Monday, June 05, 2023

Understanding and Responding to Sexuality Issues: A Brief Bibliography

(University of Michigan)
(I am re-posting this for a friend who asked.)

I am against the legalization of same-sex marriage for two reasons, one religious, the other non-religious (sociological and legal).

As regards the religious reason, I do not expect non-religious people to agree with me. Of course not. Just as I don't turn to their irreligious worldview to make sense of anything, neither do I expect them to partner with me. That's the way worldviews work. Everyone has one. They do not, at significant points, overlap.

If the non-religious person objects to my religious views, they question my worldview, not my reasoning. The irreligious person is a non-player in the intra-religious and intra-Christian dialogue.

Regarding non-religious reasons, here is where the irreligious and religious can join in principled (we would hope) dialogue, rather than ad hominem stereotyping (sadly, some on both sides do this.). We can dialogue without name-calling, right?

These are a few of the resources I have read and found helpful in understanding the issues.

The Intra-Worldview Discussion

Homosexuality and the Bible: Two Views, by Dan O. Via and Robert Gagnon

The Bible and Homosexual Practice: Texts and Hermeneutics, by Robert Gagnon. This is probably the book to read, within this worldview, and from this perspective.. 

Washed and Waiting: Reflections on Christian Faithfulness and Homosexuality, by Wesley Hill.

God and the Gay Christian: The Biblical Case in Support of Same-Sex Relationships, by Matthew Vines.

Changing Our Mind, by David Gushee.

Can You Be Gay and Christian? Responding with Love and Truth to Questions About Homosexuality, by Michael Brown.

Still Time to Care: What We Can Learn from the Church’s Failed Attempt to Cure Homosexuality, by Greg Johnson.

Sexual Identity and Faith: Helping Clients Find Congruence, by Yarhouse

See my friend Phillip Lee's website, His Way Out Ministries

See Justin Brierley's "Unbelievable" podcast - "God, Gay Christians and the Church," a dialogue between David Bennett and Brandan Robinson.

See my sermon "The Meaning of Marriage."

Legal and Philosophical Reasoning on Same-Sex Marriage

Why Marriage Matters, Third Edition: Thirty Conclusions from the Social Sciences, by Bradford Wilcox. 

Debating Same-Sex Marriage, by John Corvino and Maggie Gallagher.

The Meaning of Marriage: Family, State, Market, and Morals, eds. Robert P. George and Jean Bethke Elshtain.  

What is Marriage?: Man and Woman: A Defense, by Sherif Gergis, Robert P. George, and Ran T. Anderson (forthcoming Oct. 16, 2012) 

When Harry Became Sally: Responding to the Transgender Movement (Famously banned by Amazon [see here]; while Amazon sells Hitler's Mein Kampf.)

I contacted Robert George re. this issue, and he graciously sent me the following links. He also graciously offered to field questions I have.

From Prof. George:

For a fuller account of my own views, here is the link to a more recent paper I wrote with two of my former students. (It is a free one-click download.)
“What is Marriage?” by Sherif Girgis, Robert P. George, and Ryan T. Anderson, in the Harvard Journal of Law and Public Policy:

Kenji Yoshino of NYU published a critique on Slate, to which there is a link in our reply, available here:

Andrew Koppelman of Northwestern published a critique on Balkinization, to which there is a link in our reply, available here:

Barry Deutsch published a critique on the Family Scholars Blog, to which there is a link in our reply, available here:

Kenji Yoshino published a response to our reply, to which there is a link in our reply to that response, available here:

Andrew Koppelman published a response to our reply, to which there is a link in our reply to that response, available here:

Also, here is an essay in two parts (written with Patrick Lee and Gerard V. Bradley) on the link between procreation and marriage – a link we believe is badly misunderstood by many on both sides of the debate. Here are the links: “Marriage and Procreation: The Intrinsic Link” “Marriage and Procreation: Avoiding Bad Arguments”

Prof. George also sent me:

The Good of Marriage and the Morality of Sexual Relations: some Philosophical and Historical Observations, by John Finnis.

Marriage: A Basic and Exigent Good, John Finnis.

Saturday, June 03, 2023

Jesus Was a Minimalist

(Wildflowers in our yard)

Christianity. It's not complicated. It was never meant to be.

It is deep. But "deep" is not the same as "complicated."

Jesus spoke simply and spoke deep. He is going after the human heart. Change the human heart, and behavioral change will follow. Jesus reduced all moral commands to one moral command.

Jesus was a theological minimalist. 

So was the apostle Paul.

For Paul, there was only one thing to know: Christ crucified and the power of the resurrection. Minimalist Theology is "One-Thing Theology." (1 Corinthians 2:2) Resolve to know nothing but this.

Jesus' theological minimalism is seen in his simple (not simplistic) counsel for us to become like branches, connected to him who is like a Vine. Everything follows from this. 

Do I like complexity? My PhD (Northwestern University, 1986) is in Philosophical Theology. That should say it all. My studies have taught me many things, one of which is: If there is a God who created us and loves us as his children, and who desires to communicate to us, all of us, then it has to be simple.

I think Karl Barth understood this. In seminary I took a class on Barth's theology. We were assigned portions of Barth's Church Dogmatics to read. One of the assignments was to read a twenty-page footnote. The footnote was in a font half the size of the main text. I see Barth's footnotes like nodules on a vein of a leaf attached to a twig connected to a branch attached to a limb that abides in the trunk whose roots go deep into the earth. For Barth the whole point was really about the trunk and the roots, which were "Jesus loves me, this I know; for the Bible tells me so."

It all comes down to Jesus, and his death and resurrection, which are demonstrations of his love. 

This is not complicated. It is simple. It is not simplistic. It is deep. "Jesus loves us" is the abundant, lavish, fruit-bearing, fertile Minimum. It is the Trunk, in which we as branches are called to abide. From this, all blessings flow.

See also...

The Apostle Paul was a Minimalist

(World Trade Center 1, NYC)

This is from my book Leading the Presence-Driven Church.

The apostle Paul was a minimalist. As he traveled from church to church, across the first-century Roman Empire, he did not drag a production team with him. In 1 Corinthians 2:1-5, we see that Paul did not visit the Jesus-followers in Corinth with fog machines, black lights, powerful preaching, great intellectual arguments, stacks of Marshall amps, perfectly timed studio production quality music, a fair-trade coffee bar, tight jeans, stage lighting, creative videos, click tracks, and full color glossy programs. Instead, Paul came minimally, so that God might be worshiped maximally. He writes: 

When I came to you, 
I did not come with eloquence or human wisdom 
as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God. 
For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you 
except Jesus Christ and him crucified. 
I came to you in weakness with great fear and trembling. 
My message and my preaching were not with 
wise and persuasive words, 
but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, 
so that your faith might not rest on human wisdom, 
but on God’s power. 

Paul arrived with two things: 
1. Proclamation 
2. Demonstration 

Paul shared his testimony about God, and gave a demonstration of the Spirit’s power. Nothing else. No crowd-pleasing techniques would be allowed to compete with Christ, and him crucified. Because if it turned into a production, people might rest their faith on the coffee, the jeans, and the fog, rather than on God’s power.

Friday, June 02, 2023

Praying Peaces Me Together


(Green Lake Conference Center in Wisconsin - Linda and I will be here in three weeks!)

When I pray I am peaced (yes, 'peaced') back together. Since to pray is to live experientially in Christ, I am the recipient of His peace. I love the way Richard John Neuhaus describes the power of God's peace (shalom):

“This means the bringing together of what was separated, the picking up of the pieces, the healing of wounds, the fulfillment of the incomplete, the overcoming of the forces of fragmentation.” (Neuhaus, Freedom for Ministry, 72)

Praying takes inner chaos and transforms it into order. The Hebrew word shalom means "peace" in the sense of things, or events, or persons, once distanced and in conflict come together. In praying, God peaces the heart together. This is heaven’s peace, experienced now in an unpeaceful world.

See my book Praying: Reflections on 40 Years of Solitary Conversations with God.

Thursday, June 01, 2023

My Itinerary


Wednesday, April 05, 2023


                                                                       (Our kitchen)


  • June 3, 10, 17 - Two-Step Leadership (Theological Minimalism) - Zoom Mini-Conference (With American Baptist pastors from Indiana and Kentucky)
  • June 25-29 - With Chris Overstreet and Derrick Snodgrass; HSRM Annual Conference, Green Lake, Wisconsin
  • June 25-29 - "Deconstructing Progressive Christianity," HSRM Annual Conference, Green Lake, Wisconsin
  • July 22, "Technology and Spiritual Formation," Faith Bible Church, Flushing, NYC
  • July 22, "Responding to LGBTQ+ Issues,"  Faith Bible Church, Flushing, NYC
  • July 23, Preaching two services at Faith Bible Church. Flushing, NYC (Mandarin and English)
  • July 24-27 - Teaching "Marriage, Parenting, and Sexuality" in New York City at Faith Bible Seminary  (In English and Mandarin)
  • September 2023, "Apologetics" class, six 1 1/2 hour zoom sessions, Renewal School of Ministry (Monday evenings, 8-9:30 PM EST; dates TBA)
  • April 12-13, 2024 - Boston, MA - Speaking on Spiritual Formation at annual retreat of Alliance of Asian American Baptist Churches

Praying as Performative Ontology

The world of my back yard

One author I keep reading is Pentecostal philosopher James K. A. Smith, who teaches at Calvin College. That's interesting in itself, right?

In Desiring the Kingdom, Smith writes the following about the practice of praying:

"The practice of prayer banks on God's exceeding our worship space, transcending the confines of space and time, and as the Creator of the universe, being interested and concerned about concrete realities that face us here in our finitude. Praying enacts an entire cosmology because implicit in the very act of prayer is an entire ontology and construal of the God-world relationship. This doesn't mean we need to pursue a doctorate in metaphysics in order to pray; on the contrary, the point is that by doing it, by praying, we are engaged in a sort of performative ontology that could be teased out in reflection and analysis." (p. 193. By "performative" Smith means in the sense of J.L. Austin, in the latter's How to Do Things With Words. Performative utterances do things, and establish things. In this case, prayer performatively establishes a worldview.)

The act of praying posits, prethematically, a worldview (following Charles Taylor, a "social imaginary"). By "performative ontology," Smith means a "doing" that prereflectively assumes the truthfulness of Christian theism. Such truthfulness could, if one wanted, reflectively "tease out" the propositions that make up the Christian social imaginary. 

This prereflective social imaginary is prior to the kind of reflection done in apologetics or theology. A praying person just "knows" such a world to be real. A praying person is, from the point of view of today's secular social imaginary, in another world; as N.T. Wright says, at the intersection of heaven and earth.

Tuesday, May 30, 2023

When "Freedom" Goes Berserk (Freedom Is Not Anarchic)

(Free-range squirrel, on my back porch)
At Redeemer we love the word "freedom." I love this word! Jesus said, in John 8:32, "You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free."

The truth will set you free... from what? The answer is: from either oppressive rule, or no rule at all. Both are forms of bondage.

The latter form of bondage (no rule at all) is called "anarchy." A(n) - arche; literally, "no ruler." Think of nations where governments fall and, for a period of time, there is no rule. When you think "anarchy" think, e.g., of Somalia, or Syria. Who's in charge? Who is leading? When no one leads in a good and loving way, the people suffer. Anarchic situations are physically, emotionally, psychologically, and spiritually brutal.

"Freedom" is essentially related to "rule" or structure. This is a mistake some Jesus-followers, especially young and immature ones, make. If they come from fundamentalist law-oriented families it is not uncommon to see them go berserk with new-found freedom. Or, to flirt with sin, as if they are "free" to do so, oblivious to the fact that sin is precisely the prison house they have been set free from. 

The pendulum swings from oppressive structure to equally oppressive non-structure. 

"I am free to do anything I want!" is the cry of the Christian "anarchist" who is seduced by the lie that freedom is the absence of structure. 

The truth is that freedom is always a function of structure, and there are structures that oppress and structures that liberate. And, there are plenty of religious structures that, in the name of Christ but not the truth of Christ, make people more miserable than when they were imprisoned in their sins. (Note: I am not talking about the kind of liberating anarchism found, e.g., in Christian Anarchism: A Political Commentary on the Gospel.)

As a guitar player and instructor I know that any musician who wants to excel and be creative on their instrument must learn technique. Guitar techniques are massively rule-bound and structured. Every guitarist who is worth anything practices patterns and structures and disciplines themselves to do so.

There's no such thing as "structureless freedom." "Structureless freedom" is the logical equivalent of "square circle" or "married bachelor." To live anarchically in this sense is to use one's freedom to choose imprisonment. Any free choice that increases your bondage or addiction or the bondage and addiction of others is evil. Like, e.g., being "free" to indulge your sexual appetites outside of marriage. Put in Jesus' way, it is untruthful.

Choose your structure carefully and live within it. Use your freedom in Christ to dwell in the freedom-bringing structure of his kingdom. Use your freedom to love and build up others and to engage in the prison-breaking, redemptive activity of God. 

The term "Christian anarchist" is an oxymoron, since the true Christian anarchist does place himself or herself under a "rule" and within a structure, that rule and structure being the the Lordship of Christ. True Christian anarchy is not the absence of rule under the pretense of freedom, but the refusal to come under the rule of the kingdoms of this world as if, and with the hope, that our solution is yet another political one. 

As Jesus said in John 18:36, “My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jewish leaders. But now my kingdom is from another place.” These words have proven especially redemptive to the many Jesus-followers who live in the "Somalias" of this world.

We all live under some rule or reign. 

The day I chose to live in Christ was my prison break, and I have no desire to use my freedom to go back.

Monday, May 29, 2023

Reading today...


Last week someone placed a gift-wrapped package in my church mailbox.

Containing a book. Whoever did this - thank you!

I began reading last week, and I'm going to spend time in it today.

When I read the reviews I thought, I'm going to like this.

Saturday, May 27, 2023

The Moral Argument for God's Existence: Some Resources

                                (Redeemer Church in Monroe)

The moral argument for God's existence is my favorite, among arguments for the existence of God. People have not stopped making moral judgments and pronouncements. But if these judgments are not grounded in the reality of a transcendent command-giver, and we are left with atheism, then they are mere subjective tastes.

To understand the moral argument, begin by reading "The Indispensability of Theological Meta-Ethical Foundations for Morality," by William Lane Craig.

Here are posts I have written on the moral argument for God's existence, and on moral-ethical issues in general related to this argument...

William Lane Craig's Moral Argument for God's Existence