A dilemma is a problem offering two possibilities, neither of which is practically acceptable. One in this position has been traditionally described as “being on the horns of a dilemma“, neither horn being comfortable. This is sometimes more colorfully described as “Finding oneself impaled upon the horns of a dilemma”, referring to the sharp points of a bull’s horns, equally uncomfortable (and dangerous). (Dilemma – Wikipedia)
Not a good position to find oneself in, but that is exactly where Atlanta-area megachurch pastor Andy Stanley finds himself in today. After first seeing the story reported last Wednesday on SBC Tomorrow, I wrote a post on April 26 titled, “Andy Stanley’s Soft Landing on Homosexuality?” which critiqued one of Stanley’s recent sermons which appeared to condone homosexual behavior. On Tuesday, the story “got legs” when Dr. R. Albert Mohler, President of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, called on Andy Stanley to clarify his view of homosexual conduct. As of late Wednesday night — over two weeks since he preached the sermon in question — Stanley, the son of former SBC President and well-known pastor Dr. Charles Stanley of FBC Atlanta, has yet to issue any type of clarification in the face of mounting pressure on him to do so.
In addition to Dr. Mohler’s article, several other news outlets, including Baptist Press (which quotes my original article on this issue here), The Christian Post (here), and Christianity Today have either reported on or may soon report on this controversy. In the Post article, “Pastor Andy Stanley Responds to Questions Over Homosexual Stance,” Stanley’s response not only fails to clarify his ambiguous illustration, but only adds to the confusion. In an email sent to The Christian Post on Wednesday, Andy Stanley had this to say about the recent kerfuffle that arose out of his April 15, 2012 message, “Christian: When Gracie Met Truthy” (to watch, click here and then click on Part 5 of the “Christian” Series — the illustration begins at the 24:17 mark)–
“We are requesting that everyone watch the entire series: Christian. It concludes this Sunday. It’s 8 parts. That’s a lot of content to wade through. But I figure that’s better than a sound bite or an interview”
He also told The Christian Post that “he may issue a statement in the near future.” So, let me get this straight. Instead of answering a fairly straightforward question on his (and North Point’s) current position on homosexuals within the church (those who are openly living an unrepentant gay lifestyle as opposed to those who have repented of homosexual conduct but who may still struggle with that particular sin), Andy Stanley figure’s its better for folks to watch eight sermons (totaling approximately nine hours) instead of issuing a simple clarification. Most folks that I know or have read on this issue are not asking for a sound bite or an in-depth interview. Both of these appear to be straw men designed to obfuscate the real issue at hand. That issue has been put into high-definition clarity by Dr. Mohler:
Was this (Andy Stanley’s illustration) intended as a salvo of sorts? The story was so well told and the message so well constructed that there can be little doubt of its meaning. Does this signal the normalization of homosexuality at North Point Community Church? This hardly seems possible, but it appeared to be the implication of the message. Given the volatility of this issue, ambiguity will be replaced by clarity one way or the other, and likely sooner than later.
We can only hope that Andy Stanley and the church will clarify and affirm the biblical declaration of the sinfulness of homosexual behavior, even as he preaches the forgiveness of sin in any form through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. His affirmation of grace and truth in full measure is exactly right, but grace and truth are not actually in tension. The only tension is our finite ability to act in full faithfulness. The knowledge of our sin is, in truth, a gift of grace. And grace is only grace because of the truth of what God has done for us in Christ.
Andy Stanley, like Joel Osteen, is a master communicator. And, just like Mr. Osteen, Andy Stanley finds himself facing a dilemma of his own making. Does he answer Dr. Mohler’s questions from a solidly Biblical position and risk alienating the homosexuals that he admits have been attracted to North Point? Or, does he follow Joel Osteen’s lead on this issue (heaven help us), which seems to have evolved into a “homosexuality is sin, but it’s no different than any other sin” approach to one of the greatest dilemmas facing the seeker-sensitive, sin-condoning churches (mega and otherwise) in America?
With each passing day that he refuses to clarify his remarks, I am coming to some sad and startling conclusions regarding Andy Stanley’s position on homosexuality within the church. I again state that I hope I am wrong and that Andy Stanley will issue a clear statement which conforms to the Biblical principles of both grace and truth on the moral issue of homosexuality. There is only one way for Andy Stanley to not become impaled on the horns of this dilemma. But, that way will require him to do what other megachurch pastors, including Osteen and Willow Creek’s Bill Hybels seem unwilling to do — avoid capitulation on this issue by clearly and unambiguously declaring that he believes that homosexual conduct, according to God’s Word, is sinful and that this sin, like the sin of adultery, can be forgiven when a sinner confesses his or her sin, turns from it, and pleads the blood of Jesus Christ to cleanse the sinner from all unrighteousness. That is real grace and real truth. And, there is no tension in that!