Tuesday, March 06, 2012

The Kirk Cameron Firestorm (Preceded by Some Cameron Caveats)

But first, a set of Cameron caveats...

Actor and evangelist Kirk Cameron has gotten a lot of flack for his comments on homosexuality, offered in response to questions posed to him during the Piers Morgan Show on CNN several nights ago.

Cameron said that homosexuality is "unnatural" and contrary to God's will for human beings. He also said, in response to another question by Morgan, that if one of his six children indicated an orientation to homosexuality, he would advise them that it's not always right to act on our feelings.

A firestorm of condemnation has befallen Cameron since, particularly from the Hollywood community. Most notable of all, maybe, was the response of Alan Thicke, who played the father to Cameron's character on the TV sitcom, Growing Pains. Said Thicke on his Twitter account:

Thicke's remarks reflect a common mis-perception about the Old Testament. The stereotype, even among misinformed and Biblically-illiterate Christians, is that the God of the Old Testament is severe, harsh, unbending, and brutal, whereas the God Who comes into the world in the person of Jesus is, as someone memorably put it, "Mister Rogers in a bath robe," a softie. I even heard a pastor of my own denomination once say--I'm paraphrasing--that, "in the Old Testament, God hadn't really gotten the hang of being God and improved His performance in the New Testament."

For the record, Jesus, the One we Christians confess to be God incarnate (in the flesh) saw no difference between Himself and the God revealed in Old Testament times. In John 10:30, Jesus is quoted as saying: "The Father and I are one."

Also for the record, Jesus repeatedly gave His stamp of approval to the law God gave in Old Testament times. Notably, in Matthew 5, Jesus says:
"Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets; I have come not to abolish but to fulfill. For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth pass away, not one letter, not one stroke of a letter, will pass from the law until all is accomplished [until Jesus fully ushers in His kingdom on His return to the earth]. Therefore, whoever breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches others to do the same, will be called least in the kingdom of God." (Matthew 5:17-19)
There are several important points to be made here:

(1) There were three kinds of law in the Old Testament.

There was ritual/sacrificial laws, from which even regulations about diet emanated. These were rooted in the sacrificial system in which people offered up lambs, birds, or, if they were especially poor, cereal to pay the penalty for their sin to God.

But Jesus, the New Testament says is "the Lamb of God Who takes away the sin of the world," Whose "once and for all" sacrifice has done for all eternity what the sacrificial system could not do: make us right with God. So ritual/sacrificial law is no longer needed or operative.

A second kind of law in the Old Testament was civil law. It functioned to regulate the everyday lives in the same way laws passed by Congress, state legislatures, and city councils function today. We don't live under a theocratic government system today. So Old Testament civil law, meant to govern the Hebrews in the promised land, is no longer valid.

But in the passage from Matthew above, Jesus is talking about the Mosaic Law, the Ten Commandments. They are valid for all time.

(2) The law of God cannot save us from sin, death, or eternal separation from God. That can only be accomplished by Jesus. The law of God can act as a mirror, showing us how far we are from God and how hopeless it is for us to try to be "good enough" to get into God's kingdom. Entrance into God's kingdom and "good graces" comes about only for those who repent (turn from sin) and believe in (entrust their whole lives to) Jesus.

At the top of my blog is a personal confession:
I'm a sinner, no better than any other human being. I have no personal bragging rights. My only boast is that, in spite of my many sins and my numerous faults, through God's grace, given in Jesus Christ, my sins are forgiven and I have a new life.
I'm not perfect and there is no person in the world is more of a sinner than I am.

But God's law has taught me my need for grace, God's charitable forgiveness and new life. Jesus gives that grace. The grace Jesus offers becomes mine when I surrender to Jesus.

Thereafter, my call is to daily surrender to Jesus: daily repent, daily follow Him.

In this imperfect world, with our inborn impulses to go our own ways instead of God's way, we need to know God's law. We need to know the truth about sin and the truth about the grace God offers to sinners through Jesus.

And we need people who are brave enough to share these truths with us. Otherwise, we will only walk away from God and the new and everlasting life that can only come to us through repentance and belief in Jesus.

This is why Jesus takes God's law so seriously and why, if anything, Jesus is more strict about the Ten Commandments than God is seen to be in the Old Testament.

During His famous 'Sermon on the Mount,' which many people know by the short set of beatitudes that Jesus gives near its beginning ("Blessed are the poor in spirit...Blessed are those who mourn...Blessed ate the meek..and so on), Jesus explicates the Ten Commandments that God gave to Moses and the people of the world at Mount Sinai centuries earlier.

A small sampling of what Jesus says shows Him applying a much stricter interpretation of the commands than is explicitly made by God in the Old Testament. A few examples:

  • "You have heard that it was said to those in ancient times, 'You shall not murder'...But I say to you that if you are angry with a brother or sister [Jesus here is referring to grudge-holding refusal to forgive], you will be liable to judgment; and if you insult a brother or sister, you will be liable to the council [this refers to the leadership of Christian communities, congregations]; and if you say, 'You fool,' you will be liable to the hell of fire..." [Yes, Jesus believed/believes there was/is a hell. It's what He came to save us from.] (Matthew 5:21-22)
  • "You have heard that it was said, 'You shall not commit adultery.' But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery in his heart." (Matthew 5:27-28)
Jesus claims that the Ten Commandments apply to much more than our behaviors. They go to our motives.  When our motives are wrong, Jesus says, we violate God's commands even before we have done a thing. That's strict. And it's in the New Testament, not the Old.

So, apart from affirming all of the Ten Commandments, what exactly do Jesus and the New Testament have to say about sexuality and homosexuality?

To start with, in Matthew 19:4-5, Jesus quotes two passages from Genesis in the Old Testament to give His understanding of marriage:
"Have you not read that the One Who made them at the beginning 'made them male and female,' and said, 'For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, the two shall become one flesh'?" 
Jesus clearly sees marriage as a covenant involving God, a woman, and a man.

There are some who read these words and say, "Jesus lived a long time ago. He didn't know the things about sexuality we know today." But Christians believe that Jesus is God and that God invented sex. God has no ignorance either about how sex is supposed to work or how it's not supposed to work.

Some also, thinking of Jesus as simply a first-century Judean man (and not also, as the New Testament teaches, God), will say that Jesus couldn't have possibly observed the gay lifestyle we see today. This is a strange argument. It's offered by the same people who claim that varied sexual orientations have always existed in human beings. Yet, they argue in this case that homosexuality as known today is a unique historical phenomenon beyond the comprehension of Jesus. Of course, this argument is a logical inconsistency. In any case, various sexual practices were more widely present and known in the first-century world in which Jesus lived while on earth than are probably known or touted today. Yet He still insisted that sexual intimacy is for a woman and a man in marriage. Period.

If we invest any credibility in Jesus, especially if we believe that He is God in the flesh, Who came to die and rise to bring new life to people made dead by their sins (you and me), then everything He asserts must be seen as the truth and not as the mere opinions of a person many today insist on disdainfully describing as "a great teacher."

This, of course, is not the last word on sexuality or homosexuality in the New Testament. Take, for example, Romans 1, where God's Holy Spirit inspires Paul to write:
For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and wickedness of those who by their wickedness suppress the truth. 
For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. Ever since the creation of the world his eternal power and divine nature, invisible though they are, have been understood and seen through the things he has made. So they are without excuse; for though they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their senseless minds were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools; and they exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling a mortal human being or birds or four-footed animals or reptiles. Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the degrading of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen. 
For this reason God gave them up to degrading passions. Their women exchanged natural intercourse for unnatural, and in the same way also the men, giving up natural intercourse with women, were consumed with passion for one another. Men committed shameless acts with men and received in their own persons the due penalty for their error. (Romans 1:18-27)
Here, homosexuality is seen as a notable outgrowth of our human penchant for suppressing the truth about our sin--and so suppressing the truth about our need for forgiveness or for God.

But one of the most interesting New Testament passages of all is 1 Timothy 1:8-11. Here, without saying that's what he's going to do, Paul proceeds to interpret the Ten Commandments as God's will for the human race. Here's what he writes, with a note on the commands to which he's referring in brackets:
Now we know that the law is good, if one uses it legitimately [We use God's law illegitimately if we make obedience to it a condition for salvation. No one is capable of keeping God's law. But Christ has kept it for those who turn from sin and believe in Him. He then fills believers with the Holy Spirit, Who helps us as we surrender each day to Christ, to resist sin, identify the sins we have thoughtlessly committed, seek forgiveness in Jesus' Name, and receive the power to continue to the process of being made over in God's image.]. This means understanding that the law is laid down not for the innocent but for the lawless and disobedient, for the godless and sinful [The First Commandment: You shall have no other gods before Me.], for the unholy and profane [The Second and Third Commandments: You shall not take the Name of the Lord your God in vain, for the Lord will not hold guiltless those who take His Name in vain; Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy], for those who kill their father or mother [The Fourth Commandment: Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long in the land which the Lord your God give you], for murderers [The Fifth Commandment: You shall not kill, fornicators, sodomites [The Sixth Commandment: You shall not commit adultery], slave traders [The Seventh Commandment: Paul clearly found slave trading a particularly onerous form of thievery, involving the theft of a person's freedom and livelihood, so violating the stricture, You shall not steal], liars, perjurers [The Eighth Commandment: You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor], and whatever else [Paul leaves out specific reference to the Ninth and Tenth Commandments. But its clear where he's going with his comments} is contrary to the sound teaching that conforms to the glorious gospel of the blessed God, which he entrusted to me.
Both fornication and sodomy are listed as ways of adulterating the gift of human sexuality. This means that premarital sex and any extramarital sex, heterosexual and homosexual, is contrary to God's will. It's not a worse sin than any other sin. But it is a sin and to engage in it unrepentantly is spiritually dangerous.

After Kirk Cameron's appearance on his show, Piers Morgan commented:

Maybe not. But I can tell you one thing that didn't take Cameron by surprise and that's the outrage, censure, and condemnation he's undergone since making the comments. He knew when he opened his mouth in response to Morgan's questions about homosexuality, I'm sure, that he was going to be savaged by a culture that is moving away from the Old and New Testaments and from Jesus. He knew that his comments would be welcomed in the same way any belief that runs counter to the prevailing culture is welcomed, with scorn and derision.

That's why, irrespective of the many ways in which I disagree with Kirk Cameron on faith and politics, I agree with Morgan who said that Cameron had been brave in the straightforward manner in which he answered Morgan's questions.

The New Testament tells Christians to speak the truth in love (Ephesians 4:26-27). I think that's what Cameron did on Morgan's show when speaking about homosexuality.

Think of it in this way: If you had a cure for cancer or AIDS and had a friend (or even someone who hated you) who suffered from those afflictions, wouldn't you rightly be considered a monster if you didn't share that cure with them? Of course you would be!

If you believe that God condemns sin, but releases people from the power of sin and its consequence, death, by repenting and believing in Jesus, trusting God's wisdom to be greater than our own, what choice do you have but to speak the truth in love, to warn people of the trap of unrepented sin that leads us away from God?

It doesn't surprise any Christian to see people being so condemnatory of Kirk Cameron today. The Savior Who both Cameron and I, in different ways, follow, once said, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me" (John 14:6). People didn't want to hear that truth; so, they killed Jesus. The truth of the Bible always crashes our parties of self-worship and self-indulgence. But if we will only listen and believe, God will make us part of His new creation. And to be part of that new creation for all eternity makes all the hell we take from others for daring to speak God's truth in this life worth the trouble!

I don't go for your lame acting. I don't go for your "end times" fixation. I don't go for your mixture of politics and theology. But you go, Kirk!


executive gifts said...

Question,.... why does the questioner get mad at the questionee when asking their opinion on a matter? Ask me a question, ill give you a answer; dont like my answer then dont ask me any questions.

Mark Daniels said...

While I'm sure that Morgan disagrees with Cameron on this matter, he did call Cameron "brave" for responding to his question.

But I take your point. People often ask questions just so they can jump on the answer people give.

city said...
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