Should Churches “Dialogue” About Sexuality?

The ones calling for dialogue will eventually take a hard line in spite of the accommodating rhetoric that gets them there.

Christians, you need to be aware of this strategy. False teachers typically won’t show up to your church wearing a sandwich board saying, “I am a false teacher.” Instead, they will appeal to your piety. They will try to make you feel that humility requires you to hold the teachings of Jesus and the apostles with an open hand—as if their validity and authority are up for debate. Once they have gotten the faithful to acquiesce to that project, they have won.

 

As the PCUSA moves to conform itself to the world, Rod Dreher has a shrewd observation about the same-sex marriage debate within mainline denominations. The debate often begins with the liberals calling for more dialogue about the issue. He writes:

Ah, the old “conversation starter” or “dialogue” trick. Any time you see a progressive member of your church try this, you must understand that this is the wedge that they will use to pry the orthodox out. The “conversation” will be one-sided, and will not end until the orthodox have surrendered or left, because the progressives will never, ever take “no” for an answer.

It is a clever trick. In the name of “openness” and “broad-mindedness,” theological liberals have learned a nearly fool-proof method for dislodging Christian orthodoxy and replacing it with their own. Simply call for dialogue.

I am reminded of the time Brian McLaren tried this strategy on evangelicals. In 2006 in a short piece for Christianity Today’s leadership blog, McLaren called for evangelicals to observe a five-year moratorium on pronouncements about same-sex marriage. He wrote this:

Perhaps we need a five-year moratorium on making pronouncements. In the meantime, we’ll practice prayerful Christian dialogue, listening respectfully, disagreeing agreeably. When decisions need to be made, they’ll be admittedly provisional. We’ll keep our ears attuned to scholars in biblical studies, theology, ethics, psychology, genetics, sociology, and related fields. Then in five years, if we have clarity, we’ll speak; if not, we’ll set another five years for ongoing reflection. After all, many important issues in church history took centuries to figure out. Maybe this moratorium would help us resist the “winds of doctrine” blowing furiously from the left and right, so we can patiently wait for the wind of the Spirit to set our course.

McLaren did not even observe his own moratorium. Before five years were up, he published A New Kind of Christianity in which he endorsed gay marriage and accused traditionalists of “fundasexuality” and “heterophobia: the fear of people who are different” (pp. 174-75). For McLaren, a new kind of Christianity stipulated a new orthodoxy—one that forsakes the two-thousand year old consensus of the Christian church. Make no mistake. The ones calling for dialogue will eventually take a hard line in spite of the accommodating rhetoric that gets them there.

My point is this. Christians, you need to be aware of this strategy. False teachers typically won’t show up to your church wearing a sandwich board saying, “I am a false teacher.” Instead, they will appeal to your piety. They will try to make you feel that humility requires you to hold the teachings of Jesus and the apostles with an open hand—as if their validity and authority are up for debate. Once they have gotten the faithful to acquiesce to that project, they have won.

Denny Burk is Associate Professor of New Testament and Dean of Boyce College, the undergraduate arm of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminar. He blogs on matters concerning politics, theology and culture. This article is used with his permission.