A Response to Michael Brown (Part 7)

Very recently, Pentecostal bible scholar Michael Brown published some “honest questions” for GLBT Christians in an article on Christian Post. His full remarks are here: Some Honest Questions for Professing ‘Gay Christians’. As most of my readers may be aware, my PhD work is in dialogue between Queer and Pentecostal theologians. This is the seventh post of a multi-part response to Dr Brown’s work. I will reproduce the online text in manageable chunks so that the posts are not too long. I apologize that some of these posts are running past 1500 words!

Part Seven

1) Are you 100% sure that your interpretation of Scripture regarding homosexuality is correct?

Of course, it’s good for us to be humble when approaching God and his Word, and none of us can claim to be right about every single doctrinal issue. But there are some hills that we must be sure enough to die on, and before you enter into a sexual relationship with someone, you had better be 100% sure that the union is holy in his sight and that marriage is a real marriage.

[1] Dr Brown, I feel like this paragraph right here might be the single most important of your entire letter. Again, I acknowledge that I might be misunderstanding you, but right now, all I can do is tell you what I hear you saying. I think you have a wrong view of faith. And I think that the context of Romans 14:26 works in exactly the opposite way than how you use it here.

My brother, I think you have been sabotaged by the Enlightenment. You seem to be taking “faith” as something like “absolute intellectual affirmation” or assensus. You claim that GLBT Christians need to be “100% sure” that our relationships are holy, and that they deserve to be called marriages. Telling us that “this is one mistake you can’t afford to make” really says more about how you interpret the Bible than anything that matches our own lives and convictions.

What about fiducia? What about the depth of knowing and trusting in Jesus? In this connection, I think of a pastor I heard on iTunes who was teaching on faith in the context of healing ministry. “What happened to those in the Gospels who had great faith? They got healed. What happened to those with only a little faith? They got healed. Why? Because of who they put their faith in, not the amount of their faith. This is why Jesus said we could move mountains with faith the size of a mustard seed.”

I don’t mean to discount assent as part of faith. But when we have wrestled with the Lord and done due diligence in our learning and our prayer lives, our best conviction that we live by is born out of trust. I hear Paul this way: “If I do not trust in Jesus’ faithfuness to me in the way I live, I sin.”

The context of Romans 14 does not support the idea of being absolutely certain. Paul, in teaching people to bear each other’s consciences regarding meat sacrificed to idols, admits that he’s liberal on the issue, because all foods are clean in his own conscience, but he’s also going to ask the ‘strong’ Christians to not cause the ‘weaker’ to stumble–to be tempted walk away from their faith! It seems to me that on many important issues–not issues that don’t matter, but on things that we really feel are important for our own integrity as Christians–what God considers sin in one life will not be sin in another. It may happen that the Holy Spirit will, this side of New Creation, bring us to consensus! In the meantime, I need to be prepared to have a high and loving trust in the persuasive power of the Spirit!

~

I continue to offer my testimony: I mentioned before that I was handfasted. Before my ex-husband became a follower of Jesus, I thought I heard Holy Spirit say, “You are going to marry this one.” When I met my ex-husband, on our second date (!) the Holy Spirit whispered to me, “Here is the one you are going to marry.” I thought it was my own carnal longing, especially because he wasn’t a Christian yet! Holy Spirit said, “Relax, I’ve got this one.” Though I witnessed to him diligently, he did not accept the Gospel, until one day he told me that an angel had shown up in the greenhouse where he worked and said, “Are you ready to hear?” He checked in with Holy Spirit (oddly, he knew and loved the presence of the Holy Spirit even though he didn’t name him that!) and He said, “I want to teach you to follow Jesus.” (Needless to say, I was flabbergasted and even a little envious–I mean, c’mon Lord, I’ve never talked to an angel!)

Our friends, co-workers, and pastors were all astonished at how much love was between us an how happy we were. I was fully prepared to be with him the rest of my life. The day of our handfasting was one of the loveliest and most holy of my life, even to this day. The presence of the Holy Spirit blessing our union (marriage) was palpable, and I noticed an immediate increase of something that I could only call authority–as though both God and our Christian community (an Anglican parish and other Christian friends) took us more seriously. The vows and prayers did not include any legal or sacramental confession of sin.

Unfortunately, several months before hand-fasting, I cheated on my fiance with a friend–it doesn’t matter that it wasn’t full-blown sex. Fearful, I lacked the courage to tell him about it, though I came close several times. I did tell him a few months into our marriage, because one day at Communion, Holy Spirit said to me, “You are not allowed to take Communion unless you confess to your husband today.” I thought He meant my on-again-off-again struggle with phone sex, and I said, “Yes, Lord.” I confessed the continuing problem with phone sex, and he took it really well, actually. But then he looked at me and asked, “Have you ever done anything physical with anyone?” And Holy Spirit said, “And now, Rob, I check your integrity.” I confessed the incident with my friend. It was a few hours later, but my husband took my hand and said, “I will not leave you. But we need to get counselling, immediately.” We did. The major moment of healing for me came when I got a serious inner healing related to hearing my mother’s voice in the back of my head: “Gay relationships always fail. Gay men cannot be faithful.” Dealing with that lie, and watching my husband deal with stuff from his own past, was a deeply moving experience. At the end of the counselling, he said: “I forgive you, and I will work on forgiving you.” I replied, “Let me know what I can do to help.”

It turned out, unfortunately, that (I believe) the Enemy destroyed my marriage. My ex-husband could not, in the end, forgive me–and left. He had lived with bipolar type one for most of his life; after he decided to leave the marriage (though we lived together non-sexually for several months after), he was formally diagnosed with DID (formerly known as Multiple Personality Disorder). To this day, I suspect that one of the reasons he rejected my willingness to stay was because he wanted to spare me the difficulty of living with someone who was multiple. I haven’t spoken to him for more than three years by his choice, and since many of his alters are not Christian (including one who was directly involved in deciding the divorce) I consider that he is not likely to consider himself a believer any longer. (Simplistic Pentecostal/Charismatic accounts of DID is demonic in origin will have to be the subject of a different discussion.)

The late Stanley J. Grenz, among other Evangelical and Pentecostal theologians, disbelieved that same-sex unions can never be marriages because they can never evince one-fleshedness. I know deep in my bones that he was wrong, wrong, wrong. Whenever I hear a straight, married Christian try to describe one-fleshedness, the experience they describe feels and looks identical to what I had. I believe that the Enemy destroyed my marriage (my own stupidity didn’t help matters) but I also know that I am forgiven. Though it is complicated in my ex-husband’s case, since he appears to be an unbeliever, according to Paul I am free to remarry should it seem good to the Holy Spirit and to me. (It will need to be a long and careful discernment!)

I am theologically and personally convicted that I was “from faith” in finding and handfasting my husband. The Holy Spirit’s joy and provision of one-fleshedness was what convinced me it was a marriage–and my shattered-heartedness showed me it was a divorce, even if the marriage was never recognized legally, nor blessed formally by clergy. I do not require that any one else follow my understanding of relationships or marriage–that is up to the Holy Spirit to provide in each case.

~

I hope it is clear why I do not agree with you that “this is one mistake you can’t really afford to make.” I was married, and the Lord blessed it. I was divorced, and the Lord healed and forgave. I have cheated and been cheated on, and the Lord has brought good fruit in keeping with repentance.

All this is not a hill to die on, for me, but simply the conviction of my own heart about my life. Do I affirm that, in principle, God affirms faithful gay unions/marriages? You bet! But the hill I die on is the ministry and resurrection of Jesus. The old hymn says: “On Christ the solid Rock I stand; all other ground is sinking sand.” I trust in Jesus; therefore, I rest easy.

Dear readers: What think you of faith?

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