We were chatting on the patio of a coffee shop in Liberty Village. I was describing how strange our church seems in a downtown Toronto community. I mentioned a few beliefs we hold — believer’s baptism, that men and women are equal and yet different, and that sex is reserved for marriage between a man and a woman — just as someone passed by, glaring. My friends wondered if the person was going to attack me. Holding beliefs like this isn’t just quaint. It’s considered to be implausible and dangerous.
One of our jobs is to understand our day and the forces shaping the minds of people today. Carl Trueman’s recent book The Rise and Triumph of the Modern Self helps us do this.
Another one of our jobs is to express the truth of Scripture so that people see the beauty of God’s design. God’s commands aren’t burdensome. They are created for our good and his glory. We flourish as we obey God’s commands in our lives even when they contradict the zeitgeist of our day. We need teachers who can speak biblical truth and relate it to the cultural lies around us.
And yet a third job is to respond to issues that demand our attention. One of those issues is Bill C-6, a bill that would create new criminal offenses relating to conversion therapy. Christians must consider how to respond.
Concerns around Conversion Therapy
“Most people now have a negative view of ‘reparative therapy’—the therapeutic method of trying to change one’s same-sex orientation,” writes Preston Sprinkle in his book People to Be Loved. “Many people consider reparative therapy to be unethical and destructive.”
Christians can agree that coercing or forcing people to change their same-sex orientation is wrong. God doesn’t call us to coerce people into obedience. I’m struck by Jesus’ behaviour around sexual sinners — a category that includes all of us. He didn’t condone sin, but he always cared for the person and extended grace.
The problem is that Bill C-6 is ambiguous. It’s unclear if the legislation would criminalize a sermon series or youth Bible study on Christian sexual ethics, or ministries within the church that support people as they seek to order their lives according to Scripture’s teaching. No wonder. It seems almost impossible in today’s society to understand how Scripture’s teaching on sexuality could ever be good news.
The issue isn’t only conversion therapy. The issue is the church’s ability to preach and teach Scriptural truth on sex.
Two Ways to Respond
How should we respond?
In the short term, pray. Write your Member of Parliament and the Justice Minister. The Evangelical Fellowship has provided resources on Bill C6, including a letter you can adapt for your own use.
But let’s play the long game too. Ed Shaw says we have a plausibility problem: it doesn’t seem plausible to push for and live according to Christianity’s teachings about sex and marriage in a world that tells us to be true to ourselves. Trevin Wax writes, “Let’s answer the longings of our society by offering an entirely different vision of sex and marriage. Let’s declare what God is for.” The church, he writes, can become “a haven of hope, a refuge in the midst of sexual chaos.”
It’s not just enough to speak against our culture. Let’s work to show that the Christian view of sex is both plausible and beautiful in our own churches and beyond.