us than to belong to Him (Heidelberg Catechism No. 1), communing in His presence, feeding in His pasture, trusting His promises, thankful for His provisions, and secure under His protection.

God assures safety for all who trust in Him. “Communion with God is safety” (Charles Spurgeon), God Himself is our “refuge and fortress.” He promises to sustain His loved ones through all our troubles. His “angels guard us” and His “truth is always our sword and shield.” “Neath His great shadow” we need not fear “the terror that comes at night, nor flaming arrows by morning light.” Though “ten thousand more may have yet to die, yet plague and sword can ne’er kill the soul.”

The Secret Place” prompts us to examine our hearts. Can we, by God’s grace, truly say of the LORD, “He is my refuge?” Are we “at home in God” (Matthew Henry), trusting Him, calling upon Him, and seeking refuge under His wings “where our praise will forever ring?” Do we “habitually reside in the mysterious presence” (Charles Spurgeon) through His appointed means of grace? Are we abiding in Christ (John 15:4), who alone is the source of our comfort?

Praise the Lord that Christ “became flesh and dwelt among us” (John 1:14) to secure our dwelling with the Father; was forsaken by God (Mark 15:34) to gain our Father’s acceptance of us; died and was raised from the dead to give us life and raise us up to sit together in the heavenly places in Him (Ephesians 2:5,6). In Christ, we may rejoice with complete confidence that whoever “dwells within His most secret place is never far from His blessed grace.”

Lyrics

Who dwells within His most secret place
Is never far from His blessed grace
‘Neath His great shadow all will be well
No better place now for us to dwell

Refrain
The secret place of God Most High
The shadow of our mighty King
The dwelling place where angels cry
Is where our praise will forever ring

Fear not the terror that comes at night
Nor flaming arrows by morning light
His truth is always our sword and shield
Against His power, all foes must yield

Refrain

A thousand fall now at ev’ry side
Ten thousand more may have yet to die
Yet plague and sword can
Ne’er kill the soul
His angels guard us now safe and whole

Refrain

Refuge and fortress for all who trust
No safer pasture for men of dust
‘Neath wings and feathers of Holy Lord
No greater comfort can He afford

Refrain