Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Gay-marriage: The Church’s Response to Married Gay Christians

 LIBERTY UNIVERSITY BAPTIST THEOLOGICAL SEMINARY
Gay-marriage: The Church’s Response to Married Gay Christians
Submitted to Dr. Christopher Moody, in partial fulfillment
of the requirements for the completion of the course
THEO 530 B01
Systematic Theology II
by
Ray Ruppert
October 9, 2015
Table of Contents
Introduction ..................................................................................................................................... 1
Defining Marriage .......................................................................................................................... 2
Christian Definition .............................................................................................................. 2
Gay Definition ...................................................................................................................... 3
Evaluation ............................................................................................................................. 4
Moral Status of Homosexuality ...................................................................................................... 5
Conservative Christian Stance .............................................................................................. 6
Gay Stance ............................................................................................................................ 8
Justification for Welcoming Homosexuals into the Church ........................................................ 9
Concerns ............................................................................................................................... 9
Redefining the Sin ................................................................................................................ 10
Evaluation ............................................................................................................................. 12
Church Discipline ........................................................................................................................... 13
Conclusion ....................................................................................................................................... 15
Bibliography..................................................................................................................................... 16


Introduction

     The issue of same-sex marriage is a big concern for the church. Christian parents are discovering that their children are gay.[1] Young people have gay friends and they do not view the church as a safe place.[2] There is division among individual Christians, denominations, and within denominations over the acceptance of homosexuals into the church.[3] Recent high court decisions in the United States and other countries, which enforce the right for homosexuals to marry, underscore the need for the church to determine if it should accept legally married people of the same sex. This paper cannot adequately discuss all of the various arguments for or against homosexuality and gay-marriages. However, it will provide biblical and gay definitions of marriage with a brief evaluation as well as the biblical and gay positions regarding homosexuality. Some justify accepting married Christian homosexuals into the church in the same way the church accepted Gentiles[4] or remarried divorced couples[5] by redefining homosexuality as sinless, and contending sexual fulfillment is a basic human need. This paper will argue that a gay-marriage is a proclamation of a continued intentional sinful lifestyle and churches should exercise church discipline with any professing Christian gay-married couples in the church for their own eternal good.
     This paper will use the terms gay and homosexual interchangeably to refer to homosexuals (male) and lesbians (females) and their sexual activity regardless of transgender modifications. Gay marriage and same-sex marriage are interchangeable, meaning the legal union of two people of the same sex.

Defining Marriage

     A clear definition of marriage from both Christian and homosexual viewpoints is required to understand their differences as well as similarities. Christians usually approach the subject from a biblical viewpoint and add other societal concerns to the argument. Proponents of same-sex-marriage often reverse the two emphasizing societal and even biological concerns first. These definitions will only examine the biblical arguments.

Christian Definition

     The Bible is the authoritative source of the Christian definition of marriage. The Christian definition starts with Genesis 1:27–28, 2:18, and 23–24, showing that God inaugurated human sexual relationships between a man and a woman.[6] Second, God created them in his image and instructed them to procreate. Before the fall, God’s image was undefiled in them implying that this is the normal sexual relationship for humanity.[7] God started the human race with two people of opposite sex. He did not make provision for sexual relationships of the same sex as this would not enable filling the earth (Gen 1:28). Third, Genesis 2:23-24 adds the concept that marriage is a covenant relationship between a man and a woman; a relationship that Jesus endorsed and clarified in Matthew 19:4-6.[8] The fourth aspect of marriage addresses companionship using Genesis 2:22-25[9] and the fifth is that marriage provides for purity in sexual relationships (1 Cor 7:8-9 and Heb 13:4).[10] Sixth is that the enjoyment of sex (1 Cor 7:3-5: Heb 13:4) is approved by God only within marriage.[11]
     In summary, there are five points defining marriage for Christians. (1) It is between one man and one woman. (2) Marriage is God’s design for procreation. (3) Marriage is a covenant relationship ordained by God. (4) Marriage fulfills the human need for companionship. (5) Sex within marriage is pure. (6) Marriage is God’s provision for sexual enjoyment.

Gay Definition

     The gay community does not define marriage in the same sense that Christians do. Rather than propose a definition with clearly defined points they simply claim that same-sex marriage does not change the definition of marriage. However, the Freedom to Marry website offers a very brief definition, “What defines a marriage is love and commitment, and the ability to protect your family.”[12] In arguing for the rights to marry, fairness is a common issue. Usually, the argument has a legal basis supporting the claim that homosexuals have the same inalienable rights as straights and that should include marriage.[13] Liberal biblical scholars often focus on the issues of justice and love when they argue for accepting same-sex marriage.[14] The details of these arguments for gay-marriage must include an argument affirming that homosexuality is not sinful, as discussed below. If the contention that same-sex marriage is the same as marriage defined by Christians, then their definition must include the same points as a Christian marriage.

Evaluation

     The very first point of marriage is that it is between people of the opposite sex. Notwithstanding the various polygamous relations in the Bible, the Old and New Testaments affirm one man and one woman as the standard for marriage.[15] Same-sex marriage fails on the first point.
     Same-sex marriage fails on the second point as well. Other than human cloning, there is no biological way that a same-sex marriage can procreate. While same-sex marriages may have children by artificial insemination, surrogate mothers, or adoption, the reality is that, a third person of the opposite sex must be included in the equation. Robert Myrant succinctly states, “The introduction of a third person, even though he is ‘represented’ only by his sperm, breaks the one bond between a husband and his wife.”[16] Arguments claiming procreation is not a valid point because some heterosexual couples either choose not to have children or are incapable is a straw man argument. The point is that no same-sex couple can ever procreate.
     Same-sex marriage may certainly be a covenant between two people. However, the part that is missing is God’s blessing of the covenant. If God established marriage in the Garden of Eden (Gen 1:28, 2:24; Matt 19:6) only with a man and woman, then believing that God blesses a same-sex marriage is a huge error in interpretation.[17] Again, same-sex marriage fails to be the same as Christian marriage.
     The fourth point of marriage, fulfilling the need for human companionship is a huge issue for granting same-sex marriage. The argument is that homosexuals seek the same levels of love and trust as heterosexuals.[18] This is the only point that does not differ from heterosexual marriage.
     To define same-sex marriage the same as Christian marriage it must also agree that sex within marriage is pure and it is where God intended sexual enjoyment to occur. So far, these discussions have not addressed the issue of whether or not God made provision for homosexual sex. The discussion regarding the sinfulness of and God’s disapproval of homosexuality is the focus of the next section, which will show that same-sex marriage cannot be called pure or God’s provision for sexual enjoyment because their homosexual activity is by definition sinful.[19]
     Out of six points in the Christian definition of marriage, only one is applicable to same-sex marriage. To accommodate the same-sex marriage definition requires a marginalization of the concept of marriage[20] and becomes only a civil covenant based on providing companionship and legal rights to the participants.

Moral Status of Homosexuality

     The status of homosexuality, legally and morally, is a major factor when deciding whether same-sex marriage is acceptable. History shows that long before same-sex marriage became an issue, homosexual supporters sought to decriminalize and then normalize homosexuality. Homosexuality is not any different than it was fifty years ago but public perception of it is different.[21] Christians need to reexamine the biblical basis against homosexuality before they can make an informed decision about accepting gay-marriages within their congregations. Both homosexuals and Christians argue that Scripture supports their position but gay supporters use some inventive arguments; Christians must evaluate them from the Bible and stand on their conviction.[22] This section will cover several passages used by both Christians and homosexual supporters in different ways.

Conservative Christian Stance

     Genesis 19:1-11 describes the attempted gang rape of two angels who visited Lot in Sodom. A clear exegesis of the passage reveals that the citizens, young and old, who wanted to know the visitors, intended to know them in a sexual way. Otherwise, Lot would not have called their intention wicked (Gen 19:7). He would not have offered his daughters instead (Gen 19:8).[23] The Lord came to see if Sodom and Gomorrah’s sin was indeed grave (Gen 18:20). The attempted action against the angels demonstrates that homosexuality was at least one of their grave sins.
     Leviticus 18:22 is a clear command not to lie with a male in the same way as with a woman. There should be no confusion about this verse. God calls it an abomination. Leviticus 20:13 repeats the command. The context of both verses is among many other verses regulating sexuality. While the pagan nations may have included some of them in idolatry, it is doubtful all of them were. The overriding issue is that God condemned them all.[24] John MacArthur makes it clear; rather than associating the verses with pagan idolatry, they demonstrate that homosexuality is “morally equal to sins such as adultery, incest, and bestiality.”[25] These verses make no inference that condemnation applies only as a part of cult worship. The conclusion should be that these sexual sins apply universally, whether in cult worship or not.  
     Romans 1:18-28 is a clear statement that God views homosexuality as dishonorable and contrary to nature as he created it. These unnatural desires are actually God’s judgment on people who are in rebellion against him.[26] It is unfathomable that God would pronounce homosexuality as a judgment against people who are rebelling against him and on the other hand, pronouncement it as a blessing for those who want to honor God yet believe their homosexuality is natural. Romans 1:18-23 clearly show that any attempt to suppress the truth results in sin. In addition, verse 20 says they are without excuse because nature convicts them of God’s nature, which includes his holiness. The previous Old Testament verses clearly state that homosexuality is an abomination to God and this means that people who think otherwise are rebelling against him and make idols of their own thinking. In the case of homosexuality, they have made it an idol replacing God’s clear instructions.
     1 Corinthians 6:9-10 clearly relates unrighteous people with those who practice three very specific sins involving sexual immorality. They include homosexuality with other sins that Christians often see as lesser. However, the outcome of all these sinful lives is the same, exclusion from the kingdom of God.[27]

Gay Stance

     Gays argue that in Genesis 19:1-11, the Sodomites did not want sexual relations with the two angels but they wanted to become acquainted with the visitors. They support this from other uses of the same Hebrew word for know.[28] This implies that homosexuality was not the reason for the destruction of Sodom. This understanding requires one to ignore the context of the verses.
     Gays completely dismiss Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13, which prohibits laying with a male the same as a woman, because they believe the verses relate to cult prostitution. The reason that it is an abomination to God is not that it is inherently wrong but because of its connection to idol worship. They say that scholars on both sides of the debate agree with this interpretation.[29]
     Gays redefine the word, natural, in Romans 1:24-28 to achieve their biblical approval of homosexuality. Verses 26 and 27 describe God giving up men and women to dishonorable passions and thereby having unnatural relations. Since gays and lesbians believe their passions for the same sex are natural because of their unchangeable sexual orientation, these verses do not apply to them. However if they perverted their natural orientation toward homosexual relations and instead have heterosexual relations then their action would fall under the condemnation of these verses.[30]
     Homosexual supporters also argue that Paul was not describing Christians who are homosexuals. Paul clearly states that those given over to these degrading passions are those who have rejected God. Rather, since these Christian homosexuals love God, he would never give them over to unnatural lusts. Therefore, these verses only apply to non-Christians.[31] They do not explain why it would be a sin for one group but not another.
     In 1 Corinthians 6:9-10, gays interpret the word for homosexual as self indulgent and believe that homosexuals (NASU) refers to homosexual prostitution.[32] In addition, Paul encourages Timothy to moderately use wine (1 Tim 5:23). Paul’s encouragement to eat and drink to the glory of God (1 Cor 10:31) is not license for over indulgence. Since gluttony and drunkenness are condemned but allowed in moderation, the same should apply to their definition of homosexuality. Therefore, gay supporters argue that Corinthians should not be a proof text against homosexuality.[33]
     The next section will evaluate the gay understanding of these verses along with other justifications for allowing homosexuals into the church.

Justification for Welcoming Homosexuals into the Church

Concerns

     In addition to the concerns for people finding the need to deal with friends and relatives that are gay, Jenell Paris claims that labeling homosexuality as wrong and heterosexuality as right “puts same-sex-attracted believers in an impossible situation.”[34] They face a choice between leaving the church to live out their choice, attempt to become heterosexual, or be celibate and perceived as second-class citizens.[35] The concept that sexual fulfillment is a God initiated need in the same sense as a need for food is one foundation for accepting gay-marriages. While the Bible establishes sexual relationships as natural, it is always in the relationship of marriage. It does not establish sex as a need; otherwise, it would not specify singleness and abstinence in a positive light (1 Cor 7:8) or prohibit premarital sex.[36] 
     Another concern is whether the church should single out homosexuality as the worst sin. If the church does not treat adultery and co-habitation with the same seriousness, then it is possible that the church’s response to homosexuality is a sinful response. This hypocrisy is visible and may turn some away from God’s grace.[37] James Beck challenges the church, “The Church needs now more than ever a balanced approach, one that expresses the compassion of Christ for sinners as well as one that speaks the truth about homosexual behavior.”[38] What one person calls balanced another may call vindictive. As has already been seen, some deny that homosexuality is a sin. The church must have a biblical response.

Redefining the Sin

     Sylvia Keesmaat provides one justification of welcoming homosexuals into the church. She evaluated the way the early church welcomed Gentiles into the church and applied it as a model for excusing homosexuality among professing Christians. Keesmaat believes, “We need to discern what such faithful living looks like here and now, in new cultural situations, and in the light of new workings of the Spirit.”[39]
     Keesmaat brings several principles to bear on understanding the authority of the Bible as whole. She refers to Exodus 32 – 34 and Hosea 11 as example of forgiveness rather than judgment or destruction.[40] The implication of this is that rather than punishing homosexuals, the church should find ways to forgive and take care of the hurts inflicted on them within the church.
     In Acts 15, the Jewish leaders in the church were concerned that the immoral and profane reputation of Gentiles would harm the church. They believed that the only way to guarantee leaving their idolatry behind was circumcision and committing to the Torah (Acts 15:5).[41] After listening to Peter’s defense, James pronounced the final answer and Keesmaat states, “The citation: ‘The words of the prophets agree with this’ [Acts 15:15], not ‘this agrees with the prophets.’ Scripture is seen to agree with the contemporary working of the Spirit, not the other way around.”[42] The premise of welcoming homosexuals into the church is simply that the church must look at the working of the Holy Spirit in the lives of Christian homosexuals and read Scripture to accept homosexuality instead of prohibiting it.[43]
     While Keesmaat offers insight into an overall view of God’s judgment and forgiveness, she does what is unthinkable from a biblical viewpoint. She alters the meaning of Scripture to fit the circumstances. She declares right wrong (Isa 5:20) based on human observation of the fruit of the Spirit (Gal 5:22-23) in the lives of homosexuals.[44] However, she ignores the fruit of self-control and the description of works of the flesh in Galatians 5:19 that includes sexual immorality. She therefore also sides with others who claim that the sexual immorality prohibited by the Jerusalem council only applied to sex in conjunction with idolatry.[45]
     Keesmaat is not alone in this view. Lewis Smedes’ conclusion comes from a different angle. In the 1940s, His denomination, Christian Reformed, considered people who married a new spouse after divorce as adulterers based on Mark 10:11. The church excluded them unless they broke up their illegitimate marriage. He asks, “Could Jesus have actually meant the church to cast away people who were committed to him, on grounds that they were committed to each other too?” In the 1950s, the denomination reversed its stand and accepted these people in the church. He applies the same principles to welcoming committed homosexual couples.[46]
     Smedes bases his theology on two points. The first is that God established humans with a need for a marriage-like relationship with another person. He believes homosexuals can only have this fulfillment in a homosexual marriage because it is the only way available for them.[47]
     His second point is that Romans 1:18-27 is not about committed Christian homosexuals in a marriage-like relationship. Rather, it only applies to people who have rejected God. He believes Christian homosexuals have not given up heterosexual passions for homosexual lusts because they have never been heterosexual. In addition, Smedes argues that homosexuality in a marriage-like relationship is true to their nature so it is unfair to require a person with homosexual persuasions to be celibate.[48]

Evaluation

     It is impossible to interpret the Scriptures cited by homosexuals to condone their activity without appealing to questionable hermeneutics and logic. The clear understanding of the contested verses demonstrates the sinfulness of homosexuality. Applying the fuzzy logic condoning homosexuality from 1 Cor 6:9-10 would mean that moderate adultery, stealing, and swindling should also be acceptable in the church. However, this does not nullify the fact that many homosexuals claim to know and love Jesus strongly claiming as does Mel White, “We can be gay and Christian.”[49] They believe that God would not turn Christians over to unnatural lusts, which has implications regarding how the church must deal with Christians who are practicing homosexuals and wish to be married in the church. It is apparent that the way conservative Christians define marriage prohibits classification of a union between two homosexuals as a marriage. Even if most arguments against same-sex marriage were a failure, the issue is that a same-sex marriage involves homosexuality, which is an abomination to God. The concerns of well-meaning Christians for the spiritual welfare of homosexuals are not biblical reasons to let the church redefine homosexuality and gay-marriage as sinless. What then, should the church do with professing Christians who are avowed homosexuals and want to marry?

Church Discipline

     So far, it has been demonstrated that homosexuality is a sin (Gen 18:20, 19:7), an abomination to God (Lev 18:22, 20:13), not natural (Rom 1:26-27), and reason for exclusion from the kingdom of God (1 Cor 6:9-10). When two homosexuals unite in what they call marriage, all they accomplish is an agreement establishing monogamous companionship between them. It has none of the other characteristics of a Christian marriage. More than anything else, it is a declaration to the world that they will engage in homosexuality and even those supporting gay-marriage understand the church’s position as stated by Piers Benn, “If gay sex per se is bad enough, a solemnly declared intention to carry on with it in a particular relationship is, in an important way, worse.”[50]
     Church discipline is the only consistent way to deal with the issue of practicing homosexual Christians in or out of a marriage relationship. Having declared their intention to continue in sin requires a response from the church. Several points need clarification regarding church discipline in order to avoid the implications of gay bashing or singling out homosexuality as a sin worse than other sins. These points also demonstrate that church discipline is a better response than redefining homosexuality as natural and not sinful.  
     1. Church discipline is only for Christians who do not repent of their sin. 1 Corinthians 5:1-2 applies to a person who was among the believers. Paul clarified that this did not apply to those outside the church (1 Cor 5:12).[51] Dealing with those outside the church is another subject.
     2. Church discipline provides instruction (2 Tim 3:16-4:2). Since God inspired the Bible, those who would desire to redefine sin cannot alter it.[52] Church discipline reinforces this truth to the entire congregation.[53] It is an opportunity to teach that homosexuality is wrong.
     3. Church discipline reinforces accountability to live godly lives as obedient members of the church (Rom 16:17-20).[54] Christians who live immoral lives weaken the church. If the church does not discipline those who want homosexual relations even in what they call marriage, it condones their actions and encourages others to continue in the same sin. In Deuteronomy, multiple passages command purging the evil from Israel and Deuteronomy 17:13 provides the added reason as a deterrent to sin.
     4. Church discipline also provides for reconciliation and restoration to the church as described in Matthew 18:15-20 and 2 Corinthians 2:5-11. It is not to be done out of hatred but genuine concern for the spiritual wellbeing of the transgressor (Lev 19:17).[55]
     Genuine concern and love for a person caught in sin, whether it is homosexuality or other sins, must realize that allowing people to continue in unrepentant sin has worse eternal consequences than relieving their temporal perceived needs. If they call themselves Christians and do not recognize their sin, they may not have eternal life (2 Cor 13:5). If they are truly Christians and do not repent, they may be forfeiting eternal rewards (2 Cor 5:10). It is much better to discipline them and pray for their repentance than to allow them to believe they are in right standing with God. [56]

Conclusion

     It is abundantly clear that the definition of marriage for Christians and homosexuals is vastly different. While they both recognize the element of companionship, gay-marriage cannot fulfill other points of the definition, between one man and one woman, designed for procreation, a covenant ordained by God, purity of sex, and God’s provision for sexual enjoyment. While both supporters and opponents of gay-marriage use Scripture to maintain their positions, gay supporters must rely on inventive methods of hermeneutics to conclude that homosexuality is not a sin. In addition they must take an unbiblical position that sexual fulfillment is necessary for a person to live a normal Christian life. This last issue is a foundational point in insisting on allowing gays to marry. Same-sex marriage is therefore a blatant declaration of two people’s intent on having a sinful lifestyle. The church has the responsibility to tell the truth and discipline those within the church who practice homosexuality whether in a marriage or not. Disciplining provides opportunity to teach the congregation as well as provide restoration for the unrepentant. Not disciplining members hurts the church and does not show genuine love because it does not seek the best for the sinners, their eternal good.

Bibliography

Beck, James R. “Evangelicals, Homosexuality, and Social Science.” Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 40, no. 1 (March 1997): 83-97. Accessed September 2, 2015. http://www.galaxie.com.ezproxy.liberty.edu:2048/article/jets40-1-07.
Bailey, Derrick Sherwin. Homosexuality and the Western Christian Tradition. N.p.: Archon Books, 1955. Accessed September 30, 2015. https://books.google.com/books?id=YjqGAAAAIAAJ. Google Books.
Benn, Piers. “The Gay Marriage Debate - Afterthoughts.” Think 13, no. 36 (Spring 2014): 23-31. Accessed August 25, 2015. http://search.proquest.com/docview/1468687394?accountid=12085.
Blair, Ralph. An Evangelical Look at Homosexuality. Chicago: Moody, 1963. Quoted in Gary R. Gromacki, “Why Be Concerned About Same-Sex Marriage.” Journal of Ministry and Theology 9, no. 2 (Fall 2005): 63-95. Accessed August 25, 2015. http://www.galaxie.com.ezproxy.liberty.edu:2048/article/jmat09-2-03.
Burk, Denny. “How Do We Speak About Homosexuality?” Journal for Biblical Manhood and Womanhood 17, no. 1 (Spring 2012): 31-36. Accessed September 2, 2015. http://www.galaxie.com.ezproxy.liberty.edu:2048/article/jbmw17-1-06.
Emadi, Samuel. “A Review of Justin Lee, ‘Torn: Rescuing the Gospel from Gays-vs.-Christians Debate.’” Journal for Biblical Manhood and Womanhood 18, no. 2 (Fall 2013): 38-39. Accessed September 2, 2015. http://www.galaxie.com.ezproxy.liberty.edu:2048/article/jbmw18-2-11.
Freedom to Marry. “Marriage 101 | Freedom to Marry.” Accessed September 28, 2015. http://www.freedomtomarry.org/pages/marriage-101.
Gromacki, Gary R. “Why Be Concerned About Same-Sex Marriage.” Journal of Ministry and Theology 9, no. 2 (Fall 2005): 63-95. Accessed August 25, 2015. http://www.galaxie.com.ezproxy.liberty.edu:2048/article/jmat09-2-03.
Keesmaat, Sylvia C. “Welcoming in the Gentiles A Biblical Model for Decision Making.” In Living Together in the Church: Including Our Differences. Edited by Greig Dunn and Chris Ambidge. Toronto: Anglican Book Centre, 2004. Accessed September 4, 2015. http://ir.icscanada.edu/icsir/handle/10756/296292.
Kitchens, Ted G. “Perimeters of Corrective Church Discipline.” Bibliotheca Sacra 148, no. 490 (April 1991): 201-13. Accessed September 24, 2015. http://www.galaxie.com.ezproxy.liberty.edu:2048/article/bsac148-590-05.
Lee, Justin. Torn: Rescuing the Gospel from the Gays-vs.-Christians Debate. Reprint ed. New York: Jericho Books, 2012.
Lenow, Evan. “The Challenge of Homosexuality for Gender Roles.” Journal for Biblical Manhood and Womanhood 17, no. 2 (Fall 2012): 28-34. Accessed August 25, 2015. http://www.galaxie.com.ezproxy.liberty.edu:2048/article/jbmw17-2-05.
MacArthur, John. “God’s Word On Homosexuality: The Truth About Sin and the Reality of Forgiveness.” The Master's Seminary Journal 19, no. 2 (Fall 2008): 153-74. Accessed September 30, 2015. http://www.tms.edu/m/tmsj19f.pdf.
McGinniss, Mark. “The Church’s Response to the Homosexual.” Journal of Ministry and Theology14, no. 2 (Fall 2010): 129-63. Accessed August 25, 2015. http://www.galaxie.com.ezproxy.liberty.edu:2048/article/jmat14-2-05.
Myrant, Robert. “Biblical Ethics, Biotechnology, and Human Cloning.” Journal of Ministry and Theology 3, no. 2 (Fall 1999): 50-61. Accessed September 2, 2015. http://www.galaxie.com.ezproxy.liberty.edu:2048/article/jmat03-2-04.
Paris, Jenell Williams. The End of Sexual Identity: Why Sex Is Too Important to Define Who We Are. Downers Grove, IL: IVP Books, 2011.
Payne, Tony. “Gay Spin City.” Journal for Biblical Manhood and Womanhood 5, no. 2 (Fall 2000): 1,18-19. Accessed September 2, 2015. http://www.galaxie.com.ezproxy.liberty.edu:2048/article/jbmw05-2-02.
Peppler, Christopher L. “Same-Sex Marriage: A Current South African Christian Perspective.”Conspectus 2, no. 1 (September 2006): 40-56. Accessed August 25, 2015. http://www.galaxie.com.ezproxy.liberty.edu:2048/article/conspectus02-1-03.
Peterson, Roger L. “Discipline in the Local Church.” Central Bible Quarterly 2, no. 3 (Fall 1959): 1-28. Accessed September 24, 2015. http://www.galaxie.com.ezproxy.liberty.edu:2048/article/cenq02-3-01.
Sider, Ron. “Bearing Better Witness.” First Things: A Monthly Journal of Religion and Public Life no. 208 (December 2010): 47-50. Accessed August 25, 2015. http://search.proquest.com/docview/811348623?accountid=12085.
Smedes, Lewis B. “Like the Wideness of the Sea? - Perspectives Journal.” Perspectives A Journal of Reformed Thought. May 1999, Repost September 1, 2014. Accessed September 4, 2015. http://perspectivesjournal.org/blog/2014/10/01/like-the-wideness-of-the-sea.
Stewart, Jenise T. “The Biblical Theology Regarding Homosexuality.” Faith and Mission 20, no. 3 (Summer 2003): 14-21. Accessed September 2, 2015. http://www.galaxie.com.ezproxy.liberty.edu:2048/article/fm20-3-02.
White, Mel. Stranger at the Gate: to Be Gay and Christian in America. New York: Plume, 1995.




[1] Justin Lee, Torn: Rescuing the Gospel from the Gays-vs.-Christians Debate, Reprint ed. (New York: Jericho Books, 2012), 5.
[2] Ibid., 7.
[3] Jenell Williams Paris, The End of Sexual Identity: Why Sex Is Too Important to Define Who We Are, (Downers Grove: IVP Books, 2011), 85-86.
[4] Sylvia C. Keesmaat, “Welcoming in the Gentiles A Biblical Model for Decision Making,” in Living Together in the Church: Including Our Differences, ed. Greig Dunn and Chris Ambidge,  (Toronto: Anglican Book Centre, 2004), 31-48, accessed September 4, 2015, http://ir.icscanada.edu/icsir/handle/10756/296292.
[5] Lewis B. Smedes, “Like the Wideness of the Sea? - Perspectives Journal,” Perspectives A Journal of Reformed Thought, May 1999, repost September 1, 2014, accessed September 4, 2015, http://perspectivesjournal.org/blog/2014/10/01/like-the-wideness-of-the-sea.
[6] Jenise T. Stewart, “The Biblical Theology Regarding Homosexuality,” Faith and Mission 20, no. 3 (Summer 2003): 14-21, accessed September 2, 2015, http://www.galaxie.com.ezproxy.liberty.edu:2048/article/fm20-3-02, 19-20.
[7] Denny Burk, “How Do We Speak About Homosexuality?,” Journal for Biblical Manhood and Womanhood 17, no. 1 (Spring 2012): 31-36, accessed September 2, 2015, http://www.galaxie.com.ezproxy.liberty.edu:2048/article/jbmw17-1-06, 34.
[8] Christopher L. Peppler, “Same-Sex Marriage: A Current South African Christian Perspective,” Conspectus 2, no. 1 (September 2006): 45, accessed August 28, 2015, http://www.galaxie.com.ezproxy.liberty.edu:2048/article/conspectus02-1-03, 43--44.
[9] Gary R. Gromacki, “Why Be Concerned About Same-Sex Marriage,” Journal of Ministry and Theology 9, no. 2 (Fall 2005): 84-85, accessed August 25, 2015, http://www.galaxie.com.ezproxy.liberty.edu:2048/article/jmat09-2-03, 76.
[10] Evan Lenow, “The Challenge of Homosexuality for Gender Roles,” Journal for Biblical Manhood and Womanhood 17, no. 2 (Fall 2012): 33, accessed August 25, 2015, http://www.galaxie.com.ezproxy.liberty.edu:2048/article/jbmw17-2-05, 31.
[11] Robert Myrant, “Biblical Ethics, Biotechnology, and Human Cloning,” Journal of Ministry and Theology 3, no. 2 (Fall 1999): 50-61, accessed September 2, 2015, http://www.galaxie.com.ezproxy.liberty.edu:2048/article/jmat03-2-04, 60.
[12] “Marriage 101 | Freedom to Marry,” Freedom to Marry, accessed September 28, 2015, http://www.freedomtomarry.org/pages/marriage-101#faq2.
[13] Ron Sider, “Bearing Better Witness,” First Things: A Monthly Journal of Religion and Public Life no. 208 (December 2010): 47-50, accessed August 25, 2015, http://search.proquest.com/docview/811348623?accountid=12085, 50.
[14] Peppler, 45.
[15] Stewart, 20.
[16] Myrant, 55.
[17] Samuel Emadi, “A Review of Justin Lee, ‘Torn: Rescuing the Gospel from Gays-vs.-Christians Debate,’” Journal for Biblical Manhood and Womanhood 18, no. 2 (Fall 2013): 38-39, accessed September 2, 2015,http://www.galaxie.com.ezproxy.liberty.edu:2048/article/jbmw18-2-11, 39.
[18] Smedes.
[19] Lenow, 31.
[20] Peppler, 52.
[21] Tony Payne, “Gay Spin City,” Journal for Biblical Manhood and Womanhood 5, no. 2 (Fall 2000): 1,18-19, accessed September 2, 2015, http://www.galaxie.com.ezproxy.liberty.edu:2048/article/jbmw05-2-02, n.p.
[22] Ibid.
[23] Gromacki, 79.
[24] Stewart, 22.
[25] John MacArthur, “God’s Word On Homosexuality: The Truth About Sin and the Reality of Forgiveness,” The Master's Seminary Journal 19, no. 2 (Fall 2008): 153-74, accessed September 30, 2015, http://www.tms.edu/m/tmsj19f.pdf, 165.
[26] Burk, 34.
[27] Stewart, 18.
[28] Derrick Sherwin Bailey, Homosexuality and the Western Christian Tradition (n.p.: Archon Books, 1955), accessed September 30, 2015, https://books.google.com/books?id=YjqGAAAAIAAJ. Google Books, 4.
[29] Lee, 177-178.
[30] Gromacki, 84-85.
[31] Smedes.
[32] Gromacki, 86.
[33] Ralph Blair, An Evangelical Look at Homosexuality (Chicago: Moody, 1963), 6, quoted in Gromacki, 87.
[34] Paris, 95.
[35] Paris, 95-96.
[36] Pepple, 49.
[37] Mark McGinniss, “The Church’s Response to the Homosexual,” Journal of Ministry and Theology 14, no. 2 (Fall 2010): 129-63, accessed August 28, 2015, http://www.galaxie.com.ezproxy.liberty.edu:2048/article/jmat14-2-05, 137, 140, 147.
[38] James R. Beck, “Evangelicals, Homosexuality, and Social Science,” Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 40, no. 1 (March 1997): 83-97, accessed September 2, 2015, http://www.galaxie.com.ezproxy.liberty.edu:2048/article/jets40-1-07, 88.
[39] Keesmaat, 30-31.
[40] Keesmaat, 32.
[41] Ibid., 36.
[42] Ibid., 38.
[43] Ibid., 39.
[44] Ibid., 44.
[45] Ibid., 40.
[46] Smedes.
[47] Ibid.
[48] Ibid.
[49] Mel White, Stranger at the Gate: to Be Gay and Christian in America (New York: Plume, 1995), 306.
[50] Piers Benn, “The Gay Marriage Debate - Afterthoughts,” Think 13, no. 36 (Spring 2014): 23-31, accessed August 25, 2015, http://search.proquest.com/docview/1468687394?accountid=12085, 27.
[51] Ted G. Kitchens, “Perimeters of Corrective Church Discipline,” Bibliotheca Sacra 148, no. 490 (April 1991): 201-13, accessed September 24, 2015, http://www.galaxie.com.ezproxy.liberty.edu:2048/article/bsac148-590-05, 204.
[52] Roger L. Peterson, “Discipline in the Local Church,” Central Bible Quarterly 2, no. 3 (Fall 1959): 1-28, accessed September 24, 2015, http://www.galaxie.com.ezproxy.liberty.edu:2048/article/cenq02-3-01, 8.
[53] MacArthur, 156.
[54] Ibid., 10.
[55] Ibid., 12-13, 17-18.
[56] MacArthur, 155-156.

Friday, October 23, 2015

What Happens Immediately After People Die – Disembodied Existence

     This is the fifth and last post in my series and covers Disembodied Existence.
     This series covers five leading thoughts about what happens to us after death, Annihilation, Catholic Options, Soul Sleep, Instantaneous Resurrection (intermediate body), and Disembodied Existence. None of these postings is an exhaustive discussion but I want to see what the Bible has to say about each.
·         Disembodied Existence – this is the soul departing the body to go to paradise (believers) or Hades (unbelievers).[1]
     Millard Erickson has a problem with belief that we will have some sort of body in the intermediate state between death and the resurrection. His problems lie with (1) the difference between Gehenna and Hades in the New Testament. He contends that Hades is temporary and only ungodly souls go there without a body. Gehenna (hell) is the eternal place of punishment and the ungodly body and soul end up there. The souls of the righteous dead do not go to Hades but go paradise, and (2) Paul’s statement that being absent from the body is present with the Lord (2 Cor 5:1-10; Phil 1:19-26).[2] Just as the Jehovah’s Witnesses and Seventh-day Adventists founded their belief in soul sleep because they believed our being is a soul and body that can’t be separated, Erickson’s belief in a disembodied existence after death is greatly influenced by his contention that we are dualistic with a soul that can exist without our body.[3] This means that he interprets the verses noted above in this light rejecting any interpretation that would suggest otherwise. Let’s look at each of Erickson’s issues one at a time.
     What is the difference between Gehenna (translated hell) and Hades? Jesus said, “Whoever says, 'You fool,' shall be guilty enough to go into the fiery hell [Gehenna]” (Matt 5:22).[4] Jesus also said, “The rich man also died and was buried. In Hades he lifted up his eyes, being in torment … He cried out, ‘… I am in agony in this flame’” (Luke 16:22-25). I don’t know about you, but it is really difficult to see why one should be seen as a place where only the soul goes and the other where both body and soul go. It seems that if a person is disembodied, fiery hell would not be a punishment because it is the body that suffers. The soul is not material and would not have a problem in a physical hell. But Jesus also said, “But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell [Gehenna]” (Matt 10:28). Since the rich man had a body in Hades and God will cause both body and soul to perish in Gehenna, there is no reason to believe only souls go to Hades without a body.
     The early church believed that the souls of believers went to Sheol or Hades[5] but Jesus told the thief on the cross that he would be with him in paradise (Luke 23:43). Since this means a believer’s soul does not go to Hades upon death, it must go to heaven and therefore it is only his soul and not an intermediate body of any kind. That is faulty logic since there is no mention of soul or body. He also uses Acts 2:31 in support of the soul going to heaven.[6] “He, foreseeing this, spoke concerning the resurrection of the Christ, that His soul was not left in Hades, nor did His flesh see corruption. (NKJV). However, it must be noted that the word soul is not in the original Greek. The King James and New King James added the word soul. Even if the meaning is soul, then this is talking about Jesus and the implication is that his soul first went to Hades. This is a bad verse to use if one wants to convince me that my soul will go to paradise upon my death and not have a body of some kind.
     It is interesting that Erickson uses the same verses 2 Corinthians 5:1-10 to support his position that only the soul goes to heaven and there is no intermediate body as others use to support an intermediate body. The key verse is, “While we are at home in the body we are absent from the Lord” (2 Cor 5:6). Yet this verse says nothing about what it will be like in heaven. It is talking about the physical earthly body. That body will certainly die and decay without any possibility of going to heaven. Yet in the context of, “We do not want to be unclothed but to be clothed” (2 Cor 5:4), Paul speaks of death as putting on a new dwelling and this is before the resurrection. In the same way, Philippians 1:19-26 doesn’t shed any light on whether or not we will be disembodied in heaven. While Paul does say, “Having the desire to depart and be with Christ, for that is very much better; yet to remain on in the flesh is more necessary for your sake” (Phil 1:23-24), this does not rule out a spiritual body in heaven. It simply confirms that our current physical body will not exist in heaven.
     Putting aside Erickson’s arguments, another issue is Paul’s repeated explanations of our resurrection. The strongest argument for a disembodied existence after death for either believers or the wicked is 1 Corinthians 15:35-57. Paul elaborately speaks of the resurrected body and what it will be like and what it will not be like. Key verses for disembodiment is, “Flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable” (1 Cor 15:50). Also, “For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed” (1 Cor 15:52) establishes that this will occur at one time for all the dead and those who are still alive. 1 Thessalonians 4:13-17 also supports this position.
     The problem then, is how can we reconcile these verses with the ones used to support an intermediate body in heaven. One way was to say that Paul changed his mind from a disembodied existence supported by Rabbinical Judaism, (1 Thessalonians and 1 Corinthians) to an instantaneous heavenly body upon his death.[7] I don’t like this reasoning at all. It removes the Holy Spirit from the equation of inspired Scripture and places it in the hands of the human author, Paul. No, Paul didn’t change his mind, but the Holy Spirit could have revealed more to him.
     The better reconciliation is that an intermediate body after death has always been what these Scriptures teach. Paul was talking about different subjects at different times. For believers, 1 Thessalonians and 1 Corinthians were taking about the resurrection when Jesus returns, not the time in between death and his return. Even 1 Thessalonians 4:14 suggest that we will have bodies in heaven as Jesus brings us back with him. 2 Corinthians was talking about what happens immediately after death. Luke 16 explains what happens to the ungodly after death and Revelation 20 tells about their resurrection and eternity. Paul alluded to various bodies in 1 Corinthians 15:38-41 with four categories. There is no conflict with an intermediate body that is changed at the general resurrection to the eternal body that is promised.
     My conclusion is that the disembodied state is less accurate than an intermediate body immediately after death. For those who know Jesus, it is with great expectation that we can look forward to some sort of heavenly body after death and be with Jesus. For those who do not know Jesus, there remains the physical suffering and torment between their death and final judgment, which will continue their agony forever. This makes it all the more important to turn to Jesus for salvation before it is too late.



[1] Millard J. Erickson, Christian Theology, 3 ed. (Grand Rapids, USA.: Baker Academic, 2013), 1084, Kindle.
[2] Ibid., 1084-5.
[3] Ibid., 478-80.
[4] Scripture in this post will use the New American Standard Bible Update (NASU 1995) unless otherwise noted.
[5] Erickson, 1085.
[6] Ibid.
[7] W. D. Davies, Paul and Rabbinic Judaism: Some Rabbinic Elements in Pauline Theology (London: SPCK, 1970), 317-18 in Erickson, 1085.