Recently there has circulated on the web a sermon by Chaplain Jonathan Henderson, presented at Pacific Union College. It has generated not a little discussion among Seventh Day Adventist Christians. I have never had the privilege of meeting and talking with Chaplain Henderson, and would be honored at the opportunity. What follows is my evaluation of his sermon titled "Adam and Steve". I will focus on 4 major themes I find in his sermon:  Grace versus Judgement, God calls Audibles, Soul-Mates, Eunuchs. I do not intend to besmirch Chaplain Henderson. I will state upfront that I believe this sermon to be full of error. I do not mean to speak of Chaplain Henderson's intentions or motivations. I choose to believe that he came from a sincere and good place when writing and preaching this sermon. 

Grace versus Judgment

 It's hard to live forward, when everyone is using your epxerience as an excuse to hide their own issues.

It's hard to live forward, when everyone is using your epxerience as an excuse to hide their own issues.

I experienced Chaplain Henderson (known from now on as Ch. J) as very sincere when addressing the duplicity of the SDA Church. By duplicity I mean this: Christians have been more than dishonest about the same-sex attraction, Adventists included. We have preached that it is the abomination of desolation, we have preached that homosexuality was the reason for the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, when Ezekiel is quite clear on what Sodom was guilty of: pride, fulness of bread, abundance of idleness, lack of care for poor and needed, haughtiness, and abominations. The word abominations is used to describe things which the Hebrew would have found so vile they would not speak of it. These abominations are found contextually in the following passages: Leviticus 7:18; 11:10-13, 20-23, 41-42; 18:22; 20:13; Deuteronomy 7:25-26; 12:31; 13:13-14; 17:1,4; 18:9-12; 22:5; 23:18; 24:4; 25:11-16; 27:15. 

If you read the above passages you will discover that abominations covered many things, so while Genesis 19 mentions a specific sin the Old Testament (OT) called an abomination, it wasn't the only abomination Israel participated in. Therefore it is theologically dishonest to consider that it was solely for the sin of same-sex intimacy that Sodom was destroyed. A fairer assessment would be to say it was one of many. 

Additionally, Ch. J. describes SDA duplicity in relationship to our views of homosexuality/lesbianism by pointing out our own culpability in immorality. Non-marital sexual intimacy, pornography viewing, divorce for reason other than adultery, and others are just as much sin as same-sex intimacy. The Bible calls rebellion equal to witchcraft (1 Samuel 15:23). Disobedience to parents, unforgiveness, unmerciful, gossip, slander, envy, murder, debate, pride, boasting, etc., are all considered part of the reprobate mind (Romans 1). 

 Many Christians are the Dorian Gray of Christ's followers: more quick to point out the flaws in others, than to face their own evil self-portrait

Many Christians are the Dorian Gray of Christ's followers: more quick to point out the flaws in others, than to face their own evil self-portrait

The way we have over exaggerated the sin of same-sex intimacy while downplaying all the other sins which heterosexuals commit is a colassally massive mis-caricature of the heart of God and the Gospel of Jesus. When Christians are willing to denigrate and demonize the sin that is not theirs, while hiding, participating in, or condoning other sins we make the life and death of Jesus of none effect. We are guilty of the grossest hypocrisy. Don't speak to homosexuals about their life and sin when we have ministers molesting children, getting divorced for reasons other than adultery, church members too flirtatious and fornicative, people more materialistic than spiritual, horrible stewardship in relationship to money, and when we are so selfishly capitalistic that we don't care for the poor. When a church participates in structuralized racism, unspoken bigotry, carries with it a Eurocentric spiritual colonialism, and obvious sexism then it would be better that we all leave the same-sex oriented person alone and attend our own house. When conference officials watch the stock market more than the signs of the times we have a significant moral and ethical problem, from the head to the tail. I am in absolute agreement with Ch. J's assessment of the hypocrisy. 

The Audibles of God

CH. J spoke of God making audible. He referenced Jonah and Ninevah, and how God, after telling Jonah to inform the people that in 40 days they would be destroyed, then decided to not destroy the people when they repented. 

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He references Ezekiel 33:10 and following (Also see Ezekiel 18:20-32), as an example of God changing his mind. If the wicked do what is right, they will not die. If the righteous do what is evil, they will die. He calls that God calling an audible. He assert that divorce in Deuteronomy was God's audible. The problem with this assertion is that Deuteronomy is the recitation of, or the restating of the law, and this admonition for divorce is not found anywhere between Exodus and Numbers. That's because it was not something God told Moses. This is why Jesus in Matthew 19 puts the responsibility for the reality of divorce squarely on Moses. Jesus is informing all that neither He nor God gave that design to Moses. Thus, God didn't audible  in Deuteronomy. Moses called his own play. 

When I spoke with Ch. Garfield Brown, he stated that issue with this audible concept presented by Ch. J is that God nowhere "audibles" something from a legal sin status to legally acceptable or holy status. It is a legal issue because the command of God was to be fruitful and multiply (Genesis 1:28).  The same sex relationship is non-productive,  thus is runs in direct opposition to the command of God.  God indicts actually same sex union for it nonproductive ability in Romans:

Rom 1:26-27    For this cause God gave them up unto vile affections: for even their women did change the natural use into that which is against nature:  And likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another; men with men working that which is unseemly, and receiving in themselves that recompence of their error which was meet.

The word natural in this text carries the meaning of what is physical and insticntive  for the growth and production of the genus. The relationship by its very nature would never produce offspring, and thus breaks the very first commandment of God to humanity, the command tied to our very reason for existing.

Unseemingly carries with it the idea of indecency as it relates to the pudenda, or external genitals, especially females. Verse 27 is saying that the men were using each other, and each other's body parts like they were female genitals, which they are not. Verse 26, having the same issue, is saying that women were doing the same with women: using women's body parts as male genitals or in the place of. 

Ch. J compared this with biblical polygamy, and since God allowed that, why can't God allow this.  However that is an incorrect comparison.  While polygamy may be immoral and unethical, and while the Bible constantly endorses heterosexual married monogamy so that we know what God approves of, there is no direct command of God against polygamy. It is not illegal.  Due to God's direct command in Genesis 1:28 to be productive, this sin is a manifestation of direct rebellion.

God does not audible a sin into righteousness. Rather, what we see is God changing his actions toward people from blessing to judgment and vice versa, depending upon their relationship with him. This is what is represented in Ezekiel 18 and 33, as well as Jonah. Ch. J seems to want people to believe that God will change his stand on certain actions depending upon how we relate to them, whether we can over come or not. However, there is no such example. Additionally, as it relates to same-sex issues, there is not place in the Bible where it is mentioned in a positive light, be it the Old Testament or the New Testament. 

That Same-sex unions were part of life during the 1st century is testified to by Paul, who in 1 Corinthians 6 informs us that some of the believers of that church used to engage in same-sex intimate activity. However, they had been freed, and washed, and justified. It is no coincidence that the opening of chapter 7 is dealing with the admonition to marry if one struggle sexually. Paul assumes that the saved believer is free in Jesus enough to engage in heterosexual relationships as a privilege of their new life and as a guard against sins of the flesh. Neither Paul nor Jesus himself apparently got the memo of the audible, because when discussing intimate relationships they both refer to Genesis and the original design as what the church should follow after and emulate. 

If we want to look for an audible we can look no further than Genesis: 

Original Statement:  

Gen 2:16 -17  And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat: But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.

God's "audible": 

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Gen 3:15 And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel.

If you wanna see God's audible for human failure and weakness, we don't see God sanctify sin, we see God die for sinners.  
 
 

SOULMATES

CH. J asserted that one can be the soul mate of someone who is not their spouse. There are a few problems with this. 

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Firstly, what is a soul? He doesn't define it. He simply asserts. The normal person has what John Ortberg calls the looney tunes understand of a soul: Wiley Coyote is crushed by a rock and a whimsical ghostly gas can be seen slinking from beneath the rock  in the form of Wiley Coyote. However, John Ortberg, a Presbyterian minister and author, states that the soul is the combination and integration of all elements making an individual life: the will, the mind, the body, and the society. Those combined into one person constitute an soul or life.

However, Ch. J stated that he is married and loves his wife, but his soul mate is someone 20 years his senior whom he relates to in a motherly fashion, whom he would also die for. For Ch. J a soul mate is the idea of total acceptance, like-mindedness, emotional and spiritual security and oneness.

So what he is espousing is that he is one flesh physically with his wife, and emotionally to a degree, but there is a degree of him which she has no access to because they are not soul mates. Some other person has this emotional and spiritually intimate position, and that this is OK. CH. J suggests that a man can also be soul mates with his good male friends. 

 a Greek older man intimately teaching and younger adolescent.

a Greek older man intimately teaching and younger adolescent.

Where does this idea come from? It comes from Greek thought and practice; Soul mates are platonic friends. What that phrase actually means is not the way it is used today. Platonic friends were older men who were mentors of the younger men in Athens. Plato asserted that the attraction would initial be erotic, and encouraged the mentor to turn that erotic tension into the pursuit of beauty, knowledge, and the divine. 

The Greeks mind allowed for marriage to women as a necessary evil. Women stood for everything fleshly, earthly, carnal, raw, natural, emotional. Contrarily, men stood for the soul, the heaven, logic and mind, refined, divinity. Thus, a soulmate was someone with who men connected to the divine: they were likeminded and like spirited. 

As soul mates their souls were to mate, and as mates there is always supposed to be production. They were to so turn the erotic into the spiritual and intellectual that they were made better men by the encounter. 

Here is the problem with the Greeks experienced: the soul is the integrated whole of all the parts, so that it is impossible to be spiritual without being intellectual, physical, or social. Thus Greeks could not divest themselves from the erotic tension they felt, and their emotional, intellectual, and spiritual oneness more than frequently integrated their bodies as well, so that old men and young men were sexually intimate on a regular basis. 

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Additionally, Jesus informs us that we are to "leave" our most intimate relationship (father and mother), and "cleave" to our spouse. If I am to cleave to my spouse, if our souls are to be cleaved together, there can be no one separating or distracting this cleaving. Thus, even if men are from Mars and women are from Venus, in Christ the wall of separation has been torn down, and through mutual submission and love we are to grow together as soul mates.

    Adventist Home Pg 94, Para 3 “Religion is needed in the home. Only this can prevent the grievous wrongs which so often embitter married life. Only where Christ reigns can there be deep, true, unselfish love. Then soul will be knit with soul, and the two lives will blend in harmony. Angels of God will be guests in the home, and their holy vigils (watchful guarding) will hallow (sanctify) the marriage chamber. Debasing sensuality will be banished. Upward to God will the thoughts be directed; to Him will the heart's devotion ascend.” {AH 94.3} 

The prophet is clear that where Christ reigns, it is there that soul mates and soul ties are appropriate, and it is within the soul-mating that actual mating occurs. She does not allow for my mating physically with my wife, while emotionally and spiritual being mated to someone else. 

CH. J's example is actually giving people permission to be emotionally and spiritual intimate at a level of "the soul", which is reserved solely for the spouse. 

Eunuchs

Ch. J is more than 1/2 done with his sermon, and has returned back to Matthew 19: here Jesus is discussing Eunuchs. As he began his section, he starts talking about God's revealing things to each person differently, how we're all reading the same thing and coming away with different stuff. With this relativity as his foundation, Ch. J begins his parallel:

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Some are born eunuchs: he uses this to demonstrate how some can be born with same-sex orientation. This I believe is correct. I have no disagreement with the fact that sin has completely messed up the entire human family and gene configuration, so that anyone is capable of any sin at any time. Some of us are predisposed to certain sins based on our parents:

Adventist Home Pg 124, Para 2   Results of Excesses.--Men and women, you will one day learn what is lust and the result of its gratification. Passion of just as base a quality may be found in the marriage relation as outside of it. {AH 124.2} What is the result of giving loose rein to the lower passions? . . . The bedchamber, where angels of God should preside, is made unholy by unholy practices. And because shameful animalism rules, bodies are corrupted; loathsome practices lead to loathsome diseases. That which God has given as a blessing is made a curse. {AH 124.3}

Adventist Home Pg 124, Para 1 Why Satan Seeks to Weaken Self-control.--Satan seeks to lower the standard of purity and to weaken the self-control of those who enter the marriage relation, because he knows that while the baser passions are in the ascendancy, the moral powers grow steadily weaker, and he need have no concern as to their spiritual growth. He knows, too, that in no way can he better stamp his own hateful image upon their offspring, and that he can thus mold their character even more readily than he can the character of the parents. {AH 124.1} 

Child Guidance Pg. 442  In very many cases the parents are the real sinners. They have abused their marriage privileges and by indulgence have strengthened their animal passions. And as these have strengthened, the moral and intellectual faculties have become weak. The spiritual has been overborne by the brutish. Children are born with the animal propensities largely developed, the parents' own stamp of character having been given to them 

So even EGW agrees with the idea that someone can be born predisposed to sin. Anyone who denies the someone can be born with a same-sex attraction denies the prophet!

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Some are made eunuchs: some people were made eunuch in ancient times by cutting off genitals. Daniel would fit this category. Similarly, some are molested, raped, or emotionally and environmentally nurtured toward that orientation. 

It is at this point that Ch. J states that he used to tell same sex couples that they could be soul mates, just don't engage in physical intimacy, but that this thought for him had changed. Here is his final parallel:

3) Some are eunuchs for the kingdom of God: some people, such as Paul, chose to live a life of celibacy to do the work of the Lord. Paul encourages this in 1 Corinthians 7. Ch. J states that there are some who look at the Bible and say that it does not support a same sex life style, and that they are going to be celibate for the sake of Jesus. However, that is their conviction. There are those who are not convicted of that. He leaves this point in the air without finishing the thought, and the listener is left to consider that there are 3 options on the table:

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heterosexual marriage for the glory of God, or

celibacy for the kingdom of God, or

same-sex relationships...for the kingdom of God?

It is all depended upon what the individual is convicted of by the Holy Spirit. This means that my marriage to my wife is for the kingdom, my friend's celibacy is for the kingdom of God, and my other friend's same-sex life style is also for the kingdom of God. At minimum, not finishing the thought was irresponsible; at maximum, it was intentionally misleading, manipulative, and deceptive. 

Biblically speaking the parallel falls apart on the last point, so the notion of relative revelation and conviction needed to be stated up front so as to make the point stick.

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I have concluded my reflection of this sermon. I will say 2 points: one to Chaplain Jonathan, and one to the same sex community.

Chaplain Jonathan, Your ministry is powerful. Your gifts tremendous. Your desire to love people palpable. Your motivation visible. Your dedication is known. Your sincerity for me is unquestionable. You have been given a tremendous pulpit, and tremendous influence. I write this because of the way the message of your sermon has been presented to the world. It was open, so this is open. I am left with three options when considering your sermon: 

1) your are inept, or lazy, and didn't do enough study for this topic or,

2) you are well-intended, yet ignorant, lacking in learning, or misguided, and so you preached a powerful message full of your entire heart, and made some mistakes along the way or,

3) your were intentional, and knew what you were doing every step of the way.

I choose to not consider you as intentional, because if that sermon was your intention then it was the most damaging sermon I have everr heard, for it gives people permission to be spiritually and emotionally mated to someone other than their spouse, it seems to insinuate that sin is relative to conviction, and that same-sex union brings God glory, and it states that God lowers the moral/legal standard of righteousness because we keep messing up, or are born toward sin. 

I applaud your passion for equality under the grace of God for a those of the same sex orientation, and would encourage you to keep that work going. 

Finally, I am praying for you, because the weight of responsibility for being the shepherd of that campus is greater than most will understand

Same-sex community, I am deeply sorry. I am sorry for the abuse you have suffered at the hands of other Christians. I am sorry that you have had to hide in deep secret your struggles while the rest of us parade our stuff around, and it gets swept under the rug. I am so sorry to those of you who have been raped, molested, and/or abuse, especially if it happened by another Christian. I know what that is like. I repent for my part early in my life for promulgating the unbiblical position that Sodom was destroyed only for same sex sin. I apologize for previous homophobia. I apologize for those who have lost families, been rejected by parents and siblings, simply for being the human you are. I am sorry that Jesus has been made to be your great rejector. 

I am praying for you as well, because the weight of holiness upon you is nothing a heterosexual can understand.

I pray the one day the church becomes a genuine place of safety and healing where all who have been abused and entrapped by sin can come and experience the transforming love of Jesus.

Ch. Jason

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