Michael Ramsden on answering the homosexuality question

(Transcript-ed from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nQFzpiTc6j8)

I admit – when it comes to the “homosexuality” question being asked in the Christian context I have 2 natural reactions:

  1. Bible verses and the Christian ontology of marriage
  2. turn to the  “Classical” mode i.e. “just the facts” approach.

This is mostly because when I started out learning apologetics, these were Greg Koukl’s strategy. Wintery Knight in particular used to be my go-to for Approach (2) when dealing with the homosexuality too.

The problem with both responses for me is that while there are coherent responses from the Christian worldview, they are not adequate responses for people with other worldviews, starting from different presuppositions, who WILL hear a hostile answer. Especially secular humanists (who are essentially just atheist existentialists with Christian morality) whom I guarantee will have a fun time turning a non-Christian crowd against you.  In other words, there is a very good chance that should someone pop that question to you as a Christian, even if you give all the answers that are doctrinally and logically sound, because you fail to “answer” the person and the audience it’s still a wrong answer.

I had to answer the “homosexuality genre” question once in a Q&A session and even though in the post-interview review of the answers I knew I gave an inappropriate response, I could not figure out how to correct it nor who to turn to for a good response. So imagine my pleasure at hearing Michael Ramsden (Director of RZIM Europe and OCCA) who gave IMO one of the best guide on how to answer the homosexuality question without caving to liberal theology available in apologetics today.

(transcript starts around the 1:25:50 mark – this was part of Ramsden’s speaking tour with the CS Lewis Institute in 2013 , and this was part of an apologetics workshop )

The hypothetical question: “Does homosexuals go to heaven?”

Why would people ask this question:

  1. Litmus test question – what sort of person are you?
  2. They are homosexuals themselves or they know someone who is, and they want to know how to answer them.
  3. They want to make Christians look bad.
  4. The Christian God is unloving of some sort of people.
  5. They’re trying to find out the sort of things that you do that means you are definitely not going to go heaven.
  6. They have a problem with autonomy.
  7. They may want a hopeful answer.
  8. They are caught up in a lifestyle and they are feeling guilty and they want to know what to do about it
  9. They are feeling hurt, lost confused – coming to you for help
  10. They are trying to find out whether there are someone out there who loves me regardless of what I do.
  11. Reflecting the position of the culture – a question that makes Christians run for the hills/shut you up.

Problem with apologetics today: “Apologia” get perceived as a defensive act. Apoogetics is inherently evangelistic (see Acts 26); Apologetics and Evangelism are inherently different sides to the same coin.

(Key from earlier part of the workshop: “If you give the right answer to the wrong question, it is still the wrong answer”.)

Response: what may you ask:

  1. Who does go to heaven?
  2. If I say yes, would that surprise you?
  3. What makes you think they don’t go to heaven?
  4. Are you born with this or did you choose to be so?
  5. What do you think of God if I say no?
  6. What do you think?
  7. Who deserves to go to heaven?
  8. Have someone that you know been hurt by this?
  9. What makes you think there is a heaven? (It is possible homosexuality isn’t the issue at all)?
  10. Do you think there is a problem with homosexuality?
  11. Do you know what the Bible say about it? Ungrounded Opinion vs Justified beliefs

Michael’s overarching strategy/things to keep at the back of your mind:
(A) Question of identity
Standard evangelical response on sin vs sinner: “God loves the sinner, but God hates sin”

Problem of using this line to someone who is wrestling with homosexuality: – Not just because “they don’t think it is sin” – there is something even more fundamental at stake.  For Evangelicals, “Sin vs sinner” makes the distinction between what someone is, and what he does. When someone says he is a homosexual, his identity is informed by what he does. And this is not a mistake something that Christians do to form our identity, to make our lives more meaningful, right? (sarcasm)

The homosexual question is a question of identity. When the homosexual community ask this question, they don’t hear “am I allowed to do?”, they hear “am I allowed to be?”. When the answer is”no”, they don’t hear “I am not allowed to do this”, what they hear is “what you believe is that I do not have the right to exist”. Can you understand why someone will feel very threatened when they hear “You are not allowed to be”?

Culture has lost its sense of identity.

(B) Question of fulfillment
Again- Christians never fall into the trap of thinking that they can be more fulfilled in life by sleeping someone before marriage, commit adultery, pornography and sexual activity, right?

We also live in a culture – and this has infected The Church as well – that if you are single, that there is something seriously wrong with you. So Mother Theresa must be very unfulfilled (humour). And of course, Evangelical Christians who are still single will never fall into the trap of thinking that they would be more fulfilled as a person if only they were sleeping around, right?

So this raises the question – can I ever find fulfillment if I am not allowed to do this or that? These are very emotively powerful things.

(C) Question of Being.

– If someone says “Hi, my name is Michael Ramsden and I am a heterosexual. Please to meet you” – if this is a badge that someone wears, it is strange right? Yet when it comes to homosexuality it is suddenly not strange anymore. Are there more to us than our sexual proclivity?

We have to make the distinction between “being” and “doing”. As human beings, we are more than this.

 
Michael’s Anecdote:

– was asked this question is a university in London. Answered by going into the culture has lost its sense of identity + “is God unfair?” question – because “I didn’t choose to be this way and He made me this way.”

The origin question – According to The Times,  the Head of Genetics in Oxford regarding the nature-nurture debate – the answer is yes.” Mainstream opinion is that we may be genetically inclined to all sorts of behavior but it does not mean we have no control over all those different issues.

– Part of the gospel is that no one can change themselves – we can’t do it, but what is impossible for us may be possible with God. If there is a way out of this, God somehow needs to bear some responsibility in bringing in change.

End of meeting: guy who asked the question was the head of the Christian gay-lesbian movement in London and this was the first time he had not got up and walked away in the middle of answers given in student Christian meetings.
Other things to say:
– When it comes to pattern of sexual activity, very often people say “I cannot help myself”

– There is a reason why pornography is made free on the Internet. Autopsy done on deceased homosexual men, and it was found that a lobe within their brains was very well-developed. Brain is like a muscle that can be trained and stimulated – brain will eventually crave that stimulated when it gets stopped exercised. Take less controversial area like pornography – people feel powerless and cannot stop themselves. Reason why pornography is made free is because if you can get people hooked on it at an early age with specific images and patterns they will not be able to break free easily. It take 9 years (!) for the brain to go back to normal. That means if you have people locked in a certain pattern of behaviour, either (A) they are going to need the healing of the brain equivalent to that of a shriveled hand OR (B) they are going to be on a path of disciple for 9 years – you can’t do it alone this is why church is important, but also why it is catastrophic when church life has become so superficial, that people feel they can no longer share with The Church things they are wrestling with because they have to pretend they are better than they really are to be accepted. Evangelical Church is poor with discipleship and poor at communicating at people that “we are in the long haul with you on this”.

Ending thoughts – good question with opportunity with amazing response if you know how to respond: end with the issue of forgiveness.
“Right or wrong” is not necessarily the  hardest part. Michael’s anecdote on his radio debate with a Christian Gay Rights activist and a secular gay rights activist. The homosexual community is segmented (in beliefs) just like Christian community. Michael agreed with secular gay rights activist but with caveat “Within the teaching of Scripture, Homosexuality is a lifestyle neither endorsed of approved of for the reason that marriage exists between man and a woman in the Christian sense. (Secular gay right activist said marriage within a secular society is a Christian over-hang). At the end of debate, secular gay rights activist shook hands with Michael, Christian gay rights activist would not. (In other words, knowing how to address the issue, i.e. maneuver the conversation, is hardest.)

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