Updated: Apr 11
Evidence of a deep-rooted problem is blooming in what was once called conservative evangelicalism with many leaders and their churches yielding without so much as an objection. This is what the famed pastor and author Max Lucado demonstrated recently when he both apologized for and removed his controversial 2004 sermon on homosexuality and biblical marriage.
His apology went viral and reflects a sad but growing consensus among many heretofore reputable Christian leaders that certitude is the eighth addition to the already 7-deadly sins. While Lucado never said a word about certitude, his response to those who disagree with him on such foundational issues as sexuality and marriage reveals his bent toward this dangerous mentality. “Faithful people,” said Lucado, “may disagree about what the Bible says about homosexuality, but we agree that God’s holy Word must never be used as a weapon to wound others” (https://disrn.com/news/faithful-people-may-disagree-about-what-the-bible-says-about-homosexuality-max-lucado-issues-apology-after-controversy).
Seemingly loaded with love and humility, Lucado’s statement reflects concessionary thinking more common to those who question both the nature and clarity of Scripture, and hence, the nature and purposes of God himself. How else could he refer to those who interpret such clear passages on sexuality and marriage opposite their clear meaning as “faithful” unless he sacrifices either the nature of the Word, the Word of God, and its clarity in the process? It reflects the thinking of people like Rob Bell who compare truth to the springs of a trampoline rather than “bricks” because springs are flexible and bricks concrete. In other words, springs represent the theological flexibility Christians should demonstrate while bricks represent the rigidity of certitude. Then there’s Tim Mackie who thinks we should never hold our “interpretation” of Scripture too tightly as if knowing in any absolute terms is beyond our species. Both men have jettisoned certitude as if God failed in both his creation of man and his communicative intent with his finite creatures. It is another version of the doubt infusing question posed by Satan to Eve in the Garden of Eden, "Hath God (Really) said..." (Genesis 3:1)?
This is the sad reality behind Lucado’s concession as noted further in his letter of apology. “I share the Cathedral's commitment to building bridges and learning how to listen -- to really listen -- to those with whom we disagree. That work is difficult, it is hard, it is messy, and it can be uncomfortable. But we need it now more than ever" (Max Lucado Issues Apology After Coming Under Fire by LGBT Community | CBN News). Here, Lucado imagines that “interpreting” such clear passages opposite their clear meanings warrants “discussion.” As such, and despite his personal position, he strongly implies that either Scripture is so unclear or men so incapable of certitude regarding its content that some unified “bridge-building” consensus must be reached. Hence, a few questions will drive this point further home.
First, would Lucado make the same “interpretive” concessions regarding other passages where the same degree of clarity is present? I don’t think so. Would he call “faithful” those who went through the 10-commandments and “interpreted” each one opposite its clear meaning? Would he call for discussion regarding those who interpreted “thou shalt have ‘no other’ Gods before me” opposite the plain reading of the text or another who might interpret “thou ‘shalt not’ steal” in the affirmative. Would “thou shalt have other Gods before me” or “thou shalt steal” receive a call for understanding, “bridge-building,” unity, or less offensive preaching? I really don’t think so, so why concede the perversion of those texts dealing with equally clear passages regarding sexuality and marriage?
Why would he think men could part with the clarity and absoluteness with which Moses, Jesus, and Paul spoke on sexuality and marriage and remain “faithful?” For starters, Moses spoke clearly. “If a man also lie with mankind, as he lieth with a woman,” he said, “both of them have committed an abomination…” (Leviticus 20:13).
Then Jesus came along and grounded both sexuality and marriage in creation itself. God created male and female, Christ said, and “For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother and cleave to his wife” (Mark 10:7). While it is true that Jesus never talked about homosexuality or gay marriage as such, he logically excluded them in his confirmation of the divine paradigm in creation.
Finally, consider Paul’s words to the Church. Homosexuality marks the unbelieving world’s calculated rejection of natural revelation and then describes the depths to which human rebellion dives. “For this cause,” said Paul in Romans 1:26-27,
God gave them up unto vile affections: for even their women did change the natural use into that which is against nature: 27 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 recompense of their error which was meet.
The text is clear. The “women did change the natural use…against nature, and likewise the men…burned in their lust one toward another…” Essentially, then, either God has spoken clearly, or he has not, and to concede that opposite conclusions on such clear passages are conclusions of “faithful people” assumes that he has not done so.
The last question is related, “to whom, then, are they faithful?” Let me hasten to say that I am not questioning the general “faithfulness” of those who might disagree with the plain reading of the texts on sexuality and marriage, but rather, the focus of said faithfulness. People may be faithful to a number of people, things, and causes, but like other concepts we hold dear like love and faith, faithfulness must be rightly directed. Faithfulness, then, is no more inherently good or right than love or faith. One may “love” another man’s wife or same-sex partner, for example, but such love is absolutely wrong and perversely misdirected. One may have faith in baptism, church membership, or good works for salvation, but only faith in Christ yields the new birth. Hence, love and faith, like “faithfulness” is meaningless unless Christ and his word are its objects. That being said, professing Christians who “disagree” with the biblical take on homosexuality as so plainly stated in so many passages may be “faithful” people, but they are faithful to neither God nor his Word. Faithfulness to moral relativism or the feelings of others is wrongheaded, as is faithfulness to culturally acceptable and tasteful teaching on such issues.
As noted earlier, Lucado isn’t the only one making such concessions as many self-proclaimed conservative pastors do the same. Consequently, we must check and double check our allegiance until we can say as did Paul, “For do I now persuade men, or God?”, he said, “or do I seek to please men? for if I yet pleased men, I should not be the servant of Christ” (Galatians 1:10). Are we slaves of men or slaves of Christ and his Word?
While unity is important, it cannot be attained with such concessions. It cannot be acquired at the expense of God’s nature, his Word, his purposes, or the certitude he intended by our creation in his image. Moses required obedience to God’s Word with even death as the consequence for some offenses! The Psalmist referred to the Word of God as a “lamp” and a “light” (Psalm 119:105)! Jesus called the Word of God sanctifying Truth (John 17:17), and Paul declared it sufficient for every believer’s maturity (2 Timothy 3:16-17)! Notice that the single assumption behind each of the above passages is clarity, understanding, and therefore, certitude. All as God intended.
Perhaps if confronted with his faulty theology, Lucado would apologize for his apology. I have no idea – actually - but I do know that such concessions are growing. I do know, as well, that many “prime-time” leaders are creating discussion forums on issues about which God has already spoken in black and white terms. And finally, I do know that we need men of God who will stand behind the pulpit and declare “thus saith the Lord” with the certitude that God has spoken in knowable terms as divinely intended.