We have established that “reasonable self-determination” is not new; it’s something evangelicals have afforded ourselves in increasing measure for many years. Yet there are different viewpoints on the net effect.
Some suggest that our progressive movement toward “reasonable self-determination” has not resulted in moral doctrinal shifts. There has simply been a posture shift toward mercy – allowing sinful believers to more easily remain full participants in the church. Those supporting this view say that we have proven – or maybe God has proven? – that it is possible to include people without watering down biblical doctrine. They argue that sin is not increasing; it is simply being revealed more honestly today. People in this camp might point to decades old clergy sexual abuse cases as an example of this position.
Others counter that “reasonable self-determination” has resulted in a material watering down of biblical doctrine. They argue that the statistics do not lie: our sinful behaviors and accepting attitudes are expanding and this demonstrates that our theology has changed (and continues to change). The changes may never make it to paper, they say, but our hearts have been watered down. Those supporting this view say we’ve found a convenient way to tolerate sin while keeping the law in effect so that we can say we’re faithful. They argue that sin is increasing; hence, the reason it is being revealed so visibly today. People in this camp might point to current evangelical divorce or porn rates as examples of this position.
Who is right? I think both camps are right to various degrees. Yet the larger issue at hand is that we afford a latitude to ourselves that we do not extend to minority sinners. The injustices around this imbalance are driving the evangelical church toward some kind of “shift.” Some hope this will be a theological or doctrinal shift that approves of same-gender relationships. By the way, this shift is already underway – in segments of the evangelical church. But doctrinal shifts are not the only way to address “injustices” committed against minority sinners. Shifts in posture can correct many of these injustices. That’s the kind of shift I support. The question is this: within a context of “posture shift,” which way should we shift?
Do we correct our imbalance by engaging LGBT+ people the way we currently accept heterosexual majority sinners? Or do we shift toward engaging heterosexual majority sinners the way we currently engage LGBT+ people? While I have my view and will continue to unfold it in the days ahead, the ultimate answer is not nearly as important as the imbalance (or bias) itself.
While Jesus never approves of doctrinal shifts that water down morality, He also never tolerates bias. He knows our religious tendency to lock people out of the Kingdom. We target them based on their unique area of brokenness; reduce their holistic value to a denigrated one-dimensional identity; and soon exclude them in the name of preserving righteousness. If we want to employ the Apostle Paul’s strict command – “Expel the immoral brother. Do not even share a meal with a believer who is adulterous, sexually immoral, greedy, slanderous, drunk or idolatrous” – it must apply across the board. Period. Interestingly, though, it does not apply to unbelievers. It applies to believers – it applies to us.
Principle One: The first key principle to guide “reasonable self-determination” for inclusion of LGBT+ people in evangelical churches is this – a majority sinner bias against minority sinners is ungodly, unbiblical and unsustainable for one thing God hates is a dishonest scale. He will not be mocked.