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Posts Tagged ‘glorification’


This is a concept that has been debated at least since the 1970’s: can one be a “gay Christian”? It started with denominations for homosexuals who professed Christ. Recently it has “conquered” mainline denominations. The conversation is beginning to happen in conservative denominations, like the one I serve in. Okay, precisely the one I serve in. So far I’ve seen more heat than light in this debate. There is little thoughtfulness and plenty of knee jerk reactions.

As Joe Dallas notes in Speaking of Homosexuality, both terms in this phrase need to be identified so we know precisely what we are talking about.

“Gay can refer to someone sexually active, whether in a relationship or in more casual encounters. Or it can mean a person who’s not sexually active but it willing if and when the time seems right. It can also refer to a Christian who believes homosexuality is wrong but is tempted that direction and sometimes yields. Yet again, it could mean someone who’s homosexual in attraction only but chooses not to act on the attraction. Clearly the term’s meaning influences the question’s answer.

“Now, Christian, for some implied simply being “saved”; to others it implies both being saved and walking in rightness before God.

“Muddying the waters further is the question of salvation. Can it be lost, or is it a once-and-for-all status? How you view eternal security will likewise direct your answer to the gay Christian question.”

In addressing the second part of this question, Dallas writes as an Arminian. I am thinking this through in my own heritage, that of Reformed Theology. As such I ponder this in terms of the Preservation of the Saints and Assurance of Grace and Salvation. So, let’s work through the four ways “gay” can be understood.

Can a Christian be sexually active with the same sex?

The answer is yes. But before you either rejoice or want to stone me, let me explain. I do view homosexuality as a sin (like I would consider murder, theft, lying, gossip, adultery and other actions and predispositions to be sin or outside the boundaries established by God). Christians do sin. Sometimes we sin big too.

We should not simply say Christians persevere to the end because God preserves them in grace (by Christ’s merit & intercession as well as the indwelling Spirit). That is true, but not all that is true. We should reckon with the rest of what the Westminster Confession says about this, including:

3. Nevertheless, they may, through the temptations of Satan and of the world, the prevalency of corruption remaining in them, and the neglect of the means of their preservation, fall into grievous sins; and, for a time, continue therein: whereby they incur God’s displeasure, and grieve his Holy Spirit, come to be deprived of some measure of their graces and comforts, have their hearts hardened, and their consciences wounded; hurt and scandalize others, and bring temporal judgments upon themselves. (WCF, XVII)

A Christian may, for a time, fall into the practice of homosexuality. This is disobedience, but Christians can and do disobey God. We see such sin a result of the remaining corruption within us (indwelling sin) which produces internal temptation, and the external temptations of Satan and the world which tells them it is okay, and “don’t knock it til you try it”. While they may feel “like themselves” in so doing, we see there are earthly consequences as they grieve the Spirit, harden their hearts and are deprived of a measure of graces and comforts from the gospel. Its hurts and scandalizes others as I know all too well from watching people I know fall into this sin and become entangled by it.

In the next chapter on Assurance of Grace and Salvation we see similar comments:

4. True believers may have the assurance of their salvation divers ways shaken, diminished, and intermitted; as, by negligence in preserving of it, by falling into some special sin which woundeth the conscience and grieveth the Spirit; by some sudden or vehement temptation, by God’s withdrawing the light of his countenance, and suffering even such as fear him to walk in darkness and to have no light: yet are they never utterly destitute of that seed of God, and life of faith, that love of Christ and the brethren, that sincerity of heart, and conscience of duty, out of which, by the operation of the Spirit, this assurance may, in due time, be revived; and by the which, in the meantime, they are supported from utter despair. (WCF, XVIII)

The key is “for a time.” One who is truly regenerate and justified will eventually repent and acknowledge its sinfulness as well as apprehending the mercies of God in Christ and endeavoring to obey. But “for a time” is vague. No time limit is given such as having 1 year. People would probably abuse that as an opportunity to spend such time in full rebellion of their choosing and show up at the appointed time with a mea culpa like Amish teens returned from their experience in the world.

For instance, I had a friend who was promiscuous as a teen. While working with teens later, his past was known. One teen contemplated partaking of fornication and his justification was “you repented.” My friend wisely replied, “How do you know you will?”

In the meantime, a faithful church will admonish, rebuke, suspend and possibly excommunicate a member to guard the honor of Christ, reclaim the sinner and protect the church (not from the person but from believing such actions are acceptable and appropriate among God’s people). In this sense it is possible to be a Christian and gay, but not part of the visible church due to discipline so they may produce a later harvest of righteousness.

In terms of Dallas’ second category, we see it is also possible to be a “gay Christian” in the same sense. They would need to repent of their erroneous understanding of homosexuality even if they aren’t sexually active. In due time this should happen if the Spirit really dwells in them.

In both the 3rd and 4th categories, the Christian experiences same sex attraction but knows that to act on it is wrong. The attraction is a result of remaining corruption, and they experience that inward pull toward people of the same sex romantically and sexually. While they know this is not what God intended in creation, it is what they experience due to the Fall, and have not yet been relieved of it in redemption. That may, and often does, await glorification as it does for all Christians though the particular temptations differ.

Here is where it is tricky. While the temptation flows from remaining corruption (our sinful condition) is the temptation itself sinful? Here is were some of the debate lies as we try to parse temptation. It is different from the temptation Jesus experienced in that it is internal. Jesus was tempted from without. We should confess it flows from indwelling sin and that it is wrong, though we have not committed a sinful act. The person who acts on such temptations periodically should repent like any other Christians who sins does. While they are still a Christian, they have been disobedient. As I noted above, this desire may never go away (though not experienced in every waking moment), just as other sinful desires may never go away.

There is another question that arise, should such a Christian as we see in categories 3 and 4 self-identify as a “gay Christian”? It seems strange to those of us who are straight. I’m not a straight Christian. Nor would I identify myself with any of my habitual sins. People don’t say “I’m an alcoholic Christian” or “a deceitful Christian.” Should we, as an act of repentance or confession? I suspect it isn’t very helpful.

In her book Openness Unhindered, Rosaria Butterfield addresses this question over the course of two chapters. In the first, she focuses on self-identification and the roots of self-identifying as gay. She ought to know since she used to teach Queer Theory at Syracuse University. For years she was working toward the world we now live in here in America: acceptance of homosexuality and same sex marriage as normal. So she unpacks all that so you know what many (not all) gay people mean by that term. She explains why she does not like the term “gay Christian” nor advocate for its use. In typical Rosaria-style she can be quite blunt.

“Any category of personhood that reduces a saint to a sum total of his or her fallen sexual behavior is not a friend of Christ.”

“Because as Christians, we need to practice what we want to model: a call to use words honestly. A call to use words honestly, in ways that correspond to God’s truth.”

“The conservative Christian church bears some responsibility for driving brothers and sisters in Christ into this “gay Christian” ghetto with our blindness to the way that we have insensitively tried to fix or fix up all of the singles in our church.”

“New nature does not necessarily mean new feelings (although it may). … “New creature in Christ” means that we have a new mind that governs the old feelings and a new hope that we are part of Christ’s body.”

“Believers know that help does not come in destigmatizing the word gay, but in helping the boy and his family do what all believers must do: mortify sin and live in faithfulness to God.”

While she argues against using the term, in the next chapter she talks about when Christians disagree, particularly about that issue. She addresses her relationship with a friend named Rebecca who has a different viewpoint, and is a professing Christian too. While Rosaria sees the word gay as laden with Queer Theory, Rebecca says “For me the word gay is no different than saying, “I am deaf” or “I am quadriplegic.” It simply refers to the truth that I have an enduring affliction (whether based in biology or environment) that has not been healed despite many years of prayers.” We return to the idea that two people can use the same term in different ways, and that we should try to understand how they are using it because we love them.

We see this problem in social discourse all the time. For instance, in the 2016 election “the wall” has very different meanings for progressives and those who voted for Trump. Progressives hear xenophobia, racism and other ideas that make them angry or want to cry. They see his election as betraying their ideals and lament for America. Many of those who voted for him (and may like myself who didn’t) hear wise immigration policy, having a border like most other nations that means we have some measure of control over who enters our country not because we hate other people groups but for our national and economic security. It doesn’t mean you are against immigration reform, but that you believe we actually have a border that matters.

Rosaria counsels love in the midst of such disagreements. She’s only advocating what the Scriptures do, but in this gospel-deprived society this is seen as a novelty. We have to allow each other some space to own our ideas instead of mandating that they agree with us. After all, the Scripture doesn’t directly address this. We can treat the use of this phrase as one of indifference as long as we are using very different definitions of the term. She talked with her friend, listened to her friend, and found they were using the term in very different ways. They could choose to disagree and remain friends because they agreed on the basics of the gospel and its implications for homosexuality even if they disagreed on the use of a term. I think there needs to be more of this: listening, understanding, discerning and accepting one another as Christ accepts us when we do disagree on secondary issues.

“Friendship and neighborly proximity are necessary components to working through theological differences in Christian love. … Ideas that divide must travel on the back of Christian life practices that allow us to stand shoulder to shoulder as we submit before our holy and loving God. This is the Christian labor of real neighbors.”

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Reading a book on theology by a woman for women? Cavman, are you getting in touch with your feminine side? Well, the last time I tried that, it slapped me.

More seriously, our women’s ministry is considering The Gospel Centered Woman: Understanding Biblical Womanhood through the Lens of the Gospel by Wendy Alsup for the summer and asked me to take a look at it. Wanting the women to get a healthy diet, I read the book. (It looks like this was self-published, but you can find her book Practical Theology for Woman: How Knowing God Makes a Difference in Our Daily Lives at WTS Books).

I’ve generally found that books written by women, particularly theology books, have a very different feel than those written by men. That is not good or bad, just different. I guess if you are a woman reading it, it is good. That is to say that I’m trying to evaluate it on its own merit, recognizing she won’t write like Sinclair Ferguson (for instance).

The subtitle is important here. She is writing about biblical womanhood, and is a complementarian. Some people miss the main point about complementarianism- it is not about who cooks, cleans or mows the lawn. It is not about who is smarter or wiser.

This is not a defense of complementarianism. It is rather assumed. He goal, the subtitle again, it to view this through the lens of the gospel. She wants women to understand who they are on account of the gospel, and how that fleshes itself out in daily life.

“It is the gospel alone that equips us to bridge the gap between God’s good plan for His daughters and the fallen reality in which we all live.”

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There are books galore about the Christian life. Some of great, and some … well, aren’t so helpful. Some are heavy lifting, and not accessible to the average person i the pew. Some are so light, they are ultimately unhelpful.

Not only does Derek Thomas quote a fair amount from his friend and colleague Sinclair Ferguson, but How the Gospel Brings Us All the Way Home is very much like the best books Ferguson has written. It is deep, but not complicated. It is short, but not trite.

Thomas looks at the 8th chapter of Romans in this book. He uses this as a summary of the Christian life- how God brings us from justification to glorification through adoption and sanctification. Sounds complicated, but Thomas puts the cookies on the shelf where you can reach them.

“Even as mature Christians, we need to remind ourselves continually of the basis for our acceptance- it is entirely because of what Christ has done for us. Thus, faith in Christ is not a one-time event; we must live by faith each day.”

I read the chapters out of order because I used parts of it as I wrestled with my sermon texts near the end of Genesis. In addition to Ferguson, Thomas brings in quotations from John Calvin and a number of other luminaries as well as some great hymns. Sometimes someone else can say it better than we can.

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While preparing for the Maundy Thursday service, I went digging for a quote from Sinclair Ferguson in his book By Grace Alone.  I found quite a bit more appropriate for an addictions group I meet with.

I thought of 3 different things: Unrealistic Expectations, The Agenda of the Enemy and the Agenda of the Father.  I’ll cover these in 3 different posts.  So let’s start with the first of these.

Unrealistic Expectations

“When a person is delivered from an addiction, the effects remain and the ‘pull’ of the old life lingers on.  Constant vigilance is essential.  It is exactly the same with ‘addiction’ to sin (and we are all by nature addicts to sin in one form or another).  The addiction is broken so that its energy no longer dominates our lives.  We no longer want the old way, it is not part of the family life we now enjoy.  But while we no longer want the old way, we are not finally delivered from its ongoing influence.  Increasingly sanctified we may be, but we are not yet glorified.  We are free from sin’s cruel dominion, but we are not yet free from its seductive presence.  So we battle against its influence for the rest of our lives.”

We often suffer from unrealistic expectations with regard to our sin, especially when we are repenting of an addiction.  Jesus has delivered us from the penalty of sin and the power of sin.  But not from the practice of sin, yet.

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The church office got a request from a college student today.  Here it is:

My name is xxxxxxxxxxx. I attend **********, located in  Georgia, a ministry of ***********  Baptist Church. In my Baptist Doctrine class, we are discussing the Doctrine of Salvation. Our professor gave us a project for which we must discover the beliefs of other denominations concerning salvation. My goal is not to debate or discuss the differences between our denominations, but only to understand yours. I have included a few questions below that are part of my assignment; if you would please answer them and send them back I would very much appreciate it, you may be as brief or as detailed as you see fit. Thank you for your time.

Here were my answers:

Here is the information your requested.  I formerly was a Baptist, and the answers for your question are not uniform among Baptists.  You may want to look at the London Baptist Confession of 1689 if you have time.

  1. What does it mean to be saved or born again? Those terms do not refer to the same thing.  To be born again refers to regeneration (all saved people have been regenerated), which means the renewal of heart and will by the grace of God, enabling one to believe on the Lord Jesus to be saved.  Scripture speaks of us as having been saved (justification, meaning we’re saved from the penalty of sin), being saved (sanctification, we being saved from the practice & power of sin) and will be saved (glorification, being saved from the presence of sin.
  2. What must one do to become saved or born again?  Recognizing the difference between the 2 terms, we don’t do anything to be born again- it is a sovereign act of God by the Spirit (John 3).  To be justified, we must believe on the Lord Jesus Christ.  On the basis of faith as the instrumental means, the Father pardons our sin and imputes Christ’s obedience to us.  We are not just forgiven, but declared righteous!
  3. Is there any proof in a person’s life that they are saved?  The fact of being regenerated and belonging to God will be manifested in persevering in faith, good works, obedience and godly character.
  4. What is sanctification?  It is an act of God’s free grace wherein we more and more die to sin and live to righteousness as we trust in Christ.  In other words, we put death to sin in the power of the Spirit (Rom. 7 as well as Eph. 4 & Col. 3) and progressively grow in obedience.
  5. What is repentance?  It is turning away from what I know of my sin toward what I know of God.  As I grow in my knowledge of both, my repentance deepens and I change.  It is an important aspect of sanctification as well as the other side of the coin regarding faith in justification.
  6. Do you believe in Eternal Security? If not, can a person be saved again? If they can, how does this take place?  I do not believe in “eternal security” but rather in what is called the Perseverance or Preservation of the Saints.  People make false/superficial confessions of faith (see the Parable of the Sower).  Such “decisions” do not save them.  The regenerate who truly believe on Christ will persevere in faith (there will be ups and downs) precisely because God preserves them (John 10:28-29).  Charles Ryrie, who holds to “eternal security” or “once saved always saved”, disconnects this from regeneration and thinks one can stop believing and yet still be saved.  Romans 8:29ff show that God connects all these things so that all he regenerates will be justified, all he justifies will be sanctified, and all he justifies and sanctifies will be glorified.
  7. Are these your personal beliefs or is this the denominational belief?  These are my personal beliefs as well as the denominational standards that have existed for nearly 500 years.

I hope you assignment goes well, and that God works in you to come to a greater knowledge of the truth, a greater love for Christ and a heart that longs to trust and obey.

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I started to see this book pop up on people’s blogs a few years ago.  The title, Gospel-Centered Hermeneutics: Foundations and Principles of Evangelical Biblical Interpretation by Graeme Goldsworthy, intrigued me.  So, using a gift certificate, I bought the book.  Recently, excited to begin reading, a friend wondered aloud why we need to read another book on hermeneutics.

I’m glad I didn’t listen.  I have not yet finished the book, but I’ve found it quite stimulating, understandable and grappling with an important topic: how should we, as evangelical Christians, interpret the Scriptures?

Here we will cover Part 1 of the book: Evangelical Prolegomena to Hermeneutics.   Goldsworthy introduces the idea of presuppositions into the question of hermeneutics: will we assume the supreme authority of God or assume human autonomy?  This is the question upon which so much hinges in biblical interpretation.  Our assumptions or presuppositions, in addition to this one, greatly affect the effectiveness of our attempts to understand, explain and apply the text of Scripture.

“The function of hermeneutics could be stated as the attempt to bridge the gap between the text inside its world and the readers/hearers inside their world.”

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Michael Wilson  The Ledger

Photo: Michael Wilson The Ledger

This is my last post on Todd Bentley.  I don’t want to spend too much time thinking about him.  But there are things I think need to be said, for the cause of Christ.

I came across this yesterday but didn’t address it.  Contrary to what Todd Bentley told Stephen Strader, there was another party involved.  Fresh Fire Ministries announced that he had an unhealthy emotional relationship with a staff member, and that this had happened before.

My original point, which I didn’t express clearly, was this:  Is this-
A. an example of a man who did not appropriate the blessings of the gospel in his battle with sin.
B. the result of a truncated, incomplete understanding of the gospel.
C. the result of a deviant, and therefore false, gospel.

If the first, it doesn’t affect the validity of the ‘revival’.
If the second, it should cause those who partake in the ‘revival’ to gain a fuller understanding of the gospel.
If the third, I hope it will bring people to realize a false gospel was being proclaimed and to forsake it for the true gospel.

The press release from Fresh Fire Ministries places the blame on the Enemy, as though sin was “out there” instead of in our hearts.  As a result, there is little personal accountability, just the need for “healing”.  This minimizes the sinfulness of his actions- they need healing, not repentance.  Perhaps there are some ways in which Todd Bentley has been sinned against in the past that still require the balm of the gospel to bring healing.  But his transfer of affection in sinful, and indicates a bigger problem than he admits.

We are not sanctified after encounters with angels (as he seems to claim)- we are sanctified as we appropriate the gospel and put our sin to death in the power of the Spirit.  The obsession with miracles and power is remarkably similar to the triumphalism (and sin minimization) of the Corinthians as taught to them by the false apostles.  This obsession with miracles reveals at least a truncated understanding of the gospel, and most likely a false gospel.

This is not a continuationist-cessationist argument, but one about the central message of the gospel (regeneration => conversion => justification by faith => adoption => sanctification => glorification).  When parts of this are dropped off, you have a truncated gospel.  When something is put there in its place, or in addition to them, you have a false gospel.  In the NT they authenticate the message and messenger.  But in some circles they pretty much are the message.  I fear that healing has replaced the core message and people are being summoned to a false gospel that leaves them in their sins and under the wrath of God.  This is far more important than Bentley’s marriage problems.

The assessments of R.T. Kendall and Carl Trueman.

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