Greg Strand is EFCA executive director of theology and credentialing, and he serves on the Board of Ministerial Standing as well as the Spiritual Heritage Committee. He and his family are members of Northfield (Minnesota) EFC.
Tim Tebow recently cancelled a speaking engagement scheduled at First Baptist Church, Dallas, TX. A statement issued by First Baptist stated that Tebow spoke with Robert Jeffress, the senior pastor, “saying that for personal and professional reasons he needed to avoid controversy at this time but would like to come to First Baptist Dallas to speak at a future date.”
On Twitter Tebow addressed the reason for his cancelled appearance which was based on “new information that has been brought to my attention,” and stated that “I will continue to use the platform God has blessed me with to bring Faith, Hope and Love to all those needing a brighter day.”
It is not clear what the “new information” was. It could have been the outspoken pastor’s statements about Roman Catholicism, and because Tebow’s parents have an active ministry in the Philippines among Roman Catholics he felt it best to withdraw the invitation. It could be the statements made by the pastor about same-sex marriage. It is not known. Even if the pastor has been outspoken in a strong, sometimes caustic way that some would not emulate or appreciate, he has spoken strongly on the exclusivity of the gospel of Jesus Christ and that homosexuality is a sin, two truths strongly affirmed by Evangelicals.
Al Mohler, “Tebow’s Big Fumble,” noted these issues in Tebow’s withdrawal, and he also mentioned Louie Giglio’s disinvitation of praying at President Obama’s Inauguration. Mohler states, “Both did so in an effort to escape a controversy that threatened to hinder their efforts to represent Christ in a winsome way. Both decisions are understandable in light of the pressures, but neither Giglio nor Tebow can escape the question that the larger world is not pressing upon them: What exactly do you believe about homosexuality?”
At our recent EFCA Theology Conference on “Sex Matters: The Theology of Human Sexuality,” one of the things I stated in my introductory lecture was the following:
We live in a day that when morality is addressed, the sin of homosexuality and same-sex marriage must be addressed or one’s silence will be heard as support of it. But then when one does communicate it over and over, which is necessary as it is the moral issue of the day, then one will be criticized for having only one note that is played incessantly on our moral instrument.
Mohler rightly and wisely applied this to all those who profess that Jesus Christ is Lord and affirm that the Bible is the ultimate authority.
The massive moral shift taking shape around us is fast eliminating any neutral ground on this issue. Those celebrating the moral normalization of homosexuality will demand an answer from us all. Giglio and Tebow withdrew from controversial appearances, but they will not evade the demand to answer the fundamental question, and any Christian who will not join the moral revolution will be marginalized as a moral outlier in the larger society.
Evangelical Christians are now called upon to think strategically about what it means to speak truthfully and lovingly to a society that increasingly sees us as the moral outlaws. Clearly, we must watch our speech carefully, measuring every word for truth and tone and avoiding incendiary sound bites. We must also guard our hearts toward the persistent temptation towards self-righteousness. But, at the same time, even the most humble statement of biblical truth can now be turned into a sound bite described as hate speech and a refusal to affirm the normalization of homosexuality is turned into repulsive intolerance. We now face no shortage of arguments for capitulation, but abandoning the truth of God's Word is not an option. We deny the gospel if we deny the sinfulness of sin. That sin. Every sin. Our sin.
Our Theology Conference had this goal in mind mentioned by Mohler as evidenced in one of my closing introductory statements:
Our prayer for attendees is that the Lord will use this Conference to inform, educate and equip you to address these issues in a biblically faithful, theologically informed, and pastorally sensitive manner, all the while standing firmly on the Word of God.
Amen and amen!