An Open Letter to Dan Haseltine, Lead Singer of Jars of Clay, Concerning His Recent Comments Regarding the Nature of Scripture and “Homosexual Marriage” (UPDATED)

***UPDATE*** Dan has offered an extremely helpful post wherein he explains the background leading up to his questions. He also provides context and clarity for his recent tweets and offers an apology. Please read Dan’s post in full here – http://danhaseltine.com/blog/2014/4/25/reset-contexttangentapology.html and continue to pray for Dan as he wrestles with this topic.

Dear Mr. Haseltine,

First of all, I hope you will not mind if I refer to you in this letter as “Dan.” You may, of course, call me “Chris,” or virtually whatever else you would like to call me, for that matter.

Second, I need to let you know why I am writing this letter to you. Here’s why: on April 22 you wrote on your Twitter account, “Maybe the ‘knowledge of good and evil’ is a bad apple. Since it is a main cause for our hatred and toxicity towards others.”

Unless I am missing some context, or earlier discussion, you were, in your tweet, questioning our knowledge of good and evil upon the basis that our opinions about good and evil are a main cause of hatred toward others and what you call “toxicity.” I hope I have understood you correctly. I hope you will notice something about your statement. Your statement assumes that hatred toward others and toxicity is “bad” or “evil” or “wrong.” But that means you have knowledge of good and evil. The difficulty with your statement is that you want to reject knowledge of good and evil, while resting upon the necessary assumption of the knowledge of good and evil in order to suggest that it may be a “bad” thing. This is why I responded on the following day by tweeting, “Then why condemn hatred and toxicity? You’re refuting yourself. You are headed nowhere fast friend.” You see, Dan, if we somehow move “beyond” good and evil, then we have nothing left upon which to condemn things that really are wrong, like hatred toward others.

My tweet went on. I wrote, “Consider and repent.” And so, Dan, I called you to repentance. I did so out of love. You retweeted my plea to your 15.4k followers. Whether you did so because you were considering my statement, or whether you did so to mock me, I do not know. Generally any request for repentance on the part of a Christian today is frowned upon and mocked. After all, don’t calls for repentance typically come from crazy men on the street yammering and yelling about the end being near?

But I am not a crazy man on the street. (Or at least, I am not merely a crazy man on the street.) The Lord and the early church frequently called for repentance, because they happened to think repentance is a good thing, a necessary thing, and even a beautiful thing wrought by the Spirit of God in believers who realize that they truly are sinful and in need of the righteousness of Christ. I tend to agree with them. I repent of sins everyday. Whether or not you retweeted my comment to show your followers the supposed irrationality of your “opposition,” I do not know. What I do know is that my plea was not intended for your harm, but for your good. Perhaps you know this. You not only took time to respond to me, but did so civilly. For that I am thankful.

Please allow me a moment to summarize the exchange we had through Twitter in order to refresh our memories and for the sake of others who may be reading this post.

Dan: “um. I’m willing to ask questions. I’m also not afraid to be wrong. not sure what u are getting at? Repent for asking questions?”

Me: “Hatred of humans ‘gay’ or ‘straight’ is wrong. Much Christian commentary is too. But God’s Word is our only basis for love. The social questions need to be asked. My fear is that you have placed yourself ‘above’ the authority of God’s Word on this.”

Dan: “I am suspect of man’s interpretation and prioritizing of parts of God’s word. The living out of theological concepts is not easy.”

Me: “You should be, but text is determinative. And yes, sexuality is a tiny aspect of both our humanity and Scripture, but the things it states about both are good, beautiful, and true. We’re not defined as people by sexuality alone!”

Dan, question Christians and interpretations and society and the relationships between them, but never question the Word of God! When I write, “never question the Word of God,” I am not referring to some particular passage(s), or some particular interpretation of a passage. When I write about the Word of God, I am referring to the very nature of the Word of God. Do not question that. That is sin, it is defiance toward the God we love and serve, it is a rejection of the faith you have so boldly proclaimed for years, and it is something that will not help, but only harm you and others in the end. That is my main concern with all of the things you have written as of late. I am concerned about the direction you are headed in, and I am concerned about the negative impact it will have upon others.

When I look over your Twitter account, I see that you apparently took a trip to Australia over Easter. While returning to the states on April 21, you caught up on some movies. The most impressive of these movies was 12 Years a Slave. You tweeted, as far as I can tell, in response to the movie, “The treatment of people as less than human based on the color of skin is crazy… Or gender, or sexual orientation for that matter.” With this much I am, of course, in full agreement. The Word of God teaches that we are created in the image of God. Treating one another as less than human is sinful, regardless of what supposed basis a person offers for doing so. Skin color, gender, and sexual orientation alone do not define a person. More importantly, every person is created in the image of God, a central tenet of the Christian faith.

So far, so good, but then you go on to write, “Not meaning to stir things up BUT… Is there a non-speculative or non ‘slippery slope’ reason why gays shouldn’t marry? I don’t hear one.” Coming from you, this is a rather shocking question. After all, you are a representative of Christ, and a public and influential one at that. Should I not expect you to have at least some familiarity with the Word of God? I don’t mean to be rude. But have you not heard the Word of God on the matter of marriage?

For example, Jesus Christ, the one with whom you have identified for years in your music, answers, “Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.” (Matthew 19:4-6) Jesus is quoting from Genesis 2.24.

The Apostle Paul quotes from the same passage and adds, “‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.’ This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church.” (Ephesians 5:31-32)

Surely you would concede that Jesus Christ and the Apostle Paul ground marriage in creation and the gospel itself? Husband and wife are an illustration of Christ and the Church. Marriage is a shadow of the reality to come. The reality to come is Christ united with His bride the Church for eternity. This is one of the reasons why people will not be married in heaven, because marriage is merely a shadow of the greater reality realized in the consummate state. (Matthew 22.30)

Now, some people might want to respond, “That’s your interpretation.” No, I merely quoted the passages above. Moreover, texts are determinative. Words have actual meaning. So there is such a thing as a right and a wrong interpretation of a text. Otherwise, communication itself is impossible.

If the passages of Scripture about marriage quoted above were not enough, homosexuality is explicitly condemned in Scripture as sin as well. For example, Paul writes of how God gave people up “to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error.” (Romans 1:26-27) Elsewhere, Paul writes, “Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.” (1 Corinthians 6:9-11)

The Word of God is not speculative. The Word of God does not give way to a slippery slope. Homosexuality is, according to the Word of God, at least three things. Homosexuality is sin against God. Homosexuality is sin against nature. Homosexuality is sin against the divine institution of marriage. That should be sufficient reason for gays not to marry.

Unless something has changed, you attend Saint John’s Anglican Church in Franklin, Tennessee. Dan, have you considered what your church says about these issues?

Anglican theology is summarized in The 39 Articles of Religion. Your church subscribes to the 39 articles. They are posted right there on the church website under “What We Believe.” According to the 39 articles, “Holy Scripture contains all things necessary for salvation.” What is holy scripture? “By holy scripture is meant those canonical books of the Old and New Testaments whose authority has never been doubted within the church.” (Article 6) Your church accepts creeds “for they may be proved by most certain warrants of Holy Scripture.” These creeds “ought to be wholeheartedly accepted and believed. This is because their contents may be proved by definite statements of holy Scripture.” (Article 8) Additionally, “it is not lawful for the church to order anything contrary to God’s written Word.” The articles continue, “Nor may it expound one passage of Scripture so that it contradicts another passage. So, although the church is a witness and guardian to holy Scripture, it must not decree anything contrary to Scripture, nor is it to enforce belief in anything additional to Scripture as essential to salvation.” (Article 20) Finally, regarding councils, “things ordained by them as necessary to salvation have neither strength nor authority, unless it may be declared that they be taken out of holy Scripture.”

Your church has something of a high view of Scripture. According to the beliefs of your church, Scripture is necessary for salvation. Scripture is authoritative. Scripture is capable of providing proof. Scripture contains definite statements. Scripture should not be contradicted by the church. Scripture is not contradicted by itself. Scripture is sufficient. Dan, do you share these convictions? Do you agree with the stated beliefs of your church?

Saint John’s is currently in the process of joining the Anglican Church in North America, or ACNA. What does ACNA state about Scripture? As an essential element for membership in ACNA, “We confess the canonical books of the Old and New Testaments to be the inspired Word of God, containing all things necessary for salvation, and to be the final authority and unchangeable standard for Christian faith and life.”

ACNA also embraces The Jerusalem Declaration. The Jerusalem Declaration states, “We believe the Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments to be the Word of God written and to contain all things necessary for salvation. The Bible is to be translated, read, preached, taught and obeyed in its plain and canonical sense, respectful of the church’s historic and consensual reading.”

Finally, the declaration states, “We acknowledge God’s creation of humankind as male and female and the unchangeable standard of Christian marriage between one man and one woman as the proper place for sexual intimacy and the basis of the family. We repent of our failures to maintain this standard and call for a renewed commitment to lifelong fidelity in marriage and abstinence for those who are not married.”

Dan, have you sought to maintain the aforementioned view of Scripture and its standard for Christian marriage and sexual intimacy and the family? Or are you now seeking to abandon that standard through skeptical questioning of God’s Word? I should warn you that the latter is a swift path to destruction. I fear you are on it. Please reconsider your statements below.

“Okay! Back online… Interesting responses. re: gay marriage. Never liked the phrase: ‘Scripture clearly says…(blank) about…’”

Dan, I hope you can see that what you have written is not some innocent question. It’s a statement. And it’s not a good statement.

This is not a discussion about your likes and dislikes. We are not talking about flavors of ice cream. We are talking about the very nature of the Word of God, whether or not we can understand it, and whether or not sexual ethics actually matter. We are talking about people’s lives. Is what you like or don’t like really relevant? I don’t think so, and you should not either.

What matters – what really matters – is whether or not Scripture is clear. You claim – against the Word of God and your community of faith – that Scripture is not clear. (2 Timothy 3.16-17) And yet you expect to be able to communicate with others.

Can you see what you’ve done? For some reason, you believe yourself and others capable of clearer expression than God. We can speak clearly but God can’t? That’s not humility! If anything, that’s arrogance. We should be more sure of God, and less sure of ourselves. Do you believe Scripture clearly says anything about whether or not you can be saved?

“Because most people read and interpret scripture wrong. I don’t think scripture ‘clearly’ states much of anything regarding morality.”

It is inconsistent of you to state, on the one hand, that “most people read and interpret scripture wrong,” and on the other hand to claim, “I don’t think scripture ‘clearly’ states much of anything regarding morality.” If Scripture is not clear enough to interpret, then you have no place to tell other people that their interpretations are wrong. Your claim that Scripture does not clearly state “much of anything regarding morality” is admittedly…difficult for me to read and take seriously. Are you actually in God’s Word? Have you really been reading it? Can you, for example, keep a straight face and tell me that the following passage is not clear?

Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. (Galatians 5:19-21)

If you want to believe that a person’s interpretation of Scripture is wrong, then by all means, do so. I would be more than happy to discuss the interpretation of Scripture with you. But please don’t waste your time on the crazy idea that Scripture is unclear, or that there is no one right interpretation of a text.

“I don’t particularly care about Scriptures stance on what is ‘wrong.’ I care more about how it says we should treat people.”

Again, this discussion is not about your likes and dislikes, but your lack of care about what God says is wrong is extremely disturbing. If God is not the standard of what is right and wrong, then who is? Dan Haseltine? And why should anyone listen to him?

Your statement assumes that there is a way we should treat people. That means that there is also a way we should not treat people. That is, some ways we treat people are wrong. But you have already stated that you do not care about the stance of Scripture on what is wrong. You seem to be quite thoroughly confused.

“tweeting scripture verses to settle my questions of gay marriage isn’t helpful. Simple answers to complex questions= meh.”

So far I have replied to your statements, which are certainly not questions. You need to be honest with yourself Dan. You are not merely questioning. You have an ax to grind against those who believe, upon the basis of Scripture, that “homosexual marriage” is wrong.

On the one hand, you claim Scripture is not clear, and on the other, you call it “simple.” On the one hand, you claim you do not want simple answers to complex questions, and on the other, you ask your “complex” questions (with all due respect, they are not so complicated) on Twitter. C’mon Dan!

There’s no such thing as “homosexual marriage.” A principle purpose for marriage (read: not the only purpose) is the propagation of the human race through the bearing of children. That idea is found in Genesis. Can you really bring yourself to believe that a child who grows up in a “home” with two same sex parents is in an equal position to a child who grows up in a traditional, but much more importantly, biblical family? How do the imperatives of Ephesians 6 apply? Can you really imagine a scenario in which the church will not be forced, even against its conscience, consent, and will to perform marriage ceremonies for homosexual couples?

Perhaps I just employed what you mean by a slippery slope argument. But Dan, as soon as you crack open the biblical definition of marriage, you have no recourse to any principle which might prevent the aforementioned slippery slope. This is why polygamy and bestiality, as I am sure you have heard argued, will likely follow fast on the heels of “homosexual marriage.” The arguments that apply to the advocacy of “homosexual marriage” apply equally as well to polygamy, and in some cases, bestiality. That argument is not a fallacious form of the slippery slope. It is a valid argument, and in some instances a reduction to the absurd.

I would love to chat about the way Christians have treated not only the topic of homosexuality, but homosexuals. That’s a discussion that we, as Christians, need to have. I plan to write on it in the near future. You might find that we agree on much. But this post concerns what appears to me to be an open rejection of the Word of God itself. I am not referring to particular interpretations of particular passages of Scripture. I am referring to the dismissive comments you made regarding the very words of our God. Those words are perfect and very precious to me, for they contain the words of life, hope of eternal life in Jesus Christ who was crucified, buried, and raised again for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures.

Dan, in light of what I have written, will you please reconsider your recent comments, and repent for turning against God through rejection of His Word?

Grace,

C.L. Bolt

The Day Fred Phelps Died and Jesus Christ Lived: What should the Christian response to the “Westboro Baptist Church” look like?

Fred Phelps is dead.

Phelps is best known for heading up the Westboro Baptist Church (WBC). The WBC is infamous for preaching a message of hatred toward homosexuals (“God Hates Fags”) and picketing the funerals of United States military.

An Emotional Response to a Spiritual Problem

Most people are shocked and appalled at the WBC. I do not fault them for that. However, I do fault them for substituting their subjective emotional responses for sound intellectual responses to the WBC. In a society where feelings matter more than substantial thought, even most Christians are satisfied with the purely emotional response to the WBC. But they should not be. The Christian response to Phelps and the WBC has, for the most part, looked no different from the wordly response to Phelps and the WBC. And that’s a serious problem.

When facing the WBC cult, Christians have recourse to a much stronger argument than expressing their own personal feelings about the WBC. They also have more than a cold intellectual reply available to them. They have the Word of God. The Christian response to the false teaching of Fred Phelps must be more informed by the Word of God than it is informed by knee-jerk emotional reactions.

I have watched countless Christians fail to provide any substantial response to Phelps. He was far more evil than those with mere emotional responses give him credit for. Phelps preached half-truths and deceived countless people both inside and outside of his little religious cult. Many Christians are among those who are deceived.

A Biblical Response to an Unbiblical Message

Unfortunately, the WBC has been exceedingly successful in furthering a false message at the expense of the true message of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Here’s how:

1. They promote unbiblical feelings of hatred.

The WBC promotes unbiblical feelings of hatred, but not always in the manner most people think. They make you mad. The WBC loves that you respond to them with anger. Their actions are intentionally provocative. They promote a message of hate, and people respond to them with hatred. They have been exceedingly successful in getting people to hate each other.

As Christians, we should hate sin, and hate the wickedness that is condoned and practiced by the WBC. However, we must remember that anger itself is most often an expression of our own sinful ways, not the emotional worker of righteousness we so often trick ourselves into thinking it is. We cannot cease to approach those who practice wickedness with grace, though we absolutely condemn their damnable practices. Otherwise we are no better off than the WBC.

2. They promote an unbiblical view of God.

The WBC promotes an unbiblical view of God, but not always in the manner most people think. By focusing in on the wrath of God to the exclusion of other attributes of God, WBC has sparked a response that focuses on the love of God to the exclusion of other attributes of God. The idea that “God is Love” has become a rallying cry for those opposed to all manner of morality, not just those who are rightly quoting it from Scripture.

As Christians, we must remember that God is a God of wrath. God does hate sin. God even hates sinners. That much is the clear teaching of the Word of God. (Ps. 5.5, 11.5; Prov. 6.16-19; etc.) Responding to the WBC by claiming that “God is love” or “God loves everyone” is joining the world in a partially true, unbiblical proclamation of God’s supposed approval of sin. Let’s be clear that unrepentant sinners will face the absolute condemnation of God in hell for eternity. That is not owing to God’s love for those individuals, that is owing to His hatred for them. That same hatred, or wrath, or anger of God towards sin was poured out on Christ Jesus on the cross for all of those who will turn from their sins and trust in His perfect propitiatory sacrifice. The WBC has done an excellent job of making a mockery of this biblical message of judgment and grace found in the cross of Christ through their unbiblical message of the mere hatred of God.

3. They promote unbiblical methods of ministry.

The WBC promotes unbiblical methods of ministry, but not always in the manner most people think. The WBC wants to make it clear to people that God hates sin, will not tolerate it, absolutely condemns it, and the like. People most often respond to the WBC by dismissing their message, calling them a hate group, and attempting legal action against them. Yet their message is partially true, as already mentioned above. Moreover, warning people about the coming judgment for their sins is one of the most loving things anyone could do. The WBC has made the aforementioned argument, and I dare say it is difficult to disagree. Unless, of course, the message of sin, judgment, and wrath are altogether dismissed. And that is precisely the way many people have responded.

As Christians, we must remember that people stand condemned before God, dead in their trespasses and sins. We justly deserve the righteous wrath of God. We are sinners. The only way to avoid the judgment of God is to be saved by the grace of God through faith in Jesus Christ. The WBC errs in preaching a message of the hatred of God toward sinners while assuming they know the identities of the non-elect, those who will ultimately never repent, but remain reprobate, thus ensuring that the WBC will never preach true repentance from sin and faith in Jesus Christ as the only way anyone can ever avoid the judgment of God for sins that the WBC is so fond of trivializing through their insensitive arrogance, crude language and gaudy placards.

The “Gospel” of Phelps versus the Gospel of Christ

The message of Fred Phelps is not the same as the message of Jesus Christ. However, the most potentially dangerous part of the message of Phelps is not what he got wrong, but what he got right. A tidbit of truth is enough to poison the minds of many, leading them to either imbibe the lies of Phelps in their entirety, or else to reject even the very Word of God which makes its occasional appearance in the attempted justifications of this wayward religious cult. The message of Jesus Christ is the good news about His death, burial, and resurrection for our sins. We do not hear that message associated with the followers of Phelps, because they are false teachers. May we as Christians address them as such, rather than joining the unbelieving world in dismissing them because we find the WBC ignorant, offensive, or otherwise icky. May we continue to preach and defend the true gospel of Jesus Christ with boldness and humility even when it is not politically correct to do so.

‘Biblical Apologetics’?

Perhaps more than any other qualifier, ‘biblical’ has fallen on hard times. The term is far too pious, and not nearly as descriptive as it may initially seem. But I make no apologies for using it. After all, WordPress was offering, there were no other takers, and I am not creative enough to think of a better title for this site.

More than that, one should be able to claim the Bible and not be eyed suspiciously. Right? Although ‘biblical’ does not say nearly enough about what one means by ‘biblical,’ there’s not a better place from which to start in apologetics, is there? I strive to make sure that my apologetics are ‘biblical’ and I make no apologies for that.

What, then, are ‘apologetics’? The term ‘apologetics’ means something like ‘defense.’ (Close enough for horseshoes and close enough for a blog post.) Thus, ‘biblical apologetics’ is an approach to defending something. Christianity.

If one were to set out to defend Christianity, then wouldn’t it make sense to do so from the standpoint of Christianity? If you have built a mighty fortress, and you desire to defend it, you aren’t going to step outside of the fortress to defend it, are you? So also when it comes to Christianity, one must offer a biblical defense of Christianity.

That’s what I intend to do here.

Welcome!