Faith Under Fire: Doctrine of Original Blessing?!

I tuned in late to Saturday night’s segment of Lee Strobel’s Faith Under Fire… but it was very informative. Two important topics related to gays and Christianity were the centerpiece. First, you had an animated debate regarding the issue of gay clergy. Dr. Mohler spoke from the conservative biblical tradition – advocating that we must submit our sexuality to the biblical guidelines.

Gay Clergy Some mainline denominations are wrestling with the issue of ordaining openly gay clergy … and hoping to avoid a church schism based on where they land. What is at stake in the issue…and why is it so divisive? Dr. Al Mohler, president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary (and Time Magazine’s choice as “the most influential man in evangelical Christianity”), debates this topic with Rev. Penny Nixon, an openly gay clergywoman and senior pastor of the Metropolitan Community Church of San Francisco. Her church is committed to addressing the spiritual needs of all people, including homosexuals.

Rev. Penny Nixon, a professed lesbian church leader, was trying to maintain some type of allegiance to Scripture while advocating a position that would allow for her lifestyle. Some very interesting applications of Scripture were exchanged. The one that particularly struck me as novel was Rev. Nixon’s attempt to disparage the doctrine of Original Sin by saying that her preference was to concentrate on the aspect of biblical revelation that she labels: Doctrine of Original Blessing. She prefers an outlook that stresses the love of God and the fact that we were created in the image of God. Dr. Mohler did a very capable job of explaining that you cannot just pick and choose what passages or aspects of God’s nature you would like to embrace. You must submit your thinking to the entire package of Scripture … an approach that ones like Rev. Nixon continually try to sidestep. When backed to the wall, she will try the lame argument of cultural differences … “you just cannot apply the Scriptures of Paul’s day to this present age and time.” But if you are going to pick and choose, where is the authority in any of Scripture?

This segment was followed by another interesting discussion on the value of Christian ministries such as Exodus International trying to counsel gays to repent and go straight.

Gay to Straight? We all have our opinions on whether or not people are born with particular sexual orientations – gay or straight. And our faith often dictates that belief. But what if gay people could “become” straight? Is that kind of radical transformation believable – yet alone possible? Discussing questions surrounding this issue are former homosexual Alan Chambers, president of Exodus International, a ministry that aims to help gays become straight, and Peterson Toscano, an actor, performance artist, and self-described “survivor” of the ex-gay movement.

Alan Chambers does not believe that homosexual attraction is hard-wired and inevitable since it is clearly not what God intended in making man in His own image. He kept bringing the focus back to becoming more like Christ – regardless of the specific sin issue that causes us the most struggle and conflict.

Peterson Toscano talked about his personal experiences and claimed that ex-gay ministries do more harm than good. After “trying for years” to seek God’s help to change his feelings, he ended up “just as gay as when I started.” His conclusion was that he needed to face the reality that “this is who I am” and he needed to learn to deal with it and get on with his life. Obviously that has created acceptance problems in the context of Christian churches and ministries … even though he classifies himself as an “ex-gay” in terms of not living now in such a sexual relationship. On the other hand he was not willing to classify such sexual involvement between two people who genuinely love another as “sin.”

Once again, when the debate centered around biblical passages it was evident that Peterson’s logic was faulty and self-serving. He tried to argue from silence: “You know that Jesus in the Gospels never spoke against homosexuality.” But Chambers offered the simple rebuttal that only a very small portion of Jesus’ words are recorded in Scripture. (He also didn’t speak against incest or a number of other key topics.) But that is no excuse for not acknowledging that all Scripture is God-breathed and authoritative and relevant for us today.

I thought that the key part of Chambers’ testimony of personal deliverance and freedom was the moment he stopped trying to change his feelings and decided to trust God and obey what He had revealed … even if his feelings never turned around. When pressed as to the “success” rate of his ministry, it was disappointing to hear him admit that his group fared no better (he couched this stat in positive terms: “his group fares just as well . . .”) than non-Christian organizations like Alcoholics Anonymous, etc. About 30% find help and experience freedom; about 30% walk away at some point and decide to continue in a gay lifestyle; the remainder struggle back and forth and remain seriously conflicted and unhappy.