Lutherans & Homosexuality (parts 2&3 of 5)

In a presentation at the Annual Conference the Canadian Association for Suicide Prevention, Pierre J. Tremblay recently noted that males who consider themselves "gay" are 3 or 4 more times more likely to commit suicide.

Lutheranism & homosexuality part 2 of 5

Person A loves to talk bad about others.  It makes him feel better about himself.  So he spreads rumors – some true, others false – about those he doesn’t like.  He tells his neighbor on his right that he’s worried that the neighbor on the left might drink too much.  He talks about his co-workers marriage problems with other co-workers.

Person B has long wrestled with being homosexual. She knows the Bible says it goes against God’s will.  She’s prayed for God’s help in resisting her urges.  She’s even talked to a trusted Christian friend for advice. Still, she occasionally lapses.  When she does, she’s heartbroken.  She prays to her Savior for forgiveness and strength.

Who is the child of God, person A or person B?

A true Lutheran would answer person B. When Martin Luther posted the 95 Theses on the Castle Church door in Wittenburg, effectively beginning the Lutheran Reformation, the very first one read: “When our Lord and Master,Jesus Christ, said ‘Repent’, he called for the entire life of believers to be one of repentance.” The entire life. In other words, God’s examination of our lives doesn’t just focus on one aspect – our sexual lives, for example.  God’s Law measures everything – the way we talk, the way we think, even our attitudes.

Sometimes, people criticize Bible-based Christians of “picking on homosexuality,” treating it as if it were worse than other sins.  And sometimes, those critics would be right! I’ve heard people talk about homosexuality as though it were the unforgivable sin.  That is a human reaction to personal revulsion of one particular sin. But our holy God’s reaction is to be equally repulsed by all sin.  Consider 1 Corinthians 6:9-10, “Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.”

Notice how that verse puts Person A (the “slanderer”) and Person B (the “homosexual offender”) in the same boat. Neither has lived up to the high standard – namely perfection – that God has set for his Creation.  “Be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect” Jesus said (Matthew 5:48).  Therefore, both person A and person B need saving from their sin.

So how are we saved?  Christ!  Jesus died to make atonement for all sin (1 John 1:7).  His blood washes away the guilt of slander and homosexuality equally well.  The benefits of Christ work are received through faith. But faith is not just saying, “I believe in Jesus!” Even the demons believe in Jesus.  Faith is a God-given gift, that totally changes our outlook on everything, including our sin. True faith leads me to love that which God loves, and to hate that which God hates.  My temper, my slander, my pride, my lust – I hate these things, because God hates them. Thus, repentance and faith are in essence synonymous.  For if one has genuine faith, he will naturally repent of all that which offends our saving God. We often talk about “fruits of faith.”  Well, John the Baptist talked about “producing fruit in keeping with repentance” too (Matthew 3:8).

In our illustration, person A might call himself a Christian.  But the ease with which he slips into slander, a sin which Christ had to bleed for, makes his faith appear paper thin.  He might be kidding himself by calling himself a Christian.  “Faith, if not accompanied by action, is dead” (James 2:17). There is no repentance of his slander.  How, then, can there be true faith?  But person B… she is fighting the good fight, isn’t she? She is trying to resist the impulses of her sinful nature. When she fails, she runs to Him who is our Righteousness.  She basks in the forgiveness that Christ offers. With his help,she begins the struggle anew tomorrow.  Her entire life is one of repentance…one of faith… just like Dr. Luther said.

When we, as Bible-based Lutherans, express our distress over the in name-only “Lutherans” in the ELCA saying that homosexuality is OK,please realize it is not because we consider the sin of homosexuality worse than other sins.  If you do, take the plank out of your own eye before you start picking at the speck in others’! Rather, we areconcerned because, again, repentance and faith are synonymous.  By teaching that homosexuality is not a sin, the ELCA has turned person B into… well… person A, one who does not take his sin seriously.  And that’s not healthy, to say the least. Because repentance is required for all sin.

By Jonathan Hein
Pastor, Beautiful Savior Evangelical Lutheran Church (WELS)

Lutheranism & homosexuality part 3 of 5

Nature vs. Nurture.  Developmental psychologists love to argue this one back and forth on all sorts of issues.  If a child is exceptionally smart, is it because he inherited a “smart gene” from his parents?  Is it because his parents read to him for countless hours when he was young? Or is it a combination of both those factors?  It’s hard to say.

There has been a lot of research into whether homosexuality is learned behavior (nurture) or whether people can be born with a predisposition towards it (nature). Studies have looked at brain chemistry and makeup, trying to see if there are physiological differences between a homosexual and heterosexual.  One interesting recent study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences journal, found that “Gay men and heterosexual women had halves of a similar size, while the right side was bigger in lesbian women and heterosexual men.  A UK scientist said this was evidence sexual orientation was set in the womb.” However, to be fair, you can find other scientists which say that this is all non-sense, and that sexuality is learned behavior.

What do you think? I honestly have no clue – no idea whether homosexuality lies more in nature or nurture. And as a theologian, I don’t worry about the fact that I don’t know. Because it doesn’t matter.

Ever since the fall into sin, reproduction has been tainted. Jesus himself said, “Flesh gives birth to flesh” (John 3:6). The Greek word for flesh – sarx – is pejorative. It brings to mind tainted flesh… weak flesh… yes, sinful flesh.  Because Adam and Eve fell into sin and lost the image of God, they could not give birth to holy, perfect children.  And so, Cain kills Abel.  Murder takes one generation to appear on earth after the introduction of sin!

Sin ruined everything about the reproductive process.  Not only are children born with the ability to feel things God never intended humans to feel – hate, greed, envy, pride, etc. – but there are physical abnormalities. God created Adam and Eve with ten fingers and toes.  That is not always the case with Adam and Eve’s offspring, is it?  Babies are born with a host of physical deformities, none of which God ever intended to be part of his Creation.

Those abnormalities are not an excuse to sin.  Take alcoholism.  Scientists will tell you people can have genetic predispositions to alcoholism.  (There seems to be a lot more consensus on that in the scientific community than there is about homosexuality!)  If I am born with a genetic predisposition to alcoholism, that does not excuse me for becoming an alcoholic.

Say I am born without working legs… or born blind… or born with spina bifida.  With any of those, I am going to face extra challenges that others, born without those defects, will not have to face.  That does not give me the right to grow bitter. It does not give me permission to be angry with God.  Because finally, while human life is always God’s creation, human defects never are.  They are simply flesh giving birth to flesh.

Likewise, if homosexuality is indeed caused in part or in whole by brain physiology, that does not give one permission to ignore or defy what God has revealed in his Word.  He forbids homosexuality.  That pretty much settles it, no matter if it’s the result of nature or nuture.

We need to look at challenging physiological developments as an opportunity.  If I did indeed have a predisposition to alcoholism, God can turn that into a blessing. For if, in spite of that curse, I can with Christ’s help resist the temptation to succumb to alcoholism, what a testimony to the power of God!  It proves what Paul wrote: “I can do everything through him who gives me strength!” (Philippians 4:13).  Likewise, if a person has a brain physiology which inclines them to be attracted to the same-sex, yet they still struggle against that inclination, what a powerful testimony of their love for God and his Word.

Finally, we also need to remember that while we came into this world with flawed and frail human flesh, it will not always be so. Scripture promises us that in the resurrection on the Last Day, our bodies will be made perfect. Read 1 Corinthians 15 today.  It’s chocked full of gorgeous promises.  The blind will see.  The lame will walk. Those who had a weak heart in this life will have a heart that never skips a beat again. And if indeed there are those who have brain physiology or chemistry that is not as God intended, God will take care of that in the resurrection too. To him be praise!

By Jonathan Hein
Pastor, Beautiful Savior Evangelical Lutheran Church (WELS)

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2 thoughts on “Lutherans & Homosexuality (parts 2&3 of 5)

  1. karin says:

    Pastor Hein, I just came across this site this evening and I want to tell you how much I appreciate your writings. They are so inspiring and informative. I am a member of a small rural elca church and am in turmoil over the Aug 2009 resolution on homosexual pastors. I read your entry on Lutherans and Homosexuality. Most of my little church, including the pastor, are okay with this resolution but a small number of us are very distressed–not just with the resolution but the attitude of the members, our lifelong friends, that we are “dividing the church” and causing trouble. Upon reading more of the elca’s “faith statements” I discover they believe in “universal salvation”, meaning one doesn’t have to know Jesus or even believe in him to be saved!. Could you please address this issue? Is this Lutheran theology or just something new with the elca?

    • Hi, Karin! First of all, thanks very much for reading. So glad you stumbled upon the site. Please spread the word :).

      I’m very sorry to hear that this all has led to a problematic situation at your church. I know this has been the case in many ELCA churches just as this has been a huge issue in the Episcopal Church in recent years. I’m glad to hear that you’ve done the necessary investigating into ELCA’s faith statements. There are some very spiritually dangerous (i.e. unbiblical) things being taught in many ELCA churches, including, yes, universal salvation.

      Under the ELCA’s Statement of Beliefs tab at their website, this article can be found…..http://www.elca.org/What-We-Believe/New-or-Returning-to-Church/Dig-Deeper/Salvation.aspx. In it, the author repeatedly quotes a more liberal Lutheran theologian named Carl Braaten. While attempting to speak of the universal nature of Christ’s love, he slips into speaking of universal salvation, as though faith (as the Bible teaches it), makes no difference. Just listen to these words: “If Jesus is the Lord and Savior, he is the universal Lord and Savior, not merely my personal Lord and Savior. Because Jesus is the unique and universal Savior, there is a large hope for salvation, not only for me and others with the proper credentials of believing and belonging to the church, but for all people whenever or wherever they might have lived and no matter how religious or irreligious they may have proved to be themselves.”

      While attempting to emphasize the Lutheran (biblical) point that salvation is not by works, Braaten fails to emphasize the Lutheran (biblical) point that God’s grace, the gift of faith, the truth of God’s Word are all essential to salvation.

      That’s all my long way of saying, “Universal Salvation” is NOT a part of confessional/historical/orthodox Lutheran theology.

      Braaten does stop short of saying that “everyone will go to heaven”. Rather he says we simply cannot know that. However, it’s foolish to suggest we cannot say more than that. As for a simple Bible section to disprove universal salvation, we can turn to 2 Thessalonians 1:6-10 “God is just: He will pay back trouble to those who trouble you and give relief to you who are troubled, and to us as well. This will happen when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven in blazing fire with his powerful angels. He will punish those who do not know God and do not obey (i.e. believe and put into practice) the gospel of our Lord Jesus. They will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the majesty of his power on the day he comes to be glorified in his holy people and to be marveled at among all those who have believed.”

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