As the car of American culture hurls off the cliff of biblical morality, it’s good to know there are still faithful men that can see through the fog of today’s sexual revolution.
One example is Tim Bayly and his book The Grace of Shame: Seven Ways the Church has Failed to Love Homosexuals. Bayly is a PCA pastor at Clearnote Church in Bloomington, Indiana (one of America’s gay meccas) and a contributor at the insightful blog warhornmedia.com.
The subtitle makes one think this is just another liberal Christian apologizing for the church’s Neanderthal oppression of today’s sexual minorities. “You should be ashamed of yourselves.”
But it’s not. Bayly argues shame is a gift, a tool God gives to sinners to push them to repentance. When the church tries to show sensitivity toward sodomy by avoiding biblical language, she implies God was wrong for shaming homosexuals. The church has forgotten Jesus exposed the sensitive sins of others (e.g. the woman at the well) because this is how healing comes.
Bailey is no novice. He and his church have been helping homosexuals for decades. Because the book was so good, it really needs a summary of each chapter.
Summary of the Seven Failures
First, the church has removed the sin of effeminacy. We’ve forgotten that homosexuality is more than just a physical act. It may take the form of two guys in bed or it may take the form of lisps, limp wrists and womanly men. Malakoi (soft men, 1Cor. 6:9-11) won’t get to heaven, but the NIV and other translations blur this idea by conflating malakoi and arsenokitai (the KJV and NASB don’t). They translate these two terms with one idea: “men who have sex with men.” Bailey argues there are two sins addressed here: effeminacy and homosexual sex. Organizations like LivingOut prefer the NIV translation. “Homosexuality is OK as long as you avoid the act.”
But men sin not only when they play the woman in bed but also when they play the woman out of bed. Calvin said malakoi are known not by the act, but by their “effeminate bearing and dress.”
Bayly excels at showing how effeminate clothing leads to effeminate men (Dt. 22:5), which often leads to homosexuality. He then illustrates how music urges effeminacy. Rock stars (“pretty like a woman, strong like a man”) wear tight jeans, long hair and scarves while gesturing toward their privates and prancing on stage. The church has followed suit. Our hymns used to be manly (like The Messiah’s judgment and wrath). Not anymore.
Hard men preach; soft men wonder and suggest. Hard men are zealous in worship; soft men are passive. Hard men love discipline; soft men hate it. Hard men love soft women; soft men love hard women. Hard men raise sons and daughters; soft men raise persons. Hard men are in the kingdom of God. Soft men are not.
Second, the church doesn’t love homosexuals by embracing the idea of “gay Christian.” This is an oxymoron, like tender genocide. Gay but celibate “Christians” want a free pass on their effeminacy. But Romans 1:26-27 warns about homosexual desires. A woman is never born a lesbian. Why? Because she must leave her “natural function” (v. 27) to reach her perversion. God has created Susan to be attracted to Bob.
Third, the church has embraced the lie that says “godliness is not heterosexuality.” The Gospel Coalition has pushed this idea, even applauding the book by Ed Shaw—an Anglican pastor and self-identifying homosexual. True, godliness is not only heterosexuality, but it certainly includes it because God has made us to love the opposite sex.
Fourth, the church has embraced the error of “sexual orientation.” Al Mohler apologized in 2014 for denying it. But why stop here? How about “incestuous orientation” or “cannibalistic orientation”? I don’t actually eat him, just salivate.
Not only is the incorrect use of male genitalia a sin, so is the incorrect use of the male mind. The term homosexual temptation is politically incorrect today. Too harsh. But it is a good term to use because it places the discussion in the moral realm. It blows LivingOut’s cover.
Fifth, the church has refused “reparative therapy.” Bayly could have been clearer here, at least because there is no full agreement on the definition of the term. But his overall point was sound. The goal of counseling homosexuals is change. We want them to leave their sin just as Jesus urged the woman at the well to leave hers. Mohler and Lambert confuse when they argue: “We don’t call people to embrace heterosexuality. We call people to embrace Christian faithfulness.” Is there a difference between the two?
Sixth, the church has forgotten the “shame” of homosexuality. Desiring God has argued that same-sex attraction doesn’t disqualify a pastor from ministry any more than sins like greed. But this implies all sins are equal, which they aren’t (Mk. 3:29; Lk. 2:10). Bayly:
“If man wants to remove sodomy’s shame, one effective strategy is to level all sins, claiming that every sin is the moral equivalent of every other sin.” (loc 1711)
Seventh, the church has embraced the error of “living out.” There is no disgust or blushing anymore. Sodomy should be a shameful term. Now we have “pride marches.” Scripture uses words like detestable, depraved, unnatural, degrading, and abomination to describe homosexuality. But instead of being horror-stricken by their sin, men like Ed Shaw and Sam Allberry glory in it by writing books and starting websites promoting such perversion. Augustine didn’t identify as a “fornicator Christian”. Fornication withheld him until he gave it up. Even Adam and Eve ran.
“Because shame is painful, our desire to avoid it keeps us from sin. God gave us physical pain to protect our bodies and shame to protect our souls.” (loc. 1916).
The only issue I would take with Bayly is that he could have been more clear on the nature of temptation. He said: “No man can ever claim his temptations are sinless” and says “temptation itself is corrupt” (loc. 2164). But Jesus was tempted and we know he didn’t sin. A billboard in rush hour tempts me to look again, but that temptation itself is not sinful. I think Bayly would agree here. But why?
But maybe being tempted by the billboard could be sinful. Perhaps I knew it was there and took a detour just to take a look. It is a sin to want to be tempted. Temptation itself can be sinful because it never comes in a vacuum. Certain temptation can only be reached after crossing the corpses of a dozen other sins.
The solution to this mess is the first of Luther’s 95 Theses: repent everyday. Homosexuals must repent for their sinful actions and thinking. The church must repent for her cowardice and abandonment of Scripture. Pastors must repent for their shallow thinking. And if you need more help on this issue, Bayly’s “further reading” section at the end is worth the price of the book.