Pastor's Blog

I recently presented a sermon series discussing the sin of homosexuality and why our pastors do not perform same-sex marriages.  It has been requested that I explain some of the pro-homosexual objections that were too complex to address from the pulpit.  I present this series of articles to that end.

 

Most of the objections raised by those who favor homosexuality and same sex marriage do NOT deal with the issues raised in the sermon series.  It is very difficult to argue that the opening chapters of Genesis do NOT teach that God’s intention was for the female to be the sexual complement of the male.  It is also very difficult to argue that this was not Jesus’ perspective.  He explicitly taught that the female was created to sexually complement the male and that marriage is divinely intended as an institution for a man and a woman.  What’s more, Jesus cited the Genesis passages as the basis for His view (Matthew 19.3-6 // Mark 10.6-8), confirming that this is the intended meaning of the relevant texts in Genesis 1-2.

 

Traditionally conservatives have spilled a lot more ink expounding the passages that speak negatively of homosexuality (e.g. the destruction of Sodom & Gomorrah, the prohibition of homosexuality in Leviticus, Romans 1 [dealt with in the sermon series], and the few mentions of homosexuality in Paul’s letters (1 Corinthians 6.9-10 and 1 Timothy 1.9-10)) and so proponents of same sex marriage have responded by offering revised interpretations of those texts.  I will respond to these alternative interpretations in this series of articles.

 

We will begin with the prohibition of homosexuality in Leviticus 18.22 and 20.13.  Those who favor homosexuality and same sex marriage claim that the prohibition of homosexuality in Leviticus is NOT a prohibition of homosexuality per se but of the homosexual prostitution that was practiced in Canaanite temples.  The text, it is argued, prohibits a particular form of idol worship, not a particular form of sexuality.  Advocates also usually claim that the technical terms used in 1 Corinthians and 1 Timothy are technical terms denoting homosexual prostitutes, not homosexuals per se.  The arguments involve a number of technicalities that will require some introduction which I will present in the next installment.

 

I make no claim to originality since so much research has already been done on this matter.  I am simplifying the work of others, particularly that of Robert Gagnon, whose more technical discussions can be found in his book (“The Bible and Homosexual Practice”;  Nashville:  Abingdon Press, 2001) and at his website (http://www.robgagnon.net/Index.html).  I find his scholarship to be excellent and his arguments quite sound.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In “Fog Machines and Laser Lights” I introduced the question of enhancing the “worship” experience with…well…fog machines and laser lights – or even something as simple as inspirational pictures of nature behind the words of our hymns and choruses.  In that article I put the term “worship” in quotes, and there are reasons for that.

First, contemporary Christians tend to use “worship” as a noun (e.g. “I need fog machines to enhance my worship”).  But in both the Old and New Testaments worship is always a verb, and it has nothing to do with music!  “Worship” means quite simply “bow down or prostrate oneself before a superior”.  I have yet to see anyone argue for (much less practice) lying prostrate during the singing of hymns or choruses.

Worshiping God is something that a worshiper does toward God.  God, not the worshiper, is the recipient of the “worship experience”.  That simple fact makes me wonder why there is so much concern for enhancing the worshiper’s “worship” experience.  Worshiping has little if anything to do with what the worshiper gets and everything to do with what he gives.

Second, there is a Hebrew noun that is used of the formal religious rituals performed in the tabernacle/temple.  It’s the word “service” (Hebrew ehvodah).  All of those rituals of service were pictures that pointed toward Christ, and the book of Hebrews indicates that the death and resurrection of Christ did away with the need for those rituals.  The New Testament never prescribes any worship “service” for Christians except this:

Therefore, I urge you,brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God — this is your true and proper worship.  Do not conform to the pattern of this world,but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is — his good, pleasing and perfect will. (Romans 12.1-2, NIV)

If we’re accepting biblical definitions, a Christian’s worship “service” has little to do with a meeting on Sunday and everything to do with how he relates to God in everyday life.  “Worship” has little to do with rituals performed in church and everything to do with one’s inner life working itself out in actions (cf. John 4.23-24).  “Worship” has little to do with music and everything to do with living every moment of life as “sacrifices” to God – dying to self and living in obedience.  “Worship” has nothing to do with my feelings about God and everything to do with my thought life – seeking transformation of my life by renewing my mind with the truth about what God wants rather than what I want.

Now, why were talking about fog machines and laser lights again?



 

One of the questions that I’ve received a number of times over the years is:  “Why don’t you have a cross anywhere in your church?”  When I ask what purpose it would serve, the answer is usually:  “I think it enhances worship when people are able to see a cross.”

In more recent days one of the questions I’ve been asked is:  “Instead of just stark words on a bare wall, why don’t you put inspirational pictures – you know:  waterfalls and lush forests and flowery meadows and majestic mountains – behind the words of the choruses that we sing?”  When I ask what purpose it would serve, the response is usually:  “It would enhance our worship.”

In a recent discussion about how to improve music in our church, someone suggested (I believe, in jest):  “I think we should get a fog machine!”  When I pointed out that I heard of a church that did that very thing “to enhance their worship”, the folks in our discussion responded disapprovingly.

We are interesting and complicated creatures, aren’t we?  We are not just bodiless spirits experiencing life abstractly.  We have flesh – we see, we hear, we touch.  Physical things communicate to us – and they communicate not only concrete data, but abstract notions.  We tend to want abstractions illustrated.  We want something we can “relate to”.  We prefer stories and illustrations to logical abstract explanations.  We like seeing waterfalls and mountains.  Words alone are boring.

God understands that about us.  He made us this way!  He made sunsets and mountains and waterfalls and He made our eyes and ears and skin to experience them.  Physical sensations and experiences are not meaningless and trivial;  they can communicate to our souls. He doesn’t command that those initiated into Christianity sit and meditate about the pilgrimage upon which they are about to embark;  He tells us to dunk them in water – get them wet, let them feel the water and think about what that experience means, about what it represents regarding the decision they have made.  Likewise, God commands us to regularly set aside time when we’re together to eat a piece of bread and to drink a cup of grape juice – all of us together – a tangible physical experience to remind ourselves of what we have in common and what we are all committed to.

That God uses our physical senses to communicate truth to us has some bearing, I believe, on the use of music and what I will call “the accoutrements of ‘worship’ ” – and yes, I put “worship” in quotation marks intentionally.  Most of us want the performing of music or listening to music to result in a “good experience” – whether it is music for worship, for an elevator ride, in a dentist’s office, or in our car.  We want music to make us feel good.  Who chooses experiences designed to make them feel bad?  And who looks for ways to make an experience worse?  And so it would seem that anything that enhances an experience (including worship) is a good thing. 

Right???

So what if a fog machine and a laser light show going on behind the worship band enhances a worship experience?  Enhancing worship is always a good thing – right?

Right???

Bummer.  The alarm on my phone just went off reminding me of another appointment.  Guess I’ll have to finish this at another time. 

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