Alex, thank you for posting your letter to Dr. Carl Trueman of Westminster Theological Seminary, regarding his article on gay marriage. I think what you had to say is very accurate. Too bad that you did not receive a response. Why do you suppose that is?
That was part of an email I recently received. Since it is not the first time I’ve been asked this question, following are some thoughts on the matter:
While I can’t speak specifically for Dr. Trueman, it is nonetheless a fact that personal agendas, ambitions and other pressures can sometimes cause us to be sparing with the truth when it comes to steering our Christian ministries, our reputations, our careers, sustaining our income, and in other areas of life. As Upton Sinclair wisely noted: “It’s hard to get a man to understand something when his salary depends on him not understanding it.”
Perhaps even more pointedly, evangelical scholar F.F. Bruce once candidly observed in a Christianity Today interview: “A [Bible scholar] who always has to be looking over his shoulder, lest someone who is in a position to harm him [in terms of ‘personal comfort, income and the like’] may be breathing down his neck, has to mind his step.” Bruce noted that he was fortunate to always earn his living as a biblical scholar employed by a non-religiously affiliated university. But other evangelical scholars and Christian leaders are not so fortunate.
Many believe they must still hold tight to what has traditionally been the “politically correct” position on homosexuality as evangelicals have sadly been notoriously prone to withdrawing financial support from organizations that demonstrate even the slightest open-mindedness on this issue. As a Jewish believer in Christ for almost 30 years, I’ve witnessed time and again a similar trend with rabbis and other Jewish leaders who have been unable to demonstrate open-mindedness on the issue of Christ as the Jewish Messiah.
Fact is when a rabbi comes to terms with the notion that Jesus is the Jewish Messiah, they won’t let him be a rabbi any longer. He needs to find a new way to make a living, support his family, pay his mortgage, put his children through college, and so on. He is keenly aware that acknowledgement would almost certainly mean his financial and social ruin, destroying not only his career but his perceived good standing in his faith community as well. That’s a high price to pay. Christian leaders face similar losses in coming to terms with the notion that, as Dr. Trueman phrased it in his own article:
“. . . our reasons for opposing [homosexuality has] more to do with our own cultural backgrounds than with any biblical argumentation.”
Undoubtedly this issue stirs up huge controversy and many who have embarked upon this risky enterprise have paid dearly in loss of reputation and income. Many are therefore understandably afraid to alienate the seminaries and congregations who pay their salaries, especially if they have families to provide for. Consequently, for many the desire to protect themselves and those who depend on their ability to earn a livelihood prevents them from openly considering an alternate viewpoint. Since the cost is so high, they conclude they have no viable alternative but to hold to what has been the party line on this issue.
Truth is not always comfortable. Sometimes truth hurts. Sometimes truth is costly. Sometimes truth will put us at odds with our communities and with the people we most care about. But we have a responsibility to be a discerning people. We cannot afford to be naïve and simply follow ideas and teachings for the sake of tradition, our personal comfort, or because of our cultural backgrounds and learned distastes. Our fears of upsetting the status quo can lead to our own self-deception and the message of the gospel can be watered down by a play-it-safe mentality. We need to remember that Jesus was not crucified for maintaining the religious status quo.