Homosexuality: Have I Changed My View?

Preston Sprinkle —  June 10, 2014 — 19 Comments
This entry is part 8 of 8 in the seriesHomosexuality, the Bible, and the Church

I wanted to say thanks to the 90+ students who attended my class, “Homosexuality, the Bible, and the Church” this last semester at Eternity Bible College. I loved our interactions, discussions, and the very helpful feedback you’ve given me throughout the semester. As a brief recap, we spent most of our time in the text, working through direct and indirect passages relevant to the issue. We also listened to a few (former and current) LGBT people, who helped us put flesh on the topic. During the last few classes we discussed all the “what about…” questions that surround homosexuality. “Can I attend a gay wedding if I think homosexual behavior is a sin?” “What do I do when my child comes out?” “Should I vote against gay marriage?” and many others.

Silo Blog AdFor those who weren’t part of the class but wanted to be, I will soon release two online courses on homosexuality through The Silo Project, so stay tuned.

I often get asked, have you changed your views after studying the topic and teaching the class? Sometimes the question is genuine; other times the questioner has a sharpened pitch-fork ready to address the wrong answer. In any case, my answer is always the same: “yes and no.”

No, I have not changed my view about what the Bible says about homosexual behavior. The Bible says homosexual behavior is sin. I’ve tried to read the text from the affirming side—”monogamous, consensual homosexual behavior is blessed by God”—but I’ve found their arguments to be unconvincing. No doubt, there are several good points made by James Brownson, Matthew Vines, and others, and I may agree with some of their exegetical conclusions about some passages (e.g. Gen 19), but at the end of the day, there are too many interpretive problems with their view, so I can’t buy it.

So, I (still) believe homosexual behavior is sin. The difference, though, is that now I know why. I’ve worked through the passages, thought about the theological questions, and listened to countless testimonies from LGBT people. I’ve heard, weighed, and considered the main arguments for the affirming position and still remain traditional in my views not because I’m addicted to tradition, but because the traditional view rightly captures what the Bible says about homosexuality. Hopefully, now, my view is based on the Bible and not my upbringing or assumptions.

So I haven’t changed my view. However, I have changed my posture. I used to think that standing for the traditional view of marriage meant that I need to wear it on my sleeve and front my conclusion at the beginning of every conversation. But Jesus didn’t, and so neither will I. Jesus, of course, never mentioned homosexuality. However, he did take a conservative stance on various sins while dishing out grace quite liberally on those steeped in those sins.

Jesus stood against extortion, yet didn’t mention extortion when he encountered extortionists (Matt 9:9-13; Luke 19:1-10).

Jesus stood against violence, but didn’t mention violence when he befriended a leader of a violent superpower (Matt 8:5-13).

Jesus opposed adultery and even took a hyper-conservative view on sexual ethics (Matt 5:27-32), but he didn’t front sexual sin when he encountered people engaged in it (Luke 7:36-50).

Jesus didn’t often lead with law; instead, he led with love and he loved people into holiness.

I often wonder what made Jesus so compelling to sinners. Why were they “drawn to him” as Luke 15:1-2 tells us? I think it’s because his cosmic love for people seeped deep down into the bones of people who were broken and battered by a sin-tarnished world. In a round about way, my traditional view of homosexual behavior compels me—if I want to be like Jesus—to love LGBT people even more. jesus and sinnersNot, love the sinner and hate the sin, but love the sinner and hate my own sin. Because we’re all sinners. I should have more LGBT friends, and not less, if I’m true to my non-affirming view. Jesus had few friends who were conservative religious people, but he had a whole slew friends who were thugs, fornicators, extortionists, gangsters—or people who were simply rejected and unloved by the religious elite.

Therefore, I want to be known for hanging out in the gay district in town, for donating time and money for people suffering from AIDS, and for attending parties that are filled with gays, lesbians, and transvestites. Why? Because Jesus was known for attending such parties (Matt 9:10-13), so much so that it tarnished His reputation (Matt 11:19). But Jesus didn’t care about His reputation. He cared about grace. He cared about love. He cared about fulfilling the mission entrusted to him by His Father and energized by the Spirit.

So have I changed? Ya, I guess I have. Hopefully I’ve changed toward, not away from, Jesus. Such a shift will always be dangerous and invite criticism from religious people.

My understanding of the issue of homosexuality has also changed. That is, I no longer can see same sex attraction and orientation as some abstract ethical debate that I banter around with among all my heterosexual friends. Homosexuality is not an issue. It’s people. It’s Matt and Leslie and Dan and Jeff and Jeremy and Maddie and many other beautiful souls trying to find hope and peace in a broken world. Loving people doesn’t mean affirming whatever behavior they desire; such an approach has never resonated with historic Christianity. But loving people the way Jesus did involves deep and radical commitment, sacrificial generosity, and a burning passion to discover and delight in the humanity of God’s image bearers. If we construct walls of conditions and prerequisites—“I’ll love greedy people, but not gay people…I can tolerate gluttons at my work on doughnut day but I despise my lesbian boss”—we fail to mediate the healing love of Christ. And we fail to uphold the biblical gospel we claim to promote.

In any case, I’ll be blogging less about homosexuality. Why? Because I need some space to reflect, read, and have non-social-media conversations about this vital topic. Plus, there are many other beautifully complex truths that I’m passionate about.

So, my next few blogs will be about grace (or charis): that ever so familiar and ever so watered down truth that binds us to our crucified King.

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Preston Sprinkle

Preston Sprinkle

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I'm married to a beautiful wife and we have four kids (3 girls and a boy). I've been teaching college level Bible and Theology classes for a few years now (since 2007), and enjoy hanging out with my family, running, surfing, and life in SoCal. Before I became a teacher, I was in school. Lots and lots of school. I did a B.A. and M.Div here in SoCal, and then did a Ph.D. in Scotland in NT studies. Before coming to EBC, I taught at Nottingham University for a semester, and Cedarville University for a couple of years. Along with surfing, I also love to research and write, and I've written a few things on Paul, Early Judaism, and Hell.
  • Michael

    I appreciate the tone of this post and pretty much agree with the position that Preston is taking. I was under the impression though, that this discussion was more about truth and church practice…..not witness so much. However, the application of God’s truth and love is another super important issue. I’d caution though, be careful of the ways the world. When establishing a new posture, I think we all have a tendency to over-correct, which can eventually lead to embracing the sinful practices of those we’re hanging with. I’ve seen this happen all too often. It can be complicated. Pray pray pray then love love love.

  • Philmonomer

    I saw that the explanation of the course included this (from the write-up for the first week):

    For the course, we’ll spend about 6 weeks looking at what the Bible says
    about same sex relations. Then, we’ll look at some of the most salient
    biological, psychological, and pastoral questions surrounding the
    debate. Throughout the course, we’ll be listening to several guest
    speakers from the Christian LGBT community. Some are conservative.
    Others are more progressive. All of them have unique stories that we’ll
    listen to.

    I then read (skimmed some) the weekly
    summaries. It seemed to me that all of the guest speakers were “conservative”–(By “conservative,” I mean someone who believes that the only appropriate sexual relationships for gays are either heterosexual, or celibacy.) Were there any gay Christians who believe that it is ok to have a committed, monogamous gay relationship?

    • Phyte_On

      As I remember one or two of the panel speakers seemed to be of the more non-traditional progressive gay christian point of view. Also, there was a fair amount of exposure to the Matthew Vines Biblical point of view – non-traditional, progressive.

      I am a conservative traditionalist and was very challenged by the different points of view. But I do remain secure in my understanding that the Bible informs us that homosexual behavior is sexual sin.

      I do think it would have been helpful to also have a panel of parents who have had first-hand experience in dealing with children with SSA.

    • Jared Del Dosso

      I was in the class and there were people from all sides. We had a panel discussion one night with three sexual minorities, two of which, in short, believed “it is ok to have a committed, monogamous gay relationship”

      • Philmonomer

        Did they explain why?

        • Phyte_On

          I would recommend you check out Preston’s blog on Matthew Vines book for best defense for progressive point of view. Check out the comments section and you will get the most common arguments in favor of committed, monogamous gay relationships.

          Essentially, there is no harm, the love is equally virtuous as heterosexual love. The Bible did not foresee the nobility of the modern construct of a gay identity. The Bible is silent on gay marriage, Jesus is silent on homosexuality. Old testament (eg. Leviticus) teaching not binding on NT Christians. Romans 1 teaching is about acting against nature (gay person has a natural desire for same sex, fixed at an early age, so is not acting against nature).

          I suggest you read the comments section of the Matthew Vines blog for a more full understanding.

          • Philmonomer

            Thanks for the response. I know one can read Mathew Vines’ book, or find information on the internet, in order to learn why some Christians affirm same-sex relationships .

            I was just wondering if any gay Christians who affirm same-sex relationships came to the class, and spoke about it.

            (In this regard, it seemed like they would, based on what Preston wrote about the class at the beginning of the series.)

            As you are probably aware, reading something in a book can be very different from hearing a person’s testimony.

          • Phyte_On

            Yes they did. I was just suggesting you read the comments section (not the book) to get an understanding of their POV. Also, I tried to summarize their POV in my response to you. But I’m a conservative traditionalist so I wanted to be fair and balanced and allow you to see 1st hand their POV.

            That’s the best I can do. Peace.

  • Philmonomer

    I saw that the explanation of the course included this (from the write-up for the first week):

    For the course, we’ll spend about 6 weeks looking at what the Bible says
    about same sex relations. Then, we’ll look at some of the most salient
    biological, psychological, and pastoral questions surrounding the
    debate. Throughout the course, we’ll be listening to several guest
    speakers from the Christian LGBT community. Some are conservative.
    Others are more progressive. All of them have unique stories that we’ll
    listen to.

    I then read (skimmed some) the weekly
    summaries. It seemed to me that all of the guest speakers were “conservative”–(By “conservative,” I mean someone who believes that the only appropriate sexual relationships for gays are either heterosexual, or celibacy.) Were there any gay Christians who believe that it is ok to have a committed, monogamous gay relationship?

  • Philmonomer

    Preston, I noticed in your first week that you wrote this:

    For the course, we’ll spend about 6 weeks looking at what the Bible says
    about same sex relations. Then, we’ll look at some of the most salient
    biological, psychological, and pastoral questions surrounding the
    debate. Throughout the course, we’ll be listening to several guest
    speakers from the Christian LGBT community. Some are conservative.
    Others are more progressive. All of them have unique stories that we’ll
    listen to.

    I then read (skimmed some) the weekly summaries. I didn’t see that you actually had any guest speaker that wasn’t “conservative”–(By conservative, I mean here anyone who believes that, in order to be a Christian, a gay man or woman is called to lead a heterosexual life, or a life of celibacy.).

    Did i miss something? Thanks.

  • Aaron

    Jesus would addressed homosexuality just as he would any other sin with Truth, Grace and Love. One can only receive God’s grace by believing and repenting. We as believers must leave are sin, if we are committing sin we are slaves to sin and no slave abides in house forever, if we willfully sin having knowledge of the truth we no longer have a sacrifice for sin. There was no getting around sin with Jesus. You can not have fellowship in light walking in darkness. So again all the legalism that comes with hanging out, going to a gay weddings, having gay friends is absurd. As christians we are to judge in the Church not those outside the Church. We better be looking at own flesh before we start pointing are fingers at others flesh. If our righteousness does not exceed the pharisees many will come on that day here depart from me you evil doer of iniquity.

  • Paul Davies

    Some great points. Some concerns. There is WAY too much willingness in the evangelical church at the moment to alter the clear teaching of the Bible to cater for modern unwillingness to repent. So many christians are trying to re-interpret the Bible to make homosexuality OK, despite the clear statement of Lev 20:13, amongst others. The fact that Jesus didn’t specifically comment on this issue is more a reflection of the fact that it wasn’t an issue for 1st Century Jews – it was VERY clearly understood – Abomination, detestable, etc. The fact that he forgave the woman caught in adultery does not make unrepentant sin OK – He was very clear: “Go and sin no more!”

    This is the key issue. Too many are trying to say that “being gay” isn’t sin. Clearly, it is, but what they are also doing is denying LBGT people the hope of healing and freedom through Jesus AND confession of sin, repentance and salvation. We have seen 4 Lesbians totally delivered and set free in our Adelaide Healing Rooms in the last 6 months (“Come out” actually works!), and salvation and changed lives as a result. It’s just a demon – every believer has the authority to set people free (many also have too much unbelief to see it).

    • Dan W

      This is the reason that LGBT people turn away from Christianity and see us Christians as an insane right wing extremist group. Who are you to use “Adelaide Healing Rooms” to convert people? When did Jesus give you the authority to pass judgment and condemn those in sin? You were instructed to share the love of Jesus with others and be a light in a dark world through your example. Only Jesus can judge and determine the fate of all of us – straight, bi, or gay.

  • Aaron

    Jesus would addressed homosexuality just as he would any other sin with Truth, Grace and Love. You can only receive God’s grace believing and repenting. We as believers must leave are sin, if are committing sin we are slaves to sin and no slave abides in house forever, if we willfully sin having knowledge of the truth we no longer have a sacrifice for sin. There was no getting around sin with Jesus. U can not have fellowship in light walking in darkness. So again all the legalism that comes with hanging out, going to a gay weddings is absorb. As christians we are to judge in the Church not those of the world. We better be looking at own flesh before we pointing are fingers at others flesh. Or our righteousness wont exceed the pharisees and many will here depart from me you evil doer of iniquity.

  • John Fease

    What a beautiful expression of what it means to be a follower of Christ…to be truly human. I found it helpful and encouraging. Thanks for sharing.

  • Phyte_On

    I can totally get Preston’s POV if I’m dealing with unbelievers. But I have a problem when dealing with those who claim Christ but persist in sexual sin. Also, I think the Bible is pretty clear that sexual sin among “Christians” is particularly troubling because it is a sin against your own body and you are the temple of the Holy Spirit. And you join this temple with another person in fornication. So I don’t buy the argument that sexual sin is just like any other sin. The damage of sexual sin is very real and hurts others deeply. It doesn’t just hurt the persons who enter into these consensual sexual sins. It deeply wounds others (spouses, moms, dads, brothers, sisters, etc.) I also have a problem with false teachers that promote sexual sin. This false teaching might be a worse sin than the sinful act of sexual sin.

    But I agree we are not to front this sin in our relationships with unbelievers.

  • Preston, I just want to say thank you for all the work you’ve put into this series. I’ve benefited tremendously from both your scholarship and your humble approach.

    So I have to ask, when are you going to turn all this into a book?

    • Preston

      Thanks Chuck! I appreciate the encouragement. As far as the book, it’ll probably be out sometime in late 2015 (published by Zondervan).