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Back in the heyday of blogging, I probably would have tried to do a comprehensive roundup of all the responses to the evangelical controversy of the week. But with the seeming ubiquity of Facebook and Twitter, you can probably find all the “hot takes” you want from whatever writer you like.

I have to confess that I get somewhat weary of the pattern. A popular author decides to say something controversial. He or she writes a book or seeks to make a provocative video or orchestrates a softball interview with a journalist-activist to break some news. Once it all goes live, the usual suspects fire up their responses, which themselves generate a lot of traffic. Then the controversialist feigns surprises and lament at how the body of Christ is failing to love one another when news of defection from orthodoxy is announced.

With all of that said, the most valuable thing in every cycle like this is that some writers are so good and clear and helpful that you can learn a lot even in their responses to error.

So while there are probably more than four things you could read, the following are the best that I’ve seen:

1. Rosaria Butterfield

I have already mentioned and excerpted Rosaria’s piece, where she explains that ironically, Jen Hatmaker is doing something deeply damaging to LGBT image-bearers, rather than showing them the biblical love of Christ. Here is a chilling anecdote:

A few years ago, I was speaking at a large church. An older woman waited until the end of the evening and approached me. She told me that she was 75 years old, that she had been married to a woman for 50 years, and that she and her partner had children and grandchildren. Then she said something chilling. In a hushed voice, she whispered, “I have heard the gospel, and I understand that I may lose everything. Why didn’t anyone tell me this before? Why did people I love not tell me that I would one day have to choose like this?”

That’s a good question.

Why did not one person tell this dear image bearer that she could not have illicit love and gospel peace at the same time?

Why didn’t anyone—throughout all of these decades—tell this woman that sin and Christ cannot abide together, for the cross never makes itself an ally with the sin it must crush, because Christ took our sin upon himself and paid the ransom for its dreadful cost?

You can read the whole thing here.

2. Wesley Hill

Wesley Hill, a New Testament professor who experiences exclusively same-sex desires but is committed to living a life of sexual fidelity, penned a powerful response to the Reformed philosopher Nicholas Wolterstorff, emeritus at Yale, who has now endorsed same-sex unions. I know this is not a response to the Hatmakers per se, but it so well done and the issues overlap that it is worth your time to read. Responding to Wolterstorff’s argument, Wes writes:

What is so disappointing about this is its profound shallowness. . . . By firing cheap shots and caricaturing the traditional views he hopes to overturn, he hampers a debate whose depth and maturity could be further deepened.

Several years ago, a Reformed scholar hoping to overturn some aspects of his tradition’s doctrine of God wrote these words:

I regularly tell my students that I will not allow them to take cheap shots against the tradition; they have to earn their right to disagree by working through the tradition and understanding it at its deepest level. Every now and then when they do take what I regard as cheap shots I say to them: “Would you still say what you just said if Augustine were sitting right across the table from you?” Or Anselm, or Aquinas, or Calvin? In short, it is our duty to honor those forebears in the Christian tradition.

The scholar who wrote those words was Nicholas Wolterstorff. Would that, in his case for same-sex marriage, he had heeded his own counsel.

You can read the whole thing here.

3. Kevin DeYoung

Kevin DeYoung looks at what he calls the Hatmaker Hermeneutic, offering a few brief thoughts on a post written by Jen’s husband Brandon, who explained in greater depth how they came to their conclusion that monogamous gay sex could be holy in the eyes of God.

Here is one of his three points:

I fail to see how the logic for monogamy and against fornication is obvious according to Hatmaker’s hermeneutic. I appreciate that they don’t want to completely jettison orthodox Christian teaching when it comes to sex and marriage. But the flimsiness of the hermeneutic cannot support the weight of the tradition.

Once you’ve concluded that the creation of Adam and Eve has nothing to do with a procreative telos (Mal. 2:15), or the fittedness of male with female (Gen. 2:18), or the joining of two complementary sexes into one organic union (Gen. 2:23-24), what’s left to insist that marriage must be limited to two persons, or that the two persons must be faithful to each other? Sure, both partners may agree that they want fidelity, but there is no longer anything inherent to the ontology and the telos of marriage to insist that sexual fidelity is a must.

Likewise, why is it obvious that sex outside of marriage is wrong? Perhaps those verses were only dealing with oppressive situations too.

Most foundationally, once stripped of the biological orientation toward children, by what internal logic can we say that consensual sex between two adults is wrong?

And on that score, by what measure can we condemn a biological brother and sister getting married if they truly love each other (and use contraceptives, just to take the possibility of genetic abnormalities out of the equation)?

When marriage is redefined to include persons of the same sex, we may think we are expanding the institution to make it more inclusive, but in fact we are diminishing it to the point where it is something other than marriage.

You can read his full interaction here.

4. Jake Meador

Writing at Mere Orthodoxy, Jake steps back and puts the Hatmaker announcement into the wider context of the attractional church model that, even in its positive moves cannot help but tack with the winds of culture.

The things that Hatmaker said last week are entirely consistent with a movement that cannot create culture but can only react to it and mimic it. Even where I think she is more right than wrong, as she is in her handling of race issues, for example, her response shows a kind of captivity to prevailing cultural norms that are typical of seeker-sensitive ministries. It is a movement driven by the same techniques used to grow businesses and which interprets the contemporary expression of Christian faith through the medium of current cultural norms and, particularly, common business norms and practices.

There is simply no foundation in the movement for someone like Hatmaker to resist the cultural momentum that has carried so many people toward a view of the human body and sexuality that is wildly out of step with historic Christian teachings.

To the extent that Hatmaker has helped promote and grow this sort of syncretist Christianity she should be criticized, but this problem is far older than Hatmaker and is something that Hatmaker inherited from other older Christians.

So criticism that singles out Hatmaker is misguided; Hatmaker is one part of a much larger sub-culture of evangelicalism that is deeply broken and incapable of doing the very things it was designed to do, which is communicate the truths of the Gospel to a culture that finds those truths increasingly strange and alien. By adopting the norms of the bourgeois, the attractional Christians of the 1970s were setting themselves and their children up to become good syncretists and utterly incapable of mounting any kind of serious prophetic critique of their culture.

Jake continues:

There are two things we must do if we are to do what Hatmaker, largely for reasons outside her control, is not able to do: resist the culturally dominant sensibility that translates all of life through the language of individual achievement, freedom, and autonomy and thus dispenses with not just traditional limits to human sexuality, but to limitation more generally.

You can read the whole thing, where he gives more background on this second-generation seeker-sensitive movement among millennial evangelicals, and also gives his analysis of the two things we must do to swim against the current.

I am thankful for these brothers and sisters who are seeking to speak the truth in love and to serve the church. Each of their pieces, I believe, is worth taking the time to read.


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Comments:


16 thoughts on “The Only Four Things You Need to Read in Response to the Hatmakers”

  1. Lori says:

    Again, this is all theologically well and good, but please read the comments over on Rosaria’s article: commenter after commenter is taking her piece as a rationale for treating LGBT people in an unloving, dismissive way, to the extent that some are advocating that parents disown and treat as dead their own LGBT children.

    How should Christians treat the LGBT people in their lives? How should they treat an LGBT child who is an unbeliever? A close friend in church who admits to struggling with homosexual feelings? A nephew who is getting married to a man who they haven’t seen in over a decade? A coworker they are just a bit more than acquaintances with? A lesbian neighbor who goes to a gay-affirming church?

    These are the questions people do not know how to answer, and that they clearly desperately need wise, gospel-centered guidance on. Arguments for why the Hatmakers are theologically incorrect is not providing that wisdom and guidance.

    1. Sam says:

      To the last paragraph of Lori’s comment…This is the challenge isn’t it? How to live in our culture in light of these theological truths, in conversation with neighbors and co-workers as she described in second paragraph. ….One place to go is to the example of the pastor and his wife who met regularly with Rosaria…through whom God gently and persistently drew her to Himself. They loved her, saw her as created in the image of God, spoke truth with her, ate with her, but did not say her sinful behavior was okay.

      1. beth says:

        Amen – not condoning, but loving consistent actions!

    2. Eric T says:

      If the standard of “are we doing enough to teach people how to graciously respond” is “are there any hateful commenters on the internet,” then we will literally never talk about the theology. All four of those articles are gracious and thoughtful, and several even address your concern directly.

    3. Allie says:

      I would then encourage you (and them) to read more of Rosaria Butterfield’s works. She does an excellent job of describing how the church needs to reach out and love LGBT people, and would vehemently oppose endorsing the disowning of such persons.

    4. Jeff Meyer says:

      “Arguments for why the Hatmakers are theologically incorrect is not providing that wisdom and guidance.”

      Actually, understanding where and why the Hatmakers are wrong helps TREMENDOUSLY in understanding how to help those who the Hatmakers refuse to help, who they say need no help. If the Hatmakers don’t need correction, then they are correct, and the questions you ask don’t need any answer other than “get off your high moral horse and accept them for who they are.”

      People will abuse the truth and use it for evil and nefarious purposes (like the people you mentioned who are advocating patently un-Christian action), but that doesn’t make the truth any less true. The actions of others may even damage your witness (guilt by association), but that doesn’t mean that what the Hatmakers are now saying is somehow to be ignored. They are COMPLETELY in error, and demonstrably against God’s revealed word on the matter, in their support of “holy same sex marriages”, and they should be told this, and Christians should be warned about it.

      To answer your questions…

      “How should Christians treat the LGBT people in their lives?” With the gentleness and respect that image bearers of God deserve as you preach the gospel to them and encourage their repentance.

      “How should they treat an LGBT child who is an unbeliever?” With the gentleness and respect that image bearers of God deserve as you preach the gospel to them and encourage their repentance. Besides, “unbeliever” is far more important than LGBT in this context.

      “A close friend in church who admits to struggling with homosexual feelings?” With the gentleness and respect that image bearers of God deserve as you preach the gospel to them and encourage their repentance.

      “A nephew who is getting married to a man who they haven’t seen in over a decade?” With the gentleness and respect that image bearers of God deserve as you preach the gospel to them and encourage their repentance.

      There’s a pattern here, and none of it involves “encouraging them in their rebellion”. In fact, the answers to all of your question are the same if the sin in question were “lust”. For example, what if the Hatmakers were advocating for “holy adultery” would you have posted a similar response?

      “How should Christians treat the adulterous people in their lives?”
      “How should they treat an adulterous son/daughter who is an unbeliever?”
      “A close friend in church who admits to struggling with lust for his neighbor’s wife?”
      “A nephew, who they haven’t seen in over a decade, who is having an affair?”
      “A neighbor who goes to a church that refuses to tell her that her affair is wrong?”

      Same exact answers by the way.

      A pastor of mine said in his sermon on Sunday (in a different context) – “It’s OK to not be OK. But it’s not OK to fake being OK when you’re not OK.” It fits here. It’s NOT OK to treat someone like they are OK when you know they are not OK.

      To treat someone who is not OK as if they are OK is to place comfort and desire for friendship above their eternal destiny, and that’s, quite frankly, evil. It shows that any combination of the following is likely true:

      1) fear of the truth
      2) fear of their reaction
      3) unbelief – is what the bible actually says actually true?

      Practice and submission help with the first two.

      But only the Holy Spirit can correct that third one, which, honestly, is exactly where the Hatmakers are on this topic.

      1. Ken Abbott says:

        An excellent response, sir. Very well done.

    5. Annie says:

      But that’s an entirely different conversation. How you treat a sinner is completely different than how you treat a sin. The Hatmaker’s talk of the mistreating of LGBTQ is not what’s shocking, it’s their acceptance of homosexual marriage as holy, so that’s what needs to be addressed. They didn’t say anything controversial about how the treatment of homosexuals, so it does not require a rebuttal. We’re talking about the theology because that is mainly what they were talking about.

    6. Gavin Brown says:

      For what it’s worth, there are numerous articles from the Gospel Coalition focusing on ministering to those with same sex attraction.

  2. Rebecca Meeker says:

    I appreciate this response. It seems to me that the leaders who find themselves linked arm to arm with the Hatmakers in this matter only ever talk of God’s love. He is love. He loves better than anyone. However, he has attributes, such as holiness, and we can’t only talk about the one we like or that makes us most comfortable. It is because of His great love for us, that He will not abide our sin. He cannot. So He makes a way to pull us close, covered by the blood and the cross. To say anything less to those who are struggling, would be lying. He loves us all. In order for us to come near, he requires the same of all sinners- repentance. This is what I would want my brothers and sisters in Christ to say to me were I to approach them about sin in my life. The truth in love, fully fleshed out, and practical for the salvation and deliverance of my soul to life.

  3. Lisa says:

    “I have to confess that I get somewhat weary of the pattern. A popular author decides to say something controversial. He or she writes a book or seeks to make a provocative video or orchestrates a softball interview with a journalist-activist to break some news. Once it all goes live, the usual suspects fire up their responses, which themselves generate a lot of traffic. Then the controversialist feigns surprises and lament at how the body of Christ is failing to love one another when news of defection from orthodoxy is announced.”

    Yes, exactly. And coincidentally, secular journalists were ready with their articles about “how mean Christians are being to Jen Hatmaker”. If I were paranoid, I’d readily believe that it’s almost like a trap for Christians that so many can’t help but fall into. Appreciate the kind and well-reasoned responses from the Gospel Coalition.

  4. Natalie Holm says:

    Justin- I’ve always appreciated your ability to synthesize information and curate relevant links/authors from all the noise that’s out there. That being said, I find your introductory comments about the Hatmakers and their “decision” to start a “controversy cycle” to be condescending. Can we please not forget that another’s “defection from orthodoxy” does not give us the authority to mock them? Your weariness comes through loud and clear in the virtual eye roll that is your entire second paragraph. Normally I would be very interested to read the links that you suggest, but my initial interest was overcome by what appears to be a frustrated man swatting at a fly saying “Oh… this again? Sigh.”

    Behind these issues are people. Souls. The Hatmakers are souls made in the image of God. The LGBTQ community- souls. People.

    I’d love to see a piece from you that curates the same links without the condescension.

    1. Justin Taylor says:

      Thank you, Natalie, for your kind words and candid feedback. I can see how you’d take it that way. I think you’re right to detect weariness and frustration—though I’m not sure that is quite the same thing as condescending mockery, much less forgetting that there are real souls involved here. But I will bear your comments in mind, and again, thank you for taking the time to weigh in.

    2. steve hays says:

      I don’t see Justin engaging in mockery. That said, why think to be made in God’s image immunizes a person for mockery? The Bible sometimes mocks sinners.

  5. Gavin Brown says:

    I’ve not previously read Jake Meador, but I will going forward. His cultural analysis and critique of the weaknesses of attractional ministry are razor sharp. It’s worth mentioning that not all churches of this stripe are abandoning sound doctrine, although it seems (to me) that avoiding doctrines that go against cultural norms is commonplace among attractional ministries.

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Justin Taylor, PhD


Justin Taylor is executive vice president of book publishing and book publisher for Crossway and blogs at Between Two Worlds. You can follow him on Twitter.

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