Desmond Tutu, a Homophobic Heaven & Muddled Theology

Desmond Tutu, the Nobel Peace Prize winner, apparently has a very strong view when it comes to equal rights for homosexuals. This past July at a United Nations’ gay rights campaign kick-off in Cape Town, Tutu, the retired South African Archbishop of the Anglican Church, was quoted as saying:

I would refuse to go to a homophobic heaven. No, I would say sorry, I mean I would much rather go to the other place. … I would not worship a God who is homophobic and that is how deeply I feel about this.”

Tutu, ever the passionate advocate for social justice, believes that the current fight for gay rights is every bit as important as his previous fight against Apartheid and for equal rights for all South Africans. Whether or not one agrees with is position on gay rights, it would be hard to argue that Desmond Tutu was not a powerful force for positive social and legal change in leading South Africa to abandon its Apartheid system of government.

However, being a social proponent of a robust “social gospel” does not always equate with an orthodox theology or practice. In fact, Tutu’s theology, like much of the Anglican Church in general and the Episcopal Church in America in particular, can be most charitably described as muddled. Of course, when one views the Bible, as Tutu does, as just a “library of books” — as opposed to the divinely  inspired, infallible Word of God — then it’s no wonder that one’s theology and practice would become muddled. Tutu believes that there are certain parts of Scripture that can be rejected in the modern world:

There are certain parts which you have to say no to. The Bible accepted slavery. St Paul said women should not speak in church at all and there are people who have used that to say women should not be ordained. There are many things that you shouldn’t accept.” (here)

Tutu’s low view of Scripture inevitably leads him to take positions contrary to the clear and plain meaning of God’s Word. It also leads him to make completely asinine and non-nonsensical statements such as preferring to live in hell rather than live in a “homophobic heaven.”  For a man of God to say such a thing — even in passionately arguing in favor of gay rights — speaks more about Tutu’s belief in God than it does about his belief in gay rights.

While I do not agree with Tutu’s view of Scripture nor do I believe that Christians can pick and choose which portions of the Bible we can accept and which ones we can reject, I can at least understand the argument many liberal Christians continue to make which reinterprets Scripture in such a way that the homosexual lifestyle is now acceptable for a follower of Christ. At least these Christians are still relying on the Word of God for their faith and for putting their faith into practice.

What Desmond Tutu has said about the Bible and, more importantly, what he has said about God and a “homophobic heaven,”  reminds me of a discussion that we had in a Christian Theology class at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Dr. David Dockery, who was teaching the class, opened up discussion on the issue of God’s foreknowledge and predestination in the salvation process. Long before the Calvinist/Arminian debate reached a fever pitch in the Southern Baptist Convention, seminary students were trying to figure it all out.

While most students during our class were respectful — if not passionate — about where they stood regarding predestination and election, one student spoke out and said something along these lines:

If God is a God who elects some to heaven and elects others to hell, I would not worship that God.”

What was this seminary student saying? That, even if predestination and election were true, he would not only not accept it, but he would not want to have anything to do with a God who acted in such a way. In other words, if God was not the God he had imagined Him to be, then this student would rather walk away from God and from his faith rather than admit that he was wrong.

What Desmond Tutu said in his advocacy for homosexual rights is, much like this seminary student, a rejection of any God who does not conform to the image that the retired Archbishop has conjured up in his own mind. In the simplest of terms, this is idolatry. Two of the Big 10 — Commandments — warn against having other gods before God and prohibit making other gods that we worship instead of the One, True God. That is re-imagining the LORD God into something that is closer to who we want Him to be as opposed to who He really is.

If Desmond Tutu believes in a real hell, then his statement is all the more muddled. Instead of saying that he doesn’t believe that God would exclude homosexuals from heaven, Tutu is saying that IF the God of the Bible actually does exclude gays (not to mention all unrepentant sinners) from heaven, then he would rather spend an eternity in hell, separated from a holy and loving God.

In other words, if God is not exactly as Tutu imagines Him to be, then he (Tutu) would rather hold on to his muddled (and false) theology rather than admit that he is wrong and God is right. That is not only the height of arrogance, but it is an example of religious idolatry that one would be hard pressed to surpass. Idolatry, which the Bible always lists as one of the premiere sins which would keep people out of heaven, might be an issue that Archbishop Tutu should pay more attention to. If not, he might not have to worry about refusing God’s gracious invitation to enter heaven. There may not be an invitation to reject. Then he would understand just how idiotic — and pathetically sad — his desire to “go to the other place” really is.

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