Deus Ex Machina

"This is the generation of the great LEVIATHAN, or rather, to speak more reverently of that mortal god, to which we own under the immortal God, our peace and defense." -Thomas Hobbes: Leviathan

An Analysis of Joel Joshua Gunawan’s “On Being Gay and Christian”

There is a facebook note: http://www.facebook.com/notes/joel-joshua-gunawan/on-being-gay-and-christian/10151666786854676 circulating around which seems to have garnered a fair amount of attention, and more importantly, approval from especially amongst the Christians. I would like to examine this note, and I do so from within the perspective of the Christian faith, especially the Protestant understanding, since it does seem to be written from precisely such a perspective. I will be simply engaging the last segment which seems to be the most relevant part. Italics as usual are mine.

Legislating against homosexuality

But let us ASSUME that the Bible does unequivocally condemn homosexuality. I would want to work to change my own lifestyle. In fact, I have been trying to do that all my life because despite my sexuality, 24 years of growing up in church have shown me the reality of God in ways I cannot explain away. I have seen friends healed miraculously, lives changed, and the work of God in my life and family in ways I cannot explain apart from the power of Christ. I wish I could explain them all away as mere coincidence or conspiracy as many do – I want to! – but I cannot lie to myself. In my heart of heart, I know that the Christian God is real, and I am willing to try to give up my lifestyle, even if I doubt my own strength to.

[I don’t think we are ever told to lie to ourselves about the truth of our desires, good or bad or pretend it does not exists. However, we are called to deny ourselves and take up our cross and follow Christ (Matthew 16:24). It is one of the central teachings of Protestantism that we are “simul iustus et peccator” (Luther), at the same time sinner and justified. Most of the Protestant reformers taught, along with the Catholics, that because of Original Sin, our natures have become corrupted and that our hearts are filled with “concupiscence” , for evil lusts and desires of the heart. “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked.” (Jeremiah 17:9)

But we insist that this “concupiscence” and corruption of nature remains even in those who have been born again in Christ through faith. Thus, the evil desires which dwell in us wrestle along side in conflict with the new desires for God and holiness inspired by the Holy Spirit, this is why we are simul iustus et peccator, at the same time justified and forgiven, and still a sinner with evil lusts! And this conflict last until the day we die. Thus, the struggles of homosexual desires are no different from the struggles of a heterosexual man (or woman!) who is constantly tempted by hot persons to betray his marriage vows, etc. Thus, the Biblical imperative that we are to deny ourselves, deny our corrupt nature and evil desires,  to keep fighting it, and not give into the lust of the flesh (Galatians 5:17, Romans 6:12, Romans 13:14)

The “strength” to keep the fight is not to be understood as a cessation from sin or the complete elimination of concupiscience, we must constantly hold to the central Protestant insight, simul iustus et peccator! The sin corrupted nature will only perish when our bodies perish and we are risen anew at the Resurrection. However, the “strength” to keep up the fight and struggle comes from knowing and being certain of the promise that God will be there to pick us up after we have fallen, and God will be there to forgive us even as we stumble and fall into these sins or cave into desires and to keep assuring us that indeed, he does love us despite our continual failings, and despite our future failings, and that his grace is always ready and available anew to refresh us and give us strength to battle again. After all, Christ instituted the Lord’s Supper on the very night he was betrayed. He knew that they would abandon him and fail him, he knew that they would soon betray him. But what did he do? Did he leave them disappointed? Did he turn away from them and escape them? No! He took the cup of wine, blessed it, and gave it them saying, “This is my blood of the New Testament which is shed for you and for many for the remission of sins”. Despite knowing our failings and and knowing that we will fail and stumble, our strength and hope comes from knowing that Christ is still here for us, offering up his blood and his forgiveness.]

However, while I defend your right to influence legislation against homosexuality, I disagree with it. After all, what benefit does it do, apart from creating even more animosity than already exists between the Church and homosexuals? Generally, gay people HATE Christianity. Section 377A of the Penal Code criminalizes consensual private sexual activity – what does that do for your cause? People are going to be gay regardless, and they are going to continue being so, even if they try their best not to be. What is criminalization going to change? Calling me a criminal is not going to make me love and marry a woman. Heck, I WANT to do it, even without 377A, but what prevents me from doing so is not something that can be changed by the law.

[The cause of the Gospel and the Christian faith is not dependent upon the good will or approval of man but upon the good graces of God. We are not called to win the praise or approval of man (in fact, the very opposite, for Christ warns that not to seek the praise of man for those who do has already receive their reward and will get none from their Father in heaven! Matthew 6:1-4) We are called to obey the will of God and confess his name and proclaim his Gospel. The Gospel by its very nature is offensive and will not win the approval of man. As Christ himself warns, “If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you” (John 15:18-19) And we know that those who obey the will of God will be hated by the world, for we have a perfect example in Christ, who was executed for precisely obeying the Father. No one can love God or Christ except by the miracle of the Holy Spirit who creates faith through the preaching of the word. If being loving and compassionate, etc, were sufficient, then we wouldn’t have crucified Christ! But Christ’s crucifixion precisely demonstrates how despite being compassionate and loving, those who received his ministry still had him executed and abandoned him.

As for what is preventing a gay Christian from entering into a heterosexual marriage, I’ve written on this topic at some length here: https://rationalityofaith.wordpress.com/2012/03/01/why-as-a-christian-i-think-gay-people-should-get-married/ ]

Furthermore, homosexuality is but a small sin in Christianity. All such sins are ultimately forgivable, but there is one unpardonable sin – that of idolatry. In other words, the sin of idol-worship and beliefs in other gods (or none) is the biggest sin in Christianity. Yet Christians do not insist that all non-Christians be legally prohibited from doing so. We do not pray for Islam or Buddhism to be made illegal. While we profess and stand by the fact that idolatry is wrong and will lead to eternal damnation, we respect the God-given freedom that each man and woman has to make choices for themselves. While we assume the responsibility to “be the salt and light of the world” (Matthew 5:13) and to “teach the nations to obey” (Matthew 28:18) God, we recognise that teaching does not consist of, or involve, forcing. That is why Christians support religious freedom which, historically, had its origins in the Protestant Reformation itself. Why, then, must it be different for homosexuality?

[I am uncertain from which part of the Bible or by what theological exegesis does he arrive at the conclusion that the unpardonable sin is idolatry. And base on what metric does he measure how “large” or “small” a sin is? This sounds rather oddly Roman Catholic with their metrical penances to fit each sin. And furthermore to say that the unpardonable sin is idolatry would imply that no idol worshiper who later repents and confesses Christ have been forgiven and accepted by God because their idolatry is “unpardonable”. And I am uncertain what does this discussion about religious freedom have to do with a discussion on the civic issue of homosexuality. Yes, there is freedom of religion, but it does not follow that there is absolute freedom in civic affairs, i.e. polygamy, incest, etc. The discussion on homosexuality has to do with civic order, and is not a religious issue.]

Jesus never condoned sin. He never compromised on His beliefs on morality which were clear to all who knew Him as a Jewish teacher – and He frequently taught on those topics. The difference between Jesus and (many) Christians lies in their approach.

This is how Jesus treated the prostitute: He looked at her, and without condemnation, said “Your sins are forgiven. Your faith has saved you; go in peace.” (Luke 7.48-50). This is how Jesus treated the adulteress caught in the very act of adultery (imagine that!): He defended her from her prosecutors by saying to them “let he without sin cast the first stone”, then turned to her and said, “I don’t condemn you. Just leave your life of sin.” (John 1.8-11). This is how Jesus treated those who chose not to believe in Him: to the young rich man who could not bring himself to change his lifestyle, Jesus spoke with and tried to persuade him, but ultimately respected his choice and his freewill, and let him go his way (Matthew 19.16-22). Compare that to how Christians treat homosexuals and those who make un-Christian choices today. Would Jesus have advocated for a law to criminalise homosexuality? I find it highly doubtful.

[I think there is a confusion of Law and Gospel here. Would Jesus advocate for any law? Would he call for, say, the rapists, the child abusers, the murderers, etc, to be punished? Or would Christ instead be forgiving them? The Gospel and promise of forgiveness, reconciliation with God, everlasting life and the resurrection is one thing, the law and the civic order of the nation is another. I have not the slightest doubt that Jesus would forgive and love the worse of criminals, murderers, embezzlers, rapists, etc, for his forgiveness is grounded upon the will of the Father to love alone, no matter our prior condition, etc. But this will to forgive and grant eternal life, is a distinct question from questions of civic order, etc. Christ came to proclaim the Gospel and the promise of eternal life and the resurrection, not rearrange civic society or institute new laws, thus, of course he would not advocate for the criminalisation of homosexuality, he wouldn’t advocate for any laws at all because that’s not his mission!

His Kingdom is not of this world, and therefore his Gospel is distinct from the questions of the Law and civic order, etc. Christ subjected himself under the civic order by paying taxes and telling us to render unto Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God. Just because Christ forgives sins does not imply the overturn of the civic order. Moses and the Old Testament and the natural order already prescribes the content of the civic order, Christ does not need to institute anything new but only to reaffirm what already exists, proclaiming instead the eventual destruction of ALL civic order for the New heaven and New Earth at the end of time, when we shall all arise anew at the General Resurrection.]

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2 comments on “An Analysis of Joel Joshua Gunawan’s “On Being Gay and Christian”

  1. Pingback: A Collection of Writings on Sexuality, Homosexuality, Marriage, Philosophy and the Christian Faith | The Rationality of Faith

  2. Pingback: Sexuality, Marriage and Gays | The Rationality of Faith

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This entry was posted on January 22, 2013 by in Sexuality and tagged .
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