Benjamin L. Corey

Benjamin L. Corey

BLC is an author, speaker, scholar, and global traveler, who holds graduate degrees in Theology & Intercultural Studies from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, and received his doctorate in Intercultural Studies from Fuller. He is the author of Undiluted: Rediscovering the Radical Message of Jesus, and Unafraid: Moving Beyond Fear-Based Faith.

No, LGBTQ+ Affirming Christians Are Not Heretics

This week Jen Hatmaker, an Evangelical writer and speaker, came out as LGBTQ+ affirming in an interview that has set part of the Evangelical Internet on fire.

Hatmaker has long been influential in the Evangelical world, so this public shift is not being taken lightly by the establishment. As one of my friends in the industry put it, we’re “watching her be Rob Belled,” which is a fitting description of what’s happening. As is true for just about every other Evangelical who comes out as LGBTQ+ affirming, she’s likely to see her speaking invitations and book deals quickly disappear.

Beyond being a career death-blow for Evangelical figures to come out as affirming, she’s also now the object of wrath for hateful commentators across the internet, including one well-known blogger who is so hateful on a daily basis that I will simply refer to him as The One Who Shall Not Be Named.

One of the first words used to condemn those of us who cross over into welcoming and affirming our LGBTQ+ brothers and sisters in the Church of Jesus Christ is the dreaded word, heretic– and I’ve already seen Hatmaker denounced as a heretic a hundred times over in the past few days.

In the past, Christians in power used this word to literally destroy other Christians– often this included the confiscation of property, and execution by fire. Essentially, to say that one was a heretic was to say they believed something so erroneous and so wrong, that they could no longer even be considered a Christian. Today, it’s used with the same intent but different means: it means that you are now out, and “dead to us.”

But does being LGBTQ+ affirming actually make one a heretic?

Um, no, it doesn’t. Being LGBTQ+ affirming does not make you a heretic.

First of all, the word heresy or heretic has most traditionally referred to one who disagrees with the creeds of the Church– documents which for most Christians have spelled out what is considered orthodox (the opposite of heresy) Christian belief. These creeds have stood as the orthodox test since the earliest years of Christianity.

When these creeds were written to establish orthodoxy, there was no inclusion of any discussion of human sexuality. Mainly, because it wasn’t even on their radar– the idea of loving, committed, life-long, monogamous, same-sex relationships is a popular modern question, but it was not a popular ancient one. (Even where this was discussed in ancient times, the entire discussion was framed with ancient understandings of sexuality– understandings that are completely different than what we know today.)

Thus, one can be completely affirming of our LGBTQ+ brothers and sisters and still totally affirm the creeds of the Church. This means, no, being LGBTQ+ affirming does not make you a heretic in the way heresy has historically been judged.

Furthermore, if you want to get real down and dirty with fun stuff like biblical Greek, the word heresy actually refers to a strongly held belief that divides or separates. Funny thing: those of us who are affirming of our LGBTQ+ brothers and sisters are doing the opposite of dividing and separating. We’re actually tearing down the walls that divide, removing the barriers that separate others from the Lord’s table, and are welcoming in the excluded.

Heretics do the opposite.

The true heretics are the ones who hold such rigid beliefs that they divide, separate and exclude– because that’s what the word *actually* means.

So, the next time you point a finger and declare an LGBTQ+ affirming Christian to be a heretic, drawing a line that separates them from the rest of the Church, just remember that there are four fingers pointing back at you, and that the real heretic might be the person in the mirror.

Benjamin L. Corey

Benjamin L. Corey

BLC is an author, speaker, scholar, and global traveler, who holds graduate degrees in Theology & Intercultural Studies from Gordon-Conwell, and earned his doctorate in Intercultural Studies from Fuller.

He is the author of Unafraid: Moving Beyond Fear-Based Faith, and Undiluted: Rediscovering the Radical Message of Jesus.

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29 Responses

  1. It is not possible to be “gay affirming” and still be a faithful Christian at the same time. That is literally and spiritually impossible. I know it’s very trendy and self-gratifying to just reinvent Jesus into whoever you wish for him, and conversely do not wish for him to be, but actual Christianity doesn’t work that way. Homosexuality is a sin. The Bible is very clear on the subject and it is impossible to misunderstand the pertinent passages unless one adamantly wishes to do so in support of a pet sin, or a sin they have no wish to confront or condemn. To claim that people just didn’t understand sexual orientation up until 5 minutes ago is patently stupid and it is always false. And if all the academic organizations you went to and are so proud of listing as your bona fides taught you that, you might want to go get your money back. Openly endorsing something that the Bible calls a sin is open heresy and it is spiritually self-defeating. The Holy Spirit is not going to actively work inside a person that is actively and repetitively telling people it’s OK to sin, no matter what that sin is. It is in no way hateful or wrong to point that fact out. You are not, in reality helping anyone at all. You are not actually preaching the true Gospel, or Christ, and you are actually harming people with your progressive, secular and world-friendly dogma. Your methodology is akin to seeing a drug addict on the street, claiming you love them and then handing them a pre-loaded crack pipe. Way to go. You help them damage themselves ever further and walk away leaving them in worse condition than when you got there.

  2. As I said before religion was once and sadly to a great degree still is a sacred cow we are not supposed to touch but touch we should and touch we must.

    I will start with the uniquely and typically American phenomena of what has come to be called “evangelical christians” These people are neither evangelical or Christian and most of their leaders are a brood of vipers and whiten sepulchres whose ancestors in the New Testament Jesus reserved his harshest words and condemnation and such condemnation still applies! They worship a cowboy jesus that never existed and who serves as a delusion for the Golden Calf of capitalism.

    Extreme Zionists who are no different and who confuse the State of Israel with a spiritual Israel that the Torah and Talmud speak of and teach. Like their counterparts the “evangelicals” they respect neither justice or equality and reject compassion.

    Then add to this the horrific barbarism of Sharia law which has no justice no humanity and exist only by the threat of and the committing of inhumane acts of violence and you have the witches brew that is much of 21st century religion.

    Any religion that cannot survive the pubic forum of diverse ideas, theology, science and philosophy belongs in the dust bin of history!

  3. Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.
    — Matthew 7:21-23

    Um, no, it doesn’t. Being LGBTQ+ affirming does not make you a heretic.

    Why yes, yes it does. It also makes you an apostate and a false prophet and a deceiver.

    There are many sins, but I know of no other sinner-group organized to stuff Scripture down the Memory Hole and unilaterally declare a sin, a non-sin.

    I am a sinner. There, I admit it. Some of the things I do are sins.

    I try not to. I ask for strength, guidance and forgiveness, and this, Scripture tells us, IS the way to forgiveness.

    But to call a sin, a non-sin is a lie. It’s not our call. Scripture does not change with the times.

    Homosexuality is clearly condemned in many parts of the Bible: Genesis, Leviticus, Jude, Corinthians and Romans. You homosexuals know them as “clobber verses.”

    The Sinner cannot go behind God’s back and change Scripture. Who are you trying to fool?

  4. You’ve been reading these books for over 1600 years and you’ve only now just discovered that being gay isn’t a sin?
    Wow. Talk about slow learners.

  5. Hmm. Christians have managed to move past misogyny, xenophobia, and slavery despite the “clear teachings of the Bible.” Well, some of them have. Perhaps, one day soon they will get over the homo thing too…when Christianity 4.2 comes out.

    Christianity 4.2: New and improved (thankfully)

    You can have it all! Worship the Bible AND pretend it says something it doesn’t – all at the same time! Something for righties AND lefties!

    Intellectual gymnastics! Cherry picking! Ignoring the reality of people’s lives! Ignoring empirical evidence! It’s all there!

    Get yours now! These prices won’t last forever!

  6. If I’m understanding his last point correctly, you’re a heretic if you hold any firm position about anything? Because every stance leads to rejecting another, and every society excludes someone or something. I’m rigidly against adultery, idolatry, murder, and all sorts of other things. Unless I’m willing to be flexible (because my stance on those things certainly excludes and separates me from people who engate in those activies), I’m a heretical jerk.

  7. Ben, this is purely dishonest. I’m studying ANE languages at Harvard and you’re exegesis is very lazy. John Collins from Yale would strongly disagree with the way you disregard clear passages about purity and the jewish concept of sexual sin(s). Collins would just be honest though and tell us to see the text as an “ancient document with little or no relevance to our lives.” I disagree with him, but at least he’s honest. Please have the integrity to do the same for your audience.

  8. I never wanted to agree with Emile Zola. But with all this nonsense and idolatry, ie..referring to scripture as the Word of God–set in stone–(that’s how all these dogmas are hatched) perhaps he was right to say that … “..civilization will not attain perfection until the last stone from the last church falls on the last priest…”
    I’m so sad about that—but from what I’ve experienced and continue to experience, that statement is becoming a brutal reality….
    Peace to all of you…

  9. The true heretics are those who have placed themselves as the pharisees in the gospels…..fundamentalist evangelical puritans who seek to exclude others based on their own myopic warped interpretation of their religion.

    Jesus couldn’t give a shit about your orthodox beliefs.

  10. It’s called ‘stoning the prophets’. And as to what really heresy and what isn’t, basically they make it up as they go along, creeds or no creeds. Heresy nowadays is simply a stronger and more aggressive way of saying you don’t agree on something. But God’s on my side, so you’re wrong and I’m right. I’m getting my Big Brother on to you, and all that. Pathetic.

  11. Are we talking about the RNS interview? If so, I found her comments very tentative and moderate.

    “RNS: You mention faithfulness and God. Do you think an LGBT relationship can be holy?

    “JH: I do. And my views here are tender. This is a very nuanced conversation, and it’s hard to nail down in one sitting.”

    She was not coming out, guns blazing, as a progressive, but just saying she leans this way and that her fuller views would take more time to expound than an edited-for-length interview allows. I take “tender” to mean that she’s just recently moved in this direction.

    If the response is anywhere near as vicious as you’re saying (and I suspect it is)… boy, do we really know how to shoot our own. No, “Hey Jen, you said it was still tender, nuanced, and complex…. Could you elaborate on that?” Not even, “Come, let’s talk together about this; I think I disagree but I want to understand and then keep you as a sister even as I encourage you strongly to reconsider” but “I know, let’s hit the nuclear ‘HERETIC’ button; that’ll show her what happens to these uppity ‘moderate’ women when they get outta line.”

    Such sadness.

  12. “The true heretics are the ones who hold such rigid beliefs that they divide, separate and exclude” – you mean like Jesus? If there’s one man who has divided and separated the world because of his teaching, it is Jesus of Nazareth. There will be a clear division on the last day – Jesus said so Himself. Lets not fool ourselves.

  13. This article makes a lot of confident and absolute statements with almost little real argument behind them. This article has the nutritional value of a slice of water chestnut.

  14. i support lgbt rights. mainly cause to me it doesn’t matter who you love or have sex with or feel attraction to just what kind of person you are plus science objectively proves which sex you prefer is determined by genetics and ftm and mtf trans have a hormone imbalance that causes them to have a trans brain.and as for nonbinary otherkin and genderfluid identify as whatever you want or feel most comfortable as frankly i don’t care what you identify as as long as your a decent human being and treat others well it doesn’t matter me and yes i have no problem using whatever pronouns you want to be called by

  15. A good discussion to have would be what would the U.S.A look like if we had conservative Evangelical fundamentalism controlling all aspects of society in these areas. Interpretation of the Constitution, policing and courts of law, the Supreme Court, education both higher and lower and all public policy in general. How would the lives of the following be affected, LGBTQ people, people of color, the poor, women, and immigrants/people of other faiths ? What would the country look like for them?

  16. Heresy, Biblically speaking, is a dangerous opinion that divides the body of Christ. It is a teaching or idea that goes against the truth. Since we are Christians, our authority and teaching should derive from the Christian Scriptures. Apart from these we have no basis for correct and sound teaching. So heresy is false teaching that causes separation.

    For nearly 2000 years the church has not wrestled with the question of whether homosexuality was acceptable or not. Why? Because it was clear from what the Scriptures teach (and out of Jesus’ own mouth, when He condemned sexual immorality) that sexual relations are to be between a husband and wife alone. Anything outside of this is immoral and wrong. Up until the 1800’s the idea of homosexuality was that, like any other sinful behavior, it stemmed from a wicked heart. The only cure for it was by being made a new creation. By repenting and believing in Christ. Maybe you should stand with how God conceives of human sexuality before you are so quick to adopt the wisdom of your own time and culture?

    I was born a sinner. That does not make my sin okay. A drunkard, who is born a drunkard (a person with a disposition toward abusing alcohol) should not be okay with staying that way. It is destructive spiritually and physically for them. Its end is death. What you are doing, and all the Hatmaker’s of this world are doing, is affirming people in a destructive and sinful lifestyle. Far from being loving, you are showing a true hatred for not only Christ (who died for their sins and my own), but also for those you claim to be helping.

    In short, yes, anyone who says being a Christian and LGBTQ is acceptable, is by definition, a heretic. You are standing not only against the majority of church’s opinion throughout the ages (the church that Christ promised to lead into all truth), you are standing against Jesus Himself and His own Words. You are the ones holding dangerous opinions, and because of that, “what fellowship has light with darkness?” (2 Corinthians 6:14)

  17. In every case I’ve found, LGBTQ+ affirming people deny the basic Christian belief of tota scriptura, or the believe that the totality of scripture is authoritative for all doctrine. They put their feelings or desires above the authority of scripture, often denying that scripture is even authoritative at all.

    I don’t think it’s a coincidence that, in every case I’ve ever seen, people stray from traditional Christianity into liberal Christianity based on feelings and then go to try and justify their feelings with scripture as opposed to reading scripture and coming to the hard conclusion that liberal Christianity is actually more justified.

  18. No, LGBTQ+ Affirming Christians Are Not Heretics. Agreed, they will inherit the Kingdom of God .

  19. It seems to me that judging another as heretical is subject to the authority, the orthodoxy, subscribed to by the accuser.

    I subscribe solely to the authority over heaven and earth as granted to my Christ by my Father.

    Jesus convinced me that I had to once and for all reject, to the degree of hatred, my carnally born allegiance to the orthodoxy (which was separating us from those other, relative to us, heretical families) of my family of Man before I could learn to live under His teaching subject only to the unity of heart and mind, offered to all in Man through the Holy Spirit, authority from our family of God. That was not enough, although, to be sufficiently receptive to learn from Him to be able to finally in everything do to all others as I would have all others do to me [Matthew 7:12]. I had to, also, accept my own cross to be nailed to, risking being judged a heretic due to my claim to be a little child of God, as did He for me. [Luke 14:26, 27]

    Relative to being taught by Jesus’ orthodox authority, as His sibling student, it does appear, from my experience, that Jen Hatmaker is sincerely making that transition.

  20. Oh, good lord, more rationalization.

    I think the BEST way you can interpret explicit, horrible old religious scripture and creeds, especially around such ideas as LGBTQ rights and slavery and rape and torture, is to say those old writings are *bad* by today’s standards and should be dropped like yesterday’s news. Stop trying to rationalize by saying, well, those writings were from a time of different understanding and they can now be reinterpreted, especially in light of Jesus’s message of love.

    No. Interpret them by TODAY’s standards, because we know better TODAY. Drop them and label them simply as the bad ideas that they are. Keep the best ideas Jesus spoke about and label them as the good ideas that they are. Stop trying to label all of it as good with the right interpretation. Lots of it is bad and it should be called that.

    Doing that IS heresy. Label it as such – honestly. Heresy is often good.

    The reason this is important: rationalization and redefinition keeps the bad shit in the canon without comment, leaving it available for the next Trump-like creature or ISIS-like club to interpret as they wish and gain legitimacy through scriptural association because people like you don’t have the courage to call it ex-scripture that was a bad idea.

  21. In his book about St. Francis of Assisi, G. K. Chesterton said, “Every heresy has been an effort to narrow the Church.” How’s that for a thought?

  22. Given Ben’s definition of ‘heretic’, one could argue it does apply given that the turn-around on the view of homosexuality by some within the church is indeed causing division.

  23. I don’t know who Ms. Hatmaker is, but I agree with Mr. Corey here. The label of “heretic” should be reserved for serious doctrinal unorthodoxy. It shouldn’t apply to people who believe same-sex relations are not sinful. Nor should it apply to people who believe same-sex relations are sinful. Let’s dial back the rhetoric.

  24. All this because of a mistranslation of the OT. Leviticus never banned same sex relationships. They banned a citizen (who could only be a man) from sleeping with another male. Why? Likely the Israelites had a similar gender construct to other cultures at the time, and that had more to do with who took what role during sex.

  25. My wife and I were talking last night about this. It just seems so odd. If a preacher stated how they love and embrace their obese members, or their members that are constantly hoarding money, nobody would bat an eye. If they stated how they are affirming of those who believe in retributive violence, nobody would think twice. But, you pick something they consider “icky”, then all of a sudden you’re taken off the shelves and rejected by the church.

    I applaud Jen Hatmaker and will not be shopping a Lifeway again. Especially given how you can find entire sections devoted to nationalism in their stores or books from a man who said sometimes we need to put Christian values on hold to get things done (Ben Carson).

  26. Man why can’t we just have a reasonable discussion about this? I don’t agree with how far Jen Hatmaker went…but I so appreciate that she is bringing up an issue that needs to be addressed. And I would much rather err on the side of love than condemnation….Jesus saved his harshest words for the religious elites and jerks, not the “terrible” sinners. We would do well to remember that

  27. Can someone suggest a good book that examines the LGBTQ+ topic from an exegetical perspective? My questions go beyond the scope of this comment section I think. I want to understand the biblical argument affirming Christians are making.

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