Recently a graphic appeared that gave quotes from Tim Keller (2011), JD Greear (2019), and Ed Litton (2020). The last two are parroting Keller, and Litton, as seems to be the norm, is parroting, directly, Greear. Now, my point is not the plagiarism scandal that is showing just how corrupt the SBC leadership is right now. My point is the obvious error of Keller’s words, then amplified by Greear.
As I have warned, a movie is being made that is already making the rounds in social media. The 1946 Movie will be propounding the already refuted, incredibly absurd, yet oh so friendly to social media lie that homosexuality “was not in the Bible until 1946.” This claim, made to cause every person with any linguistic common sense hives, confuses the original meanings of the language of Scripture, which is really not disputable, with the chosen English term to correspond with those concepts. So, all the way back in Moses’ day you had to be able to describe what men do with other men in bed. Today we call it homosexual behavior. Sodomy. Other terms and phrases have been used down through the centuries in all of mankind’s languages. Moses described it as “men lying with men as with women,” i.e., penetrative sexual intercourse. What term or phrase you use today cannot change what it meant when Moses wrote the words, or when Paul expanded upon them and commented on them in Romans 1 or 1 Corinthians 6 or 1 Timothy 1. The issue is not the current English word or phrase, but the meaning that is consistent throughout Scripture.
Now, most of us have seen the clip where Keller was asked by an unbeliever if homosexuality will send you to hell. His honest response should have been, “Yes, of course, along with every other act that God has defined breaks His moral law for mankind, His creation.” He could have immediately mentioned some other sins if it was his intention to try to blunt the question. Instead, Keller introduced a complete non-sequitur that everyone (including his questioner) should have laughed off the stage. It is logically, morally, and ethically absurd to say “since heterosexuality won’t get you to heaven, homosexuality won’t send you to hell.” I honestly do not see how a thinking person can even utter these words, let alone how anyone else at a later point could consider the claim worthy of repetition. Let’s compare it to this one: “No, murder won’t send you to hell, because having a baby won’t get you to heaven!” Brilliant, just brilliant, isn’t it? It is a complete dodge based solely upon a linguistic slight-of-hand. Unworthy.
Now it is a pretty good bet Greear imbibed the silly thought from Keller, and we have discovered there seems to be a direct bluetooth connection between Greear’s brain and Litton’s speech, so the circuit is complete. But could we all collectively stand up and tell these “evangelical elites” they have completely missed the point here, and we are embarrassed for them?
Let’s respond to Keller first. While heterosexuality will not get you to heaven, no one, of course, ever suggested it could. However, heterosexuality is God’s intended design, homosexuality is not. Heterosexuality is good, positive, and right. It is basic to the marriage relationship that Jesus said was God’s intention from the start, hence it is divinely good and proper. It can be abused, and God’s law prohibits its abuse (all forms of fornication, adultery, etc.), but heterosexuality is the creation norm. Homosexuality is the perversion of heterosexuality. It is a narcissistic reversal of the intended pattern, self-love rather than other-love, and it is condemned as an abomination, a corruption of nature, by both testaments of the Christian Scriptures. So while heterosexuality is the creative norm, and hence is not relevant to “getting to heaven” or “getting to hell,” homosexuality is a directly prohibited behavior that is sinful, and hence is part of the entire sin complex that does, in fact, bring the wrath of God, and hence the just punishment of hell. The number of times Jesus mentioned a sin is, of course, utterly irrelevant to the definition of sin itself, so the off-hand reference to greed is a red herring on Keller’s part.
But Tim Keller has been seen as an icon in major evangelical and Reformed circles for a long time, and hence his words were given a “pass” so to speak over the years. They took on a life of their own as they were repeated by others who showed even less discernment than he did in uttering them. Greear’s repetition in his Romans 1 sermon did not have the same context as Keller’s initial pontification. Keller was in front of a hostile audience and a hostile questioner, and gave in, sadly, to the temptation to try to blunt the force of biblical law amongst a secular people who hate God’s ways. By the time his error got to Greear things had changed (a lot, since 2011), and so Greear, in front of his own congregation, did not have even the slight excuse one could grant to Keller. None of these men bothered to provide the reasoning behind their connection of homosexuality (a specifically identified sin) with heterosexuality (creation norm), they just asserted it and assumed their compliant followers would make the leap with them. Most have. And Greear does not bother to tell us why frequency of reference determines level of divine displeasure, either.
So by the time we get to Ed Litton we have a rather worn out, tired, trite and morally silly phrase that has become “effective” and hence is being repeated without thought or consideration. If it is good enough for Keller and Greear, it is good enough for me! And so people are led astray by unbiblical thinking right at the time when the pressure against biblical norms and morality is at its greatest. How many have simply repeated this phrase and, as a result, compromised the message that was truly needed in the moment? We cannot know. But we can start being clear in challenging this morally and biblically inaccurate claim when we hear it being repeated. And if someone looks shocked and says, “But, I heard Tim Keller say that!” just reply, “Yes, so have I, but our duty is to think through what anyone says on the basis of Scripture, and when you do, what Keller, Greear, and Litton said, fails the test, badly.”