Ask David Bennett (November 19-23, 2018)


(Carson Weitnauer) #1

Hi friends, @Interested_In_Ask_RZIM,

I’m excited to announce that David Bennett, the author of the book A War of Loves, is available for a Q&A with the RZIM family! This book features a wide range of endorsements and the foreword is by N.T. Wright.

Given the heated and often polarizing discussions about sexuality in our culture, I am grateful for David’s deeply respectful and kind approach to all people. Please take advantage of this opportunity to ask your questions as we seek to grow in wisdom and maturity while navigating these challenging issues.

Carson

David Bennett’s bio:

David Bennett is a Fellow at the Oxford Centre for Christian Apologetics (OCCA) from Sydney, Australia. He studied both journalism and international relations in Australia and France respectively, before attending the OCCA (2013-14). He has recently completed his postgraduate degree in theology at the University of Oxford and a Masters in Analytical and Exegetical Theology with the Logos Institute at the University of St Andrews. He is currently reading for a DPhil (PhD) in theology at the University of Oxford.

David is a passionate Christian apologist who speaks and writes on a wide range of topics including sexuality and faith. He is frequently asked to appear and speak in a variety of settings including national radio and TV, most recently BBC 1’s The Big Questions. As a gay celibate Christian, he is seeking to be a fresh voice on the topics of love, desire, and sexuality in order to show how people can live in accordance with Christ’s teaching. David is the author of A War of Loves (Zondervan, 2018). It describes his own story from agnostic gay activist to follower of Jesus, in which he advocates for a positive moral vision of biblical sexuality and discipleship. His other interests include writing, cooking, and living in Christian community.


(Bill Brander) #2

David, good day. My question: if a same-sex couple is in a long-term monogamous relationship what differentiates them from any other heterosexual couple in the eyes of Scripture?

Thank you

Bill


(Bill Brander) #3

David, on an Alpha course recently I was between a psychologist (still studying), and what I would term a Bible believing Christ follower. During a discussion on same-sex relationships. The one person standing firm of the Bible saying that that is a sin. The other person saying that some people are ‘born’ with same-sex attraction, so if God created people with same-sex attraction is the Bible relevant today?

I took the middle road and said that we had a same-sex couple in our congregation and we “love” them. And I added that research on this topic is still being done. So I do not know.

How would you have responded David?

Thanks

Bill


(Bill Brander) #4

Sorry about this David, but not a question this time but I was surprised by what Amy Orr-Ewing says about your book - I’ve just downloaded a preview of your eBook. Maybe I’d best buy the hard copy to place in the church library?

Stay blessed

Bill


(Isaiah J. Armstrong) #5

Hello David! Have you read Mark Yarhouse’s book Homosexuality and the Christian? If so, what did you think about it? Did you agree/disagree with anything specific? If you haven’t read the book, I’d be curious to know your thoughts on what Yarhouse calls the “gay script” vs “the Christian script” are. This is what he writes:

Here’s what I think this (the gay script) script looks like:

  • Same-sex attractions signal a naturally occurring or “intended by God” distinction between homosexuality, heterosexuality, and bisexuality.
  • Same-sex attractions are the way you know who you “really are” as a person (emphasis on discovery).
  • Same-sex attractions are at the core of who you are as a person.
  • Same-sex behavior is an extension of that core.
  • Self-actualization (behavior that matches who you “really are”) of your sexual identity is crucial for your fulfillment.

This is Yarhouse’s “identity in Christ” script:

  • Same-sex attraction does not signal a categorically distinction among types of person, but is one of many human experiences that are “not the way it’s supposed to be.”
  • Same-sex attractions may be part of your experience, but they are not the defining element of your identity.
  • You can choose to integrate your experiences of attraction to the same sex into a gay identity.
  • On the other hand, you can choose to center your identity around other aspects of your experience, including your biological sex, gender identity, and so on.
  • The most compelling aspect of personhood for the Christian is one’s identity in Christ, a central and defining aspect of what it means to be a follower of Jesus.

These are the two scripts that Yarhouse gives (word for word). He says there are more, but his book revolves more around what the world says verses what Christ says, which is represented here with these two scripts (The gay script is the world’s message and the identity in Christ script is what the church’s message is supposed to be [he acknowledges that the church fails in this area and addresses is very well]). What are your reactions to these scripts? Is there anything you’d like to add/subtract to one (or both)?

Thank you for taking the time for considering my question!


(Bill Brander) #6

Good day David, a few years ago South Africa ‘legalised’ same sex marriages. My question then, and still is today, why do they want to be married? Why not just live together as many hetrosexual couples do these days. Why marry?
Thank you
[As an aside the first question I ask any couple who come requesting marriage is, “Why? Why not just continue living together?”]


(David Bennett) #7

Hi Bill,

In the eyes of scripture, the thing that differentiates a monogamous gay union from a same-sex marriage is the profound theology of the image of God. This begins in Genesis one and stretches all the way to the revelation of Jesus in the New Testament, where the marital relation between male and female, woman and man, becomes the central icon of God’s salvation of humankind in Jesus Christ: the union of Christ, the bridegroom and the Church, the bride. God created us as male and female in the beginning, not to oppress LGBTQI people, but to reflect his reality and glory - that is unity within diversity - three persons in one essence. Further, Jesus reaffirms the teaching of the Old Testament that marriage is between a man and a woman (Matthew 19:4), and Paul in Romans 1 sees that same-sex activity contradicts this icon of marriage, rejecting the image of God in the beginning which is tied to the sexual differentiation of male and female. This is the watertight theological case for why same-sex unions cannot be equated to and fall outside of God’s design and purpose in the covenant of marriage for sexual expression. There is of course so much more to say on this topic but I hope we can cover this in further questions.

If you want to read further and deeper I recommend:
Chapter on Homosexuality in Richard B Hays, A Moral Vision of the New Testament
Livingout.org (See Sam Allberry’s “Is God Anti-Gay?”)
spiritualfriendship.org (Various articles)
Also consider reading the appendix in my book, A War of Loves, “What I Learnt the Bible Says About Homosexuality”


(Carson Weitnauer) #8

Hi David, in your excellent book, you write:

… not many believers had warned me about costly sacrifice in the Christian life. In my experience, the church barely talked about what Scripture said about being living sacrifices. Instead they settled for a comfortable, easy gospel, offering what Dietrich Bonhoeffer called “cheap grace.” That meant there was no need to surrender our choice sins, our closely held dreams, our deepest desires that went against God’s revealed will

I was wondering if you could expand on this idea for us and share some thoughts on what it looks like to embrace the Lordship of Jesus? What draws us to want God’s will more than our own?


(Bill Brander) #9

Thank you for the urls. They are informative.
I’ll be ordering your book this week - after pay day! :wink:
Thank you
Bill


(David Bennett) #10

Hi Isaiah,

Thank you for such a perceptive and considered question.

I have read some of Yarhouses book and I think he does a very good job as a professional psychologist and someone who remains orthodox in his theology, but shows the care of Christ to so many LGBTQI/SSA people.

I would take Yarhouse’s Christian script and add:

  • Same-sex attraction does, whilst in a non-resurrected body signal a categorical distinction of embodiment in one’s sense of personhood and identity, but is ultimately “not the way it’s supposed to be.” (N.B. I see same-sex attraction as a result of the fall, but not morally culpable. Same-sex sexual desire and lust however are as they involve willing toward the unrighteous end goal of same-sex attraction).
  • Same-sex attractions may be part of your experience, but they are not to be the defining element of your identity, Jesus Christ is. That said, being same-sex attracted is part of one’s identity and human, embodied reality.
  • You can choose to integrate your experiences of attraction to the same sex into a gay identity, but what is meant by “gay” is a boasting in one’s weakness, but recognises that the once good desire for companionship is entangled with one’s fallen body, which can receive the graces of celibacy or marriage to an opposite-sex partner.
  • On the other hand, you can choose to center your identity around other aspects of your experience, including your biological sex, gender identity, and so on.
  • The most compelling aspect of personhood for the Christian is one’s identity in Christ, a central and defining aspect of what it means to be a follower of Jesus.

Let me know your thoughts of my changes!
Warmly,
David.


(Isaiah J. Armstrong) #11

I really appreciate your perspective on this important subject and I like how you dig deeper on Yarhouse’s first three points. They are important distinctions that help me understand how deep same-sex attraction can go, but how much deeper God’s unfailing grace and love is.
Thank you very much for answering! Your struggle is real and it’s about time the church realizes that and responds as the hands and feet of Jesus. Praying for you, brother.


(David Bennett) #12

I’d love that Bill! If you could buy copies for people for Christmas presents and get the book where it will be read!


(David Bennett) #13

Thank you so much Bill for another fantastic question!

The way I would have responded is threefold:

  1. First, I would have reiterated Gods love for all people, LGBTQI people included in sending his only son - which it appears you did!
  2. I would clarify where exactly same-sex attraction comes from - the Bible teaches us that it emerges from our human fall (the fall of our original parents) as outlined in Romans 1. A system of broken human worship, exchanging God’s image (linked with our male-female embodiment and its consummation in marriage) leads to God giving all of us human beings over to sin and its desires. Only one of those of course is same-sex lust. That said, many people because of this “fall” develop with unchanging same-sex attraction, even if they submit that to God in the power of his grace today through celibacy and mixed orientation marriages.
  3. God has hope for LGBTQI people in the Bible. A greater passage to parallel with is Isaiah 56 where God promises to eunuchs (in the day of Isaiah, these were people who were sexually other, or didn’t fit into the norm or who were without the appropriate genitalia) who were unable to enter the temple or GOd’s presence because of their bodily difference: "And let no eunuch complain,
    “I am only a dry tree.”
    4 For this is what the Lord says:

“To the eunuchs who keep my Sabbaths,
who choose what pleases me
and hold fast to my covenant—
5 to them I will give within my temple and its walls
a memorial and a name
better than sons and daughters;
I will give them an everlasting name
that will endure forever." What a hope!

Practically, I would bring in the point that love without truth isn’t love at all. Truth makes love real and love makes truth receivable from others. We can’t compromise either. In my book you can find out more about what I think with a same-sex couple. It’s important LGBTQI people hear God’s truth from him directly, not just from believers. It’s such a deep and personal thing - it’s so easy for non-LGBTQI/SSA believers to say they agree with scripture, but it takes so much more for us.

I hope this begins to answer a great question, Bill! Let me know your thoughts.
David.


(David Bennett) #14

Hi Carson,

Thank you for pulling out such an excellent part of the book. In my research at Oxford University, I’ve become very much interested in the life of Jesus as our human example to follow in discipleship, as well as our saving Lord. I think one of the problems in the Church today is that we haven’t equally emphasised his example as human disciple of God, because it requires quite a lot of us in own lives. It is easier to just receive his free gift of salvation thinking that requires nothing of me… I just say the words, do the things well on the surface and then return to my life as if it were the same again. Dietrich Bonhoeffer who I mention lived a very different life. When Nazi Germany rose to power, he resisted it. He risked his life because he knew what it meant to be a disciple and followed Jesus not just as Saviour from his sins, but also as disciple of God. The cost of our discipleship is high, but the power of grace makes it a very light burden to carry. We gain more than we give up in Jesus. I think as a celibate gay/SSA Christian, both the lesson of obeying from and out of an experience of God’s loving grace AND the cost of my discipleship were vital in bringing me to give myself to the Lord in celibacy. The key to all of this is fearing God, not just loving him. If our love of God isn’t cleansed by our fear of him (awe-inspired respect for God that leads to a proper knowledge of his true nature!) then we turn God into an idol who can never contradict, chastise or discipline us in the ways of righteousness!

What drew me to want God’s will more than my own were two major things 1) the absolute pleasure of knowing God’s presence and love, unfettered by my own flesh or sinfulness 2) learning that when I did God’s will instead of my own, I found myself satisfied. I gave up my boyfriends and other things because they got in the way of knowing the fullness of His Presence - a good which far outweighed anything else I gave up. When I lived by my own will, it didn’t go well but when I lived his way it has only brought me true satisfaction and joy, even if through trials and persecutions!


(Marvin Mauro) #15

I’m a day late, but I’ll just give it a try.

David, I have acquaintances that are also Gay or SSA Christians. Some of them have chosen to practice cohabitation. They claim that they can live-in together as long as they have proper boundaries, but their set boundaries would also seem off the norm. E.g. cuddling. I could sense that this is like playing with the fire. What can you say about this.

You’ve mentioned in your book that “homosexuality is not an evangelistic issue. It is a discipleship issue. So we must approach it that way.”(p.165) Recently a famous trans woman declared his faith in Jesus. He was being discipled and mentored at a mega-church and was put on pedestal, since he had lots of interviews and testimony sharing both from Christian and secular media. This week, from his FB post and news claims that he’s planning back to purse life as a transwoman, but still have faith in Christ. He’s now receiving lots of backlash both from the Christian and LGBTQ side. What would you suggest the church would do if we must not forget “the knowledge of God’s grace, the gift of the Spirit, and an understanding of God’s satisfying love”. I believe his Christian mentors are not yet giving up on him. But what would you recommend how Christians should approach or discuss this issue to the polarized body of Christ?

Is it proper this time, that I share your book to him as well?

Thanks


(Carson Weitnauer) #16