When Pharisees Attack (Addendum: What SHOULD Have Happened)

Authors Note: I have added a section at the end of this post spelling out what I believe would be a redemptive approach to this sad situation. As Christians, as the redeemed, our duty is to be avenues of redemption and healing.

Okay, I will admit that the title is a bit melodramatic, but it reflects the angst I feel over an issue I have been made aware of in a Baptist College; one that reflects values I consider to be more Pharisaic than Christian. Let me tell you the story, then you can weigh in on whether I am right or wrong in my feelings about this.

It all started when a young man who was involved in the school’s student government went to a member of the administration and asked for help with a problem he was having. The problem was not a small one – he was struggling with homosexual desires, a struggle that had been with him pretty much all of his life.

Let me spell out some background facts:

  1. He was reading a wide range of views on the topic of homosexuality, including some that said that the Bible did not condemn it as sinful. Is it hard to believe that a young man dealing with this kind of temptation might at least explore those views which say that his desires come from God, not from sin? He was also reading and considering those who maintained the biblical position that homosexual behavior was a sin.
  2. He  was not accused of any violations of the school’s code of conduct. No charges were leveled that he was engaged in homosexual behavior of any sort. The issue was that a) he was struggling with homosexual desires and b) he was reading views that did not conform with the school’s point of view.  The issue came not because of his sin, but because of his temptations!
  3. This young man was an exemplary and inspirational student leader at the school. To go into details would be to expose more of the story than I wish to do at this time.
  4. He went to the administration to seek help. He wanted advice, counsel, assistance and wisdom.

But what he got was judgment and condemnation. Instead of helping him, the person he approached reported him to one of the school’s vice presidents. The VP summoned him to his office and dispensed discipline. He was removed from student government, an act that led to public humiliation for the young man. (The reason for his removal from student government were known to all in the student government).

Because of this public shame, the young man has transferred from this Christian school to a nearby public school, where he will probably receive a very different message about his struggle with sin. He will be encouraged to embrace his sin and express it. The chances are very good that soon he will no longer be struggling with homosexuality, but will be living in it!

Here is what I think:

1) Homosexual desires are not sin and should not be treated as sinful. Homosexual behavior is sinful, but the desire to sin is NOT sin!

2) This young man should have been honored as one who was battling the flesh and its desires, not treated as anathema. The school got it 100% wrong on this one by putting him under discipline.

3) By expressing condemnation instead of grace, this Christian school has aided the Enemy in leading this young man down the path of sin. While the school and its administration are patting themselves on the back for their “righteous stand against sin” they are not considering the damage that their self-righteousness and spirit of condemnation has actually done.

4) Pharisaism is always present in the church, it is always dangerous. Pharisaism is far more dangerous than a young man’s struggle with homosexuality. The fact that a Baptist school can’t see that is sad.

Have we reached the point where we are treating temptation as sin, sinful desires as grounds for discipline? Are we more interested in demonstrating our judgment than our grace?

What do you say?

What SHOULD the School Have Done? 

This post has been up almost 24 hours now, and has certainly engendered discussion here. I’ve spent more time discussing this in private online discussions, which have led me to believe that this problem is widespread and is not simply limited to the way the church deals with homosexuality.

Too many in the church have adopted the ministry of condemnation toward sin; as if sinners are the enemy and need to be destroyed. Sinners are not the enemy of Christ or the church – they are the battleground. We do not fight against sinners, we fight FOR them, against the principalities and powers and lies that have bound this world in darkness.

Self-righteousness is evil. We need to become self-righteousness-o-phobes!  We need to fear and abhor that sin as much or more as we abhor abortion, adultery, homosexuality or murder. In fact, self-righteousness does more damage to the church than those other sins!

Rant over.

Now, here is what I would like to see a school, or a church, or any Christian organization, handle an admission that someone is struggling with homosexuality.

1) Assure the person that they are loved and accepted, and that you will stand with them as long as he or she is struggling against the sin. Affirm to the person that God’s love covers sin, that God’s power can make us “more than conquerors” over whatever sin throws at us.

2) Set the boundaries of God’s Word. “We cannot support or condone homosexual behavior, and if you make that choice, then this will become an issue of sin and discipline.” We do no one any favors when we compromise God’s Word just to make them feel better.

3) Offer help, as much help is needed. In the school situation, that would include such things:

  • Biblical counseling to work through any personal, emotional or spiritual issues the young person has gone through.
  • Enlist a professor of Bible to help the young man work through the theological/biblical issues. Don’t burn books – literally or figuratively. Provide someone who can help him see the weakness of the biblical arguments that are used to defend homosexual behavior.
  • Get either a spiritual mentor (an older student, faculty member, etc) and perhaps some kind of accountability group to help him.
  • Keep his struggle confidential.
  • Worry more about the young person than the perceptions of others. (People will often accuse those who take a redemptive approach toward people struggling with homosexuality as compromisers or such. Ignore them. Jesus Christ died to redeem sinners. Be part of his work. Do not let the self-righteous control you.)

4) Don’t give up. Victory comes after intense battles. This young person has come to you for help. Help him! Help her!  If they fail, keep trying. If they fall, help them up. Do not give up.

Comments

  1. says

    I say that your title was apt and correct.

    I say that the school was not only wrong but was remiss in its duties to its students, its calling, and the Kingdom.

    I say that we need to STOP treating homosexual tendencies as sinful and start addressing the differences between desires- which give birth to sin- and behavior- which is acting on desires and is sin.

    I say that I will pray for this young man that he would find a Christian who would love him, give him wise counsel, hold him accountable, and guide him in his study of the Scriptures.

    I finally say that I hope the administrators of this “Christian” school read this article, are convicted by the Spirit, and repent publicly, since they saw fit to make this young man’s struggle so public.

    Dave, I’m so sorry for this young man. Over the years I have worked with numerous people who struggle with their sexual orientation. It is a tough battle, because the culture we live in is largely completely counter to the Scriptural approach to the behavior. Unfortunately, the church- especially the theologically conservative church- has made grave errors in the past 40 years in our response to this issue. I’m praying daily for a turn and I hope to see one in my lifetime, but stories like this remind me that there is still a lot to do.

    My email address is ryan@westetro.org if you would like to connect the young man to someone. I would love to visit with him via email.

  2. says

    You title is absolutely correct.

    Ask yourself what Jesus criticized the Pharisee for. In my memory, He criticized them for neglecting the weighty matters … LOVE.

    “.. you tithe mint and dill and cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness.”

    I see nothing just, merciful, or of faith, in what they did. And certainly they acted unlovingly, and I am reminded that as believers, when we act contrary to God’s nature that we’re to reflect, we are lying about Who He is.

  3. Lisa says

    I totally agree with you Dave. This young man was crying out for help and should have been counseled and shown the Biblical response to every question he had. Then much praying for God’s help and much mentoring by the pastors/teachers should have taken place. This young man was at a spiritual crossroads and needed useful Christian advice.
    This is a very heartbreaking story! :-(

    • Dave Miller says

      Yes, it is sad, isn’t it, to think of a young man going for help and getting what he got. At a Christian college, at that.

  4. Dale Pugh says

    Given your recounting of events in the post, I think the title should’ve been “When Christians are Stupidly Stupid AND Pharisaical All at the Same Time Without Even Trying.”
    Seriously though, I agree with you. We all struggle with something, and this kind of action certainly sends the wrong message about how to deal with temptation. I dare say that it even sends an unbiblical message. Of course, I only know what you’ve shared here, so I don’t have all the facts.

    • Dave Miller says

      That is, of course, true. You can only know the facts as I present them. I believe they are accurate, but I could not reveal more at this point.

  5. says

    Homosexual desire is not sinful. Yes. Sure. Ok.

    But, there is nothing wrong with a person looking at a member of the opposite sex and being attracted. I’m not talking about sinful lust, I’m talking the normal a boy sees a cute girl and his heart goes all a-flutter and he’s like “Wow!!!” or vice versa (girl/boy). That is normal. It should not cause us concern.

    In contrast, if a boy looks at a boy and feels those same feelings, I don’t care if you call it sin, it is wrong. It is not ok for him to feel like that. If he feels ashamed about it, that is good because it is never ok to desire to sin. So, fine, it’s not a sin to be attracted and not lust, but it’s not something that we should tell them is ok and they don’t have to worry about.

  6. John Wallace says

    Dave. i hope that you have confronted this institution and plan to publicly expose them unless they repent.

    • Dave Miller says

      Many of the students were devastated by this. But the administration firmly believes they were defending righteousness.

      I may take this farther in the future, but right now, I’m not.

      • says

        From what you say, sounds like they may also be caught up in a malady common nowadays in both the secular and religious worlds – I call it prioritizing PR over effectiveness. Or, to be more precise, prioritizing the presented public face over actually effectively doing what they are trying to present. Certainly they are more concerned with presenting themselves as supporting righteousness than with actually helping this young man towards righteousness. It contrasts poorly with Paul’s expressed attitude in II Cor 13:7: “Now we pray to God that you do no wrong; not that we ourselves may appear approved, but that you may do what is right, even though we may appear unapproved.”

  7. Christiane says

    This is a good post, DAVID.

    Thank you for speaking on behalf of people who struggle with temptations not of their own choosing.

    You are right. People who sin choose to ACT on temptations willingly.
    This young man you describe has not chosen his burden, nor does he have a wish to act on it. He sought to find understanding and help . . . that is not a sin, it is something honest and honorable in a young person these days. I hope he finds peace in Christ. I think prayers are needed all around:
    for those who condemned him and shamed him, that they seek forgiveness of God and of the the young man whom they have injured;
    for the young man, for his protection from the evil one;
    for the Church to be guided by the Holy Spirit towards a ministry of Christ’s loving care for those seeking sanctuary from pain in their lives.

    Thanks for writing about this, DAVID.
    I think it will do some good.

  8. Mike Bratton says

    Here’s what’s up, Dave.

    The people who handled this situation apparently have really good reflexes, and very poor judgment. They had an opportunity to minister to the young man, and they eschewed it.

    Temptation to commit sin is not sin. However, indulging that temptation–even in one’s thought life–is, very much, sin. And that’s where the business about “desire” comes into play. My concern is that this young man, in the course of his research, was looking for justification to indulge his particular desire, even if he hadn’t physically acted upon it.

    Sins in our thought lives are every bit as offensive as sins in our behaviors. To God, at least, according to Scripture. Quoting my favorite pastor, as believers we are sheep, not pigs. Pigs are attracted to slop, and wallow in it; sheep may slip in the slop (try saying that three times fast), but quickly want out of it, and want it off them.

    • Dale Pugh says

      I’m not challenging you here, just asking a question based on your second paragraph.
      So how should the counselor react when the “justification to indulge [a] desire” is directed toward gluttony? Gossip? Heavy petting? Vulgar language? Pornography? Drunkenness? I ‘m sure that such issues are just as prevalent on that college campus as is the temptation to homosexuality. If the young man in question had any of those problems would he have been treated similarly?
      I know for a fact that every person on the face of this planet struggles with temptation. When we seek help for the problem then shouldn’t we receive real help? In the scenario above, the lines were drawn too quickly and too narrowly, it appears. Of course, you also pointed that out in your first paragraph.

      • Mike Bratton says

        There’s what I’m driving at. He did, and does, deserve real, ministerial help. He got slammed. There’s a difference.

    • Dave Miller says

      There was no accusation that he was “indulging” in his temptation or desire.

      The only thing he did which seemed to be at the root of this is that he read more liberal authors who interpreted scripture in a different way than conservatives do.

      I’ve read egalitarians, but that doesn’t mean I’ve adopted the view. I’ve read liberals, but I’m still conservative. I’ve listened to Obama, but I’m still not a Democrat.

      The school had an opportunity to disciple a young man, but they chose to go a different direction. That makes me sad.

  9. says

    I would agree with most of it, except the part about homosexual desires not being sinful. I used to always agree and defend that point, but recently have re-thunk my position and now come to the opposite conclusion. We don’t say that a stepfather having sexual desires for his stepdaughter is not sinful, but only acting upon them is. I don’t see a material difference. Perhaps you could elaborate on that, but ultimately the desire for something evil betrays a sexual brokenness that we all have, and I don’t see how we can say that’s not sin.

    • says

      Dustin,

      There are physical desires and there are mental desires. At the physical level, sexual attraction is involuntary and sinless. There is good reason why people are to dress modestly even when at home with their own family. Most do not like to admit it, but a naked, sexually developed female body is sexually attractive (at the physical level) to a normal man regardless of whose body it is—even if a family member. Of course, the normal man will at the mental level balk at this physical attraction by looking away and insisting that clothes be put on. If there was no physical attraction to avoid, then looking away would not be necessary (and neither would clothing).

  10. says

    Unfortunately I think this kind of thing happens at “Christian” schools (including Southern Baptist affiliated schools) a lot more than we are aware of. A lot of discipline, very little discipleship. I also believe that some schools are selective in the enforcement of their student codes of conduct. Some issues get reactions like the one in this story, other issues get “overlooked” for a variety of factors that rarely are uniformly applied. It’s unfortunate that Christian schools do this, but it seems to be a reality that won’t change unless those of us who have “power” over these schools start speaking up and acting. Maybe it is time that those of us with colleges/universities affiliated with our state conventions start paying more attention, and making sure that the school leaders are promoting Christ, and not something else.

    • Todd Benkert says

      And when the institution does choose to disciple/minister to such students, there’s always a watchdog blog to report that they are going soft on sin.

      • Tarheel says

        I agree with this blog post. The university got it all wrong. Dead wrong based on the facts we know.

        David, how do we KNOW that this young man wasn’t or had been engaged in activity? I only ask this because I hope there was a good reason for the behavior of the school admin. and that it wasn’t as wrongheaded as it seems to be.

        Also, has this school been scrutinized a lot recently and accused of going soft on the issue of homosexuality? If so that might offer some explanation. I said explanation not justification. I can’t imagine the pressure Christian colleges are under, from both sides of this issue.

        I think, given the facts we know, the school needs to repent.

        We should point it out and demand thier repentance, and call for repentence publicly of this public sin since these administrators are leaders at a Christian school (even more so if it’s a Baptist school) therefore, they and thier behavior represent us, as such it is in fact our business to call phariseeical hypocrites to public repentence.

        • says

          I would suggest that, based on Dave’s guidelines for posts like this, he has at minimum spoken with two sources, and possibly the individual (but not certain) involved.

          Certainly, there is an element of trust inherent to that. How do we know? Simply because the individual said so.

          • Tarheel says

            I wasn’t calling him a liar…if it came accross that way …. My bad.

            Seriously, I was just, as I stated…hoping that somehow the admin. in question did not act as dreadfully as it seems.

  11. Jeff Johnson says

    I agree that this school missed an opportunity to encourage and disciple this young man. The message was loud and clear to other students: If you struggle with anything, keep it to yourself. Not exactly the kind of atmosphere that promotes spiritual growth. If he had not broken the conduct code, I wonder on what basis the school exercised discipline and removed him from his position. If the other students knew why he had been removed, it seems like there was open suspicion about his sexuality (unless he talked about the situation later). It sounds like the school feared it had openly gay student government number

  12. NotSurprised says

    I have sadly seen this scenario played out at the SBC seminary I attended. It wasn’t always as public as this case, but I cannot count how many times people were disciplined out of the school. I also know that these incidents would be recorded in their permanent file and that would make it very difficult to transfer to other SBC seminaries. The saddest one I remember is that of the guy who lived next to me that was struggling with pornography. He confessed his struggle and was reported to the administration, which disciplined him and he was removed with no plan as to how or when he could return. I feel that there should be a distinction made for those who seek help & desire repentance against those who were caught.

  13. John Fariss says

    I agree with you 100% Dave. Unfortunately, this sort of thing tends to happen (1) when polarization reaches a certain point, and (2) when “we” get so used to being against something that we forget that what we are “for” is more effective.

    John

  14. says

    Dave,

    I honestly believe you should publish the name if the institution or have your source do so in order that the Christian community can call the school leadership to repentance and seek reconciliation with that young man.

  15. tom bryant says

    At this point, David would need the permission of the man to publish the University’s name, I believe. To do so without his permission might further damage his reputation and service for the Lord.

    btw, good title!

  16. BaptistJim47 says

    They truly sad part is that we, as Southern Baptists, are one of the few bastions of believers who hold to a strong inerrant view of Scripture which is the the rock upon which those of us who struggle with same-sex compulsion/attraction/homosexual tendencies (whatever you want to call it) can stand and hold fast. However, to be among Southern Baptists is to know that the same thing that happened to this young man would happen to me if I ever spoke it aloud. It means that, unlike other struggles, I cannot seek accountability (except from God and my wife), I cannot ask for prayer and be prayed for, I have to listen to the comments and jibes about people of my “ilk”, and I have to hide in plain sight. As the years pass (I am 66 and visible in my church), I find it harder and harder to want to be in church. It is not that I have turned against God or His Word; it is just that church is so full of self-righteousness and anger at the world that it is hard just to worship and find community. The truly sad thing is that I am trapped because I really have no other place to go. I do not want a church that will “affirm” me and I do not want a church that does not see the Word as truth and the two-edged sword of being. A Southern Baptist church in my neck of the woods (Oklahoma) is really not a place for people who struggle; it is a place to be affirmed in righteousness of self and the wrongness of the world. Wish you were my pastor, Dave. Life would be nicer. Thanks for the article.

    • Tarheel says

      No joke, my eyes welled up with tears as I read your comment, BaptistJim47.

      I’m glad you posted that, we pastors and denominational leaders that lurk and read here desperately need to hear this. We need to evaluate and work to correct this reality within our churches and denomination!

      It’s beyond sad what you just expressed.

    • says

      Jim,

      If you are in the OKC/Yukon area you and your struggles are welcome at my church. I am so sorry for the attitudes you have encountered. Please don’t leave the Body.

      • BaptistJim47 says

        Thank you very much, Ryan. I googled you and your church is a bit too far away for every Sunday. But I think I could use the experience and maybe one of these Sundays my wife and I can come up and see how you guys do church and meet you. I think it would be nice. Jim

  17. Jackie Pittman says

    I agree with you. But I feel like those in charge did not know how to deal with this young man’s struggle. If he had been in the occult probably would have been handled same way. I’ve seen similar cases in which the person seeking help from local Christian leadership, because they were unequipped to handle intense and dark situations, and the person usually falls into the the religious cracks.

  18. cb scott says

    Dave Miller,

    If your young friend would like to be in a Baptist college atmosphere rather than that of a secular institution, give him my contact numbers. With absolute discretion, we will do all we can to help him within the parameters of biblical faith. On that I give you and your readers my word.

    If later, your young friend does not receive biblical care in a Baptist institution such as we are making an effort to provide here at BPC, you may feel free to expose me to the whole world as a liar and hypocrite and unworthy to hold an administrative position in a Christian, Baptist college.

    What happened to the young man, if it is as you described, and I have no reason to doubt you, for you have always been honest with me, it was wrong and poorly handled and is just one more example of why Baptist schools need to stop being run by panty-waisted-sissies and hire real men who have lived in the real world of humanity and have had to deal with real life and its problems and have enough sand in their guts to deal with the messiness of being human and do so according to biblical truths and standards.

  19. says

    I have the wonderful opportunity to pastor a new church plant. In order to get the word out, I contacted the local newspaper to write an article about us. I have enclosed an excerpt from the article:
    Guinn said he was a little disappointed in traditional churches, and Life Fellowship is diverse without requirements about who attends and what they wear when they are attending. They have many kinds of Baptists, Pentecostals, Catholics and whoever they can recruit. They’re accepting of same-sex couples, exposed tattoos and shorts and sandals at church.
    “I wear shorts and sandals to our church in the summer,” Guinn said.
    Because of this article, I was called in for an emergency meeting with our local Baptist Association to explain what I meant about “traditional churches”, and “accepting of same-sex couples”. These Godly men must have gone to the same Baptist school you mentioned. The meeting was to determine if they would dissolve fellowship with our church. Then I heard from the pastor of the church where I was ordained, and he said they were going to resend my license and ordination.
    However, the response from outside the church has been great. We have baptized 15 people, and gained 40 in attendance because of that article.
    I don’t know of anywhere we as Christ Followers, would want people struggling with sin, to be besides a place they can hear the word of God, and be loved unconditionally. I am not worried about your past, it’s your future I am concerned with.
    Sin is still sin, and until God changes His mind, I will preach it thus. But the Greatest of these is Love.

    • volfan007 says

      David,

      I would imagine that your Association and Home Church weren’t too sure by what you meant by “accepting” of same sex couples. That seems very vague, and it would make me wonder what you meant. If you meant by that….we don’t hate homosexuals, and would welcome them to visit our Church….then, amen! If by that, you meant, we will accept their homosexuality as okay, and would welcome them to join our Church, then there’d be big problems, and I’d agree with your home Church and local Association.

      David

    • Joe Blackmon says

      Well, your ambiguity was the problem. When you said “accepting homosexuals” what you could have said was “we don’t turn away homosexuals from visiting our church” or something. The way you phrased it could have been taken to mean that you accept them into membership since you listed it in the same catagory as shorts and tatoos. Shorts and tatoos would never be a biblical barrier to joining a church. Homosexuality most certainly would be.

      I am very thankful for your association.

      • says

        Perhaps the better, less alarmist approach would have been a casual lunch with the DoM to clarify what David meant. “Emergency session” over what a newspaper reporters impression of David’s views seems a bit like overkill to me. In MMBA there would have been a meeting, but it would have only been me, David and some chicken wings. Assuming that Biblically sounds clarifications were made, the matter would have been quickly closed. Panic isnt necessary nearly as often as some Baptists think it is.

  20. says

    I agree completely, and it’s amazing to see the agreement in the comments up to this point. The reason it’s amazing is that it’s obvious given this article that most Christians don’t handle temptation very well, both within themselves and within others. I would have expected to see some kind of pushback on the central issue.

  21. Tarheel says

    I think the agreement is because we all agree in the sinfulness of homosexuality and also agree that grace and mercy should be extended to those seeking help for sinful temptation.

    What the admin. did here, apparently, was unmerciful, not graceful and not loving!

    If we embrace castigating and publicly humiliating people for mere temptation….we’ve got serious problems.

  22. volfan007 says

    I would just say this….I’d like to know what school you’re talking about, and I’d like to hear from their side of the story. I’m not saying that Dave slanted this story in any way, but in my years of living, there’s always another side of the story. And, maybe we haven’t heard the rest of the story. Maybe there’s more to this than what Dave was told. I don’t know. But, I’d like to hear who the school is, and what the leaders have to say about this, before making major judgments on the school.

    BTW, I do agree that someone struggling with same sex struggles should be prayed for, and encouraged….not condemned. We all struggle with some sin, or the other….ever last one of us.

    David

    • Tarheel says

      I think you’re right there, VolFan.

      We need to hear thier side of the story…

      if it happened As Dave has been told and relayed to us….they need to be publicly rebuked and called to repentence. If it happened as reported they’re unequivocally in the wrong.

      If it did not happen as reported, and a more loving and biblical approach was taken, then that will should exposed as well.

      I’ve, like you, learned in my life that it is one mighty thin board that only has one side.

      • cb scott says

        Gentlemen,

        As Southern Baptists, we handle things somewhat differently than to have mob rule and “public rebukes” and thank God we do.

        We, as Southern Baptists, have trustees who are placed by either the SBC, state/area/ regional convention or, in some cases, local Baptist associations, to govern our agencies, boards, and institutions.

        Therefore, a so called “public rebuke” is basically meaningless and, in most cases, draws in the Wild Geese who don’t know bear grease from Shinola about Southern Baptist life, trying to tell us what to do.

        And, as with most wild Geese, they are people who adhere to some theo-dwarf theology that is as far from Baptist theology, (which BTW, is as close to biblical theology as has been manifested in human existence thus far), as is the Sun from the sandy beaches of Tybee Island, Georgia. Or, they have some personal bone-to-pick with some Southern Baptist preacher, church, seminary, etc. or they are just nuts and flakes who have nothing better to than be antagonistic toward everything Baptist or of a conservative Christian position.

        Therefore, if the administration of the institution in question will not act in accord with the Scripture, the next step is to address the Chairman of the BoT of that institution. If that does not work, the next step is the go to the SBC, state convention or the local association.

        These public lynchings that occur in social media just simply don’t work. They never have and never will. And there is one basic reason as to why not. Most of those who call for the public rebukes are as stated earlier in this comment. “They don’t know bear grease from Shinola about Southern baptist life.”

        • says

          Greetings C.B. I agree with your statements regarding our trustee system. At the same time, I think Dave’s post is less about “taking action” (I don’t think this was an SBC school anyway) and more a statement about how too many Christian institutions of higher learning view the process of moral development in their student bodies. Too many of them take an approach that looks more like the Pharisiac than followers of Jesus, and while this change should eventually come through the proper channels, forums like this one are actually perfect for clarifying the problem and raising awareness.

          Hope you are well my friend.

          • cb scott says

            Joel,

            I do not disagree with your summation of the post. I also do not think it is a Southern Baptist school. If I may be so bold, had it been a Southern Baptist institution, guys like you, me, and others who read most all things Southern Baptist and “hear” most all things Southern Baptist would already have the same information that Dave has.

            In addition, I am not suggesting that this medium should not be used to develop awareness. Were I to do so, I would, of all people, be a dastardly and despicable hypocrite.

            My comment was to point out that we, as Southern Baptists, have a system that, when the trustees are worth their salt and not gutless, as has been too often the case in the last several years, there is a process to handle such problems.

            Of course, in my earlier comment, I wanted to make all readers know it was not BPC who did it. Also, I wanted the readers to know that we at BPC handle such matters differently. At least we have in the last 16 months.

            I realize that is somewhat mercenary of me. But Joel, would you expect anything less of me? :-)

            BTW, I am well. — going through a major transition right now, but I believe God is in control and the future is bright.

            I trust you are also in well health and prospering in our Lord Jesus. Next time you come close to the Southland, give me a call. Maybe we can spend some time together and eat some good B-B-Q.

          • says

            Yes, we need to break bread C.B. If for no other reason, then so I can hear you refer to yourself as “dastardly” in person. :) Its been too long!

  23. says

    Dave,

    It seems that the question has come to light, not questioning your integrity on this, but questioning what was told you. Certainly had this happened even in a Baptist College in Podunk, USA the news media would be wearing this thing out. That being said it seems that we need to know which Baptist College this is. Certainly we would all be against something like you say happened. But if the person was an open practicing homosexual with a confirmed partner I believe this would change everything.

    • Tarheel says

      Or if he was removed from his position after not “taking to” biblical counsel….another possibility that could change everything.

  24. Eddie says

    First, I’d like to say I’m here to learn and grow in my understanding of the word of God. Second, I don’t know the whole story and never will because I was not present during the conversation and there are always two sides to every story, but based on what I’ve read, I don’t see this as more Pharisaic than Christian. I think we may be talking about two different things: desire vs. temptation. Temptation is not sin, but sexual desires and any desire that is contrary to God’s word are. I think Matthew 5:28 and Romans 8:6-7 make it clear that our thoughts and desires can be sin just as acting them out is. When people are in Christian leadership positions, they are held to a high standard and should first, step down themselves if not taken out of their position (not kicked of school, if that was the case) to take time to pray and meditate on the word of God as well as for counsel form Godly leaders. We can do it in a loving and Christ-like way, but it will still be hurtful and humiliating for those of us who are confronted with our sin in light of the word of God. Discipline is never easy no matter what side of the fence you are on. I would hope all of us would agree that a homosexual lifestyle goes against the word of God and is sin. If we agree with that, then we should agree that sexual desire for the same sex or opposite sex is sin. I think the Church should be the one place we can go for counsel and a place to share whatever thoughts, desires, temptations, or actions we may be struggling with. But, at the same time, if we are Christians, then we should understand and embrace the repercussions (discipline) that may occur. I’m not saying it is always done correctly and it’s not easy, but I do believe when done biblically it is right.

    • says

      Eddie,
      Sin is the acting on the wrong desire.
      In Matthew 5, desire is not in view here but rather the contemplating of that desire.
      In Romans 8, we are told that the mind set on the flesh is death because from the heart, the mouth speaks. Those set on the flesh do the things of the flesh: they go against God’s law.
      Read James 1:
      13 Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God”; for God cannot be tempted by evil, and He Himself does not tempt anyone. 14 But each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own lust. 15 Then when lust has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and when sin is accomplished, it brings forth death.

      Lust [desire] is there before sin and if you let it carry you away: then sin.

    • Dave Miller says

      Eddie, I think you are misinterpreting Jesus’ words about looking on a woman with lust.

      If a young man (or old?) had to repent every time he had a sexual desire, he would get nothing done! He would spend his day repenting.

      To look on a woman with lust is a little stronger than just having a fleeting thought or desire. It implies intent, a lustful heart. A determination to sin.

      An old statement is apt here. “None of us can prevent a bird from landing on our head, but we can stop it from building a nest.”

      A desire is not a sin, but a temptation. To harbor lustful thoughts, to view porn, to fan the flames, etc, that is the sin.

      • says

        That’s a statement where it’s profitable to pay attention to *exactly* what Jesus said: “everyone who looks at a women *to* lust for her has committed adultery with her in his heart”. That’s the Greek preposition pros, which carries the connotation “towards”. The implication is that before the look, there is an intention to lust. Jesus isn’t talking about a reaction, but a deliberate action. Jesus isn’t talking about what happens when a beautiful or underdressed woman unexpectedly wanders into view (which doesn’t rule out what’s going on in the heart for the “second look” – men who walk around with adultery in their heart, in this situation, once they’re consciously aware she’s there, will deliberately take a second look to “get an eyeful”), but a deliberate act to stir up one’s own desires by looking.

        Properly understood, the statement is almost a tautology. Before the look, the heart intends to lust, to stir up one’s own desires, to contemplate “having” the woman. And it’s a perfect description of the use of pornography. “Looking at a woman lust for her” is exactly what pornography is *for*.

        Note that I’m not trying to excuse men’s lusts (though I’m sure there will be some who will accuse me of just that). But I think that one of the problems nowadays may be an understanding of this verse that interprets the merest twinge of a physical reaction as heart-adultery, and therefore sin. People end up giving up (and giving in). The issue isn’t whether or not your glands and hormones are working, it’s whether in your heart you intend to restrain yourself to what’s proper (and to do what’s necessary to accomplish that), or intend to indulge yourself. And an understanding of heart -adultery that essentially defines it as having working glands actually keeps you from having to face what is in your heart. If you can blame a working body for your sin, you don’t have to face the heart conditions that actually bring about the sin.

  25. Dave Miller says

    Several things.

    1) I said this is a Baptist school. I did not say that it was a Southern Baptist school.

    2) I am not at liberty to reveal more than I have, because this came to me from a student who was a) a friend of the young man and b) a part of student leadership at the school and was thus informed of the school’s decision. That person gave me permission to speak generally to this, but not to make things public, at this point.

    3) I am making an edit in the post. I said, “He had not violated the school’s code of conduct in any way.” I am correcting that. Of course, none of us knows what sins another has committed. The truth is that he was not ACCUSED of violating the code of conduct. The school made no claims of code violation.

    I realize that the “other side” has not had a chance to speak. That is why this is anonymous.

    But, the point of this post was to do two things:

    1) To raise the issue that we should not put homosexuality in a special category of sins and treat those who struggle with homosexuality as different than those who struggle with other sins.

    2) To oppose the kind of approach to sin that was taken here – which I wish were less common. I’ve had several private conversations with people that have made it clear to me that this kind of thing is common and is not limited to homosexuality.

  26. says

    Excellent article, Dave Miller. I agree completely. Even the Biblical definition of homosexual is not one who has certain desires, but one engages in homosexual activities—just as a thief is not defined as one who is tempted to steal. But this idea that the desire itself is sin has been entrenched in the church for a very long time. Bart Barber and I had an illuminating discussion in the comments (53-83) of the following Voices article: http://sbcvoices.com/the-sinful-nature-in-dynamic-equivalence-translations/

    The issue seems wrapped up in the idea of the physical body being the seat of the sinful nature, and it has significant ramifications when it comes to the incarnation of Christ.

  27. Wayne Roberts says

    Just curious. I don’t see anything regarding the student going to his family or home church. I would think the college would contact them both. It would be extraordinarily sad if he were failed by all three.

      • cb scott says

        Yep. Ryan Abernathy is right.

        James 1:15 reveals the crux of the matter, does it not?

        One writer I like, comments on 1:15 thusly: “Just as a child is a human being before birth, so sin is present in the heart before being revealed. When people hold temptation in their hearts and fantasize about it in their minds, sin is conceived; and once sin is born, it brings forth death.”

        I think Isaiah 59:4b-5 illustrates the concept rather well and somewhat colorful.
        “They conceive evil and bring forth iniquity. They hatch vipers’ eggs and weave the spider’s web; He who eats of their eggs dies, and from that which is crushed a viper breaks forth.”

  28. Irwin Fletcher says

    Ryan,

    James does not say evil desires are not themselves sinful. Rather, he says that they give birth to sin. Reading scripture as a whole, it is clear that evil desires are themselves transgressions. For instance, sexual desire contrary to God’s will is lust, and lust is adultery. Hatred is murder. Etc. Even if you only have the desire contrary to God’s will (lust or hatred) you are still an adulterer. Of course, when a person acts upon their adultery or hatred, James 1 gives masterful analysis of the origin of that sin. He does the same in James 4, as well.

    Just as a matter of edification, when someone makes an attempt at a serious comment, responses that are sarcastic and dismissive, such as I find yours to be, are not charitable.

    All the best,
    Fletch

    • says

      I did not realize that your one sentence comment trumped the seriousness of mine. You are welcome to ignore the plain reading of James if you like.

      On the basis of your comment and position, if it was correct (and thankfully it’s not) we would do just as well as to follow through on the lust, or hatred, or whatever desire we have, since we are already guilty.

      Romans 13:11-14 makes it clear that a Christian is someone who is mastered by Christ not desire- indicating that the presence of desire is not sin, but the acting on it would be. The consuming nature of the desire is defeated by the Spirit. Galatians 5:16-24 once again- not desires but gratifying- acting on- those desires is sinful. Notice the list of actions that are listed that proceed from those desires. And the list of fruits of the Spirit that follow, with the greatest of them being self control- the ability to refrain from acting on desire. Ephesians 2:1-10- notice verse 3- sinful by what? Carrying out- acting on- desires. It’s all over the New Testament, Fletch. Desire is not sin- it conceives and gives birth to sin.

      You use examples like lust. That’s a desire to use someone sexually that has conceived a fantasy in your mind- that’s far beyond a desire. It is a place where one’s will has been consumed by desire and has led to mental capitulation to sin. Dallas Willard has some fantastic commentary on this subject in The Divine Conspiracy. I would commend it to you.

      I’m going to politely ignore your “rebuke.” My comment was not intended to be sarcastic or dismissive. It pointed out a scriptural flaw in your own reasoning and used just as many words as your comment did. The difference being, you made a theological statement with not supporting biblical data. I simply answered your opinion with scripture. I’m sorry that offended you.

      • Irwin Fletcher says

        1) I contest what you call the plain reading of James, so no need to claim I’m ignoring anything. I’m not saying you ignore scripture, only that we disagree. I think that’s a better footing for a charitable exchange.

        2) On the basis of your comment and position, if it was correct (and thankfully it’s not) we would do just as well as to follow through on the lust, or hatred, or whatever desire we have, since we are already guilty.” This simply doesn’t follow. It assumes that all guilt is equal. Christ speaks of greater condemnation (Mt. 23:14) and greater sin (Jn. 19:11), giving us reason to doubt that all guilt is equal. Moreover, the Bible commands the guilty to flee to Christ even as it pronounces their guilt. It is hardly the case that they can simply say “well, I’m already guilty, might as well continue!” This is true in regard to sinful desire and sinful actions.

        2) Paul in the Romans passage you site most certainly does condemn the works of darkness. But he spares not condemnation for sinful desire. He specifically mentions jealousy, which is itself a sinful desire. But to find out what Paul means by immorality in chapter 13 let us look to what he also mentions on the subject in chapter 1 where, among other sins he mentions thoughts, idolatry, and lust of heart. All of this because their hearts were darkened (i.e. depraved) in unbelief. So the dispositions of the heart (desires) are immoral, that is, sinful.

        3) “You use examples like lust…” What is your argument that lust is far beyond a desire? I have said that sinful desires are those desires contrary to God’s will. Do you want to change that definition? I will read Dallas, whom I have long admired. We lost a giant this past year, indeed. But as I asked of CB, I will ask you. Are desires contrary to God’s will sinful? If not, are they good? If not good, then morally neutral? How should we understand desires contrary to God’s will if not as sin. Of course, evil actions too also sin. They may even be worse sin! They may incur worse judgement, but it seems to me that desires contrary to God’s will are sin and I base that, in part, on the verses given.

        Ryan, let me suggest a thought experiment. Consider a person was born without the physical ability to see, hear, move, etc. I am imagining a kind of person such as was described in the Metallica song One, only in my experiment, it is from birth. Now imagine this person grows up with sinful desires, as we all do. But given this person’s inability to act (physically) are you of the opinion this person is without sin? I assume you are not. I assume you would say they are sinful and in need of a savior. But why are they sinful? After all, they’re only guilt would be their desires.

        Thanks
        Fletch

  29. Christiane says

    Being ‘tempted’ is not a sin. Even Our Lord was once tempted by satan.
    All of us are put to the ‘trial’.

    • Irwin Fletcher says

      Chistiane,

      Please see my below response to Jim regarding how Jesus was tempted to sin but was never guilty of desires contrary to God’s will. You are right to say being tempted, in and of itself, is not sin. If temptations arouse desires contrary to God’s will then those desires are sinful.

      Thanks,
      Fletch

  30. Irwin Fletcher says

    CB,

    I think my response to James 1 also works with Isaiah 59. We are in agreement that the source of sinful actions are desires. The question is whether or not those desires, themselves, are sinful. In addition to my references above, Genesis 6:5 refers to the sinfulness of mankind in summary as follows: “The Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.” Sinful desires are themselves sinful. This is the very reason a sinner needs a new heart with new desires, new affection, etc.

    If you disagree, then do you believe that sinful desires are not sinful? We both agree the actions they birth are also sinful, as the verses references by you and Ryan show. Do you believe that sinful desires, by which I mean desires that are contrary to the will of God, are sinful or not?

    Thanks,
    Fletch

    • says

      Fletch,
      I find your comments thought-provoking. Could you clarify a few things for me:

      1) What do you see as the fundamental difference between a sinful desire and a temptation?
      2) How does this distinction play into Paul’s discussion at the end of Romans 7?
      3) If most people are not discerning enough to navigate the difference, how should one counsel someone who is seeking help in removing desires (that we would normally refer to as “sinful desires”) who also profess to not want those desires and are determined to not act on them?

    • cb scott says

      Irwin Fletcher,

      It seems to me that the illustrative passage from Isaiah proves otherwise. Desire, in and of itself would not be sin. We could say that “struggles,” in and of themselves would not be sin, I think also. Or, we could say that “weaknesses” are not, in and of themselves, sin.

      It would seem that 59:5 would illustrate the point. “. . . from that which is crushed a viper breaks forth.”

      It seems to me that the illustration reveals that the egg has to be crushed before the viper comes forth. The idea, seems to me, is that the nature of sin is within us. If we allow desires due to having a sin nature to take root in our minds and lustful fantasy begins and is entertained (fanned into flame, if you will), it is legitimate to state that sin has occurred in one’s life which must be dealt with through repentance.

      Irwin Fletcher, I think that we, who have been birthed from above, struggle with a lot of things (seemingly those things which are inherent predispositions or, due to environmental conditioning) that are our individual weaknesses. However, I tend not to believe that contending with weaknesses/struggles/desires always constitutes sin.

      Nonetheless, if I entertain or act upon my struggles/weaknesses/desires in a manner contrary to the revealed will of God presented in Scripture, I have sinned and am in need of repentance.

      That is pretty much my position and is what I have shared with fellow travelers who are on the journey toward home and a glorified and perfect Christ like persona who are struggling, like me, with some ungodly weakness in this mortal body to which I/we am/are now confined. But praise God; not for long!

      • Irwin Fletcher says

        Thanks CB. I agree with your last statement entirely.

        One thought, as I know it’s late: Paul’s concept of flesh, I think, refers to one’s experience of depravity. To be in the flesh, or to struggle with the flesh, is to struggle with sin. So contending with the flesh (moral weaknesses, struggles, desires, etc) does constitute sin. So does acting upon those sinful desires. This is why Paul says in Romans 7:25 of his struggle with the flesh: “What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!” His wretchedness is not only his actions but his very DESIRE to do evil.

        caps emphasis, not yelling :)
        Fletch

        • says

          What if Eve almost bit into the forbidden fruit?
          Would she have sinned?

          Blessed is a man who perseveres under trial; for once he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him. Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God”; for God cannot be tempted by evil, and He Himself does not tempt anyone. But each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own lust. Then when lust has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and when sin is accomplished, it brings forth death. [James 1]

          Eve was under a trial. God was not tempting her. But she was tempted when she was carried away and enticed by her own desire/lust. Then when her lust conceived she sinned. And when she sinned she died.

          Peter was under a trial. He was not tempted by God to deny Jesus. But he was tempted when he was carried away by his own desires and when that desire conceived, he sinned.

          He had a choice. He chose to deny Jesus. He chose to lie.

          When you or I are confronted by a temptation it is because we have a desire. The question then becomes, are we going to fulfill that desire in a ungodly way or are we going to turn to God? The temptation is to fulfill that desire in an ungodly way.

          Take sex. A Christian man desires sex as part of his humanness. The world around him encourages him to allow this basic desire rule over his moral will. The world around him helps him pervert his moral will. he sees an object of desire, another person who can help him fulfill his desires. His moral will tells him that this object of desire a she or a he, is not a proper way to fulfill his desire. So he has a choice: to submit to the temptation or to submit to the Spirit. To submit to the temptation is sin. But if he rejects the temptation, he has not sinned.

          Galatians 5
          But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh. For the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are in opposition to one another, so that you may not do the things that you please. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the Law. Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these, of which I forewarn you, just as I have forewarned you, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.

          In reading this passage we can equate “carrying out the desire of the flesh” with the deeds of the flesh. And we can put in direct contrast ‘walking by the Spirit’ with “carrying out the desires of the flesh”.

          Having the Spirit does not mean you are also not obligated to walk in the Spirit. But the sin comes when you chose to DO the deeds of the flesh, to CARRY OUT its desires. Sin is what you do, whether internally or externally, it is a choice made, not a feeling or desire within. And walking in the Spirit is a choice made. When we are confronted by temptations it is because the flesh has desires it wants fulfilled in an ungodly way.

          We are fallen and thus we are trained by the world to fulfill our desires in ungodly ways.
          Romans 12 tells us:
          Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.

          So instead of acting in conformity to this world and fulfilling our desires in ungodly ways, we are to learn through both doing holiness and reading the Word to retrain ourselves to act in godly ways.

          Sin is in the choice, not the desire. The Law tells us to make right choices and that wrong choices break it.
          Love the Lord God with all and neighbor as ones self.

          How do we do that, by having a right feeling? Right feelings are nothing without right actions. Wrong actions are sin. Evil desires only show us how much we need to be transformed by God. They lead to sin when we act on them. they lead to holiness when we seek to walk in the Spirit.

  31. Irwin Fletcher says

    Jim,

    Happy to:

    1) Jesus was tempted, so we know that a temptation cannot be the presence of a desire to sin. This desire, I would argue, is a manifestation of depravity. Jesus was not depraved, therefore, Jesus did not have sinful thoughts or actions. He did not want to disobey his mother and father, and he did not disobey his mother and father. Jesus had a fully human nature like Adam’s before the fall. So Jesus experienced temptation like Adam before the fall, meaning he had the opportunity sin, and that sin presented itself as something enjoyable yet without connecting with a depraved nature. That only came after the fall. Jesus was not sinful, so his temptations were like our but our nature is fallen while his is not. So yes, I see a fundamental difference between desire and temptation. Let’s try this: sinful desire is the presence of a will (the want or attraction) to do contrary to the will of God. Temptation, on the other hand, is essentially the opportunity to sin and corresponding reasons why that sin might be initially enjoyable or pleasing.

    2) As for Romans 7, off the top of my head I would say that redeemed people are both sinner and saint. Therefore, their new desires and old desires live side by side. Christ never had this experience. He was never fallen, thus never redeemed. He never had a Romans 7 experience. This is why He is able to deliver us.

    3) Good question! All the redeemed contend with sinful desires every day. We confess them, and see them as reminders of our utter dependence on God’s grace and on Jesus Christ, the Holy One. Sinful desires remind us of the “sinfulness of sin”. Our moment by moment need for sustaining grace and of the reality that we are sojourners, and thus while in the flesh, are never truly at home. People with homosexual desires are called to confess and seek repentance, which means to lean on Christ and hope to see those desires abate just as heterosexuals do with their lustful desires for the opposite sex.

    Thanks,
    Fletch

  32. says

    I think I can help with the temptation/sinful desire discussion. Fletch’s answer to my question was on target, which I asked firstly to determine his clarity on it and secondly to help solidify my clarity on it.

    The general desire to have sex, for example, is not a sinful desire. It was righteously given by God for the purpose of relationship building between a husband and wife and for procreation.

    Temptation is a reversal of sacrificial love that plays on a God-given desire and seeks to focus it into accomplishing an act that is against God’s prescriptive will. There’s a lot to that sentence. Biblical love is when we seek to live sacrificially to accomplish the best interests of the object(s) of our love. The opposite of this is when we work to cause others to sacrifice for our selfish interests. So temptations refocus our God-given desires on a reversal of this kind of biblical love.

    The way it does this is by making false promises. Fulfilling the desire for sex in a Godly way is only within a marriage between one man and one woman (but even then it can be distorted). So the image of someone you are not married to can present a temptation. The mental suggestion of the temptation is to find fulfillment in having sex outside of marriage. Even if you determine not to act on it, if you indulge in a little fantasy and let your desire turn in that direction, you have committed adultery. It has become a sinful desire.

    The fact is that every last one of us have sinful desires every day. Most of the time we mentally justify these sinful desires away and forget about them thinking we haven’t sinned. But we’ve sinned nevertheless, albeint unknowingly.

    That’s why if someone seeks counsel for sinful desires, not wanting to act on it, but in seeking help to asuage the sinful deire and turn it back in a godly direction, we should recognize that the human will is not monolithic, but rather multi-faceted as Paul talked about in Romans 7, and give that person the same mercy that God gives us for our own sinful desires.

    • says

      The only reason why looking on a woman to lust after her is a sin is because it is committing adultery in the heart. Jesus said nothing of any guilt of having a sinful desire. In fact, one cannot commit adultery with one’s own wife, and thus, lusting after you wife in the very same way is not a sin.

  33. says

    Jim,

    I agree. IF “you indulge in a little fantasy and let your desire turn in that direction, you have committed adultery.” You have sinned. You succumbed to the temptation by willingly indulging it, for you accept the promises it makes to you and choose the fleshly way instead of the godly way.

    Rather we are to reject those promises as ungodly and false and not choose to indulge in the flesh.

    The temptation is in essence inseparable from the sinful desire for it is the sinful desire you need to NOT act on [or indulge]. The temptation puts forth the sinful desire. But that sinful desire is not yet sin. It is not sin until you indulge it.

    • says

      parsonsmike,

      You’re last paragraph doesn’t seem coherent to me, but I see where you have gone into detail earlier. What I think your position misses is a harmony between James 1 and Matthew 5:27,28. A helpful consideration in thinking about it is asking how both God and Joseph’s brothers had an active intent in selling Joseph into slavery, but the brother’s intent was evil and God’s was not. The act itself was not evil without the “evil intent”, which necessarily follows “sinful desire” in the heart of evil men. The only difference between the two terms in my mind is the weight of inclination towards acting and not acting. As I observed before, the human will isn’t monolithic. So we have competing desires. This is a result of our fallen nature – being “double-minded” as it were. Should the winner of such an internal struggle be to not act, it doesn’t mitigate the evil nature of the sinful desire to begin with.

      So the temptation of Jesus didn’t result in a sinful desire at all because he has no fallen nature. But for us who are fallen, temptation almost always results in a sinful desire that can be mortified only by the power of the Holy Spirit working in us and sometimes also through our fellow Christians in godly counsel.

  34. says

    Sin and righteousness are spiritual matters—”For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander” (Mat. 15:19). Paul is not speaking of the cells, sinews and bones of his body when he speaks of “…our sinful passions, aroused by the law…” Cells and sinews cannot comprehend any law—comprehension is of the mind, and moral comprehension is of the spirit. The passions of the body are amoral and sinless in and of themselves. Only the mind or heart can take a God-given passion and change it into a sinful passion. Only the mind can comprehend the law and rebel against it in such a way as to be aroused to sinful passions by that law.

    Do you recognize that the idea that a physical body can be morally tainted leads to a Docetic view of Christ—not full Docetism, but a belief that Christ’s body was not the same as ours but only appeared to be? Would you say that Jesus’ body was exactly like ours? If not, then you would imply that we have an excuse for not being righteous like Him (since He wasn’t saddled with this morally corrupted body like we were). This would take some of the responsibility for our sin off of us, and also devalue the righteousness that Jesus earned in our place.

    The fact that Jesus was not formed from the dust as Adam was, but instead was born of Mary is a strong indicator that He had a body like hers. The fact that Scripture nowhere gives any indication that His body was in any way different than those around Him is also a strong indicator that His body was the same as the mother from whom He came. He slept, He was subject to fatigue, He was subject to hunger and thirst, He was subject to injury and He even died. Those are not characteristics of Adam’s body prior to the fall but only after the fall.

    There are basic desires of the body, and then there are desires of the mind. Only a mind can desire to sin. At the most basic level, sexual desire in any sexual being is the same: it is simply a chemically-based desire for satisfaction. Remove the chemicals (or the glands that produce them) and the desire is gone.

    The sin of Adam affected both the condition of both the physical and the spiritual; however, the effects were appropriate to the medium involved (the spiritual was affected only in spiritual ways, and the physical was affected only in physical ways). There is no way for any physical substance, cell or body to be morally corrupted—cells do not choose to sin or be righteous.

    The body does not entice one to sin, but rather, the body craves satisfaction of its God-given desire. The devil and our sinful natures entice us to fulfill those legitimate desires in illegitimate ways. As far as the chemical reactions of the body, they are exactly the same ones that attract us to our spouses. Is the sexual relationship in marriage the result of illegitimate physical “enticement?”

    The “flesh” as Paul uses it in Romans 7 & 8 is the flesh-focused nature. It is the “old man”—the inner, spiritual man as he was before Christ came into his heart and life, operating independently of God’s will and power, and turned inward, self-centered and seeking only satisfaction through the flesh. Paul’s contrast is NOT between the flesh of the man and the spirit of the man, but rather, it is between the flesh-focused nature and the new spiritual nature provided by the indwelling Holy Spirit. The reason that the flesh is a bad place to focus is because God ought to be our focus. That which one allows to take one’s focus off of God need not be evil in itself. Indeed, it may be quite good and legitimate in and of itself; but focusing on that instead of God is sin.

  35. Cory Dryden says

    I am in the process of following up with men who are standing against the struggle with this issue in our community. It is a privilege that we can be there to offer grace and reconciliation for folks. What a danger when we have moved into the process of sheer finger pointing behavior and forgotten of the sin which we ourselves have been forgiven. Bringing in the word to the discussion makes all the difference as we direct folks to the fruit of the spirit and the Philippians 4 thought life passages. It seems there are an insurmountable mass of voices from the world to add confusion, so be clear.

  36. Bapistjim47 says

    Now that the comment threads are tapering off, I am going to write, not necessarily to respond, but for my own benefit and perhaps to offer an insight that might be helpful to those who minister and shepherd others. I want to be clear in what I see and it helps if I write down these thoughts, especially if I do it in a public way. In the comments I am encouraged because I see a kind of love that is attractive, the love I know of Jesus and the one that keeps me holding on in church. But I also see the nicely structured and argued theological arguments, correctly parsing Scripture in order to come up with the right answer for people like me. But all of these theological musings and conclusions, while true, simply miss the point because they clearly come from those whom evil has not visited in any substantive way. That is a blessing and those for whom evil has stayed away should consider it a blessing.

    I say it that way because I know the genesis of my same-sex compulsion (my favored term). As a very small boy I was brutalized and used sexually for a time by my grandfather (a singular brutality that in the first instance brought me as close to death as can be before actually dying) and until I was 19 by my mother (brutalized by my grandfather, her brokenness washed over me). These acts changed me inside. My body became different and so did the nascent portions of my sexuality. My body became hyper-vigilant and full of anxiety (which was taken to a whole new level after a tour of combat as an Army infantry officer in Viet Nam). I live in a constant state of hyper-vigilance and anxiety is the background noise of my life. Some days it is on high; some days it is low. But every day it is there. Among other things I have depression, burning shame, and a desire for isolation from humanity (it feeds my broken sense of security). As for my sexuality, the things done to me were imprinted on my sexual feelings and brought me early into a hyper-sexualized and fantasy world built around what my grandfather did to me.

    Mix all of this up in a small boy trying to grow into manhood, and later into a respectable manhood, and you get a better sense of depravity (what was done to me and what it did inside) and how it all seemed innate and compelling for me to be “who I was” in a world that would now “affirm” me. Thus, I see what boils inside as sin and I deal with the issues discussed in the comments (temptation, lust, etc) in ways that are different because I deal with innate compulsion and the damage inside. For example, lust is a great place to hide from anxiety and many times I feel like a little boy just looking for a place to hide. In other words I deal with a whole set of what might be called the madness of sin different from those I consider to be “normal”. While I experience the same issues with temptation (the open door to sin), the issue of lust and moving into acts which are sin are more intense and I fight on a level that people given the blessing of a life grounded and lived in love can never know.

    For example, when the madness is upon me, I have come to visualize either the moment Jesus was scourged or hanging on the cross in a pain that is beyond imagination. I do so because I know brutality and I know what the Satan wants from me and how badly he wants me broken. I look to Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of my faith, and I hold on to the truth that his sufferings manifested as Truth. I fight back and try to hold on in a darkness that is well known to me and one which comes for me all of the time. Memories don’t die and death, once its awful face has been seen, cannot be forgotten and is seen for what it is: Satan’s proudest accomplishment and brutality’s father. I know the war I am in and what truth means. I know the line, the battleground, and the end result. Truth of God, the love of Jesus, and the power of the Holy Spirit is the ground on which I fight.

    I am a success story for God. God has done things in my life that go beyond description. I was truly dead in living (in sin, if you want, because it is true) and I know life. God knows me inside and out because over the years He and I have gotten well acquainted. I know clearly what He wants from me and I fight to give it to Him. I marvel at grace and goodness because it is so unexpected and so precious. I have experienced healing and freedom from sin that, while not complete this side of heaven, lets me know that love and goodness is worth fighting for. I have a prayer life that is deep and rich. I understand confession in ways others do not because I have learned to be transparent in the very awful parts of me with God and to try, as best I can, to see myself as God sees me. I know goodness and the love that infuses and animates goodness. I understand the New Jerusalem, want it with all of my heart, and have true eternal life which is to know God. I have raised my sons to be godly, I love and am kind and good to others, I speak of God openly and well, and I cherish His Word because it is life.

    Now I am going to be as gentle as I can because I know the comments were all spoken with love and with good intentions. But here are three points I would like for those who read this to consider. First, be silent and just listen before you expound on Scripture. What “counsel” are you going to give me that will be helpful to me in my struggle? What standard are you going to hold me to that I do not already know and hold myself to? What neat theological point are you going to make that I do not already know in the deep recesses of my soul? And most important of all: are you prepared to go into places that you know exist but from which you viscerally recoil since you were brought up in love?

    Second, learn about the true depravity of evil. I read books like Rachel Lloyd’s “Girls Like Us” about sex-trafficked women and John Colapinto’s “As Nature Made Him” which is about a professor at Johns Hopkins trying to turn a little boy into a little girl to prove that gender is a social construct. Evil is creationally disruptive in ways that loving people cannot know. People who have been brutalized are changed physically, psychically, and emotionally. Temptation, lust, sin, love, goodness, and hope are seen and experienced in ways you may not know and which have to be opened up and excited in ways that go beyond quoting scripture (which always has a place if you can truly hear the timbre of your voice and the words you have chosen to share) and asking Jesus to come into your heart.

    Finally, see the better neighborhoods of love. The comment that stung me the most was the one (again, meant well and in good faith) that implied that I needed discipline of some sort. What have I done wrong for which I need discipline? Having this awfulness inside is not something I sought and which I can turn on and off at will. Yes, I do need discipline and I get it from time to time. But to suggest I might need to be disciplined for just seeking help for the madness inside is to suggest (and you will never understand how this works in people like me) that I am defective and wrong because of who I am. To then imply that somehow I fall short of a higher standard is to cement my inescapable and irredeemable depravity and excite my shame into a fiery furnace that drives me away from people. I have to work at being around people because I feel safer being alone. Shame does its work here and for shame to be defeated, there has to be a sense of the kind of love that allows for the brokenness inside. I get this love from God all of the time. I am always welcomed into His presence and we take it out and look at all of this gently so that I can see the truth. Yes, God disciplines me and, yes, God inculcates the higher standard we all have to live by for Jesus. But it is done without any hint or insinuation that I am too depraved for the community of faith.

    Finally, I appreciate the prayers I know have been said, and will be said, for me. Know that I also pray for each of you in ministry because, while I am not in an active, professional ministry in church or seminary, I do know your hearts and your hearts are inclined to love. I pray that your love may increase and overflow for those whom God has given you to shepherd, teach, and help.

    Your brother in Christ,
    Jim

    • Christiane says

      Dear JIM,

      this insight from Dietrich Bonhoeffer may offer you some hope:

      ” We now know that we have been taken up and borne in the humanity of Jesus, and therefore that new nature we now enjoy means that we too must bear the sins and sorrows of others. The incarnate lord makes his followers the brothers and sisters of all humanity. The “philanthropy” of God (Titus 3.4) revealed in the Incarnation is the ground of Christian love toward all one earth that bear the name of human. The form of Christ incarnate makes the Church into the body of Christ. All the sorrows of humanity fall upon that form, and only through that form can they be borne. The earthly form of Christ is the form that died on the cross. The image of God is the image of Christ crucified. It is to this image that the life of the disciples must be conformed: in other words, they must be conformed to his death (Phil. 3.10; Rom. 6.4). The Christian life is a life of crucifixion.”

    • John Fariss says

      Jim, my heart goes out to you for all you have been through, and my respect go to you for the decisions you have made in spite of all that. Although in another realm altogether, I can understand. My wife was raised in a dysfunctional family, in several ways. She had five sisters, and of the six of them, three were blonds and three were redheads. Their step-grandfather sexually abused the blonds (my wife was one of the redheads). Their parents and grandmother ignored it all. It scarred their lives terribly, although being female, the abuse has manifested itself in different ways, and only of the three seems to have made a conscious decision to break the pattern. Their mother was physically abusive, and all six of them were on the receiving end of that; plus the marriage between their parents was unstable at best, and while not marred by infidelity, was verbally abusive, and dysfunctional in many ways. Again, only two seem to have made a conscious decision to break the cycle (my wife being one of them). And it was not easy either; it took years for her to be able to admit it, and in those years, our marriage suffered, as she blamed me for all the faults and problems, and I failed to see the real source–I was just too close to the problem. We were separated several times (not that we called it that, she just insisted she was going to visit relatives. . . for weeks at the time, when the children were young), and she was committed twice, coming uncomfortably close to suicidal thoughts. And when she finally recognized her own situation, it took years of therapy, medication, prayer, and effort to break the pattern. To this day, she still struggles with it, and will, I am sure, to the day she dies. But Jim, as with my wife, the fact that you struggle (rather that surrender) is cause for rejoicing in Christ. Reach around and give yourself a pat on the back! You deserve it. I will pray for you.

      John

    • Jeff says

      Jim,

      I will probably remember your phrase “lust is a great place to hide from anxiety” the rest of my life. What a profound way to put it. I have found that to be true in my own life. It is so good to know that Heaven will be free of both anxiety and lust (Revelation 21:4, 27). Jesus is holding fast to you until you get there. I am praying for you, brother.

  37. volfan007 says

    Dave,

    I agree with your addendum. If we start disciplining people for struggling with temptation, then there won’t be anybody left in the college, or in our Churches. We’re all struggling with some temptation. And, I’ll add this… we all fail in our struggles with sin, as well. The difference is….are we living in it. There’s a big difference in stumbling every now and then, and wallowing around in the mud….staying there….enjoying it.

    Self righteousness is just as bad, or worse, than the temptation, or stumbling into sin. All we have to do is read King David in the Psalms to see that a man after God’s own heart is one, who is seeking God, and is confessing his weaknesses and sins to the Lord, to find forgiveness. May we do the same, and be men and women after God’s own heart.

    David

  38. Eddie says

    I’m still trying to understand this. Desires come from the heart and the heart is deceitful Jeremiah 17:9, Matthew 15:18-20, Mark 7:20-23. If anyone desires anything that is contrary to God’s word, isn’t it sin and therefore must be repented of? If a man has desires for another man or if a woman has desires for another woman is that not sin? Yes, it goes against the word of God and it is sin. No physical act has to take place because the desires themselves are sinful. The person who is having these desires needs to be shown love and counseled with the word of God, but needs to understand that the desires are sinful and must be repented of James 4:7-10. If not, the desires can lead a person to a life and death in sin Galatians 5:16-21. Is this not true?

    • John Fariss says

      Eddie,

      I think you are confusing a willful decision to give lust (whether homosexual or heterosexual) it own way–even mentally–with a physical attraction. If I see a beautiful woman, and feel some sort of attraction toward her, it is entirely a chemical/physical response, exclusive of any thoughts I may have. If next I subdue my thoughts to my faith and what my Jesus expects of me–not to mention my vows to my wife–I have fulfilled the commandments. On the other hand, even if I never do anything physical in pursuit of this woman, but allow my thoughts to run wild, and to all sorts of ends, then (and only then) have I lusted in my “heart” after her (remembering that in New Testament thought, the heart was not the seat of the emotions, but of the mind). Although I have never had to struggle with same-sex attraction, I would think it is the same whether in a homosexual or heterosexual situation. I think your problem is that you are applying Scripture in a way that it was not meant to be applied.

      John

  39. says

    WOW, gotta say that Irwin guy is tenacious in the face overwhelming opposition. I also think he is wrong.
    For a person to recognize they have a same-sex attraction it doesn’t need to be lust. I realised early in life I had heterosexual attractions even before I knew enough to be able to lust.
    For the person with same sex attractions, he must guard his heart to stay away from lust as well as behavioural sin. But how can a college suspend him for giving in to lust? There would be no young men in colleges, seminaries, etc. if that were grounds. Now perusing pornography, or physical engagement is understandably grounds for discipline. Still, there ought to be a place for restorative processes.

    Now for clarification’s sake I will say that there are attractions which are contrary to God’s will, but as long as they are kept at that stage God’s will hasn’t been violated. Take gluttony. (Please!) IF I on a rare occassion eat too much because the taste of the food, or my personal hunger was extreme I don’t know that I am guilty of gluttony, as it may be a more regular over-indulgence is referred to. However, To be attracted to the idea of another piece of pie, or another round of baby-back ribs, when I know I should stop, may reveal my fallen nature but is hardly sin. If I recognize that temptation and the attraction and nip it in the bud, then I have resisted temptation.
    That would hold true for the person who recognizes an immoral attraction. IF they continue to dwell on it, imagining how pleasurable it will be, and exercise an amount of covetousness, then yes, sin has been brought forth from the gestation of temptation. But if the attraction is noted within oneself and then dismissed and not dwelled upon, where is the sin?

  40. says

    Here’s another thought regarding sin:

    Legalism: “I’m good about not sinning, but you are bad about sinning, so I need to proclaim your condemnation.”

    Liberalism: “I’m pretty good about not sinning and you are pretty good about not sinning, so let’s just have a good time.”

    Authentic Christianity: “I sin and try to do better. You sin too. Are you trying to do better? Let’s get together and try to help each other not sin so much so that we can glorify Christ.”