As we informed the reader last article, in 2014 Classis Grand Rapids (GR) East of the Christian Reformed Church (CRC) appointed a study committee on human sexuality, giving it the mandate “to examine and summarize the biblical/theological support currently offered by Christian proponents of same-sex marriage.”
In 2016 the committee submitted its report to Classis GR East, a report composed of “ten-strands of arguments woven together” of sufficient strength, its committee was convinced, to justify approving same-sex marriage in the name of contemporary Christianity. After twenty centuries of New Testament-age ignorance, man’s knowledge of biology has developed enough to warrant a reinterpretation of Scripture and to convince the CRC it is time to inform society (and its members) that she pronounces her blessing upon homosexual marriages.
The committee’s conclusion was in keeping with the mandate given it by Classis GR East. The report, in its “Background” section, informs the reader that Classis GR East “…has on two recent occasions unsuccessfully asked Synod for a re-examination of the biblical/ theological arguments in the Synod 1973 report.”
Why these persistent petitions to Synod to re-examine the arguments of its 1973 report?
Because, as the report states, the official position of the CRC since 1973 has been that homosexual practice “…must be condemned as incompatible with obedience to the will of God as revealed in Holy Scripture.”
It is this that Classis GR East wants rescinded.
Its study committee returned in 2016, giving to its Classis a document of 142 pages presenting arguments to be used to challenge the 1973 decisions, a ten-strand approach the study committee felt could not easily be refuted.
To the best of our knowledge this report has not as yet been treated at the synodical level.
But the CRC is well-aware that the issue of homosexual unions is very much alive in its denomination.
The 2016 Synod appointed a five-year study committee to examine the whole issue of human sexuality, with an emphasis on providing “biblical foundations” for gender in order to provide pastoral guidelines for its homosexual and lesbian members. But the committee was also to take into consideration “conclusions arising from [recent] scientific and social-scientific studies” (2016 CRC Acts, p. 916).
This can only mean that the Classis GR East report, which focuses on the recent social-scientific studies and their conclusions (as the liberal leaders in the CRC are well aware), remains very much in play.
The debate within the CRC is by no means settled. Its liberal leaders will not allow it to be.
Having in our previous article offered a brief overview of the classical study committee’s report, we now offer a brief critique of its main arguments.
The first ‘strand’ the committee presents for justifying same-sex marriage is its appeal to the “Guidance of the Holy Spirit in the Reinterpretation of Scripture.”
The committee argues,
At various times in history, the Holy Spirit prompted and guided the church into reinterpretation [!] of some parts of Scripture through a variety of means (p. 7; also cf. pp. 12-20).
The report then offers a number of historical evidences. For instance, the early church, seeing that the Holy Spirit fell upon uncircumcised Gentile believers, ceased requiring that her Gentile members needed to be circumcised and to refrain from unclean meat, as Scripture once required. Later the church was forced to concede that Galileo’s scientific discoveries were true, thus altering her interpreting Scripture to teach a flat earth and that the sun revolved around the earth. And there are other instances as well, such as the church changing her view on slavery and on loaning money at an interest rate.
In light of such evidence the committee concludes:
Comparing the issue of same-sex marriage to these other historical cases suggests that this might be another occasion in church history when the Holy Spirit is prompting a re-examination of Scripture (p. 7).
Without responding to each example cited, we simply state that the report’s argument is specious, to say nothing of profane.
The difference between Christ’s church declaring that Gentile believers no longer needed to be circumcised and a church declaring homosexual marriage to have God’s approval, should be transparent. In the one instance, the change of Old Testament requirements took place with apostolic approval, in fact, by apostolic command. In the other, a church committee is seeking to set aside an apostolic doctrine. Homosexual practice is an issue that was directly addressed by the apostles in the Spirit-inspired Word. And there, in the New Testament age, such practice is forbidden and condemned.
To go contrary to the apostolic Word, and then claim to be led by the Spirit?
One defames the Spirit.
In reality, what the report is proposing is not change based on reinterpreting Scripture, but a change based on dismissing the apostolic teaching altogether.
Nor, for that matter, when it comes to Galileo’s discoveries and the church (as a result, changing its view of the solar system) is one talking about the church being led to a reinterpretation of Scripture. Rather one is talking about believers, due to insufficient scientific knowledge, misinterpreting Scripture’s description of the earth and the starry heavens, which misunderstanding of the solar system was corrected by believers as they came to greater scientific knowledge.
We say again, the seriousness of the committee’s appeal to the guidance of the Holy Spirit in their promoting homosexual marriage cannot be overstated. It is an audacity.
There, however, is a Word of God that does apply at this point, one that the committee should seriously consider, namely, that offf. There the seven sons of Sceva tried to cast out a demon without apostolic authority. Said the evil spirit, “Jesus I know, and Paul I know; but who [in the world] are you?”
And falling on them, that demon-possessed man drove them out with a fury.
And that was done with the approval of the Holy Spirit!
A second main argument that runs through a number of the report’s ‘strands’ has to do with the difficulty of gender identification.
The committee points to cases where gender identification is difficult to determine at birth; or again, makes the claim that psychologists with the assistance of scientific studies have ‘proved’ that some are born with an attraction to the same gender and others are predisposed to a transgender view of themselves, male psyches in female bodies, and vice-versa.
According to the committee, that when it comes to gender, we must not view it as a dichotomy of male and female, either-or, but as “a spectrum” (cf. p. 9, section 2), ranging from hard-wired male to hard-wired female with a rainbow of variation between. And surely, concludes the report, this “has profound implications for our understanding and definitions of same-sex marriage.” (p. 7)
Therefore, the report claims, Scripture’s reference to male and female must be seen as a “descriptive way of speaking, not prescriptive or technical” (p. 8). In other words, when Scripture (through the eyes of its prescientific writer) declares that “male and female created he them,” all the passage is really doing is describing them physically (“a descriptive way of speaking”), it is not ‘prescribing’ (determining in precise biological terms) what these persons really were in their deeper, biological, psychological sense.
That, evidently, God left for each to discover for him or herself.
Which all leads the report to conclude:
Numerous advances in science over the last few decades lead us to reconsider whether various forms of same-sex attraction and intersex conditions should be seen as “creational variants” (p. 8, sect. 3).
A phrase pregnant with implications. The phrase implies that God created man not only as male and female (and as such meant for each other and needing each other), but now, as our advanced scientific knowledge makes plain, all the variations in between must also have been part of God’s creation plan— meaning, we are to view them as made for each other and needing each other, just as Adam did Eve.
So, let each determine as best one can, who he/she really is, and then on that basis determine who along the spectrum will best answer one’s needs and thus complete one’s identity.
This, the report suggests, has been God’s good will and intention all along.
We have neither the time nor space to respond to all this social-psychobabble. It is enough to keep in mind that this is the committee’s rational for justifying same-sex marriage.
The argument is clear. There are those who are attracted to others of the same gender, some by nurture, others by nature (as they are born with ‘same-gender’ inclinations, it is said). And the very fact that some have these inclinations should justify their being called not to resist and refrain from their defiled inclinations, but to satisfy them.
A dangerous argument, as all anti-biblical perspectives are.
The question arises, what about pedophiles? Do not the social-scientists also consider them part of ‘the spectrum’? Of course, they do. If the other deviations are to be labeled ‘creational variants,” so then is the pedophile inclination. And the argument for their sexual desires needing to be met must also follow.
And probably will be—by a future study committee.
We do not doubt that, at present, the classical study committee would oppose such, insisting that those with pedophile inclinations should rightfully be expected and required to deny themselves, not yielding to their defiled inclinations.
To which we respond, if Christ’s church can rightfully expect its members fighting that inclination to live celibate and to find the grace to do so as required by the apostolic Word, why can she not rightfully expect the same from those struggling with these other defiled inclinations?
If the church can argue that the ‘enabling’ grace can be found for the one, and then insisting that such live accordingly, certainly the grace can be found for these other deviant inclinations, the church insisting that such also live accordingly.
And such grace has been and can be found. Just read.
Another of the report’s arguments for today’s church not being bound by the apostolic Word condemning homosexual practices is its contention that the apostles were speaking of abusive sexual practices, not marriage unions.
Same-sex practices in ancient cultures typically involved pagan temple prostitution, pederasty, or high-status males using their power to convince or coerce low-status males…into submitting to exploitive sex. These practices constitute sinful disobedience to God and a disordering of the creational purposes for sex. The idea of life-long same-sex unions of equal partners was rare in ancient times…. For these reasons, when biblical writers justly condemned same-sex practices of their times, they were teaching against…the common practices with which they were familiar and had no way of considering the possibility or the potential benefits of life-long same-sex unions of equal partners… (sect. 8, p. 8).
There you have it.
It was abusive homosexual relationships, so common in their age, that the apostles saw as corrupt and justly condemned, not the relationship as such. They were not considering loving, life-long relationships with attending benefits.
As if two exchanging vows suddenly sanctifies the defilement.
Scripture is clear—the relationship itself is ‘unnatural.’ The apostolic Word is plain. The affection itself is labeled as ‘vile’ (Rom. 1:26). And those who give themselves over to it the apostle charges with “chang[ing] the natural use into that which is against nature.”
To attempt to ‘sanctify’ the defilement by bringing God’s marriage ordinance into play only increases the audacity.
To be sure, no explicit apostolic word is to be found forbidding two males from ‘marrying’ each other. The reason is simple. It was something so ludicrous that Roman and Greek society, for all their immoralities, did not even consider this as plausible. They would have laughed the twenty-first century social scientists out of school!
“Are you Christians really such fools as to buy into that?”
And one more thing before we take leave of this report.
The committee argues its case in terms of “life-long committed relationships,” and then the wonderful benefits of such relationships homosexuals are being denied.
Life-long committed relationships.
This is something the CRC does not require even of its heterosexual members.
Nor would this committee dream of requiring such of those contemplating marriage. For such the CRC has argued for the benefits of divorce (on any grounds) if so desired. Surely, those contemplating marriage, for their psychological health, need to be assured that their vows do not necessarily commit them to something life-long at all.
But for their LGBT members they speak of wonderful benefits of “life-long commitments.” This to put the best spin on their proposal.
It is transparent dishonesty.
The committee is no more interested in the CRC requiring a life-long commitment of her homosexual members than she does of her other members. It is simply proposing the use of a vow to ‘justify’ a same-sex relationship. Which means, when the two weary of each other, as they will soon and often, they are free to end the charade and find another, all with the church’s approval.
And this all proposed in the most pious manner.
To this point, the CRC majority in its broadest assembly has resisted changing its present stance of forbidding same-sex marriages.
But, as the biblical phrase puts it, “The hand-writing is on the wall.”
That leaders within the CRC can speak in favor of what the Classis GR East committee has proposed, and not be de facto suspended and deposed, means the enemy is under the wall and divine judgment is falling.
How long it will be before the CRC rescinds its 1973 decision and caves in to approving same-sex marriages in the name of Christian love remains to be seen.