A mini-kerfuffle erupted recently in evangelicalism over a reaction to same sex relations. Among conservative evangelicals, Thabiti Anyabwile is well known. He wrote a post at his TGC blog, entitled, "The Importance of Your Gag Reflex When Discussing Homosexuality and 'Gay Marriage'." The title explains the underlying issue. Anyabwile, an African American evangelical pastor in Grand Cayman, speaks up a lot about racial relations among churches in evangelicalism. In his above post, he talks about the good in a gag reflex to same sex relations. He said we shouldn't lose that. Outrage ensued from other evangelicals, in particular, a post responding by Jonathan Merritt, who is published on faith and culture in USA Today, The Atlantic, and the National Journal -- in other words, he is highly credentialed in the world.
I want to boil this down to the actual subject at hand. It is an apologetic issue, related to how people change, how they're converted. Merritt skewers Anyabwile because of the damage to evangelism by using such language as "gag" and "yuk." Just the opposite from Anyabwile, to succeed in helping unbelievers, Merritt contends, believers must tamp down that gag, get out more, and look at this activity with a certain amount of ambivalence. He posits that Jesus "gagged at the gaggers," the Pharisees gagging at sinners and Jesus gagging at them, and not the sinners. This is a very nuanced twisting of scripture, where we find an evangelical approach to evangelism, coming back to haunt their conservatives. Remember that evangelicals, then called the new-evangelicals, set themselves apart from fundamentalists in the mid-20th century with their strategy of infiltration.
Presuppositional apologetics say that man's problem is not knowledge, but rebellion. Style isn't what will convince the unbeliever, but truth. Men won't change because they are impressed with our toleration of sin, our lack of a gag reflex, our missing moral outrage. No. They change because they are confronted with God's Word, a powerful book with powerful words. The words begat a lost sinner. God gets the credit, receives the glory, when the method is His method (1 Cor 1-3). Anyone would understand Merritt's humanly devised method, that misrepresents God's hatred of sin and his punishment of it.
The Merritt angle is a modern new measure. I also read this, as recently documented, in the Tim Keller approach. Not gagging is considered to be akin to opening arms to the prodigal. I said this was nuanced deceit. It is. If you read Luke 15, you get an all out repentance with the younger son's return. You also get one with Zacchaeus in Luke 19. Paul is gagging in Romans 1. He describes the yukkiness. If there is any critique of Anyabwile, it is that gagging and yukkiness are not strong enough. Instead of being grossed out, which is probably mainly personal in the same sense we react to bad hygiene, eating with your mouth open, we should be angry with the rebellion.
If I relate with Merritt at all, it's in a true idea of compassion, which I don't believe he accurately represents. Paul said that saved Corinthians were once homosexual (1 Corinthians 5-6) -- 'such were some of you.' I saw an immodestly dressed woman at a Subway this week with tattoos all over, a huge scorpion on the back of her neck and upper back being the most arresting. My reflex is that it is sick, it is corrupt, it is rebellious, it is ungodly. I have revulsion to it. But the Holy Spirit brings to me compassion. That could be any one of us, except for the grace of God. That's all true.
Zacchaeus didn't stay like he was. He changed. Our expectation is that someone should become a former homosexual by the grace of God, because God hates that abomination. With God, I hate it too. Both can coexist in a believer, that is, the compassion and the hatred.
Something else is at play here that relates to the leaven of Herod. I ask the question, "What's worse, the abomination, or hitting the abomination with a baseball bat?" The baseball receives the hate. People are more concerned in this culture to a negative reaction to or a punishment of sin, then they are the sin itself. As part of church growth, the idea here is that people in the world will like you more if you let them get away with things, so you'll get more people in your church.
I've got a friend, who attended a minor league professional baseball game, and they had a homosexual choir sing the national anthem. Rather than sit there, he stood and shouted very loudly, because he knew what that was all about, "That's an abomination!" He was bold. Merritt would say that's not good. I say, that is good. That is right. He, by the way, was not derided for that -- the crowd around him, thanked him. He did have to fear a little for his family's safety, because of a couple of kooks, who might want to target him for doing that, so he moved to another location in the ball park. But we need people to stand up against that sin, not just sitting on our hands when it is elevated in our society.
Again, this is about how people do get saved. They are convicted for their sin by the Holy Spirit. They repent and believe. We should not hang around sin without the sinners having any idea what God thinks about sin, and so what we think about it. That does not help them at all.