Against Perseverance of the Saints

Against Perseverance of the Saints

Introduction

It is appropriate in retrospect to say that the saints have persevered, but is it appropriate to say that all saints persevere? It would be appropriate to say this with the condition that if the saint falls he gets back up and therefore was a saint at the beginning and at the end of his Christian life. There is a teaching however that says that when someone becomes a saint they cannot fall away and deny the faith or apostatize. This means that once someone becomes a saint it is guaranteed that they will persevere without condition. Adherers to this belief also believe that one becomes a saint on the basis of his initial faith in Jesus alone. Is this teaching true? Well I believe that our own experience as Christians and historic witness as evidenced in Scripture and Christian tradition prove this teaching to be false.

Christian History

If we look in Scripture we can see examples of the Apostles writing of the possibility of falling away from the faith and of them in fact guaranteeing that people will. We not only have admonition from the Apostles but also from Jesus in His teaching.  

“Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will renounce the faith by paying attention to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons” 1 Timothy 4:1

 

“Note then the kindness and the severity of God: severity toward those who have fallen, but God’s kindness toward you, provided you continue in his kindness; otherwise you also will be cut off. And even those of Israel, if they do not persist in unbelief, will be grafted in, for God has the power to graft them in again. For if you have been cut from what is by nature a wild olive tree and grafted, contrary to nature, into a cultivated olive tree, how much more will these natural branches be grafted back into their own olive tree.”

Romans 11:22-24

 

“As to the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered together to him, we beg you, brothers and sisters, not to be quickly shaken in mind or alarmed, either by spirit or by word or by letter, as though from us, to the effect that the day of the Lord is already here. Let no one deceive you in any way; for that day will not come unless the rebellion comes first and the lawless one is revealed, the one destined for destruction.”        2 Thessalonians 2:1-3

 

“For if, after they have escaped the defilements of the world through the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and overpowered, the last state has become worse for them than the first. For it would have been better for them never to have known the way of righteousness than, after knowing it, to turn back from the holy commandment that was passed on to them. It has happened to them according to the true proverb, “The dog turns back to its own vomit,” and, “The sow is washed only to wallow in the mud.”

2 Peter 2:20-23

 

“You therefore, beloved, since you are forewarned, beware that you are not carried away with the error of the lawless and lose your own stability.” 2 Peter 3:17

 

“Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God.” Hebrews 3:12

 

“For it is impossible to restore again to repentance those who have once been enlightened, and have tasted the heavenly gift, and have shared in the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the age to come, and then have fallen away, since on their own they are crucifying again the Son of God and are holding him up to contempt.” Hebrews 6:4-6

“And the ones on the rock are those who, when they hear the word, receive it with joy. But these have no root; they believe for a while, and in time of testing fall away.”

Luke 8:13

“If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned.” John 15:16

Not a Teaching Perpetuated by the Church

The big reason that the perseverance of the saints is categorized as a protestant teaching is because it is not the teaching of the more historic churches. John Calvin is one who is often credited with this teaching, while Luther is said not to have held to the teaching. The Eastern Orthodox, Roman Catholic, Church of the East, nor Eastern Orientals hold to this type of teaching. It can be said that it was introduced to the church and found prominence during the reformation period and following. Not only do the historic churches not hold to this, but we as Christians today also experience something in our daily lives that is much different to this teaching. What about our own Christian walk? Isn’t it true that we stumble, need repentance, and often have a hard time walking in His footsteps? Surely if it was guaranteed that we would persevere we would not have such a hard time nor would temptations ever get the better of us. After all aren’t there people out there who indeed once were in the church who now say they have renounced Christianity? 

Why do some hold to this? Tradition and Necessity

The obvious reason to why some hold to this teaching is because of their church tradition stemming back from the reformation. “Reformed” Christians such as Presbyterians and such like to hold to it because of their tradition, but a lot of people who hold to a more “faith alone” type of justification will also invoke this teaching or its similar Baptist cousin “eternal security.” Of course they say they have Scriptural proof, but we will look at this in a moment. To these evangelicals and protestants such a teaching is necessary to uphold the faith alone schema. Of course traditional Lutherans do not hold to this teaching. The other protestant and evangelical argument often is that if one did not enter Christianity on the basis of works then neither will one ever be held to the standards of works by God in order to remain a saint.

Why the Teaching is Dangerous

If the teaching is not true, which I believe it also not to be, then there is danger that comes along with such a teaching. If we are indeed judged by our works and one is instructed that they will without a doubt produce the “right works” then the motivation of some will be stunned and a false confidence will be gained. One thing to keep in mind is that those who hold to this teaching also teach that “one’s fruit” or deeds prove whether one to be a Christian or not. To some extent this is good because they will often prod each other with the idea that someone may never truly have become a Christian (which to them means genuinely have had faith in Christ) because their deeds may not be good. In one sense this is good because they are calling each other to repentance and therefore achieve a similar outcome to those who know they are not guaranteed to persevere. On the other hand they make the error that one cannot genuinely believe the Lord Jesus or His work simply because they refuse to obey Him, which is false. They have to make this error in order to show the validity of their teaching, but in doing so they simply deny the reality that one can believe in Jesus yet not obey Him or remain committed to Him. In doing so they tend to confuse one another about what it really means to have assurance and faith in God. They also reveal a hole in their own argument and show that works indeed are a necessary continuation that doesn’t just happen because one is originally justified by faith. Although many who hold to this teaching will try to patch this up by saying God makes them do the works, so they aren’t the ones actually doing them.

An Unrealistic Model

So to continue on from the last section, this teaching sets up a model that says faith is followed by guaranteed works. If there is no works then it is guaranteed there was no faith to begin with. I think this corrupts the more accurate model that says faith is to be followed by works with the help of God. If no works follow the faith then that current faith is incomplete and can be said at the time to be disingenuous because of the lack of follow through. However the initial faith or profession to Christianity does not need to be slandered or said to have been disingenuous to begin with. I can slander my own profession of faith at the present time by laziness or choice of rebellion, but those lazy actions that happen in the present are in no wise indicative of my past profession or past continuation in the faith. This does not mean that initial false professions in Jesus cannot be made and that it can never be said that one “never truly believed in Jesus.” It does mean however that this is certainly not always the answer, nor is it probably even usually the case. 

What about 1 John?

Our holy and poetic Apostle John says in his epistle that those who had gone out from them had not been of them and the proof that they were not is that they did not remain, or abide with them. So does this show John believed in this teaching? Hardly. John is the great teacher of ‘abiding in Christ.” In other words those who do Christ’s will remain in Him as he already wrote in the 15th chapter of his Gospel account and here in his own epistle. Speaking to those whom he believes to “have eternal life” and to be “born of Him” he also reminds them to continue to abide in Him so that they will not be put to shame when He comes (1 John 2:28). So looking at those whom are already abiding in Christ and therefore remaining born of him he tells them that those who left were indeed not of them, because of their current position of remaining in our Lord as opposed to the apostates position of not remaining in Christ. So no 1 John is not a good argument for this teaching, but rather the opposite; that being the necessity of remaining in Christ to attain eternal life.

Conclusion

Is the Protestant teaching of perseverance of the saints true? Not a chance. Is it harmful? Well yes it is still harmful in its efforts to give false assurance to those who are instructed to do their best to persevere until the end. One of the questions that I have for those who hold this teaching is If the church would persevere until the end how do the protestants have any justification for their claims that the church immediately became corrupted in the first place and that it needed reformed? Let us not forsake the warnings and admonitions of our Lord and of His Apostles. Instead let us continue on knowing who is worthy to be followed and who’s way it is that leads us unto Eternal Life. Continue in His ways and you will not be put to shame at His coming. 

Are we Justified by Faith Alone?

Are we Justified by Faith Alone?

Introduction

Is it possible to be saved by faith alone? Well, of course it is possible to be saved by faith alone because after all we are saved by faith in the first place. What do you mean by faith? If you mean that “faith” is an initial mental affirmation of Jesus as Lord, then okay. If by “alone” you mean that a person has to do absolutely nothing else besides express faith as outlined above, then okay. I would say that this absolutely can and does justify, initially. By initially I mean that a person at that moment indeed becomes justified outside of any other type of deed or work, this I will not deny. It is how we are justified. Now this understanding needs no further explanation or thought if only a person did not live for more than a couple of hours after his initial belief. If however like most of mankind you should find yourself to live more than a few hours then more explanation is indeed needed on the subject because we are no longer talking about “one moment”, but instead about a person’s lifetime. Faith, indeed at that moment, is achieved by the person who simply believes, but faith cannot end there if a person’s life extends beyond that point. A person’s faith must also extend. This is where works and faith work together to complete faith. Faith is not to be measured in how much a person believes or how much he once believed, but also by how much a person does with what he believes. Can someone be said to have faith in a moment where they reject to follow the Lord’s commandments? If this person refuses to be baptized, to partake of His body and blood, to continually confess his sins, and to give to his destitute brother can this person be said to be expressing faith? Hardly. It does not matter if this person initially expressed faith in our Lord because by his impenitent heart He has not maintained the completed/perfect faith which our Lord is looking for. Faithfulness is the type of faith required of us and while none of us remains faithful to our Lord at all times we are still not exonerated from this requirement, but are admonished to repent.

Abraham the Father of Faith; Positive Example

Abraham is often presented as our example by the Apostles when it comes to faith. I don’t believe you can take away the element of “works of the law” from their writings and come to a proper understanding, but for the sake of the writing at hand I will refrain from discussing this. Both Paul and James prop up Abraham as an example of justification and faith. While Paul highlights the fact that Abraham was justified by faith apart from Mosaic works, and indeed other works, it is James who says that Abraham was justified by works. James also says that we are indeed justified by works and not by faith only. Both quote the same verse about Abraham’s faith being reckoned as righteousness. So Paul highlights Abraham’s faith in God broadly apart from Mosaic works of the law and James zeroes in on the action Abraham took part in that “completed faith”. So while broadly speaking Abraham was justified by faith, James reminds us that Abraham still was justified by his deeds due to faith being completed by actions. Ultimately Abraham was justified by faith, but it cannot be said that works were excluded because it is by works that faith is made complete. As Abraham’s life extended beyond the point of his call so did his faith as is proven by his attempt at sacrificing Isaac.

Unbelieving/Unfaithful Israel; Negative Example

The negative example that we have in Scripture concerning “faith” is Israel. Israel is a people group that was chosen and elect by God to be His servants on the Earth. Through their disobedience Paul says in Romans that they were unfaithful/unbelieving. Scripture often connects the idea of faith with obedient action and connects the opposite of faith, I.E. unbelief, with disobedient action. Through their rejection of Jesus, their unbelief, those of Israel had fallen yet those outside Israel who believed were grafted in to the promises of God. The warning that Paul gives to the church to those who have indeed had initial faith is that they needed to continue in God’s kindness so that they themselves might not fall. If simply believing in Jesus one time was enough for someone to be considered justified “forever” and without works then what exactly is Paul warning the church for? He is warning them to continue in God’s kindness of living under the teachings and practices given to the church. It continues to stand to reason that a working faith is needed to justify. Israel, speaking corporately, has failed time and time again. Yet there were those who didn’t and we also won’t fall if we continue in His teachings.

So what’s the big deal?

Many Protestants who hold to the inappropriate version of “faith alone” would agree with a lot that is written here. They do indeed believe works plays a role in salvation, however not as expressed above. For Protestants faith is something that is totally separated from works. Works are often described as something that comes from faith rather than something that works with and completes faith. Where the understanding above differs from the Protestant one is the idea of what follows faith. Ideally yes good works always follow faith. Is this always the case? Certainly not. Should it be? Certainly, but it is not true that just because someone has initial faith it means they will complete it with good works. Protestants have come up with new ideas which assert that if someone claims to have faith, but does not have works they were never truly a believer. The nuance is that they lied about having initial faith in Jesus and that is the reason they did not persevere in good works. The truth is that we can all have initial faith in our Lord Jesus as King, but still fall and turn away from Him by denying Him both in word and deed. James does not make the argument that faith follows works, but rather that works complete faith. This contentious matter is one of the big ones that remains a stumbling block for Protestants to enter into historic Christianity.

Then What must I do?

The obvious answer for someone looking to enter into the Kingdom of Righteousness is to have faith in our Lord Jesus. Only do not let your faith be in word only. Let it be something that continues on seeking to fulfill every teaching and practice of the church. Love Jesus and fulfill His commandments. Get Baptized, engage in the sacraments, help your brother, and anything else our Lord requires of us may you also be at work doing. While Protestants may misplace the idea of works, many still believe that works function somewhere in salvation. They believe that “a true believer” is shown to be one by his works. While the church has not affirmed their nuance of “works always following faith” the church has indeed also said that “true faith” is accomplished in action. Faith is something we continue to participate in and not something we “once did” only. If we say we are justified by faith alone then let it be a penitent, continuing faith that seeks His kingdom until the end. Remembering that He will judge us all according to our works and also that He has mercy on all the penitent let us continue on for Him.

*Disclaimer*

To be fair when I mention “Protestants” I am speaking of a large group of people who hold different understandings from one another. Some Lutherans may look at some of what I portrayed as a Protestant belief and affirm it, while denying other parts of what I presented. The same with Evangelicals and other Protestants.

Roman Catholic Response to the Reformation (Council of Trent)

The Response of the Roman Catholic Church to the Protestants on Justification (The Council of Trent on Justification)

Introduction

Protestant and evangelical churches have ideas on justification that greatly differ from those of their Roman Catholic and Orthodox counterparts. Being that the Protestants broke from Roman Catholicism it is necessary to look at the early response of the Roman Catholic Church to get a better understanding of the great difference of understanding on this topic. This article is set out to show the early response of the Roman Catholic Church to the Protestant’s asserted beliefs on justification.

Faith Alone

One of the biggest pillars of the Protestant understanding of justification is the teaching of faith alone. The idea that Christians are justified by faith is not a new teaching, nor is the understanding that Christians are justified by faith alone (Canon 9). The details and conclusions of how one is justified by faith alone as asserted by the Protestants is one that is indeed incompatible with the prior understandings of the faith, which is not confidence alone (Canon 12). Also the idea that one must adhere to faith alone in faith alone or be absolutely sure he is justified in order to be justified is also condemned (Canons 13 and 14).

Selected Canons

Canon ix. If any one shall say, that by faith alone the impious is justified; so as to mean that nothing else is required to co-operate in order unto the obtaining the grace of justification, and that it is not in any respect necessary that he be prepared and disposed by the movement of his own will; let him be anathema.

Canon xii. If any one shall say, that justifying faith is nought else but confidence in the divine mercy which remits sins for Christ’s sake; or that it is this confidence alone by which we are justified; let him be anathema.

Canon xiii. If any one shall say, that it is necessary unto every one, for the obtaining the remission of sins, that he believe for certain, and without any hesitation arising from his own infirmity and indisposition, that his sins are remitted unto him; let him be anathema.

Canon xiv. If any one shall say, that man is absolved from his sins and justified, because that he assuredly believed himself to be absolved and justified; or that no one is truly justified save he who believes himself justified; and that, by this faith alone, absolution and justification are perfected; let him be anathema.

Predestination

Canons 15 and 17 due away with the introduction of reformed predestination. That is the ideas that God predestined evil and good for those whom He chose to receive grace and not to receive respectively and that those who have faith are to be confirmed that they are of this type of predestinate.

Selected Canons

Canon xv. If any one shall say, that a man, who is born again and justified, is bound of faith to believe that he is assuredly in the number of the predestinated; let him be anathema.

Canon xvii. If any one shall say, that the grace of justification only befalleth those who are predestined unto life; but that all others who are called, are called indeed, but receive not grace, as being, by the divine power, predestined unto evil; let him be anathema.

Free will and Total Depravity

Canons 4, 5, and 6 condemn the idea that free will is entirely done away with from Adam’s fall and that man’s free will does not co-operates with God to receive justification.

Selected Canons

Canon iv. If any one shall say, that the free will of man moved and excited by God, by assenting to God exciting and calling, nowise co-operates to the end that it should dispose and prepare itself for obtaining the grace of justification; and that it cannot refuse consent, if it would, but that, like something inanimate, it does nothing whatever, and is merely in a passive state; let him be anathema.

Canon v. If any one shall say, that, since Adam’s sin, the free will of man is lost and extinguished; or, that it is a thing with a name only, yea, a title without a reality, a figment, in fine, brought into the Church by Satan; let him be anathema.

Canon vi. If any one shall say, that it is not in the power of man to make his ways evil, but that God worketh the works that are evil as well as those that are good, not by permission only, but properly, and of Himself in such wise that the treason of Judas be no less His own proper work than the calling of Paul; let him be anathema.

Perseverance of the Saints

The idea introduced to the church that everyone who receives the grace of justification will indeed persevere unto the end and not fall away from the faith is condemned by canons 23 and 26. Canon 24 does away with the idea that good works are a “fruit” of faith only. It is said to build up the faith he has and is necessary.

Selected Canons

Canon xxiii. If any one shall say, that a man once justified can sin no more, nor lose grace, and that therefore he that falls and sins was never truly justified; or, on the other hand, that he is able, throughout his whole life, to avoid all sins, even those that are venial, except by a special privilege from God, as the Church holds respecting the Blessed Virgin; let him be anathema.

Canon xxiv. If any one shall say, that the justice received is not preserved, and also increased in the sight of God through good works; but that the said works are merely the fruits and signs of justification received, but not a cause of the increase thereof; let him be anathema.

Canon xxvi. If any one shall say, that the just ought not, for their good works which have been done in God, to expect and hope for an eternal recompense from God, through His mercy and the merit of Jesus Christ, if they persevere unto the end in well doing and in keeping the divine commandments; let him be anathema.

Conclusion

No matter what sect of Christianity one finds himself to be in I believe this information is helpful for the understanding of early Protestant and Catholic relations on the theology of justification. There are other canons on the topic of justification and one can read, as I have, the Council of Trent’s canons here.

(Musings) on Original Sin (Part 2)

(Musings) On Original Sin (Part 2)

Introduction

This is a continuation of a small series on Original Sin. In this article I’d like to examine how their sin was “original” and what that means for us as descendants of sinners.

The Original Sin

When it comes to mankind’s first sin we can track it to a person and a place. Really two people. Eating from the tree of knowledge of good and evil was the sin. It was sin because God told them not to eat from that tree. The place is the Garden of Eden, also known as Paradise in the Greek. While this may have been mankind’s first sin we should not forget that this was not the very first sin ever to be committed by a being. We understand from Scripture and tradition that Satan was a being who tempted both man and angels to fall. Satan can be tracked to be the first being who has ever sinned. Adam and Eve stand as the original human sinners. Fortunately for God’s grace Adam and Eve were given mercy and because of that we were born. 

Son of Man; Son of Sin

When we are born it is like we arrive “late on the scene” from an adult’s perspective. An adult has had time to grow and mature and when we see a new person born we typically think of the baby as something totally different to us. It is true that in ways we are different, but we all started from that same point as they did. We just often, practically speaking, forget this. When we see a child we often judge them, so to speak, based on the parents. “He is the son of a lawyer. Her father is a drug addict. His father is a faithful Christian.” Even though the character of a child has not yet even been decided by the child a lot of times we typically group the child in with the parent’s likeness. We judge the future unseen character of a child from the character of the parents. When it comes to mankind we are the sons and daughters of sinners. Both of our original mother and father, while repentant, have sinned against God. And while it is true that each and everyone of us sins, we are still considered sinners without even acting anything out. This is because of our parent’s likeness. They were sinners and so every person born to man is also considered to be under sin. Christians have always understood that corporately we are all sinners. The consequence of this depends on the Christian tradition. Eastern Christianity (Orthodoxy) maintains that mankind is considered sinful because of Adam and Eve and inherit the same proclamation that God gave to them, which is death. Western Christianity (Roman Catholicism) tends to lean more on the side that says we inherit original on a more personal level and not only corporately. The main implication of this is that because all mankind comes from Adam we therefore are all guilty of personal sin which is understood to be punishable with eternal damnation. The East maintains that we are not guilty of eternal damnation for being the sons of Adam, while the west typically does. I agree with the East that we only inherit a more corporate type of sin rather than personal and as such not every man is worthy of eternal damnation simply for being born of Adam. Of course as I discussed in the last article all mankind still inherits the effects of sin which is a nature that is incapable of not sinning. Of course our Lord is the only exception because while He “came in the likeness of sinful flesh” it is also true that “no sin was found in Him.” 

Rabbit Trail; How was Jesus not infected with Original Sin?

If it is true that Jesus was born a human then how comes He did not sin? Those coming from a more Roman Catholic and Protestant background have a little more to deal with on this topic than the those in the East. Paul says that Jesus was “born in the likeness of sinful flesh” which possibly highlights the more corporate nature of original sin. When it comes to personal sin, however we know our Lord committed no sin. He was complete and perfect in obeying the Father. So when we understand that original sin is corporate only and not personal, then we have no problem with Jesus and His sinlessness. Since I sit with the East on this I will not discuss the topic any further. 

(Musings) On Original Sin

(Musings) On Original Sin

Ancestral sin or Original sin is the title of the teaching that refers back to man’s downfall and the welcoming of sin into the world by man. Christianity has affirmed the teaching since its beginning. Judaism also has had those who have affirmed the general tenets of the teaching in the times before Christ as evidenced by several Jewish apocryphal sources and in the commentaries of the Babylonian Talmud. While Christianity has long held to the idea of original sin it has not always been in unison about some of the details. What has generally been agreed upon is this

*Adam and Eve, the first two people, sinned against God by eating from the tree of knowledge of good and evil

*Their action was the origin of sin in man and on Earth

*They brought an alteration of their being and death upon themselves and to all of their descendants

*Mankind is corporately considered to be “in sin” or “sinners”

*Original sin must be dealt with by the grace of God in Christ; historically understood as not only through Christ’s death and resurrection, but also through an individual’s baptism.

Generally this is affirmed by all sects of Christianity, although some Protestants may object to part about baptism. While the teaching of Original sin is somewhat of a small master piece of intellectual systemization, the reality of its existence is a bitter realization. The fact that this is real, even though atoned for by our Lord Jesus, is still a sad reality. When broken down simply as I have done above curiosity is bound to bubble. This is what I mentioned earlier about the “details” of this teaching. In this article I would like present what my current understanding is on the first listed tenet. I have change my opinion on this subject several times and consider myself to be growing in knowledge and curiosity of this grand subject so do not consider my thoughts to mean too much.

Examining the Fruit

One of the things that I have been most curious about concerning this subject is what ability this fruit had for mankind. In retrospect Adam, his wife, and all of us as his decedents are in possession of the ability granted by the fruit. “Knowledge of good and evil”. Did Adam and Eve really have no concept of good or evil? Could they really not tell the two apart? What does “good” and “evil” even mean from the standpoint of the author of Genesis and what does it mean from the standpoint of God?

I believe that they both did know good from evil before they took of the tree. I think what was granted them upon eating was a widened imagination. To have a greater imagination of good and evil from within themselves. I think the main problem was that in the state they were in, and as we are in today, they were unable to handle or control this new ability. As we are we cannot handle this imagination that is plenteous in both good and evil. One of the greatest and obvious consequences of this new ability is our sin. While some are more proactive in sin than others, we all are guilty of sin. The original sin committed by our first parents has put us on the path to sin. This isn’t to say that we are totally sinful or only sinful.  What is sin and how does this ability cause us to sin? I think sin is disharmony of God’s desire. It is our actions that are contrary to what God wants us to do.

I hope to touch more on this subject of sin in the future. I believe this ability causes us to sin because our imagination is so widened that our current state is not powerful enough to totally overcome the desire we incur on our individual imaginations. In other words we cannot control ourselves. While we can control ourselves to a certain extent and grow in temperance, especially through the grace of God poured out in Christ, we still are unable to fully live complete and perfect to God. We are like children given one of a mature adult’s capabilities. Having only one mature ability does not make one mature. A mature adult has multiple things working together to make himself a whole man. A child who has one mature capability is not only immature, but he is also unable to properly function as the person he is. He is corrupted and unfortunately he will not mature, but will die before adulthood because he could not function properly in the state he was in. Thus like a disobedient child man has taken for himself something that wasn’t good for him and that he was not ready for. The result is His death.

On the Veneration of the Saints

On the Veneration of the Saints

When it comes to considering historic Christianity, one of the biggest stumbling blocks for Protestants and evangelicals is the veneration of the saints with emphasis of Mary. Many assume and teach that those in the historic churches worship Mary and the saints. They also assume that the Catholic Church (here the “Catholic Church” will include the RCC and Orthodox traditions) teaches that the saints are on the same ontological level as God Himself. This is obviously not the case and the reason for their veneration is indeed in line with Christian practice.

The Holy Ones of our Lord; The Saints

When it comes to any holy person who has devoted their life to God it is appropriate to honor and aspire to be like them. If we are Christians seeking to follow Christ then surely those who are living in that way or have lived that way are our brothers and sisters who are serious about our God and religion. Their lives are an inspiration and remembering them gives us example and encouragement.

Honoring

In my previous times in Baptist church services I often heard the pastors say that the church needs to “give honor where honor is due”. They would even say that the Bible says it. This would come before or maybe after honoring someone in the congregation and at certain times maybe even lead to putting their name on a brick or plaque in or outside of the church building. Historically Christians have honored and greeted one another with a kiss. Early on the Church started to create icons of the departed saints. At the coming together on the Lord’s Day Christians would continue their honoring of the saint by kissing their icon, which is still done in the historic Catholic churches today. Of course not every saint is honored this way, but rather only a few. Making icons of everyone would be quite tedious and take a long time to kiss. So kissing or bowing to icons or statues of the departed saints is one way the Catholic Church honors their brothers and sisters in Christ.

Prayers (Requests) for help and Intercession

It’s typical to ask one another for prayer. When we do so it is common to think that the one who is humble and devoted to God has greater efficacy or perhaps sway in their prayers of intercession for us. This would be in line with James 5, would it not? So when the Catholic Church prays, or asks, the saints for intercession it is not because they believe the saint is equal to God but that by their righteous and devoted life they have God’s attention. If we also believe that the saints and martyrs are in Heaven then we know they are closer to God and Jesus. Historically Christians have also incorporated into their own personal worship and liturgical worship the request for a saint to do things such as “save” them. Using the principles that we have explained already it can easily be accepted that by this they mean through the saint’s relationship and intercession to God they intercede on their behalf. When the Christian incorporates special requests or miracles it is probably because tradition records God doing said specific miracle or action for that saint.

Mary the Mother of God

The most prominent saint visible in the Catholic Church is Mary. Mary is prominent visually through iconography and statues and she is also prominent in the liturgy. Christians have held Mary in high regard since the beginning of the church.  She has the highest prominence in the church among the saints for many reasons. The first reason is because she is the mother of our Lord, making her the mother of God. This description makes today’s Protestants cringe because they make a distinction between the humanity and deity of Christ being birthed by Mary. Those who affirm the Trinity and the divinity of Christ would be wise to affirm that Mary birthed divinity because if Christ was fully human and God the whole time of His existence as the God-man then it must be that Mary birthed divinity. It is not that divinity or Jesus began with Mary, for Catholics have always affirmed the tri-unity of God and the eternal pre-existence of Jesus. It is to say that just because birthing usually means the beginning of something, this does not mean that a supernatural variable such as God the Son being conceived and birthed by Mary makes her the origin of God from eternity past or a new deity. It is totally fine and consistent to say that Mary is the mother of God the Son, both in His humanity and His divinity. His humanity began in her, but His divinity simply was continued. Mary then being the mother of our God and Savior Jesus makes her a very important figure in Christianity. Since she is the mother of Jesus she is the mother of our salvation.

Mary is likely to be the first to believe in Jesus. The first to believe His claims, to trust Him, and to follow Him as Lord. Mary also is one of the only ones found at the cross of Christ; Jesus’ weakest moment. It also is a moment that put her at much risk. Mary has had great loyalty to her Son and Lord. Tradition also accounts of her virginity and great mercy. Her virginity makes her a beacon of temperance and devotion to God, which are strong tenants of the Christian faith. She is a great example of holiness and mercy. So her unique relationship with Jesus and holy character put her as the top venerated saint in the Christian’s life. Jesus no doubt honored His mother and probably still honors her in some way to this day. Mary’s statement regarding herself has come true time after time.

“From now on all generations shall call me blessed”

Conclusion

The veneration of the saints is an ancient Christian practice that has been preserved to this day and likely will continue until the day of Jesus’ return. It is a practice that is certainly done in worship, but unlike the common claims to the Church’s opposition it is done to God and not man. Early Christian writings attest to the honoring of the saints and a few references may be found below. The saints give us a faithful example to follow and their continued faithfulness and mercy in intercession continue on in Heaven. May the saints continue to have mercy on us, saving us sinners through their intercession to the all Merciful and Powerful One whom they themselves have found grace in. God keep the Church by His mercy and grace.

Early Church Witness

St. Cyril Catechetical Lecture 23:9 (4th Century)

“Then we commemorate also those who have fallen asleep before us, first Patriarchs, Prophets, Apostles, Martyrs, that at their prayers and intercessions God would receive our petition. Then on behalf also of the Holy Fathers and Bishops who have fallen asleep before us, and in a word of all who in past years have fallen asleep among us, believing that it will be a very great benefit to the souls , for whom the supplication is put up, while that holy and most awful sacrifice is set forth.”

Augustine Homilies on John 84.1 (5th Century)

“For on these very grounds we do not commemorate them (the martyrs) at that table in the same way, as we do others who now rest in peace, as that we should also pray for them, but rather that they should do so for us, that we may cleave to their footsteps; because they have actually attained that fullness of love, than which, our Lord has told us, there cannot be a greater. For such tokens of love they exhibited for their brethren, as they themselves had equally received at the table of the Lord.”

Methodius Oration on Simeon and Anna 14 (4th Century)

“Wherefore, we pray you, the most excellent among women, who boast in the confidence of your maternal honours, that you would unceasingly keep us in remembrance. O holy mother of God, remember us, I say, who make our boast in you, and who in hymns august celebrate the memory, which will ever live, and never fade away. And also, O honoured and venerable Simeon, you earliest host of our holy religion, and teacher of the resurrection of the faithful, be our patron and advocate with that Saviour God, whom you were deemed worthy to receive into your arms.”

Answering the Objections of Barring Homosexual Practice in the Church (Part 2)

Answering the Objections of Barring Homosexual Practice in the Church (Part 2)

The Topic Continued

As always feel free to submit your own questions and objections for me to consider. Take a look at the past article and my article on the topic as a whole

Objection: Arsenkoites was not widely used if at all by other Greek writers. We don’t know what Paul was trying to say exactly when he used this term.

It is an interesting word. A compound word. Arsen is the Greek word for male while koites is the Greek word for bed or lay. The English word coitus comes from the Latin, which borrows from this Greek word, Koites. The two would then be “male-bed”. I think this can easily be understood as a euphemism for sexual relations. As the Hebrews did in both Leviticus 18 and 20. In both of these passages both of the words making up this compound word are present. The teaching conveyed in both of these passages is that “man shall not lie with man as with a woman.” Lie and bed are usually understood together. That’s why when those who knew Hebrew translated these passages to the Greek, they presented both arsen (male) and koites (bed/lie) into the Greek translation of the Old Testament. The Septuagint showing both as present provides a very real corroborative proof that the Jewish Saul is referring to homosexuality. More precisely male homosexuality. The Septuagint is a Greek work that Paul and other Jews and Christians would have be intimately familiar with. The Scriptures are a center piece for the religion after all. So it may be true that this word is not widely represented throughout classical Greek I still think there is plenty of available content for us to get a good idea about what this word means.

Objection: “Malakos” just means soft or effeminate. There are many homosexuals who practice homosexuality yet do not act effeminate or feminine.

I touched on this in the previous part. The reason that people in the 1st century would refer to someone, in the context of same-sex relations, as “Malakos” is because they would be the one taking the female role during sex. It does not have to do with feminine attributes or behavior as we typically think of effeminacy today. In these contexts it’s about a man becoming as a woman when he receives as a woman normally would during sex. So being feminine in this context means that man is taking the role of a female sexually.

Objection: Homosexual relationships can be quite peaceful, fulfilling, and look pretty similar to heterosexual relationships. Therefore God could never band same gender intercourse.

If the Apostles and Prophets received word that the action was impermissible then it still remains that the action is impermissible. I don’t really doubt any of these things are true, but the Christian’s priority is faithfulness to God and bending the rules just because “it doesn’t seem bad to me” isn’t going to make the action justifiable with God. What impermissible thing couldn’t be changed on the reasoning as above? I am not sure it if there is one. What it comes down to is if one wants to submit to God or if they want to call the shots as authority. This is the battle we all face in each area of our lives when it comes to what we want to do. I always take issue when someone says God can’t do something or when someone assumes that God has to a have back up reason for why He does something as modern apologists suppose. Let God be the law giver and let us follow in faithfulness.

Does the Bible Teach Flat Earth?

Christianity and Flat Earth

Introduction

For most of human history mankind has seen the earth as flat. Actually most people still see the earth as flat. This is because the word earth is synonymous with the word land. The land we live on generally speaking is flat. Yeah it may have curves, valleys, and hills, but land is still flat, right? Well from our point of view it is, but when we zoom out and increase the land mass beyond what we can see at one time we understand the land we live on curves. So why do some Christians deny that the planet Earth is round and instead suppose the planet to be generally flat?

The Bible

Like other interesting misinterpretations of reality the Bible itself is found to be at the center of the Christian flat Earth issue. There are lots of flat Earth Christians that use the Bible to support their claims. So does the Bible teach that the Earth is flat? Well, no. Does the Bible record of people’s belief and understanding that the Earth is flat? Well, yes. There is a big difference between these two questions.

Religion and Piety, not Cosmological Calculation

“The Bible” is a collection of writings from men associated with Yahweh and Jesus. It records of many great things including man’s interaction with God. Its purpose is to remind people of God’s directives for humanity as it has been revealed through Prophets and Apostles. The Bible is simply a written record of men’s interaction with God and His directives as He has revealed them. It is a collection of writings written by man of which contents are influenced by God Himself. Because of this what we have recorded for us is told though the human author. Now the author is writing to convey the religious truth. Sometimes he will use figure of speech and comparisons to get his point across. Sometimes they compare God’s love or anger like “something” and “something else”. So because humans wrote the Bible we see the religious truths told through their experience and in their own way of describing things. This includes their understanding of the world and the sciences. So in attempting to convey the religious truth they may record something scientifically inaccurate as an illustration. The authors don’t know it’s an inaccuracy because that’s what people of the time thought was true concerning the sciences. The intent of the author is never to teach about science anyway, but rather to teach what God has conveyed to them.

"Earth" not “Earth”

I touched on this a little in the opening, but we need to remember that the ancients who recorded the Scriptures did not regard their “world” as a planet. Take a look at Genesis and you will see that the ancients regarded their physical reality as “sea”, “heavens”, and “earth.” Earth in this context is not planet, but rather land. Sometimes our English translations can be a bit confusing because the more archaic understanding of the word “earth” is land. Now that we have named the whole conglomerate planet as “Earth” it can be a bit confusing in some English translations to understand the differentiation. So how does this type of understanding help clear up the confusion? Well take a look at Isaiah 40:22 which says “It is he who sits above the circle of the earth, and its inhabitants are like grasshoppers.” First of all let’s answer one question. Is the author trying to teach cosmology, what the Earth looks like? Or is he trying to convey the reality that God is an ultimate authority over all? I think the latter is his intent. Secondly consider the understanding of the author. If his understanding of the world is “Land”, “Sea”, and “Heavens” then we understand that He is painting a picture of God above the “circle” or dome. Like flat Earth adherents today, the ancients thought there was a dome which encased the land, sea, sun, moon, and stars. Some try to show that this verse teaches round Earth. These so called apologists are terribly mistaken as well. Neither is the author’s intent, but the former is an accurate understanding of the author’s picture.

Conclusion

Does the Bible teach flat Earth? The truth is no. Did the authors of Scripture believe a lot of what flat Earth people do about the physical reality? More than likely, yes. The author’s understanding of flat Earth may be referenced in the Scripture, but always remember that the intention of these authors is always for a man to God religious truth and not to convey infallible scientific calculations. Christianity is not about flat Earth and we should not adopt the author’s understanding of cosmology when that is never the focus of his teaching anyway. 

Answering the Objections of Barring Homosexual Practice in the Church

Objections to Barring Homosexual Practice in the Church

Introduction

This sensitive subject warrants discussion and questioning. The historic stance of the Church of Jesus is clear. There are however many today who are trying to change the position of the Church to be more attractive to a wider audience. Some may do this as a good gesture and maybe others for harm. This ongoing article series hopes to answer some of the questions and objections that are thrown around today concerning the Church’s stance. Feel free to leave your own questions in the comments. To be clear the subject is engaging in same-sex relationships where intercourse is involved and not simply someone’s inner desires. 

Preface Tip

The Church is submissive to God and Jesus as Lord. So unlike a democratic society where laws are decided and changed on a whim the Church is a society which submits to the will of God on a matter. It’s not something the Church can change. 

Objection: Homosexuality is love, right? How can it be classified with other sins?

The Apostle John in His first Epistles records plainly that sin is lawlessness (1 John 3:4). Like what was said above, Christians are under the authority of One Supreme Lord and bound to the same laws He gives just as everyone else is. So while it is true that something like consensual homosexual practice is different to non-consensual stealing it still is not permissible. God does not only give laws which protect “our rights” or well being, but prescribes laws that are pleasing to Him. Therefore sin has to do with living according to God’s ways and not  according to what a changing culture tells us is wrong. 

Objection: The Early Church was born in a “patriarchal” society and their view on this issue was colored by this. Therefore God actually approves of this action.

When the word “patriarchal” is used in these contexts the speaker usually is referring to some kind of oppression. The word simply means “fore” and “father”. The implications in these societies being “men first”. So is it true that our Lord, His Apostles, and the early Church were unable to discern the difference between holiness and culture? I don’t think so. I’d like to answer this in two parts.

(1) The Apostles wrote many things that were against culture. The Apostles saw the faith of Christ as something opposed to the world (James 4:4). They saw the tenets of their beliefs based on holiness and not culture. In a culture where it was acceptable to beat women and wives, Peter tells husbands to “love their wives.” Paul says that men ought to treat women as their selves with the implication that “no man ever hated his own body, but nourished it and took care of it.” In a culture where it was acceptable to make women, and boys, prostitutes the Apostles taught that modesty and abstinence was to be applied. If the Apostles being the representatives of Jesus were unable to discern holiness from culture then maybe one needs to consider what else Jesus’ representatives got wrong. Hopefully one will come to the conclusion that Jesus made the right choice when choosing His Apostles.  No one knew the culture of 1st century better than those who lived themselves in it and no one knew Jesus better than the ones who lived among Him (1 John 1:1).

(2) When those who object to this issue connect the idea of “men first” with the issue of homosexuality in the 1st century and following, they may imply that the word “Malakos”, from which the English translations of the Bible get the word “homosexual” or “effeminate”,  has to do with a low view of women rather than the act of engaging in sexuality.  This is because the Greek word literally means soft or  effeminate. So when those in this culture referred to homosexuals they called them effeminate because they would take the female role during sex. The argument then is that misogynists of the first century hated homosexuality because they really hated women, whom Homosexuals played the part of during sex. The argument continues on that 1st century folk regarded women as weak, so homosexuals were weak. Homosexuality according to these objectors then has to do with “misogyny” rather than the acts of same-sex intercourse. Since they hated weakness in this culture, our “culturally blinded” Apostles fell for, or actually were never teaching, a misogynistic view on sexuality. I have discussed in the first part why I believe the Apostles superseded culture when it comes to holiness and why they were not “blinded” by the very culture they were in, but actually knew it better than any supposed 21st century historian. 

Paul was really against uncommitted relationships, which include same-sex relationships. Therefore the practice was never condemned.

If Paul was only against uncommitted same sex partners one should wonder why he never mentions the practice with this preface. Whenever the practice is mentioned it seems to be mentioned in the general sense and not in a preface, specific sense. If adultery was all that was spoken against, why ever mention the general acts of homosexuality in the first place? Saying that adultery was wrong should cover same-sex type as well, should it not?

Christianity and Same-Sex Practice

Christianity and Same-Sex Practice

Introduction

It’s no secret that Christianity and those in same-sex relationships have been at odds since the Church’s inception. Today in the free world more and more people are engaging in same-sex relationships. As the days go on there is an unprecedented level of friction between the Church and those who are both affirming and engage in homosexual activity. People who identify as homosexual and irreligious are often found condemning the Church for its historic stance on the issue, while those who identify as homosexual and religious can be seen wondering where they fit in the Church. Some have engaged with the affirming to push back against the historic standing of the Church to not only bless the activity as permissible, but also to promote its acceptance in all fields of Christianity, including the Presbytery (clergy). The Church finds itself challenged in this area both to know and accept itself in this battle. Some have opened the door for this in the Church, while mostly others have remained closed. Unfortunately some have also taken a more hateful approach in their conservatism, which certainly has not helped the case. This is a challenge to be taken on by the Church and not by those who are without. Those on the outside, who do not accept the Lordship of Jesus, are alienated from determining Christian practice. So the challenge is this, is the practice of homosexuality permissible in the Church? Here’s my take.

Authority

I mentioned in the introduction that those outside of the Church have no say in what is to be determined as Christian teaching and practice. This is because the Church is literally a called out, separate group who are affirming of Jesus’ authority as Lord of all. This is not to say that we never listen to people outside of the Church, just that when it comes to our practices we submit to the ways God has commanded and laid out for us. The Church is not an authority in and of itself, but a submissive group who follows God. Therefore unlike those outside of the Church we are not able to change what we practice on a whim of desire nor do we change according to the vote of the people as in a democracy. If one is unfamiliar with the historical determinate method of what are God’s directives to us, then look no further to Christian Scripture, Tradition, and the moving of the Holy Spirit. When Jesus began His ministry He selected twelve people from among his disciples to be His Apostles (representatives). Christianity has historically understood that while Jesus is the center of our faith it is the Apostles who were left by Him which took up the work to build the Church. The Apostles being those who lived with Him and received revelations from Him by the Holy Spirit are those we look to for pure Christian practice. We do this by means of their writings (Scripture), the practices they have handed down to us as evidenced by church history and continued modern practice (Tradition), and by means of the authoritative Holy Spirit, who is God in the Churches. So then let us see examples from these which determine our practice.

Christian Scripture

Christian Scripture, also commonly called the Bible, does indeed touch on this subject. The New Testament being composed by Jesus’ Apostles and those closely associated with them make these writtings of great importance for Christian practice. Let’s take a look at what it is recorded in Scripture concerning same sex relations.

Leviticus, of Course

“You shall not lie with a male as with a woman; it is an abomination.”  Lev. 18:22 NRSV

“If a man lies with a male as with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination; they shall be put to death; their blood is upon them.” 20:13 NRSV

 

This is always one of the go to books for the topic because of its condemnation of the same-sex relations.

So let me introduce a little bit of context before we get started. Leviticus is recording the Law that Moses received from God at the top of Mount Sinai. An entire people group, the Israelites, have made a mass exodus from Egypt to a wasteland at this point. The Law was to be the governing authority when it comes to practice for the Israelites as they were in the wasteland and more properly for when they entered their own land.

So understanding that little bit we can better understand what is going on here. The practice of “man lying with man as with a woman” is said to be a punishable offense. Now it doesn’t take a linguist or an archaeologist to understand what is being implied here. This is an obvious euphemism for sex. Check out other contexts where the Hebrew word for “lie” is used in the Old Testament. (Gen.26:10, 30:15, 1Sam2:22)

Some have argued that because this commandment finds itself within the Mosaic Law, which was fulfilled and not carried over into Christianity, that this is not applicable. It is a seemingly valid objection at first, but even this argument fails. I will discuss this later on.

A Disqualifier from the Kingdom

“Do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived! Fornicators, idolaters, adulterers, male prostitutes, sodomites, thieves, the greedy, drunkards, revilers, robbers—none of these will inherit the kingdom of God.” 1 Corinthians 6:9-10 NRSV

If this translation along with all other popular ones is to be accepted then practicing homosexuality is “wrongdoing” and without repentance it bars one from entering into the eternal kingdom. Now much has been contested concerning the translations above (male prostitutes and sodomites) in our day. The word translated “male prostitutes” is μαλακοὶ (malakoi). Basically this means “soft” or “effeminate”. A man who acts as a woman is someone who acts soft. Therefore an effeminate male during sexual intercourse would be the one taking the role of a woman during sex. Many Greek Lexicons record the author’s understanding that malakos is used for those who engage in same-sex activity as the passive partner. This should not be understood as a heterosexual male prostitute. The second word I will touch on is “sodomite”. This translation is also contested. In the Greek this compound word, ἀρσενοκοίτης (arsenokoites), comes from the word “male” and “bed”. If you look at the second word ‘Koites” you can see that it is where the Latin derives coitus as it is in our language. This would be more so literally translated as “male bed”. Again bed in this language is another euphemism for sexual activity. This would warrant the current translation. Some translators believe that Paul is referring to both the passive and dominate men in this activity and translate this as below

“Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived! The sexually immoral, idolaters, adulterers, passive homosexual partners, practicing homosexuals”. 1 Corinthians 6:9 NET

“Contrary to Sound Teaching” and “Disobedient”

“Now we know that the law is good, if one uses it legitimately. This means understanding that the law is laid down not for the innocent but for the lawless and disobedient, for the godless and sinful, for the unholy and profane, for those who kill their father or mother, for murderers, fornicators, sodomites, slave traders, liars, perjurers, and whatever else is contrary to the sound teaching that conforms to the glorious gospel of the blessed God, which he entrusted to me.” 1 Timothy 1:8-11 NRSV

I don’t think much commentary is necessary here. The heading pretty much sums it up. The word sodomite is the same word used for sodomite in 1 Corinthians 6:9 (ἀρσενοκοίτης).

Against Natural Use

“For this reason God gave them up to degrading passions. Their women exchanged natural intercourse for unnatural, and in the same way also the men, giving up natural intercourse with women, were consumed with passion for one another. Men committed shameless acts with men and received in their own persons the due penalty for their error.” Romans 1:26-27 NRSV

Here Paul records that same-sex relationships have been condemned by God and he records that these actions are “degrading”. Now the word “intercourse” as it is reflected in the translation above is not as plain in the Greek as it is here. The Greek word is simpler in that it can plainly be translated as “use” or “function”. Supplying either of these words in the passage, as some translations do, does not change what the author was saying at all. This is just something to be aware of.

Abstain from Sexual Immorality

“From the Apostles and elders, your brothers, to the Gentile brothers and sisters in Antioch, Syria, and Cilicia, greetings! Since we have heard that some have gone out from among us with no orders from us and have confused you, upsetting your minds by what they said, we have unanimously decided to choose men to send to you along with our dear friends Barnabas and Paul, who have risked their lives for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore we are sending Judas and Silas who will tell you these things themselves in person.  For it seemed best to the Holy Spirit and to us not to place any greater burden on you than these necessary rules: that you abstain from meat that has been sacrificed to idols and from blood and from what has been strangled and from sexual immorality. If you keep yourselves from doing these things, you will do well. Farewell.” Acts 15:22 NET

After there were some rumors among the Gentile Church that the Law of Moses was required in order to gain salvation the Apostles and elders at Jerusalem decided to write to them that this was not the case. If you notice at the end they place no other burden on them, but these four practices. The last being sexual immorality or fornication (in the older English sense). This is important because Jews and early Christians at the time saw same-sex relations as immorality and perversion. Instruction to abstain from sexual immorality is frequent in the New Testament and because of historical Jewish tradition which forbade homosexual activity this then would be a clear command of abstention from the practice. While the Law of Moses was fulfilled in Jesus, Christian behavior was not set free to do whatever it pleased.

Christian Tradition

I mentioned earlier about the Christian’s submission to Christ through the Apostles. Their practices as passed down through Church history are therefore authoritative. So does early Church history have anything to say about same-sex relations? Let’s take a look below.

Theophilus 2nd Century

“Why, then, do Epicurus and the Stoics teach incest and sodomy, with which doctrines they have filled libraries, so that from boyhood this lawless intercourse is learned? And why should I further spend time on them, since even of those they call gods they relate similar things?” Theophilus to Autolycus Book 3:6

Origen 3rd Century

“we find that they believe in the Most High God, and in His Only-begotten Son, the Word and God, and that they often exhibit in their character a high degree of gravity, of purity, and integrity; while those who call themselves wise have despised these virtues, and have wallowed in the filth of sodomy, in lawless lust, “men with men working that which is unseemly.” Against Celsus Book VII:49

Cyprian 3rd Century

“Still further, what a degradation of morals it is, what a stimulus to abominable deeds, what food for vice, to be polluted by histrionic gestures, against the covenant and law of one’s birth, to gaze in detail upon the endurance of incestuous abominations!  Men are emasculated, and all the pride and vigour of their sex is effeminated in the disgrace of their enervated body; and he is most pleasing there who has most completely broken down the man into the woman. He grows into praise by virtue of his crime; and the more he is degraded, the more skilful he is considered to be. Such a one is looked upon—oh shame! and looked upon with pleasure. 

Oh, if placed on that lofty watchtower you could gaze into the secret places – if you could open the closed doors of sleeping chambers, and recall their dark recesses to the perception of sight, – you would behold things done by immodest persons which no chaste eye could look upon. You would see what even to see is a crime. You would see what people made into beasts with the madness of vice deny that they have done, and yet hasten to do: men with frenzied lusts rushing upon men, doing things which afford no gratification even to those who do them. I am deceived if the man who is guilty of such things as these does not accuse others of them.” The Epistles of Cyprian, Epistle I.  To Donatus. 8-9

Basil the Great 3rd Century

“He who is guilty of unseemliness with males will be under discipline for the same time as adulterers.” Select Letters of Basil To Amphilochius, the Canons

Continued Tradition

There is plenty of early witness to Christianity’s disapproval of same-sex relationships. Historically Churches have held to this position and it is alive today. The official position of the top three Churches is against this activity. Roman Catholic Church (Approx. 1.3 billion adherents), the Eastern Orthodox Church (Approx. 260 million adherents), and Oriental Orthodox Communion (Approx. 60-70 million adherents). Most of Protestantism is also against this activity.

Holy Spirit

The Holy Spirit who has empowered the Apostles and the Church has not seen fit to overturn this position. When He inspired the Apostles in their teachings, both written and unwritten, He has passed down to us a historical understanding that this activity is not permissible.

Conclusion

While society is always changing and progressing it also can be said that in some ways it is regressing back to the past. The great acceptance of same-sex relations, which historically speaking was unthinkable in the past few hundred years, is now barging on into the Church demanding answers and privilege. The only fair answer that the Church is able to give is the one that it has given all along. That answer being that this practice, as outlined in our most Holy Faith under the directive of our most Holy Lord, is not permissible. The Church is to be the herald for the Judge. Although some Christians seem to take the seat of judge in this issue and mishandle this topic by means of rudeness may even this not be a stumbling block for accepting God’s directives.

“We are not entitled to such license, I mean that of affirming what we please; we make the Holy Scriptures the rule and the measure of every tenet; we necessarily fix our eyes upon that, and approve that alone which may be made to harmonize with the intention of those writings.” Gregory of Nyssa 4th Century A.D.

Read more about this here