Recently, Azusa Pacific University, a Christian university in California, removed language from their standards of conduct which prohibited students from having same-sex romantic relationships. The move was, of course, discouraging to many evangelicals–the mark of another Christian institution succumbing to the sexual revolution. About a week later they went back and put the old language into place again.
This reversal was encouraging, and suggested that APU hadn’t gone over after all. It didn’t completely restore credibility–we still see a university that waffled on a fundamental issue of human sexuality–but it suggested repentance. We all have slips of judgment, and Christianity is all about returning to God when you’ve strayed.
However, actually reading some of the comments from APU leadership about the incident has made me much less optimistic about their reversal. I am not at all sure that it signals a steadfast return to faithfulness.
What do I mean? Albert Tate, Board of Trustees member, explained that “When we took out the language, everyone else filled that gap with their own language and interpretations, and it was hurtful to LGBTQ students, our faculty, our constituencies outside. We reinstated that language with the intention to strategically partner with our LGBTQ students to find the best language possible to capture our heart and intent.”
There are at least three glaring problems with that statement:
1) Less emotivism and more truth-focus is needed in situations like this. It’s a secondary issue that some people’s feelings got hurt. The primary issue is that you (at least implicitly) opened the door to same-sex romantic relationships, signaling serious problems with your theological anthropology.
2) But this emotivistic focus is connected to a bigger worldview issue, that you’ve accepted the category ‘LGBTQ people.’ That’s the world’s category, and its use legitimates the areas of sexual immorality that fall under the acronym, as legitimate identities. The acceptance of that category is how we lost the legal battle over same-sex marriage; once that category is accepted, people who identify as LGBTQ+ (you forgot the +) have the legal and philosophical grounds to commandeer the civil rights narrative. The Christian response must be a staunch insistence that these are labels of sinful disposition, not legitimate identities in the same category as race, sex, etc. You do not have “LGBTQ students;” you have students who struggle with sexual immorality. When you speak in this way, of your “LGBTQ students,” it tells me you’ve already surrendered the major area of worldview; unless this changes, defeat is practically a foregone conclusion.
3) You’re plan of action inspires zero confidence. You intend to “strategically partner with our LGBTQ students to find the best language possible to capture our heart and intent.” If you had students challenging the school’s standard against promiscuity, would the appropriate action be to ‘strategically partner with our promiscuous students to find the best language possible to capture our heart and intent’?
It is quite clear that what the “LGBTQ students” want is a position that will compromise with the world on human sexuality. Erin Green, an APU alum who advocates for the sexual revolution, describes a meeting she and others had with the university board; after they made an emotional appeal against biblical standards on sexuality, she says, “They looked us in the eye and said this policy is harmful, it’s discriminatory, it’s stigmatizing and we’re going to get rid of it. And we trusted them.” I hope that’s not actually what the board said, but based on Mr. Tate’s response I’m inclined to think that it was.
The board should have said, ‘We’re a Christian institution and we must hold Christian policies pertaining to human sexuality, even if that hurts some people’s feelings.’ If they were feeling particularly biblical, they might have added, “In a similar way, Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding towns gave themselves up to sexual immorality and perversion. They serve as an example of those who suffer the punishment of eternal fire” (Jude 7, NIV); “Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord” (Acts 3:19); “We must obey God rather than human beings!” (Acts 5:29).
But that’s not what happened. What happened was that they removed the prohibition on same-sex romantic relationships. I’m guessing that they immediately got a wave of rightly horrified pushback from Christian constituents. Whatever the case, they reinstituted the old language, and are now going to “strategically partner with our LGBTQ students to find the best language possible to capture our heart and intent.” Call me a pessimist, but that sounds like code for haggling over the terms of surrender.