Can we talk about sin?

So, the General Election campaign is off and one of the first big questions of the campaign is “Does Tim Farron (Liberal Democrat party leader) think that it is a sin to be gay?”[1]

A couple of quick background notes may be in order for non-UK readers.

-Farron’s party have historically have been the third party in British politics and up until two years ago were part of the Coalition Government.

– At the 2015 General Election, the Liberal Democrats were almost wiped out but are hoping for a small come back in this election as the primary, “remain” party on the Brexit question

– The Liberal Democrats are as their name suggests liberal on most social policy issues.

– Tim Farron is a self-professing Evangelical Christian.

Farron was asked Channel 4 news, whether as an Evangelical Christian he thought that gay sex was a sin. He answered that “We are all sinners.” In the debate on an early General Election he was asked “Is it a sin to be gay?”  He responded “No.” I think it would be helpful to make x quick comments on this. When other Liberal Democrats were asked about Farron’s position, their response was that it was really nobody’s business what a politician believed as part of their faith (a private matter) so long as their public actions such as voting in parliament met expectations.

  1. The tone of the questioning and media commentary was hostile and aggressive. The theme seemed to be that Farron’s supposed beliefs were unacceptable. He was immediately put on the defensive when questioned and as seems to be the normal practice in interviews, interrupted and given little chance to develop a thought out and reasoned answer. This is important not just for politicians but for all Christians. The dominant culture may create an environment where at times it feels almost impossible to state and explain your beliefs but we should not be cowered into silence on what the Bile says.
  2. I wonder whether shouldn’t pause and ask “Why is it that the main question that an interviewer wanted to ask an Evangelical politician about was his position on homosexuality?
  3. As Stephen Kneale has commented here, the questions were muddled and didn’t really allow for a simple and truthful “yes/no” because they confused several things together. Namely:
  • Is same-sex disposition a sin in itself? The answer to this is “no” -and that seemed to be the question Farron answered in Parliament. For more on this, take a look at livingout.org a website run by Christians who are same-sex attracted but choose to live obediently to God’s Word on sex and marriage,
  • Is it a sin to have sexual intercourse with someone of the same gender? Farron has stayed clear of answering this. However, we must be clear as Christians that the Bible does teach that this is sin. At the same time we must put that in the context of saying that all sex outside of marriage between one man and one woman is sin.

This leads us onto two other vital points. First of all, as again Stephen Kneale has already pointed out, there is a huge difference between saying that something is “sin” and saying that something is a crime.[2] Secondly, because as Farron said “we are all sinners,” it is not unloving to state that. It is not unloving because

  • It is possible to believe and state that homosexual sex is sin whilst speaking out against homophobic violence and speaking up for the human rights of people who are bullied, excluded and imprisoned in other countries.
  • As we have seen in other posts, love should trump modern definitions of tolerance. Love for others should motivate me to speak the truth. Is my concern a genuine love for others and desire to see them brought to faith in Christ and to grow in faith or is it fear of being rejected and turned on by society myself?

Finally, I want to pick up on something that hasn’t attracted too much comment yet. Yes, the interviewer is right to ask about Farron’s faith and what he believes. The idea that he could separate out what he believed about God, The Bible and human nature from how he would act in public life is untenable. Politicians will happily talk about how their faith motivates them to work for a fairer, more just society and to help the poor and vulnerable. Surely what they believe about sex and marriage should also motivate what they do and say in public too.

Can a Christian who believes that God ordained marriage as between one man and one woman, a glorious picture of Christ’s relationship to the Churuch legislate for same-sex marriage? Can a Christian who believes that sexual intercourse between two men or two women is support same-sex marriage given that this does not merely decriminalise a behaviour but publicly endorses, provides for and grants privileges to such relationships.

What we believe will affect how we live and that will include public life.

NB For a more detailed discussion of our position on same-sex marriage please check out our booklet “Same Sex Marriages” on our publications page.

Update

Since this article was published,  Farron has been asked again and has stated that he does not believe that gay sex is a sin. Theresa May has been asked the same question and said “No.” The affect seems to be that the media/establishment consensus is that you cannot hold to a Biblical position on ethics and engage in public discourse.

[1]https://www.bing.com/news/search?q=Tim+Farron+Is+Gay+Sex+A+Sin&qpvt=tim+farron+is+gay+sex+a+sin&FORM=EWRE

[2] https://knealesm.wordpress.com/2017/04/18/the-issues-of-sin-and-legislation-are-not-the-same-channel-4-revive-their-witchhunt-of-tim-farron/

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