Is the gospel really inclusive for all people? What does the Bible really say about LGBTQ relationships? In this discussion, which can also be watched on Biola's YouTube channel, Sean and Scott discuss a recent book that makes an affirming case for same-sex unions. The book is The Gospel of Inclusion by Brandan J. Robertson. They discuss the most common arguments for LGBTQ inclusion by considering the biblical passages in context and ancient culture.
Sean McDowell: Welcome to “Think Biblically: Conversations on Faith and Culture”, a podcast from Talbot School of Theology, Biola University. I’m your host, Sean McDowell, professor of apologetics.
Scott Rae: And I’m your co-host, Scott Rae, Dean of Faculty and professor of Christian ethics.
Sean McDowell: Today’s conversation you can also find a video of if you go to the Youtube channel of Biola University, you can see it there as well. For now, enjoy the conversation.
Sean McDowell: Is the Gospel inclusive? How should Christians think about the myriad of ethical and biblical questions surrounding the larger LGBTQ conversation? Well today, Scott Rae, now my co-host from my "Think Biblically" podcast are gonna talk about a more recent book called the "Gospel of Inclusion" by Brandon Robertson. Now, the reason we picked this book is not to pick on him, but because this book is a good representation.
Scott Rae: Agreed.
Sean McDowell: Of many of the affirming kinds of arguments that we're going to respond to. So if somebody wants to pick up a book that makes a case for an affirming position, he does a nice job doing so. What we wanna do is push back biblically and push back kind of theologically on some of the arguments that he makes.
Scott Rae: In fact, the subtitle, I think, will be helpful for our listeners. It's the "Gospel of Inclusion: A Christian Case for LGBT+ Inclusion in the Church."
Sean McDowell: And that subtitle is exactly where I think we wanna begin. So, let me ask you. In what sense is the Bible inclusive?
Scott Rae: Well, in one sense, when it comes to salvation, it's inclusive in an absolute sense because nobody, regardless of sort of whether they're regardless of race, gender, class, creed, sexuality, anything is outside the boundaries of the cross of Christ. Nobody can say I either don't need the cross, or there's no way the cross could cover my life and where I've been and what I've done.
Sean McDowell: Okay
Scott Rae: The way I think the New Testament unfolded was the progressive inclusion of people who were at once considered outside of the people of God. As you know, the people of God are identified as the nation of Israel in the Old
Testament. I think there's a handful of believing Gentiles or non-Jews in the Old Testament that are held up as examples of faithfulness to contrast Israel's unfaithfulness, but in the New Testament, that's developed in a lot more depth and detail where non-Jews are included in the economy of salvation. Women are now treated as equals among the people of God.
Sean McDowell: Amen.
Scott Rae: Although I think you can make an argument that women in the Old Testament were also treated as equals to men because they were both equally made in the image of God, which was not the case throughout the ancient world.
Sean McDowell: Sure.
Scott Rae: And also, based on socioeconomic class where household servants or slaves were considered co-equals, co-heirs, with their masters in the kingdom of God. So radical counter cultural inclusion in terms of the web of salvation. But I think what we need to be careful of, it doesn't follow from that every lifestyle that was redeemed is one that's acceptable in discipleship going forward. In fact, there's a good reason that we call it redeemed.
Sean McDowell: [laughs] Okay.
Scott Rae: So I think it depends on in what sense you are- If you are describing inclusion in the 21st century terms, that's different. Those are a different set of categories than I think what the New Testament had in mind.
Sean McDowell: So a lot of the debate is about what we mean by inclusion, and the gospel is for all people, all races, both sexes, including people with same-sex attraction, without gender dysphoria, without. All are invited to come to the throne and accept God's grace and be a part of the church, but it doesn't follow that all understandings of marriage, all understandings of gender, are therefore included because all people are invited to be a part of the church and repent from their sins.
Scott Rae: Right, the gospel welcomes everyone regardless of where they've been, but the Gospel does not affirm every place that they've been.
Sean McDowell: And that's not just on LGBTQ issues, that's on all issues.
Scott Rae: That's on the possession of wealth.
Sean McDowell: Got it.
Scott Rae: That's onSean McDowell: Okay.
Scott Rae:The idolatry of work, all sorts of other things.
Sean McDowell: Okay. One of the common arguments that is made, and Brandon raises it in this book, but others have made it as well, is that we evaluate true prophecy from false prophecy based on the fruits. Now, this comes from Jesus' teaching in Matthew 7 where He says to kind of judge a tree by its fruit, and the argument is that traditional teaching on sexuality, that marriage is one man, one woman, committed relationship for life, brings harm to LGBTQ people, and since it's harm, it's bad fruit. We should reconsider the teaching and consider it false and unbiblical. Now, this is one of the most rhetorically-powerful arguments. When I first heard this, I thought if my teaching is bringing harm to people, that's a heavy-
Scott Rae: I'm gonna rethink what I'm teaching.
Sean McDowell: Weight to bear. Yeah, so before we get into that passage, should we evaluate teachings, biblical teachings, by their psychological effects on people?
Scott Rae: Well, I think in some cases, yes, but I don't think that should be determinative of whether they are true or not. Whether they're true or not is determined by the degree to which they line up with the clear teaching of scripture. Now, it's important, I think, to distinguish between the psychological effects of something and it's ontological truth or falsity. Those two are not necessarily related. It's really interesting when you see the work of our colleague, Preston Sprinkle. I mean, he's done lots of empirical research on this, and he makes a distinction between the position that people hold and the way LGBTQ folks are treated in the church, and I think that the issue is how are people being treated, and that's different than the position actually that's being held. And a lot of people who wanna be faithful to Christ, but also are in the LGBTQ community, they make it pretty clear that it's how they were treated, much more so than the position that's held, that is the main contributor to how they've been turned off to the gospel. And in fact, many of them, when they recognize that their faithfulness to Christ is more important to them than living out their sexuality, often look for a church, not the affirming ones, but the ones who hold Sean McDowell: Sure.
Scott Rae: traditional views on marriage and sexuality. So if the way I'm treating people or the organizations I'm leading are treating people in ways that bring harm, we need to repent of that and change that, but the position and the treatment are two somewhat different things. Now, our position can be articulated in ways that are harmful, no doubt Sean McDowell: Gotcha.
Scott Rae: but that's different from the position itself. And then, that's, I think, the thing that we need to hold onto.
Sean McDowell: So take something like divorce. We wanna know what the Bible teaches about if divorce is permissible, and if so, when. We care deeply about people who have been divorced, going through divorce, been harmed in a marriage, but biblically, the question has to be what is the purpose of marriage and when is divorce permissible?
Scott Rae: Yeah, I have a good friend who is in the middle of this wrestling at the moment, and he's very clear that the only thing he cares about is what the Bible teaches on this.
Sean McDowell: Wow.
Scott Rae: He's put his self-interest aside.
Sean McDowell: Wow.
Scott Rae: And I commend him for how deeply he's wrestling with this. I mean, he's even concluded if the Bible teaches that divorce under the conditions that he's working with is not legitimate, he is okay being alone for the rest of his life.
Sean McDowell: That's quite the commitment to scripture.
Scott Rae: Yeah, it's a great commitment to biblical authority, and I commend him for it, and I think our views on sexuality and the psychological part of that need to be similar.
Sean McDowell: Now, if we go to Matthew chapter 7 and actually look at this, what I found is if you look at the verses before, 15 through 20, and you look at the verses after, Jesus is not saying you know a tree by its fruit in terms of the effects in somebody's life living it out, mainly the subjective effects or their experience. Rather, it's the fruit of obedience and the fruit of repentance. It's an objective fruit we can assess. Does this teaching cause somebody to repent and turn from sin? Does this teaching encourage somebody towards obedience? That's what Jesus means in the rest of Matthew 7 and also in the rest of Gospel of Matthew. So I think biblically, we're on solid ground even though this has rhetorical appeal to people.
Scott Rae: Yeah, and even things like the fruit of the spirit. Those are observable character traits, not psychological effects. So, I think it's that that's born out also in the rest of the New Testament. One of the questions I wanna put to you Sean McDowell: Okay.
Scott Rae: is we often hear people say that the types of relationships, same-sex relationships, that people are trying hard to justify biblically and theologically, the argument is made that the permanent, monogamous same-sex relationships, there's no category for those in the scripture, and therefore, the Bible is silent on those, and we are free to assess those, make our own decisions on those as we see fit. How do you evaluate that argument that the Bible really never addresses the main type of relationships that LGBTQ advocates are, at least within the church, are trying to justify?
Sean McDowell: Yeah, the first thing I would say is “All right, let's see if that's actually true.” So you look in Leviticus chapter 18 and 20. You go to Romans 1, and you see a punishment for both parties engaging in this behavior, which shows there's a level of mutuality that's taking place, so it's not master and slave, pederastic relationships minimally. So that doesn't get us all the way to the exact modern understanding of this, but it does show that it's talking about a kind of mutual relationship in which both are engaging in it, hence there's a punishment for each of 'em. So that's the first point that I would make. Second, I would say is I'm not sure totally that it matters even if they're right. Now, with that said, we actually do know, and again, Preston Sprinkle has documented this in his book "People to be Loved," there was a sense, a kind of an ancient sense of sexual orientation that somebody was born with certain attractions. There were committed, loving, long-term relationships in the ancient world, and we have reason to believe, given Paul's understand of the ancient world, that he likely was aware of these. So I'm not quite willing to dismiss and say we know Paul was not aware of these. We don't, He may have been. But on top of that, I don't know that it really matters. If the Bible is talking about our design and our function and our creation as male and female, and he's talking about the nature of what marriage is, then some of these modern incarnations are not relevant to overturn God's creative design. We see Jesus and Matthew 19 pointing back towards creation. We see Paul in Romans 1 pointing back towards creation. So there may be some nuances in culture today that show that relationships are a little bit different, but not sufficiently different to say that the scriptural teaching does not apply and that scripture hasn't defined sufficiently what marriage is.
Scott Rae: And I think, Sean, that's a really helpful point. I think to question that premise on which that argument is based, that there were no permanent monogamous, same-sex relationships in the ancient world, and I think that's right to question that. I don't think that's true. I don't think that was the majority thing, but to say that Paul was completely unaware of that I think is a speculation that's not well-grounded. So, what do we say about other attempts to limit the context of biblical teaching? Say, for example, in the Old Testament, some of the purity laws in Leviticus 18 and 20. One of the reasons we have those laws is because of the temptation to idolatry and the prevalence of religious prostitution in the ancient world. In fact, the worship of Baal, religious prostitution was an integral part of that because it symbolized, fertilization symbolized, the pleas to Baal to fertilize the ground to give them agricultural prosperity. That's why it was so widespread. And even in the 1st century in Paul's teaching in Romans 1, clearly the context there is one of idolatrous worship and that all human beings are under sin because we've all committed the sin of idolatry. And so, what do you make of the argument that says, "Well, this can't be referring to all same-sex relationships in general. It's referring to just a specific type of same-sex relationship?"
Sean McDowell: So, let's take a look at Leviticus 18, and by the way, I'm not gonna build a theology from this passage alone, and I don't start there with somebody when they say, "What does the Bible say about, say, same-sex relationships?" because it raises a lot of other questions, but it's really interesting that in Leviticus 18, it says a man shall not have sexual relations with another man as with a woman, and then it moves on. But the passages before that, I think it's 12 or 13 verses, describes the kind of specific incestual relationships that human beings are not to engage in. Now, why would there be a dozen or so verses on incest, but only one on the issue of homosexual behavior? Well, if you say incest is wrong, you actually have to define is that my sister? Obviously. What about a cousin? What about a second cousin, what about? You actually have to give some parameters, but if you're given a statement that rules out homosexual behavior in all circumstances, that I'm man shall not lie with another male as with a female, that statement alone rules out all kinds of homosexual behavior. So I do think even in the Leviticus passage, and by the way, what's interesting in there is there is a sense of idolatry that's built-in. Of course, this is in the Mosaic law, but this passage starts off, and Moses says, he says, "Don't commit the kind of sins and abominations they commit in Egypt and in Canaan," and then it starts listing these sins in Leviticus 18. Well, Canaan and Egypt didn't get castigated or judged for not keeping the Passover or for mixing fabric because that was uniquely a part of the law given just to the Jewish people under that covenant, but they were judged for sexual immorality because they should know it. It's written into creation by natural law, which is what Romans appeals to as well. So I think a case can be made. In fact, this is the standard historic Christian understanding. There really was no debate about this until just a few minutes ago, historically speaking, that homosexual behavior in particular violated God's design as laid out from Genesis all the way into Jesus and beyond.
Scott Rae: Yeah, now in Romans 1, Paul's not saying that same-sex sexual behavior is the only or the worst manifestation of idolatry, just that it's one that's plain and obvious and clear, and when Paul said in Romans 1:27, he could have made it more ambiguous than he did, but he specifies that the natural relation for men is with women, and he specifically qualifies that as with women. If he had just said that they forsake the natural relation for that which is unnatural, then when there might be some aid and comfort to the view that that naturalness could be a subjective thing, not an objective one Sean McDowell: Sure.
Scott Rae: but he specifies that the natural relationship is the heterosexual one which I think takes it in more into the realm of the objective in terms of God's design from creation rather than opposed to the subjective based on my own attractions.
Sean McDowell: I think that's good, and Robertson raises a common, affirming response to this where he says that Paul thought of natural sex as procreative and hence unnatural sex as non-procreative. So, Paul isn't condemning same-sex sexual behavior between men and-or between women. He is condemning non-procreative sexual behavior. Seems to me this gets to the heart at what we mean by nature and what is natural especially 'cause you get later in the book of Romans, he talks about long hair not being natural. So, how should we understand what Paul means by nature and natural in Romans 1?
Scott Rae: Well, I think yeah, his appeal to nature, I think, intends to make this a universal truth
Sean McDowell: Okay.
Scott Rae: and I think what he is implicitly saying is by appealing to nature, he's appealing to creation. It's natural for a reason. It's natural because God instituted that at creation, and it's continued to this day.
Sean McDowell: So, I think you're right. When you look at the context again, like we saw with Matthew 7 verses before and verses after, when you go to Romans chapter 1, what's the context of the verses that deal with homosexual behavior?
Well, if you read the verses earlier, 1:18 through 21, Paul says, "God has revealed himself in nature. We know this, but we suppress the truth. His invisible attributes are made known. They're clear to everyone, but we suppress it in unrighteousness." So, he's given this macro view that you're talking about, and then it's almost like he says, "Let me give you a specific, particular example of how this is expressed."
Scott Rae: That's right.
Sean McDowell: Moves to sexual behavior, and just like it's obvious that God exists by looking at nature, it's obvious that there's a design for sexuality by looking at our bodies, and this is sufficient for God to condemn even people without special revelation. They should have known what's revealed in nature itself. I think we see this pattern. It's really important for people to pick up on. In Leviticus 18 which says a man should not have sexual relationships or lie with another male as with a woman, this is language reminiscent of Genesis, the creation of male and female. We see the same thing in Romans pointing back towards God's creation. That's the standard, I think, that scripture consistently gives.
Scott Rae: Well, and I think that it's a bit of an artificial distinction to make between procreative and non-procreative sex in the ancient world because they didn't have any birth control methods. I mean, all heterosexual sex was procreative, right, and because there were no birth control measures to be taken. Sean McDowell: Okay.
Scott Rae: I mean, menopause was probably the only way in which heterosexual sex would not be non-procreative. It's just the same-sex sexuality that's inherently non-procreative. I think I wanna make sure we take into account some of the cultural aspects that existed in Old Testament times and in the 1st century that I think help us understand a little bit more fully what Paul intended. Now, the other thing that that is often said is that sexual relations in the ancient world were more governed by an honor-shame context than they were a sin or morally justifiable context. In other words, the function you had in the sexual relationship was either one of honor or of shame. In other words, if you were the penetrator, that was the honored position. If you were the penetrated, that was considered the shame position, which is why even same-sex relationships were prohibited between Roman citizens because it was considered immoral to shame another Roman citizen by putting them in that position. Now, I think this contributes to women having a sense of being inferior to men in general in the 1st century. I think that the New Testament changed that. I think it explains why things like pederasty were very common, although not exclusively, but they were very common, and why in same-sex relationships, the person who was in the dominant position was the one who was considered morally in the clear as opposed to the one who was in the more the passive position, which when Paul describes this in 1 Corinthians 6, he actually invents a term to make it clear that both the dominant and the submissive person were guilty of sin and therefore guilty of shame. So, I think what Paul does is he takes a cultural, the cultural way in which sexuality was viewed, and turns it on its head and says, "No, not," because if he would've just used sort of half of that term that he invented to put the dominant person in the clear, nobody would've thought twice about that, but what made it so countercultural was that he issued condemnation for both parties in a same-sex sexual relationship.
Sean McDowell: I think one of the differences you and I would have with a lot of affirming arguments is they will look at the Greco-Roman culture that was honor-shame, and the way you described certain homosexual behavior was the way it was understood in the culture and say, "Therefore, this is the backdrop of why Paul is condemning this." But again, if you look at Romans 1, that's not the language that he uses. Now, it is described that certain behavior is shameful, but why is it shameful? It's not because of what was going on in the Roman culture. It's because God designed men and women from the beginning to have a different function based on their bodies that we can see in natural revelation, so to not use them according to their design is sinful. Hence, the purpose of the beginning of Romans that we're all sinful, and it's shameful, it's both. So, I don't think it's either-or. I think it's both. So, to avoid the argument he's making from creation, you have to just focus on shame. I think that misses the point of where Romans is going.
Scott Rae: Right, and even the language that Paul uses in 1 Corinthians 6 turns that notion upside down. That's one of the reasons our friend, the historian, Kyle Harper, has written about how sexuality was transformed by the gospel, and the title of his treatment of that is "From Shame to Sin." And what I think what he means by that is the New Testament universalizes the moral wrong of all sexual relations outside of heterosexual marriage whereas in the Roman world, most of it, if you were in the dominant position, was considered to be morally acceptable. That's a big change
Sean McDowell: That’s a huge change.
Scott Rae: very countercultural.
Sean McDowell: Let me take us back a minute and talk about a point that Robertson makes that I've heard frequently by affirming scholars and thinkers. It's the idea that the church has constructed an anti-affirming theology from just the five or six clobber passages, and in other words, of the 23,000 verses in the Bible as often cited, only five or six speak of same-sex relationships. So, is this position that you and I hold, was it developed as an anti-affirming position out of only five verses in all of the Bible? That sounds compelling on the surface. You think it's just five or six, this is small, but is that how we should do theology and approach topics like marriage and sexuality?
Scott Rae: Well, we're not playing a numbers game here. We're not keeping score as to which view has the most verses on its side. I think what we're asking is how clear are they
Sean McDowell: Okay.
Scott Rae: Alright and are they determinative of the position that we hold? Are they sufficient to give us confidence in the position that we hold, and I think the clear testimony throughout the history of the church has been unequivocal on same-sex sexual relations, and I don't think that has anything to do with patriarchy. I don't think it has anything to do with any other cultural factors. I think it primarily has to do with what I would consider to be the trump card on this, which is not just a single verse or two, but the entire teaching of Genesis 1 and 2 where the design from creation was laid out very clear, that Adam and Eve clearly designed as male and female, designed to come together as one flesh, marriage is instituted, and all of that, and then the rest of the Mosaic law, I think, falls out of the ordinances of creation. So, I think to say that there's only a handful of verses that refer to same-sex sexuality, specifically, that might be true, but the context for that, the grounding for that, is much broader and I think much more determinative of what our views on sexuality ought to be. And I think Romans 1 is situated similarly.
Sean McDowell: Agreed, so in one sense, you're right. It's not a numbers game. If there's one passage that clearly says homosexual behavior is wrong, that's sufficient, but the real question is what is marriage? That's the question. So from Genesis all the way through the Old Testament, we have this understanding that marriage is meant to be, and we see people failing to live it out, that's for sure.
It's meant to be one man and one woman in a committed relationship for life. That's about companionship. It's about procreating and filling the earth, but that's the outlet for expressing sexuality, and so if we expand and ask the question what is marriage, you actually see that Darrin Belousek in his book on same-sex unions looked at this historically, and he said, "It is one of the most Catholic views” and by Catholic, lower-case c.
Scott Rae: Universal church, yeah.
Sean McDowell: It was universal, it was early, it's consistent. In that case, I think we see it very differently than just looking at five or six clobber passages.
Scott Rae: Well, and I think you also have to ask on what basis is the teaching grounded in the scripture? So for example, when marriage is talked about Ephesians 5, that's grounded in the relationship between Christ and the church. That's pretty significant. I mean, that's better than going back to creation. And so, we look at not just the quantity of verse, but how is this teaching grounded? If it's grounded in a universal truth like the relationship between Christ and the church, chances are very good that it's also intended as a universal truth. Now, here's one of the places where I think the LGBTQ folks push back is on something like slavery in the scripture. Slavery was, I think, allowed for a variety of reasons, but I think we all agree that the world is a better place now that slavery's been abolished, right?
Sean McDowell: Not abolished, but moving that direction. There's still some worldwide is what you mean, but we recognize it's wrong.
Scott Rae: Yeah, and the world would be much better off if all slavery were abolished.
Sean McDowell: Yes, agreed.
Scott Rae: And I think the same would be true with patriarchy. Patriarchal cultures where men are dominant and women have less value and are seen as either objects or commodities is a world that none of us really wanna live in. Now, patriarchy was well-known throughout the ancient world as was slavery, and I think you can make a case that even though something like slavery was deeply humanized by the Mosaic law and by the New Testament, it still existed nonetheless. And the LGBTQ folks, I think, and Robertson, I think, is trying to make the argument that why isn't same-sex sexuality viewed similarly to slavery, patriarchy. Might even throw the death penalty in there, too.
Sean McDowell: Yeah.
Scott Rae: So, what would you say to that? What's the difference between slavery and LGBTQ relationships?
Sean McDowell: So, this is where I think William Webb's writing, and Robertson interacts with him a little bit. He says there's kind of this redemptive hermeneutic where God takes a broken system where people are at, such as slavery, including His chosen people coming out of slavery, takes a patriarchal culture and ultimately moves it away from slavery, away from patriarchy. We see this very slow, methodical kind of liberation that arises within the New Testament, but we don't see the same kind of trajectory when it comes to sexuality, especially when we look at the person of Jesus. Jesus didn't go around interpreting issues of sexuality in a more inclusive manner in the way we hear people talking today. In fact, if anything, He almost moved in a more conservative direction. You even look at a woman lustfully, and you're guilty of adultery. A divorce is only permitted, it seems to be saying in Matthew 19, in cases of sexual unfaithfulness. So, if He did move in a more progressive direction on some ethical issues, if, we don't see that trajectory when it comes to sexuality, and even in the early church in Acts 15, there's still this sense of like we're moving away from the law, but avoid sexual immorality. So, I just don't see that trajectory. I see consistent pointing back towards creation as the guide rather than this other kind of trajectory moving forward.
Scott Rae: Yeah, I think it's fair to say that the Mosaic law was given not so much as an ideal of what the moral life should be like, though I think it has lots of things that are ideal about it, but it was primarily, I think, given for damage control in a fundamentally fallen, broken world, which is why if in the ancient world, if slavery had been abolished carte blanche, a large part of the safety net for the poor would've been gone. And remember, there was no welfare state in the ancient world. You didn't pay your taxes to help the poor. You paid your taxes to help the risk rich stay rich and so if household servanthood had been abolished, then the poor would've had literally no place to go but the streets and homelessness, and even in Galatians 3 where it says where it's this great liberating verse that talks about now, we are all equal, we are all co-heirs and equals in the body of Christ, He cites women and Gentiles and slaves, those three. So it's based on gender, race, and socioeconomic class, and conspicuous by its absence is any reference to sexuality.
Sean McDowell: That's true.
Scott Rae: I mean, Galatians 3:28 is supposed to be the great sort of Magna Carta of human equality and inclusiveness, but that last part, nowhere to be found, and I give Robertson credit. Initially when he's interacting with Webb, he doesn't mention at all that Webb himself Sean McDowell: That’s right.
Scott Rae: strongly denies that there's any redemptive trajectory when it comes to same-sex relationships. Now later on in the book, I give him credit. He finally does acknowledge that, but I think, in Robertson's view because slavery was abolished and patriarchy was largely done away with, then it just naturally follows from that that LGBT folks are included without any biblical evidence to suggest that that's the case.
Sean McDowell: I think that's a great distinction to make. One of the other arguments that he talks about and I've heard frequently from affirming thinkers is that, say for example, Peter has this experience in Acts 10 of the Spirit, and it's this experience-based hermeneutic that now we can appeal to the experience of people who are LGBTQ, and they have positive spiritual experiences. Thus, the Spirit is moving in new ways. Part of me is like, I don't wanna resist the Holy Spirit. That's the force of this, but on the flip side, one point that I make is I would say okay, time out. There is a big difference between in the book of Acts when we have the first time the Spirit going to, or the gospel going to Samaria, going to Gentiles, going to the ends of the earth, and Peter, who is an apostle who saw the risen Jesus and had unique authority at that point, and us pointing towards our experiences apart from scripture. That's one point I would have. What would you say about that position?
Scott Rae: I'd say yeah, this wasn't Peter's experience. This was direct revelation. I mean, this came directly from God himself, and he recognized the movement of the Spirit among Gentiles, but that dream that all animals are now clean, referring to Gentiles, that's about as direct revelation as it comes, and even more so because it was actually written down and inscripturated. That is completely different, in my view, than the subjective experience of LGBTQ folks sort of finding themselves. I commend folks who are same-sex attracted, who are transgender, wanting to take their faith seriously, and I think we need to affirm that. For some, that involves really painful choices to take their faith and their allegiance to Christ seriously, and we've had several folks on our podcast who have done that very thing. What ultimately is the trump card for them is not their same-sex experience. It's the objective teaching of scripture, and I think that's ultimately where the debate on this lies, and I think, at the end of the day, if the Bible is clear, then you either accept it or you don't, and then we let the chips fall where they will. But I'm often skeptical of attempts to what look to me to be evading the clear teaching of the church, the scripture, and the clear historical tradition of the church until very recently.
Sean McDowell:Let's tackle a couple more questions. This is one I've never asked you, Scott. I'm curious what you would make of the question of whether or not sexuality and issues of same-sex marriage are questions or matters of Christian orthodoxy. So, we all talk about how we wanna die on the essentials, so to speak, and be just gracious on, not so much our demeanor, but just compromises we have to on secondary issues. Where would you place this question?
Scott Rae: Well, maybe we ought to define what we mean by primary and secondary issues first.
Sean McDowell: Okay.
Scott Rae: I define primary issues as those things that you have to believe to be a believer, and that if you don't believe those, you're outside of Christian faith. So, that's not very much, right? I'd say it's the gospel message that Paul describes in 1 Corinthians 15. It's the fact that we've all sinned, the cross and resurrection, the Lord's return, authority of scripture, things like that. Just because we call them secondary I don't think means that they're less important or that they matter less to human flourishing. I think that's a mistake. I think that that doesn't follow.
Sean McDowell: Okay.
Scott Rae: So, I think I would hold that that distinction is somewhat arbitrary although I think I kinda like the way I've Sean McDowell: Yeah.
Scott Rae: teased it out, and clearly, all those primary things, those are hills I'm gonna die on. And there are some things that the Bible teaches that I don't consider hills to die on. And this, I think that our teaching on marriage and sexuality I think falls somewhere in the middle of those, and think I go back to Ephesians 5 and the way the Mosaic law is structured, and that leads me to hold that our views on marriage and sexuality since God created us male and female, and there's something about male and female together that reflects the Trinity in ways that not much else does and that, in Ephesians 5, it reflects the relationship that Christ has with the church. Those are really foundational groundings for those things, and so that's why I would consider them a matter of quote-orthodoxy, not that you have to believe that in order to be a part of the body of Christ or to be a part of the kingdom of God. Now, I think we probably need to make a distinction, too, between gay and celibate, or side A and side B.
Sean McDowell: Sure.
Scott Rae: I don't think that necessarily being gay and sexually involved necessarily disqualifies you from membership in the kingdom. I think, gay and celibate, I think, is the preferred position, biblically and theologically. I think only those things that I would consider to be the primary issues, those are the only things that disqualify someone from membership in the kingdom. Now, I'd wanna know if somebody's struggling with it, that's different than somebody who's not Sean McDowell: Of course, of course.
Scott Rae: but I guess the marriage and sexuality, that's a hill that I would die on because of how it's grounded. I think that's a really important thing that we oughta think really hard before going backward on that.
Sean McDowell: The Bible begins with a wedding. The longest chapter in the
Torah in Genesis is about the wedding of Isaac, finding a bride for Isaac. 10 Commandments. We have honor your father and your mother. Do not commit adultery. Don't covet your neighbor's wife. Like, three of 'em build in natural marriage.
Scott Rae: That's a lot.
Sean McDowell: Jesus talked about marriage, Matthew 19. Paul talked about 1 Corinthians 7. You said Ephesians 5. The Bible ends with a wedding, right? Of course, of a different kind, of Christ and the bridegroom and the lamb, et cetera. And given that-
Scott Rae: But it's in an analogy that we all know about.
Sean McDowell: Yes, exactly, but if we're gonna understand Christ's love for the church as a kind of marriage, we've gotta get marriage right. So, that's where it's so important and central. It's a hill I will die on, but ultimately, if somebody believes differently about it and acts differently, it's God's job to judge. I can't judge somebody's heart.
Scott Rae: Right.
Sean McDowell: Doesn't make it a less important theological issue. But you all also have to 1 Corinthians 6 where Paul lists, and this is where he uses the term you were referring to earlier, [speaks foreign language] where that Greek term referring to, I think, best understood as male betters referring to same-sex sexual behavior.
Scott Rae: Both parties.
Sean McDowell: Both parties, correct. As something that separates people from the kingdom of God. Now of course, that's not the only sin that's mentioned there. Paul condemns all of us.
Scott Rae: Exactly.
Sean McDowell: That's very important to bring out, but I look at that and I'm like wow, if Paul's gonna place committing this sin in the category of those who will not inherit the kingdom of God, I'm actually not being loving Scott Rae: That’s right.
Sean McDowell: if I don't speak that truth. So that's the piece that we have to bring in as well, and that's why you and I, even on a topic like this, wouldn't necessarily choose to offer critique of an affirming position, but it's tied to the gospel in some fashion. It's tied to Christ's revelation of his love for the church, so we feel compelled to speak out.
Scott Rae: Yeah, it's not one of those issues that's not important. It is important, and I think one of the things that I think we're starting to see a little bit more of, and Robertson actually surprised me in this a bit toward the end when he admitted that the permanent relationships that sort of, once you dispense with traditional marriage, sort of all bets are off, and he actually has some support and is not uncomfortable with relationships of more than two people. Sean McDowell: Yeah.
Scott Rae: So polyamory, polygamy, whatever you wanna call it Sean McDowell: Yep.
Scott Rae: and I think this is one of the things that I think folks who hold the position that you and I do have cautioned about for some time, that once autonomy and once sort of my body, my choice, and I get to love whoever I wanna love, there's no compelling reason to limit that to just one person.
Sean McDowell: I think that's exactly right. If you take biological sex out of marriage, and it becomes a genderless institution and it's about mutuality and love and care, then how do you limit it to two, and the answer is you can't. You have to be in favor of polyamory. In fact, I don't even think you can rule out something like incest because you could make the case Scott Rae: Right.
Sean McDowell:The Bible wasn't talking about the kind of loving, mutual, monogamous, incestual relationships we're… that we hold today. So, I think that's where these things lead, and it's not a slippery-slope argument. It is a logical extension. It might be what you and I would call reductio ad absurdum.
Scott Rae: Yeah, we'd say it's a logical slippery slope.
Sean McDowell: Well, it's a logical slippery slope, but if you hold A and it leads towards B and B is affirming something like incestual relationships, maybe your position back here is wrong. It's a natural, logical move Scott Rae: That’s right.
Sean McDowell: as you obviously well know. Wrap it up. Any other thoughts that we missed you wanna say about the book or?
Scott Rae: Yeah, well, it was interesting that the transgender discussion is, I think, an entirely different one.
Sean McDowell: Agreed.
Scott Rae: And in my view, a bit more complicated, both biblically and theologically because I think both of us would view gender dysphoria, or the transgender movement, not as something to be celebrated, but something that's a result of the general entrance of sin, that God created male and female, to use another term, in a binary way, but because of the entrance of sin, we do have people who feel not at home in their bodies, whose gender experience is different than their biological sex. I'm actually surprised because the pervasiveness of sin that it's not more common than it is. I would've expected that, and what to do about that, I think, is a whole nother dimension, both morally and pastorally, at the same time. I think we need to be aware of some of the most compelling research on this by experts at Johns Hopkins
Sean McDowell: Yep.
Scott Rae: has suggested that, as a child and a teenager, folks who experience transgender desires, the vast majority of them do grow out of that. Now, to be fair, what that grows into often is a same-sex attraction.
Sean McDowell: That's right.
Scott Rae: But that's a different set of questions. I think that's an area where I think our pastoral sensitivity is demanded similarly to how we deal with folks who are same-sex attracted.
Sean McDowell: I think what you and I need to do on one of our next interviews is talk about some of the books making a biblical case for transgender inclusion specifically. I think that'd be really helpful. Again, I hope our viewers realized that we were trying to critique ideas that are important. In some ways, the biggest honor you can give somebody is to take their book seriously.
Scott Rae: Which we did.
Sean McDowell: 'Cause you think it's a good representation of a view, offer a response. On my YouTube channel, I've had multiple conversations with people who are making the case for affirming viewpoints, but there also comes a time where you just say you know what, you and I are gonna give our response to something and give our clarity in a different format, and that's what we aim to do here.
Scott Rae: And I think I wanna let our listeners know you can expect this kind of thing from us a little bit more regularly going forward because there are an increasing number of books and movements and articles that are taking issue with Christian orthodoxy, and that we feel an obligation, as best we can and gracious and charitably as we can without a sense that we're piling on an author without giving him a chance to defend himself here, but to respond to this in a way that we think is biblically consistent and grounded, that will help our listeners to think biblically about the issue that we're talking about.
Scott Rae: This has been an episode of the podcast “Think Biblically:
Conversations on Faith and Culture”. The “Think Biblically” podcast is brought to you by Talbot School of Theology at Biola University, offering programs in Southern California and online, including the Institute for Spiritual Formation. Visit biola.edu/talbot in order to learn more. If you enjoyed today’s conversation, give us a rating on your podcast app and please feel free to share with a friend.
Thanks so much for listening and remember: think biblically about everything.