Category Archives: Recommended Podcasts

Civil Debate on Sexual Ethics

At a recent Town Hall meeting at Westminster Presbyterian Church, we discussed some of the pros and cons of affiliation with the Presbyterian Church (USA).   Any discussion on this topic leads almost directly to discussion of homosexuality and gay marriage.

Though my primary task it to teach what I believe to be things that are true and profitable, I also recognize that it can also be helpful to listen to voices that teach from viewpoints that are from the ‘other side’ of various issues.  Over the past three decades or so, I have heard a wide range of perspectives regarding Biblical sexual ethics.  Most readers of this blog know that I hold to what may be called the ‘traditional’ view of marriage as revealed in Scripture as one man, one woman, one flesh, one covenant, one lifetime.    I think this definition of marriage is God’s very best arrangement for the ordering of marriage and society — it is the best path toward the flourishing of the human community.     This is the definition of marriage that informs my preaching and teaching ministry.

At the Town Hall meeting, someone requested that I suggest resources for people who would like to learn more about “both sides” of the debate on gay marriage.  I said that I believe my job is to teach the orthodox view, but that I was willing to let people know about other resources to help with understanding both sides of this issue.

On this post I am providing information for people who would like to read more about these topics and gain a more full understanding of both sides in the debate.

Though I can’t stand the labels, I will call the one side “Traditional” and the other side  “Progressive”.  I hate the labels because I am not really about “Tradition” — I’m about faithfulness to God’s Word and to following Jesus into the future.  The label of “Progressive” is not one I like because I don’t think the advocates of gay marriage are making progress in the flourishing of the human community — I think they are moving us in a negative direction rather than moving us forward to a better future.    Progress for me is movement in the right direction and I don’t think the ‘Progressives’ are doing this.  Yet since we are stuck with the labels, I will use them below.

I will warn you that if you are looking for simple and easy approaches to a very complicated topic — then keep watching TV and reading magazines and blogs — you will get all kinds of shallow perspectives on this debate.  If you really want to get a deep understanding of the issues, it will take a larger investment of time and you will need to listen to more lectures and read more material.

Book Recommendations:

Traditional:

Straight & Narrow (Compassion and Clarity in the Homosexuality Debate) by Thomas Schmidt

Kevin DeYoung’s new book, What Does the Bible Really Teach about Homosexuality?

The Bible and Homosexual Practice: Texts and Hermeneutics by Robert Gagnon

More academic: Making Gay Okay: How Rationalizing Homosexual Behavior Is Changing Everything by Robert Reilly

Progressive:

Jesus, The Bible, and Homosexuality (Explode the Myths, Heal the Church) by Jack Rogers

Living in Sin? by John Shelby Spong

The above listed books were published before the turn of the millennium and may be somewhat out of date.  Though I have not read the following, they were suggested by a thoughtful reader of the blog:

Torn,  Justin Lee

Changing our Minds, David Gushee

God and the Gay Christian, Matthew Vines

For those interested in audio/video content — There was a very thoughtful and balanced presentation on these topics presented at Fletcher Hills Presbyterian Church last fall.  There are several lectures and Q&A Sessions that can be viewed or downloaded.  Here is the link to the series: Fletcher Hills Presbyterian Church Series on the Bible and Gay Marriage

Whether you are on the more “Progressive” or “Traditional” side of the issue, I think everyone should listen to this fascinating interview with Sam Allberry, author of Is God Anti-Gay?   presented in audio format on the White Horse Inn podcast.  Is God Anti-Gay – White Horse Inn Podcast

Though I am deeply concerned about our culture’s trajectory in the area of human sexuality, I am also concerned about our culture’s diminishing ability to engage in civil debate on hot topics.  So I offer this post in the hope that it can help people in the church who differ on this highly emotional topic to find ways of reducing the hostility and growing in our ability to speak the truth in love to one another – even where we disagree on vital areas of life.

Spiritual Gifts vs. Super Powers

 

I recently listened to a very interesting podcast on This American Life about the human fascination with superpowers. We have superheroes with all kinds of superpowers.  The first segment deals with what our desire for super powers says about our personality.  Would you choose flying or invisibility?  How you answer this question says a lot about your personality.    The better part of our nature says we want to choose to fly — but the darker side of our nature might lead us to choose invisibility.  I think John Calvin would agree that our sin nature has tremendous power over us — and this Calvinist truth about the human condition is well-illustrated in various portions of this podcast.

in another part of the podcast we are introduced to Zora.  Zora is about 30 years old and likes to hang out in bars dressed like Wonder Woman. She was over 6 feet tall and very powerfully built. She had a vision for her life at age 12 and she devoted the next decade of her life to developing as many superpowers as she could. She started to keep a list of skills to master and she had tremendous drive and motivation.

The list included martial arts, electronics, chemistry, metaphysics, hang gliding, helicopter and airplane flying, parachuting, mountain climbing, survival— Weaponry, rafting, scuba diving, CPR, first aid and mountain emergency medicine. Bodybuilding, major physical conditioning, archery, demolitions, and explosives. She wanted to learn how to hunt animals and track men.  Throwing stars and compound bows and throwing knives, camel, elephant riding. Evasive driving and stunts.

And the most incredible thing about all of this is that Zora accomplished nearly every item on the list.

To keep up with the goals set by the list, she sped through school. Starting in the seventh grade, she began completing entire school years during the summer term and finished high school by the time she was 15. She got her BA at 18, a master’s at 20, and completed the coursework for a PhD in Geopolitics by the time she was 21. She wanted to live like Indiana Jones, spending half her time in the classroom and half her time saving the world in the jungles of Peru.

After finishing the course work for her PhD, Zora decided to quit school, disappointed at the lack of cliff-hanging adventure in her doctoral program. And since superheroes who live in the real world need jobs, she decided to seek employment at the only place that would allow her to put all the skills from the list to use. Zora wanted to become an agent in the CIA.

But she got rejected by the CIA. She was stunned but after a couple of years regrouped and ended up getting hired by an international private security company doing intelligence and counterintelligence sting operations. She was able to put a lot of her skills to work but after a few years realized at the core of her being she was afraid that people didn’t really like her very much.

So she decided to take classes in dancing and storytelling and public speaking and conversation skills and feminine appeal (if you know what I mean). I was very moved by her story and the way she told it.

But it also got me thinking about the difference between Zora’s quest and the journey that I am on and the journey that I hope many of you are on.

Zora spent her life acquiring various skills and superpowers to fill up a void that was in her life. She seemed like a good person who wanted to do good things with her life – but she was missing the gospel – she was missing grace – she was missing the gift of the Spirit in her life.

Because I am preaching these days on the Holy Spirit, I thought  a bit about how the gifts of the Holy Spirit are different than superpowers. The gifts of the spirit are powerful but not in the same way. They are not used for the sake of physical domination but instead they are for personal transformation. The gifts of the spirit are more humble and not very flashy.

Healing, encouragement, teaching, serving … these gifts of the spirit are so that people can come to know and love and serve and obey the Lord Jesus so that they can be drawn more deeply into God’s eternal embrace.

Here’s the link — I hope you will check it out.  Let me know what you think of it.

http://www.thisamericanlife.org/radio-archives/episode/178/superpowers

It’s pretty long so you will probably need to put it on your listening device so you can do other things while listening.