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Opening Up a “Jar of Worms”

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I used to be a huge fan of the Christian band Jars of Clay. Now I find myself embroiled in a social media squabble with them and their lead singer, Dan Haseltine, over the plain words of Scripture. To bring you up to speed, let me highlight why I’m persistent in what the Jars boys think is “trolling” Dan for an answer to a very simple question.

It all started when Dan Haseltine posted to his Twitter page a series of tweets that questioned the integrity of Jesus Christ’s plain and explicit teaching on family. Christ affirmed the union of a man and a woman being the backbone of marriage and therefore the family. Dan questioned – publicly to thousands of followers – whether Jesus had it completely together. No, Dan didn’t use those words, but by questioning whether Christ might have left out a monogamous and committed union of two men or two women, he called into question the very word of God.

Now, two important points to make here:

First, Dan started this. He didn’t have to post what he did. He didn’t have to pick that topic to wade into. I didn’t coax him into it, nor did anyone else. He wasn’t fooled into making his comments and thus inadvertently igniting a firestorm. He chose to do what he did. The reason I stress this is because both Haseltine and his band are indignant that anyone would focus on this issue when there are so many other important things going on. Haseltine himself tweeted at me:

“Are there no other actual news worthy things happening today? People dying from preventable disease? Girls kidnapped? Etc?”

This is a common tactic used by those who are desperately trying to escape a subject. But to answer his question, of course there are other news worthy things happening. Just as there were other newsworthy things happening the day Dan chose to open his mouth on this topic. He found it important enough to address, and so do others like myself who are challenging his statements. Let’s also recognize that since homosexuality is a question of sin, we are therefore dealing with the fate of the souls of men. There is nothing more important to a Christian than the souls of men.

Second, it’s important to note that there is nothing wrong with asking questions or struggling over theological and doctrinal issues. Several of Dan’s defenders, including many Christians, are vehemently protesting that he’s merely questioning some things about his faith, and that’s how we grow. While I’m glad that Dan is interested in growth, let’s remember that Dan chose not to wrestle with this topic personally, seeking wisdom and counsel from learned Biblical scholars privately before commenting publicly. Instead he chose to take to his keyboard and type out a screed frighteningly reminiscent of the ancient deceiver’s words from the Garden of Eden: “Did God really say…”

In choosing to call God’s word into question publicly, Dan lost all right to claim the personal soul-searching defense. Further, with all due respect, it’s not like the question before him is overly deep or theologically confusing. Despite the false teaching perpetuated in some intellectually vapid corners of pop culture (see Matthew Vines’ work), even the most pro-gay, liberal scholars you find will acknowledge homosexuality is Biblically condemned behavior…including an unequivocal condemnation in the New Testament. That makes this merely a question of whether we are willing to trust the Word of God over our own inclinations.

When I reminded Dan that the enemy was not cultural conservatives like myself but sin, and that several of his followers and fans who are caught up in the sin of homosexuality were finding encouragement to persevere in their sin thanks to his words, Haseltine replied by tweeting:

“which sin? Selfishness? Greed? Lying? Stealing? Lusting? I don’t think a radio show will change that. But by the grace of God…”

First of all, it’s important to remember that the grace of God extends only to all those who accept it. Accepting it means there is repentance required. If Haseltine wishes to see those who practice homosexuality covered by the grace of God (as he or any believer should), then Dan should be advocating for repentance. But for some reason he’s not. For some reason he is questioning whether repentance is even needed for homosexual conduct. For some reason he is confused. How?

I quickly responded to him that clearly he openly and willingly condemns all of those sins he listed, but for some reason could or would not bring himself to condemn homosexuality as well. Why? Why deny those sinners who practice homosexuality the same full counsel of God that he gives to liars, greedy people, thieves and those who lust?

Dan’s inane response was that, “God does not deal with us according to our iniquity, nor do I. I condemn no one. Condemnation is not a humans game.” It was a weak attempt at misdirection, and it was also the moment I really began to feel uncomfortable with Haseltine’s actual openness to the Spirit of Truth on this issue. This isn’t about condemning people. It’s about condemning sinful behavior, which Dan had just done in his previous tweet. I think Dan knows that, which makes his parroting of red herring gay activist accusations all the more concerning.

To be honest, this really is a cupcake question for people who believe in the authority of God’s word, which Haseltine aggressively contended on his personal blog that he did. See, I’m not asking Dan how to best approach sinners caught up in homosexuality. I’m not asking him to explain the best remedy to same-sex attraction. I’m not asking him to articulate the intricacies of the natural predisposition towards the temptation. All of those are deep, involved, and difficult questions that demand serious thought, study and contemplation. I’m simply asking him if the behavior is sinful. For anyone who trusts the word of God (as Dan claims to), that is a simple answer. In 1 Corinthians 6: 9-11, the Holy Spirit writes through the Apostle Paul’s pen:

“Or do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor men who have sex with men nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And that is what some of you were. 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.”

How can Haseltine condemn the greed, the swindling/lying, the theft, the selfish lusting that are written about right there in this passage, and yet show reservation or confusion over the sinful nature of homosexual conduct that is listed right alongside them?! Incredulous over this inconsistency, I asked him (again) plainly:

“this really is simple, dan. you openly condemn greed, lying, lust & theft as sin. is homosexuality also a sin?”

Haseltine has never responded.

Several other commenters attempted to join in our dialogue as the afternoon progressed, and in fact demonstrated in their remarks the reason why what Dan Haseltine and Jars of Clay have done is so dangerous to truth, and beneficial to the enemy of human souls.

First, there is the discord created amongst the body of Christ, and the confused signals it sends to the lost. Several folks jumped on me for perpetuating a fight with Dan that would turn seekers off to the Christian faith. The truth is that dissension and public arguments within the church, while common, are not good. Christ prayed for unity in His church. But it must be unity in truth.

I sincerely lament that the voice of God’s people on the issue of homosexuality seems so condemning all the time. But can I tell you why it so often does? For the most part, it seems that way because so many of us proclaiming truth are having to stress what should be known and accepted and spoken by all believers over the voices of other believers who foolishly question it. God’s word is clear on the issue. But when believers like Dan Haseltine pretend that it isn’t (for whatever reason), they give aid and comfort to the enemy, allowing him to exploit the division of the church in the eyes of the lost.

To a culture that hates truth, the reaction is assured: the “good, loving Christians” become the ones who are accepting of sin. The “mean-spirited, hateful Christians” are the ones standing up shouting that sin is not to be condoned. If all God’s children were united in the truth of His word, we would not have to spend time debating with each other whether homosexuality is right or wrong, which is what leads to this false perception the world has of judgmental, harsh, condemning Christians. If we all accepted God’s truth for what it is, we could spend our time working together to offer help and loving, redemptive guidance to those who struggle with sin.

What really gave me chills about this entire episode was what happened when I got in touch with an ex-gay friend of mine. He had practiced the lifestyle of homosexuality for years until he read the words of Corinthians when the Holy Spirit says through Paul, “And that (homosexual offenders) is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ.” He came to Christ and found deliverance from his unwanted same-sex attraction. I sent him the links to my exchange with Dan Haseltine and asked him what he thought. He told me that his heart broke as he read it. Here’s what he wrote in response:

Pete, I’ve seen these kinds of conversations before. I watched them intently when I was in the lifestyle. When you’re caught up in sin, you look for anything to justify it. That ‘still small voice’ constantly tells you that what you’re doing isn’t right. But when you can find anything, anyone to say it’s okay, you cling to it. We find ways to justify our sin – not just homosexuality. And right now one of the reasons it is so hard for people to break free from the sin of homosexuality is because of all the approval and embrace of it in our culture.

Let there be no mistake, you are speaking truth and Dan Haseltine is at best confused, at worst a willing participant in the deception of sinners. But that is not the way this will be perceived by those who are caught up in homosexuality. You look like the judgmental and unloving one. Dan looks like the open-minded, loving one. When I was a practicing homosexual, I would have clung to his public ‘questions’ and refusal to say that homosexuality is a sin. I would have said to myself, ‘See, here’s the lead singer of a Christian band who knows this is who I am and that it can’t be wrong in God’s eyes.’ I would have let the lie sink deeper in me that those who were telling me it is wrong were the ones with the problem – not me. And if you look at the comments that others made throughout your conversation with him, you can see that is exactly what is happening. It’s heartbreaking from my perspective because I can put myself in their shoes and I just want to cry for them being so lost and mired in their sin.

Dan Haseltine may not know it, but every moment that goes by, his refusal to speak the plain words of Scripture is attaching another set of chains that truth will have to bust through if that soul is ever to be saved. His silence and public questioning of Truth have undoubtedly put up huge stumbling blocks for many. It’s tragic beyond words.

I say all this not to condemn Dan Haseltine. I say it to rebuke his silence on the issue, to desperately plead with him to abandon the “fine-sounding arguments” that have ensnared his thinking, to lean not on his own understanding and instead trust completely in the full counsel of Scripture which is not contradictory or confusing on this issue. I am asking him publicly to simply stand unashamed, unhesitant, unequivocal on the truth of God’s word.

That doesn’t in any way translate to proclaiming truth in a hateful manner. It means speak plainly as Jesus did, leaving no doubt or question in their mind, but telling all who need to hear, “Go now and leave your life of sin.” Homosexuality is a sin. Those who practice it need to confess it as sin and repent. And when they do, the blood of Jesus will do what it does to all our sin: wash it white as snow.

Dan, there’s nothing more loving you could do for your followers and all those you may not even know you are impacting than to speak this truth.

NOTE: Some have suggested that the band Jars of Clay is being unfairly entangled in this tempest through no fault of their own. That is not true. The official Twitter account of Jars of Clay is not only supporting Dan’s public questioning of the word of God, but they are petulantly deriding those who have spoken out against Dan’s public meanderings. In a short exchange with them, they collectively accused me of “judging” Dan, demonstrating a profound inability to distinguish between “judging someone” (which Christians are never to do) and “moral discernment” (which Christians are always to exercise). Thus, Christians should be wary that this is no longer just an issue with Dan Haseltine, but it is an issue with the entire group and their ministry.

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