The Bible’s Answer to Believer’s Questions
About the Guest
There's an increasing amount of confusion among believers about homosexuality. What are we to believe? Pastor Kevin DeYoung encourages believers to open their Bibles and really examine the texts that refer to this issue, beginning with Genesis, which first establishes the institution of marriage between a man and a woman.
Kevin DeYoungA native of Jenison, Michigan, Kevin graduated from Hope College in Holland, Michigan, with a B.A. in Religion. He earned his Master of Divinity degree at Gordon Conwell Theological Seminary in South Hamilton, Massachusetts. He is now a Ph.D. candidate in Early Modern History at the University of Leicester in the UK. Before accepting the call to lead Christ Covenant Kevin served as pastor of ...more
Pastor Kevin DeYoung encourages believers to open their Bibles and really examine the texts that refer to this issue, beginning with Genesis.
The Bible’s Answer to Believer’s Questions
Bob: When the Bible, in the book of Genesis, says that God created the man and the woman, do you think the Bible is trying to emphasis the fact that they are alike or the fact that they’re different? Here’s Pastor Kevin DeYoung.
Kevin: If you pull back and you see what God is doing in Genesis, you have all of these pairs—you have heaven and earth, you have the sun and the moon, you have the sea and the dry land, and then you have man and woman. It’s as if God in His canopy of creation is making each of these couples, by divine design, one to complement and interact with the other. It just doesn’t work unless you have a man and a woman.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Wednesday, May 27th. Our host is the President of FamilyLife®, Dennis Rainey, and I’m Bob Lepine. Gender really does matter. We’re going to talk about why it matters today. Stay tuned.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us. I just have to start off here—if our listeners do not have—if their RSS feed does not include Kevin DeYoung’s blog or, at very least, bookmarked on your list of bookmarks, you are missing it!
Dennis: You are.
Bob: Don’t you think?
Dennis: You are. You need to have your teenagers tied in / your college students—
Bob: —show you—show you what? Well, [laughing] I thought you—
Dennis: No, no, I’m not talking about how to do it, Bob. [Laughing]
Bob: —how to get your RSS feed—
Dennis: Of course—of course, they’re going to help us do that; but they need to be reading Kevin’s blog as well. Kevin DeYoung joins us on FamilyLife Today. Welcome to the broadcast.
Kevin: It’s great to be here. Thanks for having me.
Dennis: Thrilled to have you. Kevin and his wife Trisha live in Lansing—well, it’s East Lansing, Michigan--
Kevin: It’s East Lansing.
Dennis: There you go. He is the pastor of University Reformed Church.
Trisha and he have been married for 13 years. They have six children. He’s the author of a number of books—and has written a great deal about the issue of homosexuality/same-sex marriage—and has really been a good, honest, critical-but-compassionate thinker, within the Christian community, around this topic—and has just finished a book called What Does the Bible Really Teach about Homosexuality? What is unclear about that title, Kevin?
Kevin: Well, at least, people will know what the book’s about. Whether they agree with it or not, this is not an issue that you need to pull any punches on or you need to have any gimmicks. It’s just: “Here it is. Everyone’s talking about this. Let’s try to see what the Bible says.”
Dennis: How did you come to be such a prolific writer on this subject? I know we talked earlier—you said, “You know, I really do write about a lot of other matters and other issues.”
But your writing on this subject has really been very helpful, and it’s very healthy as well.
Kevin: I’m sure it has something to do with my position in a mainline denomination. It hasn’t been an issue that I’ve been able to ignore—I’ve had to be up-to-speed on—I’ve had to deal with it. I’ve had to deal with it, personally, in our own congregation, and family members, and people in our church. Increasingly, any pastor is going to tell you that this is a very live issue in the congregation—how to deal with it.
Bob: You do go back ten years and what you’re articulating, in your book, was the default position—it was the understood position of the evangelical church, certainly. If maybe the mainline churches were beginning to ask some questions, but evangelicals who are saying, “Well, of course, homosexuality—the Bible speaks to it. And it condemns it.” It’s just been in the last few years that we’re starting to see evangelical voices step forward and say, “Well, we’re not so sure that the Bible is as clear as we’ve always thought it was.”
Kevin: It’s really only in the last couple generations that anybody has questioned this. As you said, it’s been in the last five or ten years that you begin to see people, connected with evangelical institutions, or organizations, or churches, now wondering, out loud: “Hmmm, might there be a middle way?” or “Maybe we need more dialogue,” or even some people say: “Look enough is enough. I can’t really hold to this position anymore. Maybe we need to rethink what the Bible says.”
Dennis: Kevin, what do you think, within the Christian community, has been our Achilles’ heel, when we’ve come to talk about this subject? Would there be one area where you feel like we’ve just not engaged the homosexual community or the debate in the right way?
Kevin: We need to realize—anytime we talk about this issue, anyone and everyone can be listening. And by that I mean—I think, for a long time, we felt like we’re just talking among ourselves maybe, or we’re rallying the troops, or we’re getting people fired up, and we’re making sure that we don’t lose to the culture—whatever that means—and not realizing that people, who are maybe struggling with same-sex attraction, are listening in—people who have family members dealing with this—very personal hurts, or grievances, or confusion—whether it’s perceived or reality—all of that’s out there.
I think we have been slow to realize that people from all different perspectives are listening to this. It becomes very difficult to talk about it because you almost have to add five or six caveats to anything you say, so that you’re not misunderstood.
Dennis: A lot of people in the church don’t necessarily have a face, or a person they’re relating to, who is gay or who’s in a same-sex marriage. As a result, it’s kind of a theory.
Bob: Well, and it’s interesting you said that because I’ve read people who are proponents of the homosexual agenda. They say, “One of the tactics we need to employ is we need to introduce people to homosexuals because, if you know somebody, you will inevitably weaken on your biblical position.” That’s a strategy that’s being suggested: “Introduce your friends to homosexuals because they’ll back down from their strident biblical view if they just know somebody who’s gay.”
Kevin: I’m sure we’ll get into some Bible texts, but really this issue is not being driven—even in the church, I don’t think it’s being driven by carefully exegesis and looking at the text. It is on a very visceral level: “I have a friend,” / “You have a friend,”—“Somebody has a friend,” or “…a daughter,” or “…a son,” “…a cousin, who is identified as gay or lesbian. They’re really nice, and they’re fun to be around. It seems like the significant other they have is a nice person and seems to be meaningful in their life.”
It sets up this hard juxtaposition: “Wait a second! How can this work? This seems to be normal. This seems to be very nice people,”—and especially, if they church has set up a kind of a straw man—that anyone who struggles or self-identifies in this way is going to be just an obviously distorted sort of person—and then you meet someone and you say, “Well, it’s really a kind neighbor.” It’s bound to set up a kind of crisis.
Dennis: Why do you think this debate / this discussion—these beliefs from the Scripture are really important for believers today?
Kevin: Well, there are so many reasons. I’ll just give a couple—one: Really, the authority of Scripture is at stake because, if we’re going to say, “Look, this is the way I feel,”—okay, feelings aren’t unimportant—or “But this relationship means a lot to me,”—yes, that’s important—
—but ultimately, if we’re really following Jesus Christ, and He’s our Lord, we have to say: “Not My will but Yours be done,” [Quoting Luke 22:42] and “What Your Word says is true, and what your Word says is right; and it’s good for us. So, let’s understand what it has to say.” The texts that deal with this issue—look, they’re very strong. They give very sober warnings. Now, this isn’t the only sin that’s warned against in Scripture—but it’s one of them—and it’s warned against very strongly.
Though people may have a hard time believing it, we have to keep saying it: “There really is a motivation out of love,” we hope, “for people engaged in any sort of sin,”— and that goes for any of us, around this microphone, right now—that: “If we love each other, we want to call each other to something better. We want to call each other to faith and repentance in Christ.”
I wish it weren’t the case—but I think this is going to be a defining issue in our generation / the next generation—for the church of Jesus Christ to say: “Is our faith, is our theology, is how we do church and what we believe really going to be anchored in the Scriptures? Or are we going to sell that inheritance for a mess of cultural porridge?”
Dennis: I do think the authority of Scripture is the right place to begin—helping people to think from the Bible, not to the Bible—but anchor their convictions / their moral beliefs from the Scripture today are far more important that we may realize.
Bob: But here’s the problem. You know this because there are books coming out from Christian publishers, saying: “Well, we have a high view of Scripture. We believe Scripture is authoritative/ inspired. We just think that the interpreters have gotten it wrong. You say, ‘It’s clear,’ but I don’t think it’s as clear as you say it is.” A lot of younger evangelicals are saying: “Oh, okay. Well, maybe this is one of those debatable things, like baptism or speaking in tongues.”
Kevin: And it also shows our weakness as evangelical Christians in the degree to which too many of our beliefs have been culturally-conditioned. If we’re honest, the opposition to homosexuality wasn’t because there was often a lot of hard biblical work in the background—we didn’t feel like we needed to do that.
Dennis: Right; right.
Kevin: Maybe there was an “ick” factor or something; but once that’s gone—because it’s been normalized on TV, and social media, and a thousand other ways—then we’re left with not quite knowing how to figure this out. When we come to the text, I would argue that—yes, there are people claiming to say, “This is what Scripture teaches,”—but it’s more a mood in search of an argument than anything else.
I had somebody say to me recently, “You know, we’ve not lost the argument on homosexuality.” And I said: “Are you sure?! Are you living in the same country? It sure looks like we have.” And he said, “No, we haven’t lost the argument because very few arguments have actually been made.
“What we’ve lost is the aesthetic. What we’ve lost is the mood. What we’ve lost is the cultural entrapment—
Bob: —the sentiment of it.
Kevin: —“the sentimentality of it.”
Anyone listening, who’s heard—well, there are other books coming out that claim the Bible says this or that. I would say: “Be Bereans—open the Scripture. See what it says. Don’t let the fact that there are smart people, on both sides, disagreeing, prevent you from coming to a conclusion,” because, if that’s how we operate, we won’t agree on anything or make a decision about anything—the resurrection / the deity of Christ—because there’s people who disagree on all of it.
Dennis: Okay, let’s go back to the “book of beginnings”—the Book of Genesis. Let’s start where you begin in your book. Let’s talk about why Genesis 1 and 2 are so important in making the case for marriage being between a man and a woman.
Kevin: Genesis is the place where all good theology starts. When you go to Genesis 1 and 2, you see that God designed man and woman to be together for a number of purposes—for companionship: “It is not good that the man should be alone,”—but also that this is the sort of union from which procreation can come—that’s part of the creation mandate in Genesis, Chapter 1. We know, from the Gospels, that Jesus explicitly reinforces—I mean, people often say, “Well, Jesus didn’t say anything about this issue,” which isn’t really true. Jesus explicitly reaffirmed the marital design, which is—for a man and a woman to come together.
If there were to be an idea that marriage could consist of two persons of the same gender, or of three or more persons, we would have had to have a completely different creation account. You have, front and center, the complementarity of the man and the woman—that the man is not a woman / the woman is not a man.
But you have the man—Hebrew Ish—and out of his side comes the woman, Isha—so that the union in their one flesh togetherness is in some sense a reunion of the woman who came out of the man. It’s that complementarity of man and woman—it’s their sameness in the image of God—but also their difference and distinction.
We only have to go to Ephesians 5 to realize that, without that difference and distinction, the whole purpose of marriage doesn’t work because Paul said that marriage was given as a picture of Christ and the church, which is dependent on this difference between Christ and the church, that can only be shown forth in a man and a woman coming together.
Dennis: And I don’t think it’s any mistake that it’s under attack today to destroy the image of God in the church and, beyond that, to the culture.
Kevin: The institution of marriage has been so central—not only in western civilization—but anywhere you see human flourishing. This is why we don’t want to come across as shrill and combative. At the same time, if we do love our fellow neighbor and if we are concerned about human flourishing—all these things that younger generations, in particular, are really passionate about—there is no institution, outside of the church, I would say, that is better equipped to enable human flourishing than the institution of marriage as God has designed it—a man and a woman, together, oriented around the rearing of children. I mean, even Malachi, Chapter 2 says one of the reasons God had made them one is to produce godly offspring. When we sever that root, which is so foundational for any institution or society, we are severing the very life that God means to give to us.
Bob: I don’t know that I had really stopped to think about this, until recently, when I heard somebody talking about the idea of the woman being a suitable helper for the man. We’ve often thought that that suitability was a relational suitability. But this person was saying what makes the woman primarily a suitable helper is she can help the man fulfill the mandate of Genesis 1:28 “to be fruitful and multiply.” Right there, you’ve got a pretty strong argument about the fact that the same gender is not a suitable helper for you in marriage.
Kevin: The “helper” is as you said “to help toward a function” and that function is laid out in Genesis, Chapter 1, namely to multiply and to fill the earth. Without that differentiation, a same-gendered couple can’t accomplish the same purposes. Actually, if you pull back and you see what God is doing in Genesis, you have all of these pairs—you have heaven and earth, you have the sun and the moon, you have the sea and the dry land, and then you have man and woman.
It’s as if God in His canopy of creation is making each of these couples, by divine design, one to complement and interact with the other. That just doesn’t work unless you have this sameness of being in the image of God but the differentiation that comes, with biology and physiology, of being a man and a woman.
Dennis: Okay, you’re a pastor of a church. You said, earlier, that you have folks who struggle with same-sex attraction coming to your church. Take us into a conversation that you’ve had with one of those couples, or just one of those individuals, where you have reasoned from the Book—the Bible—and appeal to them, and where they are in their relationship with God, for something better.
Kevin: We have had—as long as we’ve been at the church, and it predates me—any number of folks struggling with same-gender attraction. What we’ve tried to do, as a church, is treat them as we would anyone else. Anyone who comes to the church—if we’re honest—we have temptations, we have desires that are disordered, we have sins that we struggle with. It’s been very important to—especially, with those guys—enfold them into relationships with other men. I’ve been so proud of our college guys / our young men who don’t get weirded out or something. They just think: “This is great. This is going to be another brother. I know this issue that he’s struggling with, but he’s going to be a part of our fellowship. He’s going to be a part of our friendship circle.”
It’s that ability to see what real life can look like and real godly same-gendered attractions can look like which proves to be so helpful. So, when I’ve talked to these folks over the years, I just want to make sure they are anchored in Scripture / [I] want to be a sympathetic voice to listen.
I’ll tell you that a number of them have said—you know, sometimes, angrily—they’re frustrated by the voices in the church that are saying that: “This is okay,” because they know they have to fight against this temptation and against these desires. To hear so-called voices in evangelicalism calling them to just embrace it, they’ve said: “Look! This is not helping me to follow Christ. I need somebody to tell me what is true, and right, and still love me, and be compassionate, and enfold me into community.” And that’s what we try to do—I’m sure we do it imperfectly.
Dennis: Yes, and what I hear you saying is—you’re thinking from Scripture—so you’re not forsaking the absolute truth of the inerrant Word of God—but you’re also thinking from the cross, which was the statement of love that was poured out on our behalf—broken people who need redemption / who need love incarnate. And that’s what Jesus came to be; and it’s who we should be, as well, while not sacrificing truth.
Kevin: I’ll give you an example that just happened recently.
I posted an excerpt from the book on my blog. I was talking about singleness and how the church needs to do a better job with all kinds of singles—and those who struggle with same-sex attraction would be one kind—and how the church can be a place—here we are talking / we talk about family here, and that’s great—but the church can be a place that can idolize the family in an unhealthy—
Bob and Dennis: That’s right.
Kevin: —unhealthy way. You know, the Psalmist says,” He puts the lonely into families.” [Psalm 68:6] I was just writing about this and how we need to have an awareness of the cross that some of our brothers and sisters, with same-gender attraction, are carrying. I’ve put this out there, and I’ve had a very thoughtful comment on my blog—somebody who said: “You know, when I heard Kevin DeYoung was coming out with a book like this, I sort of winced.” Now, I hope he wouldn’t; but whether fairly or not, he said: “I sort of winced because I feared this was going to be a polemic, and this was going to make people like me feel like I’m nothing but dirt.” So he said: “I have same-gender attraction. I know it’s wrong to act on it.”
But he felt like all he was getting from the church—and his perception from me, over the years—was just getting a kind of culture war message out there. So, he read this excerpt—and I don’t share it to say good about the book but to just share what I need to learn and what we all need to learn—that his new take now was: “Okay maybe somebody’s trying to listen. Maybe somebody’s trying to understand where I’m coming from.”
That’s just been instructive for me, over the past couple of years, as a pastor, to realize—although I have concerns about where our culture is going, and I think pastors have a role in addressing some of those issues—we need to realize anytime we do that, there’s probably somebody in the church, who themselves is struggling with this, and we need to go out of our way so that they don’t feel like they’re not welcome / that they’re dirty—that this isn’t a place where they can follow Christ, in obedience to Christ, to not act upon those desires.
Dennis: I have been a couple of places this year that have reminded me that people are image bearers—one was a prison / the other was a homeless shelter. And it just reminded me: “You know what? Every human being bears the image of God—he was created, male and female, in the image of God.” I think sometimes we don’t take a step back and realize—wasn’t it C.S. Lewis, who said, “We’re not talking to mere mortals here but to immortal beings who bear the imprint of the Almighty”? And just to take a step back and go: “Am I looking at people, regardless of what they’re struggling with—am I looking at them through the eyes of Jesus Christ and asking Him, ‘Show me how I can do a better job of expressing the love of Christ to those individuals.’”
Bob: And we often talk about how the Gospel of John—John, Chapter 1, describes Jesus as being full of grace and truth. I think one of the things I really like about your book, Kevin, is that it is a book that is full of grace and truth.
You tackle what the Bible teaches about homosexuality, but you do it with a pastor’s heart—with a compassion, and a kindness, and a gentleness—that is not designed to antagonize but is designed to provoke thoughtful analysis of this issue.
I’d encourage our listeners—get a copy of Kevin DeYoung’s brand-new book, What Does the Bible Really Teach About Homosexuality? It’s a book we have in our FamilyLife Today Resource Center. And you can go to FamilyLifeToday.com. Click the link in the upper left-hand corner of the screen that says, “GO DEEPER.” You can order a copy of Kevin’s book from us, online. Again, our website is FamilyLifeToday.com; or call, toll-free, 1-800-FL-TODAY. You can order the book from us over the phone. Our toll-free number, again: 1-800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then, the word, “TODAY.” That’s 1-800-358-6329.
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Now, tomorrow, we are going to continue our conversation with Pastor Kevin DeYoung as we talk about what the Bible really teaches about homosexuality. I hope you can tune in for that.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, along with our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I'm Bob Lepine. We will see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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