Gay leader, conservative leader debate Bible
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)--Radically different views on Scripture and homosexuality emerged March 1 when a leading conservative Christian and the executive director of a top homosexual group took part in a cordial debate on Christianity and homosexuality at the National Religious Broadcasters convention.
Joe Dallas, a former homosexual and founder and director of Genesis Counseling in Tustin, Calif., and Cindi Love, executive director of Soulforce -- a religious homosexual group -- agreed on few significant issues during the 90-minute debate but did say such events were beneficial for both sides of the divide. Christian radio talk show host Janet Parshall served as the moderator.
Love said she does not believe the Bible addresses homosexuality as "we know it today." Dallas disagreed, saying Scripture addresses homosexuality from a "universally informed position."
"That is to say I believe the authors of Scripture were divinely inspired by the Holy Spirit, who was not limited to the time when those books were written. And because I believe God is omniscient, all-knowing, I believe that when He inspired Moses and Paul, He knew all that we know -- and more -- about human sexuality," said Dallas, co-editor of "The Complete Christian Guide to Understanding Homosexuality: A Biblical and Compassionate Response to Same-sex Attraction." His counseling center assists men who have sexual addictions.
Love argued that the church's understanding of Scripture has evolved on such issues as slavery and the role of women and that it is evolving in its understanding of sexuality.
"Jesus promised us the ongoing presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives," Love said. "And as a result, what has happened with the church, and with our communities over a number of years, as we have had the Holy Spirit inform us, we have changed our minds on the issues that we thought were [settled] within Scripture.... The Holy Spirit continues to act within us ... and I think the Spirit is speaking to us on the issue of same-sex relationships."
"I don't believe the Holy Spirit causes us to evolve on biblical truth, because I think biblical truth transcends our particular understanding," Dallas said. "That is one of the reasons God inspired the authors of Scripture to give us a document so that we would not have to guess what His intentions are.... I do not believe the Holy Spirit will guide us outside of parameters that He has already defined. ... I do believe that most of the Bible is simple and accessible and that what it says on face value ... is in fact what God intended it to say."
Dallas said "our understanding of certain texts may have been wrong at a certain time," but he argued that the church was never united in its support of slavery and the subordination of women.
At one point Love was asked: If biblical interpretation evolves, what are your parameters?
"Our checks and balances are Jesus Christ," Love answered. "... The only checks and balances I can have in my life that are valid are His example to us and the Holy Spirit's leading. I have to view the Bible through the lens of Jesus. If I don't do that, I am viewing it through human eyes, and when I view it through human eyes is when it becomes fallible. When viewed through the eyes of Jesus Christ, the Bible is infallible."
Dallas, though, said a "Spirit leading" model of interpretation can lead to a person disobeying what the Bible clearly teaches. The entire Bible -- and not simply Jesus' words in the Gospels -- are authoritative, he said.
"What is doctrinally spelled out in Scripture regarding human relationships and sexual relationships -- those, I believe, are lines that we must not cross [despite how] we feel the Holy Spirit is leading us," Dallas said. "There are times I have wanted to believe something and had hoped that the Holy Spirit was leading me to believe it, but when it clashed with what was already plainly revealed in Scripture, then a decision had to be made, and my life needed to be conformed to the standards laid out in Scripture."
Love and Dallas also discussed various biblical passages, including Matthew 19:5-6 and Mark 10:8, in which Jesus, in discussing divorce, quotes the Old Testament in defining marriage as being between and man and a woman. Love said Jesus "was making a statement about divorce," and only divorce. Dallas said that while Christ certainly was dealing with divorce, He also was stating that marriage should be heterosexual, permanent, monogamous and independent -- that is, independent of each spouse's parents.
Love asserted that the church's views on sanctification also have changed drastically over time. She told of her brother getting suspended from Abilene Christian University in 1968 for wearing purple pants. The school used Scripture as its basis.
"Which of these things are the things that sanctify us or don't sanctify us?" Love asked. "This is what I know: Sanctification comes to me through Jesus Christ, through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, and the only list that I can count on in my heart ... are the things that Christ said were preeminent in our relationship -- the love of God, neighbor and self, and that I would walk with mercy, compassion and justice."
Love said if she meets God face to face and is "condemned on that day to hell ... I want to know that I erred on the side of love."
Dallas, though, said all of Scripture is applicable and must be followed. While love for God and neighbor are "primary" issues, Dallas said, they are not "exclusive."
"There are many issues spelled out in Scripture that do have to do with our sanctification, and personally, Cindi, I do not have the confidence in my ability to discern the Holy Spirit's work in me, enough confidence to say I will rely only on that," Dallas said. "I have learned through hard experience [that] I am a master at self-deception. I am very inclined to tell myself that God approves of something because I want to hold on to it.... The unchanging principles of Scripture must also be adhered to when we talk about sanctification."
Even though Scripture is clear in calling homosexuality a sin, Dallas said, the church must do a better job of communicating and in reaching out to homosexuals. Dallas said when he became convicted in the mid-1980s that homosexuality is sinful and he wanted to change his ways, he visited a church where, in a sermon, the pastor implied that all homosexuals are pedophiles. Because of that, Dallas said he did not feel comfortable in telling anyone about his struggles.
"It is entirely possible to hold the traditional biblical viewpoint on homosexuality without denigrating homosexual people," Dallas said. "To say that something falls short of God's intention is not to hurt another individual. To say that the individual is ... of less worth of love and respect than other individuals -- that is a form of discrimination that I think God forbids."
Michael Foust is associate editor of Baptist Press.