World Vision: Gay Marriage Stated Or Gospel Related?

"Changing the employee conduct policy to allow someone in a same-sex marriage who is a professed believer in Jesus Christ to work for us makes our policy more consistent with our practice on other divisive issues, it also allows us to treat all of our employees the same way: abstinence outside of marriage, and fidelity within marriage. It's easy to read a lot more into this decision than is really there. This is not an endorsement of same-sex marriage. We have decided we are not going to get into that debate. Nor is this a rejection of traditional marriage, which we affirm and support…we're not caving to some kind of pressure. We're not on some slippery slope. There is no lawsuit threatening us. There is no employee group lobbying us. This is not us compromising. It is us deferring to the authority of churches and denominations on theological issues. We're an operational arm of the global church, we're not a theological arm of the church.”- Richard Sterns, president of World Vision
This week the news came out (and likewise has exploded all over the evangelical world) that Richard Sterns, the president of the Christian humanitarian group Wold Vision made a statement regarding gay marriage and World Vision as a company. Now I know I'm not the first to address this subject, not even close. A number of much smarter and more educated people have addressed this issue. From Dr. Michael Brown, who I quote and reference often, to Franklin Graham, the president of Samaritan's Purse, and I encourage you as a well-rounded, reflective individual to look at the different perspectives.

What I want to do is make a few statements. To sweep up the last of the proverbial crumbs as it is, that are falling from the table of others on the subject. I feel this is most applicable given my recent post on the issue of Jesus addressing homosexuality within Matthew's gospel. A post that got me feedback responses ranging from concern, to appreciation and thanks, to attack.

I'm clear on where I stand on the issue of homosexuality, biblically and morally I've written about it before (see here and here) and have no reservations about where the Bible stands on the issue. I want to make it clear that World Vision's statement of "not getting involved" sounds wonderfully good. The problem is that I find it absolutely impossible on any logical, biblical, or moral basis to understand what is going on. The idea that somehow neutrality can be a stance on this subject I find troubling and nearly impossible.

I understand the cultural pressure that exists in society and the very hard place that we as Christians are put within this area of the faith vs. the secular. It is not easy when the societal pressure is so great to stand on one side or the other. The problem is that our actions do exactly that - they place us on one side or the other.

My issue once again, as I've stated before, comes down to the basis of scripture. If you believe what the Bible says and subsequently what Jesus believed about scripture, then you need to start looking at these issues and recognizing the fundamental compromises being made by major players within "mainstream evangelicalism".

The problem I see is that World Vision's stance is that they don't want to take sides. But by their actions they just did take sides, which is why there is so much response on the matter. To say that they are not going to get into the debate doesn't make any sense, they've already stepped into the debate and now cannot avoid it.

The problem I see from someone who has made a concentrated effort to truly understand the Bible within its original language, context, and situation, is that this issue is clear and is discussed within the Bible in the language related directly to the gospel. To say that this is not a gospel issue or that we should simply "stay with" and "preach the gospel" ignores the terms that are used in the original context.

For these purposes I am going to get a little dry and technical...

No matter what anybody does, 1 Corinthians 6:9-10 will always say what 1 Corinthians 6:9-10 have always said. We can dance around the issue and try to frame it in every context under the sun, but the problem is that the text is clear. While I sit here with 3 different versions of the Greek New Testaments (my Nestle Aland 27th addition, my 1881 Westcott & Hort, and my Zondervan Greek and English Interlinear) it is clear that there aren't any textual variants within the original documents that would impact the translation of the text in English in these verses.

For this purpose I'm using the English Standard Version (ESV) even though I am partial to the NIV and NASB. Simply because I find that in this instance the ESV does an incredible job in recognizing something that I'll expand upon in just a bit. 1 Corinthians 6:9,10:

Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.

The Greek in phonetic English looks like this:

E ouk oidate hoti adikoi ou kleronomesousin basileian theou me planashthe oute parnoi oute eidololatrai oute moichoi oute malakoi oute arsenokoitai out lkeptai oute pleonektai ou methysoi ou loidoroi ouch harpages kleronomesousin basileian thou.

Now I wrote that out from the original Greek for more than just to sound pretentious. It is important that when we address these issues we address them from their original authored words. I think there are a number of key issues here that need to be addressed:

First, "me planashthe" is used, meaning "do not be deceived" or "led astray"A term Paul uses often in framing the issue of sin and the gospel. This is our first gospel bookend.

The second issue is much more critical, the reason I chose the rendering from the ESV is that they recognize something that many other English translations don't nearly do to the same degree. That is the line, "nor men who practice homosexuality".

Where the ESV has gotten this right is that they have recognized that "oute malakoi oute arsenokoitai" within the Greek, are recognitions of the passive and active partners in homosexual sex. That is the direct translation of those two terms. And so they have simply put it in the English, "men who practice homosexuality" by directly translating those terms within their most literal sense.

The problem is that the issue of homosexuality in Paul's words within 1 Corinthians is steeped in the same terminologies he uses for gospel related subjects. To "kleronomesousin basileian theou", or "not inherit the Kingdom of God". The words Paul uses are not mysterious terms, the Greek meanings are known and have been known since their authorship 2000 years ago. The entire history of the church and it's translations of the Bible in all their languages have framed these issues in the exact same way the English has here.

And it is important to understand that Paul has put them in a list for a very specific reason; not simply because each sin is individualistic in its nature but because all terms being used are framed as sin. When you start to question one you have to start questioning them all under that context. If we question homosexuality in this verse we have to question immorality, greed, drunkenness, etc. If there is context being asserted there needs to be consistency proclaimed.

The anatomy of the issue is that no matter what interpretation is given, the original language is known, and the original intent has never been as big a mystery as some would like you to believe. The conversation does not stop there though, Paul goes on to book end it in the final gospel terms in verse 11:

And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.

Once again the Greek looks like this:

kai tines ete tauta alla apelousasthe alla hegiasthete alla edikaiothete en to onomati tou kyriou lesou kai en to pneumati hemon tou theou.

The third word in the Greek is very important here. There really isn't any question as to whether these words were original. What's nice is, the forms of aimi are pretty distinguishable in the Greek when they're in different tenses. This one here is an imperfect, that is, it's framed in past-tense: kai tines ete tauta - "and such were some of you".

It is not "such are some of you", I want to be clear that I'm very young in my study of Greek but I can tell you that the present-tense form looks very different. There is no textual variation. It is what Paul wrote in his letter to the church at Corinth, and has been preserved all along.

Fundamentally what society is asking us to do is weigh texts like these in the balance and decide whether we're going to remain faithful to what was written and believe to be inspired. Or whether we're going to simply declare that one tense in one verse in one book isn't really all that clear, or all that strait forward, or all that significant.

This issue matters, and it isn't because we're a bunch of bigots, homophobes, or pharisees. What needs to be understood is that if we are willing to read the scripture with one eye closed and one eye opened, and ignore the tense of the verb in 1 Corinthians 6:11 - "such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God" then we are left with a problem.

If we are willing to believe the lie that the Greek terms malakoi and arsenokoitai are these mysterious untranslatable terms. And if we are willing to forget the tense and turn "such were some of you" into "such are some of you" we fundamentally change the nature of the gospel and the reason for the cross. I frame it in the language of the gospel because Paul uses the same words and rhetoric he does elsewhere when declaring the risen Christ.

Sin is clearly identified biblically. If we cannot define and recognize the gravity of sin we cannot define and recognize the gravity and power of the gospel. They go hand in hand, my depravity as a human being far exceeds anything I can imagine, and it is only by understanding that and looking towards the cross of my risen Lord that I can ever gain a hope of salvation.

To say, "And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God" but frame the statement within the context of Christians living in a lifestyle that is outlined as sinful cannot be done. It breaks the rule of non contradiction. A and non-A cannot be true in the same time in the same way in the same place. 

World Vision by declaring that they were not taking a stand subsequently took a stand. And I am not condoning the very strong emotional fallout and condemnation that some have expressed towards the organization itself, that in of itself I believe could be rebuked biblically also. I am just giving my opinion as someone who has studied this issue thoroughly from what I know to be the biblical viewpoint.

We are all going to be put in a position where we need to take a stand. And by our actions and our words and our deeds we do so whether we realize it or not.

I am not a Christian because I have it all together, I am a Christian because I am broken and depraved and cannot do anything. The world can only be changed by the gospel if we allow Jesus to speak for Jesus, Paul to speak for Paul, and the Word of God to be proclaimed within its entirety.

The gospel is not ours to edit, it is ours to proclaim.

Related links: 

The Christian Post - Messianic Jew, Hebrew Scholar and leading Jewish apologists, Michael Brown and his thoughts on the subject

Samaritan's Purse International - President of "Samaritan's Purse" and son of Billy Graham, Franklin Graham and his thoughts on the subject

The Gospel Coalition - Writer for the Gospel Coalition and author of "DeYoung, Restless, and Reformed", Kevin DeYoung and his thoughts on the subject 

Desiring God - Pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church, author and theologian, John Piper and his thoughts on the subject 

Southern Baptist Theological Seminary - President of the Southern Baptist Convention's flagship Seminary and writer for Christianity today, Dr. Albert Mohler Jr. and his thoughts on the subject

Renowned author, blogger, and New York Times best-selling author, Rachel Evans and her thoughts on the subject 


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