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Q & R: How do you respond to N. T. Wright?

Here's the Q:

First, let me say how instrumental your work has been for me personally. Books like The Secret Message of Jesus and A New Kind of Christianity have forever shaped my life and ministry, and I'm exceedingly grateful for that.

Second, I feel "stuck in conservative Christianity" as I watch and listen to you and others like Rob Bell and Adam Hamilton embrace a Christian position that embraces faithful, monogamous homosexual lifestyles. I consider myself fairly open to those biblical arguments that push to legitimatize faithful and love-filled homosexuality. In fact, I even offer to some of my friends better arguments than they have that push in that direction. But alas, I still find myself unconvinced.

I believe and hope I'm that person that truly loves and values those who are homosexual, wanting always to seek their good. I even know and have family members who embrace this lifestyle, and I truly think they know that I am for them and for God's best in their lives. But still, in the end, I'm one of those Christians that can't seem yet to accept any line of argument that endorses such behavior as God's best or desire for humanity. I really wish I could.

Like you, I'm hugely influenced by N. T. Wright, who, as you know, also has yet to allow space for God-condoned homosexual behavior. I know your admiration for him remains, but I wonder how you would articulate such respect. On one level, I feel deeply connected with those of the "Brian McLaren ilk"—if I could put it hat way—but on another level, I feel disconnected due to this issue. What would you say to someone like me or Wright on this particular issue knowing there's disagreement but a large degree of affinity? How would you encourage our continued camaraderie as fellow Christians who share so much in common and yet diverge on this particular point?

Thank you in advance for whatever insights you offer here.


Here's the R:
Thanks for your note. I know that many people feel exactly as you do. In terms of a four-zone schema I've written about, you are articulating Zone 3, and you're uncomfortable about Zone 4.

You're right - I've expressed a lot of admiration for Tom Wright. His work played a big role in helping me see the New Testament and the gospel in a new, brighter, bolder, more expansive light. I'll always be grateful to him for that. I've not paid a lot of attention to his writings or statements on LGBT issues recently, but I wouldn't be surprised if we see these issues differently. That's fine with me. We're in different contexts, prioritizing different goals, balancing and negotiating different limitations and concerns and constituencies. None of us agree on everything, none of us can excel and do everything, and I think we all appreciate others for helping us in some ways, even if we don't agree the others.

Some of my friends differ with me on this, but I'm glad that Zone 2 people provide a more humane alternative to Zone 1 people, and I'm glad Zone 3 people provide a more humane alternative to Zone 2 people, and of course I'm glad Zone 4 people provide a more human alternative to Zone 3 people.

One more thing. I want to respond to this statement:

I even know and have family members who embrace this lifestyle, and I truly think they know that I am for them and for God's best in their lives. But still, in the end, I'm one of those Christians that can't seem yet to accept any line of argument that endorses such behavior as God's best or desire for humanity. I really wish I could.

First, when you speak of people "who embrace this lifestyle," you are making assumptions that I would encourage you to question. For example, I don't think people "embrace the left-handed lifestyle," nor do I think people "embrace the extraverted lifestyle," nor do I think people "embrace the homosexual lifestyle." I think left-handers, extraverts, and LGBT people can hide who they are - "in the closet." But being who they are isn't "embracing a lifestyle." The fact is, there is no single LGBT lifestyle. I hope you'll give that matter a second thought.

Second, the idea of "God's best for their lives" is a more problematic concept than you may have considered. When men tell women "what's God's best for their lives," when whites tell people of color "what's God's best for their lives," when married people tell singles "what's God's best for their lives" and so on, I think we should be very cautious. Same when straight people tell LGBT people "what's God's best for their lives." These things don't often turn out well. I'm not trying to be critical - just to respond to your request for feedback. I hope it's helpful.