From One Heresy to the Next – Gnosticism, Pelagianism, and the New Sexuality Threaten the Church
The church of Jesus Christ has endured a host of theological debates and controversies over the centuries. One need only to look back in time to the debate over Gnosticism, or review the debate surrounding Pelagianism (to name just two) to see the scope of theological discussion the church has underwent.
While these heresies attempt to make a comeback once in a while – Gnosticism resembles new age teaching while Pelagianism and Semi-Pelagianism seem to always be lurking in the shadows of church history – the latest heresy to infiltrate the church is no less destructive.
The heresy of sexuality is causing just as great a disturbance in the church as any other throughout history. Denominations are dividing, churches are splitting, lines are being drawn and some are choosing to sit in silence. This new heresy is no less a doctrinal, theological, and moral issue than Gnosticism and Pelagianism.
Efforts to push a new sexuality complete with a new definition of family and marriage want to make sexuality about personal choice, identity, preference, or any other non-biological factor. The reality remains that gender and sexuality is an inherently biological factor determined at birth by no effort of the individual. For those that don’t believe the Bible this is can be a hard truth to handle. It leads to questions of “why am I attracted to the same-sex if it is wrong, or against nature?” Such questions are valid and not to be taken lightly.
Questions of nature and nurture have been addressed at length elsewhere, so I’m not taking time to address them here.
For those that hold the Bible as the infallible, inerrant Word of God this is an obvious truth that is not hard to grasp. Sure, some younger Christians are having trouble connecting the dots on their theology and sexuality – but that does not signal an outright rejection of biblical truth. If anything, it is pushing them to study and seek wisdom and understanding concerning the theology of sexuality as defined in Scripture.
This new heresy centered around sexuality has proven nonetheless dangerous to the church. Driven by political correctness, societal pressure toward inclusivity, and open hostility to anyone that doesn’t actively and joyfully support and celebrate the new sexuality, the fact that this is a theological and moral issue has been somewhat lost to many. But, as Albert Mohler recently wrote, this issue is “irreducibly and inescapably theological”:
“What makes the current moral and sexual revolution so different from previous moral revolutions is that it is taking place at an utterly unprecedented velocity…As the church responds to this revolution, we must remember that current debates on sexuality present to the church a crisis that is irreducibly and inescapably theological…Advocates of the new sexuality demand a complete rewriting of Scripture’s metanarrative, a complete reordering of theology, and a fundamental change to how we think about the church’s ministry.”
Mohler goes on to talk about what he calls the “concordance reflex” that seems to be the go-to response of many Christians, pastors, and churches. In other words, when there is no specific verse or word in the concordance to be found we assume the Bible is silent and that we need to be just as silent. This “reflex” at times may be appropriate. But it’s not the right response when there is an obvious biblically theological principle to be applied to an issue. The issue of gender and sexuality is a foundationally theological issue that is clearly evident when properly studied. To say that the Bible doesn’t address issues of gender and sexuality just because there is not a verse saying “thou shalt not be a lesbian” is absurd. The clear teaching of Scripture concerning gender and sexuality encompasses all the current cultural and societal questions surrounding those issues (See Rom. 1:26-27; 12:2; 1 Cor. 5-6).
Despite the fact that such clear teaching is present from the Old Testament through the New Testament, and that this issue is foundational to the Gospel message, some still choose to be silent. Others, unfortunately, choose to compromise their theology and advocate what the Bible calls sin.
In decades past the topics to avoid were money and divorce. We just didn’t talk about those things in church because it might offend someone; namely our head Deacon or the “big givers” in our church. So we avoided those topics in order to keep the peace, keep people giving, and keep people in the pews. We became what Jesus never intended His church to be when He said “you can’t serve God and money” (Matt. 6:24; Luke 16:13).
Fast forward a couple of generations and the same practice of topic avoidance is happening in the church today. Only now we avoid topics labeled “political” such as gender and sexuality even though they are clearly biblical, moral, theological issues. It seems those seeking to change the inherent definition of gender and sexuality in humanity know they need to separate people from the teaching of the church. Since that doesn’t appear entirely possible they are now seeking to label the issue as a “civil rights” issue, or a “political” issue rather than a biblical, moral issue.
Not everyone is remaining silent. Some are choosing to boldly speak the truth. In doing so they are being arrested, charged with “crimes against humanity,” and threatened with jail for their speech. Examples such as Pastor Scott Lively and Peter LaBarbera are just two of the many people that refuse to be silent in the face of sin.
Our churches desperately need robust teaching on theological issue. It’s not enough to reference something once in a while. We need dedicated teaching addressing these complex theological issues if we ever hope to equip our congregations to stand boldly for the truth. If pastors aren’t willing to teach biblical truth on complex theological issues we have no reason to expect our churches to be prepared to engage people.