What If Jesus Had A Gag Reflex?



With the theological sophistication of an 8 year old child who refuses to eat their broccoli, Thabiti Anyabwile of The Gospel Coalition has attempted to single handily eliminate any and all compassion and grace from the church by arguing that Christians need to rediscover their gag reflex when it comes to homosexuality.

According to Mr. Anyabwile, homosexuality is wrong not just because a couple of Bible verses say so, but because it’s yucky and gross.

Since we’re already thinking like children, I thought it would be appropriate to play a game I played as a child, a game I’m sure you played too if you grew up in the church.

I don’t know if it has an official name, so I’m just going to call it “What if Jesus…?”

You remember that game, right?

It’s where you speculate on what Jesus would have done or did do in a given situation that the Bible doesn’t talk about. And since there’s a huge gap between Jesus the kid and Jesus the adult, there’s plenty to speculate on. That’s not to mention all the fun you can have speculating on what Jesus would do in modern situations.

As a young Christian in training I remember wondering things like “What if Jesus had a girlfriend? Did they ever go on a date?” or “What if Jesus was a vegan? Could I still be friends with him?” or super important questions like “What if Jesus played basketball? Would he be better than Michael Jordan?” (Duh, of course, he would. Jesus would be perfect at everything he tried. Geez, everybody knows that.)

Anyway, Mr. Anyabwile’s article got me to thinking and that thinking got me to playing this old game from my childhood and so I wondered “What if Jesus had a gag reflex?”

Now, I know what you’re thinking.

Of course, Jesus had a gag reflex! It’s biological. Everybody’s got one and since Jesus was a human being he had one too.

But I’m not talking about the sort of gag reflex that makes you choke on broccoli, which, of course, everybody should do because broccoli is gross.

I’m talking about the sort of gag reflex Mr. Anyabwile describes, the sort of reflex that makes you gag and turn away from people who do things or are involved in things or are affected by things that you think are gross, particularly if you think those gross things are sinful.

Imagine if Jesus had that sort of gag reflex.

How different would the gospels be?

Pretty different I think, but let’s start at the beginning and take a look just to be sure.

If you recall, Jesus was born in a stable. Unlike the beautiful, clean stables we line with hypoallergenic hay for our Christmas musicals at church, the stable Jesus was born in would have been a shithole.


It would have been filled with old, crusty animal droppings, the smell fused into the stone walls after years of use.

And that manger? Filled with day old slop and plenty of barnyard backwash.

Certainly a place that would make most of us gag.

And yet it was the birthplace of God.

Which was no accident.

You see, unlike every other baby ever born, Jesus, being God, had a say so on when and where he would be born.

He intentionally chose a place that would make the rest of us gag.

When Jesus grew up and started his ministry, he kept hanging around people and places that would make the rest of us gag. In fact, he even touched most of those people.


There was that woman with the bleeding problem, for instance.

Most men I know won’t even walk down the feminine hygiene aisle at the grocery store. And, of course, for the Jews of that day her bleeding made her unclean, that is to say spiritually gross.

So, how did Jesus react to this blood stained women?

He embraced her.

Then there were all those lepers that keep popping up all over the place in the gospels.

If you know anything about leprosy, then you know that when left untreated it’s one gross, gag inducing disease. You get sores, they get infected, infections smell rancid, and if things get really bad skin and body parts start falling off. It’s no surprise then that the Jews of the day also deemed lepers spiritual gross people and kicked them out of their towns and cities so they wouldn’t have to go through their day gagging at the sight of them.

What did Jesus do when he met these outcast, disease-ridden lepers?

He embraced them.

And let’s not forget about Lazarus.

On paper that whole raising the dead thing sounds pretty cool. And I’m sure it was. But have you ever been around death before? I’m not talking about the cleaned up fancy version we’ve all experienced at a funeral home. I’m talking about non-pasteurized, raw death.

It’s putrid and gross. A guaranteed gag inducing experience if there ever was one. That’s why in the movies you see so many characters gag and even puke when they see a dead body. It’s just not a pleasant experience and even with the oils and herbs those ladies had in the gospel to make the body smell better, visiting Lazarus’ tomb was no trip to the funeral home.

It was most definitely a spiritually gross place.

So what did Jesus do when he encountered Lazarus’ putrid rotting corpse?

He embraced him.

Then we come to the end of the gospels.

Ok, not technically the end, I know. I don’t want all you eschatological geeks to freak out on me. How about almost the end? That work?

Ok, great.

At almost the end of the gospels we have one of the grossest, most gag inducing stories of all – the crucifixion

How do I know?

Because I saw the movie.

Ok, yes, Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ is probably a fetishist’s ode to violence, but it’s also probably not that far off from reality. And if that’s true, then there’s not much in the gospels that’s more gross or gag inducing than the story of our salvation.

Which is what makes Mr. Anyabwile’s gag reflex theology so problematic (not to mention hideously lacking in grace).

If Jesus took Mr. Anyabwile’s advice and had the sort of gag reflex he recommends, that woman who bled would never have been healed.

Those lepers would have remained outcasts.

Lazarus would never have walked out of his tomb.

And we would not be saved.

You see, Mr. Anyabwile’s rhetoric isn’t just insensitive.

It’s a total annihilation of the gospel.

That’s not to say Mr. Anyabwile or anybody else at The Gospel Coalition can’t hold to their beliefs about homosexuality. They can. But as soon as you start prescribing theology and behavior that is explicitly antithetical to the life and teaching of Jesus, you cease to be a people of the gospel and instead become a coalition of hate.

You can disagree with the beliefs of others and reject the way they live their lives. You can even call them sinners.

But if those “sinners” make you gag and turn away, then you have no claim to the name “Christian.”

Because Jesus didn’t have a gag reflex.


Grace and peace,

Zack Hunt


  • Camp Whisperer
    August 22, 2013

    I am so glad someone has written a retaliation to that incredibly inappropriate and inaccurate article. Thank you.

  • Ben Poland
    August 22, 2013

    This is incredible. Thank you for this, Zack.

  • Lorrie Beth
    August 22, 2013

    It’s a sad day for TGC. Loved this response.

  • Tara Porter-Livesay
    August 22, 2013

    With you, friend.

  • Tracey Michae'l Lewis-Giggetts
    August 22, 2013

    “…broccoli is gross.” <—best line ever. Oh and the rest of this is pretty incredible also. 😉

    broccoli is gross.

    • Oswald Carnes
      August 23, 2013

      I must be the only person in the world who loves steamed broccoli with nothing on it. Guess I’m going to hell then.

      • Alix
        August 23, 2013

        I taught a preschool class for a while, and one of the “assignments” once was that the kids had to draw their favorite food, and then we helped them write the name of that food. Most kids did the typical kiddie foods – lots of pictures of ice cream, cookies, cake.

        One kid went nuts with the green crayons. His favorite food? Broccoli, of course, and he was quite proud of that too.

  • aricclark
    August 22, 2013

    Excellent. Love the playful tone. I took a very similar approach: http://twofriarsandafool.com/2013/08/the-connection-between-my-conscience-and-my-disgust/

    • karen farley
      August 22, 2013

      I Thought it was a great article.. there are very few who have the agape love that it takes to love the untouchables of society..No one is able to do what Yeshua did in their own strength..that is why we should pay much attention to seek this love.. Corinthians 13 makes it very clear that one can have all gifts knowledge, sacrifice of flesh,wisdom, ect ect, and if one does not have Agape all the rest counts for nothing..The more broken and wounded the individual the more love and patience and long suffering is needed to minister.. some heal quickly and others do not..The problem of attempting to minister to this type of individual when one does not have this Agape, is that more often than not, the self righteous cause more harm to an already broken vessel..if they don’t heal at the time and rate we with our carnal minds think they should and then the accusations begin.. IT IS GOOD TO BE HONEST BEFORE THE THRONE AND CONFESS ONES LACK OF AGAPE AND INABILITY TO WORK IT UP IN ONES OWN STRENGTH, AND THEN ASK TO BE FILLED WITH RIVERS OF LIVING WATER. INSTEAD OF PRETENDING AND DOING SOMONE MORE HARM..

      • karen farley
        August 22, 2013

        let us all seek after this Agape Love and then go out into the highways and byways and compel these precious ones whom Yeshua died for to come into the house…

  • JDorcas
    August 22, 2013

    Wow. I wrote a blog post that hit on the “gross factor” of Jesus last Christmas. So great to have another voice who expresses so much of what and how I think as a Christian and recognizes there cannot be spiritual integrity without intellectual integrity. There are plenty more of us underground who are emerging and finding a voice online. Keep it up bro. http://jdorcas.blogspot.com/2012/12/jesus-pooped.html

  • pastordt
    August 22, 2013

    Solidly biblical and solidly HUMAN (in the best sense of that word) response. Thank you.

  • Justin Mitchell
    August 22, 2013

    Didn’t Pat Robertson say something similar recently?

  • Terri
    August 22, 2013

    Spot on.

  • JL
    August 22, 2013

    just to add to what you said about crucifixion: as graphic as that movie was, in real life crucifixion was probably even worse.

  • Mia
    August 22, 2013

    Like you said, Mr. Anyabwile is completely entitled to his beliefs about homosexuality. Unfortunately, he goes about it in a completely tasteless way, and reading his article left me a bit disheartened. Thanks for your thoughts.

  • zackskrip
    August 22, 2013

    But Thabiti wasn’t equating gross=sinful, he was stating that if we find it gross, we must ask ourselves why. It may be a matter of taste, or it may be our conscience. He was using it as an apologetic for natural law, you know, that thing written in the heart of every person by God.

    • ZackHunt
      August 22, 2013

      An apologetic which concludes that if we find something gross it must be sinful.

      • zackskrip
        August 22, 2013

        Did you read the comments where people made the same accusations and he responded to them there? That’s not what he said.

        • zackskrip
          August 22, 2013

          Here, just to save everyone time — From a comment at 3:30pm on 8/20/13:

          “Thanks for commenting and joining the conversation. Perhaps the difficulty is in reducing the argument to a straw man. It’s not merely a call for people to say, “But it’s so gross!” It’s a call for people who suppress that reaction to ask themselves where the reaction comes from and what it’s designed to tell them. It’s a call to pay attention to the moral compass we all have, the conscience, and to heed it. Certainly describing the actual behavior of homosexuality is not enough in any public discourse. But it’s necessary to describe it or we won’t actually be discussing the thing itself. As I believe Wells put it, “We’ve come now to the point where the first duty of intelligent men is to state the obvious.” Stating the obvious is what engages the conscience’s reaction, and that gives us opportunity to then talk anew about these things.


          Now Zack, it seems you have two options. 1) Admit that “If we find something gross it must be sinful” is a clear misrepresentation of his article, or 2) claim his article was unclear but his comments are clearly not saying what you contend they say. Continuing to ignore this issue doesn’t work. For those interested, there are countless other comments where Thabiti is disclaiming what Zack here claims he’s saying. I don’t think you have to agree with him, I just think you should represent him honestly.

          • ZackHunt
            August 22, 2013

            Actually, I have at least one more option – point out that he is either incapable or uninterested in taking responsibility for what he actually said and is instead is now trying to spin his original words into something else entirely while in the process shaming everyone else for a problem he created.

          • zackskrip
            August 22, 2013

            By “what he actually said” I’m going to assume you mean in the article. Here is a section out of his conclusion:

            **What we’re really talking about when we talk about “homosexuality” is not just sex gone wrong but wrong sexual behavior. Deep down we all–Christian and non-Christian, heterosexual and homosexual–know it’s wrong. The knowledge of that moral wrong repulses us because we’re moral beings, made that way by our Creator. In a Romans 1 “suppress the truth in unrighteousness” world, it becomes the Christian’s responsibility to help people acknowledge what they really know but are really suppressing.**

            You can see here that it’s not just the gag reflex that makes it wrong, but rather it points to something that God has written in our hearts. What I said in my very first comment.

            Now, for a more somber moment, allow me to confess how this article was so convicting. What bothers me is how little of a “gag reflex” I have to sin, but especially mine. Instead of being repulsed by my sin, I struggle merely “knowing” it’s wrong. I’ve been seared by exposure and love of sin. I’m left needing to beg God for forgiveness and to re-sensitize my conscience.

            That which is evil should repulse us. Seeing images of the Holocaust should repulse us, it’s evil. Seeing images of aborted babies should repulse us — they are the evidence of evil. Sexual sin, your’s, mine, and our nation’s, should repulse us. The fact that it doesn’t, doesn’t invalidate his argument, rather it shows us how hardened to sin we’ve become.

          • Guest
            August 25, 2013

            Know what also repulses people?

            Life-saving surgery. Watch a video of surgery or look up images sometime, if you have the stomach for it.

            (Trigger warning: blood, detailed gore, violence.)

            An otherwise healthy body, with a defective heart valve, lies on the table. the doctor slices into the skin and blood flows freely til the vessels are clamped. Tissue and fat are cut and pried apart. The ribs– sawed and cracked. The pericardium, which is the sac around the heart, must be cut and peeled open. Here, take a look. Thoracic cavity image on Wikipedia.

            The doctor’s gloved hands dive into this most private area, the sacred temple of the body itself. The doctor touches the internal organs of the patient, shifts the lung, inserts blunt metal clamps and razor scalpels, sharp needles, serrated tools. Blood and viscous fluids cling to the gloves; it’s slippery work, taking a person apart.

            The blade sinks into the heart itself. The living heart of a human being! Punctured, rent open, cut apart! If this idea doesn’t fill you with awe and terror, you might want to check your pulse.

            How can a doctor possibly commit such a horror on another human being? How can he take this person’s life into his own hands? How can he place his own hands into the body of this patient, sink his fingers into the viscera, the membranes, the web of capillaries, the fat and flesh? How can he throttle his disgust at the smell of the bloody interior of a human body? How can he stand to jab and cut and tear at another human being’s body, his every touch potentially bringing death?

            It’s disgusting. At a base, instinctive, animal level, we KNOW it’s wrong to cut open another person, let alone to reach inside that person and touch and dissect the organs, flesh, blood and guts. The very idea fills us with horror.

            And we rely on our surgeons to overcome that disgust to save our lives.

            I don’t know about you, but I’m very grateful that humans can rise above instinctive, animal disgust.

  • Gabriel Hughes
    August 22, 2013

    “So because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth.” The words of Jesus in Revelation 3:16.

    • ZackHunt
      August 22, 2013

      Which has nothing to do with the issue at hand.

    • David Marshall
      August 22, 2013

      “In everything, therefore, treat people the same way you want them to treat you, for this is the Law and the Prophets.” Also Jesus.

    • Pam
      August 24, 2013

      That’s nice. But how exactly is Zack’s reminder that Jesus embraced the people, places, and experiences that are so ‘gag inducing’ being lukewarm? Call me crazy, but I don’t think being reminded of how Jesus responded to the outcasts and unclean of society and being encouraged to do likewise in our lives is ‘lukewarm’. In fact, I’d say it’s spot on with how we’re called to act.
      Whether you agree with homosexuality or not, reducing people – real live human beings – to a gag reflex is pretty much as pharisaical and graceless as you can get.

  • dmr5090
    August 22, 2013

    Zack, I’ve got to be honest, brother–I hear a lot of confusion in your article. Like, a lot.

    First, in every counter-example you give where Jesus has no gag-reflex, sin is not at issue. A better example would be the woman at the well, where Jesus tells those without “yuckiness” to cast the first stone. No one does.

    But then Jesus says, “Go, and be yucky no more.” So when Thabiti says sexual acts are yucky, he’s only calling yucky what Scripture (and Jesus) calls yucky. The sin–not the person.

    Second, can we really say with respect to Jesus that he has no gag reflex? Hence Gabriel’s post on Revelation 3:16. He has a major gag reflex to sin, Zack. He is God, and he is holy.

    Third, the gospel does not fail to condemn sin. God doesn’t leave the guilty unpunished. The gospel says *repent* of your sin (and, if homosexual acts weren’t sinful, there’d be nothing to repent of), and turn and be healed. A blog post that trivializes sin–now that’s against the gospel.

    Fourth, you conclusion misleads your readers: “If those ‘sinners’ make you gag and turn away…” But it’s not the sinners that make you turn away. In fact, despite our God-given conscience’s sensitivities to that which God calls evil, he nevertheless pursues us, *despite* what we are, despite our yuckiness. And Thabiti does the same in his own ministry. But while we love the one who is morally gross as God loved us, God did not shrink back from telling us to turn, repent, and be saved–that our grossness really is gross. Thabiti is doing the same.

    And calling out the dangers of endless euphemisms, which was actually his main point, which everyone seems to be missing beneath the term “gag reflex,” which wasn’t Thabiti’s in any case.

    • Shea Zellweger
      August 22, 2013

      Thabiti’s post was based on the assumption that a) everybody has the same visceral response to certain sexual activities as he does and b) having such a visceral response is how you know those sex acts are immoral. As has been illustrated ad nauseum today in the social media responses to Thabiti, many people have no such reactions to those sexual activities, but do have them in regard to a whole host of other things. If we apply Thabiti’s logic, then we have to consider the moral implications of the ‘gut reactions’ (gag reflex, disgust, whatever) people have to other things.

      With that in mind, Zack’s post is spot on. He did not say Thabiti could not hold such an opinion (in fact, he went out of his way to say the opposite), but rather he pointed out that if Jesus had based his morality on his ‘gag reflex,’ rather than on other principles, it likely would have been a very different story.

      If Jesus had judged what was or was not right based on physiological responses which came from his cultural context, he would have allowed his revulsion at coming into contact with unclean things to dictate his actions (this is precisely what many good, religious people did at the time). That was precisely the sort of reaction first century culture would have ingrained in anybody to have against bodily secretions, and it would have been exacerbated by the Jewish understanding of clean and unclean.

      Nobody is saying Thabiti cannot hold the views he holds. What is being said is that gut feelings, gag reflexes, and other forms of visceral reactions are not things upon which we should base our moral judgments.

      • dmr5090
        August 22, 2013

        The thrust of your objection is what you believe to be the sheer subjectivity of the “gag reflex” mentioned by the openly gay journalist, and then described by Thabiti. But I don’t share your conclusion that this reflex is subjective. Insofar as that sense of moral sensibility (“disgust”) is *in line with Scripture* (since this *is* the real issue), it is anything *but* subjective. Indeed, it is the only anchor into objectivity available to humanity. Just because everyone doesn’t experience the same “gag” doesn’t mean that that “gag” doesn’t exist. No doubt some may not experience this moral sensitivity to homosexual acts, but that is a mark of hardened consciences (a la Rom. 1). We are daily exposed to homosexual acts on television media, the internet, etc., such that they have now taken on a level of normality simply unheard of even twenty years ago. One curse of God on a generation as sinful as ours (across the whole spectrum, not just sexual–for our greed, our materialism, our racism, our various lusts, etc.), is that we actually start to *believe* the big lie (2 Thess. 2:11).

        And the problem with Zack’s post is that all of the examples given
        therein concerning Jesus’ “gag reflex” (which he does have, if we take Revelation seriously) are **abstracted from personal sin issues**. Homosexual acts are qualitatively different. The closest analogy that comes to mind for me is how Jesus handles the woman at the well and her accusers, where there IS a personal sin issue at stake. But after rebuking her accusers, Jesus does not coddle her in her sin; he says, “Go and sin no more.” And that is why Zack’s post is simply not spot-on.

        One more minor point here: Thabiti did not say that the “gag reflex” should “dictate our actions.” He said, rather, that we ought to look beyond the gay community’s endless euphemisms so that the coarse reality of what is being advocated is allowed to rub up against our consciences. It doesn’t dictate actions. It doesn’t cause us to hate. It doesn’t cause anything, except a compassion for the sinner, and a contrition and brokenness that we should all have as we approach the cross. And even if that side of the tone was not taken up by Thabiti in that particular blog post, it has been taken up in many others. Both are in Scripture. Will we only accept words from God that we find palatable? In which case, who is God?

        Consider this same point in another context. Thabiti has rocked the boat by removing the mask of euphemisms. Insofar as his article begets moral clarity–regardless of whether you agree with him–I say, More power to him. Suppose “pro-choice” were synonymous with the following: “Take a vacuum cleaner and stick it into a woman, and suck out the brains of the baby she is carrying.” Even if I were to replace “baby” with “fetus,” are your moral sensitivities not bristling? But is that feeling not **far clearer** than the arguments muddied by endless euphemisms?! If your answer is “No,” I do hope you reconsider, my friend.

        • Ron Amundson
          August 22, 2013

          The vacuum cleaner baby brain analogy doesn’t sell very well from my perspective, and no I do not find it disgusting at all. Its a medical procedure, and like nearly all medical procedures they will offend those unfamiliar with them… This despite the fact I’d very much like to see the need for abortion go by the wayside.

          I remember the first time I had my fingers inside a dissected human heart in cadaver lab, or held up a piece of diseased lung. Its a bit on the disturbing side, and for some it does trigger a gag reflex, and for others they may even pass out. Even worse, consider that some pathologies not only look disgusting, the smell magnifiies the disgust level by 1000x.

          The natural human gag reflex kept folks away from disease over the centuries, perhaps it even played a role in the parable of the good Samaritan. Alas, if we stayed true to disgust integrating with our morality, the medical field would still be in the domain of snake oil and voodoo.

          • dmr5090
            August 22, 2013

            Ron, I really have only one question: If I cooked you a casserole and served it on your plate, and after you took a bite, I said to you: “You know those little things you thought were beans? Those were early stage fetuses.” Question: Would you swallow your bite same as if I had told you they were merely beans?

          • Steve Dawson
            August 22, 2013

            Frankly, I find your attempt at analogy to be way off base. I suspect that you really don’t get what Ron is saying. Yes, I have been reading the thread. Having been through a few medical procedures and having friends who are nurses and doctors, I could easily gross you out. The point is really, is it necessary? The larger point is this: depending on your viewpoint the human body can be pretty wondrous or downright gross. Does The Gospel Coalition advance their cause by using their analogy? Or is this just a shock factor?

          • dmr5090
            August 22, 2013

            Since I’m not sure which analogy you mean–the abovementioned abortion analogy, or the casserole analogy, I’ll address each in turn.

            1) The abortion analogy works to demonstrate the sheer deceitfulness of euphemisms. “Pro-choice” phrasiology does not help clarity of thought, because “choice” is inherently a restricted right. (“Life” is not.) I may not legally “choose” to murder. This is why the phrase is manipulative. And this is kind of euphamistic rhetoric is no different than other words and concepts employed by the gay community that no one could be against. (Who could be against “love” or “equal rights”?)

            2) If we are not “grossed out” by a person sticking a vacuum inside a woman and sucking out the brains of her baby, then that is a mark of neither bravery nor integrity. From the Bible’s perspective, it is the mark of hardened conscience (Ps. 22:9-10, 139:14, Jer. 1:5, etc.), a sign of how far we have fallen from justice, mercy and love, and a tragic rejection of what it means to be made in God’s image–what it means to be human. We are made in God’s image (Gen. 1:26) and are particularly precious in his sight, from womb to tomb. Anything less **should** offend us.

            3) The analogy of the casserole is *meant* to incite some offense. It *should* incite some disgust. Ron seemed to me to be saying that such procedures are just that–mere procedures–no different from having a tooth pulled, having a finger inside a dead man’s head, or the like. (Why should Ron want “the need for abortion to go by the wayside” if it’s no more objectionable than having his finger in the head of a cadaver?) In response to the abortion analogy, Ron responded by saying that the “smell” was disgusting, or the “look” of a thing made his stomach turn. But then it is he who has misunderstood the analogy. The aesthetic “grossness” of this or that cadaver part is not the point–**such “grossness” is amoral.** The point of the abortion (and the casserole) metaphor was to point to the **moral** grossness of such acts as abortion. But even this is tangential to the issue at hand. I simply raised it to illustrate the danger of euphemisms.

            That disgust wrought by the casserole analogy is not to be dismissively waved away as “shock factor.” **It is our conscience trying to tell us something important** (Matt. 11:15).

            To which you may respond, “One person’s conscience tells them one thing, another person’s conscience says something different. Who can judge?”

            True. How could we know who is right? We can’t. Only God can judge. But he’s not a deistic God, leaving his image-bearers with no direction. God *speaks* to us–in human language! (Sit on that for a moment. How accommodating and merciful is God to condescend to speak to us in words we may understand?) In brief, we need God’s Word to guide us. If Scripture is removed as an adjudicator in these matters–if we have no common text to appeal to–then we are left with little more than questions of raw power, one human being’s conscience subjugated to another. As I have said: Insofar as our consciences are in alignment with Scripture, we can know they are on sure footing. When they break from Scripture’s teaching–as with homosexual acts or abortions, greed or materialism, racism or extramarital lusts–we are going in directions that are, finally, eternally dangerous.

            We can explain away text after text hiding behind relativized hermeneutics. But before God’s majesty, all mouths will be stopped. Only our Advocate is the Word who may speak in such presence. But while we are here and have space and time to examine these matters, let’s do so with the care they deserve. Because one day, we will all give an account for them, myself included. (So pray for me if you think to!)

        • sharon autenrieth
          August 23, 2013

          You’re mixing together two different stories from the gospels: the woman at the well and the woman taken in adultery are two different people.

          • dmr5090
            August 23, 2013

            I stand corrected–you’re right! The adulterous woman was not at the well–in my haste I did indeed mix them. Thank you, Sharon!

        • Lunch Meat
          August 23, 2013

          The Bible says that when I’m on my period, I should camp outside my house in a tent because it’s unclean. I’m sure it makes my husband gag when he thinks about the fact that I’m on my period while we’re cuddling. As it should–periods are nasty and gross. Does that mean that he’s sinning by not casting me out of the house?

          You will probably say that requirement is cultural and needs to be interpreted differently. I agree. We should have a conversation about biblical interpretation. What Anyabwile is doing is encouraging people to bypass rational, intellectual, compassionate discussion by focusing on the gag reflex. He’s using the ick factor as a way to short-circuit the rational, honest discussion that’s happening. That’s not right. Not only that, it encourages people to think of the ick factor as a sign of an absolute moral law. Actually, even if it is corroborated by the bible, it’s still just a religious rule which should NOT be enshrined into law. Anyabwile is bypassing the question of whether religious rules should be incorporated into law by again, encouraging people to focus on the ick factor. It’s dishonest. It doesn’t beget moral clarity; it encourages people to focus on how something makes them feel, which is irrelevant. Gay people probably think the sex I have with my husband is gross; should they be allowed to ban it or assume God’s against it?

          • dmr5090
            August 23, 2013

            A few thoughts, though I’ll try to make this brief as I can (though all of the issues are really pretty complicated). Some of these objections I’ve answered elsewhere to others on this blog. I don’t say that to sound exasperated–honestly, LM, you raise good and important questions. It’s just that there are good and important answers to them.

            1) Having a period is not a sin. There is a difference between moral “grossness” and amoral “grossness.” Thabiti dealt with the former. Your objection raises the latter.

            2) Said “gag reflex” is not subjective, which is the assumption that underlies your objection that “gay people think sex with your husband is gross.” Thabiti was *not* saying that we should just listen to our baser gag-reflexes. What he was saying was that we need to listen to our God-given consciences. How do we know whose God-given conscience is right when two are in conflict? (That’s the subjectivity question.) And the only answer is: When that conscience-reaction is in line with God’s Word, it is right and true, in harmony with our Creator. When it is not, it is likely just coming from ourselves.

            Of course, that assumes we can understand God’s Word. That’s a huge discussion that I’ll touch on in my second point. But in brief, consider for a moment how merciful and condescending God is to reach down and accommodate human beings by communicating to us in Greek and Hebrew–in finite, human language. He communicated to us in ways that can be understood, examined, analyzed, considered, reflected on. And thus we are morally accountable before God to understand and examine his Word, to the best of our abilities to do so. Not because this earns us salvation–that’s Christ’s grace-gift. But rather, because we are called to *respond* the grace-gift of salvation. Part of that response is learning to think God’s thoughts after him.

            3) Some requirements in the Bible are cultural, some are not. There are many ways of discerning which are which. One of them is to ask: Which of God’s commandments on his people changes least in form throughout redemptive history? The condemnation of homosexuality is both Biblically intercultural and intercanonical. That’s a *huge* marker. Another way is to ask: “Does the Bible have a theology of x?” So Paul says, “Greet one another with a holy kiss.” The issue is not that there is a theology of kissing in the Bible. Rather, there is a theology of Christian welcoming, warmness, fellowship, etc., and kissing was merely the cultural form at the time. But if the thing in question has to do with the broader theological structure of how the Bible fits together, such that you can’t change it without doing serious damage to its coherence, then you have another problem. The Bible has a theology of human sexuality that traces its roots to creation. The theology of Christ and the Church and by extension marriage is made coherent by a vision of sexual male/female complementarity. In other words, it’s not just a question of proof-texting. Calling homosexuality a sin in Scripture is put together at deeper, structural levels.

            4) Concerning religious rules as law, America is not a theocracy. This is a good thing. We cannot say, “X is now law because the Bible says so.” However, we do live under one form of democracy that, ideally, welcomes all ideas from the public square to be championed in legislation. Some ideas will win, some will lose, some will be enshrined into law, others will not be. But it would be unjust to tell Christians, Muslims, Jews, atheists, or any other worldview-group, that in order to gain access to the public square and advocating laws therein, they must check their most deeply held convictions at the door. Rather, we work out *from* our faith commitments *to* various bits of legislation we believe are just. Everyone does this, Christians included. That’s why there’s nothing morally wrong with Christians championing laws they feel are morally aligned with Scripture. We insist that the Church (capital “C) must not carry out civil authority (hence separation of Church (capital “C”) and State (capital “S”). But that does not mean individual Christians cannot reason legally from their religious premises. When those premises aren’t shared with others in our democracy, the legislation on the other end still can be. Maybe Christians and atheists object to racism for different reasons, from different premises. But we still object to racism, and can craft public policy accordingly.

        • Shea Zellweger
          August 23, 2013

          so the gag reflex is only a valid moral indicator when your gag reflex lines up with Scripture, and is not a valid moral indicator when it does not line up with Scripture. In other words, the gag reflex is in no way a valid moral indicator, but rather Scripture is (in your estimation) a valid moral indicator, and if your gag reflex happens to line up with that, it’s a bonus.

          Fine, but that’s not Thabiti’s point. He said your ‘gag reflex’ is because you know something is immoral. And that is exactly how 1st century people knew touching a leper was immoral (and, incidentally, unclean according to Scripture). The arguments are one and the same. You can feel free to make your case against homosexual activity, but the ‘gag reflex’ argument is, by your own admission, not actually a valid basis for making moral determinations.

          • dmr5090
            August 26, 2013

            Hey there Shea, thanks for the response.

            There’s a sense in which you’re absolutely right. The only being whose “gag reflex” truly matters is God’s. He communicates to us through Scripture. Ultimately, it’s what Scripture says that matters most. It is the only *inerrent* guide for our moral sensibilities.

            But there’s another wrinkle to human moral assessment–being made in God’s image and as such, being gifted with an internal moral compass. The same God who made everything made that same moral compass in you and I–the conscience.

            Note that Thabiti did not claim that the “gag reflex” was how we ought to make final moral decisions. Rather, he said that such feelings are how we know that our consciences “have been provoked.” You see, his point was more nuanced: that secondary reactions (conscience reflex) ought to provoke reflection on primary (Biblical) foundations for moral judgements (hence the first paragraph in Thabiti’s original article beneath the “Conclusion” heading; he has since written a cordial rebuttal of his own). I have not argued that the ‘gag reflex’ is “a valid basis for making moral determinations.” I have argued, rather, that the removal of euphemisms is a refreshing and healthy way to allow raw sin to provoke (or rub up against) our consciences. But for me to say that homosexual activity IS “sin” begs the question, unless Scripture affirms it as sin. We do not know for certain that it is sin by our conscience reactions alone. But our conscience reactions are (fallen) indicators, every individual’s different, that should point us back to first principles (Scripture) to see right from wrong.

            Someone from a generation and a half ago may have his or her “gag reflex” provoked when seeing whites and blacks drinking from the same water fountain. Someone from today may have a “gag reflex” provoked when seeing two men deep-kissing. The “gag reflex” is not the moral adjudicator, but the moral indicator. The difference between the two examples here mentioned is that the gag-reflex over the former–whites and blacks drinking from the same fountain–is an ugly, anglo-centric cultural elitism broken by and in Christ (Rom. 10:12, Gal. 3:28, Rev. 5:9, 7:9). The latter–two men deep-kissing–is roundly condemned in Scripture, not only at the level of intercanonical verses (several), but at the level of structure, from creation to Pauline marriage metaphors.

            The leprosy example needs to be considered carefully. Leprosy in first century Palestine or Israel was almost definitely not what we would today call Hanson’s disease. Biblical leprosy probably wasn’t contagious (consider Naaman). As has been pointed out by a friend of mine, “The significance that it [leprosy] was given was on account of its ritual symbolism, not on account of its pathology.”

            In other words, such a person was not sinning because s/he got leprosy, just as a woman was not sinning because she got her period. Such conditions made persons *ceremonially “unclean,”* but were not intrinsically sinful. (Theological precepts concerning civil order and ceremonial cleanliness are rather foreign to most contemporary Western ears, though in many Middle Eastern countries, such laws are commonplace even today.) The difference between the leper/woman having her period and the wo/man engaged in homosexual acts is that the latter is complicit in sin (that is, moral rebellion), while the condition of the leper is not intrinsically sinful.

            I do hope this clarifies contentions, and my apologies if prior posts were not as clear as they could have been on these points!

    • ZackHunt
      August 22, 2013

      Respectfully, I think the word you’re looking for is “disagreement” not “confusion.”

      • dmr5090
        August 22, 2013

        Perhaps well-intentioned confusion? But brother, I do believe the objections I’ve raised are not mere opinion, but represent actual, hard, tough-as-nails logical fallacies. If I am wrong, pray for me, that I would repent. I mean that with great sincerity.

        But if, in examining Scripture and our own consciences, you discover that you may have misstepped on this matter, however well-intentioned, however pastoral your sensibilities in shielding the gay community from what you see as a kind of hatred–if there is a disconnect between Scripture’s authority and your own sensibilities, I would just hope to encourage you to interpret the imperfect through the lens of the perfect, and not the other way round.

        That said, your pastoral desire to shield others from hate is Spirit-given and commendable. But I do hope that you would do the same for Thabiti as you attempt here to do for the gay community.

        • ZackHunt
          August 22, 2013

          I don’t think you need to repent just because we have different biblical hermenuetics. I just think/wish you would see that there is very little about Biblical interpretation that can be described as “actual, hard, tough-as-nails logical fallacies.”

          • dmr5090
            August 22, 2013

            But the main objection I’m raising isn’t, in the first instance, a hermeneutical question. Nor does your post mention hermeneutics (though the topic is worthy of another post). In this particular instance, the question is a logical one. That is to say, in every example you raise, there is no personal sin-issue at stake. In Thabiti’s, there is. There’s an entry-to-entry mismatch, if you will.

            And if you believe that homosexual acts are not sinful, then, merely say so, and at that point, you’d be right about the conversation needing to move backwards into hermeneutics.

            The hermeneutical question, however, would be whether or not we might call homosexual acts sinful, or whether Scripture’s condemnation of them was culturally constrained. (After all, we eat shellfish and no longer stone perpetually disobedient children!)

            Concerning hermeneutical approaches, though it’s another conversation entirely, I would simply suggest that homosexuality is qualitatively different than other OT prohibitions, in that the condemnation of it as sin is *intercanonical*. That is to ask: Which of God’s demands on his people change least in form throughout redemptive history? Homosexuality falls into this category, and so its sinfulness is not culturally constrained. It is intercultural.

            You may not share the criteria I’ve just outlined. Fair enough. But the moral/civil/ceremonial distinctions have deep heritage in the Church, and if you’re aiming at a new OT/NT canonical hermeneutic by which we may make moral judgements, then honestly, I’m willing to listen (and I bet we would each learn a lot). But it seems to me that to remove an intercanonical moral compass is wildly dangerous, since we then remove from ourselves any criteria from discerning what moral laws from the Bible are enduring and which are merely cultural forms.

            Rule of thumb: If the imperative itself is not tied into deeper theological structures, then other cultural manifestations are generally acceptable. (I.e., we are not sinning when we don’t greet each other with a holy kiss [Rom. 16:16]!) That’s because there is not, in the Bible, a *theology of kissing.* Rather, there is a theology of Christian acceptance of one another, welcome of others, warmness in fellowship, etc. Kissing was merely a cultural form. However, if the imperative is tied into the very structure of Biblical theology such that the form itself is part of the argument as a whole, then we have another problem. There is a theology of sexuality, starting back at creation. God created Adam and Eve. There is a theology of marriage, linked to Christ and the Church. Do you see how the male/female complementarity is worked into the very structure of Biblical theology? This is very different animal than cultural forms of welcome.

            This response has become too long. My apologies.

          • SpyPlus
            August 22, 2013

            your comment was too long for me to read but quick question dmr5090==Anyabwile?

          • dmr5090
            August 22, 2013

            No. Check Twitter: dmr5090. Zack and I actually follow each other…lol. And let me clarify: I like a lot of what Zack writes elsewhere. He seems like a very nice guy, endowed by the Spirit with pastoral sensitivities for which we ought to give thanks to God. One must deal with the issues, but let’s not forget, there are people out there…

          • Ron Amundson
            August 22, 2013

            Your post has much to ponder, perhaps too much at one shot 🙂 Hopefully I won’t venture too far into tldr land.

            I think there is a danger of building a house of cards with the deeper theological structure thing, perhaps equally as dangerous as the challenges and paradoxes of discerning cultural and enduring norms. Ie, what happens when part of the structure topples or is shaken… does the whole system come tumbling down? What about collateral damage to those on the periphery?

            That being said, I think your post brings some understanding as to why all the hoopla over homosexuality and the 7 or so clobber texts. I’ve never seen those texts as anywhere near the absolute clarity that some folks portray… Even when I was against same sex marriage and viewed homosexual acts as sinful, there seemed to be far too much wiggle room in that I could not be 100% sure that “traditional” interpretations and translations were correct.

            For years I said as an old married guy, “I dont have a dog in this game, let each figure it out as the Holy Spirit leads” That was until I had a couple young gals come to me in tears that they felt they had to resign their youth ministry positions as they were moving in together. At that point, things got real fast.

            That being said, when you integrate those texts into a sexual theology which transcends the whole of scripture, it no longer becomes an issue of what does Romans 1 and related clobber texts really mean. Rather, it becomes an issue where an entire structure rightly or wrongly is shaken. Patriarchy, complementarianism, women leaders, Eve’s part in the fall, power vs consent in sex and marriage being just a few, and it rocks a lot of folks worldviews…

            The pushback then becomes an almost expected thing of which a compassionate response is more appropriate than one of condemnation… alas there is a balance point so as not to harm others.

          • dmr5090
            August 22, 2013

            Hey Ron, thanks for your thoughtful comments and kind tone. Much appreciated, my man 🙂

            If I understand you aright, you are warning against making certain Biblical-theological structures the basis of worldview construction. Does the whole thing come apart if that base does?

            And I should want to say, at one level, Absolutely. If we grant that there is One mind behind Scripture, and that Scripture is the Word of God, and that God is omniscient (I’m assuming all of these things; if you’re not, we ought to start further back), then it follows that whatever He discloses is trustworthy and true. It fits. It has transcendental coherence. That doesn’t mean we can know that coherence exhaustively. But God has condescended to speak to human beings in human language, and we are thus morally accountable for our understanding of God’s speech. The Biblical theological structures (I prefer the term “types”) are excavations from the text itself. This is important, because any authoritative reading of the text must not come from me, the finite knower–I’d screw it up! Scripture must be its own adjudicator, it’s own interpreter. Only then can we hear with clarity what the Word of God says (Matt. 11:15).

            If you’re able to make intercanonical sense out of God’s consistent condemnation of homosexuality, of prelapse creation of male and female as “good design,” or Christ and the Church without gender complementarity, then friend, I’m willing to listen. And in so doing, you and I would likely need to rewrite thousands of years of church history. (Hints of arrogance?) But honestly, I’m willing to listen, **provided your means of preserving Biblical coherence spring organically from the text**.

            You can dismiss Romans 1 and others as “clobber texts” if you’d like, but the clarity of the greek is simply hard to duck. (I’ve read the “clobber texts” post. By all means, if anyone hasn’t read it, poke it up here: http://goo.gl/ESDTN. Just listen to Sandlin’s tone–it alone should be enough to convince us of his scholarly objectivity… In all seriousness, his exegesis is quite poor, and when you refer to “clobber texts,” I do pray you’re not considering Sandlin as a reference..)

            But again, to say that homosexual acts are sinful does not depend on prooftexting. There are entire strands of thought, ligaments, if you will, crafted by God in his Word, running all throughout Scripture, which hold it together coherently as humanity’s redemption narrative. The arguments are put together even at the structural/typological level. And the Bible stands or falls on the basis of its unity/coherence, and that coherence stands or falls on the basis of its God-inspired inerrency.

            Briefly: Patriarchy, complementarianism, women leader’s, Eve’s part in the fall, power/consent in sex and marriage, these huge issues are a) not synonymous on any definition, and b) ought to be carefully defined if brought into the conversation. You’re right that many of those are important gospel-related issues. But to lump complementarity in with consent in marriage? Come on, man… They’re big questions that though related, are worthy of more than blurb mention..

            I will say: I don’t personally know the women in your youth ministry, but at one level, they acted with deep integrity by leaving their posts (not by living together, if in living together they were engaged in sexual sin.) Their consciences would not let them life the double life of participating in ministry while living in sinful rebellion without repentance. (That is, if they moved in together despite their consciences testifying against them in quitting ministry, they were not at that juncture in repentance.) Either way: Jesus loves them, just as he loves us in our own kinds of brokenness. But in light of this love, what he calls for is repentance–a calling of sin what it is, and a turning from it–and faith.

          • Ron Amundson
            August 23, 2013

            Thank you for the kind words as well. I’m not arrogant enough, intelligent enough, much less do I have anywhere near the time to try and take that on a task of that magnitude. 🙂 What I can do, is provide bits and pieces of reflection in the blogosphere that hopefully add to a larger discussion. I can also point this discussion to folks who are much more versed in said theology than I am.

            I’m not sure who coined the term clobber text, but I’ve picked up on it sometime in 2007-2008 time frame. Its a convenient descriptor, albeit a term which also could be prone to misunderstanding… In our case the Sandlin web text as contrasted with about 5 years of studying theologians on both sides of the issue. My pre-sem Greek courses of decades ago was of little help in this regard. I remember the prof saying, now you know enough to be dangerous… but hopefully you at this point can at least identify the dangers… thus my focus on studying the works of theologians.

            The Sandlin paper appears to be a 10.000 foot overview and it looks like he took some liberties in the need to keep the verbiage down. I can sort of understand where he is coming from tone wise, but the tone choice doesn’t help the credibility of the argument he is trying to get across.

            Discussions on the Greek can go on for pages and pages just on a single word in the theologian world. If for no other reason, that level of debate should raise doubts as to a given theologian claiming an absolutely clear and rock solid definition. More so, I tend to think its an issue where our own personal and church biases, traditions, and cultures lean us towards one or the other, irrespective of what the text actually says, or if it says anything clear at all. Such led to my prior personal philosophy of not having a dog in the game.

            I am now out of time, lest my wife shoot me… but I do want to throw one more bit into the fray to avoid misunderstandings. I do not ascribe to inerrancy of the scriptures. I concur they are the words of God and most definitely they point to Christ. Alas they are also subject to mis-translation, the bungling of scribes, and a host of other issues which put them far from the same standards of accuracy as a contemporary legal text and/or scientific paper should have. They are not neutral, they carry the writers own biases and cultures of the time they were written. Inerrancy and infallibility issues cause far too many arguments among fellow believers when their lenses are from totally different worlds even if they may end up saying pretty much the same thing. Thus my reason for being upfront on this.

          • dmr5090
            August 23, 2013

            Ron, let me just say that there is a certain candor that comes with honesty in disagreement. So many folks in the blogosphere I run in to feel the need to play the role of “teacher” to “student,” and what they do to preserve that power structure is **not come down on one side of the discussion or the other**–it’s tempting to just stay above the fray and not say anything with conviction. So while I deeply disagree with you about Scriptures or how we approach them, let me thank you for your straight-forward honesty about your stances concerning them. **That** is how productive dialogue happens.

            That said, a few encouragements along these lines. When you say that you “don’t have a dog in the game,” I presume you meant concerning various interpretations of Scripture and the doctrines they generate. After all, there are as many interpretations of Scripture as there are readers to interpret it. Granted our cultural locatedness, granted our finitude, our sinfulness, our particular language, how can anyone say they are coming to a surer grasp of what Scripture actually says? That question is worthy of volumes. But I’ll say this: Christians have been thinking about those questions for 2 millennia, trying to think through how to be fair in interpreting the text while recognizing sociolinguistic difference. We’re all perspectivalists, and the writers of the gospel knew it (hence four accounts to the one gospel!) But might I suggest: You can be a perspectivalist who nevertheless believes in inerrency, and who holds that the historic confessions of the Church and her doctrines are True? These are not mutually exclusive beliefs.

            True, pages and pages of reflection on given Greek words remind us that our definitions of those words are only ever **approaching** the Truth. They are, at the end of the day, approximations.

            In this respect, consider an asymptote–the line is only ever **approaching** the x-axis. That’s the entire basis of Calculus, of course–tangential approximations.

            But those approximations are so good that you can land somebody on the moon.

            Or consider a hermeneutical spiral. A 6-year-old can read John 3:16 and say what it means with fair clarity. Then that 6-year-old can grow up and do his or her Ph.D. on the Johannine corpus. I’d like to think that they understand John 3:16 better now than when they were 6! But they still do not understand John 3:16 as God understands John 3:16–omnisciently. Because omniscience is an incommunicable attribute of God.

            I’m sure you see where I’m going. We can say what Scripture Truly says, while yet disclaiming any pretense of perfect, exhaustive, transcendental, omniscient knowledge. Our knowledge will always be finite. But that does not mean we cannot have *true* knowledge.

            Of course, to err is human. Copying errors were made, scribes were malicious, different authors have different vocabularies, surely Matthew, Mark, Luke and John are theologically committed writers (not objective!), and there is no one-to-one perfect word-for-word translation between English and Greek–these are astonishingly **human** documents.

            But there are intellectually sound answers to each and every objection listed above (that would make this post way too long to type out.) In brief, we may properly call Scripture the *inerrent* Word of God because those human documents have been preserved by the Holy Spirit. It boils down to whether or not we believe Jesus when he says that the Scriptures cannot be broken, or Paul when he writes that all of Scripture is ???????????; God-breathed.

            And remember: inerrency does not necessitate precisionism–we don’t need the precise wording of every little bit in order to say that Scripture is True. Paul’s address in Acts 17 is a summary of his actual address–not the full thing. Does that make Acts 17 errent? And I feel quite comfortable answering “No.”

            Just as we claim Jesus was fully God and fully man, we claim something similar about the Scriptures (the Word in the Word, if you will). That the Scriptures, though completely human in form, are divine in substance and content. We may usefully ask ourselves: Who preserves God’s Word? Does it ever return void?

            What I would hope to encourage you with is this: eventually, Jesus *and* the Scriptures’ integrity become a zero-sum game. I do not think one can consistently hold Jesus to be the Son of God without also granting the inerrency of Scripture. There are always questions about writers’ biases, and those questions are worthy, important, and Christians *need* to think them through. But shrinking into the bog of relativized hermeneutics will eventually disintegrate Christian confessions of Jesus as Lord.

            If you’re interested in pursuing this conversation at length (since I fear I’ve already taken up too much space on this blog), please do feel free to e-mail me. If any of these matters still strike you as less than agreeable, or if you feel that there’s just some things I probably haven’t wrestled with yet–I’m sure there are many!–I’d love to chat further. Follow me on Twitter (same as my id here), and I’ll send my e-mail address on request. Cheers friend!

          • Traci
            August 13, 2014

            “Scripture is the Word of God”

            Jesus Christ is the Word of God (John 1:1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.)

          • Traci
            August 13, 2014

            Reading this almost made me cry. Thank you so much for opening your heart and mind and allowing the Holy Spirit to guide you in seeing another way to interpret the “clobber passages” in historical and cultural context. God Bless you. *hugs*

          • Traci
            August 13, 2014

            Not sure why I’m posting to this comment. I get from your postings that we are to “love the sinner, hate the sin”. I believe that is wrong. In fact, Jesus says the opposite. He says “love the sinner, and hate *your own sin*, and when you remove the sin from your life then you can see clearly to help others remove sin from theirs”. The problem is that you will never rid your life of sin. I don’t allow mere man to convict me of sin, that’s the Holy Spirit’s job. I also see you trying to” tell the truth in love”

            So let’s examine truth and love.

            When your truth degrades people, it’s not loving.

            When your truth reduces relationships to sex acts, it’s not loving.

            When your truth makes people want to hurt and kill themselves, it’s not loving.

            (if you say that doesn’t happen, watch this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ycbHnPhw8VQ )

            When your truth makes the gospel something that is only available to people who believe like you, it’s not loving.

            When your truth pushes people away from Jesus instead of toward him, it’s not loving.

            And if your truth isn’t loving, is it really truth?

          • dmr5090
            August 13, 2014

            Hi there Traci. Wow! It’s been a while since I’ve seen this post, but I got an e-mail about your response, so I’m happy to drop by.

            First, let me say that I appreciate your response and your zeal to love and protect others that you see being harmed or wronged. As Christians, we are called to love our neighbors as ourselves (Lk. 10:27-28). But I think also that the fuel for that love, the origin of it, the model for it, is Christ’s own love for his people.

            And while Jesus had a lot to say in the way of caring for those society deems outsiders (Lk. 10:29-37), he also calls people to repentance (Mk. 1:15, Matt. 4:17). He also demands obedience (Matt. 28:19-20), and that, once he heals us, forgives us, we are to go and sin no more (Jn. 5:14; 8:11). The disciples of Jesus, then, are those who keep his commandments (Jn. 14:12, 15), thus confirming their election (2 Pet. 1:10).

            If I’m understanding you rightly, though, your issue is that believers have no place convicting other human beings of sin, because that’s exclusively the role of God alone. And in some ways, I actually agree with you. I agree, for example, that it is ultimately the Holy Spirit who convicts the soul of sin (Jn. 16:8). I agree also that we will never finally rid our lives of sin till Christ brings us home (Rom. 7:14-20; 1 Cor. 15:24-26).

            And yet, couldn’t we be agreed that other people–our brothers and sisters in Christ–can be used by God as the *means* through which he brings conviction? After all, God uses broken people–Abraham, Noah, Paul, etc.–to bring about his purposes, not to mention so many of the prophets God raised up to call Israel to repentance–Isaiah and Jeremiah are great examples. But that’s not just an OT thing–Paul exhorts believers to encourage one another to good works (Heb. 10:24). And when someone sins, or is in transgression, Paul tells fellow believers to restore the sinner in gentleness (Gal. 6:1-2). See also James 5:19-20 and Eph. 4:25.

            But it seems to me that probably the most difficult text to square with what you’re saying is Matt. 18:15-17, where Jesus himself instructs believers unambiguously to hold one another accountable when they are sinning.

            Again, I think the key here is to acknowledge that the Holy Spirit, the one who brings conviction, can use many different ways of bringing that about, and one major way is through our brothers and sisters in Christ–other forgiven sinners just, I trust, like you and I.

            Finally, while true that we won’t taste ultimate victory against sin in this life, the Christian is still instructed to wage war against sin (Eph. 6:10-20). And why wouldn’t we? We’ve been bought at the highest price–God’s own Son. I think Paul anticipated the very objection you raise here in Romans 6:15-23, which could be helpful for reflection.

            I don’t claim anything about “my truth,” as your refrain has it. Rather, God has revealed truth in the Scriptures (2 Tim. 3:16). You made a point below that Jesus is the Word of God and not the Bible–I’ll just respond to that here briefly. While it’s true that Jesus is called the Word of God and the phrase “Word of God” isn’t used as commonly with respect to Scripture within Scripture, that doesn’t mean that Scripture is anything less than the Word of God. In other words, we don’t settle what constitutes Scripture by word-hunting for the phrase “Word of God” to it (though Scripture is called the “word of God” in Heb. 4:12). The same principle is appealed to by Jesus himself in John 10:35 when he says “the Scripture cannot be broken.” Jesus appeals to the Bible–at the time, Tanakh–as the inerrent, infallible “Word of God” (here used as synonymous with “Scripture”). And the title rightly applies to both Scripture and Jesus because Jesus is the “Word” made flesh. Check out 2 Peter 1:16-21–look at how intertwined “Jesus” and this “prophetic word more fully confirmed”/”prophecy of Scripture.” Certainly, Jesus and the Bible are not synonymous, but it is legitimate, I think, based on these and other texts, to permit the title “Word of God” to both Jesus and Scripture.

            It was neat to revisit this thread. If you’d like to respond here, please feel free, and I’ll let you have the last word. If you’d like to dialogue about this at greater length, I’d be happy to pass my e-mail address along to you if you’d like to follow on Twitter–same handle as here–and we can continue the dialogue privately. I find that this can often make for more heartfelt, progressive conversation. Cheers friend, and thanks for posting!

          • Traci
            August 13, 2014

            I don’t like having the last word, I’m all about having deep conversations, especially about Jesus. I grew up around Christianity, but my transformation and resulting rebirth didn’t happen until about two years ago. So I’m a bit of a “faith baby” but I do study scripture as if my life depended on it, because it does. I don’t know Greek, Hebrew or Aramaic, but I do my best to study with what I know, and let the Holy Spirit guide me to the rest. I can look you up on Twitter and tweet you my email addy, I think you can message people privately there. I’d like to share my story about how I came to be reborn. It’s long and sometimes painful, but you’re pretty good at long posts haha 🙂 (teasing you). So I’ll get over to Twitter and lok you up. I type slow, I have Ataxic Cerebral Palsy, so I’m what the French call “le spastique”, so my emails may take time to write haha 🙂

    • Rob Tennant
      August 22, 2013

      Thabiti, in his article, plays the role of the Pharisee (Luke 7:36-50; specifically 7:39). Never once in this direct encounter does Jesus elaborate on the hideousness of the woman’s sin. He doesn’t have a gag reflex. He receives her offering (7:44-47). He knows she is a sinner and in her sin, he receives her without piling on condemnation. Thabiti’s article highlights the hideousness of sin in the way the Pharisees did and Jesus did not.

      • dmr5090
        August 22, 2013

        My friend, I strongly, strongly disagree. When Thabiti (and by extension, we in dialogue) use the phrase “gag reflex” (which, again, was not even Thabiti’s–it was that of an openly gay journalist), what we are saying is that Jesus recognized certain actions (whether in deed or thought) to be sinful. Sin repulses God. I fear we are not paying close enough attention to Revelation 3:16, where Jesus clearly tells the church in Laodicea that they make him want to vomit–much more than gag! So to say that sin does not cause Jesus to “gag” is simply not Biblical.

        And yet in saying all of that, we must not lose sight of the gospel–which is that, despite Jesus’ gag reflex, he came down to take the cross as our substitute anyway. What you are pointing out rightly is that Jesus showed us grace and came to atone for our sin, to forgive our sin (and we are surely the greater debtors to the moneylender; Lk. 7:41-42). The Pharisee in Luke 7 is cold and self-righteous, hinting that Jesus ought to condemn the “sinner” for touching him. And this passage hints at the coming chapter in Luke 8, mentioned by Zack in his blog, when the bleeding woman touches Jesus in faith. Power goes out from Jesus, and instead of condemning her for being a sinner and touching him, he told her that her faith had healed her.

        If we say that Jesus has no gag reflex, we are not listening closely to Scripture. (He clearly had one for the Pharisees! But not *because* they were Pharisees, but because of their self-righteousness. Read into more of Thabiti’s blog. Read into some of his responses to commenters. You will find a man in prayer for those with whom he disagrees. Does that sound like a Pharisee to you?) If we say that God has no gag reflex, we need to re-read our entire Bible. Jesus’ incarnation, and his perfect example to us highlights *everyone’s* sin, and everyone’s need of grace. The problem comes when we shield our eyes from the reality of calling sin “sin”. We have been slow to call homosexual acts sins, while the Bible declares this unabashedly. Again: Will we only accept words from God that we find palatable, and dismiss whatever we don’t like as merely cultural “at that time, but not now” fare? In which case, who is God?

        Robert, you said it well: “He knows she is a sinner and in her sin, he receives her without piling on condemnation.” But all Thabiti has done in his article is remove the masks of euphemistic pleasantries to reveal that behind friendly words like “love” in the context of homosexuality lies a darker reality of sin that stands against God and his Christ. Thabiti has not shunned homosexuals as the Pharisee in Luke 7 shuns sinners. He has not condemned homosexuals as the Pharisee condemns sinners. He *has* condemned homosexual acts as sinful, and he has brought into light the explicit nature of the acts so often left to whispers in the dark.

        Jesus welcomes all repentant sinners. Thabiti has merely stated that those engaged in homosexual acts have something to repent *of*. (So do the rest of us. But few contemporary cultural delusions are so explicit as homosexuality’s moral acceptability. Of course there are others–materialism, greed, racism, etc.) But that sense of moral outrage felt when we allow the sheer explicitness of sin to rub up against our God-given consciences testifies to this fact. Biblically, this should be of no surprise. We numb ourselves, our consciences become calloused, when we suppress God’s truth and the Spirit’s conviction.

        • Rob Tennant
          August 22, 2013

          dmr – I actually really appreciate your tone in your writing. You get your point out thoroughly but respectfully, something I’ve not often experienced in on-line dialogues. And I have often wanted to say exactly what Thabiti said because it is how I feel. However, I see two problems. First, I see the graphic depiction of sin in this way as a turn-off. I what he said should be said in a one-on-one conversation of trust with someone who has already established an openness to listen. In a public blog, he just comes across as bigoted. I don’t know that he is. I am not calling him a bigot at all. But that is how such a direct and condemning message comes across. I oppose it because I see it as an exercise in bridge-burning instead of bridge-building. Secondly, I don’t think Jesus would say it that way. The reference from Revelation is specific. Jesus is vomiting out luke-warm discipleship. That is not a generic vomiting of sin although I agree all sin is odious. But Jesus seemed to enjoy himself in the company of sinners. Why? Love. And I think it is love that forces us to express the truth that any sex outside of marriage (a husband and wife) is not God-honoring. I think that going to Matthew 19 and Ephesians 5 and 1 Corinthians 7 and demonstrating what is God-honoring and then explaining why homosexuality is not God honoring is a more compassionate way to try to state Biblical sexuality than being so explicit. It is not that I cannot stomach what Thabiti wrote. My first reaction was to applaud it. But upon reflection, thinking my good friends who are gay, I thought, his words were de-humanizing. Of course sin is the most dehumanizing thing. But it has to be the Holy Spirit that convicts. I think that is more likely if hatred of Christians is not fueled by words like those Thabiti wrote. We need to pour coals on the heads of others with our love (Romans 12:20-21). I think Thabiti’s post makes it hard to do that.

          • dmr5090
            August 22, 2013

            Hey Rob, thanks for your kind words, brother. I do appreciate your hesitancy to pass judgement on Thabiti, as well as your honest wrestling with these matters. They’re not easy. Emotions flare, tempers can get high, and the last thing we go after in such cases are cold syllogisms. But while you’re absolutely right to point to the need for a pastoral sensitivity on this matter, what we must not do is forego an open honesty about Scripture’s teaching, either. I wouldn’t want either one above the other, any more than I’d want only the right or the left wing of an airplane. Keeping that plane flying straight is the project of a lifetime. I see, in our culture, the left wing tilting too strongly, so I’m typing to steer it a bit to the right. If the cultural fad of the moment were rampant gay-bashing, believe me–we would need to tilt in quite different directions.

            To your points. First, concerning Thabiti’s graphic depiction. The fact that sin was so graphically depicted is *meant* to be a turn-off. You may say, “But it wasn’t the content that offended me, but Thabiti’s tone.” But in Thabiti’s piece, the tone and the content are meant to be inseparable. The tone is explicit, and so is the content. Both affront God when we bask in them, and we bask in them with false security when their glow enjoys public approval. Sin is ugly. But we hide its ugliness behind endless euphemisms. (As I stated in other threads, we do the same concerning abortion and “pro-choice” rhetoric.) But these language games are eternally dangerous **both for the individual and for society.** Remember: sin is both personal and social (Prov. 14:34). There is ample room, as you say, for private, one-on-one conversations. And one’s method in engaging at that personal level might look different from engaging at a public level. Yet, engagement *at* that public level has been coddled (including by the Church) by our granting of “nice words.” (We should have, long ago, paid much closer attention to rhetoric, imo.) But at the end of the day, words matter *big time* in changing the minds and hearts of a people. (Who could be against “love”? “choice”?) And honestly, I’m not sure the public square would have reacted with greater patience if Thabiti had ripped the band-aid off more slowly with Matthew 19, Ephesians 5 and 1 Corinthians 7. These are wonderful texts, and they have all been discussed in the public arena concerning homosexuality for some time. But they have won us no friends among those who would dismiss any condemnation of homosexual acts as “bigoted hate-speech.” At the end of the day, the pronouncement that homosexual acts are sinful works against the spirit of the age. It strikes at the heart of personal gratification.

            I believe Thabiti’s aim was this: To expose the sin of homosexual acts by appealing to our God-given consciences in order to help us to see its perversity with the same kind of “disgust” God sees it with. (Re-read Ezekiel’s prophetic vision for something quite similar.) And however close we humans come to seeing its “grossness,” it is nowhere near how “gross” it is in God’s eyes.

            Now, Christians can’t stop there. It’s all too easy to talk only about the sins of others. When Isaiah sees the exalted Lord, he begins by confessing his *own* sins in the context of his culture (Isa. 6:5). Christians must be very careful about this. And yet, no matter how careful we are on this point, at the end of the day, we should not expect the world’s pat on the back, or its accolades. (Jesus has a thing or two to say about people in the world thinking too highly of you, doesn’t he?) By following Christ, some bridges will be burnt. Jesus promises as much. That doesn’t mean we should all become haters, or careless in our speech. Our speech should reflect the same care God takes with his own speech. We should indeed pour coals on the heads of others with our love (Rom. 12:20-21). But remember, in the same chapter a few verses earlier, Paul makes clear that part of what genuine love *looks like* is to “hate what is evil and cling to what is good.” (See also 2 Thess. 3:15.) And yet, we are promised that speech will cause division. Consider John 8:45–**because** Jesus tells us the truth, they will not believe? At one level, it’s the truth that’s guaranteeing the unbelief! But speaking God’s truth in love despite the division it will cause–this, too, is part of what it means to walk in obedience to our Lord.

            Second (I’ll be brief), it’s true that the vomiting in Rev. 3 is for luke-warm discipleship, but sin’s odiousness comes to one of its most startling metaphors in Rev. 14. Jesus wanted to vomit luke-warm disciples. But those who were “cold” (between those “hot” and those “cold”) are trampled under foot in the winepress of God’s wrath. How odious is sin to you? How odious is sin to God?

            Jesus did enjoy himself in the company of sinners, not *because* of who they were as sinners, but *despite* who they were as sinners. His enjoyment was not in them per se, but in his Father. He delighted in carrying out his Father’s commission to die on the cross for the sins of the world. And because it was his Father’s will, Jesus delighted to spend time with those who were deemed sinners (Mark 2:17).

            Brother, I do hope my response, though again too long, scratches where you itch.

  • Lisa notes...
    August 22, 2013

    You’ve said this well. Using our gag reflex as a measure of sin is ludicrous. Doesn’t every child (of any age) want to gag when they think of their own hetereosexual parents in bed together, an act right and proper?

  • daryl carpenter
    August 22, 2013

    I’ve come to the point that whenever someone like this starts bashing the gays, I almost take it as sign their about to come out of the closet themselves.

    And I love all this talk of homosexuality and ‘gag reflex.’ It’s like a window into the Freudian nightmare of a fundie’s subconscious. Great stuff.

  • daryl carpenter
    August 22, 2013

    “So what did Jesus do when he encountered Lazarus’ putrid rotting corpse? He embraced him.”

    I did a similar thing once but got arrested. Sometimes life just isn’t fair.

    Excellent post, by the way.

  • Jane
    August 22, 2013

    I disagree that broccoli is gross.
    I agree with everything else.

  • Diane U.
    August 22, 2013

    Love it, love it, love it.
    By the way, some of the things that straight people do in bed is also revolting to some others.
    As my mom used to say, ” ‘To each his own,’ said the old lady as she kissed the cow.”

  • Tyler Francke
    August 22, 2013

    It’s almost like the “grosser” people were, the more Jesus was drawn to them, isn’t it? And remember how harsh his rebukes were of the obsessively and ritualistically clean Pharisees were.

    “That’s not to say Mr. Anyabwile or anybody else at The Gospel Coalition can’t hold to their beliefs about homosexuality. They can. But as soon as you start prescribing theology and behavior that is explicitly antithetical to the life and teaching of Jesus, you cease to be a people of the gospel and instead become a coalition of hate.

    This is great writing, man, as is the rest of the post. Thanks for sharing. Keep it up!

  • Dan
    August 22, 2013

    I feel like this post reads slightly like you’ve missed the central point of his article and have (perhaps unintentionally) created a straw man out of what he’s said in order to bash his “point” with a Jesus loves yucky sinners rebuttal.

    Most of your contentions and (I believe) misinterpretations were answered directly by him in the comments section of his article. He seems incredibly dedicated to addressing people’s misunderstandings or critiques to his viewpoint and has responded to many, many posters today.

    What I take issue with is that instead of clarifying or engaging him in discussion, you’ve slightly twisted what he’s said and then thrashed it on this popular website where he has no chance to clarify for himself or offer any defense of his viewpoints. It’s not a constructive discussion within our Christian community, but a “I’m on the OTHER side” statement.

    Yes of course he could by chance swing by and post here in the comments in his own defense, but I don’t see that as likely.

    Now, I believe his post was more about reawakening our God-designed moral compass and returning the same-sex marriage debate to the God created purpose of marriage instead of defending people’s rights to love (however this “love” may be expressed), rather than it was a “be anti-gay marriage because it’s gross” stance.

    I’ll conclude by stating that it would seem that I’m actually “on your side”, so to speak, in regards to the issue at hand. I just feel that with such a large readership, you must be careful not to misconstrue other writers’ viewpoints. It’s easy to get “horrays” and “absolutelys” when posting definite truths about Jesus (as you’ve done)… but it’s unfair and nonconstructive to do so as a response to something you haven’t clearly understood.

    You have this forum and your readership, for sure, but you aren’t above the “common” reader who has had the opportunity (and many have taken it) to comment, question, and be responded to on the original article. It’s okay and can often be constructive to disagree with other Christian’s viewpoints, but let’s build a culture where we are discussing rather than running to another group and bashing peoples views.

    God Bless

    • ZackHunt
      August 22, 2013

      Ahh!! I TOTALLY forgot to include “Accuse everyone you disagree with of creating a straw man” in my post about commenting on a Christian blog. I’ll definitely have to add that next time. Thanks for the great idea!

      • Dan
        August 23, 2013

        You’re right, it’s not my place to post what I posted and I’m sorry. I know for every positive voice there are bundles of haters (especially anonymous e-haters, the worst kind) and I never intended to lump myself in with them.

        Thanks for your blog, I have for a while really enjoyed reading it and am encouraged by it. I didn’t intend to come across as I did and again, it wasn’t my place – so I apologize.


  • karlkroger
    August 22, 2013

    Beautifully done.

  • BreakingBadventist
    August 22, 2013

    Thanks for such a well thought out post. Sin is sin is sin, period. We all do it, and probably all do it differently. It’s a good thing Jesus loves us enough to look past that, to the point that He went through everything & more in Mel Gibson’s movie to save us FROM sin (that thing we all do). Amazing grace indeed!

  • Hannah
    August 22, 2013

    Love this! The reasoning in the gag reflex idea of the original gospel coalition article is just absurd.

  • Stephen Krogh
    August 23, 2013

    I’m not sure how “The Passion of the Christ” could be at once a “fetishist’s ode to violence” and “probably not that far off from reality,” unless either we know that Gibson’s stated reasons for producing it were grossly different from his real reasons, i.e., not an honest attempt at a representation of the passion, but rather an indulgence in fetishism, or the gospel accounts were themselves fetishistic. The former seems uncharitable at best, and the latter might imply that the gospel writers themselves were fetishists.

    Perhaps there are other possibilities, but I think the claim is prima facie problematic, and probably needs more justification, or could have gone without being said at all.

  • Joe D.
    August 23, 2013

    Thanks for this response Zach.

    I think the core discussion here is about purity and sin and seeing the difference between these two concepts. When Mr. Anyabwile talks about homosexuality as being “gross,” he’s invoking a category of purity/impurity. In OT, these categories were *attached* to sinful acts in order to encourage the “gag reflex” and turn people away from these acts. At the same time, there were also several instances of “impure” actions/circumstances that were not at all sinful, eg a woman’s menstrual cycle. Purity was about keeping everything/everyone in their proper place. Impurity does not equal sin. Categories of purity/impurity are culturally conditioned – what we feel in our “gut” is not completely “designed by God” but significantly formed by the “social body” in which we live. What we find “gross” says more about the “we” than whatever it is that’s “gross.” I think this understanding adds further weight to your argument. I would recommend L William Countryman’s book “Dirt, Greed, and Sex” for a much more thorough analysis.

    In basically all of your examples in this post, Jesus is breaking the rules of purity/impurity (except for being born in a stable, which is a good example of how the categories of purity change culturally). Another commenter mentioned the use of an “intercanonical” hermeneutic… well, looking at purity/impurity “intercanonically,” we find that Jesus takes the external/physical/objective category of purity in the OT and turns it toward the internal/spiritual/subjective. “Nothing that goes into a person from the outside can make him unclean. It’s what comes out of a person that makes him unclean” (Mark 7:15). Jesus surely condemns sin but not on the basis of purity, which the Pharisees were trying to hold over him. I think Jesus’ description of their motives is appropriate: “You have a fine way of setting aside the commands of God in order to observe your own traditions!” (Mark 7:9). Again, this just supports the view of your post. James V Brownson’s “Bible, Gender, Sexuality” includes a great discussion of how purity moves from external to internal.

    Anyways, hope this adds to/deepens the discussion.

    Thanks again for your post.

  • Tom LeGrand
    August 23, 2013

    I don’t mean to sound critical because your post is excellent (yes, even the Broccoli reference–if I wanted to eat hedge trimmings, I’d just get some from the back yard). But I chose not to respond to the article because it was so sophomoric that I really couldn’t even take it seriously. I took the entire thing as a personal challenge to think before I write and be very careful what I post in blogs, and that was about the only redeeming quality in the entire thing. Glad you carried the torch so that the rest of us didn’t have to.

  • Steve Finnell
    August 23, 2013


    What do the following preacher all agree is true?

    Benny Hinn
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    All of the above deny that being baptized in water is essential in order to be saved from the penalty of sin.

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  • Kelly
    August 23, 2013

    Thabiti is really winning souls for Christ with that one!

  • Pam
    August 24, 2013

    This is one of the most encouraging and rebuking things I’ve ever read anybody write. So fantastically well put, I can picture Jesus cheering you on for how you’ve responded to Anyabwile’s article. In my mind, Jesus is saying “Yes! This guy gets it!”.
    Thanks for writing this beautiful piece.

  • Lily
    August 25, 2013

    You call them a coalition of hate…but as I was reading your post, what was going through my mind was that you sound so bitter and *almost* like you hate that woman (or that group, whoever they are). But I don’t know what’s in your heart, so I’m not accusing you of hating. I wish others would also not accuse, because that’s a serious thing to say about a person and group.

    And I’m not saying she’s your enemy (at least I hope not!) but don’t forget what Jesus said. Love your enemies and pray for them.

  • Susan Cottrell
    August 30, 2013

    May I repost this on my blog? It’s outstanding. Thank you. http://freedhearts.wordpress.com

    • ZackHunt
      August 30, 2013

      Susan, thank you so much for asking. Too many people don’t even bother. 🙂

      I would be honored for you to share it, but if you would do me a favor and only repost a portion of it and link back to the original for the rest I would greatly appreciate it.

      • Susan Cottrell
        August 30, 2013

        Sure! Thanks. 🙂

  • carolb12
    August 31, 2013


  • Linda Mueller Robertson
    August 31, 2013

    This is SO brilliant…thank you, thank you, thank you. Reposting it on my blog, and thanking God for this HUGE encouragement in light of the deep dismay I felt upon reading Mr. Anyabwile’s blogs.

  • Armand
    September 3, 2013

    Thank you, Zack, for this. This was a brilliant writing. More, please!

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