When God delivers over to sexual sin, He inflicts a terrible judgment. God sometimes judges individuals by giving them over to sexual sin. Other times His judgment falls on churches. Today God is giving over churches—some of our ecclesiastical relatives—to terrible sexual sins. The readers of the Standard Bearer ought to know about these horrible developments and respond to them in a biblical way, including the loving warning of family or friends in these churches to flee like Lot from the judgments that are falling, lest they and their children also fall under them.
The June 2013 issue of the Christian Reformed Church’s Banner is so disturbing it has shocked even many members of that denomination, though the sanctioning of sexual sin has made progress there for some years already. The recent issue features two articles about sex and the single person; a news article about the CRC 2013 Synod, which appointed a study committee regarding ministering to homosexuals; and an editorial—significant for its placement in this issue—defending the inclusion of controversial articles: the magazine must be a forum for church members to engage in a kitchen-table-like conversation on important topics.
What has drawn most attention are the feature articles about sex and the single person, particularly the one by a retired professor of psychology in a Christian college, a member of a CRC in Canada, who says that prohibiting sex before marriage is not biblical. The article provocatively claims that for the church to prohibit sex before marriage is not biblical. “God wants people to take pleasure in their youth—and that pleasure most certainly includes lovemaking…. Whether Christian single people should or should not practice premarital sex is a question that may have been relevant two or three generations ago, but the situation today has changed.” The professor says that “today’s young people have a variety of contraceptives at their disposal to minimize [the] risk” of pregnancy, and “young couples generally practice ‘safe sex’ to prevent sexually transmitted diseases.” The author set the tone of his article in the opening paragraph by mocking the “prejudice that lingers to this day” that allows churches to admonish their young people “to abstain from sex until marriage.” The tone of the article shouts: “Imagine the backward church that still today would call for those old-fashioned morals.” But the author blasphemes when he wonders whether God might be less “hung up” about sex than we are.
The companion feature article, allegedly the other side of this conversation, is comparatively good. In it, a Christian Reformed minister presents her case that whether you are single or married, you ought to “strive to live with integrity as God intended.” Even then, her defense of biblical morality is sadly weak because it concludes with the request that her judgments be “the starting point of a conversation and journey of learning for you.”
What aggravates the matter is the editorial justification of the offending article. The editorial, entitled “Why We Dare Not Play It Safe,” first asserts that articles in the magazine do not necessarily present the denomination’s official position. The purpose of the magazine is to give voice to perspectives across the continent. Well enough. When the editor goes on to claim that the inclusion of these different voices is “not to push editorial agendas
or positions, but to provide a place where important issues facing our denomination can be openly and honestly discussed,” I am inclined to say, “Methinks the man protesteth too much.” But when the editor says that no articles will be permitted that are outside the bounds of Scripture or that directly advocate against the doctrines taught in the creeds and confessions, the editorial itself goes out of bounds, because that editorial claim comes in the very issue in which a man says that prohibiting sex before marriage is unbiblical. In addition, the editor’s short paragraph that introduces the “Sex, Intimacy, and the Single Person” articles describes them as “two perspectives to begin the conversation.” After his editorial claiming that nothing will be printed that contradicts Scripture or the confessions, this “two perspectives” label is clearly an editorial sanctioning of both perspectives as biblical.
The editor is sanctioning sexual sin.
In the same issue is a news report of the 2013 Synod of the CRC. Also this report shows the wickedness afoot, now regarding homosexuality. Although attempts at synod were denied, there were strong efforts to “reexamine the CRC’s 40-year-old stance that homosexual activity is sinful but theis not.” In the discussions, the report goes on to say, some “insisted that the CRC should revisit the biblical grounds of the policy because of new psychological, biological, and biblical scholarship over the past 40 years.” Two delegates urged revisiting the 1973 decision because, as one pleaded, “people from our own tradition are writing the books I and my friends…are reading, that are challenging the assumptions of 1973.” “This is the women-in-office issue for my generation,” a candidate for the ministry said to the delegates. No one present missed the emotional comparison as this aspiring preacher spoke to the assembly of synodical delegates, which, after last generation’s painful struggle, now included at least 25 women in office. The current vocal and aggressive agenda of some is to move the churches to declare that homosexual activity is a godly activity. The reporter considered the debate’s most dramatic moment to be one delegate’s open declaration of his homosexuality. After he assured the “hushed delegates” that he was celibate, and thanked them for “being affirming of somebody like me,” synod gave him a standing ovation.
The articles are available online, and the magazine encourages response to them as part of the “kitchen table discussion.” There have been a flurry of objections online. Much of the response has been negative, even outrage, objecting vehemently to the unbiblical stands and lamenting the direction the Banner is taking the churches.
These responses are encouraging from one perspective—God’s people are concerned. However, enemies of the truth welcome “discussion” and “conversation,” even dismay. Dialogue on such sensitive issues makes people comfortable with both perspectives, softening them to the errors, eventually. Allowing contrary opinions to be aired even gives some a sense of security that “at least someone is objecting; the cause is not lost; there are still faithful among us.” Enemies of truth and godliness even welcome outrage. What they will not endure is action—calling the false teachers to repentance and removing the impenitent from the church by Christian discipline. And it is discipline that is required to preserve or restore truth and godliness in a church. Without a real cutting off by excommunication, the leaven will spread to the whole lump.
Discussion…objections…dialogue…but no discipline. This is what the proponents of sexual sin want.
Sexual sin is promoted and approved also in other large Reformed and Presbyterian denominations in the US. In some of them, homosexuality is officially approved. Same-sex marriages are allowed. Homosexual clergy occupy pulpits. In others, although the synods may hold a line somewhere, loud voices calling for change are permitted. The organization “Room for All” (RfA), for example, is made up of homosexual activists in the Reformed Church in America (RCA), and was organized after an RCA minister officiated at the wedding of his daughter to her female partner. RfA’s affirmations include: intentional inclusion of “people of all sexual orientations and gender identities”; celebration of “the Creator’s diversity as embodied in lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people”; a challenge to “theologies, beliefs, and doctrines that oppress or exclude anyone of any sexual orientation”; and hope for “the time when the Reformed Church in America” changes and “fully welcomes and includes people of all sexual orientations and gender identities into the life and ministry of our denomination” (emphasis added). That is, RfA will not be satisfied until the denomination changes its position and allows active homosexuals as members in good standing and as leaders of the church. Individual congregations are encouraged to sign on to these affirmations and become known as congregations welcoming of LGBT people.
Here, too, there are contrary voices. Some RCA congregations insist that the Word of God condemns homosexuality. A few faithful ministers are vocal in their opposition to the movement. But without expelling the offending churches from their fellowship, and without excommunicating the impenitent advocates of homosexuality, their battle for their denomination’s purity is futile. May the leaders come out from among them, and call the people of God to follow them.
The plane is coming in short of the runway. Someone must sound the alarm. And then take action.
The PRCA and other Reformed denominations that do not find such evil sanctioning of sexual sin in their fellowship must be very careful both in their attitude towards those who fall away and in their own sense of security. I pray that we understand Scripture’s warning to take heed lest we also fall. With many of them God may be displeased, so that they perish (). But these modern examples are written “for our learning.” The pressures are great on all churches to condone sexual sin in a multitude of forms.
In this sad story the lessons are plentiful for the church of Christ. I mention a few, and conclude with what I judge to be most important for us.
First, churches must uncompromisingly maintain Scripture’s clear teaching about chastity and sexual faithfulness, even at great cost. Our stand on sexual intimacy and marital faithfulness has direct bearing on
our view of the church’s relationship to Christ, and of His relationship to us. The PRC’s costly stand on divorce and remarriage is one example of this.
Second, uncompromising maintenance of sexual purity requires discipline. Certainly, there is a difference between official sanctioning of sexual sins and what sins may be found in the members or officebearers. It’s one thing to have synod approve homosexuality or pre-marital sex. It’s another to have voices calling to approve these sins. And it’s yet another to find homosexual sin or other forms of fornication in church members. But without proper Christian discipline (or separation, if discipline fails to correct) in each of these cases, victory will go to the side of the devil. Even if the devil’s way is called “Christian love” or “an expression of committed intimacy,” it is a way that “inclineth unto death…. None that go unto [it] return again” (see).
Third, there is a danger that a church or officebearers be silent when they ought to speak loudly, or that they speak loudly about someone else’s sins but not about their own. Refusing to give ecclesiastical approval to sexual sin is not enough to keep the strange woman at bay. No one may rest secure because “my churches’ synod would never approve these sins.” In these days when sexual sin inundates churches and entire cultures—witness the new pope’s recent hints of change in the Roman Catholic’s view of homosexuality—pulpits must not fail to warn against being entertained by sexual immorality on television; must not fail to preach against improper dress that entices men to sexual sin, and other forms of sexual sin that the seventh commandment identifies. The devil celebrates these successes, too—when preachers in orthodox denominations overlook the sins right under their nose while calling attention to the neighbor’s wicked ways.
Last, let us remember that ecclesiastical allowance of these sexual sins sometimes comes as the judgment of God upon other sins. In His righteous judgment, God “delivers over” men and churches to shameful sexual sins (please study the last half of). And when God judges in this way—punishing sin with sin—it is a horrible judgment. Romans 1 holds before us a calling more basic than keeping our eyes open for signs of relaxing the biblical standards of sexual purity. That most fundamental calling is to give God (not man!) all glory, ascribe to Him (not ourselves!) all praise for salvation, devote our lives to the worship of God alone (not the creature). Failure in this roots in pride, found in each of us, and in every church that boasts herself in her orthodoxy. Luther once said that God punishes proud men by giving them over to sexual sins. That applies to churches, too.
And the end of that judgment is God’s giving men over to wallow in the sexual filth of the heathen. Because men give glory to (worship and deify, really) the Creature, God debases men to do what even beasts (“creatures”) do not do: the unnatural practice of homosexuality.
In these last, evil days, may God grant us all, daily, “repentance unto the acknowledging of the truth” ().