The Last Temptation of Christ

The Australian arm of The Gospel Coalition recently published an interview with Ed Shaw, one of the founders of Living Out, the U.K. version of Revoice. Consider the title of the interview, “The Church and Same-Sex Attracted People.” It assumes such a category as “same-sex attracted people” is a reality of the human existence, that Christians should recognize them as legit, and accept them into the body dynamic of the local Church. Shaw, for example, even wrote up a church audit that determines just how inclusive a congregation is for same-sex attracted, LGBT+ people. I wrote a response to it HERE.

The interview was troubling and sound-minded folks on social media rightly blasted it. The reaction was so overwhelming, that the TGC Australia editors felt it necessary to add a postscript responding to the backlash. It states,

Editor’s Postscript: In view of some strong reactions on social media to some of the material in this interview, the TGCA editorial panel would like to make clear that we are very grateful for the heroic stand of Christian leaders such as Ed Shaw who have been open and honest about their own struggles with sexuality while defending biblical standards of sexual practice.

We would urge those who believe that there is something wrong with the idea that Jesus might have struggled in regard to matters connected to his sexuality to consider the meaning of Hebrews 2:18 and 4:15. Jesus (i)  was genuinely tempted in every way like us; (ii) suffered in the process; (iii) did not sin. Every one of those statements is important—not just the last. The Bible does not tell us what particular temptations Jesus may have experienced in these areas, but it stresses that he had a human nature that was capable of being tempted. Temptation, in other words, is not the same as sin.

We would also urge readers who want to be properly informed about what Ed Shaw and Living Out believe to take some time to visit http://www.livingout.org and spend some time looking at the questions and answers discussed there.

For the purposes of this post, I want to focus in upon that second paragraph.

Advocates for the Orwellian named “same-sex attracted Christian” want us to believe that same-sex attraction is a possible category of human existence — about two percent of the population. Out of that group, there are same-sex attracted people who will profess Christ as their Lord and Savior. Those individuals, we are told, will struggle throughout their entire life with romantic feelings and sexual desires for someone of the same-sex. The church must not guilt them into believing those desires must be changed, but instead, should help LGBT people accept who they are, exhorting them to remain celibate, and serve in the church as vibrant, single members.

The first sentence of the postscript says, “We would urge those who believe that there is something wrong with the idea that Jesus might have struggled in regard to matters connected to his sexuality…” Whoever wrote that comment seems to believe Jesus might have struggled with homosexuality. That our Lord and Savior, the Son of Man, the Son of God, Who always did the will of the Father, may have had sexual attractions to other men. Perhaps, for example, the apostle John, because, well, he did lean on Jesus’s bosom at the Last Supper and he is said to be one of the disciples whom Jesus loved (John 13:23).

The reason that such a filthy, blasphemous idea is even suggested has to do with a terrifically bad take on two crucial passages, Hebrews 2:18 and 4:15.

Hebrew 2:18 states, For since He Himself was tempted in that which He has suffered, He is able to come to the aid of those who are tempted. And Hebrews 4:15 states, For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin. The editor of the post script goes on to conclude that Jesus was tempted just like us, suffered in the process, but didn’t sin, and though it is noted that we cannot know for sure what temptations Jesus may have experienced that enticed Him toward sin, he did have a human nature that was tempted and temptation is NOT the same as sin.

In the context of the backlash TGC Australia encountered, the suggestion is that Jesus could have struggled with gay attraction (He was of course single), He agonized throughout that temptation, but he did not give into it (remained chaste and advocated for biblical men and women relationships). Haters need to turn down the anti-SSA rhetoric. Even though there are Christian men who really want to have sexual intercourse with other men, the fact that they may think about it, but refrain from engaging in the act, proves they are modeling how Jesus responded to the same temptations.

The post script not only has a terrible biblical anthropology, it has a terrifically bad christology as well.

First, SSA advocates insist that temptation is different and separated from desire and sin. In other words, a person may struggle with SSA, desire a romantic/sexual relationship with a person of the same sex, but the temptation to act upon homosexual sin is not sinful in and of itself. The person was merely tempted, yet struggled with resistance and took victory over those temptations. The person didn’t commit any sin. So, just because a person has the desires of SSA doesn’t mean they are in sin if he or she experiences temptation to behave sinfully on a daily basis.

But Jesus never chopped sins into different categories. When he preached the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus confronted head on the false notion that desire and sin are separate. If a person is angry with his brother, curses him, and speaks ill of him before others, he is a murderer (Matthew 5:22). The person never even raises so much as his fist against the man, but his animosity against him makes him a murderer none the less. His desire is hatred toward his brother and Jesus calls it sinful murder even though he has done no physical act against him. Jesus also talks about adultery in the same way (Matthew 5:27-28). Even if a man never has physical intercourse with a woman, the lust he feeds in his heart toward her makes him an adulterer. The woman may never even know a man is committing adultery with her.

The point Jesus makes throughout the Gospels is that man’s sin originates from his heart (Matthew 15:18-19). Notice the first sin listed in verse 18 is “evil thoughts.” In other words, desires. The heart is the seat of man’s desires and so specific desires can be sinful. Scripture calls those desires like SSA, inordinate affection, a desire that is disordered (Colossians 3:5). The King James translates the phrase concupiscence, an old fashioned word meaning strong, sensual, involuntary sexual arousal. That captures exactly what SSA is.

Secondly, there is a fundamental misunderstanding about what happened when Christ was tempted. Christ is not overcoming temptation as a model for how we all overcome temptation. He was not struggling with every sin that ever was so as to sympathize with those people who struggle with and often yield to those same sins.

The point of Christ’s temptation by the devil (Matthew 4, Luke 4) was to demonstrate that Jesus was unable to sin and thus was God’s perfect, second Adam. That is what we call the doctrine of impeccability: Jesus was unable to sin. (See W.G.T. Shedd’s chapter on this important doctrine). He was unable to sin because He did not have a sin nature like all of humanity. He was impervious to sinful attractions because he had no sin nature to actualize sinful desires that would lead Him to sin. Hence, the temptations were designed to show how it was impossible for Jesus to fall into sin, not whether he can overcome sinful desires that were in his heart. I recall one old preacher likening it to a newly built  bridge over a river. We drive a heavy truck over it not to test if we can make the bridge collapse into the water, but to demonstrate that it is incapable of collapsing.

But someone is asking, “What about Hebrews 2:18 and 4:15?” Those passages are describing the doctrine of impeccability. Jesus was tempted (tested being a better word) in the larger areas of human experience in the world. The apostle John describes them in 1 John 2:15-17 as the lust of the flesh, the eyes, and the pride of life. Jesus suffered temptation, but it was not a suffering of having to placate sinful desires. It was the common suffering all men in their human natures encounter, but unlike humanity, Jesus was never susceptible to them and remained unconquerable.

Worldly thinking regarding homosexuality has poured into the church at an alarming rate. Christians have so submerged themselves in the flood that their apologetics and counseling have become soaked through with heretical error. They truly believe they are helpful witnesses for the faith, when in fact they are blind guides leading the blind. I recently was in a twitter exchange with a guy who was emphatic that modern science has shown that homosexual orientation is a genuine expression of human sexuality. He argued that the Bible is not scientific and Paul wrote his words to a scientifically illiterate audience who would have no understanding of sexual orientation. He also claimed to be a Christian. Many who advocate for same sex attraction embrace that false notion of “orientation.” Their error, however, leads them to direct people away from Scripture and the life changing, transformative power of the Holy Spirit. They accommodate those men and women trapped in the sin of homosexuality, affirming the lie that the world tells them, that their orientation will never change and they must resolve themselves to a life of celibacy. Their counsel only enslaves them into more misery.

What we see happening now is a redefinition of historic doctrinal terms that have shaped the theology of the Christian church for centuries. What Scripture has always taught regarding sex, gender, gender roles, and even orientation, is cast off as unscientific and hurtful to a new generation taught to believe sexual perversion is normal for a Christian who has been made holy before God. The inevitable result of that cataclysmic change in terminology is a new Christ. A Jesus who was just like us to the point he was enticed to involve himself in sinful, sexual deviancy. We are watching the emergence of a brand new psuedo-Christian cult.

2 thoughts on “The Last Temptation of Christ

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