Last night, we tried a new recipe at the Yohn household. I prepared some Mediterranean beef kabobs marinated in a blend of yogurt, cumin, garlic, and hot sauce. Madeline was in charge of the side dish, and she whipped up an incredible spicy couscous with sautéed garlic and red pepper flakes (it was the first time in our amateur kitchen that an attempt at couscous actually worked).
|A Far Fancier Version of our Beef Kabobs and Spicy Couscous|
While we were eating this great meal, Madeline confessed that she had been concerned that the couscous wouldn’t turn out because she'd accidentally poured a little too much oil in the pan. This led to an explanation of the difference between baking and cooking. In baking, you need to have your measurements right on or things won’t happen the way they’re supposed to happen - the bread won’t rise, the cupcakes will have the consistency of muffins, the cookies will turn into flat, crispy discs. With cooking, however, there is flexibility - you can play with the measurements - a little more here, a little less there. You can even throw in a whole new ingredient or spice if you want, just to mix it up.
I got thinking about this baking/cooking distinction today after reading Tony Campolo’s statement about why he has decided to advocate for full inclusion of same sex couples in the Church (). I grew up a fan of Tony’s. As a teen, I remember hearing him speak several times, and I admired his passion and his slap-you-in-your-face, what-are-you-doing-with-your-life challenges. In my twenties, I ran camera for a couple events that he spoke at, and I was amazed that anyone could sweat out that much bodily fluid and still retain consciousness. As I’ve gotten older, I appreciate his advocacy for social issues. He’s one of those guys that makes sure the Church doesn’t lose its cultural relevancy or forget its call to the “least of these”.
Because of this unique social “call” that God has given Campolo, I tend to bypass any doctrinal “huh’s?” that occasionally pop up in his communications. Doctrine is a lot like cooking. If you’re going to make a roast, you need some meat, you need some vegetables, you need some spices, and you need some heat. Your meat may be cow or it may be lamb. You may want potatoes and onions, or you may want to throw in some carrots and celery, too. There’s a whole variety of spices, and your heat source can be anything from an oven to a slow cooker to a smoker. As long as you have the basic ingredients, it’s technically still a roast.
When it comes to doctrine, you have to have the key ingredients - Jesus is the Creator God, salvation is by grace through faith, the Bible is the inspired World of God, God exists in Three Persons, our eternity will be spent with God or separated from Him, and numerous other theological non-negotiables. Doctrines like theses are the majors - the essentials. These are what make a roast a roast. However, beyond these there is flexibility - the great theological wiggle room of the Church. Along with your main ingredients, you may throw in premillennialism, postmillennialism, or amillennialism. You may want to mix in some eternal security or a little bit of lose-your-salvationism. You can spice it up with God’s sovereignty or a dash of free will (or maybe create your own two-spice blend). As long as you’ve got your main ingredients, you’ve got yourself a roast. And, when we get to heaven, we’re going to find a lot of folks who cooked their meat very differently than our particular recipe.
But that’s cooking - baking is different. And this is where Campolo loses his chef’s hat. Doctrine is like cooking; holiness is like baking. God’s given us the recipe for righteous living, and if we want to rise to the level of holiness that He calls us to then we have to stick to the steps and measurements that He lays out in Scripture.
We are no longer under the Mosaic Law (Romans 6:14). However, God still gives us New Covenant dos and don’ts regarding how we should live (Galatians 5:19-23 is a good example of both do and don’t). And smack dab in the midst of those lists about drunkenness, slander, witchcraft, greed, and immorality, we find homosexuality (Romans 1:24-31; 1 Corinthians 6:9-10). None of those ingredients belong in the recipe of a righteous life - any one of them will cause the cake to go flat.
The problem with what Chef Tony is doing is that he is picking and choosing his baking ingredients. For consistency’s sake, he would need to come out in favor of allowing into church leadership drunks, witches, and greedy little money-grubbers. But he’d never do that, because the Citizens In Favor of Drunk Driving action committee, the Wiccan political lobby, and Benny Hinn don’t have the same cultural clout as the LGBT folk - they are simply not politically correct.
Calling sin sin is not always a comfortable thing to do. So, in order to be comfortably inclusive, he has to make acceptable what the Bible clearly states is unacceptable.
I understand Campolo’s heart in this, and if Scripture wasn’t so clear about this I’d be waving the rainbow flag right along with him. I prayed this morning asking God to give me something to blog about today, and I’ve spent the whole time I’m writing this thinking, “Really, God? I haven’t blogged in a year, and this is what You give me?” The Truth can be uncomfortable. But Truth isn’t defined by our comfort level.
Since I’ve criticized Chef Tony, I think it’s only fair that I put on the Chef’s hat, too, and explain what I think God’s recipe clearly is when it comes to homosexuality and the Church. I don’t know if people are born with any sort of propensity to homosexuality. The science is sketchy, but I also know that at the Fall, sin entered the world and it manifests itself in all sorts of ways. The point, however, is ultimately moot, because there are no exception clauses in the sin lists of the New Testament. The sin of drunkenness is not excused because someone may have a propensity toward alcoholism, nor is the sin of homosexuality excused because someone may experience those particular tendencies. Is that fair? Absolutely not. But, to see my opinion of fairness, read my blog post “The Fallacy of Fairness”.
All that being said, we have no right in the Church to ostracize any person struggling with sin. That’s not our role. We are called to be the welcoming arms of Jesus. Our job in the Church is to speak love and model truth (as well as speak truth and model love), leaving the sin conviction to the Holy Spirit (He does a much better job of it than we do, and in ways far less obnoxious than us).
In our church, we will welcome into our services and into our hearts people from any background and any lifestyle. However, we will exclude from leadership anyone caught up in a sinful lifestyle, whether homosexuality, immorality, substance abuse, etc. The holiness recipe must be followed.
So, Chef Tony, while I love you for your heart and I agree with you that the Church has done a very poor job with the LGBT community, I disagree with you tampering with God’s recipe. It’s His kitchen, it’s His cookbook - He’s the Chef, we’re just the sous chefs. Our place isn’t to question or to tamper with or to change what is clearly laid out. Our role is to say, “Yes, Chef!” to all His instructions and carry them out in the most loving and holy way possible.