18 May A Wesleyan’s View of Love, Sex, Sin, and Holiness: The College “Conversation”
A Wesleyan’s View of Love, Sex, Sin, and Holiness: The College “Conversation”
Dr. Everett Piper
May 18, 2016
The question has come up repeatedly in recent days asking how Christian colleges—specifically, those aligned with the Wesleyan tradition—should respond to the government’s new Title IX mandates concerning transgender accommodations, gay “marriage”, and the broader LGBT agenda. More directly, many Christian college leaders (presidents, faculty, board members, etc.) presently argue that John Wesley’s call to love requires the Christian community to be more inclusive and conversational (rather than exclusive and confrontational) in the face of the present cultural shifts sweeping across the land. As the leader of a Wesleyan university, I offer the following points of response for your consideration:
(1) Yes, Wesleyans elevate love as evidence of God’s grace in our lives.
Loving God and loving our neighbor, however, demands that we hate sin. Sin is anathema to love and love is anathema to sin. Wesley teaches over and over again that the walk of holiness: the obedient, “methodical” path of sanctification, is one that condemns sin at every turn. There is no place in Wesley’s teaching to have a “conversation” about sin. The message of holiness demands that we confess it, not sit around and discuss it.
(2) Wesley never watered down Scriptural authority and certainly never questioned the Bible’s clear definition of right and wrong, good and evil.
“Oh give me that book! At any price, give me the book of God! I have it: Here is knowledge enough for me. Let me be a man of one book.”
(3) Wesley was VERY clear about what he called “singularity,” i.e. the exclusive and non-negotiable truths of the Gospel.
In fact, he made it so clear that he said “singularity” was the difference between heaven and hell: “You must be singular or be damned. The way to hell has nothing singular in it. The way to heaven has singularity all over it. You must be singular or be damned.”
(4) Yes, Wesley did say, “In the essentials unity… in all else charity…” and in doing so he clearly made the “essentials” the priority of the formula.
In calling for “charity” he never intended to diminish the First Thing: the mandate to be unified around the authority of the Word. In fact, Wesley repeatedly preached that anyone who denied “the essentials” was guilty of compromising the unity of the Church and was, therefore, guilty of being “almost Christian.”
(5) The entire Wesleyan movement was one where Wesley challenged the Church of England’s acceptance of sin.
He was essentially saying, “You have orthodoxy but you don’t have orthopraxy. You are not practicing what you preach.” Wesley was condemning the hypocrisy of separating belief from behavior. He was calling for obedience! Methodical, habitual, disciplined holiness. He confronted sin. He didn’t have a conversation about it. He would be appalled to learn that we are now debating the acceptability of the act of sodomy within the Body of Christ. He would quickly cite the words of St. Paul: “It is shameful to even talk about what the evil do in secret” (Ephesians 5:12). Wesley would be first to say that our sinful inclinations do not and should not define us. He would condemn the dumbing down of the human being to nothing but the sum total of what we are inclined to do sexually.
Our identity is found in Christ, not in our proclivities and passions. Holiness, by definition, means that we rise above such inclinations in obedience to God rather than capitulating to one’s base appetites and instincts. Wesley would shout from the pulpit, “You are the imago dei, my land, not the imago dog! Now, by God’s grace, act like it!”
(6) Christian colleges will only succeed if we have the courage to stand firm.
We must run into the storm and not away from it. We must wave the banner of the Truth of Christ and the Truth of Scripture with the confidence that if we win – great that’s God’s grace – but if we lose, it doesn’t matter because the battle is the Lord’s and we are willing to go down fighting. How can we do anything less? Selling our soul for the sake of government approval dishonors our mission, our message, and our very reason to exist. It dishonors our founders who gave us their treasure and their trust. It dishonors our students. It dishonors our God. If we become nothing but pale copies of the secular academy, then why in the world would anyone want to buy what we are selling?
Anything short of a unified stand for the essentials of our faith – for Orthodoxy, for Biblical authority, for the inerrancy and infallibility of the Word – will doom the Christian college to the ash heap of history. Compromise will be our demise and, consequently, we will be “thrown out and trampled under foot” by a culture that laughs at our irrelevancy. We are supposed to preserve culture, not take part in its rot. We are supposed to shine a light on evil, not have a conversation about it. We are supposed to confront sin, not capitulate to it. May God help us if we have really come to the point where any Christian college’s board, president and/or faculty actually thinks that our salvation comes from negotiating a compromise with a world that hates our Lord and His Gospel.
There is no “middle way” with Christ. He is the only way.