Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Does Calvinist Soteriology Equate to Salvation by Faith ... in Correct Doctrine?

Recently I've been engaging with a few Reformed Christians on the question of homosexuality. While I am happy to concede that these people honestly believe homosexuality to be a sin, I have pushed them on the question of whether one can be both gay and Christian at the same time. Almost unanimously, I have received a reply to the negative. To use their oft used euphemism, they would suggest that actively gay and lesbian people "are still under the judgment of God". As I understand it, here is their process of reasoning:

1. The gospel requires an individual to repent of their sins
2. Homosexuality is a sin
3. Therefore, homosexuals are still sinning
4. Therefore, homosexuals have not repented
5. Therefore, homosexuals, by very definition cannot be Christians and are still under the judgment of God

I find this perspective problematic for a number of reasons. According to this argument, it doesn't matter that some gay people have searched their consciences and the Scripture and honestly do not believe that their homosexuality is a sin. Nor does it matter that these people have identified those aspects in their lives that they understand to be sin, have repented of these sins and have elected to follow Christ. All of this is irrelevant in the abovementioned worldview. According to those who hold this worldview, an individual is not a Christian if, notwithstanding the fact that they have acted in all good faith, they have gotten their doctrinal position on homosexuality wrong. In short, this is salvation by belief in correct doctrine.

To take this position to its logical, but rather unconsidered conclusion, I wonder what might happen if it turned out that Calvinist climate change skeptics were wrong about the responsibilities they had to the environment. Using more or less the same process of reasoning I've described above, the result is rather scary:

1. The gospel requires an individual to repent of their sins
2. An irresponsible use of carbon is a sin
3. Driving a V6 is an irresponsible use of carbon
4. Therefore, people who drive V6s are still sinning
5. Therefore, people who drive V6s have not repented
6. Therefore, people who drive V6s, by very definition cannot be Christians and are still under the judgment of God

I should make it very clear at this point that I certainly do not believe that driving a V6 automatically excludes one from the community of the faithful and that they have not, by very definition bought themselves a one-way ticket to Hell. This said, if Calvinists are right in their assertion that homosexuals cannot be Christians, then each and every one of us should be extremely concernly about our status as part of the elect. Quite simply, if they are correct in this assertion, then any person who calls themselves a Christian and has even the slightest blind spot with respect to any sin, no matter how seemingly insignificant, is in real trouble and is headed straight to the eternal pit of fire.

POSTSCRIPT: In the comments section, Craig has asked an excellent question about my stance on the child molester who believes that he is not sinning and that he is a Christian. I think that this was a question worthy of a proper response, which I've done so here.


CraigS said...

Let's take another example. Say someone searched their conscience and the Scriptures, and told you that molesting young children was ok, and so they were going to continue doing that, as well as proclaiming they were a practicing Christian.

Would this cause you a problem? Would you have some doubt about their salvation?

Healyhatman said...

There's a difference though Craig. The difference being a homosexual relationship between two consenting adults hurts no one. A child molester however causes pain, both physical and psychological, to his/her victims.

But people use the bible (and the Koran along with other religious texts) all the time to justify molesting children. They're still Christians/Muslims/Mormons/Whateverans, so your point probably has more merit than you think

The point though is they still believe in whatever the particular fantasy is, they just apply their beliefs in a harmful way.

Anonymous said...

David, you make sense to me. If those who unknowingly sin are lost, surely all are lost!

I do think it would take a pretty weak exegesis to "have searched ... the Scripture and honestly do not believe that their homosexuality is a sin" (I disregard conscience since mine is frequently disputed by Scripture, and I'm yet to win the dispute.)

Yes, a weak exegesis... or a case of Romans 1:18b. What happens to those people?

hayesy said...

(that was me... i forgot to sign in)

Anonymous said...

Perhaps unrepentant consumerism built on the exploitation of the poor in a globalised capitalist system is a better example to lay on reformed evangelicals.

It has been said that a concern for the foreigner, the widow and orphan is God's most oft repeated demand on his people.

It would take a very weak exegesis to say this did not matter to the Lord.

CraigS said...

...is a better example to lay on reformed evangelicals.

Well yeah, because the exploitation of the third world is *clearly* all the fault of the Calvinists...

hayesy said...

It doesn't matter to the argument whether it is "*clearly* all the fault of the Calvinists" or not.

All the argument requires is one Christian, Calvinist or not, who is less concerned for the poor than God requires (ie, sinfully), and is unrepentant of that attitude. According to David's thesis, a Calvinist would say that person is unsaved.

michael jensen said...

BUT - is it worth saying that I don't think homosexuality is a sin...I believe homosexual sexual activity is sinful. So, being 'gay' (whatever that is) is not sinful per se. In fact, it is barely relevant.

That doesn't fit with your syllogism.