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There Is No Growing Debate

You may have heard about a congregation in San Francisco, CA that recently decided to receive into faithful membership those who live non-celibate lives with people of the same sex. This congregation was a church in the denomination I serve, the PCA, a few years ago. They left the PCA and joined the RCA denomination. You can read their announcement here.

A picture from worship this past Sunday at Glory,
PCA where they had over 30 visitors!
A pastor of a PCA church in San Francisco responded to this announcement in a letter to those at City Church, RCA. The pastor is Chris Robins and the church he is planting is Glory, PCA. I have been in contact with Chris and asked for his permission* to reprint his letter here. He graciously gave me permission.

Please read Chris' letter below. Consider joining me in praying for the vital work of Glory, PCA in San Francisco. We need more bold churches committed to loving sinners and doing so without compromising Scripture or bringing shame on the Bride of Christ.

**********
Dear friend,

I’m so sorry.

Thanks for forwarding this letter from City Church this morning. You’ve been a good friend and I want to speak to you plainly.

This stuff breaks my heart. The letter makes it sound like there’s this growing evangelical debate, represented by different perspectives in discussion.

There isn’t.

Rob Bell and Matthew Vines have tried to frame this as a question which evangelicals are wrestling through and sometimes changing position on. They insist such a dialogue is happening. It isn’t. No one is really arguing over it. There is no argument that has any exegetical and academic credibility.

That’s not to say you won’t find folks who will argue and talk about this issue all day long, or that many won’t go down this road. But the real guts of the debate, with evangelicals academically wrestling with Scripture, hermeneutics, and theology isn’t happening. This isn’t a “dividing” issue where different opinions line up on the gridiron of faith. There are many of those, and you can trace their debates back thousands of years. The stadiums change, but the many perspectives on worship, predestination, and church polity are making the same defensive and offensive plays they did in AD 325 and 1536. This simply isn’t one of them. This is a “defining” issue. It defines if you are a Christian church. It doesn’t divide Baptists from Presbyterians the way an ounce of water does.

What’s more, presenting this as a pastoral issue in this letter is both prejudicial and inaccurate. Prejudicial because framing the question around pastoral care makes you appear uncaring if you disagree. You’re setup to fail in that conversation. Inaccurate because it simply isn’t a pastoral issue; it’s a biblical, moral, and theological one. Confusing your categories in this discussion isn’t helpful. It feels like a bait and switch.

It’s a bit like this: imagine your company is cooking the books and you discover it’s happening. You report it to your boss and he shakes his head, pats you on the shoulder and says with a smile, “Oh don’t you worry about that. It’s really just a matter of business etiquette. Let’s talk about how we can work on being more polite. You aren’t against politeness, are you?”

I don’t see this letter seeking a dialogue either. Human flourishing and personal suffering are not hermeneutical principles. Personal happiness is not a guide to biblical interpretation. The problem with trying to build a biblical, historical, and theological argument is how formidable a task it is. And it’s even more formidable with this issue because it won’t work. The error this letter advances is so profound and universal it amounts to a complete abandonment of all Scripture, 4,000 years of the Judeo-Christian heritage, and 2,000 years of church history – in which, and this is vital – there is not a single voice of dissent over this issue and practice. It is, quite literally, so completely outside the mind, worldview, and spirit of our history, creeds, and bible that it’s a bit astounding.

This letter’s position reminds me of a strange phrase from Jeremiah. Several times God tells the Israelites they’re doing “something that I did not command or mention, it never entered My mind.” That’s an odd thing for an omniscient God to say, but that’s exactly what’s supposed to startle you. What they were doing was so far out there, so removed from who God is and contrary to what He’s said, that it doesn’t compute.

And what happened to “Blessed are those who mourn?” Man of Sorrows was His name, wasn’t it? It wasn’t Man of Flourishing. A hermeneutics of happiness has to perform a lot of mind twisting gymnastics to get around that. I guess it’s popular. Most modern prosperity preachers seem to be amazing gymnasts already.

The most startling thing about Romans 1 is not what it says about sex. It’s how it describes folks who won’t listen to God. In nature God has made it plain who He is. From clouds to sequoias to kids, it’s all obvious. Man’s denial is incoherent. Romans describes intellectual ostriches burying their knowledge of God unreasonably in the ground. Think of it this way. It’s as if they refused to believe in the air. “There is no air,” they say. “We don’t breathe!” You might say that’s just silly and kind of nuts. That’s the point. The inevitable fallout of that nuttiness is moral insanity and rational darkness.

It’s also untenable to say that God has not made His will plain in the Word. Look at the extreme candor and clarity of the scripture about intimacy. The bible is very blunt and clear about sex. Going on to ignore all of that is kind of like saying “Not only am I not liking this air stuff, I’ve had it with gravity too.” The irrational position of this letter is another part of the growing fallout.

Someone might respond and say I’m wrong to lump City Church into Romans 1, that it’s obvious your church still believes in God. Of course they do, and there are many earnest and sincere believers in your community. That’s abundantly clear. That isn’t what I’m claiming. What I’m saying is this – in this particular letter it simply isn’t the God of our ancient writings, our ancient witnesses, and our ancient creeds anymore. This isn’t the God of Romans. And my fear is now this. Where there is a new god, there must always be a new gospel.

I think Keller put it well: a god you create, where you pick and choose what you think is “flourishing,” is just a Stepford god. Like the robot women in the old sci fi B-movie The Stepford Wives, where husbands are quietly getting rid of their wives and replacing them with obedient, pretty, and servile android spouses. It’s just a god who does what pleases you, can never offend you, and in the end can never save you.

There is much more to say and too little time to say it. I’ve probably said too much. Perhaps I’ve overstated my case, but I don’t think so. My advice is simple and comes from 2 Corinthians 6, “Come out from them and be separate, says the Lord.” I’m afraid it’s time to leave. This has happened many different times in our history and division never goes very well for anybody involved. It’s still the right thing to do.

As it’s written, “There must be factions among you, so that those who are approved may become evident among you” ( Corinthians 11:19.).

The worst part is how bad this goes for the name of our precious Savior.

And that’s why I’m so sad.

Christopher Robins

*********

Let me encourage you to consider buying the book Compassion without Compromise. It will help you graciously, humbly and compassionately love those who struggle with same-sex attraction and their family members. There is profoundly good news offered to them in Jesus. Chris' letter affirms this. This book will help us all think well about the issue.

Also, consider pre-ordering the book, What Does the Bible Really Teach about Homosexuality, by Kevin DeYoung. It is scheduled to be released on April 30th, 2015.

*This letter was originally posted on the Aquila Report site. This is where I first read it. I did not want to link to that site for a number of reasons, but I wanted you to read the letter. This is why I asked Chris for another way to put his letter in front of you.

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