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Tim Keller on sexuality

tim-kellerTim Keller is well-known as a church leader, preacher and writer, particularly in Reformed circles, as leader of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York—though he is read more widely on both sides of the Atlantic. He has just posted a lengthy review (around 2,800 words) of two significant books in the debate about same-sex relationships, Matthew Vines’ God and the Gay Christian and Ken Wilson’s A Letter to my CongregationThey are significant, the first because it is one of the most widely-read arguments and is particularly influential amongst the younger (Matthew Vines’) generation, the latter because Wilson is a well-knwon Vineyard pastor.

I am highlighting Keller’s review for several reasons. First, I suspect many readers of this blog might not read the Gospel Coalition blog where Keller’s comment are posted, and they deserve reading widely. Secondly, Keller’s approach is not to pick through the detailed arguments, so much as to engage with the ‘big picture’ issues which the books set out. As such, he offers a helpful overview of some of the key arguments in this debate as they have emerged in discussion. Thirdly, some of his comments have a direct bearing on the Shared Conversations that are taking place in the Church of England, and to which I have contributed.

Keller makes five points, and offers some reflection in closing.


1. Knowing Gay People Personally Keller here makes a point often passed over in discussion. If evangelicals changed their minds about biblical teaching once they got to know gay people personally, what was going on? Had they not known such people before? And what was the basis of their previous conviction?

They could not have been based on theological or ethical principles, or on an understanding of historical biblical teaching. They must have been grounded instead on a stereotype of gay people as worse sinners than others (which is itself a shallow theology of sin). So I say good riddance to bigotry.


2. Historical reality. Here Keller addresses the idea that the biblical writers lived in a world where same-sex relationships were only exploitative, and so the texts cannot address loving, mutual, same-sex relationships that we are discussing today.

These arguments were first asserted in the 1980s by John Boswell and Robin Scroggs. Vines, Wilson, and others are essentially repopularizing them. However, they do not seem to be aware that the great preponderance of the best historical scholarship since the 1980s—by the full spectrum of secular, liberal, and conservative researchers—has rejected that assertion. Here are two examples.

715FfnQMPZL._SL1250_He mentions in particular William Loader and Bernadette Brooten, who both advocate full acceptance of same-sex relationships, but both are agreed that the biblical texts prohibit all forms of such relationships. I cite them, along with others, in a previous post on the Bible and the gay debate.

What is remarkable here is that, in the material for the Church of England Shared Conversations, this unsupported claim forms a major plank of the argument by Loveday Alexander in support of the church changing its position.

Paul doesn’t condemn long-term, faithful same-sex relationships, for the simple reason that he doesn’t know them: the homosexual activity he knows falls under the category porneia (‘bad sex’) because it is either abusive (abuse within the family unit, including slave-rape) or commercially exploitative (prostitution). (Grace and Disagreement, p 38).

It seems odd to me that this should have found a place in our discussion when so many, from the whole range of positions on same-sex relations, have offered ample evidence to refute it.


3. Slavery, segregation and sexuality. Here Keller addresses one of the most common arguments: we changed our mind about slavery and segregation (particularly in the US) and revised what we thought were ‘biblical’ positions, so we can do it again.

But historians such as Mark Noll (America’s God [Oxford, 2005] and The Civil War as a Theological Crisis [University of North Carolina, 2006]) have shown the 19th-century position some people took that Scripture condoned race-based chattel slavery was highly controversial and never a consensus. Most Protestants in Canada and Britain (and many in the northern U.S. states) condemned it as being wholly against the Bible. Rodney Stark (For the Glory of God: How Monotheism Led to Reformations, Science, Witch Hunts, and the End of Slavery, 2003) points out that the Roman Catholic church also came out early against the African slave trade. David L. Chappell, in his history of the civil rights movement (A Stone of Hope: Prophetic Religion and the Death of Jim Crow, 2003), goes further. He proves that even before the Supreme Court decisions of the mid-1950s, almost no one was promoting the slender and forced biblical justifications for racial superiority and segregation. Even otherwise racist theologians and ministers couldn’t find a basis for white supremacy in the Bible.

Keller touches on other comparisons, such as divorce and remarriage. The question of women and ministry, which has been such a big issue in the Church of England, does not feature in this discussion, since for Keller and other US evangelicals there has been no comparable change in consensus. But Keller makes an important observation about the relationships between ‘biblical’ views and cultural change.

During the Civil War, British Presbyterian biblical scholars told their southern American colleagues who supported slavery that they were reading the scriptural texts through cultural blinders. They wanted to find evidence for their views in the Bible and voila—they found it. If no Christian reading the Bible—across diverse cultures and times—ever previously discovered support for same-sex relationships in the Bible until today, it’s hard not to wonder if many now have new cultural spectacles on, having a strong predisposition to find in these texts evidence for the views they already hold.


4. The nature of biblical authority. I think I found the way this point was expressed the least persuasive part of Keller’s response. But I would agree with the major point, often passed over, about why the texts (for example) in Leviticus have continued relevance in the way that commands about eating shellfish do not:

The traditional view is this: Yes, there are things in the Bible Christians no longer have to follow, but if the Scripture is our final authority, only the Bible itself can tell us what those things are. The prohibitions against homosexuality are re-stated in the New Testament (Romans 1; 1 Corinthians 6; 1 Timothy 1) but Jesus himself (Mark 7), as well as the rest of the New Testament, tells us the clean laws and ceremonial code is no longer in force.


5. Being on the ‘wrong side of history’. Here Keller points out that history is not linear, and there is no guarantee that we are moving in a direction from ignorance to enlightenment, as is so often assumed. In relation to debates about sexuality in the UK, we appear to have forgotten that, in the liberation of the 1960s, it was suggested that sexual relationships with children were acceptable in some contexts, where we would now reject such a proposal with horror. Culture can change in more than one direction.

Three final things to note. Keller concludes with a key observation: that these books focus on the negative prohibitions about sexuality, rather than on the positive vision. I think he is spot on. When I have made presentations on this as part of preparation for the Shared Conversations, I have offered an outline of the Bible’s (positive) vision of sexuality. The debate must be located there.

Second, the tone of Keller’s engagement is worth noting.

This review has been too brief to give these authors the credit they are due for maintaining a respectful and gracious tone throughout. We live in a time in which civility and love in these discussions is fast going away, and I am thankful the authors are not part of the angry, caustic flow.

But thirdly, Keller is pointing out that these two authors’ arguments have only become persuasive because their readers have not asked critical questions and have not engaged with available and well-established background information. Let’s hope the same is not true for the Church of England.


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39 Responses to Tim Keller on sexuality

  1. anon June 8, 2015 at 9:31 am #

    Thanks for this, Ian. I find yours and Keller’s arguments persuasive. Point 2 seems incredibly significant.

    On the other hand, Rachel Held Evans just shared this blog post:

    http://thoughtsfrombravo.wordpress.com/2015/06/04/im-gay-other-people-are-too-lets-move-forward/

    Here’s an extract: “I spent countless nights, sobbing, in prayer for him to change my sexuality. I promised him everything, if he would just change this one thing about me. I stood up at conferences, several years in a row to be prayed for inner healing. And nothing changed. Not because Jesus can’t do the impossible. I fully believed, and still do believe that anything is possible with God. I wasn’t healed of my gayness, because there is nothing to be healed of. God revealed to me that there is plenty of things I do wrong, and plenty of things he wants to change about me, but this isn’t one of them.”

    The issue, I think, is pastoral. How do we respond to someone like Dan Bravo (whose story, I’m sure, is quite typical)? It does strike me that those holding a “traditional” theology on sexuality have been unable to help people who are not heterosexual, and, in many cases, such people have been seriously harmed by the church. That concerns me, but I don’t know what the answer is.

    • Ian Paul June 8, 2015 at 10:08 am #

      Thanks for this comment. Just to say that your first posting came through fine so I have deleted the other five copies!

    • Ian Paul June 8, 2015 at 10:14 am #

      The answer that most of my gay friends would give is ‘Indeed—God does not want to change this part of me, but neither does he want me to act out of it.’ The hidden assumption here is that we must act out all our impulses if we are to be ‘true to ourselves.’ This is a huge cultural and philosophical shift—but it is masked completely within the position of Rachel Held Evans. It is surely this that needs exploring.

    • Ian Paul June 8, 2015 at 10:15 am #

      This is one of the key things explored by Ed Shaw in his excellent book.

      http://www.psephizo.com/sexuality-2/can-the-traditional-view-of-sexuality-ever-be-plausible/

      • anon June 8, 2015 at 11:16 am #

        Thanks Ian, sorry about the multiple comments – I kept getting error messages. I would agree with you that celibacy is the correct response and we need to help people not to give in to their temptations (and we all have our areas of weakness). I would like to see more about this in the future.

        • Colin Penman June 8, 2015 at 12:40 pm #

          The correct response to what, exactly?

          • anon June 8, 2015 at 3:27 pm #

            Colin, the response to “what should a gay Christian do?”. If someone is not able to enter into heterosexual marriage, then I believe God wants them to stay celibate rather than enter into a same-sex relationship that is sinful and dishonours God. This obviously assumes that the theology is correct, which it seems to be as the revisionist arguments have been repeatedly disproved. I know that many homosexual Christians will not like this, but I don’t see any other option.

        • Joe June 9, 2015 at 9:52 pm #

          It’s not “celibacy”. Celibacy is a vocation – a decision to remain unmarried. All Christians are called to be chaste – whether single or married. Gay Christians have the option of getting married. They just don’t have the option of marrying someone of the same sex.

          • Ian Paul June 10, 2015 at 10:58 am #

            Joe, I think there are two important responses to your observation. First, if ‘marriage’ retains it historic and Christian sense, gay Christians still don’t have the option to get married. Marriage has historically been understood to be a lifelong, exclusive commitment which involves sexual union (through male-female intercourse) and naturally leads to the bearing and raising of children. Gay Christians cannot by definition join this institution; what they can do is enter into a contractual civil partnership, and this happens just now to have been renamed ‘marriage’.

            Second, the vocation to celibacy is intricately tied to the vocation to follow Jesus. So unmarried Christian women will not have ‘chosen’ to be celibate, but they believe that is their vocation. A vocation is not something simply chosen by an isolated individual, but is something that comes with the decision to follow Jesus, and not having (other sex) marriage available as an option.

          • James Byron June 10, 2015 at 10:40 pm #

            Ian, why is gender intrinsic to marriage in a way that other abandoned aspects weren’t?

            Take coverture: women used to lose their separate personhood upon marriage, and with it, the ability to earn money, own property, or sign contracts.

            Redefining marriage from female subservience to a match of equals is, at least, as great of a change as redefining it as a match of two persons. It’s certainly less of a change than that from the throughly biblical model of polygamy!

      • etseq June 8, 2015 at 10:41 pm #

        Perhaps you should expand your circle of “gay friends” beyond that miniscule fraction of the overall gay population in the UK that just so happen to agree with your theological and political views. You sound like conservative Republicans in the US who rely on a few token black ultra conservatives to defend themselves when arguing against civil rights legislation. You must know that these “gay friends” of yours are extreme outliers and that every historically oppressed minority group has a small faction that are comfortable with their own oppression and actively oppose the social movements that challenged the status quo. Indeed, the emancipation of women was probably opposed by the majority of women throughout the 18th and 19th century.

        Also, Keller’s arguments all boil down to a No True Scotsman fallacy where the “true christians” were always on the “right side of history” on issues such as slavery, womens rights, etc. By all means, continue to dig in and double down on this issue because it only helps advance gay equality when what remains on the rump opposition relies on such transparently weak arguments.

        • James Byron June 8, 2015 at 10:50 pm #

          Ian did say some of his gay friends disagree, etseq; as an evangelical, it’s natural that there’ll be many other evangelicals in his circle, and given the evangelical POV, most are gonna come down on the traditional side of the fence.

          I do agree about the No True Christian tendency. On slavery, while I doubt Paul of Tarsus would’ve had any time for racism, he explicitly condoned the peculiar institution, and Jesus of Nazareth isn’t recorded offering any condemnation. Both would, I suspect, be baffled by modern gender politics.

          The armor-piercing question here is, “On what grounds might Western society reverse LGBT equality?” I can’t see even a hypothetical secular argument. It’s about as likely as denying women the franchise. Barring the advent of a Handmaid’s Tale dystopia, equal rights are a done deal, ’cause there’s no justification for rolling them back.

          • Ian Paul June 9, 2015 at 9:21 am #

            James, ironic that you say this at a time when the Government is considering exiting from the European Convention on Human Rights, and the day that an industrial tribunal holds that the traditional view on marriage ‘deserves a place in society.’

          • James Byron June 9, 2015 at 9:51 am #

            Where’s the irony? Neither increases the likelihood of repeal. The ECHR had no bearing on the decision to introduce equal marriage to Great Britain, and the tribunal merely shows that dissent will be protected.

  2. Chris Bishop June 8, 2015 at 11:08 am #

    I think the main drivers for proponents of SS marriage are not theological ones but are to do with modern notions of ‘equality’. Certainly the Stonewall movement uses this as its main argument. ‘Equality’ is the post-modern religion.

    Until we get a clear Christian concept of what equality actually means and how to articulate it then we are probably not playing on the same field.

    • Lorenzo June 10, 2015 at 5:14 am #

      Actually, Chris, that would be immensely helpful. What do you mean by this clear concept of Christian equality and how exactly does it differ from the one you deride as post-modern religion?

  3. Phill June 8, 2015 at 12:21 pm #

    Thanks for posting this here Ian, I saw the article earlier and thought it was one of the best articles on same-sex relationships and the church that I’ve read. I found Keller’s book on marriage (‘The Meaning of Marriage’) very helpful. One of the things I most appreciated here which doesn’t get talked about very much is what N.T. Wright says about the creation ‘opposites’ which are brought together – land and sea, Earth and sky, male and female. That’s something which often seems to get overlooked in discussions around the creation narratives.

    (Just to say you may want to do another proof read of this blog post, I spotted a few typos and mistakes as I went through!)

    • Ian Paul June 8, 2015 at 12:50 pm #

      Thanks Phill. I only found one!

      I feel slightly ambivalent about the ‘opposites’ argument. I can see the point…but it can be applied in a wooden and unpersuasive way…

  4. peter waddell June 8, 2015 at 12:44 pm #

    Thank you for the post, Ian: a thought-provoking read.

    I was struck by your response above, where you make the distinction between the state of being gay, and acting on it – as you put it, ‘acting out our impulses.’ I wonder if ‘impulse’ is quite the right word for what we’re describing? I have impulses to all sorts of wild sexual and other kinds of behaviour, and it is quite right that I discipline myself and reject those. But is the desire for a life-partner (faithful, permanent, stable etc.) an ‘impulse’? That seems to me something much more deeply seated in the human heart: for gays just as for straights ‘it is not good for the man to be alone.’ Trying to suppress/subliminate that – as opposed to the impulse for a quick fumble – seems like counsel which will only ever be wise for some.

    • anon June 8, 2015 at 3:46 pm #

      Peter, I was thinking about that as well. Maybe Ian didn’t use the best wording. Some people never find a heterosexual partner and similarly have to come to terms with that. But the teaching of the Bible seems to be that same-sex romantic relationships are not what God wants. This would apply to both lifelong relationships as well as one-night stands. I do think the church hasn’t been very good at helping gay people come to terms with this, but that doesn’t change what the Bible says.

    • Ian Paul June 8, 2015 at 5:28 pm #

      Peter, yes you are probably right. ‘Impulse’ can mean something sudden (as in ‘impulsive’) but can also simply mean a drive. It is the latter sense that I was referring to.

      As ‘anon’ says above, the same is true for those wanting an other-sex partner, and this is just as real a frustration.

  5. Peter Waddell June 8, 2015 at 7:20 pm #

    But at the risk of us all rehearsing the same old arguments…. it’s not really the same at all, is it? Because with the heterosexual person who wants but does not have a partner, there is always the hope that they will. With the gay person, the traditional position is that there is no hope: being gay = being called to life-long celibacy (or ‘conversion therapy’).

    The rationale for this is that it is the clear implication of ‘what the Bible says’. But (as I argued here once before), that’s not good enough: you need to be able to show why the Bible is wise on this particular issue – why same sex relationships and sexual intimacy are destructive of human flourishing. If, in the end, all the arguments boil down to ‘this is what the Bible says, and on all important questions the Bible is right even if we don’t quite understand why yet’ – then you end up in a position where (to choose just one of the issues) you have to accept that from time to time God commanded genocide. The Bible is at least as clear on that point as it is on this aspect of sexual ethics.

    Are those of you who hold to the clear biblical teaching on same-sex relationships equally committed to that on genocide?

    • James Byron June 8, 2015 at 10:04 pm #

      You’ve nailed it, Peter: the anti-homosexuality position is collapsing because it’s rooted in authority, not reason, and if you reject that source of authority, the edifice crumples like so much wet tissue. That’s what separates equality for LGBT people from other aspects of the sexual revolution like the wholly unrelated issue of child molestation.

      I accept all of what Ian and Tim Keller say about the biblical position on homosexuality, and respond, simply, that on this as on so much else, the Bible is wrong. I agree this is an area in which way too many revisionists have been cagey to the point of dishonestly, probably to avoid conflict. Well intentioned as it is, it’s slippery, and undermines the progressive case.

      Once society has moved on, homosexuality has continuing relevance only in churches that mix evangelical and non-evangelical members. They face a simple choice: find a way to coexist without living by their neighbors’ discipline; or split, hopefully amicably.

      • anon June 8, 2015 at 11:32 pm #

        As a simple answer, I would just say that God created men and women to be marriage partners, for procreation, and because this models God’s relationship with the church. Is that not sufficient reason? The Bible affirms this and rejects same sex relationships. As a christian I believe that God’s plan is revealed through the Bible and we should obey it.

        The world is fallen and this manifests in various ways, including, I believe, homosexuality. It’s our job as christians to lovingly care for such people, help them to come to terms with who they are, and support them to live a Godly life.

        I would also add that, if I became convinced that the “revisionist” approach was correct, I would accept it.

    • Ian Paul June 10, 2015 at 11:32 am #

      Peter, thanks for the good question. I there are good answers around, and they are explored in the literature, especially in Wes Hill’s Washed and waiting and Ed Shaw’s The Plausibility Problem. In a full answer I would include the following points:

      1. The biblical vision is one about society, not simply about individuals. So it is offering patterns for flourishing of human society, and rejects the kind of individualism that we take as an assumption. This is pertinent to the discussion here, since (for example) there is evidence of lower instances of same sex attraction in societies which are less competitive and individualistic. In other words, we cannot simply treat people in an atomised way.

      2. There is good social scientific evidence that ‘orientation’ is shaped by psycho-sexual development in the very early years. So we are not simply dealing with a range of ‘normal’ i.e. neutral dispositions. For male same-sex attraction, something has gone wrong in psycho-sexual development.

      3. I have grown in my conviction that same-sex marriage is not so much a problem, as the symptom of a problem—the elevation of sexual orientation to be a defining characteristic of human identity, and it is this which is problematic. Western culture has inverted the biblical vision of sex—something important but bounded has now become something casual but defining.

      4. As a sign of this, I don’t think it is possible simply to argue for monogamous, faithful, same-sex relations. Whatever you assume to argue for this will lead you into all sorts of other things on the same logic. Last Sunday I was talking to a first year undergraduate, and he was in agreement with me that his understanding of ‘marriage’ as a contract between parties around a sexual relationship would not logically prohibit polyamorous or incestuous relationships.

      5. So this issue touches on fundamental questions of theological anthropology—what does it mean to be human made in the image of God, fallen but with the possibility of redemption.

      And of course I don’t think that being gay means being celibate necessarily. I have gay friends who are happily (other-sex) marriage, not as a denial of their sexuality but as a free choice to act out of their sex as male and not their orientation as ‘gay’.

      • peter waddell June 11, 2015 at 2:09 pm #

        Hi Ian, thanks for your response. Though having praised my question, I’m not sure you actually answer the one I was really keen on getting an answer to: are those who are committed to the biblical teaching on same sex-relations equally committed to that on genocide? (and if not, why not, given that biblical authority seems to be at the heart of the matter).

        But to come back on some of the elements of the answer you would give to my first question, that of the wisdom or otherwise of the biblical teaching.I am intrigued by the observation that ‘here is evidence of lower instances of same sex attraction in societies which are less competitive and individualistic.’ I’m sure there could well be something in this correlation – sexual behaviour and wider cultural issues are bound to be related. But it isn’t also plausible that in these more cohesive (which tends to mean less liberal) societies, there might also be quite a lot of silence about same-sex attraction? We like to think that less competitive and individualistic societies must be A Good Thing – and in many ways they are – but there is also a shadow side of oppression and denial. Witness the Ugandan legislation: would you confide in many about being gay in such a context? So I’d tread warily with this kind of evidence.

        ‘For male same-sex attraction, something has gone wrong in psycho-sexual development.’ Well, maybe (this is a long drawn out ‘maybe’ – and incidentally, what about lesbians?), but… so what? Given that what has gone ‘wrong’ is so difficult to identify, so deep-seated, and seems to have no terrible consequences… why are we so bothered about it? If people turn out able to have faithful, loving, monogamous etc. (we really need an acronym for this!) relationships, I’m not even sure ‘gone wrong’ is the right way of putting it. Sure, it’s quirky, it’s different, it is – as the phrase has it – ‘queer’: but so what? Yes, as a species we’d have to worry if everyone started turning out gay… but they’re not. And as a heterosexual person I can point to enough issues in my own and others’ pyscho-sexual developement not to worry too much about my gay neighbour’s.

        On 3, I agree with you, I think; on 4, I’d need more time to think. The logical road to polyamorous relationships from gay marriage seems to me obscure – or at least no clearer than that from heterosexual marriage. And though some people do want to celebrate polyamority (if that’s a word), it’s notable that for the vast, vast majority what they want is one life-partner. So I wonder even if your logical point holds, whether practically it matters that much. As I said: more time to think!

        On 5: well, fair play to those friends and in all seriousness, hurrah for them. But there are many tragic stories, aren’t there, where people have tried doing exactly this and it has turned out that the gay orientation is just too deep, too strong, too ‘them’ to be suppressed in this way. And then damage is done all round, to the marriage partner and to their children. I’d say that this is a high-risk pastoral strategy for the church to encourage in most cases. And certainly to have as our three options for gay people: undergo conversion therapy, enter straight marriage, or remain celibate … well, that seems, to this pastor, disaster territory.

        I noted your line about there being no end to the making of blog posts, especially on this topic, and sympathise. No need for detailed response. No doubt we’ll back to it again before too long anyway! (although I would like to know about the genocide point…)

        • J B August 30, 2016 at 11:35 am #

          Thank you for this.
          I would like to address ever so quickly the question about the relation of same-sex attraction and genocide biblically which has been suggested.
          Biblical evidence alone suggests that there can be no comparison. If you refer to the times of Joshua and the patriarchs with regards to genocide then we can make clear distinctions. God was working at a time, within the context of cultures, in order to bring his will and give his people the Promised Land. As the historical reality unfolds to the period of Jesus and afterwards we see the coming in of a focus on what is above and not just earthly kingdoms. Genocide, and I don’t even like to call Joshua’s leading in war that, is nowhere to be found in the rest of Scripture. On the other hand, sexual sin of many kinds including homosexual sex are warned against time and time again, throughout the cultures revealed in Scripture, be it Israelite, or Greek (Corinthian etc.). Such comparisons therefore do not stand up biblically in my opinion.

          It also appears to me that partly where we go wrong as the Church is that we are not seen to be fighting all sexual sin in the same way, for instance we talk a lot of someone having sex with someone of their gender but keep quite quiet about someone committing adultery or beating his wife. Their needs to be acknowledgment of sin in all its forms. As Paul said, ‘Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the worst.’ I think personally I’m pushing Paul out of that position, but amen for God’s grace.

          What western cultures are doing now is insisting on sexuality being the way that we reveal our identity. It would be an interesting discussion to see whether we feel that this was the issue in biblical periods, be it BC or AD. Identity, while clearly for Paul, was to be in Christ, beforehand seemed to be especially about money/status/religion before and not specifically sexuality. Here is where rubber hits the road today. When the Church suggests that homosexual sex is wrong today it grabs for many people their identity and throws it away as garbage. It seems to me the identity thing is what needs to be challenged. I am a heterosexual married man and for too long in my life sex was the be all and end all, everyone talked about, everyone (especially non-Christians) was doing it, the pressures were and are immense for young people, but society’s obsession with sex and especially identity found in our sexuality is entirely wrong and is the main issue it seems to me. Let me put it this way, you are important and wonderful not because of how you have sex, who you have it with, how many people etc., but because God has formed you and offers identity that is not going to be ruined by the imperfections of other people. Even as a married man, it is entirely unfair on my wife for my identity to be found in her and our sex life. The fact that society, not least through pornography, insisted that sex was what it was all about, gives no assistance in learning that identity is in Christ not in sexuality.

          I suppose what I am saying is that for many homosexual people, or people with same-sex attraction, the Church’s ‘problems’ with homosexuality (gay/lesbian (etc.) sex) is an attack on ‘identity’ when actually Stonewall and others are absolutely wrong to insist that identity be found in their sexuality. It seems to me to be a bit like race. I am a human, yes I might be Jewish by race, and heterosexual, but ultimately my identity is found in my relationship to God through Jesus as a human saved by the Cross. Everything after that is of less importance. If identity is found first and foremost in Jesus, then the sinfulness that fallen other identity markers can throw in are a little easier to give up, or at least to place where they should be placed, because he who is unshakeable and unchangeable is where the primary identity marker is placed.

          I am a Jesus-follower, and everything else becomes as nothing and everything else finds its place because of what he and his Father’s words in Scripture say. Each is called to a life of sacrifice and sex in different ways may well have to be sacrificed, and we must be willing to sacrifice our culture, cling it to the Cross and seek the culture of Christ.

  6. etseq June 8, 2015 at 10:50 pm #

    I will assume you were not aware of Vine’s reply to Keller or you would have linked to it…

    http://www.matthewvines.com/a-response-to-tim-kellers-review/

    • James Byron June 8, 2015 at 11:07 pm #

      Thanks for that link, etseq, makes interesting reading.

      It reaffirms my belief that projecting modern values onto an ancient text is misguided in the extreme. If you can use the “lens of a redemptive-movement hermeneutic” to make the Bible oppose slavery (normative at the time), the text has no inherent meaning. Even at my most po-mo moments, I couldn’t get close to taking that position.

      Vines would do much better to accept Keller’s interpretation, and focus his attack on the concept of biblical authority. It’s incredible that, not once in his rebuttal, does he address what ought to be the core of the affirming position. The best way to lose a debate is to argue it on your opponents’ terms.

      • Ian Paul June 9, 2015 at 9:24 am #

        James, twice here I agree with you! I think your own position stated above: ‘I accept all of what Ian and Tim Keller say about the biblical position on homosexuality, and respond, simply, that on this as on so much else, the Bible is wrong’ is much more coherent.

        I think Vines’ position is unhelpful and distracting.

    • Ian Paul June 9, 2015 at 9:22 am #

      Yes, aware of it, have read it, and responded in the next blog post. Though of the writing of blog posts there is no end, and on this subject it leads to a weariness of the flesh.

  7. Sam Hendrickson June 13, 2015 at 2:43 pm #

    Ian,
    thanks for what you have posted here.

  8. Tim June 16, 2015 at 11:40 pm #

    Whilst reading some of Keller’s points I had these thoughts:

    1. Knowing Gay People Personally
    “If evangelicals changed their minds about biblical teaching once they got to know gay people personally, what was going on? Had they not known such people before? And what was the basis of their previous conviction?”
    We are heavily influenced by our culture http://www.stonewall.org.uk/at_home/history_of_lesbian_gay_and_bisexual_equality/default.asp
    shows how fast gay rights have been obtained; these were not obtained in a vacuum: in under 40 years homosexuals have gone from being vilified to being accepted and welcomed by most of society. It’s not surprising that more people have felt free to come ‘out’ as the climate of fear and consequences of doing so have reduced.

    2. Historical reality. Here Keller addresses the idea that the biblical writers lived in a world where same-sex relationships were only exploitative, and so the texts cannot address loving, mutual, same-sex relationships that we are discussing today.

    I’m currently reading Jerusalem http://www.simonsebagmontefiore.com/jerusalemthebiography.aspx
    Which gives me the impression that same-sex relationships around the time of Christ (particularly amongst the Greeks) weren’t always exploitative. Given that women were largely regarded as second class citizens it could be argued that traditional marriage was probably largely exploitive. Indeed it could be argued that if same-sex relationships were only exploitative, resulting from the misuse of power then this would indicate that at its heart homosexuality is corrupt – surely not something that Keller is arguing.

    • Ian Paul June 17, 2015 at 9:19 am #

      Thanks Tim. Yes, it is remarkable how quickly public opinion has changed, and is surely indicative of both a significant underlying assumption which has changed, and of the intense cultural and media lobbying by the gay community.

      That’s an interesting insight from Montefiore.

  9. Anna June 29, 2015 at 12:38 pm #

    I don’t know how far the comments on “minds being changed because of knowing Gays personally” are based on this study, but the results of the study have now been thown into doubt:

    http://www.reuters.com/article/2015/05/28/us-usa-gaymarriage-science-idUSKBN0OD2NZ20150528

    http://www.newsmax.com/Newsfront/gay-marriage-study-journal/2015/05/28/id/647366/

  10. Tim McLaughlin September 18, 2017 at 1:03 pm #

    Thanks Ian for the review and helpful interaction with Keller and his critics. Just had one question. Under point 5 “Wrong side of history” you cite the following “In relation to debates about sexuality in the UK, we appear to have forgotten that, in the liberation of the 1960s, it was suggested that sexual relationships with children were acceptable in some contexts, where we would now reject such a proposal with horror.”

    Just wondering, can you give me some documentary evidence for that. It would be helpful for a paper I am writing.

    Many thanks

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