In a previous installment for the “All Around Us” rubric (Feb. 1, 2020, p. 204), I considered the progression of sexual immorality in the sphere of the world by focusing on three current developments: the real push to legalize prostitution, the increasingly common polyamorous relationship, and the direction of the pornography industry in utilizing virtual reality technology. The sexual revolution of the twenty-first century has been swift and deep. For the believer who desires and watches for the return of Jesus Christ, these advancements in the realm of sexual immorality come with no surprise. The cup of iniquity must fill up. The world is becoming riper for judgment in its rebellion against God and truth.
So too in the sphere of the church. And for the sober Christian who knows well the truth of II Thessalonians 2, to observe the departure from truth and godliness in the realm of the church is that which is expected, for the day of the Lord’s return shall not come “except there come a falling away first” (II Thess. 2:3). It is, however, seen with sadness, particularly when that departure is found in churches and institutions to which one traces their roots and heritage. It is with the deepest humility and the earnest prayer that the Lord would preserve His people in these last and evil days that we reflect upon these same developments in the realm of the church. We turn our attention now to three recent events, all of which are bound together by the common thread of acceptance of homosexuality and same-sex marriage.
The first event comes out of the Neland Christian Reformed Church in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Earlier this summer, the Council of Neland CRC ordained as a deacon a woman currently in a same-sex marriage. That a woman would be ordained into one of the special offices of Christ in a Christian Reformed Church is not newsworthy in 2020. Long ago the CRC opened the special offices to women. But that a woman in a samesex marriage would be ordained into office is noteworthy, for this reflects to a further departure from God’s truth on both fronts, the special offices in the church and the institution of marriage.
The president of the Neland council said the following in explanation of this decision: “Neland was given the gift of LGBTQ+ members with whom we worshipped, members with clear gifts of ministry and leadership, members we loved. We simply worked slowly and prayerfully over the past 10 years to find ways to encourage rather than ignore their gifts.”1 Take note: the very argument used to support the ordination of women is now being employed in the service of the ordination of practicing and married homosexuals, namely, the presence of ministry and leadership gifts.
What I found particularly striking is the commentary on the decision of Neland CRC in this same article, revealing the polarizing nature of her ordination. While some strongly supported, others objected and even left the congregation. One such dissenter was a former female deacon in the congregation. This was her response: “I don’t think that all of a sudden after 2,000 years of scriptural interpretation things have suddenly changed. I think that unfortunately our church is following cultural norms and listening to the ways of the world. What we are asked to be is counter cultural. How are we showing God’s love by condoning a sin?”2 What she says about the ordination of a woman in a same-sex marriage could be said concerning the ordination of women into office. Both are contrary to two millennia of historic biblical interpretation. Both are a following of cultural norms. Both are the ways of the world brought into the church.
But such is the sad nature of departure. When the standard of who holds the special offices in the church is not the clear Word of God and when homosexual desires and practices are not sharply condemned as sin and rebellion against God, the inevitable and unsurprising fruit is this: the ordination of a woman in a same-sex marriage.
The second event, recorded in The Chimes, comes out of Calvin University, the institution of higher education with which Neland CRC is affiliated. A student named Claire Murashima penned an article concerning herself. The title of the article and its associated image tell the whole story. The headline: “I am Calvin University’s first openly gay student body president.” The picture: the author kissing another woman with a rainbow flag draped over their shoulders.
Although the title and image speak volumes, a few quotations provide a flavor of the article’s tone and content.
Reflecting on her legacy because of how she identifies herself:
But my legacy will invariably be different, because I am Calvin University’s first openly LGBTQ student body president. I’m bisexual. I’ve also questioned if I was a lesbian in the past. Usually I use the term ‘queer’ because it encompasses all of these identities. One thing’s for sure: I am not straight.3
Setting forth her purpose and vision:
I’m sharing my story with the community because I take the weight of representation seriously, I have a desire to lead Calvin and the CRC into the future and want their queer students to see themselves in my story. I’d feel as if I’d made a mistake as student body president if I did not use my platform to do so.4
Commenting on life at Calvin:
Calvin’s heteronormative and relationship-focused culture can leave us feeling excluded. Furthermore, we don’t see ourselves represented in Calvin’s administrators or professors. Not seeing anyone who loves like us makes us feel like we don’t fully belong at Calvin. When the demographics of our university’s administrators and professors doesn’t match the diversity of our world, we are not reflecting the Kingdom of God.5
Before we move on to consider the third event, we reflect briefly upon the question: why is it good to be aware of this development on the campus of Calvin University? Many answers could be given to this question. I offer only two.
First, being aware of these specific developments equips leaders and parents to teach the youth of the church what they will encounter upon entering the world of higher education. The youth must know what they will face in life on the campuses, be ready to give an answer in defense of the truth, and be prepared to count the cost of doing so, namely, ridicule. This preparation requires understanding the issues and prayerfully seeking the Lord’s wisdom in knowing how to engage in the defense of the truth with humility and in conviction. I hope that an article such as this one would stimulate discussion to that end.
Second, we are reminded of the great need that a Claire Murashima has, namely, the true gospel of Jesus Christ. While the institution and denomination as a whole may continue down the path of departure from the Reformed faith and historic biblical Christianity, the Lord may be pleased to deliver individuals from that apostasy and ungodliness, and that through the humble, and faithful, and bold witness of our youth. And so may the church equip our youth boldly to defend the truth on college campuses, sharply condemn error and ungodliness, all the while earnestly seeking the salvation of their fellow university students who may be walking in darkness. May the Lord give us faithfulness in our defense of the truth and in our personal witnessing of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
For our third event, we broaden our perspective and consider news coming out of The Vatican. Pope Francis has recently caused quite a stir by words that he spoke for an interview in a recently released documentary on his life and work called “Francesco.” His comments concerned same-sex marriage. I quote in full the controversial words: “Homosexual people have the right to be in a family. They are children of God. You can’t kick someone out of a family, nor make their life miserable for this. What we have to have is a civil union law; that way they are legally covered. I stood up for that.”6
Pope Francis’ words contradict official Roman Catholic teaching, which condemns same-sex marriage. However, they do not constitute an official change of the doctrine of the Roman Catholic Church. Nevertheless, they are in keeping with his liberalizing tendencies. He had already in the past revealed himself sympathetic to the LGBTQ movement, saying in 2013 about a gay priest “Who am I to judge?” In addition, he has received a transgender man in the Vatican and met with a samesex couple in Washington, D.C. His latest words, however, are most explicit and controversial on the subject of same-sex marriage and certainly make clear the path down which he desires the Roman Catholic Church to go concerning homosexuality and same-sex marriage.
“Swift and deep”: those were the words used in the introduction to describe the progression of sexual immorality in the sphere of the world. Sadly, as the above demonstrates, the same applies to the sphere of the church. The way has been and continues to be paved for the coming antichristian kingdom in which the beast from the sea will unite with the beast from the earth in opposition to Christ and the church. Have no fear, beloved Christian. But hope, being certain of the victory that is ours in Jesus Christ.