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The New Jesus-Only Christians

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Jimmy Carter, former President of the United States, is a Sunday School teacher. He even taught while serving as President. The secular media love to point out these points to show that a person can believe the Bible and be a theological and political liberal. The problem is, the Bible has to be twisted to fit both agendas. Carter has entered the debate over Christian activism and politics with jabs at the “religious right.” While Carter does not claim that Christians should not participate in the political process, he makes some outlandish statements regarding abortion and homosexuality and those who condemn the practices. He considers abortion and homosexuality to be “emotional” not moral or theological issues. He spouts the all too familiar platitude about believing in the “separation between church and state,” implying that civil laws have no religious or moral context, unless, of course, liberals are espousing them.

Carter makes a typical hermeneutical mistake by arguing that since Jesus did not condemn homosexuality, neither should we.[1] This is Jesus-Only Christianity. [2] Let’s follow Carter’s logic and see where it takes us. Jesus did not condemn rape, slavery, incest, or bestiality. The New Testament assumes the validity of the Old Testament, including its ethical demands regarding adultery, homosexuality, and abortion. What did the early church use before the gospels were written? The church at Corinth did not have the letters Paul wrote to Galatia and Ephesus. The Christians at Berea examined “the Scriptures daily” to see whether Paul’s theology was orthodox (Acts 17:11). Jesus’ words and Paul’s letters are filled with allusions and quotations from the Old Testament, what was simply described as “Scripture” (Mark 12:10; Acts 8:32; Rom. 4:3; 1 Tim. 4:13; 5:18; James 2:8; 2 Peter 1:20). Paul tells us what we should think of all of God’s Word, the Old Testament included: “All Scripture is God-breathed and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work” (2 Tim. 3:16–17). Paul was not a New-Testament-only believer, and he did not preach a New-Testament-only ethic.

The New Testament, therefore, must be read and interpreted against the backdrop of the Old Testament. There is no New-Testament-only ethic. This means that Jesus’ carefully chosen words have an Old Testament context. The word “fornication” (porneia) includes numerous sexual sins under the general heading of “uncleanness.”

[Fornication] is used in the LXX for homosexuality, for consanguinity, and by Paul for “uncleanness” and “lasciviousness.” In Rom. 1:29, it refers to sexual sins in general; in I Cor. 6:13–18, it refers to relations with prostitutes (vss. 15, 16) and to sexual sins generally; in I Cor. 7:2, it means adultery and mental or physical sexual disorders through forced continence and bad relations between husband and wife.[3]

In 1 Corinthians 5:1 the word “fornication” is used twice to refer to a sin which was being tolerated by the church: a man was having sexual relations with his stepmother, something Jesus did not specifically condemn, but which is condemned under the general prohibition of “fornication” (see Lev. 18:8; Deut. 22:30; 27:20). In Paul’s list of sexual sins in Romans 1:29, the apostle includes fornication, a term which meant all acts of sexual immorality, including homosexuality. So then, the Old Testament (Deut. 24:1), Jesus (Matt. 5:32,[4] and Paul condemn fornication (1 Cor. 7:2), which includes the sin of homosexuality. Notice how Jesus maintains the definition of one-man, one-woman marriage (Matt. 19:4–6).

Carter continues to muddy the clear teaching of the Bible by noting “that leaders of the early church treated homosexual acts the same as fornication, prostitution, adultery, selfishness, slander, drunkenness and many other transgressions” but “that all these acts had been forgiven.” Is Carter saying that once a person becomes a Christian that he or she can continue in these sins because forgiveness has taken place? Would he apply the same logic to a thief or a murderer? Addressing the issue of homosexuality, Paul states unequivocally in 1 Corinthians 6:11 that “such were some of you.” Those at Corinth who practiced these sins had given them up, “implying that behavioral change had taken place.”[5] Homosexuality is a lifestyle to be rejected, along with stealing, drunkenness, extortion, fornication, and adultery. Homosexuals should be called on to repent, turn from the sin of sodomy and publicly condemn the practice.

Carter has unwittingly given his support to the proponents of “gay theology” who do not view homosexuality as a sin. So-called Christian homosexuals have made sodomy a virtue, a sexual sacrament. Why is it that Carter does not stand up for prostitutes, adulterers, and drunkards in the same way he stands up for homosexuals? Why aren’t adulterers and prostitutes given a special social and legal status as well as their own denomination? “If the apostate denominations want congregations of homosexuals, why do they not also establish congregations of practicing prostitutes,”[6] adulterers, thieves, rapists, extortionists, and murderers?

Carter is confused and out of step with biblical Christianity, and he is confusing others and leading them down the wide path of personal destruction and cultural disintegration. The Bible clearly condemns homosexuality. In fact, the Bible connects the sin of homosexuality with the disintegration of society (Rom. 1:18–27). Carter wants Christians to tolerate and even accept homosexuality. The Bible calls for its condemnation in the strongest words possible. 

Footnotes:
[1]
He first made this argument in “Judge Not, ” Atlanta Constitution (February 27, 1996), A17. He holds the same position today.
[2] Tony Compolo has written Red Letter Christians: A Citizen’s Guide to Faith and Politics (Ventura, VA: Regal Books, 2008).
[3]
Rousas J. Rushdoony, “Fornication,” The Encyclopedia of Christianity, Philip E. Hughes, ed. (Marshallton, DE: The National Foundation for Christian Education, 1972), 4:232.
[4]
Fornication is not a synonym for adultery (see Matt. 15:19; 1 Cor. 6:9; Gal. 5:19; Heb. 13:4)
[5] Gordon D. Fee The First Epistle to the Corinthians (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1987), 244, note 24.
[6]
Gordon H. Clark, I Corinthians: A Contemporary Commentary (Philadelphia, PA: Presbyterian and Reformed, 1975), 89.

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