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Tim Keller on Homosexuality

In The Reason for God discussion DVD, in which Tim Keller sits down with six skeptics to ask honest questions about Christianity, one participant asks, “What is the Christian view of homosexuality?”

There are three things that Christians say that I think have to do with homosexuality:

First of all, the Good Samaritan parable and the very model of Jesus dying for people who opposed him means that all Christians are duty-bound to love and serve their neighbors, regardless of their beliefs, regardless of them being people of other faiths [or] other views of sexuality. We are supposed to make this city a great place for everybody to live in regardless of their beliefs. That’s important. In other words we have to love people regardless of where they are on that spectrum of belief.

Secondly, the gospel of Christianity, which is that you’re saved not by good doctrine, not by good works, but by sheer, unmerited grace, pulls out the self-righteousness and superiority that tends to go along with religious belief, which has actually made a lot of gay people suffer. A lot of people have suffered out of that kind of [self-righteous] attitude, which the gospel takes away from us. And that is good, for a lot of gay people.

Thirdly, when the Bible tells us something about how we should live, like sex, money, power, it always does it like this: it says, God created us, and therefore God in his Word in the Bible is giving you directions for how you should live according to your own design. It’s not busywork. It’s like when the owner’s manual comes to a car and says something like, “Change the oil every so many thousand miles,” it’s not busywork, it’s saying that’s how the car was designed, [and] if you violate that you will actually hurt the car. So the Bible does say sex is for a man and a woman inside marriage to nurture love and commitment in a long term permanent relationship of marriage. Which means polygamy, it means sex outside of marriage, it means homosexuality are considered violations of God’s will, but also violations of our own design. So the Bible’s actually saying you’re missing out if you do those things. So the Christian view of homosexuality is you’re going against your own design and you’re actually missing out on God’s best for you.

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About davestuartjr
Dave Stuart Jr. is a full-time teacher who writes about becoming better, saner teachers at TeachingtheCore.com. He is a follower of Jesus Christ, a husband to Crystal, and a father to Hadassah, Laura, and Marlena.

10 Responses to Tim Keller on Homosexuality

  1. ellector1 says:

    I love this response from Keller. My problem is, I have kids and this leaves me in a difficult place. For example, a homosexual couple starts attending our church. We are to love them as anyone else. To love them means we have to challenge them about their sin, as we would challenge say, a couple living in an adulterous relationship. We challenge them not only for their sake, but for the sake of the community. After all, I don’t want my daughter to think it’s okay for people to get married and then because they aren’t happy, start messing around with other married people and sit at church with said married person on Sunday. So as a dad, I can talk to my child about the gay couple; how we should love them and part of that love is to pray for them and challenge them to live within their “design”. But if they (the couple) aren’t being honest, and other people in our church aren’t challenging them scripturally with grace, what happens? Does this not lend to an air of permissiveness, especially when the rest of the culture is saying it’s okay? What kind of confusion does this create for children and younger people in the faith? That’s my question… how do we love and challenge in a healthy way for the benefit of everyone in the community?

    Thanks for posting this.

    • davestuartjr says:

      This is an excellent point. I do think that we need to gently and lovingly rebuke anyone in our churches who is indulging in sin and showing no sign of seeking to repent of it: the co-habitating non-married couple, the gay couple, the gossiper, the money-lover, the arrogant, etc. In Homosexuality: Speaking the Truth in Love (an awesome booklet that I reviewed here), Edward Welch concisely and aptly addresses some of the issues that you bring up about handling the sin of homosexuality in church.

  2. Art says:

    In my search for Timothy Keller’s position on homosexuality, I found it on your blog.

    As a gay man with no problem in that, I’d like to say that TK’s analogy to cars and the manuals they come with falls flat. Reason: There isn’t just one kind of car, there are many, many different kinds of cars. And there’s not One Manual which covers all those cars; each one comes with its own.

    My “manual” says I can only be happy in a loving relationship with another guy. It further says, don’t push yourself to have that relationship with a woman–and above all, don’t push yourself to be celibate. Because you weren’t designed that way, and in one way or another, you’ll fall apart.

    Of course, my point is meaningless if you believe the Bible is “the inerrant Word of God.” I find that impossible to believe, both because of ongoing scientific discoveries and ongoing Biblical scholarship showing that, indeed, there have been many different versions of the Bible because many different people have had a hand in it.

    (Yes, you could say that the version we have now is “God’s will”–but I find that just as hard to believe.)

    Anyway, I urge you not to swallow glib analogies such as TK’s whole, without first examining them critically on their own terms.

    • Mark says:

      Art,

      First of all, thank you for posting. While I disagree with, you I pray that it would come across loving, not harsh or hostile.

      I see where you’re going with the breakdown of Keller’s manual reference. The thing is, I think it still holds water. In your analysis of it, you (the car, if you will) are determining how you were designed and what you need. In reality, the car doesn’t determined how its serviced. The manufacturer (creator) does.

      The car can’t come back after it was produced and say, well, I determined that my need for oil is less of that or any other car, because thats just the way I feel I am.

      I trust that if you are a Christian, you are working through your convictions about homosexuality. That of course is much harder if you aren’t willing to accept the wealth of scholarship supporting inerrancy. (“Jesus and the Eyewitnesses” would be worth checking out).

      My hope would be that you would consider your bias. You have attractions to your same sex, which means that if the Bible conflicts with the way you feel, you’re going to have to accept only arguments against inerrancy if you aren’t going to radically change your life. Keller is in no such position. I don’t think heterosexuals are on a quest to squash the passions of lovers who don’t do it on their terms. I do think that as Christians, they have a vested interest in promoting the singular worship of their God with other Christians (assuming you are) or teaching others who don’t know Jesus to love Him (prior to rebuking any other worship issue such as homosexuality).

      Just for reference, the worship issue comments are based out of Paul’s contention in Romans 1.

      • Art says:

        Hi Mark,

        Thanks for the comment.

        Yes, the “inerrancy” issue makes it impossible for two people to have a progressive conversation. One person explores his own thoughts (through the mental and spiritual capabilities I believe God gave us) and the other responds, “The Bible says . . .” Thus, an impasse.

        As we all know, when a story is passed down from one person to another, the details tend to change according to the teller’s own slant. And there have been many tellers of what’s now in the Bible. Again, if you believe God was “working” through these people to give us what we have now in the Bible, there’s nothing I can say. But I simply don’t believe that.

        Returning to the auto manual analogy, first, I don’t believe the “car” is telling the manufacturer what’s best for the car, against the manufacturer’s design. I believe the car is *discovering* how it was designed as it lives–and becoming ever more true to what the manufacturer intended for it.

        The proof is if the “car” is running more smoothly and–lovingly. The media shows us lots of gays whose lives don’t seem very smooth or loving. (As the media also shows with lots of straights.)

        But that’s not the whole story about being gay (or straight). I happen to run much more smoothly, healthily and lovingly by honoring the orientation God gave me. The authentic love I feel for another man (including, but not limited to the sexual) enhances every good thing about me. Thus, I have no doubt that–rather than my telling my manufactuerer what *I* want despite how he designed me to be–I’m living exactly *as* I was designed to be.

        For those needing the security of “absolute inerrancy” and “one size fits all,” despite the fact that God is a Creator, not a photocopy machine, I can see where Christian dogma is very soothing. But for those who want to live the live the Creator gave them, without knowing “for certain” everything about life, I’ll take my faith in my Creator any day over script-reading.

        Wishing you the best on your own path,
        Art

      • Mark says:

        Yeah. I see where you’re coming from and thank you for your respectful response. (We need that more in our public discourse more than anything)

        Yeah…if we think the car can discover itself outside the manufacturer, the analogy is screwed. haha

        I think the Bible demonstrates to us that we are clearly distorted as a result of sin. While I trust that you can have a loving, enhancing relationship with another of the same sex, I’d be concerned about either saying that one can enhance his own design from a perfect creator or reinterpret it better.

        I think the importance of inerrancy IS the authority. It isn’t intended to be used as a weapon against you, but a solid reference that we can all look to. Without that, it is just up to everyone’s interpretation of what they think they are hearing. This is why I’m so concerned that so many students are graduating seminary with such a limited understanding of Greek and Hebrew. They need to be able to go as closely back to the original, authentic text as possible and exposit it authoritatively.

        I think we need to read Romans 8:1 more often, namely that “there is no condemnation for us in Christ”. When we recognize this, we see that the only purpose for Biblical law (instruction) is to help guide us. God is like a good father that wants what is best for His children, so he gives them restriction and instruction to help guide them in that way, but also offers a path without condemnation. The gospel is beautiful. Is it not?

        Likewise wishing you the best,
        Mark

      • Art says:

        Thanks, Mark. Yes, we’re at that impasse again. We just have to accept it with goodwill all around.

        Anyway, I’ll leave you with my favorite Jesus saying. Only it’s not from the fixed “canon.” This one’s from the Gospel of Thomas–one of the Gnostic Gospels that Irenaeus did his best to see destroyed. Glad he didn’t succeed!

        “Jesus said, if you bring forth what is within you, what you bring forth will save you. If you do not bring forth what is within you, what you do not bring forth will destroy you.” (Verse 70)

        Best,
        Art

      • Mark says:

        I’ve appreciated the conversation and pray that we’ll see each other in Heaven someday where Jesus can set us both straight.

        Respectfully,
        Mark

  3. davestuartjr says:

    I praise God for the civility you men have shown in this conversation.

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