This is a review of a post by Brandon Hatmaker (husband of Jen Hatmaker) explaining their choice to join the revolution of “affirming Christians.” A link to the post is at the top of this page. Please DO read it for yourself before reading this review. I’m writing this at the request of a friend, and I am happy to oblige.
I would recommend having the post open in a different window next to this one, so you can see both at the same time. That’s how I wrote it. So, when I quote something from the post, you can see it in context. I’m essentially going to give a blow-by-blow of the thoughts expressed there and a brief analysis of each. Then give a few final thoughts. Any “bolded text in quotations” (<except that) is a quote from the original post by Brandon Hatmaker.
The first few paragraphs are various disclaimers, which I understand the need for. However, in a disclaimer you want to avoid vague and ill-defined words, which Brandon didn’t do. Some examples of words and phrases he used that he didn’t define and left me holding a red flag are as follows: “encouraged us… with the love of Christ.” “You know our hearts” “Our commitment to Jesus and to loving people.” “Fighting for the Kingdom.” “God is able.” (<That’s the whole sentence.) All of these could be totally harmless, or they could reveal a host of bad theologies that undergird their worldview. A brief example would be their definition of both “love” and “Christ’s love.” What do they mean when they say the word love? If you’d like to know what I mean by the word love, in brief: It’s “a commitment of the will to the true good of another.” (Definition adapted from J. Budziszewski.) Read this post for a longer discussion.
“We both believe a same-sex marriage, as a life-long monogamous commitment, can be holy before God.” I appreciate the upfront and clear presentation of their view. It makes one single point and answers one single question: “Can a same-sex relationship be holy before God?” Their answer: Yes, as long as it is a life-long, monogamous commitment. They sort through the weeds well. They make clear that they don’t affirm promiscuous hook-up culture as holy, they don’t affirm divorce as holy, and they don’t affirm polygamy as holy.
The next two paragraphs “The last 10 years…” and “We’ve seen so much…” Attempt to make some pathos appeals. I want to make clear that I agree with much of what they say in these two paragraphs. There is a lot of pain in the LGBTQIAPK community. There are suicidal teens, divided families, split Churches… etc. Tons of it. I might be showing my hand here, but that’s what sin does. It causes pain. There is also a lot of pain in the homes of murders and alcoholics. There are split churches over people consumed by hatred to the point that they might be described as a reviler. There are teens committing suicide because their parents have had affairs or because they feel unloved. Sin nearly always brings pain. I do not disagree with Hatmaker’s assertion, I disagree with his proposed solution.
“That said, Jen and I have attempted in the past several years simply to lead the church to a better posture…” I agree with their attempt to change the posture of the church toward the LGBTQIAPK community. We need to regard the sins of LBTGQIAPK practicing individuals with no higher importance than any other sin. We need to make clear that Christ died for the sin of homosexual acts just like he died for my sins of lust and pride. He died for the sins of gossip, and slander, and gluttony. He died for all of these sins, and the sins contained in the LG… acronym ARE NO GREATER!
“In doing so, we realized that while we had heard sermons listing homosexuality as a clear sin…” I am very glad they decided to study more deeply. If you have neglected to look at the bible in context, you are wrong. Take the time. Study the word. However, I would encourage you to be guided in your study by godly, mature, Christians. And if you’re going to study the original languages, make sure you do it with someone who actually knows the original languages (not just someone who knows how to use a Greek dictionary.)
“So we committed to a season of study and prayer.” Amen.
“We started with scripture (Again, please assume a ton of prayer).” I’m tempted to over-react and read into this aside. Why include this? The most likely possibility is that Brandon was covering his bases so people wouldn’t say that he was leaving God out of the picture. A less likely possibility is that he’s implicitly trying to bolster his new view and insinuate that it came directly from God. It almost elevates prayer to a place above the scriptures. It also makes me wonder what his view of prayer is. But I’ll stop harping because I think I’m blowing this point out of proportion.
“We studied the Greek. We studied the Hebrew.” With whom did you study, Brandon? Do you know Greek and Hebrew? The answers to these questions are actually quite important. Saying you did it, and even doing it, is not the same thing as doing it correctly. I can say I baked a cake, but if I didn’t follow a recipe, used four cups of salt instead of four cups of sugar, and burned it, can I really say I baked a cake? We need more information on the Greek and Hebrew you studied.
“We read every commentary we could find related specifically to the related passages.” That’s not always a good thing. Lots of commentaries are quite terrible. As my Prof Dr. Klinger says, “If you read 8 commentaries on a particular passage and they all say different things, at least 7 of them are wrong!” Dr. Klingler is right. The text only ever means one thing. If the reader understands something different, the reader is wrong.
“As we would for any topic seeking truth, we did our best to look at each verse with fresh eyes….” A common misconception. You don’t want fresh eyes, you want well-trained eyes, but I won’t quibble. I appreciate the list of hermeneutical considerations (type of literature, context, scripture-interprets-scripture) but the final one on the list is “through the lens of the Gospel.” Again, I need a definition. What does Brandon Hatmaker consider to be “the Gospel”? I consider it what Paul and John say. “That Christ died for our sins, according to the scriptures, that he was buried and was raised on the third day according to the scriptures.” (1 Cor 15) “These things are written that you might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the son of God and that by believing you may have life in his name.” (John 21) The gospel is about the forgiveness of sin, by the death, burial and resurrection of the Messiah, in order that we might see the resurrection. Is that what Brandon Hatmaker believes, or does he mean something different when he says “The Gospel”?
“The historical view is that scripture…” This paragraph is patently false.
“Every verse in the Bible that is used to condemn a ‘homosexual’ act is written in the context of rape, prostitution, idolatry, pederasty, military dominance, an affair, or adultery. It was always a destructive act. It was always a sin committed against a person. And each type of sexual interaction listed was an abuse of God’s gift of sex and completely against his dream for marriage to be a lifelong commitment of two individuals increasingly and completely giving themselves to one another as Christ did for the church.” Here’s where we finally have some big bones to pick. Let’s go one sentence at a time.
“Every verse in the Bible…” There are 6 verses that specifically mention homosexual acts. Three in the Old Testament and three in the New. They are Lev 18(:22); Lev 20(:13); Gen 19; 1 Cor 6(:9-11); Rom 1(:16-32); 1 Tim 1(:8-11). The assertion that every one of these verses is written in the context of various other sins is indefensible. I assume what he means to say is “In all instances the writers of the Bible only knew about homosexuality in the context of rape, prostitution, etc.” There’s no way of knowing if that’s all the biblical authors knew. It’s complete conjecture. What we can know is what they wrote.
The biblical authors actually define their terms pretty well simply by word choice. For example, the word Paul used to talk about “homosexuals” is αρσενοκοιται (arsenakoitai) It comes from two root words that appear to be put together by Paul himself to describe a certain act. αρρην (arren or arsenos) means “man” or “male” and κοιτη (koite) means “bed.” In the verb form it means “to bed” or “to have sex with.” Paul essentially made up a word to describe the act he had in mind, and the word he made up literally means “male-menbedders” or as some translations rightly render it “men who have sex with men.” These two Greek words (aresnos and koite) are the same Greek words the translaters of the Septuagint chose in translating Leviticus 18 and 20. I don’t yet know Hebrew well enough to exposit the original language in those two passages, but the translators of the septuagint sure did.
Paul, by the very word he invented, defines the action he is condemning: same-sex sexual intercourse. He does not elaborate on the word, he doesn’t talk about temple prostitution or rape, he doesn’t mention military dominance or man-boy relationships. He makes up a word that describes two men having sex and lists it with a bunch of other sins. We cannot expand his definition to include things that Paul doesn’t include. Much more can be said on this, but this alone is enough to invalidate Hatmaker’s argument about the biblical texts.
“It was always a destructive act.” Where does Paul say this in 1 Cor 6 or 1 Tim 1?
“It was always a sin committed against a person.” I agree. It was and is a sin. The sin was and is same-sex sexual intercourse. Period.
“And each type of sexual interaction listed was an abuse of God’s gift of sex and completely against his dream for marriage to be a lifelong commitment of two individuals increasingly and completely giving themselves to one another as Christ did for the church.” This is very clear word choice and unfortunately, not very biblical. First of all, “God’s dream for marriage…” A minor pet-peeve, but God doesn’t have dreams. What he means to say is “God’s will for marriage,” but I won’t quibble over that. “Two individuals…” This isn’t Jesus’s or Moses’s word choice when they discuss marriage. They prefer the language of “male and female.” (Matt 19:4-6, Gen 1:27; 2:24) “Increasingly and completely giving themselves to one another.” Actually, the husband and the wife have different responsibilities within marriage. The husband is supposed to do something close to what is written here, i.e. Loving his bride the way that Christ loves the Church. (Eph 5) He is supposed to nourish and cherish her. Wives are supposed to submit to their husbands as unto the Lord. Both of these are difficult tasks and they have different challenges accompanying them, and they are assigned based on the sex of the person in question. (I do not say gender, because people have sex, not gender.)
“But not one of these scriptures was written in the context of…” I agree with this paragraph, however I think there is terrible argumentation in it. “Just like heterosexual sex outside of marriage is sin for obvious reasons…” What reasons? What makes two consenting adults having sex with each other outside of marriage so wrong? I know what my answer to that question would be. It’d be based on biblical texts. But Hatmaker didn’t appeal to the Bible here, just “obvious reasons”.
“Take heart, our shift is not a departure from our everlasting…” Just because you make this statement, doesn’t make the statement true. The evidence Brandon’s provided in this post is weak at best in supporting the claim that he still holds to the authority and infallibility of scripture. A good test to see if someone really holds the scripture as authoritative is this: They’ve found passages they didn’t really like or want to submit to, but did anyway. If a person humbles himself and says, “I wish that God’s word didn’t say this, but it must be right and I must be wrong, so I will submit. Not my will, but thine.” They probably actually hold a high view of the authority of scripture. If a person has not experienced this in their study of the Bible they either haven’t read all of it, haven’t read it carefully enough, or do not hold a high view of the authority of Scripture.
“In the same way then…” This paragraph repeats issues that I’ve already covered.
“Bottom line, we don’t believe a committed life-long monogamous same-sex marriage violates anything seen in scripture about God’s hopes for the marriage relationship.” Note that this is a different claim than earlier. The first summary statement was, “We both believe a same-sex marriage, as a life-long monogamous commitment, can be holy before God.” In this new statement, they claim that this particular kind of homosexual relationship doesn’t violate scripture. As shown above, this is not the case. However, I just wanted to point out the minor shift from a slightly more subjective stance of “can be holy before God” to a more objective stance of “[doesn’t] violate scripture.” The first appeals to the possibility of something meeting a rather vague and ill-defined standard. The second appeals to an objective unchanging, written standard that can be read by multiple parties at the same time.
“From there we began to prayerfully meet with people to discuss what we were learning.” As stated above, this should have been occurring from the beginning, and it should have been with God-fearing men who have the gift of pastor-teacher.
“While some people have certainly shifted their view of scripture, we’ve found that the majority of affirming Christians have not ‘abandoned’ the Bible in order to shift their thinking.” If this statement is true, then they never had a high view of scripture. If it is not true, then they shifted from a high view to a lower one than they had. Brandon then mentions David Gushee’s name as support for his capitulation. This is a logical fallacy known as an appeal to authority. Just because a supposed authority believes something, doesn’t make it true.
“We found that there are a ton of people asking…” I’m curious what situation Brandon is referring to here. Is he thinking of the people who want to become affirming and are afraid to talk because of the traditionalists around them, or is he thinking of people who want to remain traditionalists and are afraid to talk because of the affirmers around them? I think both fit into this camp.
“We read numerous books from both affirming and non-affirming authors…” Of those listed I have only read the Preston Sprinkle book in its entirety, and portions of the Gushee and Martin books. I found it interesting that “God and the Gay Christian” by Matthew Vines (which I have read in it’s entirety) wasn’t listed, as it is thought of as the fore-runner and cornerstone of the affirming movement. I also thought it interesting that “What does the Bible Really Teach About Homosexuality?” by Kevin DeYoung and “Is God Anti-Gay?” by Sam Allberry weren’t mentioned, as the authors of these books hold much higher views of scripture than any of those listed in Hatmaker’s list.
“We even studied some historical texts that give cultural context to scripture…” This is actually the most revealing paragraph in the post, because it is only by allowing texts outside the Bible to affect one’s interpretation of the Bible that you can come up with a gay-affirming stance “from” the Bible. It is particularly revealing that of all the resources mentioned, the Kinsey Scale is the only one that gets a personal plug from Hatmaker. He even uses the word “authoritative” in reference to the Kinsey scale “giv[ing] insight to our sexuality.” Though the grammar in this section was odd, so I’m unclear exactly what point he was making. However, this little aside is the most revealing I think in showing how the Hatmakers actually came to their conclusions: information outside the Biblical texts.
“We did some heavy lifting. But we didn’t do it and I didn’t write this to try and change YOUR mind.” I was willing to believe Hatmaker on this, until I read the next sentence.
“That is the work of the Holy Spirt.” Here we have Hatmaker implying both (1) his new view is from the Holy Spirit, and (2) if you’re on the Holy Spirit’s side, you hold this view also.
“But I did write this to challenge each of you…” I largely agree with this paragraph. I particularly agree with the statement “Don’t study to be right, study to find the truth.” However, he again spoils this sentence by going back to a post-modern self-contradictory series of statements. He says “…God will lead you. But wherever you land…” Let’s think about that for a second. If God is truly leading someone in the views that they hold, he won’t lead two different people to two opposite views, he will lead both to the truth. The Law of non-contradiction says, “two opposites can’t both be true in the same way at the same time.” So two different people can’t have both been led by God to the truth with one believing “homosexual marriage is always sinful” and the other one believing “homosexual marriage is not always sinful.” One of those two views IS false. Which one? Answer: whichever one is not God’s view. I would say that we can argue with confidence based on God’s written word that the first is true, the second is false. Hatmaker would obviously disagree. One of us is wrong, and when we get to the bema-seat judgment, we’ll know which one. I pray that it is him. However, to claim both that “God WILL lead you” in your studies AND that “you can end up on either side” is dishonest and illogical. Hatmaker clearly believes that IF God leads you, then you WILL agree with Him. I freely admit that I believe Hatmaker has been deceived and did not follow the leading of the Holy Spirit, but followed a variety of other leads. I wonder if he would confidently say the same about me?
“Listen, regardless of what we think, many of our churches are not safe places for LGBTQ. Every Sunday, people searching for hope and community sit in confusion, condemnation, private pain, and the fear of being singled out, publicly humiliated, and being rejected. The exact opposite of what we all hope for.” Another pathos appeal and one that I disagree with at many points depending on what is meant by the words used. Again, there is a lack of definition in terms. “our churches are not safe places for LGBTQ.” What does he mean by “safe places”? My definition of a “safe place” is “a place where I am not in immediate danger of bodily harm or strong outward temptations to sin.” By that definition, our churches are the safest of places for LGBTQ’s. Based on the rest of the paragraph, I think Hatmaker’s definition of “safe place” is “a place where I am not in immediate danger of being told I am a sinner or of having my feelings hurt and painful emotions aroused.” If that is his definition, I would say that churches need to be the most unsafe places on earth, and not just for LGBTQIAPK people… but for all humans. All humans are sinful. All humans need to hear that they are sinful. All humans need to hear the good news that Christ died to pay the penalty of that sin. All humans need to be wooed by the Holy Spirit to repentance, and that wooing might involve pain, fear, and humiliation. Praise God for it. I do not hope that churches will be places where people are safe from the fear of being singled out, publicly humiliated, or rejected. I hope that churches will be places where people worship the triune God, align their wills with God’s through the preaching and studying of his word, practice the sacraments, confess their sins together, and rejoice in the hope of future resurrection. That’s what I hope happens in churches, and if that’s what same-sex tempted Christians want to do (note that I didn’t say “homosexual Christians”), I rejoice gladly.
I think Hatmaker’s brief handling of Biblical texts is sorely lacking, and that’s the only part that should matter. What does the Bible say? Whatever it says is what’s true.
I think Hatmaker reveals quite a few deficient theologies throughout this post, most notably his ecclesiology and soteriology. I encourage you to click on those two words in the links to the right to read posts that address such subjects.
I think Hatmaker was very kind in this post and did his best to be at peace with everyone who reads it. The second effort is commendable, the first is not. To be at peace with everyone is a good endeavor. Unfortunately, Hatmaker seems to confuse kindness with love. On this subject, it takes quite a bit of unkindness in order to be loving.
I would like to quote Hatmaker however as my final encouragement, because there was one sentence I whole-heartedly agree with, without reservation.
“Don’t study to be right, study to find the truth.” The way, the truth, and the life is the answer. The gospel that we are saved by grace through faith, because of Christ’s death on the cross to pay the penalty for sin is the answer to this question. If you continue in Christ’s word then you are truly his disciple, and then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free. (John 8)