The Table Podcast
Rosaria ButterfieldDarrell L. BockDarrell L. Bock

Sexual Identity Issues and Union with Christ

In this episode, Dr. Darrell Bock and Rosaria Butterfield discuss sexual identity issues and union with Christ.

Timecodes
1:26
Butterfield’s personal background
6:22
Butterfield’s spiritual journey
8:00
Life after conversion to Christianity
11:03
Sexuality identity is not a ontological category
16:35
Book: The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert
20:01
Book: Openness Unhindered
21:23
Language of sexual identity and the union with Christ
29:24
What is the sin of homosexuality?
31:15
What is the difference between homosexual acts and other sins?
38:13
Living a victorious life in Christ
42:36
The gospel and sexual orientation
Transcript
Dr. Darrell Bock
Welcome to The Table. I'm Darrell Bock, executive director of for cultural engagement at the Hendricks Center at Dallas Theological Seminary. And I am really pleased today to have as our guest Rosaria Butterfield, who is an author, a mom, a public speaker, and has just a fascinating story to tell – a life story to tell about how Christ has impacted her life.

Rosaria, it's a real pleasure to have you with us.
Dr. R. Butterfield
Oh, thank you. The pleasure is all mine.
Dr. Darrell Bock
Now, we're gonna be talking about sexuality. We've done that a lot on The Table, and I'm just gonna let Rosaria tell her story. She's written two books, The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert, which tells you something's coming, and then Openness Unhindered: Further Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert on Sexual Identity and Union with Christ. So, that begins to introduce our topic.

And so, I guess I should address you as Ms. Unlikely Convert.
Dr. R. Butterfield
[Laughs] I've been called worse.
Dr. Darrell Bock
So, tell us a little bit about your story.
Dr. R. Butterfield
Yeah. Well, just very briefly, just because you could read about it, I – when I was a professor at Syracuse University, the Promise Keepers came to town. And that was a Christian men's movement. And really, I'd never heard of them. And then when I started looking into them, I was horrified. And I wrote an op-ed, and I published it in the local newspaper, the Syracuse Post Standard.

Now, the backstory for me at the time was that I was in a committed lesbian relationship. I was a couple of years before tenure but was well on the track for tenure. And I was happy. I was happy; I was fulfilled. My life was good. No one would have – could even in any way suggested my partner and I were anything but good citizens and good caregivers and good neighbors.

And so, everything that the Promise Keepers represented – for me represented everything about the Religious Right that I just couldn't tolerate. And so, I wrote a little op-ed piece. And I started to get immediate response. I mean I just got so – was just deluged with feedback from this op-ed. And this was back before e-mail really. And I kept a box on one side of my desk. I mean you remember those days.
Dr. Darrell Bock
Yeah, yeah. It was probably a blessing that it was before e-mail.
Dr. R. Butterfield
Seriously. I kept a Xerox box, of all things, on both sides of my desk: one for hate mail, and one for fan mail. And one letter that came in was really neither hate mail nor fan mail. It was probably the kindest letter of opposition I had ever received. It was from Ken Smith, the then pastor of the Syracuse Reformed Presbyterian Church.

And there was something about his letter that I really liked, and I was curious to know more about what he thought. And part of why I was curious to know more about what he thought was that I was just now – just starting to write a book on the Religious Right from a lesbian feminist point of view. And it occurred to me that I could not do this without reading the Bible and understanding it from the point of view of a true believer.

Basically, I wanted to know how this book, the Bible, got so many well-meaning people off track and how this man Jesus persuaded so many people to believe that he was actually God himself. And so, Ken and I and his wife Floy, the three of us became friends. And we poured over matters of life and books and politics in a deep and forthright way.

Ken never made me feel erased. Ken absolutely never said to me that my life was unfulfilled; I would have laughed out loud if he did. Ken never said to me Jesus was the answer to all of my problems; I would have laughed out loud if he did. But instead, what we did was we poured through the Bible, and we poured through the implications of a Christian world and life view.

And in that process, something happened that was crazy, really. And I'll tell you that at the time I was reading the Bible about five hours a day. And if you do that – you know, just try that. Don't you wish you had the time to do that? If you do that, that gives the Holy Spirit a great deal of time to work in the life of even a very hardened person. I was –
Dr. Darrell Bock
One cell at a time.
Dr. R. Butterfield
Yeah. So, what happened was the Bible got to be bigger inside me than I. And at that point, nothing changed in terms of how I felt, in terms of my own sexual feelings. At that point, when I started to feel this absolute draw to the Jesus of the Bible who says, "My yoke is easy, my burden is light," nothing about my sexual profile changed. And it left me wondering a couple of things.

It left me wondering if I was a lesbian. That's what I called myself. I said, "I'm a lesbian." And I said that because my sexual desires were directed towards women. I mean – you know, just, "Duh," right?
Dr. Darrell Bock
Mm-hmm.
Dr. R. Butterfield
But the Bible put forward a different category of identity. And so, immediately I had to start asking the question – and this was, for me, about a two-year question; it wasn't resolved easily – "Am I a lesbian, or am I woman distorted by this particular sexual sin?" Which then left me the question, "If God never changed how I feel, is the Bible and the Gospel bad news or good news for somebody like me?" And so, I write about that in The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert.
Dr. Darrell Bock
And so, the story is you obviously embraced Christ, and what's the sequel?
Dr. R. Butterfield
I did. It was hard, too. It wasn't easy. I embraced Christ, and I became the laughing stock of my world. I was, at the time, an out, lesbian, feminist professor. By the time I embraced Christ, I was one of that new crop of tenured radicals. My field was queer theory. Embracing Christ was about the dumbest thing I could have done for my career. Right?
Dr. Darrell Bock
And people saw you as a traitor.
Dr. R. Butterfield
Oh, and I was a traitor. I mean let's – that's the thing that's the hardest thing to kind of – to try to communicate to people. It's hard for Christians to know. Do you know how many people I had to betray to even be on this show and talk to you today? More than I like to remember.

I mean everyone's question was, "Are my secrets safe with you now?" That was a hard question.

So, it was certainly not because it felt good to become a Christian. It's just that Jesus turned out to be exactly who he said he was, and there was no place to go but with him.
Dr. Darrell Bock
So, you've spent really the time since, in many ways – well, first of all, you obviously got married. I said you were a mom. So, let's talk –
Dr. R. Butterfield
Well, yeah.
Dr. Darrell Bock
Let's fill in the gap here. So, you came to Jesus – I'm using slang almost – embraced Christ, trusted Christ, however you want to say it. And then what happened in your life after that?
Dr. R. Butterfield
Well, then I started struggling with what it meant to be a woman. And I'll tell you, that's not an easy struggle. And for someone who's not – in some ways, I still struggle with what it means to be a godly woman, no question, but it was clear to me that the identity that I had used – prior to reading the Bible many, many times through, and then committing my life to Jesus – that identity wasn't going to work.

I could no longer craft a sense of self based on my sexual feelings, even though that they didn't change at the time. But that was not the grounds of an identity for someone who is bought by the blood of Christ. If this was a blood-bought life, then I had to go with God's dictionary and God's vocabulary and not my own.

And so, it's really Genesis 1:27, "Born male and female." That was a phrase that really struck me in a painful way. And one of the things it says – it says it to me, it says it to you, and it says it to our watching world right now – is that being born male or female comes with ethical, moral, and responsibilities [sic].

And so, I started to pray that God would make me a godly woman. And then slowly, and over time, that prayer morphed into a different one. And I'm gonna say right now, a Christian doesn't have to go – this is not some kind of a Christian prerequisite. Had my prayer that God would make me a godly woman – had that been my final prayer, the pinnacle of my prayer, that's high enough. That's what God calls. But in my heart, God put something else in there, and that was the desire to be a godly wife of a godly husband.
Dr. Darrell Bock
Mmm.
Dr. R. Butterfield
Why? I don't know. I mean I really don't, and I don't think it's a Gospel prerequisite. I do not believe that being a married Christian woman makes me somehow a better Christian than being a single Christian woman. I believe that biblical sexuality makes it clear that we're called to fidelity in marriage and chastity in singleness, and both reflect God's call on our lives.

But God did put that desire on my heart, and I prayed. And a year later I met my husband, Kent Butterfield, and we have been joyfully married for 15 years. And in many, many ways, my family is truly a sign that God loves me and hears my prayers.
Dr. Darrell Bock
So – and I take it you have children, then. You said you were a home school mom.
Dr. R. Butterfield
Yeah. We have adopted all four of our children. And two children we adopted as infants, and two children we adopted as teenagers. I've actually adopted people who stand a foot taller than I do. And I'm a grandmother as well.
Dr. Darrell Bock
Oh, wow. Congratulations.
Dr. R. Butterfield
My oldest son, who's a firefighter in Durham – he lives about 28 minutes from here – he and his wife have an eight-month-old baby boy.
Dr. Darrell Bock
Oh, that's great.

Well, that's a great overview of where we're going. Let's come back to some of the points that you're making, one of which I think, if I were to paraphrase it, what you're saying is is that – and I've heard you say this before – sexual identity is not an ontological category, and it's also a foundation of sand, if I can say it that way, if I can use a metaphor.
Dr. R. Butterfield
Absolutely.
Dr. Darrell Bock
I'd let you elaborate on that.
Dr. R. Butterfield
Yeah, absolutely. But I think it's – you know, we live in a world that identifies people by their sexuality. We talk about 50 Facebook gender categories. We use expressions like, "My lesbian neighbor," or, "My lesbian sister." And we have to, as Christians, be good stewards of language.

Jesus is the Word made flesh. Language is not a throwaway. You change the language, you change the logic. You change the logic of the Gospel, you lose something really big, which is salvation. It's not a small thing.

In the 19th century, a new category of personhood was introduced, replacing the old one. And the old one fairly universally adopted – or actually, fairly universally embraced not only by Christians was the idea that human beings were different. Because as the author of Ecclesiastes says, "Eternity is written on our hearts." We are male and female image bearers of a Holy God. We have a soul that will last forever. And that was important. There was something different about being a human being; a human being wasn't just a higher mammal.

But with many of the movements in the 19th century – and I should tell you that my training is in the 19th century. I'm a 19th century scholar. So, Freud, Hegel, Marx, and Darwin, they were my guys. And I was trained to think in the logic of the 19th century.

But with Freud, a new category of personhood was developed, and that is that what makes a human being a different higher mammal from anybody else, is that we get to identify our sense of self based on our sexual desires – that is our objective desire – and also that our sexual desires are so important to be acted upon. If they're not, then we are repressed, and we are in – really in the psychiatric danger zone.

And that idea has permeated – it has just permeated our culture. And Christians need to think about that – how language affects the way we think of ourselves.

And so, I learned in that crucible of my own conversion, that I was not a lesbian. I was a woman who struggled with the indwelling sin of homosexuality. And at least in my experience, if you can't understand why something that God says no to is a sin, you really can't fight it.

Now, some people are just simply better able than others at strong arming things. I get that. My flesh is very weak. I am a very weak person, and I am so grateful that I came to Christ in 1999. And when I came to Christ in 1999, nobody said to me, "Rosaria, you're just really a gay Christian. It's okay."
Dr. Darrell Bock
Okay. So let's – we'll talk about this. And the point that you're making I do think is an important one, because it is – at the core of a person, if I can say it – at the hub of a person is how they see themselves, and they act out of how they see themselves. Your point, in part, is if you see yourself through the lens of sexuality, and a sexuality that is distorted, then you will see yourself in a distorted way.
Dr. R. Butterfield
Mm-hmm. And if I can say it, that's true for heterosexuality as well.
Dr. Darrell Bock
Oh, absolutely, absolutely.
Dr. R. Butterfield
So, Michael Hannon says, "If homosexuality binds us to sin – that is looking at ourselves as gay people – if that binds us to a kind of sin paradigm, then heterosexuality blinds us to sin." And I think he's absolutely right. The sexual identity orientation system is anti-Gospel, because it replaces union with Christ.
Dr. Darrell Bock
Yeah. And I think that – I think the – how can I say this? – the complex part of this – I'm trying to pick words carefully here – the complex part of this is that sexuality is so powerful a part of who we are –
Dr. R. Butterfield
Absolutely.
Dr. Darrell Bock
– as human beings –
Dr. R. Butterfield
Absolutely.
Dr. Darrell Bock
– that it is easy for it to overrun us in many ways.
Dr. R. Butterfield
Absolutely, yes. And it does all the time.
Dr. Darrell Bock
That's right. And so, in the midst of that, then, having a sense of identity that is strongly rooted as Christians in our Christian identity – you know, "I'm Christ; I'm a citizen of Heaven; I'm called to be separate and distinct," all those things that come with it really have to be very much centered, or else the things that get in the way get in the way.
Dr. R. Butterfield
Right.
Dr. Darrell Bock
Yeah. So, okay. So, let's talk about – you've written about this in some detail. I want to go through the two books that you've written to some degree, 'cause I think we've got the thesis kind of out on the table pretty clearly.

And let's talk first about the first book, The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert. You've done this in two versions: what I take as a shorter version, and then an expanded version. But you did it kind of in the opposite order of the way we might think it might happen; it isn't that it you wrote the long version, and then you did a Reader's Digest version. It looks like it went the other way around: you did a short version, and then – oh, there's actually a lot more to – let me tell you a few more secrets.
Dr. R. Butterfield
Right, right.
Dr. Darrell Bock
So, talk about that. How did that happen?
Dr. R. Butterfield
Right. Well, I wrote the book for my children. As I said, I adopted – we've adopted two children who came out of foster care at the age of 17. They've been through very hard things. They've been through the kind of hard things that would make any person wonder, "Where is a Holy God in this?"

And I started to look dangerously cleaned up. And I wanted my children to know that I stand in the risen Christ alone; that I don't measure up; that Jesus measures up for me.
Dr. Darrell Bock
You wanted them to get the redemption story that was in –
Dr. R. Butterfield
Oh, yeah, absolutely. Because where else do you start?
Dr. Darrell Bock
Right, exactly.
Dr. R. Butterfield
I mean this is not – yeah, that's it. So, I really wrote the book for them. And my friends over at Crown and Covenant published it, and we published a thousand copies, and they were primarily distributed at a family camp where Ken Smith, the pastor the Lord used in my conversion, was retiring. And we had absolutely no intention of it going much beyond that.

So, it was really surprising when it started to take off. And when it started to take off, people understandably were asking really good questions. And at that point, I was starting to speak at colleges and universities again, as well as churches, and people were asking hard questions. They were really good, hard questions. I love hard questions. I live for hard questions.

And really, to respect my opposition, we published an expanded edition which really takes up questions that people have asked; and also takes up Ken Smith, the pastor that the Lord used in my conversion, his take on who I was and how – you know, his understanding of how our meetings went; and my husband, Kent Butterfield, and our shared hospitality mission.

If there's one thing that I would want our listeners right now to know, that my neighbors know, is that what I'm really known for is my commitment to hospitality, to seeing Christian hospitality as the ground zero of the Christian faith.

Ken and Floy Smith were there. And so, we wanted to address these things; we wanted to talk to parents; I wanted to talk to fellow strugglers; I wanted to talk to my opposition. I like to keep the people who disagree with me in close. And so, that's where the expanded edition came from.
Dr. Darrell Bock
Okay. And so, I take it that the first – the first edition was kind of your story, and then the expanded edition was kind of other eyes looking at your story from their angle?
Dr. R. Butterfield
Yes. That's a great way of saying it, yes.
Dr. Darrell Bock
Yeah. You followed that up with Openness Unhindered: Further Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert – so, obviously, you keep thinking while you're writing – on Sexual Identity and Union with Christ. And I take it that that book is more on kind of the underlying theology that has emerged from your life story?
Dr. R. Butterfield
Exactly. The first book is a memoir. And I would say, although people have been very kind and generous in teasing theology out of Secret Thoughts, it really was a memoir. It was really, "How does a person like me end up here – end up as a Christ follower?"

And then Openness Unhindered is really on the relationship between sexual identity and union with Christ. Because for me, I felt like I was being pulled apart by wild horses. My sexual identity was as a lesbian, but my union with Christ, which is the gift that God gives you at the moment that he has declared you justified in his eyes, that started to grow. And it grew, and it grew. And I wanted to talk about that, because union with Christ is one of the greatest gifts that every believer has. It doesn't make your struggle go away; it brings Christ into your struggle.
Dr. Darrell Bock
Hmm. And we're getting ready to have a discussion that will be an interesting journey for everyone concerned, and that is the discussion of the relationship between language and talking about sexual identity an union with Christ.

So, I'm just gonna lay this out. There are really two ways Christians tend to talk about this who are concerned about maintaining consistency on talking about sexuality and Christ. One view says that it's okay for people to talk about themselves as gay Christians. And the group that particularly is – this language is sensitive for is the person who says, "Yes, I'm gay, but more importantly, I'm a Christian, and Christ has called me to live a celibate life. And I understand that my Christianity trumps whatever sexual identity I perceive myself as having." That's one view, and we've talked about that on The Table before.

The other view is the one Rosaria holds, which is that that language is not just confusing, and not just problematic, it's potentially dangerous.
Dr. Darrell Bock
And because it – and I'm trying to explain this, and I'm trying to be fair – because it ends up giving a status to sexuality that it does not possess.
Dr. R. Butterfield
That's right.
Dr. Darrell Bock
Okay? So, the floor is yours.
Dr. R. Butterfield
Well, I mean let's first begin with the reality that people are more important than the positions they hold.
Dr. Darrell Bock
Okay.
Dr. R. Butterfield
So, we are not going to break fellowship over this language difference. It's important, but at the end of the day, I know that I have many, many, many fellow believing brothers and sisters in Christ who continue to use the language of gay Christianity.
Dr. Darrell Bock
Okay. And that's a fabulous place to begin; I appreciate that very much.
Dr. R. Butterfield
Let's start –
Dr. Darrell Bock
Yes.
Dr. R. Butterfield
And then let's move to how weak Rosaria is. Okay?
Dr. Darrell Bock
Okay.
Dr. R. Butterfield
Let's start with weakness.
Dr. Darrell Bock
Okay.
Dr. R. Butterfield
If I did not see my homosexual desires as an indwelling sin, against which I needed to wage an irreconcilable war, I would not be talking to you today. So, for me, that language is also – not only is it not going to divide fellowship, but what it does do for people – for me, and also for others like me – is it's dangerous language.

So, in the same way that you have this growing gay Christian movement, organized by spiritual friendship, with lots of followers, I have many, many people who write to me and say, "Rosaria, thank you so much for giving us better language, because if I called myself a gay Christian, I would be in bed with my lover right now. It gives me no room to battle sin."

And so, the big difference between what I am asserting and what the gay Christian movement asserts, is that I am starting with an understanding of sin that comes from Augustine and works its way all the way through Romans 6 – all the way through Romans, although Romans 6 is kind of the high point, I think, for this – and it says that original sin makes me not just broken, not just stumbling around – original sin wasn't just a crack in the facade; original sin makes me guilty and corrupt.

Now, if original sin – and this is what I – when people say you can't be born this way – well, why not? Aren't we born with original sin? Aren't we all born into a sin pattern that we did not choose? That chose us? That knew us as well, and that plagues us in a deep way?
Dr. Darrell Bock
And in different people, it shows up in different places.
Dr. R. Butterfield
Well, of course. Of course. And shame on the Church, for all those years, saying that the unwanted or unchosen reality of homosexual desires was chosen, was willful, or that it's likely answer was heterosexuality. Shame on the Church for doing that. I mean there's no – to me, I absolutely understand why gay Christianity emerged as a movement.

It emerged as a movement because people needed to say, "Look, I struggle with this. Don't try to fix me. Don't try to fix me up. What I need is Christ's love and care, and I need to grow in obedience, and I need to see the joy of the cross that I've been given."
Dr. Darrell Bock
"And it certainly would help to have a community around me that gets it and understands it and rallies around me in the midst of it."
Dr. R. Butterfield
But the best community that would do that is not a community based on – made up of people who are just like you.
Dr. Darrell Bock
Right.
Dr. R. Butterfield
One of the big differences, when I came out of the LGBT community, that is a community. You want to know community? That's a community. We used to say, "Our house is our hospitals, and our house is our incubators." That was our language.

When I became a Christian, I thought I was on a starvation diet of community, that you people thought community meant a fellowship meal the third Lord's Day of the month, with a casserole I couldn't eat, is appalling. Christians have a lot to learn from the LGBT community in terms of access and openness. But a Christian community ultimately is based on something very different than my lesbian community. A Christian community is based in our differences only coming together in the blood of Christ.

But having said that, I do believe that gay Christianity is an apostate kind of Christianity. Because if you change the language, you change the logic. There is no such thing, ontologically, as a gay person. What you are as a person is an image bearer of a Holy God. And our job is to call out that image in each other. And we're to call out that image in knowledge and righteousness and holiness.

We're also to live with the New Jerusalem in mind. And by that I mean if there's not going to be a category of gay Christianity in the New Jerusalem, and there certainly is not, then what we are building right now, by creating this category, is houses built on sand.

It's also creating unnecessary sectarianism within church bodies. What we need to do – what people like me need in a church is we need to be in a church filled with other repenting saints. We are not known by our sin patterns. Not to the Lord. We're standing in robes of righteousness. We're not remembered for our failures. Not to the Lord. We are, instead, going to judge the angels some day. And it's with that heart that I beg and plead with my friends who use the expression "gay Christianity," to stop using it, because I truly believe that it is a degrading term for any Christian. If you are standing in a robe of righteousness, you need not use, as an adjectival modifier, something that God calls sin.

Now, that raises the question, "What's the sin of homosexuality? Is it the practice or the desire or both?" That's an important question, because biblically speaking, sexual sin is a verb. See, there's no category of sexual orientation in the Bible, and that's because God doesn't condemn these categories of personhood. They're not even legitimate. What he condemns are sexual practices that are abhorrent.

But if we believe that gay is a category of personhood – and we just say, "Well, look, some people are," in the language of the Supreme Court Justices, that decided in favor of the Obergefell decision in 2015, if we believe that homosexuality is an immutable character, internal, inborn – "In my bones," some people say – if that's what you believe, then on what grounds, as Christians, do you stand now against that category as a Civil Rights category? On the grounds that – what? – you're a bigot? Or you're a theonomist? Or – or are we standing against that category on the grounds that it is the wrong ontology of personhood?

My opposition to gay marriage is thought God's called me to be a good neighbor. And good neighbors never put a stumbling block between a fellow image bearer and the God who made her. And the category of gay Christianity is, I believe, a millstone around the necks of people.
Dr. Darrell Bock
M-kay. Now, let me ask a couple of questions – and this is a mild form of pushback – and that is how is – how is that conversation different than, say, a couple of other examples that we might come up with – say alcoholism or drug addiction or other similar kinds of things where the response is, "I have this tendency that I know I have; I have this weakness that I know I have, and I can't deny that it's there; it's something I really do fight"? Okay?
Dr. R. Butterfield
Right.
Dr. Darrell Bock
"I can't just –"

"Why don't you just shut it off?"

"I can't do it. Okay?"
Dr. R. Butterfield
No, right.
Dr. Darrell Bock
"I can't do it."

And Christ is – Christ is a figure who now gives me the capability of that – of not only fighting, but winning.
Dr. R. Butterfield
Mm-hmm, absolutely.
Dr. Darrell Bock
And so, the person who says, "Yes, I know I struggle with this –"
Dr. R. Butterfield
Mm-hmm.
Dr. Darrell Bock
You know, whatever the X is, "I struggle with this, but I also know that the only answer, and the only way out is Christ. And you're asking me to – you may be asking me –" I'll say it this way, "– you may be asking me to deny something that really is something I do wrestle with.

"So, the question becomes, if I don't say it this way, then how should I say it, and how should I think about it?"
Dr. R. Butterfield
Yeah, that's a great – and so, I am not, in any way, suggesting that we need more distance and coldness in a church community. Just the opposite. I'm currently writing a book called The Gospel Comes with a House Key. And I think that if you have people in your church community who are deeply – who are just dying of loneliness, don't you have a room in your house? What is it for?

So, I am not in any way suggesting, either in life or in spoken word, that we should ask people to just not tell us what they're struggling with. Not at all. But the question is what's in a word? And the question is what's in an analogy?

You know, too often you argue – people argue by analogy, because they can't really define something. I mean you probably take –
Dr. Darrell Bock
Yes, I run into this. Fair enough.
Dr. R. Butterfield
– and you know that if you have a student who can only answer a question by analogy, that student can't answer the question. So, homosexuality is not alcoholism. Homosexuality is not deafness. Let's start with the fact that those are bad analogies; those are not good analogies. Let's also move into the reality – and this is a hard one – that God has called us to take responsibility for our indwelling sin, and to call sin sin, and to ask for help in struggling with sin.

If I simply say to you, I'm a person who has same-sex attraction, it's like I'm saying, "I have three dogs." You'll probably here them in the course of this podcast. "I have a cat that's _____." I don't have – that's not how – that's not the language that the Bible uses.

And then you might want to say, "Well, maybe that language is just outdated. Why bother being so picky?"

Well, you know, so many apostate movements in Church history began with the introduction – subtle – of unbiblical language. Are we saved by faith, or are we saved by faith alone? Is the Bible the Word of God, or does the Bible contain the Word of God?

So, to invest in a category of personhood that God does not is to set yourself up for failure, not for real intimacy in your Christian community.
Dr. Darrell Bock
Now, that's interesting, 'cause the one category that you didn't describe, and maybe just because you were summarizing, is the category of lust, which –
Dr. R. Butterfield
– go there.
Dr. Darrell Bock
– is an analogy. Okay? And I think it's interesting – you know,, the passage that's floating around in my head is one that comes earlier that's interesting, and that is it's the rebuke in 1 Corinthians 6, where it says some were –, some were –, some were –. You know? The homosexual is one of those categories. "But such 'were' some of you."

And I take it that part of the point that you're trying to make is is that there – when Jesus washes us, he washes us of that link, at least to a certain degree.
Dr. R. Butterfield
I think that's right and certainly in terms of the language that we use to identify ourselves.
Dr. Darrell Bock
Okay.
Dr. R. Butterfield
But I would say that part of why I wasn't talking so much about lust – you know, this is – and it's sort of an ongoing internal discussion within the LGBT community. I think for women, the way that we struggle and fail, when we fail, in our sexual sin, it's not overt lust; it starts in a really different, subtle place.
Dr. Darrell Bock
Right, right.
Dr. R. Butterfield
And so does this conversation. And that's why I'm really sensitive to it.
Dr. Darrell Bock
Mm-hmm, okay. Fair enough. The point that I'm making, 'cause males sometimes come from a different place, is that there's a sense in which – I actually think we're triangulating things, if I can say it this way. We're triangulating a condition within a person that they know is flawed. With that, we are triangulating their ultimate identity, which is Christ. Okay? Those things we're very much in agreement on.

And the third thing that we're triangulating on that I think you're response is really pushing hard and responsibly on is the idea of – we are responsible and accountable for how we allow those two other things to interact.

And so, when I think about this, when I think about language, and I'm more comfortable talking about gay Christians, obviously, than you are, but when I think about this, to me the key is this accountability category, this third factor. And I'm willing to say to the person who says, "I've made a commitment to Christ," that I understand and am dependent upon his presence in this battle, 'cause it's the only way I get victory in it.
Dr. R. Butterfield
And that's questionable.
Dr. Darrell Bock
M-kay.
Dr. R. Butterfield
You see, there are other – I understand what you're saying, but do you not agree that we all have victory in Christ when we are using and living out the means of grace. Victory in Christ is – so, victory in self-esteem is absolutely that. Victory in self-esteem is, "Hey, I've got a lot of people who feel just the way I do. I'm not quite as – I'm not the only one who's struggling." That's victory in self-esteem.

But victory in Christ comes in the Word, in the sacraments, in the fellowship of Church membership. And victory in Christ kills you. You are dead.

Now, part of why we're having this conversation is you probably don't run the risk of becoming a gay Christian. I probably do. Behind us are pictures on this wall of my children and my family. And I want to tell you how grateful I am that in 1999, when I came to Christ, nobody said, "Rosaria, let's just stop here. Let's just call the game right here. You're a gay Christian. Now, go live a celibate life."

If you see these pictures behind me – really? They wouldn't be there. Death means life in the Christian. But when we allow people to have a sense of self based in communal self-esteem, we're not gonna get there, and it breaks my heart. And I have shed more tears over this conversation, I think, than you have.
Dr. Darrell Bock
That's probably undoubtedly true. And I think that what we are after in the conversation is this idea, ultimately, that the only way out is Christ.
Dr. R. Butterfield
Amen. Absolutely. And – amen.
Dr. Darrell Bock
I mean the only way out is him. The only way out is actually the power, the enablement that he gives. I actually think at the core of the Gospel – and I actually think this is very much the core of the Gospel – is not that he merely declares us righteous, but he actually gives us the equipment in the Holy Spirit –
Dr. R. Butterfield
That's right.
Dr. Darrell Bock
– to become a different person than we were.
Dr. R. Butterfield
That's right.
Dr. Darrell Bock
And to go to work on the things that God needs to go to work on –
Dr. R. Butterfield
Absolutely.
Dr. Darrell Bock
– to make us more and more in his image.
Dr. R. Butterfield
That's right.
Dr. Darrell Bock
And so, when we do that, what we do is we avail ourselves of a power and an access that's not in ourselves. It's not something we generate by our self-esteem or anything else; it is a reliance on Christ that is the essence of faith.

The essence of faith is I'm trusting on God to do something that I inherently understand I cannot do for myself.
Dr. R. Butterfield
That's right.
Dr. Darrell Bock
And that there is – I tell people, when I talk on faith, all the time that – I once was asked to give a talk – this is recently, this summer in Hong Kong – on, "How do we live by faith?"

And I said, "This is not calculus."
Dr. R. Butterfield
That's right.
Dr. Darrell Bock
I said, "You live by faith by living by faith. Now, let's talk about what faith is."
Dr. R. Butterfield
That's right.
Dr. Darrell Bock
"Faith is – faith isn't merely belief; faith is trust. It comes with an entrustment, and I give myself over to someone else who's able to do better with my life than I'm able to do on my own."
Dr. R. Butterfield
That is exactly right.
Dr. Darrell Bock
Okay. That is a denial of self-esteem.
Dr. R. Butterfield
Absolutely.
Dr. Darrell Bock
That is a humility that is built into faith that is at the core of faith that we rarely talk about.
Dr. R. Butterfield
Agreed.
Dr. Darrell Bock
And in the midst of that, I am – I have become capable of being a different person because God now can go to work.
Dr. R. Butterfield
Absolutely.
Dr. Darrell Bock
And I think that that is – if I can say it, to me that's the hub of what the Gospel gives us that allow – no matter what the X is – allows us to become more like the person he created us to be.
Dr. R. Butterfield
Mm-hmm, mm-hmm. And I would say, if I could just add to that – I agree entirely – that we are moving into a world where the Gospel is on a collision course with the category of self – the category of sexual orientation as an ontological category of person.
Dr. Darrell Bock
And a category of entitlement that comes with it.
Dr. R. Butterfield
It is on a collision course.
Dr. Darrell Bock
Right, fair enough.
Dr. R. Butterfield
And for that reason, we all need to put down our sectarian labels. Gay Christians need to put down their sectarian labels; reformed Christians need to put down their sectarian labels. You know, persecution has a way of making it really clear who's standing where.
Dr. Darrell Bock
Right.
Dr. R. Butterfield
And those labels are a probably, but welcome to 2016. The Gospel is on a collision course with the category of sexual orientation. On what grounds, then, do you maintain the category of gay Christianity?
Dr. Darrell Bock
And you're saying, "In Christ alone."
Dr. R. Butterfield
– are you _____?
Dr. Darrell Bock
And I think I'm hearing you say it's in Christ alone. That's the only place – that's the only place to be.
Dr. R. Butterfield
Absolutely.
Dr. Darrell Bock
Yeah. I think we're dead in agreement on that, that that is the place to reside; that's the place to land.

You know, I'm looking at the clock, and we're coming up to the end, and I'm sitting here going, "Oh, what a shame." What a real privilege it's been to have this conversation with you and to think deeply about questions that obviously reside deep in people as they wrestle with who they are and what drives them to be who they are.
Dr. R. Butterfield
The pleasure and the privilege has been all mine. Thank you.
Dr. Darrell Bock
Yeah.

Well, and we thank you for being a part of The Table, and we hope to see you again soon.
Darrell L. Bock
Darrell L. Bock Dr. Bock is senior research professor of New Testament and executive director for cultural engagement at Dallas Theological Seminary. He has authored or edited more than 30 books, including Jesus according to Scripture: Restoring the Portrait from the Gospels, Jesus in Context: Background Readings for Gospel Study, Studying the Historical Jesus: A Guide to Sources and Methods, Jesus the Messiah: Tracing the Promises, Expectations, and Coming of Israel’s King, Who Is Jesus?: Linking the Historical Jesus with the Christ of Faith, and Key Events in the Life of the Historical Jesus: A Collaborative Exploration of Context and Coherence.
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