Homosexuality & Christian faith: may I introduce Misty Irons  

Posted by Denis Haack in , , ,

I am deeply committed to the historic Christian faith. I am part of a theological tradition that stretches through the centuries from the Apostles, through St Augustine, through John Calvin, and to the 21st century through believers like Abraham Kuyper and Francis Schaeffer. Essential to my faith is a conviction that in the Scriptures we find not just wisdom from the past (though there is plenty of that), but the very word of God.


That being the case, when I read and interpret Scripture, to try to determine what the text means, I do not want to be creative. Instead, I want to be orthodox. By that I mean I want to understand the Bible correctly, and do not believe I have the right to determine my own meaning for what it teaches. St Paul teaches that God has graciously given teachers to the church (Ephesians 4:11-16). So, I check my interpretation with the commentators and preachers who have gone before me in this great stream of orthodox belief. The biblical text is rich and multi-faceted and deep, but its meaning is not thereby up for grabs. When I interpret the text, my concern is for orthodoxy, not novelty.


Creativity comes into play, however, when we seek to apply the text, faithfully finding ways to flesh out the teaching of Scripture in our life and culture. We live in a postmodern, globalized, pluralized world that is very different from the world that existed when the patriarchs, prophets, and apostles received God’s revelation. The truth remains the truth, but how we speak about and live out that truth can change over time, over cultures, and over generations. The basic issues remain unchanged, but the questions raised can change radically. One expression of faith can appear devout to one generation but ludicrous to another.


It can be hard for the church to face this reality. Since we’ve always done something one way, raising doubts about continuing the practice can seem like an attack on the faith. Perhaps the person raising the difficult question is slipping doctrinally—after all, since the underlying belief hasn’t changed, shouldn’t our practice remain unchanged as well?


So, for example, since the biblical understanding of homosexual behavior is that it is one more tragic example of the brokenness that inflicts us all in a fallen world, and since the biblical pattern for marriage is one woman and one man in a covenantal relationship of oneness, does it not follow that Christians must politically oppose any effort to legalize gay marriage?


The difficulty with even raising this question is that civility quickly gets frayed. Old arguments are trotted out and repeated, as if doing so settles the issue. And when they don’t settle the issue, voices get raised, accusations begin, and soon the evidences of love listed in 1 Corinthians 13 are in short supply.


Let’s think the issue through—carefully, calmly, prayerfully, and charitably. The interpretation of Scripture is not at stake; how we speak about and live out the truth winsomely in a pluralistic world is what we need to consider. It’s hard work, I know, and we are all busy people, I know that too. But if we desire to live faithfully before the face of God, there is no escaping the issue.


So, here is my proposal. Review what the Scriptures say about homosexuality. And then let’s think through what this means for how we respond in the public square to the political and legal issues surrounding homosexuality.


An online resource that will help is the honest, thoughtful writings of Misty Irons. I commend both her web site (Musing on Christianity, Homosexuality & the Bible) and her Blog (More Musings on Christianity, Homosexuality & the Bible) to you. I do not know her, but wish I did. As I read what she writes I sense in her a kindred spirit, a fellow believer who is unwilling to sacrifice either biblical orthodoxy or holy spirited faithfulness—and that is a precious combination.


This entry was posted at Tuesday, January 06, 2009 and is filed under , , , . You can follow any responses to this entry through the comments feed .


"...since the biblical pattern for marriage is one woman and one man in a covenantal relationship of oneness, does it not follow that Christians must politically oppose any effort to legalize gay marriage?"

Sigh! I think I've heard this question a lot recently in other forms, e.g., must a Christian vote for a pro-life candidate? In reply I find myself wanting to ask, "What's behind the question? Genuine concern for speaking the truth in love? Or fear of taking a socially unpopular stand?" And understanding what's behind the question makes a difference in how I answer it. The pietists of my youth were socially conservative, but their faith demanded nothing of them in the public sphere. Thus they made poor salt and light in some areas. The Christian activists of my later years reduced their worldview to a political checklist; do I have the proper stance on abortion, marriage, drugs, etc. Both dismay me for different reasons, and to both I answer with a question.

"Why?" for those who say yes, and "Why not?" to those who say no.

January 7, 2009 at 5:21 PM


I've found this to be a fantastic resource. Bill came and spoke at UVM Navs, Cornell Navs, and others. His approach & perspective is unique, Biblical, and powerful.

January 21, 2009 at 2:24 PM

Well, I find it surprising that a Kuyperian like yourself would be promoting a two-kingdom dualist, cultural anti-transformationist like Mrs. Irons, especially when it comes to the role of Christianity in the civil realm. You may want to first read her infamous paper on homosexual civil unions in which her sacred/secular dichotomization rings clear.

February 28, 2009 at 11:09 AM

I think it's worth saying in this relativistic era that homosexuality is a sin. Period. There is no wiggle room for interpretation here.

However, where the modern church has faltered is in applying this message to society (we've become tangled up in politics) and being hostile towards homosexuals in the church.

Homosexuality needs to be viewed as just another sin and not as some mark of shame. (Judgmental Christians tend to forget this.) Homosexuals forget that Jesus conquered ALL sin in the cross and we have power over ALL sin through Jesus. If you believe you are "missing the mark", you need not give in to your homosexual urges anymore. By faith you are dead to sin.

March 16, 2009 at 3:26 PM

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