Did You Know That I Abandoned Christianity?

Scotty Smith, pastor of Christ Community Church in Franklin, Tennessee, quotes John Calvin regarding the Gospel, the Good News of Jesus Christ:
Without the gospel everything is useless and vain; without the gospel we are not Christians; without the gospel all riches is poverty, all wisdom folly before God; strength is weakness, and all the justice of man is under the condemnation of God. But by the knowledge of the gospel we are made children of God, brothers of Jesus Christ, fellow townsmen with the saints, citizens of the Kingdom of Heaven, heirs of God with Jesus Christ, by whom the poor are made rich, the weak strong, the fools wise, the sinner justified, the desolate comforted, the doubting sure, and slaves free. It is the power of God for the salvation of all those who believe [cf. Rom. 1:16, 17; 1 Cor. 15:1, 2, 3, 4]. . . . (link)
If a person is trusting in Jesus Christ for salvation, by the grace of God through the inward ministry of the Holy Spirit, can such a one be referred to as having "fully abandoned biblical Christianity"? If so, then based upon what criteria, and by whose standards? Lee Shelton, of The Contemporary Calvinist, laments on his blog that I have "fully abandoned biblical Christianity" because I no longer believe that the five passages (some claim seven) which mention homosexuality in some sense refers to homosexuality and homosexual relationships as we know the same today.

But I have not rejected or abandoned biblical Christianity. I still love the Lord the same as I did when I held to the traditional view of condemning homosexuality and homosexual relationships. How is this possible? I still hold to a Christian sexual ethic, reserving sexual relations to those who are married in covenant before God in Christ, considering sex outside this covenant to be sinful. I still hold to the same basic tenets of the Christian faith (e.g., the Trinity, the deity of Christ, including His vicarious death and subsequent resurrection, the need for regeneration, the inspiration of Scripture, the Apostles' Creed, the Nicene Creed, and the Athanasian Creed) and to the saving Gospel of Christ that I did prior to adopting a progressive stance regarding same-sex marriage. More, though, I am trusting Jesus to save me from my sins. What, then, has changed?

All that has changed is the perception of fundamentalists like Lee Shelton and his ilk (think John Hagee, Franklin Graham, Pat Robertson, Steven Anderson, Westboro Baptist cult). Think about Shelton's view of my salvation in Christ: If I hold to the traditional view of homosexuality then I am saved; but if I hold to the progressive view then I am, magically, not saved. My salvation, then, depends not upon grace and faith in Christ but upon my views on homosexuality. That is contrary to the Gospel of God.

He also complains that I used to be "an Arminian on a crusade against all things Calvinist." (I am still an Arminian.) Yet, Lee himself is a Calvinist on his own crusade against all things Arminian, and for all things Calvinistic. He has never been a true Christian brother to me; and I have tried to make peace with him several times. But there can be no peace with religious fundamentalists like Lee who add to the Gospel of Christ.

For, you see, the Gospel does not address me desiring a life-long committed relationship with a guy. But Lee Shelton's Gospel, sadly, restricts "biblical Christianity" and salvation itself to those who adhere to the traditional view of same-gendered relationships. But even at this juncture there remains this problem: several saints of the Old Testament do not fit neatly into Lee's restrictive criteria for relationships or marriage. He defines "biblical" marriage as one man and one woman covenanted before God in Christ for life (or some such words/concepts). Yet saints of old practiced polygamy (Gen 26:34; 28:6–9; Exodus 2:21; Numbers 10:29; 12:1; Deut. 17:17; 1 Samuel 1:1–8; 1 Kings 11:1–3; King David had at least 8 wives: 1 Sam. 18-19; 25; 2 Sam. 3:2-5; 5:13; 11:1-17). So there remain at least some exceptions when defining marriage proper.

Worse, with regard to Lee Shelton, are the implications of his own fundamentalist theological ideology where I and others are concerned. How easy for Lee to render me having "fully abandoned biblical Christianity," because of my embrace of same-sex marriage, in light of his disgust for Arminianism. I doubt his heart was truly aching -- up nights praying for my wretched soul -- over my alleged defection, given his disdain for me over the years, and his revulsion of Arminian theology.

But what about when one of Shelton's own, a Calvinist such as Dr. James V. Brownson of Western Theological [Reformed, i.e., Calvinistic] Seminary, adopts same-sex marriage? Has that Calvinist, too, "fully abandoned biblical Christianity"? Even if Shelton claims so, I hope others understand that Lee's opinions do not create reality, and are not necessarily the thoughts of God. But what view of God, exactly, are we considering?

Lee's view of God decreed, before the world began, that I and Dr. Brownson and a growing number of other believers and biblical scholars would reject the traditional view and embrace the progressive view of homosexual relationships. Mind you, God accomplished this alleged deception, at least from Lee's viewpoint, by causing us to re-read the passages in question and then conclude as we do. God will then, again, according to Lee and other fundamentalists, because of our alleged "full abandonment of biblical Christianity," forsake us (though God promised never to do that, cf. Deut. 31:6; Heb. 13:5) and send us to hell. So much for the doctrine of the perseverance of the saints!


Let me summarize how one can arrive at a progressive understanding of the passages in question that do not support the traditional view. The two authors of Scripture who mention some semblance of same-sex sex-acts, namely Moses and St Paul, never address same-gendered love or emotion or homosexual psychology. Moses mentions honor-shame male gang rape (Gen. 19:1-11; Judges 19:1-30), which maintains no connection whatsoever to homosexuality; or his strange reference to a man who lies with a man "as with" a woman (Lev. 18:22; 20:13). Why the qualification "as with" a woman in lieu of his oft-used phrase referring to sexual intercourse?

Moses changes his sexuality expression regarding "homosexuality": he uses the Hebrew euphemism לְגַלֹּ֣ות עֶרְוָ֑ה, "uncovering the nakedness of" someone, when referring to heterosexual sexual intercourse (cf. Lev. 18:6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19); but he does not use that expression when proscribing some form of homosexual sexual activity at Leviticus 18:22 (cf. Leviticus 20:13). Why? The author does not even use the Hebrew תִתֵּ֥ן (Lev. 18:20), "to have sexual intercourse with," at Leviticus 18:22. Are we not only permitted but required to ask why Moses unquestionably qualified the statement and then changed the sexual expression?

St Paul refers to heterosexual men and women who abandon God and, then, ironically, from my perspective (I am not insisting that Paul perceives, strictly, of orientation or nature, whether homo- or heterosexual), abandon their own heterosexual nature (again, my perspective, not that of Paul), in order to engage in same-sex lust and fornication (sexual activity outside of marriage) (cf. Rom. 1:18-28); he also uses two ambiguous references, μαλακοὶ and ἀρσενοκοῖται (1 Cor. 6:9; 1 Tim. 1:10), two terms that could reference same-sex sex-acts in some manner related to lust, vice, temple prostitution or sexual exploitation. But none of these references commit us to proscribing same-gendered unions or marriage based upon mutual respect and self-sacrificial love.

If so then the homosexual pursuing love should not be badgered as "living in sin," "practicing homosexuality," "normalizing homosexuality" or "glorifying sin." The individual is not "promoting sin," like adultery or greed or drunkenness, nor has he "fully abandoned biblical Christianity." So-called biblical Christianity -- to say nothing of the Gospel -- does not rise or fall upon the issue of same-gendered life-long committed relationships. Those who suggest otherwise might reconsider whether they have added to Christ's Gospel and, by the grace of God, repent. I have not abandoned biblical Christianity; I have abandoned Lee Shelton's supplementary conditions to the saving Gospel of Jesus Christ.


My photo

My name is William Birch and I grew up in the Southern Baptist tradition but converted, if you will, to Anglicanism in 2012. I am gay, affirming, and take very seriously matters of social justice, religion and politics in the church and the state.