All of the sexual confusion and controversy of our age can be understood simply as an impasse between two different approaches to ethics, based on two different visions of the Good. One approach, the traditional one inherited from 2,000 years of Christian history, sees the external world as having a certain “givenness” to which my inner self should seek to conform. The world has been designed to operate a certain way, and not by me, and one of the ways I bow in submission to the Lord who designed and created the world is by seeking to conform my inner desires to the way things actually are in the external world. If I find a point of discord between my heart and the world, then I must assume the problem is in me and address it accordingly. If I have male anatomy but feel like I should be a woman, I assume that something has gone wrong with my feelings, and the best option to pursue is working through the difficult process of changing my feelings to match reality. If I have female anatomy but am sexually attracted to women, and thus attracted to a union that cannot, by definition, be oriented toward the fruitfulness of procreation and family, I must assume that my desires have become disordered and begin the difficult process of working to control them.
The other approach, which appears to be a renewed form of Gnosticism, regards the inner self as supreme over the external world. Reality is determined, not by the way things are, but by the way the inner person feels, and the ethical course of action is to conform the world, insofar as possible, to the inner feelings of the individual. If I find a point of discord between by heart and the world, I must assume the problem is in the world and address it accordingly. So if I identify myself as gay, that has become the immutable core of my identity, and the world should recognize that by blessing my homosexual union with the label “marriage.” If I am a male who identifies as a female, the world must bend to my preferences and give me access to women’s restrooms and locker rooms, or else a grave injustice has been committed against the true, inner self that is my identity.
We either decide to try to conform our hearts to the world or to try to conform the world to our hearts. One ethical approach acknowledges the lordship of God over created nature, while the other asserts the lordship of the individual to shape reality according to inner desire.
Jen Hatmaker, along with several other Christian public figures, has now firmly placed herself in the second camp. From the ethical perspective that she has adopted, compassion toward LGBT people is now virtually synonymous with affirmation of their true, inner selves. This seems to be the underlying thought behind our her recent Facebook post. But if you do not share the ethical framework that asserts the primacy of individual feelings over created nature, you would necessarily draw the opposite conclusion: it is the farthest thing from compassion to affirm disordered sexuality, just as it would be the farthest thing from compassion for a doctor to claim that a patient’s cancerous tumor is perfectly natural, normal, and therefore nothing to seek to rectify.
That is why the alternative perspectives of Rosaria Butterfield and Denny Burk are tremendously helpful in this conversation. Butterfield is a former lesbian who repented and has walked away from the LGBT lifestyle. She writes,
If I were still in the thick of the battle over the indwelling sin of lesbian desire, Jen’s words would have put a millstone around my neck.
In his reflections on Hatmaker’s post, Burk writes,
The LGBT community is watching. And there are some within that community who have heard the gospel. They have been confronted with the message that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners–including them.
They have also confronted the fact that while the grace of the Lord Jesus is free, it will cost them everything (Matt. 16:24; Gal. 2:20). To have Christ, they will have to renounce their sin–including sexual immorality–and trust in Jesus Christ alone for salvation.
And now these dear souls–precious in the sight of God–are hearing from Jen that they don’t really need to turn from sexual immorality. Jen tells them that their sexual immorality is “holy” in God’s sight. I would simply encourage Jen to remember that they are indeed watching and listening to her. And she is leading them away from mercy, away from life, and away from everything that matters in this life and the next. Her public departure from the faith is not helping these dear people. It’s harming them.
Both articles summarize the destructive potential of Hatmaker’s latest public words. I can only imagine how they might influence people who are fighting the difficult fight of repentance that leads to eternal life to settle for the empty, passing pleasures of their sexual disorders instead of handing everything over to Jesus. If the rich man who came to Jesus and was told to sell everything had any moment of pause or reflection, Hatmaker’s voice would be the equivalent of one telling him, “As a prominent figure among the disciples of Jesus, I want you to know that he didn’t really mean what he said. Holding on to your wealth, if that is what you want, is good and holy. You can follow Jesus and have everything you want at the same time.” And it would have given the man a pat on the back as he turned resolutely on the march toward Hell. This is not love. It’s not even close to love.