Gay Conversations with God

This weekend I read James Alexander Langteaux’s Gay Conversations with God. I heard Langteaux interviewed on a podcast and followed the trail to the book.

This is a challenging book for me to respond to, so let me start by answering a bit more about why I picked up this book.

First, a lesson I am slowly learning in my life is that it is much easier to disagree with an idea than a person who embodies it. As I continue to grow in my understanding of the place of homosexual Christians in the body of Christ, I feel that it is incumbent on me to listen to their stories and to learn to love better than I do.

Second, there was a challenging moment for me in the podcast interview I heard.

In Jesus Have I Loved, but Paul, I did some wrestling with the question of homosexuality. At the end, while coming to a traditional position about male and female as God’s intention for sexual intercourse, I left the door open like this: God can surprise us.

In particular, I pointed to the issue of circumcision in the NT, where a clear commandment, pertaining to participation in the covenant promises of Abraham, was overturned. God told Peter, “I have made this clean.” At least in theory, it might not be the case that the Biblical stricture has the last word.

Langteaux told a story during the podcast, relayed more briefly and somewhat differently in the book, about his own wrestling with God about homosexuality. He demanded of God to let him know whether it was a sin to be gay. As he sat exasperated, he opened his Bible at random. And he turned to Acts 10, Peter’s vision informing him that the old laws of kosher (and, by implication, circumcision) no longer applied.

In the podcast, this story includes an episode of speaking in tongues–the kind of Spiritual experience that Acts and Paul at times appeal to as proof that God has shown up outside the lines.

So I wanted to hear more.

After reading this book, would I recommend it? To some…

I would recommend it to gay people who are struggling with God from the context of their gay identity. Where Langteaux is outstanding is his recurring insistence that “God hates fags” is, itself, the abomination.

The God who sent his son into the world to die does not hate but loves the world. Including his gay image-bearers.

“God loves you. Believe this and go from there.” That’s how I would summarize the pulse, and strength, of the book.

In general, I anticipate that the book will not be well received by any but the most sympathetic of audiences. It is not a book that strives to place homosexual behavior or identity within any sort of traditional Christian framework at all. Of course not, right? It’s about a gay man coming to grips with himself as both gay and beloved of God.

But it is over-the-top in ways that, while probably helpful to those who need the book most from the gay-person-struggling-with-God end of things will no doubt put off most who hold a non-affirming position.

I know that others will experience even more acutely than I did the frustration that the book, as much as it talks about God and sexuality, isn’t problematic because it’s about gay sex so much as it’s problematic because it seems to relish promiscuous sex, youthful lust, and serial partners that typify what’s wrong with all sex in the west.

There is a lot of pain from the church that fills the authorial voice Langteaux has chosen for this book. To capture that pain in a book that still beckons people to find in Jesus the friend of sinners, real sinners, to capture that pain in a book that summons all of us to forgive anything we have against anyone–that is going to be a gift to GLBT folks who need to know that “God is love” is not undone by those of us in the church who aren’t.

As a bible scholar, I was less than happy with the Biblical discussions in the book. But this isn’t an exegetical book, it’s not even attempting a biblical argument for homosexuality. It’s about the experience of finding the God of love.

Regarding the style, the book has a strange quasi-poetic thing going on, with the last words of sentences and clauses rhyming for long stretches. I found this strange and distracting, but I’m sure others will differ on this.

Finally: the title is not descriptive of the contents. This is not a book of conversations with God, but rather the telling of a story with the sense that God is looking on.

I have always believed that a man with an experience is never at the mercy of a man with an argument. (34)

That fairly well sums up the book. Several moments of his experience are sufficiently heartbreaking to call forth one of those, “What on earth have we done?!” moments for us in the traditional and institutional church. But many of us will also have the arguments in the back of our minds, and others stirred up by the stories themselves.

41 thoughts on “Gay Conversations with God”

  1. As a pastor in a denomination that is struggling with this issue, my own personal experience has taught me to be more of a listener and friend, than a teller and judge.

    I appreciated your review of the book.

  2. Intersstingly, I was reading this series ( http://www.patheos.com/blogs/tonyjones/tag/robert-gagnon/ ) this morning and thought of your ‘God can surprise us’ open door. In the series, Scot Miller reacts to Gagnon’s book and develops a fairly strong argument that God can surprise us, but also he develops what I think is an interesting point of view: that it’s expected of us to rethink old interpretations. It may even be a duty. I’m, of course, curious to know what you think of it.

  3. Daniel -

    Thanks for posting this. I’ve wanted to do my own series on the topic of Christianity and homosexuality. I just finished your book a few weeks back, and hope to post a review in the the next couple of weeks. But I think you did well in your book in looking at the topic.

    In all, for me, I think there are 2 main points that keep me in the more ‘traditional’ perspective: a) I believe the Scripture lays forth a trajectory that allows for social barriers to completely crumble under new creation, but I would view the question of sexuality within a ‘moral’ framework, rather than social, thus concluding God’s desire is still for male-female relationships. b) I feel even natural theology, or reflecting upon the animal kingdom, shows us God’s intention for his creation, that male-female sexual relations (of course, I am no zoologist that can confirm the normative sexual behaviour of animals is that of male-female).

    Just some reflections. Thanks again.

  4. @Scott – an argument from nature doesn’t hold water – most higher mammals engage in homosexual behavior, and some mammals have exclusively “gay” individuals. Our closest genetic relatives, the chimps and bonobos, are highly promiscuous, polyamorus, and engage in homosexual acts. They engage in sex for social reasons other than procreation (pleasure, to resolve conflicts, as a way of greeting members of another troop, as a way of sealing deals, etc). See here for a decent overview of the subject : http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Homosexual_behavior_in_animals

    1. The argument from nature is valid first because it is part of Holy Writ and Paul used it in Romans 1 and second because we do not define the rule by its exception. The vast majority of the so-called Animal Kingdom engage in “sexual” activity for the purpose of procreation (as if we can talk about their intent–we have to realize that such behavior is how God made them and that’s why the argument from nature is valid, parts are to work as they were intended even if they are used differently by individual animals, post-Fall). That there are exceptions to that rule does not mean that the moral force of the argument is invalid any more than it is inappropriate to define a bird by the fact that it can fly. Of course, there are some birds that don’t fly, but even those have wings.

  5. John -

    Thanks for the comment back. As I said, I am no zoologist, so wasn’t sure that held much water. I suppose I still believe there is much to learn within a natural theological framework that would point towards God’s good design is male-female sexual relationships.

  6. Scott – Right on. As you might can tell, I’m on the other side of the fence on this topic. My personal take on it is that if the Bible has a trajectory, it is away from rules and toward love – ‘the letter kills but the Spirit gives life’ and so on. So my personal take on what God’s design is regarding romance and sex is that God wants us to grow in love and model the unity within God in our partnerships. I don’t know that gender is necessarily important in that equation. To be sure, it was important to the writers of the Bible, but we don’t typically require that our moral frameworks accept their perspective as useful or even moral (take that that Bible unambiguously considers slavery ok, and that Paul even uses slavery as a model of the relationship between Christ and a believer, just as he uses marriage as a metaphor in a similar way regarding Christ and the church.) In short, I think the example of both Christ and Paul suggest that we have an obligation to move beyond our opinions about what God’s design may or neat not be when love requires it of us. The blog series to which I linked in my initial post is quite persuasive to me in that regard, and you may find it interesting, and better-thought out than my own ramblings.

    1. John

      I do believe the Bible sets forth trajectories with regards to social barriers and relationships. I am egalitarian myself and conclude such from the new creation trajectory of the NT. But I a, not sure the Bible gives much room for trajectories on ‘moral’ perspectives. Social – yes, very much. Moral – I cannot see it at this point.

  7. And, here we have Exhibit A as to why we can’t abandon the law of God as it is laid out in the Old Testament for a ‘Me and My Jesus’ ethic. The moral ambiguity present here in this post (and the following comments) is astounding given the fire and brimstone that rained down on Sodom and Gomorrah.

    That’s not to say that forgiveness and the love of God is not available for persons who consider themselves homosexual or who engage in such behavior. But, such things are not available to those who do not repent of their wickedness. If anything, the church is guilty of failing to proclaim the redeeming and victorious gospel of Jesus Christ while engaging the wider culture when dealing with this issue. But, that’s not all there is to the story. Such a proclamation when it is put forward is also largely unheard by those who are actively and politically working to fundamentally change society in accordance with their own desires. The reason? The gospel demands a changed life in line with what the Bible teaches and that’s directly in contradiction to the very lifestyle(s) outlined in the book referenced above.

    You can’t have your cake and eat it, too, and somewhere along the line the homosexual community has to admit that the Bible can never be made to endorse their way of life nor should it.

    1. Kevin,

      You wrote: “And, here we have Exhibit A as to why we can’t abandon the law of God as it is laid out in the Old Testament for a ‘Me and My Jesus’ ethic. The moral ambiguity present here in this post (and the following comments) is astounding given the fire and brimstone that rained down on Sodom and Gomorrah.”

      You realize that, as best we can tell, this is the kind of logic that the people whom Paul was really angry at in Galatians used…and also part of the reason why, as best we can tell, they were persuasive to some Galatians. E.g., the Law gives you a concrete guide to moral life and, in their terms, self-mastery. Paul, on the other hand, had left them with that “ambiguous” ethic of Christ crucified, cruciformity, and the Spirit.

      Of course, Paul spends much of Galatians arguing that nothing could be more concrete than living out the radical cross-shaped faithfulness of Christ by the power of the Spirit.

      1. Romans 13:8-10 is no “ambiguous ethic of Christ crucified” and that passage can be multiplied times ten to show that Paul hardly disparaged the law in favor of some other new ethic. After all, we find him in 2 Cor. 6 arguing for Christian-only marriage between men and women on the basis of ritual cleanliness as it is outlined in the Old Testament!

        The reasoning of the Judaizers did not take into account the full revelation of Jesus Christ and the necessary discontinuity of the old outward administration of the Old Covenant. The Old Covenant itself however was not devoid of grace or gospel as even Psalm 119 requests of God the gracious ability to keep his law (v. 29) and Gentiles were often included in the covenant not because of circumcision even then but ultimately because of faith (cf. Heb. 11, Rahab). The law became our schoolmaster to lead us to Christ and then becomes a normative help in understanding how to live for Christ. So, no, the Judaizers are not reasoning the same as I put forward and to say so is to compare apples and oranges. The Judaizers emphasized the necessity of circumcision for salvation and I’m arguing that a Christ-centered Holy Spirit-inspired salvation is what enables a man to keep the law (Phil 2:12-13). The difference is absolutely staggering and shouldn’t be confused.

        1. Kevin,

          Sure, Paul didn’t consider himself to be “disparaging” the Law, especially because he wanted to represent the Law as somehow being fulfilled in Christ and how Christ followers live (well, more accurately, Paul is writing to Gentiles). But that doesn’t mean the Law was the shape of Paul’s ethic anymore than Paul thought the righteousness of God was revealed through the Law and the prophets; instead they somehow pointed to this revelation of God’s righteousness that is still revealed apart from them. This kind of distinction about the Law is pretty fundamental for Paul.

          In Rom 13.8-10 Paul uses the same kind of fulfillment language about the Law for Christ followers’ behavior as he does in Gal 5.13-14; he also uses anakephalaiow language. In the details of the text Paul is Christologically redefining the significance of the Law for “ethics.”
          He doesn’t tend to argue for how Christ followers should live from the Law in the way your position would require.

          Your example of 2 Cor 6 actually shows this. The passages he uses have nothing to do with marriage. Of course, Paul could have gone to Ezra-Neh for some Hebrew Bible passages directly talking about marriage and on point for restricting marriage to people already “legitimately” in the covenant community. Instead he engaged in what we would describe from an etic standpoint as a kind of “midrashic” reading of passages from the Hebrew Bible that aren’t about marriage but that Paul treats as having some kind of deeper relevance for how Christ followers should live. Paul doesn’t read these passages for ethics about marriage the way, for example, you read passages from the Law for ethics about homosexuality.

          As for the law becoming “a normative help in understanding how to live for Christ,” how do you mean that? How does Paul delineate what parts of the Law Gentile followers of Christ are supposed to keep? Do they have to be circumcised (something commanded as an eternal covenant in the Law)? Do they have to keep the Sabbath (Saturday or Sunday)? Do they have to sacrifice at the Temple? Do they have to keep the various kinds of food laws? There, we’ve covered a massive percentage of what the Law is about. If you answer “no” then you’re already acknowledging that Paul is engaging in what we would call a serious transformative approach to the Law when he talks of Gentile Christ follower behavior as ideally being a fulfillment of the Law.

          As for the Law somehow itself envisioning Gentiles not having to keep certain parts of it, that’s just not the case. Every place in the Hebrew Bible that touches on non-Israelites somehow adhering to Israel’s God and participating in the covenant people and brings up questions about the Law signals that they would be expected to keep the Law: God plans to restore the world through Israel, the locus of his saving activity. God will bless the nations in Abraham’s descendants, Israel (Gn 12:1-3; 17:4-6; 22:18; 26:4; 28:14). Various passages depict this happening as the nations are subjected to Israel, come to Israel, serve Israel, present Israel with their own wealth and possessions, and/or fear Israel’s God (Gn 49:8-12; Nm 24:9, 17-19; Is 11:10-16; 14:2; 45:23; 49:22-23; 51:4-5; 54:3; 55:5; 60:3-16; 61:5-6; 66:12-13, 18-21; Mi 7:12-17; Zec 2:11; 8:22-23). Other passages further elucidate the Law-defined nature of such Gentile participation in the God of Israel’s salvation (Gn 17:9-14; Ex 12:48; Is 2:2-5; 56:1-8; Jer 12:14-17; Mi 4:1-5; Zec 14:16-21). The servant passages in Isaiah 40-55 also reflect this Israel-Law centered nature of salvation for the Gentiles. The servant, explicitly identified as Israel (Is 41:8, 9; 42:18-19; 44:1-2, 21; 45:4; 48:20; 49:3; 54:17; see also Is 65:9; 66:14), serves as God’s instrument for reaching the nations (Is 42:1, 6; 49:6; 52:15). As for Gentiles being included “by faith,” as you bring up, why do you dissociate faith from the Law (e.g., circumcision, the example you cite)? That’s what Paul does and that’s the point I’m trying to make here: Paul dissociates the Law from how God’s blessings come to Gentile Christ followers and how they are supposed to live.

          1. We both agree that Christ came to fulfill the law and further that his coming, person, and work helped Paul and others see the real intent behind the law. Where we differ is how exactly do we define that and whether or not the law is relevant to the lives of Christians (Gentile or otherwise).

            The use of the Decalogue shows that Paul indeed did consider the principles of the moral law relevant and that it was to be observed in light of Christ having come. I’m not denying that Christ provided a transformational impact on the covenant community with the advent of the New Covenant but I am arguing that the transformation was not an ethical one because the very definition of love that you require is based in the promises found in the Old Testament. Read Leviticus 19:1-18 and tell me it’s radically different than the summation of the law provided in Galatians 5:13-14. All Paul was really doing is teaching the Gentiles the moral principles of the law in shorthand by using the language he did.

            It would be one thing if you could quote me passages from Paul’s letters or elsewhere in the NT where they outlined an ethical standard that was radically different from the Ten Commandments and the moral principles of the law but we just don’t see that in the New Testament. Instead, we read things like James saying that if you break one commandment you’ve broken the whole law and explicitly mentions the Decalogue in the process (cf. James 2). Are we to believe this is yet another hypothetical example of keeping the law for Christians where the New Testament writer picks up the law for his own convenience in making a point and then throws it away to go on to some other more relevant point??? Rather, it makes much more sense to see the law being referred to as the normative ethical standard which Christ demonstrated and fulfilled and which ought to be used as a standard in the life of our faith communities.

            As I said in another post, if Christ is the “yes” and the “amen” of God’s promises (and we remember that some of the commandments even explicitly contain promises attached to them), then by definition such moral principles are inextricably bound up in living for Christ and can’t be sifted out in favor of some other ethical standard.

            The 2 Cor. 6 example is important not because we’re somehow bound to keep the ritual of the law but because of the morality behind the law itself (as Paul originally argued). The Bible delineates what continued from Old to New and what was discontinued. So, to answer your question – in general, the ceremonial law and circumcision does not need to be followed any more. This was put forward by divine revelation as described in Acts and then thoroughly reasoned out by Paul and is normative for Christians. However, nowhere in the New Testament do we have an urging to follow an ethical standard other than what we have in the law in one form or another (or by consequence, in the Scriptures). This is so much the case that Paul tells Timothy that the whole of the Old Testament is “profitable for training in righteousness”.

            It is true that Colossians 2:16-17 tells us not to worry about keeping Sabbaths, but in fairness to my viewpoint that likely means the Jewish Sabbath and not a regular weekly meeting on the part of Christians. The writer of Hebrews enjoins believers to avoid forsaking the assembly of yourselves together (Hebrews 10:25) and then in the process invokes the wrath of trampling underfoot the blood of the covenant using the Mosaic law as an argument from the lesser to the greater and follows up with passages from Deuteronomy about judgment and vengeance. As I said before, odd words if “all you need is love.”

            So, the command of the Sabbath was interpreted by early Christians (cf. Acts) usually to meet on Sunday and is a natural occurrence given the transformation power of Christ’s resurrection and that the New Covenant would be attended with less in the way of ritual observance but still consistent with the overall moral force of the original Sabbath command. This may be why we see Luke mentioning that it was our Lord’s custom to meet weekly on the Sabbath rather than think this is just some arcane detail of the story. His custom or regular mode of behavior was to be obedient to the law. So, too, for Christians.

            For Gentiles then the question is not whether the Law envisioned this but how does the New Testament deal with them becoming members of the covenant sufficient to live for Christ in obedience to the commandments and with their Jewish brothers and sisters. The problem for Paul was not in providing the Gentiles with a different ethic but instead how do we see the Gentiles incorporated into the commonwealth of Israel.

            This is why there is extended argumentation in Romans 4, Galatians, and elsewhere that not only handles the error of the Judaizers but also solves the problem of covenant membership for those who do not carry the normal covenant sign. The way in to the commonwealth was via faith in Christ, but we might take the time here to note that the commonwealth itself was never disbanded but continued in and through Christ. How strange it would be that a commonwealth would lose the very thing (the moral law) that made it unique and different from its neighbors. How could we legitimately refer to it as the same commonwealth then with any legitimacy? The answer of course is that it is everything that it was and more now that Christ had come, shed the commonwealth of unnecessary ritual, and admonished it to follow ‘everything I’ve commanded of you.’ Given that the covenant God of Israel was the preincarnate Christ, what is commanded reaches well back to the Old Testament and that’s exactly what we see when Jesus tells us of the first and second greatest commandments.

            We have to remember that this carried a similar problem for Jews who were now Christians–how do they live as well? The answer of course lied not in replacing the ethic as Daniel Kirk and others have presupposed but in fact honoring the moral principles of the law without having to deal with the externalities of the previous covenant administration.

            Acts 15 is merely a case in point. The Council of Jerusalem did not say, “Replace the law with our new standards” but instead, “Get the basics right and don’t worry about ceremonial issues that are not immediately relevant.” In fact, the Council went so far as to say that some ceremonial aspects of the law Gentiles will still want to keep to avoid offending their Jewish brothers. By the time we get to Romans 14, this seems less and less necessary with the increasing Gentile population in the church. But, this all implies that the law was normative or there would have been no reason to avoid fornication/adultery in the Council’s decision. Remember, in breaking one point of the law you break it all. Similarly, for the Council to refer to one part of the moral law in its decision is to provide us with the understanding that all similar moral commands are still binding. Are we really to believe that the Council actually meant only a positive statement of a command in the decision meant that it had to be upheld? So, we can steal now and murder in the Christian Gentile community? That’s the alternative to seeing that the Council inferred the whole of the moral law to be kept.

    1. I always love it when people take it personal and don’t have the consideration for others enough to offer an alternate opinion. You’re really going to call me a Pharisee and invoke the anathemas of Matthew 23 for merely echoing the biblical maxim of “Trust and Obey”? How charitable.

      1. Kevin,

        just an observation, but perhaps your ‘tone of voice’ in this comment invites people to “take it personal”,

        “And, here we have Exhibit A as to why we can’t abandon the law of God as it is laid out in the Old Testament for a ‘Me and My Jesus’ ethic. The moral ambiguity present here in this post (and the following comments) is astounding given the fire and brimstone that rained down on Sodom and Gomorrah.”

        Also, I am somewhat intrigued that you offer the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah as your own ‘exhibit A’ in response to the “moral ambiguity” of this post. (I’m assuming that you think that the prophet Ezekiel had a different Sodom in mind.)

        1. The Genesis 19 account of the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah is not ambiguous and its later use by the prophets to condemn Israel or others ought to make that obvious. Sadly, Jesus even used the city to compare and contrast his contemporaries.

          As for tone, I’m not sure what you’re talking about here. I realize this is a hotly contested issue in certain circles but that shouldn’t keep us from speaking strongly about it as Christians when necessary nor should such commentary be seen as uncharitable or welcoming of unnecessary barbs in return.

          1. And that is where I suspect we will have to agree to disagree, Kevin. The story begins in Genesis 18, and all we know is that “their sin is exceedingly grave”. Ezekiel enumerates that sin without explicit reference to what you find unambiguous. In fact, as you point out, the sins that Ezekiel lists are the very same that Jesus critiques throughout Luke’s gospel (in the sermon on the plain, for instance), but again without reference to what you find unambiguous.

            And as for tone, if you’re not sure what I’m talking about, then I’m not sure any further explanation on my part will be helpful. But if you are genuinely interested in dialogue, then might i suggest that you consider that, for many people, this is not a “hotly contested issue”: it is flesh and blood – either ourselves, or people whom we love. To accuse people of “astounding moral ambiguity” may not be the invitation to continue the conversation you imagine it to be.

            1. 4 Before they lay down, the men of the city, the men of Sodom, surrounded the house, both young and old, all the people from every quarter;
              5 and they called to Lot and said to him, “Where are the men who came to you tonight? Bring them out to us that we may have relations with them.” – Gen 19:4-5 NASB

              Seems pretty explicit to me.

              I wasn’t accusing *people* of astounding moral ambiguity, only the approach which is offered here. You might consider that dialog benefits from an accurate read of what is actually being said instead of unnecessarily taking offense.

              1. again, Kevin, what you read as unambiguous (presumably, any form of homosexual sex) is not what is described in the text (intent to commit gang rape). this gross violation of one of the central practices of the ANE (hospitality) leads to Lot’s despicable offer of his daughters in his guests place. Ezekiel’s description of the sins of Sodom (failure to care for the least of these, if not outright exploitation of their weaker neighbours) could not have been more graphically illustrated than by gang rape.
                Daniel’s post is not about gang rape.

                as for not accusing people, i’m not sure i see how you can separate out an abstraction such as “the approach” from the actual people who wrote the book and the comments you claim to be Exhibit A of such astounding moral ambiguity.

                1. “Gang rape” is not a biblical category. However, the Bible quite clearly addresses sodomy (hm, wonder where that word came from) and Genesis 19:4 indicates that the problem was not one of “gang rape” or a lack of hospitality but instead men wanting to be with other men. In essence, the text is busy confirming the fact that the men of Sodom very much were not righteous as Abraham had desired in order to see the destruction of the city avoided. I quote the text again to avoid any ambiguity:

                  4 Before they lay down, the men of the city, the men of Sodom, surrounded the house, both young and old, all the people from every quarter;
                  5 and they called to Lot and said to him, “Where are the men who came to you tonight? Bring them out to us that we may have relations with them.” – Gen 19:4-5 NASB

                  I would submit that your version is actually the one creating some level of ambiguity in the text in order to avoid the obvious.

                  I’m sorry that some do not seem to have the facility to discuss these issues without being personal but that shouldn’t mean we can’t discuss these things without reference to biblical truth nor does it mean I’m attempting to offend anyone by doing so.

  8. Kevin,

    So we’re making some progress here. You don’t think Paul’s ethic is defined by the Law, but “the moral Law,” of which you take “the” (there were 2 of them) Decalogue to be partly constitutive. Just for fun though, you do realize that the Love commandment Paul says sums up the Law isn’t part of the Decalogue? That’s Leviticus 19. So what is the “moral Law” for you? How do you decide what is part of it? The Decalogue? Leviticus 19? What else? Apparently the bans on male same-sex intercourse in Leviticus 18 and 20? What about the laws in the immediate context of those laws? How do you decide? You seem to distill it down to “the moral principles of the law.” How do you identify them? Related to that, you take “moral principles” as some kind of indubitable category, more basic than even the (text of, individual commands of) Law itself. Why? Where does this come from?

    You still haven’t addressed how 2 Cor 6 authorizes your understanding of the Law’s normativity. Again, Paul uses those passages to argue for ethical content that has nothing to do with what those passages say if you read them the way you seem to advocate reading parts of the Law for ethics.

    You make a reference to how that passage shows that “Paul originally argued” (where?) that Christ followers are bound to keep “the morality behind the law itself.” What is that? How do you identify it and exclude things from that category? Is slavery still ok, because that seems to have as good a claim as anything to being part of the “morality behind the law itself,” given how often passages in the Law permit, command, and justify it?

    Also, please show me where Paul (or other Biblical authors) makes the classic Reformed 3-fold distinction in the Law. I agree that various biblical authors don’t enjoin the things you classify as “ceremonial” Law on Gentiles (though the book of Revelation would, IMO). But they don’t all just lay down the classic Reformed 3-fold distinction in the Law. They don’t even all use the same logic for releasing Gentiles from such obligations.

    I guess one of my points here is that, when it comes down to it, you pick and choose what parts of the Law define ethics for today; embody the “morality behind the law itself.” How is this any less “subjective” than what Daniel advocates? You cannot simply represent yourself here as the one who is just standing under the objective authority of the text as opposed to all the other subjectivists whom you represent as throwing off biblical authority.

    Ironically, you’re the one hocking “Judaizing” logic by treating the Law as some kind of ultimate entity. Paul replaces the Law with Christ for Gentiles, and discusses this move as, among other things, how Christ fulfills, climaxes, and/or sums up the Law. You make Christ subservient to the “moral principles of/behind” the Law.

    1. >>>So we’re making some progress here. You don’t think Paul’s ethic is defined by the Law, but “the moral Law,” of which you take “the” (there were 2 of them) Decalogue to be partly constitutive.

      No. I think perhaps we need to take a step back here and peek behind the curtain. It’s one thing to make distinctions in the abstract about things like moral principles for the purpose of discussion, but the Bible seems to see no difference between what is written and the moral principle behind it. In short, we can’t just pretend that these laws are merely wooden attachments to a brick fence behind it. What we find stamped on our hearts in Hebrews 8 is the law and not moral principles. In my mind, they represent the same thing though I distinguish between them to help people understand what’s really being said.

      Similarly, I don’t need to find the classic threefold distinction of the law by the Reformed laid out in the New Testament any more than I need to explicitly delineate the munus triplex (threefold office of Christ’s mediatorial office). It’s true by the nature of the case. Some laws were moral, others were civil, others still ceremonial, and then we might even say that many laws had a combination of the three. The hermeneutic that says everything must be in the text explicitly for us to follow is decidedly not Reformed and represents a more Anabaptist or Baptist take on what is written. The Reformed have the advantage of using logical consequence and reason to arrive at various points and I’m taking full advantage of such in a discussion like this. That likely means you and others won’t go where I’m willing to in terms of how to interpret the text, but I’m content interpreting the text the same way Jesus did (cf. the resurrection inferred by a mere point of grammar, Matt. 22:32) at least in this instance.

      The Decalogue (must we really wrangle over which copy?) is not a law code unto itself but represents a summary of the law revealed to Moses and is emblematic of the fuller law code provided first in the Torah, later in the Old Testament, and then as revealed in Jesus Christ, and lived out in the early church.

      And, typical of Reformed hermeneutics, there is no anachronistic need to see Paul’s admonition of love in either the Decalogue or Leviticus 19 for it to be identified with Paul’s teaching. The love of neighbor, love of self, and love of God is part and parcel of the Old Testament law and doesn’t even need to be explicitly stated though often it is. Are we really going to say that the love of God in the first commandment has nothing to do with love of self entertained by the last five or that entertained by the Second Person of the Trinity incarnate? Can we really argue theologically that the covenant faithfulness and love of YHWH is somehow different than that expressed by Christ’s coming when inherently they represent the same person? Can we really say that honoring father and mother, not murdering, not committing adultery, not stealing, not providing false witness, not coveting is something other than the love of the trinitarian God in and around the community of the faithful witnessed in both old and new covenants?

      Furthermore, how is it that honoring your father would not include honor to God the Father, “by whom every family on earth derives its name” (Eph. 3:15)? This is why Daniel Kirk’s assertion that the first table of the law is not present in the New Testament is irrelevant. The first table most certainly is present because it is implied by the nature of the case. Why would Paul suggest out of love in Romans 13:8-10 to follow the second table of the law without inferring that the first table is most certainly relevant? The very first verse of Romans 13 acknowleges the authority and place of God as supreme over all. Saying that he doesn’t deserve obedient love ‘above all other gods’ makes his argument about subordinate governing authorities like the Roman Empire very strange and almost nonsensical. Paul had also just spent the chapter prior admonishing Christians to present their bodies a living sacrifice to God as their “spiritual service of worship”. What? How is that possible except in obedience to the command “Thou shalt have no other gods before me”? In Romans 10, Paul tells us that to profess the name of Jesus Christ is most certainly a living out of taking God’s name as it was meant to be taken and not in vain because it results in salvation. At the advent of the cup of our Lord in 1 Cor. 10/11, Paul takes pains to point out that idolatry is forbidden and not in character for the Christian. And, the writer of Hebrews mentions the Sabbath. All this to point out the first table is most definitely present in the New Testament and underlies everything that’s being pointed out by Paul and others.

      Why must we like simpletons insist that unless something is explicitly present and written down for us in certain parts of the text of Scripture, it’s just not worth paying attention to? We don’t do that in interpreting other documents and texts, why here? I know that when my wife asks me to go to the store and gives me a list that she expects me to get the items that are either on sale or cost less because the document in question has a context to it that can’t be ignored. Of course, I’m frequently guilty of falling for what she calls “the man sale” because I pick up something in a hurry I see on an endcap.

      I’m fully willing to say my appropriation of the law has a degree of subjectivity. I don’t remember ever denying that. However, even that is based on the objective law as it’s been delivered to us and then also through the internal witness of the Spirit. What we can’t say is that the moral principles of God’s law are somehow subjective simply because we as individuals (and individual faith communities) are. It’s still objectively wrong to sleep with someone other than your wife whether I subjectively understand that or not. Why? Because the Bible says so in about a hundred places and it’s just simply true. So, we can say with Paul and the rest of the biblical writers that something like adultery really is wrong and objectively so even though we recognize we’re not as objective as Holy Writ.

      Furthermore, appropriation of what is and is not relevant is informed first by the text (which you seem to have no problem admitting at least for the strictures against the ceremonial law in the NT) and then also by the work of the sanctifying Holy Spirit in our lives both individually and as a community. It takes wisdom to understand these things aright and to exercise them properly in the community. It may even take years or generations for the church to get some of this right, but just because that’s the case it doesn’t mean that we just chuck the law out the window in favor an ethical standard that’s not justified from the pages of Holy Writ.

      We see this even with issues like slavery. The Old Testament never really endorsed slavery per se, but did tolerate voluntary indentured servitude in line with ancient economies. And, the early church worked to free slaves whenever possible in line with Paul’s letter to Philemon having recognized the fuller intent of the law of God on the issue though it took time to find universal consent on the matter. It shouldn’t be lost on us that the one civilization to make slavery illegal is the same that has been bathed in Christianity for almost two thousand years.

      I’m not advocating a wooden approach to the law here or one without a requisite Christian understanding of Christ’s work and his grace in our lives. But, there are times when we need to call a spade a spade and saying that “God can surprise us” on a moral issue when everything has already been revealed or confirmed in Christ is antithetical to his character and the way he has revealed himself and his law throughout the old and new covenants. The real surprise was Jesus Christ, not throwing away the law so we can live as we think we’re made to live. But, he purposed Jesus Christ and us in him “before the foundation of the world” (Eph 1:4) so undoubtedly there has to be continuity between old and new.

  9. What is TRUTH? It’s really quite simple and the bible is clear. I think ‘morally ambiguous’, though painful words for you, are quite to the point.

    Why bother with Jesus as the God-Man if you don’t believe He came to save His people, from eternal death and from a broken relationship and moral blindness? We are not called to ‘be’ like Jesus but to repent (of disbelief) and believe…and what did He teach: HE came to fulfill the law. Not fulfill it and then drop it but to UPHOLD IT. THE LAW AND GOD’S WORD didn’t change. The Fall came because we are ‘required’ to keep the Law perfectly and could not. And: because we cannot, we must turn to our Saviour, who paid our penalty and merited by His works, our eternal life and secured our justification. And our Saviour is God and God does not change…

    He covers our sins but God’s holiness does not change.

    Advocating for ignoring God’s ordinances is a form of idolatry, and taking God’s name in vain.

    And it is leading people astray.

    The bible is clear. All the mental gyrations and degree does not alter one word of God’s holiness and standards.

    Our ‘personal’ God is a personally HOLY God and to call what He calls ‘evil’ good, is to insult God and inflict evil on others.

    No one is advocating ‘hating’ others but as you’ve heard before: lets not give candy to a cancer patient–lets give chemotherapy.

    For His glory and honor…

  10. Our intellectual ventures have abstracted us so far away from our bodies that reconciliation of God’s gendered image in creation seems no longer to be central to bringing forth new life, in the church or in reality. Is there any such thing, Daniel, as a “gay image-bearer”? Where did that phrase originate? We are surrounded by image-bearers. We need spiritual discernment and wisdom about who is reflecting God in their actions & journey, when and when not. We need to be wise about ourselves, born as gendered (not born sexually active).

    I had already read Tony Jones/Scot Miller’s blog posts mentioned above, and it’s patently obvious that W.E.I.R.D. (Western-educated-industrialized-rich-democratic) morality has (in the words of sociologists and moral psychologists) been “thinned” so far down in this socio-economic-intellectual strata as to be unrecognizable for the majority of the world’s population, today, much less the people of the ANE. Morality has been reduced to a utilitarian vision of “no victim” between consenting individuals. Familial, community & societal meanings & responsibilities have no bearing on moral issues, but a meager morality has triumphed; it’s as granualized as western society has been individualized. Harm & corruption to one’s own personhood is rejected as long as one consents. Ripples of harm don’t spread past the individual. Personal satisfaction and happiness are the goods we pursue, and which some say should be church-sanctified goods.

    When I began working in professional arenas in the ’70′s, gender discrimination was the norm and gender harassment was standard fare in the male-dominated areas in which I worked. I’ve found the standards little different in most churches. It surprises me not at all that gender-discriminating leaders – even those who’ve verbally offered support for women in the church, w/ one hand – take away holistic reconciliation in heterosexual relationships w/ the other hand. It’s actually very similar to the systemic human dynamics I saw in Wall St firms – when firms were forced to accept qualified women, provide equal pay for equal work, etc. – the discrimination simply morphed into gray legal areas, behind closed doors. Sin and alienation don’t “go away” because we make a law telling them to go away. Men affirming alienation has been status quo for millenia. Surprise!

    ’tis notable that most of these arguments are male-centered, initiated & debated. The intellectual arguments are so vastly disconnected from bodies which labor to bring forth life, which bear baby-men and too often bearing, laboring & birthing the fruit of men’s sin, many dying in the process… Jesus’ cross is a sin-bearing activity, too. What a thought for how men can bear sin or refuse to bear the cross, eh? I worked with victims of spousal abuse. Men do not love women naturally or easily, & v.v. BFO.

    Now, the “acceptable” place for gender discrimination has fled to the bedroom. SMH. We don’t need to “wait for it”, the increasing gender polarization in homosexual-friendly environments is already here. Heterosexual partners = breeders. Children are accoutrements to their parents’ success and happiness. Lord, have mercy on us. “Claiming to be wise, they became fools…”

    When we go looking for down-to-earth, embodied theology, we most often find post hoc rationalizations for what we prefer to do. “Higher” wisdom brings light, but “higher” education too often brings darkness.

    Shall we hate others made in God’s image, and judge them in ways which betray our conformation to God-in-Christ? May that cease! Yet, the church is to exemplify the life found & created in loving one another, and the others unlike us. So, is it proposed to open the door to leadership for both genders, and close the bedroom doors? That doesn’t seem to be a God-ordained surprise, from the perspective of the body. Our brains will follow & justify where our bodies go, without God’s Spirit checking us, if we will be checked.

    1. “It surprises me not at all that gender-discriminating leaders – even those who’ve verbally offered support for women in the church, w/ one hand – take away holistic reconciliation in heterosexual relationships w/ the other hand.”

      Are you saying that gay men just need reconciliation in a heterosexual relationship??

      1. nate, I wrote according to my understanding of who we are as humans (anthropology), who we are called out to be as “church” (ecclesiology) in mission in the world. As the church, we are called to reveal our unity in Christ in death, resurrection and love for one another, in conformance with who God is, how God created us, how God brings life from us, and how God reveals his image in Christ.

        The answer to your question is, “No, that’s not what I was saying.”

        What I was saying is that God’s image in creation is broken and alienated, until we are crucified with, resurrected & reconciled “in Christ”; then, new life proceeds from the reconciled union. IMHO, the church should be the exemplar for the reconciliation of all men & women in Christ. We are alienated from another in a multitude of ways; gendered alienation is the primary alienation after the break w/ Godself; we rationalize & excuse that alienation. All people carry that alienation into their relationships &/or marriages, because we’re sinners. Many people use human alienation as justification for dominance or subversion, for divorce, or for living separately, etc.

        The mission of the church is to image God to the world and by our oneness in Christ, so that the world may know the Father sent the Son. (John 17) Historically, the hierarchical churches have failed by marginalizing & minimalizing women in ministry.

        As I’ve read the arguments for confirming homosexual unions among Christians, it’s evident that some contemporary churches offer women honor with one hand, and confirm ongoing alienation with the other hand, in a different locale (newly dubbed “sacrosanct”). How could such a confirmation of alienation faithfully image God in Christ? Is the Creator’s image not gendered in creation, affirming men & women made in the image of God?

        Reconciliation to one another is hard work and being crucified with Christ is painful, but ISTM that’s the concrete commitment Jesus called followers to make. I simply don’t see a separate category among men or women whom God created that exempts us from reconciliation. Reconciliation cannot be abstracted from bodily living, because faithfulness is scripturally defined by our righteous deeds, words and thoughts. We simply cannot end-run the sexual biology of our bodies’ gender, and Paul (/the writer of Ephesians) analogized heterosexual union to that of Christ & the church, and new life in children. Celibacy is another call, to which I’m not referring.

        The wrestling w/ God that I’ve seen in most pro-gay commentaries has been how to rationalize and refute scripture to approve what the body already wants to do. That’s what we ALL do – about everything we’ve done/not done – rationalization is self-justification for partiality, preferences, self-serving, etc.. I don’t recall seeing “be crucified with Christ” as the remedy. Daniel may be “surprised” about circumcision, but circumcision and gendered, life-generating biological processes are a long way from one another.

  11. “(circumcision) a clear commandment, pertaining to participation in the covenant promises of Abraham”

    So, unless Old Testament ethnic Jews were circumcised, they were excluded from the promise in Jesus? Surely, that can’t be right!

  12. A very provocative question for Christians today. Surely we are reducing relationship to merely a genital transaction when we think that homosexuals are somehow “excluded” from anything. Love & relationship doesn’t rely on anything so basic; have we become so seduced in modern society?

    Even though homosexual persons possess an inherent procreative capacity the reality of homosexual relationships means that they are unable to enter into the normative paradigm, that is, one which speaks to our physical reality, without making excuses, acknowledging the complimentarity of our bodies and the good of the sexual inclination we experience.

    Through these realities, a husband and wife, as sexually differentiated beings, are able to unite themselves to one another in the deepest way possible in the conjugal act. Not merely biologically, but in all that they are as persons (bodily, sexual, rational, spiritual beings), and in all that they are as spouses. This same act is unique, because it is also the only act they could perform together in which and by which they could become co-operators with God in the possible transmission of new life.

    A person in a homosexual relationship is necessarily psychologically and spiritually limited from bringing that aspect of themself to fruition through the unification of themselves with a member of the opposite sex.

    No matter how unifying the intention of their sexual act – they axiomatically (and to all intents and purposes, if one aspires to the ideal scenario – unwillingly) preclude that generative aspect of themselves from their sexual partner.

    No matter how crude or insensitive it may seem – the reality is that the sterile sexual acts of homosexual persons can amount to nothing more than mere mutual masturbation.

    All the evolutionary, biological ,psychological aspects of their being, driven towards a procreative entelechy is automatically denied from them, this leads to a scarring – an intrinsic moral disorder within the acts unable to fulfil their designated purpose.

    Those with same-sex attraction possess an inherent ‘natural’ moral disorder and a social disorder – it’s non-normative and non-categorical – it cannot be universalised without extinction.

    The Biblical record is clear & consistent on the fact that homosexuality is a destructive choice which will fail to lead us to fulfilment and happiness. In Genesis 3, we find that the truth about persons being an image of God has been obscured by original sin. There inevitably follows a loss of awareness of the covenantal character of the union these persons had with God and with each other. The human body retains its “spousal significance” but this is now clouded by sin. Thus, in Genesis 19:1-11, the deterioration due to sin continues in the story of the men of Sodom. There can be no doubt of the moral judgement made there against homosexual relations. In Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13, in the course of describing the conditions necessary for belonging to the Chosen People, the author excludes from the People of God those who behave in a homosexual fashion.

    Against the background of this exposition of theocratic law, an eschatological perspective is developed by St. Paul when, in I Cor 6:9, he proposes the same doctrine and lists those who behave in a homosexual fashion among those who shall not enter the Kingdom of God.

    In Romans 1:18-32, still building on the moral traditions of his forebears, but in the new context of the confrontation between Christianity and the pagan society of his day, Paul uses homosexual behaviour as an example of the blindness which has overcome humankind. Instead of the original harmony between Creator and creatures, the acute distortion of idolatry has led to all kinds of moral excess. Paul is at a loss to find a clearer example of this disharmony than homosexual relations. Finally, 1 Tim. 1, in full continuity with the Biblical position, singles out those who spread wrong doctrine and in v. 10 explicitly names as sinners those who engage in homosexual acts.

    To chose someone of the same sex for one’s sexual activity is to annul the rich symbolism and meaning, not to mention the goals, of the Creator’s sexual design. Homosexual activity is not a complementary union, able to transmit life; and so it thwarts the call to a life of that form of self-giving which the Gospel says is the essence of Christian living. This does not mean that homosexual persons are not often generous and giving of themselves; but when they engage in homosexual activity they confirm within themselves a disordered sexual inclination which is essentially self-indulgent.

    As in every moral disorder, homosexual activity prevents one’s own fulfillment and happiness by acting contrary to the creative wisdom of God.

    1. Mark, I think you’re commenting along similar lines to mine. Our bodies tell the story of a creating, loving God – or not. Without heterosexual union – and without righteous other-loving, other-serving heterosexual union – the story ends. There is no life conceived, birthed. Life can not be birthed, mature nor flourish.

      So, how can we write about perceiving God’s story in our history, embodiment, love and theological thoughts, when we won’t face the gendered necessity in reality of procreative heterosexual union? If homosexual unions are rationalized as normative, are children only a product of using the other gender as an object, “I-It”, a biological tool to extend the self? Do children not testify to the God who continues creating, sustaining, protecting and loving?

  13. Jesus clearly upheld God created gender as male and female and the uniqueness and importance of the special union called marriage. To suggest that gender is unimportant to God is not only fallacious but damaging.

  14. Thank you for this review. I wonder if you’ve read Amy Frykholm’s recent book, “See Me Naked: Stories of Sexual Exile in American Christianity”? I’d love to read your thoughtful response to the stories she tells.

  15. Hi -
    I just wanted to sincerely thank you for not only taking the time to read my new book, but for having such an open heart in the way that your reviewed the material. It is rare to find someone with your knowledge of the scriptures to approach this subject (and the book specifically) in the way that you have. I only have my story – and the very real proof of God’s tangible love for me – to give to my brothers and sisters who may have been fighting a losing battle with themselves and with God. It is my heart’s desire to see more gay brothers and sisters quit giving God the finger and instead just give them their hand and their heart – and allow Him to sort out the rest. And although I may not have all (or any of the answers) I want to do my part to help as many people as I can come to a place where they can love and be loved. So, again, thank you for taking the time to review this book – and for the beautiful way that you handled the controversial nature of the subject. God bless you my brother. With love and gratitude, James

    1. Thanks for stopping in, James. You wrote:

      It is my heart’s desire to see more gay brothers and sisters quit giving God the finger and instead just give them their hand and their heart – and allow Him to sort out the rest.

      I hope your book nudges my gay brothers and sisters in that direction as well.

      Peace to you.

  16. I find the dialogue in these posts very interesting and revealing. There is the believer who doesn’t want to offend. There is the believer who wants to defend the truth. There is the fence-sitter who wants everyone to have a good outcome.

    As with any discussion involving God…one must state whether he or she accepts the Bible as God’s inspired word. If there is no agreement there, there is no basis for a sound discussion and your time will be well wasted.

    What does the Scripture say about light and darkness? It is there you will find your answer–if you are not too stubbornly proud to accept it.

    Sin is sin…all sin separates man from the glory of God. In other words, if you are candy-coating a favorite sin, then you are living separately from God and you will be separated from Him for eternity. STOP trying to condone sin. Homosexuality is a sin, period. It is one of many sins…but it only takes one. In Hebrews 10:26-28 we learn that: 26 If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left, 27 but only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God.

    This is what the author, James Langteaux, ought to be teaching himself and his readers…the TRUTH…which by the way isn’t easy to accept. Remember when Jesus said, “unless you eat my flesh and drink my blood you cannot follow me.” And many went away because this was a difficult teaching.

    What we need are believers who will boldly speak the truth in love and not apologize for that truth. In the last days, people will become boastful, proud, envious, lovers of themselves rather than lovers of God, disobedient…” You know the scripture. In Mr. Langteaux’s book, he uses some very crude, coarse language. Does he not remember that even foolish talk and coarse joking is enough to keep you from Heaven?

    In the book of Revelation, read the letters to the churches…read the warnings and apply this to yourself. Are you willing to accept discipline and counsel that sets your course straight, or, will you set your own coarse that you think best and have your lampstand removed?

    Wide is the road that leads to destruction and many are they who travel upon it, but NARROW is the road that leads to life and only a FEW will find it.

    There is a way that seems right to a man but in the end it leads to death.

    Will you be like the rich man who went away sad because he would rather hold to temporary wealth in this world rather than give it up to follow Christ and gain an eternal treasure?

    Freedom comes at a cost…but the reward is many times worth that cost.

    If you are unwilling to recognize sin as sin and to remove the idol in your life, then you have not made Christ the master of your life. You are still holding on to a portion of control which negates His Lordship…and therefore your committment. Are you willing to let Jesus be Lord over ALL your life or just that which is most convenient?

  17. Since a child (really, a small child) I have been having my own “gay conversations with God.” I became a Catholic in my adolescence, and in my twenties the conversations become VERY INTENSE, so I wrote them down, and now, 15 years later, I have posted a digest of them on a website. My story is different than James’, but readers might find the juxtaposition of the two complementary. Visit: simonjamesonline.com to see.

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