Preston Sprinkle on Hell, Non-Violence, and Same-Sex Attraction

This episode is a conversation with Dr. Preston Sprinkle of The Center for Faith, Sexuality, and Gender. We discuss becoming a scholar (4:15), non-violence (23:00), Hell and annihilationism (34:00), how Christians talk about same-sex attraction (53:20), and more. This episode will also be aired on Preston’s podcast, Theology in the Raw.

Church Grammar is presented by B&H Academic and the Christian Standard Bible. Intro music: Purple Dinosaur by nobigdyl.

*** This podcast is designed to discuss all sorts of topics from various points of view. Therefore, guests’ views do not always reflect the views of the host, his church, or his institution.

NC Amendment One and President Obama

I usually avoid political discussions, or at least I try to do so more often than I did in my late teens and early twenties. In college I would argue with anyone who didn’t walk away – my hope now is that I point to Christ more than I do to politics. I’m sure I inevitably fail at this, but I at least try to make sure that my hope and message are Christ and not any political party or stance.

The last 24 hours, however, have had my thoughts in overdrive, and I think the same can be said for the rest of the country. I can’t help but respond here.

(If you live under a rock, NC passed Amendment One, defining marriage as between one man and one woman, and President Obama announced today that he is in favor of legally acknowledging same-sex marriages.)

I’m both troubled and provoked to thoughtfulness because of a number of things concerning both Christian and non-Christian responses in the last 24 hours.

First, I am struck by the lack of biblical literacy from virtually every voice in this discussion. Let me start with Christians. It seems that we have little sense about what politics does and does not achieve. My brothers and sisters, “we won” is not an appropriate response. Patting ourselves on the back is silly. Moving forward with anything less than continual proclamation of the gospel of the Kingdom of Jesus Christ with the somber realization of the lostness we face is simply missing the point. Politics does not bring victory over sin, death, hell, and the grave – Jesus does. Laws do not change people’s hearts – the Spirit of Christ does. Elections will not bring this country to be a picture of God’s Kingdom – God the Father and his electing purposes will do so when he sends his Son to restore all things at the end of the age. Don’t get me wrong, we ought to vote in a way that reflects God’s Kingdom, and in doing so perhaps some will be confronted with the reality of God and his created order. But please don’t act like temporal laws in a temporal government will ever bring about the true spiritual change that’s needed to redeem hearts, minds, souls, and bodies for Christ.

On the other hand, for those who support gay marriage, there is one camp  that says “who cares what the Bible says.” There is another, though, that seems to think that the Bible actually supports homosexual marriage, relationships, etc. I saw one man post that God gave the Ten Commandments but Moses gave Leviticus, so we just need to look to the Ten Commandments and not the rest of the Law. That clearly indicates a lack of understanding about the purpose, both historically and literarily, of the Law in the Old Testament. Leviticus is not so easily dismissed. Then our President says today that he is being biblical by paying attention to the Golden Rule, to love our neighbors as ourselves. What the President seems to forget is that the first part of the Golden Rule is the Great Commandment, which is to love the Lord our God with all our heart, mind, soul, and strength. The clear command there is to love not just any God, but the God of the Bible, and the God of the Bible has very clear things to say on how he made men and women and what kind of relationships he intends for them.

Second, it makes me sad how angry everyone is. Responses that I have seen from all sides are bitter and resentful at best and angry and hateful at worst. My first prayer is that everyone will walk and talk with more respect and kindness towards those who disagree than they have in the past 24 hours.

On that note, what I truly do not understand is the condescension happening from those who support gay marriage towards those who want to be biblically faithful. There are those who ridicule evangelical Christians, comparing them to slave owners, racists, and bigots. The comparison to slave owners is just silly – no one is forcing homosexuals to do hard labor for no wages, beating them for not doing their job correctly, etc. Yes, homosexuals have been killed for their orientation, and that is absolutely reprehensible. But those crimes happen not through a government-approved oppressive institution, but because a proportionally very small number of individuals in this country are actual bigots and homophobes who cannot deal with anyone different from them other than through violence. They are not Christians, and they do not represent all those who oppose the legal recognition of gay marriage. And as far as racism and bigotry are concerned, yes there are those who act as if homosexuals are less than human, and again that is absolutely reprehensible. But that is not representative of the evangelical Christians I know or of Christ’s teaching that we attempt to follow. So please, let’s stop the comparisons with the Confederacy, Jim Crow, and Bull Connor.

Furthermore, this condescension comes not only from non-Christians but from Christians, with sarcastic comments about how terrible NC (and the Christians in it) are. Christian who do this, where does your condescension come from? My sense is that it comes from the fact that you don’t, in some way, see the Bible as our foundational document as a people. If believing that the Bible ought to guide our faith and practice is a ridiculous notion and worthy of your condescension, then you ought to level that accusation at Jesus as well. Look through the Gospels and see how Christ continually affirms the full and complete authority of the Word of God.

Even as I say this, though, it is no surprise to me that the Church is ridiculed for taking biblical stands – we should expect this. We should expect to continue filling up the afflictions of Christ, to be rejected for following him, and to only persevere through the power of the Holy Spirit. Nevertheless, I hope common sense will prevail in the rest of this conversation moving forward.

Third, we appear to be attempting to define marriage around romantic love. If you feel emotionally, erotically, and romantically strong for someone, that must mean you’re “in love” which means you should be committed for life. This is not the biblical picture of marriage. Marriage is messy, hard, lovely, and wonderful at the same time, and for a specific purpose – to glorify God in Christ by being a picture of Christ’s relationship with the Church. Marriage is not about romance, but about redemption. And that is precisely why it must be recognized as God intended, not as we attempt to redefine it.

Fourth, and related, the Church needs to stand up for all marriages and proclaim that the gospel has the power not just to redeem your soul but your relationship with your spouse as well. We ought to be pouring our energies into sustaining and cultivating healthy marriages in our own congregations as signs of the power of the gospel.

Lastly, sexual attraction does not define who we are as persons. Being able to have intercourse with who we want is not what the image of God in us is about. It is about reflecting God’s image to the world, about being fruitful and multiplying God’s image bearers throughout creation, and taking care of the creation he gave us. I think we have put too much stock in where our libido leads when we think about what it means to be human.

I’ll end by saying this – my hope here is not founded in political action but in the power of Christ to redeem sinners. All kinds of sinners. Heterosexual, homosexual, bisexual, asexual (I’m looking at you, Sheldon Cooper). Addicts, murderers, liars, slanderers, dividers. Christ came to save sinners, of which I am the foremost. I pray that our focus will not be on political action for its own sake, but for spreading Christ’s Kingdom through the proclamation of the gospel.