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What was wrong with Matt Jenson's chapel sermon

On April 6, 2011, Professor Matt Jenson gave a sermon on singleness and homosexuality in chapel at Biola University.

Since that sermon was given, a group calling itself the Biola Queer Underground has given interviews to the media and stated its intentions to pressure Biola to have a "dialogue" about revising its views on homosexuality. The group explicitly denies the traditional and biblical position that all homosexual acts are immoral. It openly advocates homosexual "marriage," and it is trying to gain acceptance for radical reinterpretations of Scripture that would normalize homosexual relationships. I gave a number of money quotes in comments here and here. The group's home page and frequently asked questions page could not be clearer.

(Digression: In passing I cannot help noting the dark and illogical humor in the fact that a group that expressly includes bisexuals and that views an entire alphabet soup list of sexual "orientations" as essential and positive identities wants us to believe that it is deeply committed to marriage, or "marriage," now redefined to include allegedly monogamous male-male and female-female pairings. Whom is an essentially bisexual person supposed to "marry"? How can he express his deep personal identity qua bisexual person if he's only allowed to marry one other person for life? But having noted that particular bit of dark silliness, I will set it aside.)

The statements of the Biola Queer Underground were published approximately a year after Jenson's sermon. It is therefore barely possible that Prof. Jenson has revised his views of the harmlessness of "gay Christians" (which I discuss below). If readers know of any place in which Jenson has stated that he has changed his recommendations or his views in light of the clear goals and statements of this group, or in light of anything else (e.g., further reflection), please let me know. Otherwise, I will assume that my criticisms of his sermon are still timely. I will also point out the irony of such a sermon, presenting such a view of "gay Christians," coming out not all that long before the "gay Christians" in the school in question made their agenda quite clear.

I have now listened to the entire sermon, though the section on singleness was for the most part not directly relevant to this post. (In some places it was obviously setting up what he was going to say later about homosexuality, but I have so much to say about the latter section that I am not going to take time to discuss those points.)

There were things about Jenson's discussion of homosexuality (which begins around minute 17) with which I agreed and which are importantly true. Precisely because they are importantly true, they will be rejected by the homosexual activists in his audience--indeed, rejected emphatically as continued manifestations of "homophobia." Jenson repeatedly categorizes homosexual desires with "unholy desires." He implies quite clearly that homosexual desires are "against the grain" of God's plan for your life. Jenson insists that your desires don't make you and that you shouldn't identify yourself with your sexual desires. He says that you can even be "more yourself" if you resist wrong desires, clearly applying this truth to homosexual desires. All of this will be a bitter pill for the homosexual activists to swallow, and so they will reject it. And I suppose, in our age of niceness, when there are people who will characterize even these statements as "hateful," one can say that it took some modicum of courage for Jenson so clearly to reject the normalization of homosexuality.

However, the sermon is very seriously flawed. Here are just some of the problems with what Jenson said:

Jenson encourages undue publicizing of homosexual desire by insisting (beginning around 24 ½ minutes) that heterosexual members of his audience talk to homosexuals about the homsosexuals’ experiences and desires. There is no need for this kind of “sharing.” It is part and parcel of our too much information culture. It encourages exhibitionism on one side and voyeurism on the other. The implication that it is healthy for homosexuals to go about talking and talking about their experiences and feelings qua homosexuals and that it is a duty of Christians generally (as opposed to Christians in special counseling contexts) to have such sharing sessions with them is incorrect.

Jenson repeatedly implies that evangelical Christians should de-emphasize statements of Christian sexual moral principles. He expressly tells Christians who are to seek these conversations with homosexuals to “shut up” about their moral views, implying that they are not to interrupt the flow of feelings, experiences, and personal expression from their homosexual friends, nor to attempt to put those feelings into the context of a clear moral compass. Listening is all. He expressly says (approx. minute 31) that Christian churches should back off on saying “so much as a word” about imperatives against homosexual acts and instead, for some unspecified time period, emphasize unconditional grace, which he characterizes as “the indicatives.”

Let me emphasize: He is saying that the churches need to deemphasize biblical teachings against homosexuality and emphasize grace instead, not merely that some individual Christian in some special counseling context might not need to emphasize that teaching (because the counselee already knows and accepts it or needs some other emphasis right now). This is particularly bad advice right now when our churches are under attack by the homosexual agenda. Now of all times is not the time when the churches need to back off on the imperatives.

Jenson manages to get very steely-eyed when saying, “Repent!” to heterosexual members of his audience who might have invested their identity in their athletic prowess or attractiveness to the opposite sex (around minute 28). Despite the fact that this is his own attempt to make a parallel to homosexuals’ identification of themselves with their disordered desires, he conspicuously never looks steely-eyed and says, “Repent!” to homosexual members of his audience who identify themselves with their sexuality or even who continue to engage in homosexual acts. Very much to the contrary; homosexuals are portrayed throughout the sermon as sensitive plants who must always be treated with kid gloves. This deliberate double standard is troubling. The parallel isn’t particularly good in any event, since neither athletic prowess nor female beauty is intrinsically disordered and since nobody is trying to demonize as “haters” those who condemn proud jocks or vain beauties. Jenson is obviously trying to bend the stick backwards with this "repent" line, and this is all the more striking given his explicit call for Christians to suspend too much talk about imperatives against homosexual acts.

Jenson gives the dangerous and misleading impression that all homosexuals who live within the Christian community are tormented souls who understand and accept Christian moral norms and who simply need love and reassurance. In fact, he implies that they torment themselves with the knowledge that their feelings are objectively disordered, “against the grain” of God’s plan. While there are no doubt such Christians in the world and probably some at Biola, there are also many people of a very different kind within both Catholic and evangelical Christian circles. Obviously, Jenson’s implicit characterization does not apply to Biola Queer Underground. Its members are actively attempting to undermine the Christian community’s commitment to traditional morality. They locate their “torments” solely in the lack of acceptance of their chosen identity and of the behavior associated with that identity, and they will not be satisfied until the rules are changed. The Queer Underground at Biola blatantly and utterly rejects Christian moral norms. They need to be called to account, rebuked, and prevented from corrupting the church and the school from within. Yet Jenson tries as hard as possible to make his audience accept a very different picture of all the homosexual students in their midst. This is a major problem.

Jenson trivializes God’s moral laws by picturing God as offering unconditional grace–in other words, grace that makes no behavioral demands. He refers to this as the “ask no questions welcome of the Father into his household” (minute 31) He reduces the imperative to refrain from sexual immorality to a matter of “chores and household etiquette” which can be brought up later. To imply that grave sin is merely violating a code of etiquette is particularly misleading. The entire discussion here is profoundly disturbing, and all the more so coming from a professor of theology.

When people who suffer from same-sex attraction are called to follow Christ, it would be nothing short of a bait and switch to imply that God invites them to join His family while making no demands on their behavior and then later, as a mere matter of “chores and etiquette,” to introduce strictures against a form of fornication with which they have been identifying themselves from the outset and have never had the slightest intention of forgoing. Certainly God forgives any sin when we come to him in repentance. But that is very different from, “Welcome to the family. There are no requirements here. This is an ask-no-questions household. Come in and do anything you like for right now; maybe later we’ll talk about some small matters of family chores and etiquette.” When Peter preached the first sermon at the very founding of the church on the day of Pentecost, he called his audience to repent. Jesus calls sinners to repentance, to go and sin no more, not to come in and take their shoes off and make themselves comfortable. I note, too, that Jenson expressly distinguishes this discussion of the “ask no questions welcome of the Father” from mere strategy. To Jenson, this is not merely strategy; it is theology. Unfortunately, it is bad theology.

Jenson's sermon is flawed in ways that will, if it is heeded, weaken the school's resolve to fight the attack now being made against it. If we generalize this, we can say that an approach like Jenson's will weaken the evangelical church's resolve to resist the attack being made against it by the homosexual agenda. Good intentions are no excuse for poor advice, misleading statements, and poor theology. The Bible says that teachers in particular need to be careful of their statements because of their position of influence. There are no doubt teachers in Christian schools who are saying worse things than what Matt Jenson says here, teachers who are openly on the side of a group like Biola Queer Underground, openly attacking biblical morality. However: A theology professor like Matt Jenson, who downplays the wrongness of homosexual acts, who teaches acceptance into the family of God with no turning from sin, who presents a picture of only poor, weak, sickly lambs when the flock is invaded by wolves, and who urges the church to mute her witness to the truth, weakens the immune system of the Church of God and leaves her open to attacks by less well-intentioned teachers. For that reason, much of what he says needs to be seen with clear eyes and rejected.

Comments (27)

In the parable of the prodigal son the Father welcomed the prodigal back, but the prodigal had already repented and turned away from his sin.

Exactly. It does us no good to falsify the situation. We simply are not surrounded in the church by sinners who want to play the Prodigal Son as Jesus actually portrays him. At least not when it comes to this issue.

He says that you can even be "more yourself" if you resist wrong desires, clearly applying this truth to homosexual desires.

Great commentary Lydia on the theological aspects. In my opinion the other major aspect is philosophical, and I'd argue is hinted at by his quote above. Namely, that desires can't be changed but only resisted. Because in fact you're the most "yourself" by mastering disordered desires, which is to order them. The idea that you can actually rightly order desires that didn't begin that way is something I think was traditionally believed by the church and that has been undermined by naturalism and such. I suppose it may be some offshoot of the doctrine of total depravity, or at least a later interpretation or corruption of it. Aristotle's views on temperance were entirely compatible with Church teaching.

But now the struggle against disordered desires is exalted, but not the successful ordering of them. Now desires now matter how unnatural are supposed to be a long twilight struggle unto death, as if homosexuality is some natural sin like any of the seven sins such as pride. Now the Christian view is that some things will never be expunged from this sinful nature, and not all things need to be anyway since we needn't be perfect and can't be in this life. But the idea that it is the norm and the best we can hope for is to only grimly try to resist the worst and most destructive desires is untrue and highly destructive in my opinion. Few people can or do resist such desires if they hold such a view.

Not trying to threadjack, but I'm just saying that the philosophical aspect (naturalism) is also critical in favoring the normalization of homosexuality in our culture. In fact I think it is even more powerful because it is more basic and subtle. I think argument from theology would be the coup de grace if it is successful. It is probably the unspoken reason that young Christians are likely to be persuaded by Jensen's theological argument.

Well, but I have to say, Mark, that was one of the _better_ parts of the sermon. I mean, I see your point, but still...I'd much rather he had said _just that_ and stopped. But you can't make a 34-minute sermon out of just saying that one needs to resist one's wrong desires. Okay, maybe John Piper could. :-) But lots of people can't.

It probably was the better part, but most others would have stopped there, and I'm saying it is futile to stop there in any case. The classic view is the right one in my view, and fewer and fewer still hold it. So strip away philosophy and what is left is an idealistic (in the philosophical sense) battle between theology and politics without nature.

We might disagree on the philosophical aspect, but I'm not trying to argue for it if so. I'm simply saying leave out the classic view informed by philosophy of the last millennia or so and it's all over. You can't win it in the long run theologically or politically because philosophy (a view of reality) is what ultimately grounds both of them in reason. I do not see any way that the public even could sustain opposition on theological or political grounds otherwise. Theology is sufficient to hold a belief without natural support, but in the long run a ground for ideas about natural man must be observed or found, otherwise a belief based on practical theology isn't sustainable.

As I said, I'm not trying to argue it here, but FWIW my view did not come out of an a priori judgement. I learned by experience the process of overcoming the control of a certain substance over me of longstanding. Only after that did I see and recognize what happened earlier when reading the Nicomachean Ethics for a class. Most people don't grasp that pleasure doesn't inhere in the objects we desire, but rather it is the having of the desire that gives pleasure. This is why desires can drop entirely away such that they are no longer desires at all. This can be observed by introspection and experience. And that is why I really object when people hold views on an a priori basis about things such as alcoholism for example that even a statistics on the phenomena would refute if they'd look. But by not accepting the conventional wisdom of our present culture, which was very different than the conventional wisdom of past ones, it makes this classic view strange and odd to most. I didn't learn it from a book, but my experience is backed up by the classic books of Western culture,

Well, maybe I did argue for my view in the end. But all I meant to say was that we're not going to win any battles with one hand tied behind our backs. We should point out bad theology and philosophy. One isn't enough. It was never considered enough by the greats of the faith. I'm not saying you're doing that in any way, but I have zero doubt (though I do not know) that Jensen would object on the grounds I've brought up if the context shifted away from theology.

I guess that I have heard so many talks/lectures/homilies along the lines of Jenson's that I have become jaded. I began hearing them sometime in the early 70s. I have never figured out why homosexuality is a case apart when the topic is sexual morality.

At any rate, as has been observed in the comments above, it didn't require 34+ minutes to make a point that could have been made in three or less. All that really had to be said was that almost everyone at some point in their life is tempted to sexual immorality. It is a common temptation and a common sin. In fact, it fills the world with sinners. If it fills the world with sinners, then it must also fill Hell with the condemned. That form of sin is tremendously displeasing to God who, for the reason of impurity only and none other, destroyed cities in Old Testament times. Now that is some Bible talk worthy of any traditional evangelical on a salary.

Yes, the Church welcomes sinners...who have come to repent. The Church welcomes the tempted who are intent on not giving in. But what sense does it make to welcome the unrepentant and those who want to make sin a Christian virtue? It only makes sense if the Church welcomes scandal and the destruction of the flock from within by wolves. This of course IS the intent of homosexual (and other anti-Church) groups who insist that the Church is as much theirs as anyone's, who insist that the meaning of The Way is as much theirs to decide as anyone's. Without real shepherds willing to give their lives (and worldly reputations &tc.) for the flock, those marauders will succeed.

How rare courageous churchmen seem to be nowadays. Well, psychology and politics have replaced much of spirituality and they are easier. As G. K. Chesterton remarked, "Christianity has not been tried and found wanting. It has been found hard and not tried."

Perhaps the most common theological error I face from students in my Intro. to Western Religion course is the idea that Jesus is the friend of sinners. He is not. He's the friend of repentant sinners.

That's a good point, Michael. You are my friends, if you do the things that I command you.

Friendship requires acts of will that are compatible. Without that, it's only a facade. Those who are intent on becoming true friends with Christ must hope for and desire that their wills and Jesus' will come to be in conformity. Since Jesus can't change, it is we who must change, we who must repent where our desires and choices don't line up with His.

I guess my comments above were too abstract and long-winded. A more blunt way to state it is that I don't see how it is effective for our view to oppose Jensen's practical theology while accepting most or all of his non-theological assumptions. Let's take two.

-the idea that homosexuality could be innate
-the bifurcation of act and inclination, where an act is immoral but the desire to commit it can be thought of as blameless

On the second one, I'm sure someone will retort that temptation is not sin. Quite true. But are homosexual desires just temptation? No, they are intrinsically disordered as well. If I have a temptation to rob a bank, it is because I wish to have a good that really is good. Even if I desire homosexual acts for companionship, the companionship is intrinsically different from the companionship in a heterosexual relationship. The desire itself is disordered, as is its actual goal. The only thing that isn't is companionship in the abstract. But I don't desire the concept of companionship or any abstract thing, but companionship in reality. The latter is disordered, as are one's actual desire for it. Now there is grace and I don't judge if someone has these desires (or even if they fail and give in) in the process of working out their repentance, but in fact desires are a problem even if one resists them even though we give people grace and don't judge them on this basis. Aristotle called the condition of having knowledge of immorality and succumbing though not wishing to incontinence. I suppose you could call it weakness of will. (The point of my comments above was that this condition need not be a permanent condition, and the idea that it must be is incorrect.)

As I've already hinted or siad, I don't know what good it does to denounce political and theological accommodation when philosophical accommodation of crucial false ideas supporting the view has already been accepted. We end up condemning the world for its wickedness for following the logic of our own ideas. We strain at gnats and swallow camels.

Actually Jenson goes on at some length with an analogy, intended I suppose to elicit sympathy for the well-intentioned Christian with homosexual inclinations, that indicates that homosexual desires are intrinsically disordered. He implies quite clearly that for a man to be "drawn to" another man, even without fantasy, is "against the grain of God's plan." That is one of the parts of the sermon most likely to be rejected by the homosexual members of the audience, especially those who were presumably at that very time planning to form "Biola Queer Underground."

Look, Mark, I think you have a bit of a "bee in your bonnet." I think the most important thing for us to do here is to hold the line on the disordered nature of homosexual desire and the wrongness of homosexual acts. The question of how easy, hard, possible, etc., it is to get rid of homosexual desires is, I'm sorry, but a separate question. I know you don't like my saying that. I know you disagree. But too bad. *Even if* it is impossible for X to "get over" his homosexual desires, that doesn't make them anything other than disordered and that doesn't mean that he should just despair and embrace the lifestyle. It just means that he has a cross to bear.

The on-the-ground experience of counselors who actually work with people who report such inclinations is that the success in moving them away from even having such desires varies greatly. What the world tells us is that it is *utterly evil*, a kind of abuse or gross malpractice, to attempt to help people even cease acting on homosexual desires, much less get rid of them. The world would like to demonize such counseling to the point that it is illegal. All over the Western world professional counselors or those in training for professional counseling risk either never getting a license to practice or having their licenses revoked if they offer such counseling. Obviously, I think that is insane. If help can be given to people with homosexual inclinations and those inclinations can be removed, thanks be to God. The world's attempts and goals here are themselves evil.

However: I just disagree that we must accept some premise like, "All people can be freed from homosexual desires" in order to fight the homosexual agenda. Whether all people can be or not is not an a priori matter. And as an empirical matter, it seems to be probably false.

Moreover, there are *very serious* problems with Jenson's sermon, and you are simply distracting attention from these by focusing on the few things that were good about the sermon! It's almost incredible. It's like you lack a sense of perspective. _Think_ about the fact that we have here a *professor of theology* who is feeding his audience absolute fluff-theology about God's offering people an "ask-no-questions welcome" that does not require them to turn away from a sin by which they have previously defined themselves. _Look_ at the caricature he is giving his audience of the doctrine that we are saved by grace alone! _Listen_ to the nonsense he is purveying that any homosexuals who identify themselves as Christians must be treated as full-fledged "members of the family" and merely as poor, tormented souls, while meanwhile the whole school is invaded by a veritable fifth column of hard-core homosexual activists who promote homosexual "marriage."

Heck, if you want something else to pick on in the sermon, go to the first part and listen to what I didn't mention: the ridiculous, narcissistic linkage between the church's "right to call single people to discipleship" and the church's willingness to "live as family to single people." What a load of malarkey! So if married people and families in the church don't do enough to meet the emotional needs of single people and make them feel less lonely, the church has "no right" to call single people to discipleship. I got news for ya', buddy, you _are_ called to discipleship. Jesus called you. If the church declares that, it's simply declaring the truth, regardless of whether it's "living as family" to you or not. Man up, already!

But Mark: C'mon. Stop riding your hobby horse. You just do that too much.

Geez calm down.

re the digression: it's actually important. The bisexual will have to be allowed to marry more than one person if his right to fully express himself is to be honored. The definition of marriage will have to be made more malleable than currently advertised.

You're right, Bill. It's just one of many things that gives their web page a surreal feeling. It's the creepiest combination of smarmy pseudo-piety and contemporary perversion-speak you ever saw. On the one hand, all this baloney about God and how they believe in the authority of the Bible and how they believe God's plan is for sexuality to be expressed in marriage...which they are now radically redefining. And on the other hand, the full grocery list of sexuality letters and a post-modernish little essay (which I'll spare you) on the meaning of "queer." It's sickening. Calling them out on the "B" in their grocery list is just one way of showing the hypocrisy of all of this.

According to Oscar Wilde, it used to be "the love that dare not speak its name"; now we're deafened by the untrammelled yapping about it.

The amount of attention that homosexuality gets in the media, the pulpit, and elsewhere continues to astonish me. Last week in an idle hour and as I happened to be reading a book about America's relationship with the Philippines, I tried to escape from the daily ration of 'gay news' by checking out the Manila Times and within twenty seconds stumbled across an article sympathizing with 'gays' who want to be 'married'.

There seems to be nowhere on earth now which hasn't been influenced by the Western lefty-liberal view of homosexuality.

I think the root of this comes from a complete misunderstanding that most evangelicals have of the nature of God's grace. The grace of God cannot make licit that which is inherently illicit. The only way for the grace of God to allow homosexuals to marry or divorcees to remarry while their spouses live would be for God to change his very nature regarding homosexuality and divorce. For God's grace to extend to those unions, God would have to turn his back on blatant rebellion against his will regarding marriage and sexuality.

I think in an era such as ours, it is likely true that God is supremely tolerant of homosexuals who struggle and fail. The world not only doesn't support their struggle, but enthusiastically encourages them to indulge in it. It even goes to levels of tolerance that not even the most licentious societies of the past ever considered such as changing the legal definition of marriage. If there is one thing Desmond was partially right on before, it was that the writers of the Bible probably didn't know how far Satan would go to "make things easy" for homosexuals in the future.

-the bifurcation of act and inclination, where an act is immoral but the desire to commit it can be thought of as blameless

Mark, this raises a point that is often confused. There are actually 2 or 3 distinct interior acts that usually fall under the name "desire". The first is an initial motion of the appetite that starts simply upon the apprehension of the good. That's what appetite does, it inclines toward the good which is the object of that appetite. This initial motion of inclining, however, is not any kind of willed, consented act. Once the inclining is started, the person is free to take up the question "shall I act on this inclining, shall I move so as to satisfy the appetite?" If he does, then during the following motion under which he is approaching to achieve or fulfill the appetite, he is also desiring. This second desiring is fully consented to - he has already chosen to fulfill the desire, so the interim inclining toward the object is an inclining that rests within his willed operation. If, however, he rejects the appetitive good, and rejects the suitability of this particular object at this time and in these circumstances, and attempts to either suppress the inclining or at least avoid it or become distracted from it, then the inclining NEVER finds any sort of anchor in the will, and thus it is WHOLLY blameless.

But there is a third activity under consideration: when you feel the inclination, recognize the object as desirable but unsuitable for pursuit at this time, and refuse to satisfy the appetite with that good, yet you do not fight against the inclination, and instead you entertain it. This entertainment of the inclination is itself a kind of enjoyment. Since enjoyment (in this sense) requires operation of the will, this entertaining cannot be whollly apart from your will, so it can be blameworthy. If the object of the inclination is essentially disordered, then the even partial consent implied by that entertaining is also esentially disordered.

Thus: when a man inclines toward another man as toward a sexually desirable goal, he is wholly blameless if there is nothing in his will that accommodates that inclining. If, on the other hand he consents at least in part to that inclination by willingly resting his affections and thoughts on the object as desirable, then he is blameworthy. In either case the inclination itself is inherently disordered, it is just that the disorder in the first case is not a blameworthy disorder.

Tony is absolutely right. "Intrinsically disordered" and "morally not blameworthy" are actually, in carefully defined cases, compatible.

Tony is absolutely right. "Intrinsically disordered" and "morally not blameworthy" are actually, in carefully defined cases, compatible.

Tony is right about that. I suspect by "inclination" Tony means what I mean when I use the term "urge." I think that gets at the nature of it better, because we can have very high-level, and thus deliberated and habituated spiritual dispositions, that seem natural to call inclinations. The term "inclinations" seems to have a broader scope. I could accept that all urges can be called inclinations in some way, but it seems quite unnatural to say all inclinations are urges so I think "urge" allows for the distinction to be spoken of with less confusion. For example, when I'm on high buildings I feel some strange urge to fling myself off, and others have described this too, but I'm not suicidal. I have have never entertained the urge and surely never will but I feel it. We might think of a dog satisfying an urge to rub his body against a table leg.

So here's how I'd put it. At the highest level of generality, we can at least say there is a separation between urges and desires (even if we can't always tell where the line is, we know there is a line), and further say that some desires are more complex and more characteristically human than others. For my purposes that's enough. But I think to do justice to the term "desire," we need to acknowledge there is a wish for some felt need that seems more complex to be satisfied. But a desire to have a need satisfied by a man or a woman when both are available to me is a more complex and higher-level (and deliberate) and therefore a characteristically human type of desire. Animals have urges, and desires, but more of the former and less and less complex of the latter. So I take it that "homosexual desires" involve a deliberate choice to have needs satisfied with a same-sex partner rather than an other-sex partner. Given human nature we know to some or many it won't necessarily seem deliberate psychologically because of a disordered belief system and/or the combined weight of emotions, fears, habituated behavior, etc.

But the point is that there is the whiff of behaviorism at the least surrounding this issue in our culture generally. There is too much concentration on overt sexual acts to the exclusion of more complex things unique to humans. To do so concedes way too much ground to begin with. Just take father daughter relationships. It is often intensely romantic. This is an aspect of our sexuality. Now the implication of much of this thought seems to be that we're willing to think it would be fine if a man had similar romantic attachments in a same-sex manner as long as he doesn't commit overt sexual acts. I've been a father figure for two beautiful fatherless neighbor girls for some years now and I can tell you that our culture is terribly confused about things like this. Over the years you wouldn't believe the things that have been said to me by outsiders that makes me think people have no idea where the lines are in terms of love and desire. And yet older generations weren't afraid of calling it what it obviously is: a romance. I can see no way to fit the understanding of sexuality that is usually afoot now in the homosexuality debates into the classic view.

Anyway, if one bites the bullet and says it doesn't matter whether or not Christians who believe homosexuality is morally wrong believe freedom from homosexual desires is even possible, then you have to do one of two things. Either split homosexual desires from homosexuality to avoid holding a view of Christianity trimmed of its traditional supernatural understandings (and the classic understandings of the virtuous ideal and processes undergirding it,) or jigger the relationship between faith and reason by ditching the understanding where reason governs emotions in the classic sense. On the latter, in other words, adjust the meaning of desire similar to how the Calvinists adjusted the meaning of "free-will" to where it no longer matches the common-sense understanding so our theology doesn't drive us logically to the view that God causes us to sin. That is why it matters whether something is "innate" or not. At the end of the day the virtuous ideal assumes a belief that man is the type of being who can change in certain relevant ways. Without this the virtuous ideal is a relic of a past time, and this has theoretical and practical implications.

As far a misinterpreting Jensen, I can only say that I feel compelled always to recognize that the smaller questions are given their meaning in light of the larger ones. I agree completely that the Bible teaches that homosexuality is wrong, and I'm willing to concede at least for the sake of argument (since it isn't a matter of importance to me) that the part of Jensen's sermon of which I was most critical could have been the best part of it. But I can't evaluate what he says in a vacuum. I happen to think we'd be a bit better off by skating to where the puck will be, rather than where it is. I am under no obligation to let Jensen define the debate.

I don't let him define the debate either. I reject several of his fundamental premises. For example: He simply declares that "we" Protestant evangelicals "understand" that God grants completely no-strings-attached grace but that we then have "amnesia" when it comes to homosexuality. He expects his audience simply to grant this premise. I call foul. What he says there is baloney. That's a caricature of Protestant theology. God calls us to repentance. He also assumes--not argues, mind you, but assumes--that all the "gay Christians" his audience will meet from among their friends are these tortured souls who just need to be told about God's grace, who just need love, who accept Christian moral norms. He expects us to believe this without argument and then to join him in thinking about how we can "be family" to these people. I don't grant him that premise at all. I insist that he is utterly irresponsible not to deal with homosexuals as they actually are in the church today and within his own college--namely, as I have said, as a fifth column within, rejecting the moral basics and seeking to undermine them. Indeed, my whole problem with him is that he is so messed up and confused, he leaves so many things out of account and has several things (e.g., grace and the nature of becoming a Christian) so completely wrong, that most of what he says needs to be scrapped. That is hardly letting him define the debate!

And as for urges vs. desires, on that point he's quite clear. He's talking about what you call "urges" and taking _them_ to be something that may simply be with the person who identifies as homosexual for the rest of his life. And that may be true, even with the best will in the world. That's an empirical issue, not something that can be decided a priori, and it's not something we need to be dogmatic about.

Off topic, but interesting reading for Lydia and Tony:

A court ruling where the judge takes an extremely socially conservative view against police officers who lie to the public. He makes some excellent points about how godless our legal system has become toward honesty from public officials, and how it's going to end up destroying public faith in the system.

Mike, I would probably characterize that as legally conservative but not socially so. I think the entire train of court standards on admission of evidence is wrong-headed from the first, and as a result they push bad practices on police and lawyers. For instance if a policeman obtains evidence with lying (or other ways of skirting rational limits, like the AZ deputies forcing entry against the Loudermilks), he should be subject to direct job penalties, up to and including losing his job for severe or multiple offenses. At the same time, the evidence should stand on its own merits as to whether the defendant is guilty: if a jury should take a lying policeman's evidence (like a stash of 30 lbs of cocaine) with a grain of salt, OK, let them, that doesn't mean the 30 lbs doesn't exist. To tell the jury that the evidence is "inadmissible" because the policeman wasn't supposed to enter the house that way is irrational, it usurps the jury's function to decide on the relative weight of evidence for themselves. I strongly suspect that the original decisions to suppress evidence from cases came from judges who simply decided on their own that they are smarter than juries and THEY are better at setting aside the irrelevant from the emotional from the useful. But that's inherently the jury's role.

In any case, I would not be surprised to find that judges have plenty of juridical space (if they chose to use it) to tell lying policemen that they are going to find a policeman (and prosecutors) in contempt of court for bringing in a case where they lied to obtain entry, or similar wrongful behavior. Screw whether the legislature has managed to come up with the legislative will to make a special law about it, we don't NEED a special law about it, it is an act of contempt of the legal system and deserves penalty for it. "Well, gee, there is no law on the books that says "a policeman at your front door shall not threaten to poke your eye out with a pencil unless you show him your pirated copy of "Star Trek I: The Movie".

And as for urges vs. desires, on that point he's quite clear. He's talking about what you call "urges" and taking _them_ to be something that may simply be with the person who identifies as homosexual for the rest of his life. And that may be true, even with the best will in the world. That's an empirical issue, not something that can be decided a priori, and it's not something we need to be dogmatic about.

First, this issue cannot be decided empirically. No way, no how. Statistics cannot tell you why something happens, and cannot settle the question of whether there were other choices that were not taken nor why. Take alcoholism. Statistics that show that some die with a bottle in their hand can't tell us anything about why. We can sometimes use statistics to back up our views by mining the data, but raw data itself does not explain itself, but an explanation must be provided to try to make sense of the data.

Second, regarding Jensen's sermon and urges, the question isn't whether an urge is with someone all his life, it is whether an unordered urge must stay unordered all his life. Moreover, it is anything but clear that Jensen even recognizes a distinction between urges and desires at all, let alone one having to do with the rational status of urges vs. desires. On the classic view I presented, it follows that there are no "homosexual urges," but only sexual urges. Desire implies deliberation, and desire is what gives order to urges, whether proper or not. On this view there are merely sexual urges (not specifically homo or hetero,) and even though it is most natural to satisfy them with the opposite sex, people can choose (or be brought up or have experiences such that it may seen natural to them) to satisfy them by same-sex or even animal partners. The latter is more socially deviant so less likely someone would do this out of confusion, but the point is still valid. If one chooses to continue in a disordered pattern he may allow the unique human emotional plasticity to develop into disordered emotional bonds and such that mimic the complexity of heterosexual relationships as much as possible given the disordered state.

Jensen says "It is what you do with your desires that makes you." I still object that there is a strong whiff of behaviorism. What can do with these desires? Well, um . . . resist them of course! And after that? Resist them some more! Resist them until you die, because you will die with them. How about resisting them in the process of reordering your beliefs and practices with the understanding that with the right amount of the right thing in God's grace they be ordered so that you may normal in that sense? Not much hope of that I guess. Oh but wait, you're actually "more yourself" by resisting anyway. It's a good thing you see. More yourself? Really? I think that's just plain stupid. In any case it is certainly a rejection of the classic virtuous ideal. There is explicit teaching on this in the Western tradition, and it held sway for several millennia.

Look, we struggle with the basic sins all our lives. That is our lot as humans. The seven sins. Idolatry underlies them all. We never are totally free of this sort of thing in this life. But since when did complex disordered desires and behaviors such as homosexuality get onto that list? It doesn't belong there. It is not a basic thing that we must always struggle with such as concupiscence.

Dallas Willard has made a career out of preaching the classic Christian message on the relationship of thoughts, actions, and what this means for who we are. He explicitly repudiates Jensen's view. Anyone who thinks that Jensen and his ilk have a hopeful message should find a real message of hope and simply compare.


To tell the jury that the evidence is "inadmissible" because the policeman wasn't supposed to enter the house that way is irrational, it usurps the jury's function to decide on the relative weight of evidence for themselves.

I see your point, but in general, evidence that comes from a person who opens their testimony with "I lied to get this case started" should be considered as evidence coming from a known liar. Therefore, the government should not be allowed to even submit it unless they can show that there is no credible basis upon which the known liar could have planted it. A truck full of cocaine is hard to plant. A dimebag of cocaine, however, takes no imagination to provide ways it could have been planted by a known liar. Of course, part of this could be easily ameliorated by authorizing the judiciary to circumvent civil service protections and directly terminate the employment of government personnel who break the law.

Okay, gentlemen, let's not have a whole OT _discussion_ of evidence exclusion.

Mark, I'm sorry, but you do have a bee in your bonnet, and I'm not going to continue debating with you about it. There are real people who do real work on the ground with homosexuals who wish to change, and as I said above, they have mixed results, even with willingness on the part of the client. I think it's good that they are out there and trying, and I utterly deplore the attempts to demonize such therapists. They are doing important and valuable work and at a minimum can help people to leave the lifestyle, which is the most important thing for both their souls and bodies. However, it appears that it is not possible to have universal success for all people who wish to have the spontaneous feelings (whatever one wishes to call them) go away. We can acknowledge this as an apparent fact of psychological practice and move on. We can also give thanks for those who have been freed from such feelings, while not insisting that those who haven't been must somehow not be "doing it right" to learn to re-order their urges. I really don't wish to debate this anymore, and no matter how often you say it, I refuse to agree that Jenson's messed-up-ed-ness in all the ways I took the time to lay out in the main post is somehow tied to his urging his audience to resist their wrong and/or disordered urges. He is not obligated to tell them that such urges and feelings can, as an a priori matter, if they only know how to apply "classical philosophy," be made to go away forever. That is not where his problem lies, however often you say that it is.

it is not possible to have universal success for all people

The idea that I think there would ever be universal success is absurd.

Jenson's messed-up-ed-ness in all the ways I took the time to lay out in the main post is somehow tied to his urging his audience to resist their wrong and/or disordered urges.

I have never said this, nor do I care. What I'm saying is that Jensen's sermon is a train wreck and I've pointed out some of the ways that is so.

He is not obligated to tell them that such urges and feelings can, as an a priori matter, if they only know how to apply "classical philosophy," be made to go away forever. That is not where his problem lies, however often you say that it is.

What he is presenting isn't the Christianity of Christendom. He preaches that we accept people as they are after divorcing them from their actions to do it. Our actions are a reflection of who we are but we don't judge people and forgive even still. His is a cheap copy of Christianity in that regard. Willard doesn't teach classic philosophy either in his material for churches and does just fine. Philosophy isn't necessary or sufficient, it's just that I'm not as comfortable with the old-time language of Christianity, and it seems others here aren't either.

I don't believe any of the things you wish to attribute to me, and your use of "universal" and "forever" seem to reveal as much. Nor do I understand what sufficiency there is in your view in statistical data that you refer to.

Earlier today I posted commentary on The Thinking Housewife's view of contraception, falling birth rate and consumerism. I admire your blog's determination but am moved to point out that "liberalism" is not, intrinsically, a "hostile power." http://paxonbothhouses.blogspot.com/2013/09/the-thinking-housewife-contraception.html (For more on liberalism as it manifests in the life and work of Pope Francis, please google "Pax on Both Houses, Pope Francis")

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