Ask Lou Phillips (July 22-26, 2019)

Hi friends, @Interested_In_Ask_RZIM,

This week we have the opportunity to engage with Lou! He has an incredible background - from molecular biology to politics to questions about sexuality.

I invite you to ask him the honest, heartfelt questions you have about Christianity. We’ll all learn from the conversation!

The discussion will open on July 19th, Lou will be taking questions starting on July 22nd, and the opportunity will end on July 26th!

Lou’s RZIM biography:

Louis (Lou) Phillips is a fulltime OCCA fellow based in the greater New England area. He grew up outside of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, with his parents and five older siblings. Lou attended Grove City College and graduated with a bachelor of science degree, double majoring in molecular biology and political science. Lou interned for the Heritage Foundation at their Center for Health Policy Studies and then became the Health Policy Legislative Correspondent for Senator Tom Coburn of Oklahoma. While in Washington, DC, Lou felt the call of God elsewhere in his life and joined an evangelistic outreach called Unaltered Ministries (formerly known as Silver Ring Thing). For three years, Lou traveled with this ministry all across the United States putting on concert-style events talking to teens about love, sex, and life. Through this evangelistic experience, he developed a passion for apologetics, especially in the realm of sexuality.

Lou received his certificate of theological studies from Oxford University (Wycliffe Hall) and was trained at the Oxford Centre for Christian Apologetics (OCCA) where he was involved in many evangelistic events and outreaches.

Coming from a large family, Lou loves to hang out with his siblings and their spouses, as well as spend time with his ever-growing number of nieces and nephews. In his spare time, Lou likes to stay active and do anything outdoors.

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I guess my question for someone of this background who is a Christian I would have to ask, “Is there a spiritual component to the way our DNA, Cells, and body at large function?”

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Hi Lou, thanks for joining us this week to help answer our questions.

Two quick questions from my end.

  1. How can we discourage premarital sex in our present day generation?
  2. What are your recommendations to a single christian on choosing whom to marry?

Best regards,
Charles

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Jesse,

Great question. Let me first clarify, my undergrad was in Molec Bio; however, shortly after college I realized my desire to work in the medical field was eclipsed by my love for speaking and doing apologetics. I say that to say I am no expert in the realm of biology and I have no advanced degree in the area. Therefore, I may not be that helpful. But before I begin to answer this question, can you help clarify your question for me? Are you simply asking does our spirituality go as deep as the molecular level - as in, is there a biology to our spirituality? Or are you asking if in some way, can our spiritual state effect our biology? If neither of those are what you are talking about please clarify and possibly give an example of what you mean.

Thank you Jesse, I look forward to your response.

Lou

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Hello Charles,

Thank you for your questions, they have always been important, but I find them to be exceptionally important within our cultural moment.

  1. For your first question regarding premarital sex, I think we as Christians must become more versed in the Christian sexual ethic. When it comes to this topic, we as Christians often dont talk about it enough and so the only thing people think of when they hear “christian sexuality” is ‘Dont have sex before marriage!’ Now, technically this is part of the Christian understanding but its so much deeper than that. If we are ever going to show the world that God’s understanding of sex is best, we have to talk positively about it. This is often far more difficult to do in practice; however, I challenge you to engage in these conversations. The question really that most people are asking is “Why does God care about my sex life? Isn’t it my choice?” The Christian understanding of sexuality is more than just finding someone you love, marrying them, and having sex. So what is the Christian sexual ethic? While I won’t be able to give an exhaustive answer on this medium, I will give you what I think are the most important aspects:
  • The first thing we have to see is that sex can produce life. I know this seems basic, but Genesis 1:28 is the first scripture we have on sex (be fruitful and multiply). But think about this, humans are created in the image of God (unlike any other aspect of Creation) and yet all human beings are brought about by sex. We find life to be sacred, how dare we not think the very act that creates life also be sacred? Now not all sex produces a child and nor does it have to but we must make sure we emphasize that sex is the vehicle God designed to bring about more image bearers on this earth. He could have created us all at once… but he didn’t, instead he gave us the ability through an intimate act called sex. The moment we just say that sex is simply an act for two consenting adults to enjoy each other romantically, is the same moment we cheapen the true intent of its design.

  • secondly, we see that sex is about radical self donation. Timothy Keller argues that the Bible shows us that sex is designed for “permanent whole-life self-giving.” The current understanding of sex is that its for “temporary partial-life self-gratification.” But because its designed for permanence and seen as an act of self donation, God says do not use it out of the boundaries that protect its sacredness — marriage. Why? Because just like all good things he can give us, we can destroy its beauty in our abuse of it and typically it backfires on us. There is nothing casual about sex and yet we try to treat it as casual. What is casual about being fully naked with someone else, being vulnerable, possibly creating life, heartache, deep intimacy?? Nothing. Sex is the least casual activity we can engage in, yet we live in a time that says its just another act. But the truth of the matter is we all know its not causal, we just dont want to believe it because it limits our expression (to an extent). But just like in every aspect of freedom and life, it requires the proper boundaries and limitations in order to receive the full flourishing of the desired good.

  • thirdly, and most importantly, we see that sex and marriage were never meant to be ends in themselves but were meant to point to something much greater! The Bible starts with a marriage (genesis - adam and eve) and it ends with a marriage (revelation - Christ and the church)… all marriages in between those marriages are supposed to point to and reflect the last marriage. This is why complementarity is key (it must be one man and one woman in order to properly reflect the original design). Just like Christ and the church its unity in diversity, its like and unlike, its two distinct different ‘others’ coming together. This is also why in the end (after we are in glory) there is no marriage! Why? Because what human marriage was pointing to will have been fulfilled (the marriage of Christ and the church)

I would argue that those are the three most important points to the Christian sexual ethic. Obviously romance and physical attraction are also important, but they are of less importance in the hierarchy of the Christian understanding of sexuality. Yes, romance and sexual attraction will be in a Godly marriage but they must be placed under and submitted to the three things discussed above.

When it comes to the topic of premarital sex, I think its really unrealistic to pitch towards those who do not call Christ their Lord. Although there is, statistically speaking, wisdom in having a smaller number of sexual partners within your life, the only convincing argument I have seen has to do with whether or not Christ truly is Lord. When Christians are willing to engage in premarital sex, in a sense, what they are saying is “Christ you can be Lord of parts of my life, but my sex life.” The problem is that Christ is either Lord of All or he is not Lord at all (quote from Mark Batterson). As Christians, we dont get to pick and choose what areas of our life that Christ is Lord over. So when talking to Christians I like to go back to the Gospel. Is Christ truly who he says he is? If not, then who cares. But if he is, then what does this say for every aspect of your life? including sex?

The bottom line is that God loves us and he is not withholding good from us. Sex is a beautiful and powerful gift. God does not want us to cheapen its design because it distorts our understanding of his love, the point of it all, and often we get hurt (especially emotionally). Its so important that we show the world His design is best; but this wont be a real goal if we ourselves dont obey his commands on sex. There is no shame in struggling in this area; however there is in justifying sin for your purposes. The body of Christ needs to be a place of confession, seeking help, and reentering our hearts on the gospel so that He empowers us to live according to His will.

I know this is a long answer, but I hope it helps out a little. Please feel free to ask for clarification or if you want to discuss more just ask.

Your second question, on recommendations to a single christian on choosing whom to marry. I am not expert, as I am single, but here are some points I would live by.

  1. There is no unicorn. Meaning, I dont think its a Biblical understanding to think “there is that one special person out there for me and if I dont find her/him then I will screw it all up.” (that’s Disney, not the Bible) Not only is that not biblical, I think it cripples us. And it prevents people from entertaining possible relationships because they think the one they are going to find will be perfect. But think of how ridiculous that is. You are not perfect, why in the world would you assume you would find a perfect spouse? Marriage is about two flawed imperfect people coming together and finding their completion in Christ, not their spouse. Dont put a wait on yourself that you cannot carry, or your future spouse cannot carry.

  2. You must fight to remember that sex, relationships, and marriage do not define you nor is it where your identity should come from. Again, I dont want to diminish marriage whatsoever, but we need to stop treating it like its required for a whole-life. If thats the case, then Christ himself didn’t live a whole-life (which is something I am not willing to say or believe). Do not idolize a good gift of God because it will end up (just like every other idol) failing you.

  3. Find contentment in Christ and singleness. The majority of Christians are going to get married; but, I think we should learn to find contentment in singleness prior-- because if you aren’t content single, I promise you wont be content married. Christ is the bread of life, not your future spouse (even though they will be an amazing blessing from God himself). If you are currently single, I always try to tell people to enjoy that singleness, leverage it for the gospel (because you dont have the same responsibilities as a married person), and allow God to author your life. He will bring that person into your life when he deems fit. Pray an ask for discernment.

Lastly, and practically speaking, I think when it comes to ‘choosing’ a spouse, we need to use wisdom and discernment. Physical attraction (although given to us by God) should not be our primary goal, because it ultimately will fail (we all get old haha) and it cheapens our understanding of people. I am going to go to Tim Keller again for this, but he says that we need to find someone of the opposite sex, see what God is doing in their life, be excited for that, and simply want to go along the journey with them. I know that seems simplistic but I think there is so much wisdom in it.

Also, I think it is very unwise to date someone who is not a Christian. Yes, there are examples of these relationships working out and I would never want to diminish them; however, for every relationship like this that does work out I can list you 10 that didn’t. Its not because a non-christian is a bad influence on you, its because if Christ truly is the foundation of your being, how could you possibly go about your life living for the kingdom meanwhile the person you are sharing your life doesn’t even have the same worldview? Again, I am not saying its impossible and it will always fail, I am saying I think it is unwise.

Sorry to write you a book I hope this has helped a little. Again I am here all week to either clarify or answer any more questions.

I would recommend these three books that cover both of these topics far better than I have in this short post:
The meaning of Marriage - Tim and Kathy Keller
The Mingling of Souls - Matt Chandler
Redefining Sexuality - Dr. Juli Slattery

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Hi Lou, thanks so much for your very insightful responses, they are indeed helpful.

Best regards,
Charles

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@lou.phillips,

Either or.

Jesse

Sorry for the delayed response. I have been doing some research to give you the best answer I can.

The short answer to your question “is there a spiritual component to the way our biology functions” is yes. As Christians we believe we are embodied souls meaning there is a dualism to an extent (spirit and physical/biological); however, we see them working together. We know there is a spiritual realm that can affect our physical realm and we know that the physical choices we make can affect our spiritual realm. For example demonic oppression (spiritual —> biological); and on the other hand we know that sex is a physical/biological act and yet it is also spiritual according to the Christian worldview. If we are not careful, as we have seen in history, we can fall into a gnostic understanding of things and really diminish the physicalness of our reality. But Christ had a resurrected body and so will all of those who follow him. We cannot diminish the physicality of our existence. God is the author of our biology. Moreover, it is understood that disease and sickness are a result of the fall (spiritual) and yet its affect pervades the physical/biological.

How does this play out within our biology? As far as I can tell, its a mystery and up for debate. We see that when Christ healed people it was spiritual, but it actually altered the biology too, right? A withered hand was restored, leprosy was washed clean, eyes were opened, and even a dead man was raised to life. The spiritual has a way of altering the physical. Does this mean that those who are spiritually “sick” will have physical problems as well? I would say possibly, but we cannot say this is always the case.

For example, we see in John 5, that Jesus heals a man at the pool on the Sabbath. After this man is healed, later on Christ says in vs. 14 “Sin no more, that nothing worse may happen to you.” So it appears his sin (spiritual) may have a role in his sickness (something worse). But it is possible for this man’s sickness to be due to his sin without this verse suggesting that ALL sickness is due to personal sin. For example, just 4 chapters later in John 9 we see the opposite. A man who was blind from birth passed by and the disciples asked Jesus “who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” Yet Jesus answers “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him.” (vs. 2)

The Bible is more nuanced than throwing blanket statements as a whole. Are the spiritual and biological related, yes! What is their relationship, mysterious. When it comes to the functioning of our bodies, and if an abnormality/sickness is present, I would be very cautious in saying “this is a spiritual attack.” I say that not to diminish the spiritual realm, I just think those words can be confusing at times when someone is really going through sickness. I think we in the west tend to diminish the spiritual far too often, and yet we know many eastern (more traditional) cultures have blamed all things on the spiritual without any acknowledgment of the biological. Could there be a marriage of the two? I think so. I think as Christians we need to address both the spiritual and physical because we are embodied souls and both parts matter. This is why Christ didn’t just meet the physical needs of the sick and poor, he met their spiritual needs as well.

On a different note, getting into the idea of spirituality and biology, many have asked can spirituality be explained by biology? And for this question I am going to be referring a lot to the work of Dr. Sharon Dirckx. She actually just came out with a book called “Am I just my brain?” and she is also a speaker for RZIM. In fact, on Tue the 10th of Sept she will be doing a live event at RZIM HQ specifically on her book. You could watch it live online, I would highly recommend it.

In 2004, Dean Hamer wrote a book called “the God gene: How faith is hardwired into our genes.” But this book isn’t taken very seriously within the scientific community because the correlations were mild and not specific to religion, plus genetic influence/traits are often polygenetic (not from one but multiple genes). Additionally, environmental influences are stronger than genetic but even “upbringing” doesn’t explain everything (ie agnostic parents with a Christian kid or the opposite). We also know that Neuroscience has shown that there is no “God-spot” within the brain that if stimulated resulted in a spiritual experience.

But we do know that spiritual practices (prayer, mediation, etc) do in fact engage the brain. Which is what we would expect as Christians. NT Wright says (“Mind, Spirit, Soul and Body: All for one and one for all reflections on Paul’s anthropology in his complex contexts (2011)):

God’s sphere and our sphere – are not thought of as detached or separate. They overlap and interlock. God is always at work in the world, and God is always at work in, and addressing, human beings, not only through one faculty such as the soul or spirit but through every fibre of our beings, not least our bodies. That is why I am not afraid that one day the neuroscientists might come up with a complete account of exactly which neurons fire under which circumstances, including that might indicate the person as responding to God and his love in worship, prayer and adoration. Why should the creator not relate to his creation in a thousand different ways? Why should brain, heart and body not all be wonderfully interrelated in so many ways that we need the rich language of mind, soul and spirit to begin to do justice to it all?

Overall, we know that there is more to religious experience than just brain activity, brain activity does not negate the existence of God, and that most importantly being a Christian is more than just religious experiences.

I hope this helped answer your question Jesse. Your question is a profound one with a lot of mystery attached. For more information I highly recommend either reading Sharon’s book or listening to her livestream on the 10th of Sept. Also, here is the link to the NT Wright article that I quoted: http://ntwrightpage.com/2016/07/12/mind-spirit-soul-and-body/

Please let me know if I can clarify anything or if I can answer any more of your questions.

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Thank you so much for your thoughtful reply. I believe it satisfies the question.

One thing I have always found interesting, is these verses in Genesis:

Gen. 30:32 (ESVS) let me pass through all your flock today, removing from it every speckled and spotted sheep and every black lamb, and the spotted and speckled among the goats, and they shall be my wages.

With,

Gen. 30:37 (ESVS) ¶ Then Jacob took fresh sticks of poplar and almond and plane trees, and peeled white streaks in them, exposing the white of the sticks.
Gen. 30:38 (ESVS) He set the sticks that he had peeled in front of the flocks in the troughs, that is, the watering places, where the flocks came to drink. And since they bred when they came to drink,
Gen. 30:39 (ESVS) the flocks bred in front of the sticks and so the flocks brought forth striped, speckled, and spotted.

I don’t mean to take up any more of your time, just noting this very interesting occurrence in Genesis.

Hello Lou, I just wanted to ask if Ravi & you are Pentecostal?
pilgrim

Good day Lou, a political question please.
Paul tells us (Rom.13) to pray for those in authority over us. But what about when those people are corrupt and who rob the poor?
What is an appropriate prayer?
Thanks
Bill

Jesse,

Yes, this is a very interesting passage. I can see where your initial question had come from. Because we are not given any reasoning as to why Jacob took those sticks and placed them in the watering places and the troughs we are left with a slight mystery. That is, until we reach the next chapter (31) roughly verses 6-12. It appears that in a dream the Lord showed Jacob that he saw the way Laban had been treating him and that God was going to bless Jacob. The Lord said “Look up and see that all the male goats mating with the flock are streaked, speckled or spotted, for I have seen all that Laban has been doing to you.”

So what I take from the passage is a lot less to do with genetic alteration or biological influence from sticks/poles and far more to do with God’s miraculous intervention. Jacob was a flawed man (like all of us) and unless the Lord told him to lay out the sticks (I am pressed to say it wasn’t the Lord since that is not stated) it probably was Jacob doing superstitious things or “taking” matters into his own hands. I would argue Jacob’s attempt to “get his” was really a lack of faith on his part since God had already promised to enrich him. Obviously this would be different if the Lord told him to do it, but it seems like there was no causal relationship between the genetics of these animals and the sticks laid out.

Im open for another interpretation but for me it reminds me that God will work even when we do unnecessary things. He is consistent regardless of our inconsistency. We waver but he is steady. Nothing can thwart his promises.

Does this make sense? Let me know what you think. Like I said, I am open for another interpretation but from what I can tell (based off some of the research I have done with commentaries) it appears Jacob’s actions had nothing to do with God’s miraculous increase for Jacob. It appears that after having the dream Jacob did some superstitious stuff to guarantee God’s promise when it truly was unnecessary.

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Hello Pilgrim,

I cannot speak for Ravi personally, but I can say that the RZIM team is made up of people from a variety of different Christian backgrounds. I personally am not affiliated with the pentecostal church nor did I grow up in that church; however, I can confidently say that RZIM firmly believes in the continuous work of the Holy Spirit. We believe that He is alive, well and very active. In fact, we would all say we are desperate for Him to change hearts, open eyes, and reveal Himself in order for people to repent and submit to the Lordship of Jesus Christ. Without the Holy Spirit our work as evangelists is futile.

Here is a link to a podcast by Vince, Jo, and Michael on who is the Holy Spirit? I think this will give you a better understanding of RZIM’s beliefs when it comes to the work of the Holy Spirit. https://www.rzim.org/listen/ask-away/who-is-the-holy-spirit

Please let me know if that didn’t answer your question or if you have a more specific question regarding the pentecostal church.

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Bill,

Thank you for asking such an important question. I am certain you are not the only one who grapples with this question (I too have wondered how to pray for those in leadership that are corrupt).

Yes, in Romans 13:1 it says: “Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God.”

And then in 1 Timothy 2:1-4 it says “I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession, and thanksgiving be made for all people – for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quite lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and please God our Savior, who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.”

So really, there is no way of getting around this idea of praying for authority (even those whose we fundamentally disagree with), we must because its biblical… additionally, I think to the original readers of 1 Timothy this idea was even more drastic than our current situation. This letter is referring to praying for Roman officials who are clearly persecuting the body of Christ. This is not an easy pill to swallow. So what should be our response?

Well, the first thing we need to remember is that nothing is a surprise to God and no government/pm/president/nation can thwart his plan. We see all throughout the Bible that God even used very wicked leaders to bring about his overall plan for the nation of Israel. This doesnt mean God agrees with their choices by any means; however, it does give us the encouragement to know that God is still God even in the midst of a broken corrupt leader.

Secondly, I think we need to pray for our leaders how we would anyone we know is not walking with the Lord. If we are not careful, we can become quite pharisaical towards them “Father, thank you I am not like [Fill in the Blank - leader, president, boss, etc]” when really our desire would be that all would come to know Him. We are all in desperate need of God’s grace and mercy… we need to make sure we remind ourselves even the most wicked leaders are just like us outside of Christ’s sanctifying work in our hearts. Our hearts should break for those who are not walking with the Lord, not self-righteously judge them.

But this doest mean we shouldn’t pursue justice or want people to be held accountable to their actions. God is a just God as well as a loving God. We cannot have one without the other. I dont think we need to ask the Lord to bless leaders who are marginalizing the poor… but I do think we can pray that he would give them wisdom, that he would soften their hearts, and that he would show them what justice truly is.

Im not sure if you saw this Bill, but about 2 months ago President Trump randomly showed up at McLean Bible Church outside DC and asked to be prayed for. The head pastor, David Platt, without a lot of time to decide or prepare said yes. Regardless of your views on President Trump, I think David’s prayer was Biblical and spot on. I think his prayer could be applied to all leaders for all times and I think he gave us a beautiful template as to how we should pray for our leaders (again, whether we agree with them or not).

Here is a link to an article that the Gospel Coalition wrote on this prayer and it has the prayer written out as well. I hope this helps. I know it has helped me and it gives me guidelines to follow. https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/david-platt-models-pray-president/

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I understand. Thank you. Pew Research estimates there are about 279 million Pentecostal Christians and 305 million charismatic Christians in the world. This means that, according to this analysis, Pentecostal and charismatic Christians together make up about 27% of all Christians and more than 8% of the world’s total population. (As noted in the Executive Summary, these estimates are based primarily on numbers provided by Christian organizations and are derived differently from the other figures in this study, which are based mainly on censuses and surveys.) See Christian Movements & Denominations by Pew Research. Pentecostalism gets its name from the day of Pentecost, when, according to the Bible, the Holy Spirit descended on Jesus’ disciples, leading them to speak in many languages as evidence that they had been baptised in the Spirit. Pentecostals believe that this was not a one-off event, but something that can and does happen every day. Food for thought. Pilgrim

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Thank you very much Lou - for both the response and the link.
Stay blessed
Bill

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I would like to have your opinion on a difficult situation. My nephew came out a few years ago as gay. He has since started living with his partner. He is not professing any kind of faith.

While my wife and I have expressed our love for him we have not made any comments to him that would be construed as acceptance.

My wife and I are struggling with what to do if they decide to get married. We would undoubtedly be invited. And the two sides of this issue should be obvious. Should we risk giving validation to such a union or risk the relationship?

Derek,

This is such a tough question and one that many Christians are facing all across the world. How do we love and accept people because they are made in the image of God; yet not affirm choices that are contrary to God’s word? Its also extremely difficult to do this when our current cultural moment cannot (or refuses to) differentiate between acceptance and affirmation. So the first thing I want to encourage you in is that you and your wife can love your nephew with all of your heart and yet not support his worldview. Do not for a second believe the lie that if you love someone that means you affirm every decision that “makes them happy.” As a Christian, our goal isn’t to do what makes us happy, its to honor God and glorify him… now there is a fullness of joy to be had in following his design and commands (for all people, not just heterosexuals), but that is secondary.

Secondly, I want to tell you that my answer to this question is often circumstance specific. I do not think we as Christians need to have an overly-broad rule on whether or not to attend a gay/same-sex-attracted wedding. I believe there are times where attending these ceremonies can be the most loving thing we can do and I think there are times when it actually goes against our convictions and is wrong. There are differing opinions on how to go about this, but I will give you some pointers on how I try to address this specific case.

First I ask, what is my goal? Is my goal to show this person that I have the truth and they dont? Is my goal to remind them that their actions are sinful? Is my goal to clearly show them that I am a Christian and that if I attend their wedding I will be going against my convictions? Or is my goal to Love them the way Christ loves them in Grace and Truth?

You are really going to be faced with two types of scenarios. A gay wedding of non-professing Christians (which seems to be your situation) and a gay wedding of professing Christians.

When it comes to the second I think wisdom shows that we as Christians should not attend the wedding. Why do I say this? We are currently living in a time where denominations of Christianity are changing their understanding of sexuality and now affirming gay marriages. Now I fundamentally disagree with this and believe it is a misconstruing of scripture. I think someone has to do a form of hermeneutic gymnastics to try and show that the Bible does support committed gay relationships. Therefore, for a professing christian gay couple to invite me to their wedding and I attend, I would be acknowledging their understanding of scripture and somewhat supporting it. I am sure there are many people who would disagree with me here, but I think it is far more dangerous (as in what you would be conveying) to attend a gay wedding of two professing Christians because then it would be almost impossible to decipher what is your stance. We as Christians need to boldly stand up for and defend the Word of God and call out any change or adaption to orthodox Christianity… especially against those within our churches. False teaching insidiously pervades the church if we aren’t willing to stand up. It is only recently that churches have made these “new” understandings of sexuality, but I firmly believe this understanding (in the hopes to be more loving and open) have diminished marriage and sexuality to no longer reflect the ultimate marriage of Christ and his Bride the Church (even though that is truly what marriage is supposed to point to). That is typically my stance on this situation. Also, we are given much more freedom in discussing/renouncing sin with other believers than we are with non-believers. Therefore, I think we can call this out as sinful with the authority given to us within scripture in addressing other believers. But we are not given this privilege (or at least as explicitly) to non-believers.

The second scenario, of which you are currently in, is attending a gay wedding of non believers. I would attend this wedding if it is very clear that while I do not support this understanding of marriage, I love my nephew and he knows it. If your nephew knows your views, knows that you take a Biblical view of marriage, and that you are not somehow changing your beliefs within our progressive times… then I think it could be ok to attend. That means having a rather difficult conversation with your nephew (but I can assure you that many Christians have done this and it has gone well). Now why do I say this? Well, as Christians, its not our role to tell non-Christians that they are sinful or convince them of their depravity unprovoked. Its different if they are asking our views or opinion. We know it was Christ’s kindness and not his condemnation that led us to repentance. Our role is to love people, to speak truth when given the opportunity and to show grace in the way the Lord has shown us grace. I think it is very possible to attend a gay-wedding of this sort and simply be showing love to your nephew. I never want to burn a bridge when it comes to a relationship, especially when it comes to family. I pray that the Lord uses me to speak to my friends and family who are gay. I pray that he would give me the ability to speak in love and truth yet never fold on my convictions. Your goal is to be a light to your nephew so that he might see Christ for who He truly is. If I were you I would be prayerfully discerning whether or not God would have you attend.

Like I said, I think its very circumstantial. And I think we should always follow the conviction of the Holy Spirit. If you find yourself folding on your convictions if you attend this type of wedding, then I say dont go. But if you find yourself in the unique position where in going you are certain that it is clear to the couple that you accept them as image bearers of God and want to show them your love for them yet without affirming their choice in marriage, then I say be that light.

There is often so much pain and baggage brought into the LGBTQs understanding of Christians. And quite honestly, many of them have been marginalized and mistreated by the “church.” I think we need to get much better at listening to their pain and scars. I think we also need to be more clear about our standings and do so with authenticity, and not leave it up for them to think what we believe. I have had to very lovingly and very gracefully explain my understanding of sexuality and marriage to many people of the LGBTQ(IA) community and it has actually gone very well. Now they dont jump on the Christian bandwagon or anything, but they see that I love them and would never mistreat them or marginalize them. Effective communication is so key within this area. I would really encourage you to have a conversation with your nephew if you are up for it. The more we as Christians are bold and loving about our stances I think the better off we are since there is “no room” for the LGBTQ(IA) community to guess what we believe. We should condemn all behavior towards that community that is done “in the name of Christ” that is harmful and bigoted, but we also need to speak clearly as to what we actually believe. Show your nephew that you are a Christian, but you would never spew hate or wish ill upon him. Make sure he can’t place you in the radical caricature of christianity that this society paints. Dont give him any room to even place you in it. Show him in your actions that you love him regardless of his decision to marry someone of the same sex. I hope this helps.

If you end up deciding that it is unwise for you to attend, then I think you should ask your nephew and his partner to come over for dinner or to take them out. Show them that you still value their friendship; however, you found yourself convicted to attend a wedding since its a sacred ceremony instituted by God.

I know thats a long answer. And like I said, even some of the RZIM speakers may disagree with my stance on this, but I do think its a case by case basis. Ask the Lord to guide you and your wife. I hope this helps. Please let men now if I can clarify anything or if you have more questions.

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