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Dane Skelton is the Pastor of Faith Community Church and the author of Jungle Flight: Spiritual Adventures at the Ends of the Earth, a book of true stories from the ministry of JAARS (formerly Jungle Aviation and Radio Service). His second book, Papua Pilot: Flying the Bible to the Last Lost Peoples, co-authored with the late Paul Westlund, is now available on Amazon.com and Christianbook.com.
Regular readers of the Danville Register Bee Sunday Op/Ed section were treated to a dish of red herring last week served up by one John Laughlin, who is described as a Hebrew Bible scholar and field archaeologist. Laughlin’s Op/Ed piece, BAKING CAKES IS NOT THE REAL ISSUE (Sunday, May 31, page A11), is a response to an excellent article by John Carpenter, pastor of Covenant Reformed Baptist Church in Caswell County, North Carolina, titled PERSECUTION US STYLE (Sunday, April 26, page A11, Friday April 24, Community Views).
Mr. Laughlin’s position is that the religious freedom defense offered by business owners who refuse to celebrate same-sex marriage is “an irrelevant argument or consideration introduced into a discussion to direct attention from the original issue,” a red herring. He then proceeds to offer up a dish of the same.
Mr. Carpenter does not need my help. His article is well reasoned and well documented and I urge you to read it. However, Mr. Laughlin’s article makes a number of assumptions and accusations typical of those who do not know the New Testament argument against homosexuality in general and same-sex marriage in particular. He also claims that “all scientific studies over the past 40 years or so have clearly shown that homosexuality is neither the result of inclinations nor choice.” I don’t have space to address that other than to say that “all” is a pretty big word and bears careful scrutiny, but I will address his mistakes with the New Testament.
First, Laughlin says, “The claim still made by some from within the church that homosexuality is a deviant, sinful and depraved choice reflects the sexual biases of those making these claims …” Actually, we are only citing the teaching of Jesus and the Apostles. Let’s look at Jesus, then the Apostles.
No, Jesus didn’t directly address homosexuality, but he didn’t need to. He was ministering in Israel and Jerusalem to a people immersed in the Law of Moses which specifically forbade homosexuality and cross-gender dressing. What Jesus did do was raise the threshold of what constituted sexual sin by teaching that any sexual activity outside the marriage of a man and woman was wrong and constituted grounds for divorce. This teaching occurs in Matthew 5:32 and is repeated in Matthew 19:9. In both places the Greek word used to translate his comments (Jesus spoke Aramaic) is pornaei, the root of our word pornography. In the common Greek of the day everyone understood this to encompass all forms of sexual activity outside of marriage, including homosexuality.
Second, Matthew 19:1- 6 also clearly articulates Jesus’ affirmation of heterosexual marriage as the order of creation, God’s original design for men, women and families, concluding with, “what God has joined together, let not man separate.” He was of course addressing his opponent’s desire for easy divorce, but can anyone really imagine that he would authorize the re-engineering of God’s original design? We can’t.
Third, the Apostles, most notably Paul, who did minister outside of Israel in the Gentile world where homosexuality was rampant, clearly addressed it in a number of places. See 1Corinthians 6:9-11; Romans 1:26 – 27 (where he does address lesbianism, contra to Laughlin); 1 Timothy 1:10. See also Jude 7; Hebrews 13:4.
Fourth, Laughlin assumes that believers support our position by cherry picking verses from the Old Testament, notably Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13, which require the execution of people caught in homosexual behavior, and ignoring others, like Leviticus 20:10 which requires the same punishment for adulterers. Well, you know what they say about assumptions. The decision that freed Christians from having to follow all of the Mosaic Law was made by the Apostles and elders in the first church council around 50 A.D., which is recorded in Acts 15:1-29. The Council essentially prohibited two things: idolatry of any kind and immorality (porneia again). Further, any student of the New Testament will tell you that Christ fulfilled the punishment portions of the Old Testament law. We live under grace, but that grace is not a license to indulge our sinful inclinations (see Romans 6; Galatians 5:13). Rather, it is a call to live in holiness in everything we do, including the things we get involved in through our businesses.
Bottom line: It’s not about cake. It’s about our consciences.