I’m not altogether sure why Andrew Wilson includes me in this post — he says, “I’ve deliberately avoided talking about … the question of whether those who affirm such relationships should be called false teachers,” but that was the only question I addressed in my earlier post. Andrew’s post denounces antinomianism, but I’m not an antinomian and I doubt that Steve Holmes is either. (I mean, didn’t the Apostle Paul settle that?) But I’ll let Steve respond to that if he’s so inclined.
Andrew’s post avoids the vexed question I raised, which concerns how to deal with serious disagreement within Christ’s church about sexual ethics. He therefore leaves all the really tough questions not only unresolved but unaddressed. Here are some of them:
- How do we distinguish between error in interpreting Scripture, which we are all guilty of, and “false teaching”?
- How do we distinguish between error in interpreting Scripture and sin? (Presumably not all errors are the product of sin, though some are.)
- How do we distinguish between the accountability of those who promote erroneous interpretations and the accountability of those who believe those interpretations? (The argument that those who affirm same-sex unions are “leading people onto the highway to hell” implies that God will damn people for being badly catechized. That’s an implication that requires some scrutiny.)
- While, as Andrew points out, there are many passages in Scripture that emphasize the importance of correcting erroneous teaching and calling out sinful behavior, under what circumstances may we say that someone who teaches error, or who commits certain sins habitually, is not a Christian at all and that we must say so? If we do believe that we can and should make this judgment, how then do we interpret the parable of the wheat and the weeds?
- Presumably those who denounce interpreters who affirm same-sex unions as false teachers who are leading people on the highway to hell would readily acknowledge that they themselves are sinners — but redeemed sinners; people not on the broad path that leads to destruction but on the narrow way that leads to salvation. How do they distinguish between their sins and those they are denouncing? Why does Jesus’s contrast between the speck in your brother’s eye and the long in your own not apply to them?
I don’t think we’ll make much progress in sorting out particular theological and moral questions unless we first decide how, practically, we are to deal with one another when we have significant disagreements. That’s something Christians have rarely been good at, and that’s why the questions above are, in my view, so important.