When Churches Would Rather Be “Biblical” Than “Gospel”

June 19, 2013

How far will our churches go in order to preserve so-called “Biblical” values?

I have said it before – that in the future, churches will have a very real choice to make about how they treat a growing population of young people that identify as gay.

That day has come.

Credit: The Huffington Post

Credit: The Huffington Post

Over the last few weeks, I’ve watched the commentaries and predictions trickle out about how churches will react to the Boy Scouts’ decision to allow gay youth members (the alternative has been to retroactively and horrifyingly strip boys of their awards after coming out).  The consensus among prominent evangelical leaders such as Dr. Richard Land seems to be that among the Baptists, the Assemblies of God, and other conservative wings of the church, there will be a “mass exodus.”  Churches will stop sponsoring scouting units in protest of the new policy.

On the surface, I can see how an average evangelical might think this is justified.  Homosexuality is supposedly not “Biblical,” after all.  Being “Biblical” and thinking “Biblically” and having a “Biblical” worldview is always the great monolithic justification for churches acting this way.

But what it looks like to me?  It looks like thousands of churches are finally going to announce – once and for all – that their priority is being Biblical churches, not Gospel churches.

I Double Dog Dare You

In the letter to the Galatians, Paul chastises some false teachers who are insisting that Gentile converts become circumcised, become Jewish, before they can be real Christians.

Paul’s retort?  That if they are going to insist on cherry-picking one part of the law, then they have to follow the entire law, because they are no longer under the gospel of grace.

Then, in one of my favorite Bible verses ever, Paul dares them to take their logic to its natural conclusion, and just go ahead and cut their balls off.  (My NIV uses the far less colorful euphemism “emasculate.”)  After all, if a little bit is holy, then a lot must be really holy.

What does this have to do with churches and gay scouts?

Cherry Picking From the Rule Book

The way I see it, churches can have any opinion they want about homosexual behavior.  (If churches think the gay lifestyle is wrong, it makes their actions all the more ironic.)

The problem is, they have cherry-picked that one thing to give it special priority.

If a church is going to make sure that no gays ever come into their building, then they had better be able to follow their logic to its natural conclusion, like the Galatians.  They’d better have an usher at the door making sure:

That no one is obese. (That rules out half of us right there.)

That no one has ever been divorced. (At least 25% of us)

That all the teenagers are virgins (Not likely)

That no one is an alcoholic. (Please)

That no one looks at porn.  (Ahem.)

And that no one engages in any other “lifestyles” that are contrary to their church’s teaching.

Sinner, Save Thyself

To make matters worse, what Paul is disputing is the idea that people have to do something (get circumcised) before they can get to Jesus, get saved, be a part of the church, be a real Christian.  They are just concerned with looking good, with behavioral modification, not the heart.

And that is exactly what churches are telling these young people.

That they have to clean themselves up, get their act together, fix themselves…

And then, and only then will they be good enough to get Jesus and be saved.

Of course, what is most reprehensible is that the people that are being hemmed out of the church are children.  Churches are preemptively telling young people “don’t even think you are welcome here.”  Many boys in scouting have no other church in their lives, other than the church that sponsors their scouting unit.

And churches want to alienate them as quickly as possible?

Does Being “Biblical” Takes Priority Over the Gospel?

Can I ask us as churches, as brothers and sisters a few questions?

Are we really willing to keep people out of our churches for the sake of preserving our “Biblical” values?

If so, do we have the guts to follow our convictions to their logical conclusion?  Are we willing to “emasculate” ourselves for “Biblicism?”

Are we really saying that people have to fix themselves before they can get saved?  How “fixed” is fixed enough?

Are we really, truly willing to tell children that Jesus doesn’t love them?

Please tell me the answer is “no.”

You’re my friends, so let me hear it.  Am I on target, or way off?  Give me your predictions – will there be a mass exodus? Or will churches get a justifiable backlash?

51 responses to When Churches Would Rather Be “Biblical” Than “Gospel”

  1. I think this is a really helpful distinction, Matt. I love how you framed it within the context of Galations. Thank you!

  2. Amen, Matt. I have no idea what will happen. If the churches walk out will there still be support? From what I’m hearing, the left still won’t support the Boy Scouts because they won’t allow gay leaders. So I don’t know. I really like how you distinguished between biblical and gospel – huge difference. Sadly, many people latch onto a leader (their pastor, whoever) and blindly do whatever they do, never questioning them, nor thinking for themselves – The leader has it covered, I’ll just do whatever they say, I trust them. That thinking gets the world into even more trouble, hurting so many people. Great post!
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    • It’s going to be tough for the scouts. Churches make up 70% of their sponsors. And as a scout, I remember plenty of emphasis on God and patriotism and other stuff that these churches tend to be in favor of. :)

      It’s amazing to me how we’ve defined “Biblical” by what we are for and against, but when we actually read and carefully apply the spirit of the text, the result is often the opposite of what we think our convictions are.

  3. Some valid points, but what it comes down to is this; Jesus doesn’t hate the sinner, He hates the sin. So therefore Yes He accepts anyone and grace is real. But have u looked up the original definition of repentance? It means to completely abstain from and no more adhere to your former sin. The event of being saved is when u repent from your sin and accept Jesus as your only Savior. Whether or not a church accepts you into their fold does not determine your eternity. To sum it up, any church that openly accepts the sin without admonishing the sinner and showing him the truth that is so plainly found in Gods word, is deceived and obviously not applying the whole truth in their teaching. Its never fun to be admonished, but if the church won’t do it, then who will? WE ARE THE CHURCH, not the Pastor. America has accepted sin, and its getting blamed on the “church”…aptly so as WE ARE THE CHURCH. 1 & 2 Peter = a good read.

    • Cindy – thank you for sharing. Please let me clarify:
      As I said, I think any church can have any opinion they choose on homosexuality. But if a church believes that it is wrong, and that people who engage in such a lifestyle are destined for hell, it makes their efforts to exclude those people all the more illogical. Why wouldn’t they try to expose these young people to the gospel so JESUS can change their hearts (rather than futiley shaming them in an effort to make them conform outwardly)? The mindset of admonishment (read: shaming) is just backwards and counter-productive to what the gospel should be accomplishing.

      Besides that – you make the point that the church is under obligation to admonish the sinner. Fine – then why are we just picking on that one thing and ignoring the other sins that run rampant. There are far more people who engage with porn or are unhealthily obese than are gay. If the church wants to get as much bang for its buck as possible, why aren’t we going after these much more widespread sins? Why do we accept these sinners over here but not those sinners over there.

      • Why should a Christian pretend something isn’t a sin? The size of response is irrelevant. If it’s sin, then it should be pointed out as such.

        • As long as your church is calling people to repent of their greed, and porn, and gossip – and loving those who visit the church who’re gay – then, sure, you can call the gays to repent of their lifestyle, and love the congregation members who are greedy, gossips, or pornsurfers. But if you single out some sins as disqualifying entry, while others are just fine, that’s making a distinction the Bible doesn’t.

          I pray our churches would be willing to welcome anyone, even the most outrageous sinners, and we’d point them to Jesus, who loves them just as they are – and also loves them too much to leave them just as they are.

    • Amen!

  4. I agree completely. Shame on these churches who are shutting their doors to scouting. Statistically only 3% of America is even gay in the first place (according to the LGBT), so the odds of having a gay scout in your troupe is staggeringly small. We should want sinners to come to church, not shut the door on their faces. The majority of these boys should not be “punished” for something that the corporation has decided. Any scout groups in our area are welcome to make our church their home!

  5. They’re not excluding people. They’re choosing not to work with an organization that says something directly against God’s word is perfectly fine to pacify a world that gates God’s standards.

    I’m not a big fan of pretending sin isn’t sin on the off chance it means someone might walk into church. God’s love is indeed for everyone. But God also never said all actions are Holy to Him.

    • That should be hates, not gates. Typing on my phone. :-)

    • Jason, I appreciate your honesty. :) Again, a church can believe anything they want about homosexuality. But if they believe it’s a sin, shouldn’t they be doing everything they can to get those boys INTO the church, so the Holy Spirit might actually speak to them and their hearts can be transformed? How does preemtive exclusion benefit them?

      Another little detail to put a wrinkle in this – one of my best friends in scouting was a Sikh. Our scout troop was sponsored by the Methodist church. Should the church have dropped the charter or made sure my Sikh friend didn’t come to church on Scout Sunday because his beliefs are against God’s word?

  6. BOOM! You nailed it right on the head. I’ve been seeing this trend in several churches (thankfully not mine) and it makes me sad. Thank you for this practical and real perspective.

  7. Matt,
    You’ve created a Red Herring argument here.

    As Jason has pointed out, the question for churches is not “Do we check for sin at the front door?” but rather “Do we explicitly partner and endorse organizations that explicitly and publicly violate the principles of honoring God according to the Gospel?”

    You’ve conflated two issues here.

    The mission of the church has never been to make Boy Scouts but rather disciples. Salvation doesn’t come from attaining the Eagle Scout and you can’t get the Eagle Scout because you attend church each Sunday. These are two different groups who had a common goal that has become fractured due to the decision of the leadership of the Boy Scouts.

    Nowhere have I seen that the churches are saying that homosexuals are not allowed in the building. The churches however have said that they can unfortunately not support with money, facilities, promotion and volunteers an organization who in their mind is promoting a different view of lordship. If you believe that Lordship is part of salvation and you believe that the bible is clear on various expressions of sin, you wouldn’t want to support an gluttony club, a swingers convention or teen sex nights. It’s not a question of loving those people… it’s a question of financially and organizationally partnering with a group that is promoting behavior counter to scripture. If you can show me where these pastors are saying that heavy people or gay people aren’t even welcome in the building for church services, we can talk. Otherwise I do believe you’ve created a Red Herring argument.

    As to your questions:
    Are we really willing to keep people out of our churches for the sake of preserving our “Biblical” values?
    * I don’t know that anyone has been “kept out” of churches. If there are now bouncers at the doors, fill us in. Otherwise this is hyperbolic.

    If so, do we have the guts to follow our convictions to their logical conclusion? Are we willing to “emasculate” ourselves for “Biblicism?”
    * Since I would disagree with your assertion and premise, this is a moot point.

    Are we really saying that people have to fix themselves before they can get saved? How “fixed” is fixed enough?
    * No. I do not believe at all that this is what is happening. I believe you’ve created an entirely new Red Herring (or Straw Man – take your pick) argument.

    Are we really, truly willing to tell children that Jesus doesn’t love them?
    * Not sure that anyone has ever made this assertion. This is how poor logic works. When we distort someone’s view, we can bash it to pieces. No one has said through these discussions: “Jesus didn’t love gay people enough to die for them but he loved greedy people or sexually active single college students.”

    Please tell me the answer is “no.”
    * The answer is no.

    You’re my friends, so let me hear it. Am I on target, or way off? Give me your predictions – will there be a mass exodus? Or will churches get a justifiable backlash?
    * You are way off. Churches that hold to a theologically conservative position will peal back their support and my belief is that they will form a competitor to the Boy Scouts. Some old programs like the Royal Ambassadors may benefit the most. It would however take at least 20 years before we see any new group overtake the Boy Scouts as they do have a very long history and many men who will support them for the immediate future.

    • Tally – I certainly appreciate such a deliberate response.

      What was the “common goal” that churches and scouts previously had? What view of “Lordship” is the BSA promoting (since they are not a church). I’m confused, because you made it explicitly clear that the church’s goal is to make disciples and the scouts’ goal is to make Eagle scouts, and those two do not overlap.

      Second, if I were being flippant and silly, I could say that churches already are supporting “gluttony clubs.” But my bigger point from that silly point is that the church zeroes in on particular sins while excusing all kinds of other sins – implicitly of course.

      Why are churches willing to cut off hundreds of boys for the sake of a few? I just can’t wrap my head around why churches wouldn’t want to minister to these boys who are already in their building. It’s so hard to get people into church – and half the work has already been done for them!

      And I’m not trying to distort anyone’s views or what they have said. I’m taking what people have said to their logical conclusion, which is exactly what Paul did to the false teachers. The logical conclusion that that a young gay man can make when the local church cuts off their sponsorship of his scout troop is that the church believes he’s not good enough for Jesus. You can talk all you want about how the church organization and the BSA organization and leadership are fractured over an “issue,” but in the end, it’s kids who get hurt, and that’s the bottom line.

      • Matt,
        I’m open to engaging in an honest discussion. I trust that you are willing to follow the churches logic to an honest conclusion. It’s obvious that you hold a personal view different from church leadership. If you dislike it, that’s fine but I’m hoping there is room for you to genuinely understand the position of churches where they will eventually pull out of supporting BSA.

        You asked about the common overlap as though it is not obvious. My point was that the common overlap was so thin to begin with that this one decision does break the bond. The Boy Scout Oath begins “On my honor I will do my best To do my duty to God and my country” That’s your common mission that is no longer in alignment.

        “I will do my best to do my duty to God”.

        If a church believes, on a plain or detailed reading of scripture, that God explicitly prohibits a certain behavior and an organization explicitly changes their position and endorses said behavior… there is now enormous space between the two groups, created in this case by the BSA, not the churches.

        Also, you keep talking about a local church being able to minister “once they’re in the door”. Your hypothetical outcry sounds like churches currently trap these troops and then feed them bible stories. No, the Scouts use space and at times the leaders happen to be Christians. You’ve created a portrayal of a relationship that simply never existed. By and large its a buildings-use issue on nights when church activities are not happening and when church pastors are not present. There were no church services going on where homosexual Boy Scouts were asked to leave.

        Churches wanted to support groups teaching young men to honor God. The BSA has decided to honor pop culture. That’s their right. It’s also the right of the church to ask them to leave.

        At the end of the day the Scouts have a right to change their position on homosexuality to try to match the culture’s shifting opinions. The church is obligated to pray and humbly seek God’s face for what God considers to be right and wrong.

        I wouldn’t expect any church to support groups that come out in favor of that which God has not found favor. I also wouldn’t demand that the local LGBT office to offer space to a local conservative Christian church either… even if they have a mission to spread the message of love and tolerance.
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        • Tally, again I appreciate your consideration, and I think I’ve done as good as can be expected to be understanding of your viewpoint. However, again I believe that is you who fail to recognize the fallacy of your logic.

          You explain at length that the relationship between a church and troop is merely “building use,” a relationship I am well acquainted with. You show how I exaggerated the “ministry” that churches do toward Boy Scouts, the support they give them, and the relationship they have with them.

          If the relationship really is that tenuous, and it is just a matter of “building use,” then why is it such a big deal to these churches to make sure homosexuals stay out? You acknowledge that BSA has never been an exclusively Christian organization, so why were these churches supporting them in the first place? Boys were never being taught Bible verses or specifically Christian values, so why is this the tipping point? Do churches believe that there have never been up to this point any gay scouts roaming their buildings? Do they think there will now be a flood of gay scouts? Why are churches so focused on the lifestyles of such a small percent of the population – so much so that they’ll sever ties with an organization?

          The answer in my opinion is because they would rather tow the line on this one issue, to maintain appearances of piety, rather than risk having the wrong people in their churches.

  8. Well said!
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  9. The problem all comes down to the fact that our culture has bought into the idea of identifying ourselves on the basis of sexual orientation and/or practice. By banning kids based on how they identify themselves, the BSA organization is perpetuating that. The BSA should enforce their rules against sexual activity, but not get into all the identity politics. Kids are easily confused. The ban on adult leaders identifying as gay, however, is appropriate. There’s just too much liability for the organization, and too much opportunity for something to go wrong.
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  10. Good points Tally; from our churchs perspective, we don’t pick and choose sins. If the Bible says its wrong then its wrong. We welcome all who enter our doors, but our Pastor does not preach “what the people want to hear”. He preaches truth. You either leave or get convicted and make a change.
    If anyone reading here thinks we should support these gay groups financially, you must not read your Bible. We are clearly told to “not associate too long with those living in open sin so as not to fall into their trap and become a partaker of that sin”. If we are misleading someone, it would be better to have a millstone hung around our neck and be tossed into the deepest part of the sea.
    So, do i want these groups coming to our church? YES, YES, YES! ! Will i support them financially? NO…. Why did Jesus overturn the market tables at the temple? He was angered that they used Gods house for a money market. The only reason we don’t support these people is because we want them to know that the Bible is taken seriously.
    If you think we are hurting the kids, its not us, its the parents who failed to teach their kids right from wrong. If you didn’t want them then u shouldn’t have made them. Its common sense, some people just refuse to use it. I’m not gonna infect my kids with making them think is ok to be gay and divorced and overindulged, (the list is too long) just so i can appease some lazy parent who doesn’t care about their kids eternity. The scout leaders who support this have to answer to this too some day. We all have sins to conquer, why support someone elses?

    • Cindy, so many things…
      How does allowing gays make the Scouts a “gay group?” We’re talking about a tiny fraction of the Scouting membership.

      Second, do you think that before this rule there weren’t any gay scouts? Were there no gays in the military before “don’t ask, don’t tell” was repealed?

      Third, you mention the parents. Well wait a minute, I thought being gay was a choice, according to your conventional wisdom. What you are saying is that being gay is a consequence of parental neglect! So why are punishing the victims? Why aren’t our churches preaching hellfire and damnation to all of the emotionally absent parents?

      And…do you really think hanging out with gay people is going to make you gay? Is that like “lifestyle evangelism” for gays?

  11. Yes! Thank you for this. I’m so tired of this exclusionary view of “Biblical” that so many churches fight to uphold. Like you said so well, it’s NOT gospel!

    http://redemptionpictures.com/2013/05/25/scouts/

  12. Hi! Thanks for this post. I have to respectfully disagree though…

    I think the difference between having sin in your life and living a sinful lifestyle is very vast. Obviously we all have sin in our lives, but we must repent and ask for God’s forgiveness. However, if we don’t repent, that means we are CHOOSING to live a sinful lifestyle, and that is not acceptable in God’s sight.

    The difference between this boyscout situation and the situation with Paul and the “Jewish laws” is that Jesus came with a new law (arguably), since he became the ultimate sacrifice and God no longer needed us to make the burnt offerings or restrict our food intake. Jesus however, did not change anything about the sin of homosexuality. Although he does not address it directly, he does emphasize the fact that a man and a woman should be bound in marriage (he doesn’t say anything about same sex marriage being holy or a life-long bond…and I think he probably would have if he wanted to make a new statement about it).

    Now, do I think homosexuality is a sin? Obviously yes.

    Do I believe that marriage should be between a man and woman? Yes.

    Do I think that non-Christians should be able to get married? Yes.

    Thus, I do not object to same-sex marriage, as long as they do not claim to be Christian (as homosexuality is a sinful lifestyle and such partakers would not be considered repenting of their sins to God).

    So too, I do not object to gay boyscouts, as long as they also do not claim to be Christians.

    Make sense? So I agree with you that this particular topic of allowing homosexuals into the boyscouts, but I do not agree with you in the idea that we should be tolerant of Christians who are choosing to live a life of sin. (I’d say the same about people who are having sex before marriage, in an affair, instigating a divorce, participating in abuse, or consciously partaking in any other sin without repentance or conviction).
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    • Claire – thank you for your response. Respectfully, I think you have read a different meaning into what I wrote. Notice that nowhere do I address whether I think homosexual behavior is appropriate for Christians. That is beside that point altogether. You say that you cannot agree with me that we should be tolerant of Christians who are living a lifestyle of sin. First of all, I never said that. Second, if you aren’t going to tolerate sinful Christians, you aren’t going to have many people to tolerate. I must admit, I don’t fully understand your distinction between having sin in your life and leading a sinful lifestyle.

      The reason I liken this to the problem in Galatia is that the Jewish leaders were saying “you have to do this before you can become a Christian.” You have to become Jewish before you can have Jesus. The BSA is not a Christian organization, and although they promote reverence as a virtue for young men, there are lots of families who participate who are not Christians. And what we are saying to them is “you have to become straight, and then you can become a Christian.”

      Don’t people have to hear from God first before they can repent? And who are they repenting to – God or us?

      • Huh. I see your point about Galatia, and I agree that people need to hear from God before they can repent, and that it should be God who they should repent to… not people.

        I’m not saying that we shouldn’t accept sinful Christians… I know we are all sinners. I’m just saying that perhaps our goal shouldn’t simply to be “tolerate” and in so doing, allow sin to run a fellow Christian’s life without expressing concern. But I recognize now that this was not what you were saying.

        I will explain my distinction between sin in someone’s life and someone living a sinful lifestyle with an example (the best way I can think to explain it):
        Sin in life: someone who presently struggles with lust, but is actively working to cut it out of their life. They are repenting.
        Sinful lifestyle: someone who is lustful, knows it’s a sin, but still participates in the desires and doesn’t seek to end them.

        There is a fine line between them both I think, as we cannot escape sin, but I do believe there is a difference.
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  13. YES!!!!!!! Worship at the heart of these words here, Matt. Beautiful, rich, God-fearing, love language here. THIS is Jesus’s heart. Amen.
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  14. ‘Thank you God that I’m not as bad as that tax collector over there…’ that’s the sense that I get when these kinds of distinctions are made between certain “bad” sins – homosexuality, adultery, embezzlement, fornication (i.e., sex and money) – and the “not-so-bad” sins like gossip, gluttony, witchcraft, and a lack of faith.

    Can you imagine a church/denomination deciding to boycott a newspaper (and encouraging its members to do so as well) because they include horoscopes? That almost seems too ridiculous to type.

    It’s a natural and necessary tension for the church to be “in the world, but not of it” and there will always be people who take things too far in both directions. It’s a good and necessary conversation to have, but in this day and age where only the extremes get any attention, it almost feels like we’re forced into one camp or another. That we have to either be “restrictive” (NO GAYS ALLOWED – they’re all going to BURN IN HELL!!!) or “inclusive” (WE LOVE GAYS and everything about their lifestyle – we want to perform their marriages and have them lead our congregations and teach our children!!! GAYS, GAYS, GAYS!!!) with no possible middle ground. And any time you give even the slightest bit of grace, you’re lumped in with the “inclusives” or the slightest bit of Biblical truth concerning sin, you’re lumped in with the “restrictives.”

    I wish with this, as with many things, that we could have an actual conversation where people actually LISTEN to what everyone else is saying and are willing to consider rational points, even if they differ from their own beliefs. But there’s no time for that. Everyone just wants to have their say (which will hopefully fit into a convenient sound byte/tag line) and be done with it. The one who yells loudest wins!

    And, of course, I think that if people would just listen to _ME_ and believe what _I_ think is right, then everything would be grand! I’m convinced that this is my “love language” – listening to what I say and agreeing with me. I’m not sure that Gary Chapman covered that one.
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  15. Are we really willing to keep people out of our churches for the sake of preserving our “Biblical” values?

    Keeping people out of church is not Biblical.
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  16. Matt, wow. this is powerful and provocative.

    so well done.

    i am thankful for your voice, friend.
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  17. Well stated, Matt.

    In an ideal world, the gospel is Biblical, so there shouldn’t be a distinction between biblical choices and gospel-based choices. But then I have to take off my rose-colored glasses and face reality. I wonder how many Biblically grounded Christians know that there is a huge Mormon and a growing Muslim component to the Boy Scouts of America? I am familiar with the Mormon groups because, where I live, it is difficult to find a non-Mormon troop/pack. Shouldn’t that be an even harder pill for Biblically based Christians to swallow? It was for me, at first. But the Boy Scouts have created sub-groups to accommodate the Mormon and Muslim community who see the valuable character-building goals of the Boy Scouts but who don’t want to risk their childrens’ faith from being undermined by attending Christian churches. (drat, they figured out our plan!)

    My two sons are in Cub Scouts and my husband is a den leader. We have discussed this well before the decision that the Boy Scouts made and decided that sinful boys need to hear the gospel and need positive Christian male role models (or at least redeemed Christian male role models). So we are not abandoning ship based on this decision. Because we are involved in scouting, I read the decision and want to include some of it that might pertain to this discussion:

    “AND WHEREAS, Scouting is a youth program, and any sexual conduct, whether homosexual or heterosexual, by youth of Scouting age is contrary to the virtues of Scouting; and
    WHEREAS, the Boy Scouts of America does not have an agenda on the matter of sexual orientation, and resolving this complex issue is not the role of the organization, nor may any member use Scouting to promote or advance any social or political position or agenda; and
    WHEREAS, youth are still developing, learning about themselves and who they are, developing their sense of right and wrong, and understanding their duty to God to live a moral life; and…”

    The Boy Scouts of America is not condoning pre-marital sex of any kind. It still leaves the door open to hold boys to a high standing of conduct in regards to sexual integrity and it still allows scouts to be kicked out and stripped of their awards if they fail to live up to those standards. And they are giving grace to young men who are struggling to figure out how to behave as adults and who are testing all sorts of waters, which includes, but is not limited to, sexuality. To me, this is a balanced approach, which is what we as a country need.
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  18. I think part of the problem with this whole discussion is that by supporting the Boy Scouts it, at least feels, like we are condoning a lifestyle of homosexuality. It is not about whether it is a sin or about excluding people but rather about what it feels like we are “for”. And while it often seems like we are condoning gluttony, believe me, for those of us who suffer from the sin of it, we do not condone it or like this sin. It is about fighting sin. It isn’t about whether we are sinners. We are. It is about whether we condone sin which we do not. And there are lots sins we can choose from. We must love people, all of whom are sinners. We must be against sin. Of which we are all guilty.

  19. Thanks, Matt. That was a great post. I’ve been using the cherry-picking argument for a while. It’s totally true.

  20. Thank you so much for this reasoned, thoughtful and ‘biblical/gospel’ approach. Surely they do not have to be mutually exclusive, even though right now it feels like some folks wish they were!! I’m grateful for your voice on this topic.
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  21. I really enjoyed this message! You had some intriguing ideas! It was intelligent and comprehensive and honestly any true evangelical christian would know that to live biblically doesn’t mean to be a conservative but to follow all aspects including the gospels. A true christian in general should know that you are allowed your own opinion, however, all people are welcome among God’s people and all can take their own decisions we as the WHOLE CHURCH need to make this change back from “biblical” to the Gospels! Love the Paul references too!

  22. Dave Vander Laan June 19, 2013 at 9:48 pm

    How about this for a compromise:

    A church that chooses to not be a sponsor of the Boys Scouts must place these words on their church sign: Sinners only this Sunday.

    A church that chooses to be a sponsor of the Boys Scouts must place these words on their church sign: Sinners only this Sunday.

    Wait, That means it doesn’t make any difference.

    Exactly.

    If churches have the words ‘Sinners only this Sunday’ on their signs, then the ground truly is level at the foot of the cross. And maybe all those who enter will be reminded by the Holy Spirit that self-righteous goodness is a larger problem than unrighteous badness.

    Oh – and then there’s this: Jesus did not come to make bad people good. He came to make dead people alive.

    Let’s love one another with the truth that our behavior does not earn us anything from God. And that way God is allowed to have the final word on who’s in and who’s out.

    Sometimes it feels our Biblical Values get in the way of the Gospel.

    Oh wait, Matt – that was your point, wasn’t it.

  23. I have been doing a lot of praying and pondering over Matthew 9:9-13 where Jesus calls Matthew the tax collector to follow him and has dinner Matthew and his friends.
    In response to inquiry why he was doing this, he says,” Those that are whole do not need a physician but those who are sick. But go and learn what this means, ‘I will have mercy and not sacrifice; for I am not come to call the righteous but sinners.”
    I am not going to attempt to try to comment on how exactly these verses might apply to the thoughtful discussion above but just that they are underlining the truth I need to hear, mainly that I am the one who needs him. Really seeing and knowing my need for deep. lasting and complete change is transforming how I view everyone else around me to compassion and wow, we all need Jesus so much. I love how he can say in one breath how I really am the sinner and how he really is the Saviour and can save.
    hoping this adds something meaningful to the discussion….

  24. Of course the gospel is for all people. But all people are sinners.

    The church ought NEVER affirm or excuse sin. Of any kind.

    We have gay people in our congregation. They never bring up their sin or advocate it while they are worshipping, or afterward in the fellowship hall. If they did, they would be asked to leave. same goes for someone talking about their extra-marital affair or a business deal where they swindled someone.
    theoldadam recently posted..“Jesus spins me round, round…”?

    • It’s funny to me how much I see that same sentiment – that the church should affirm or excuse sin. As if that’s implied by allowing sinners into church. In Romans, what does Paul say God did with the sins of past generations? God allowed them to go overlooked, unpunished so He could show his full glory in Christ. Does Christ promote sin? No. But I think many of us are in the mode of making so sure we don’t promote sin, that it gets in the way of loving sinners. Let the Holy Spirit do his work to convict sinners on his own good time.

  25. Matt, I appreciate this post a LOT. I feel like I’m on the front lines of this. Girl Scouts USA has taken a very different stance for a number of years than Boy Scouts. Very inclusionary with homosexuals and religions outside Christianity. It’s a difficult line to walk and I’ve been struggling to figure out where I “stand” for 12 years. I worked for a local Girl Scout council for 5 years and have been a volunteer ever since, including 4 years as a troop leader for my daughter. I have received many emails, questions, etc. over the years from concerned Christian parents and troop leaders when GSUSA or another council has done something in conflict with Biblical principles. I have not known a local conflict over homosexuals in a Girl Scout troop or in leadership, and have seen many positive things for girls and women through the organization here that can’t be found in other organizations. So it’s an organization that I like being a part of. If there was a homosexual child in my troop, I would welcome her. I have had homosexual staff as friends. If and when homosexuality and Girl Scouts come up in conversation with my daughter, we’ll look at what the Bible says about it, and she will know that I view it as a sin but as Matt pointed out, a sin not above other sins. This is reality as my daughter lives it, and she will have homosexual classmates and co-workers someday soon and she will need to find out just what she thinks of it in relation to God, Jesus, and the Bible. My former church sponsored my former troop and it was a fantastic way to reach out to families who had never been there. In fact, two of the families started attending that church that didn’t attend a church before. On the other hand, my current troop meets at a school, and I see this as ministry outside the church. I love the fact that I get to influence the lives of girls that otherwise I wouldn’t have a chance to know. I know that some of the families do not attend church and are not Christians and I am open about my beliefs but I’m not beating people over the head with a Bible. 😉 It’s a good thing. Some of the families may not have participated if it WAS in a church. So…while I know this isn’t the main point, if Christians would spend more time loving on ALL kids in general…finding out specifically where they fit best in minstry…in and out of the church building…I don’t think we’d have time to bicker about this and I think we’d care about the kids too much to NOT let them meet wherever is best for them. Thanks for letting me ramble.
    Beth recently posted..Filters

  26. So glad you posted this. Lots of great discussion. And you get to the heart of one of my biggest problems with today’s Christian Church — homosexuality is the “popular” sin to bash. I’ve heard vile, hateful words about it from those who call themselves Christians. They seem to be able to accept anything else, and they say that of course gays are welcome to hear the gospel, but they’re not made to feel welcome and their particular brand of sin is completely untolerated. Then again, a woman pregnant with someone else’s husband’s child? The person who lies and cheats on their taxes? The people who don’t tithe, who judge and condemn and gossip? The gluttons of food, money, alcohol? Well, the church doesn’t *like* them but we certainly don’t attack them in the same way.

    I believe the Bible takes a stance on homosexuality as a sin. As it does millions of other things. I think the vocal members of the Church who alienate those who are gay are wrong. I think it goes against everything Jesus did and taught. He didn’t EVER do the expected. He always welcomed people. He always forgave. One sin does not trump another. I think the way people in the church are turning away gays, whether in the Boy Scouts or anything else, does more harm than good. We are to love. No, we don’t have to like someone’s sin. But WE DO NOT GET TO DO THE JUDGING. We can teach, instruct, encourage, and correct, but God is the one who has to convict someone that their behavior needs to change.

    My pastor said something once that I love: There are consequences for any sin. But WE are not to be that consequence. We’re called to love.
    Kelly Stanley recently posted..Remember…

  27. I actually believe that this distinction is a more artificial one, between Old Testament Law and New Testament mercy (and grace). They are not as distinctively separated to the point of being antagonistic, if we remember that the Old Testament is fulfilled in the New, and the New Testament is foreshadowed in the Old Testament. I noticed that part about ‘cherry-picking’, and it is precisely in the name of seeing God’s ways in the entirety of His Bible that we can say and believe and do the things most pleasing to Him and best for bringing others into His kingdom, isn’t it?

  28. This makes me sad for the very reasons you suggest, Matt. While I’m all for churches standing up for Biblical values, they are also responsible for standing up for grace. Churches have a hard calling: to set the standard for right and wrong, as well as for absolute grace, but I think in this case the key is to show grace to these youth…. absolutely. If the Scouts were allowing in gay leaders I do think I’d have a second think coming, but for sure let the little ones come to me, Jesus says… he doesn’t call distinction between them. Thanks for making me think Matt, as always. God bless you. And may grace prevail.
    Emily Wierenga recently posted..When Mommy Grieves: How to walk with your children through loss

  29. Dude, right between the eyes. Nice work.
    ThatGuyKC recently posted..A parental stroke of genius

  30. I am late to this party but I just want to throw this out there–I used to have the same opinion as a lot of posters on here. Homosexuality is a “lifestyle” that someone can “opt into” or “choose to follow”. Then I lightened up a bit and decided “well, maybe someone can’t stop being gay, but they should just be celibate and stop doing gay stuff.”

    And then I actually left town and met some real-life gay people.

    And I’m sorry. I can’t go along with thinking that some of the guys I’ve met that have been together for 30+ years, that have better “marriages” than some good Christian straights that I’ve known, are the ones that should be excluded from our churches. If that’s what a “proper” church is supposed to be like, I’m sorry but I want no part of it.

    As Huck said, “All right, I’ll go to Hell.”

  31. You know what else gets me about this whole issue?

    Look at your comments, Matt.

    I looked back at your previous posts and you’ve been averaging around 15-20 comments each time. But as soon as you write something about homosexuality–BOOM–your traffic doubles. Where were all these folks when you were talking about idolatry? About marriage? About the Abercrombie and Fitch guy? I don’t exactly recall seeing Jason or Tally around then. Interesting.

    Nope, but as soon as someone starts talking about the gays these guys all come out if the woodwork, bringing their big, long self-righteous comments and their clobber verses along with them. Oh, and don’t forget all the same arguments that everyone has heard before–loving the sinner but hating the sin, etc, etc–acting like they were the first ones to think of it.

    You know why? Because homosexuality is THE hip & trendy sin to fight among the evangelical set–and it’s been that way because (if you’re straight) it’s the easiest sin in the world to avoid. All you have to do us just wake up in the morning and not be gay. Easy as that! Then you can go off to your church and look down your nose at all those gay sinners (of course, you’ll let some into church, just for the purpose of ‘saving’ them, as long as they don’t act too gay in your presence or anything. That stuff can rub off, dontcha know.)

    Who cares what else you do? Who cares how you treat your fellow man? The poor? Your family? Anybody? Why bother when God’s at work right now adding a redwood deck and a Jacuzzi to your mansion as a reward for all the gay sex you’re not having.

  32. For me, this simply comes down to a sad reality, and that is… The “church” as we know, see and experience it in our day and age, is mostly about rules, regulations and a “Pharisaical” righteousness. It’s not well known for expressing the life and nature of the Lord, which is its true calling.

    Jesus LOVED the woman caught in adultery, and then said, “Go and sin no more.”

    He also loved the Samaritan woman who had had five husbands and said to her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is who says to you, ‘Give Me a drink,’ you would have asked Him, and He would have given you living water.”

    The disciples were put off by Jesus interacting with her, but she wound up going into the city, and drawing many to the Lord.
    Geno recently posted..Are Christians Under The Law?

  33. This entire exchange shines light upon some very important doctrines that most churches, and all religions have forgotten or ignored.
    Christ is the one and only true leader of His church. When men build organizations and create rules, create policies, and politics, they silence Jesus!
    The church is to be of this world, not part of it! When the church begins to sponsor and support “singles” parties, or social events, it is becoming a part of the world. Hosting the Scouts is a perfect example of why the church is not to be involved, even in the most innocent of worldly pursuits. This is what comes of their association. The church is forced to decide what to choose from a selection that gives it no choice that is not unseemly!
    The church should not be participating in The Boy Scouts in any manner that would open itself, and its congregation and ministry to such untenable and un-Christlike appearances!