googlef87758e9b6df9bec.html A Sure Word: A Friendly Atheist Has 78 Questions for Christians: Part 4

Thursday, November 2, 2017

A Friendly Atheist Has 78 Questions for Christians: Part 4

Several of the questions Hemant Mehta asked in his video, 78 Questions for Christians, have to do with homosexuality. In this short video, Mehta never explains his point in asking any particular question but, rather, lets the question speak for itself. In many cases, the viewer can see how a question is provocative. In the cases of these questions, though, I'm not sure what Mehta is getting at. I do have some ideas, of course, which I'll expound upon in my answers.

39) Is acting on one's homosexuality a sin?
40) Is homosexuality itself a sin?

I suspect Mehta doesn't think homosexuality is a sin. Just to be clear, though, according to atheists, there is no such thing as sin at all. Let me ask Mehta a question: is it morally wrong for an adult man to lust after a 6 year old girl, even if he doesn't act on it? Why? A sin is usually defined as a transgression against a divine law. So, if there is no divine law, how can there be any sin? Even though Mehta doesn't believe in sin, he still wants his Christian viewers to take a stand on this point. I'll explain why I think he's doing this.

Homosexuality and transgender issues are hot buttons in social and political dialogues. For Christians to say homosexuality is a sin is to invite the label of “bigot” and “homophobe.” If Christians answer, yes, to these questions, Mehta believes he exposes Christians as being intolerant. If we answer, no, then we are casting doubt on the authority of God's word. It's sort of like that loaded question, “Have you stopped beating your wife?”

Mehta has no moral standard by which he can judge anything as wrong. He asks these questions rhetorically – not sincerely. Even so, I'll still answer him. We are all sinners. The things we do aren't the sins, they're the symptoms of our sin. Think about it: it's not telling a lie that makes you a liar. You were a liar before you spoke the lie, when you decided in your heart that you would lie. When you finally spoke the lie, you were just doing what liars do. So, yes, homosexuality is a sin – even before a person acts on it. You can call me intolerant if you want but the truth is intolerant.

41) Do you believe gays and lesbians should have the right to legally get married?
42) Would your church ever marry a gay or lesbian couple?
43) If not, and you believe that they should have the right to marry, why do you remain in that church?

Mehta posted this video 3 years ago, before the Supreme Court issued its decision that made gay marriage “legal.” I put legal in quotes because gay marriage was already legal, even prior to the decision. Two men could go to a church, have a ceremony, exchange vows, exchange rings, open joint checking accounts, buy a house, and live happily ever after. There was never any chance they would be be arrested and sent to prison because of it. The difference was that I didn't have to consider them to be married. The Court's decision didn't affect them – it affected me.

In Matthew 19:4-5, when asked about marriage, Jesus answered, Have ye not read, that he which made them at the beginning made them male and female... For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they twain shall be one flesh? It's clear from this passage that Jesus defines marriage as being between one man and one woman. Liberal churches that perform gay “marriages” are clearly at odds with God's word and His plan for marriage. I would ask why any Christians would remain at those churches?

44) Why would God create people who are gay and then punish them for being gay?

First, there is no definitive study to show that people are born gay so there are no grounds to say, God created them that way. But even if people are born gay, being born with a condition doesn't automatically make that condition normal and good. There are plenty of congenital disorders that we treat people for. If we someday discover a “gay gene,” homosexuality will still be a sin.

Regardless, God doesn't punish people just for being gay. Gay people are also liars and thieves and murderers. They are just like every other person – sinners in need of repentance. We are all guilty of sin and are all condemned. However, the Bible says that if we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9).

45) If God is already sending gay people who act on their homosexuality to hell, why do so many Christians fell the need to persecute them here on earth?

There is so much here that I'm not sure where to start. What does Mehta mean by, “so many”? Is he talking about groups like the Westboro Baptists? Besides them, I don't know of any self-identified Christians who persecute gays. When I think of people who actually assault gays, I think of rowdy men, maybe drunk, maybe being egged on by their buddies, acting out on effeminate men much like a bully on the playground picks on the smallest kid. They're not sincere Christians engaged in some holy crusade to rid the world gays through violence.

I would also ask what does Mehta mean by persecution? Does he consider Christians just calling gays, sinners, to be persecution? In that case, Christians are at war with all the lost people of the world – only not to harm them, but to save them! I guess some people, though, don't like being told they're sinners and so they feel like we're “persecuting” them.

Christians are commanded to love our neighbor. Part of loving them is telling them they're wrong. It doesn't help a drug addict, for example, to say, “God loves you just the way you are.” That message actually hurts him. What we say instead is, “Dude, you're out of control. Drugs are ruining you life. If you don't stop, you're going to die!” We don't say these things because we are judging the drug addict but because we are trying to help him. Likewise, we tell sinners about their sins – not because we are judging them but because we want them to see their need for a Savior.

The old saying is that ignorance is bliss. It's hard for some people to hear the truth. If a gay person is told that homosexuality is a sin, it upsets his fantasy that he can live however he wants and there will be no consequence. They become angry at the Christian who tells him the word, like a dog in a pit tries to bite the person who reaches in to help him.

Proverbs 14:12 says, There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death. Some people think it's OK to be gay. They're wrong.  When we tell them they're wrong, we're not persecuting them – we're trying to rescue them!


Steven J. said...

So, if there is no divine law, how can there be any sin?

Possibly Mehta agrees with Robert A. Heinlein, that "sin lies only in hurting others unnecessarily. All other sins are invented nonsense." Not everyone defines words in every case the way they are usually defined. Or perhaps Mehta regards some things as morally right and others as morally wrong, and just regards "sin" as the way theists conceive the latter category.

I think you slightly misconceive Mehta's purpose with these questions. He's trying (I think; I might be wrong) to get Christians to notice a mismatch between what Christian theology dictates and what they actually believe, or act as if they believe (e.g. if you believe, theologically, the fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much, but also believe that a shot of tetracycline plus prayer will cure bubonic plague -- and think the tetracycline will probably work without the prayer but not the other way around, do you agree with your own theology?).

I have heard complaints from older Christians that younger Christians -- their own children and their peers, who go to church and are fairly conservative -- don't really think there's anything wrong with homosexuality. Mehta is addressing people who regard themselves as Christians but are less conservative in some ways (not all, necessarily) than you. There are such people, and sometimes the obvious way to attack a belief system is to reach out to the people who are most willing to modify it anyway.

Steven J. said...

Mehta has no moral standard by which he can judge anything as wrong.

Socrates was probably not even the first person to wonder, "is 'sin' wrong because God condemns it, or does God condemn it because it is wrong?" If the former, then might makes right, and righteousness is just a whim backed up by sufficient force. If the latter, then one can have a moral standard by which things can be judged wrong even without recourse to a Creator Who has declared these things wrong. Note that God, being defined as immutable and omnipotent, cannot be harmed in any way by sin (that would make Him mutable and vulnerable), so even on a Christian standpoint I'm not sure that there is any escape from the view that "sin" is harm to finite, created beings in violation of God's loving plans, not an injury to God Himself -- and thus potentially noticeable even by atheists.

If we someday discover a “gay gene,” homosexuality will still be a sin.

I'm assuming that this applies also if homosexuality turns out to be the result of environmental effects rather than purely genetic (one study -- I don't know if it's ever been replicated -- found that if a gay person had an identical twin, there was a 50% chance that the twin was also gay, which suggests that a "gay gene" would work more like a "breast cancer gene" than like a gene for blue eyes). But, e.g. hemophilia or spina bifida are not sins. Is it compatible with your sense of God's justice that something you have no control over is a sin? Or should I take your position to be that lusting after or fantasizing about sexual relations with someone of one's own sex is a sin, but a mere attraction not acted on or lusted about is not? It seems obvious that God has not made life equally easy for all people (though I suppose one could argue that if we truly knew the circumstances of every life we would see otherwise -- but I think few would argue that).

Besides Westboro Baptist Church, I don't know of any self-identified Christians who persecute gays.

I'm old enough to recall when Anita Bryant stated that there ought to be laws penalizing homosexual conduct (and indeed when there were such laws, albeit sporadically and inconsistently enforced). Perhaps Mehta has a broader definition of "persecute" than I do, and includes bakeries who don't want to bake cakes for gay weddings, but perhaps he suspects that a lot of Christians, given the power to write the laws, would again impose prison sentences for homosexual conduct between consenting adults.