Jonathan Merritt is “one of America's most prolific religion writers” and a reporter for various news agencies including Religion News Service. He is also the son of former Southern Baptist Convention president James Merritt. In 2019 the pastor’s son chose to denounce evangelicalism and “seek God elsewhere.” On his 39th birthday Jonathan Merritt jumped out of the closet with both feet after years of repeated denial that he is a homosexual. Before I get to the details, you’ll need some background.
In 2012 Azariah Southworth, a “gay evangelical,” claimed he had a sexual encounter with Jonathan and chided him publicly for not admitting to being gay. According to Azariah, Jonathan,
rides the fence because of the strong anti-gay stance his religious community continues to take. He is brave by daring to push the envelope a bit but not enough to give himself away. Exposing this truth of Jonathan’s sexual orientation is not an easy decision for me. I take no pleasure in doing this. As I type this my stomach is turning because I know of the backlash he will receive. I have thought about what all of this will mean for him and for me. I base my reasoning in the importance of living an authentic and honest life….If evidence is required to back my claim it can be provided.
The quote came from an article by Peter Lumpkins. Lumpkins reported that “Merritt routinely speaks for Baptist colleges, universities, and is a frequent speaker at Lifeway's events. In addition, two seminary presidents – Danny Akin and Al Mohler – have in the past supported views on various social issues.” (Source)
After their encounter, Southworth sat down with a Salon reporter and shared the graphic details in “Why I Outed a Christian Star.” (You’ll have to do a search for this article.)
Following the news of Merritt’s homosexual adventure with Southworth, Ken Silva of Apprising Ministries penned a piece entitled “Homosexuality and Jonathan Merritt” where he wrote:
Here at Apprising Ministries I’ve told you that I believe a major evangelical figure will come out as homosexual “soon” serving to fully detonate this whole gay debate—currently ripping apart and dividing mainline denominations—right with the mainstream of evangelicalism itself.
Silva thought the popular pastor’s son would be that person. But at the time, Merritt chose not to live an “authentic and honest life” until his 39th birthday, when he “came out” on Instagram. Here’s what he wrote to his followers:
In 2012, just days before my 30th birthday, I was publicly and painfully outed by a person who had earned my trust only to betray it. It took many months and a boatload of therapy to process the trauma of that experience—and to learn to love the delightful human that God made when God made me.
Some of you may not know this part of my story. I have learned to live authentically in my personal life, sharing with friends the fullness of who I am. But the experience of being outed left me bruised and untrusting and dead dog afraid to offer these vulnerable parts of myself for public consumption and critique. So, I haven’t really written about my identity online. Recently, however, this disconnect between my private and public life has felt unnecessary and unsustainable. I don’t want to live fearful of the opinions of strangers or the venom of bigots.
Today is my 39th birthday, which means I get one more trip around the sun before entering my next decade. I want to enter the second half of life with more authenticity, alignment, and integrity than I exhibited in the first half.
So today, I’m raising a glass to my full and complete self—a gay man, beloved by God, who has endured the worst the world could throw at him and fought his way to health and wholeness.
So there you have the nutshell version.
God Hands People Over To Their Idolatry And Sin
It is troubling to hear Jonathan Merritt justify his decision to live as a gay man (a chosen identity and activity) made out of whole cloth that has nothing to do with the Lord Jesus’s view of homosexuality that is in the Bible. Given this announcement one can only conclude that God has handed Jonathan Merritt, who remains a professing Christian, over to his sin, “allowing him to store up even greater judgment for the day of the Lord.” Under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit Paul pronounced in Rom 1:19–31 that the wrath of God is revealed as God hands people over to their idolatry and sin.
The pastor’s son sinned against a holy God when he enticed another man to commit a homosexual act with him. Furthermore, Jonathan and Azariah Southworth, who is also a professing Christian, were not married – and in the eyes of God they never could be. God calls us to sexual purity. Followers of Jesus Christ have to completely disregard the teaching in the pages of Holy Writ to cling to their belief that God condones sex outside of marriage. Anyone who is involved in sex outside marriage is committing a sin against God. Period. This I know because the Bible tells me so.
Those who read and study the Bible know exactly what sin is because God makes it abundantly clear what is dishonoring to Him. Regardless of what progressives proclaim, God hates sin – I repeat, hates sin – and He will punish unrepentant sinners.
Let us test and examine our ways, and return to the LORD! Let us lift up our hearts and hands to God in heaven: “We have transgressed and rebelled,
and you have not forgiven. Lam 3:40-42
When a Spirit filled believer sins, he/she is fully aware of it for the reason that the Holy Spirit convicts those who are “in Christ” of their sin. What are we to do when we commit a sin against God? Repent. And return to the Lord.
Jonathan Merritt knows what the Bible teaches on any given subject. He knows that the Bible teaches that homosexuality – and sexual relations outside of marriage – is sinful. He knows this but perhaps, like so many other deluded homosexuals and heterosexuals who indulge in sexual activity out of marriage, he has chosen to put the truth aside and embrace a lifestyle of his own choosing. Merritt now wants us to believe that he is a gay man “beloved by God” who has learned to live authentically in his personal life. He can believe what he wants to, but what this tells me is that this professing follower of Jesus Christ, who brags that he’s “raising a glass to my full and complete self—a gay man” is actually thumbing his nose at his Creator.
Jonathan’s disagreement is not with those of us who do not condone his behavior….because the Bible tells us we shouldn’t. His disagreement is with the Lord Jesus. Jesus made it crystal clear in His teaching that all of Scripture is “God breathed” and it is the authority by which His followers (authentic Christians) must live their lives. As the Son of God, who is the Second Person of the Trinity, Jesus condemned homosexuality; likewise, he condemned sexual relations outside of marriage. Nowhere in Scripture are we told to be patient because sometime in the future sodomy – and sex with whomever you please – will no longer be considered a sin.
What people like Jonathan Merritt and Azariah Southworth fail to understand is that Jesus held to the inerrancy of Scripture. They have forgotten that God is the author of Scripture; therefore, the Bible’s teaching is 100% true…contains no mistakes…no contradictions....no miscalculations. It is virtually impossible for there to be errors in the Holy Spirit inspired Word of God, as the Holy Spirit is the Third Person of the Trinity. Which means He is God. And God is never wrong.
According To The Bible
Those who believe there are errors in the Bible most assuredly have a low view of God. Believers who dismiss what the Bible teaches and choose to live by their own rules have a very high view of “self.” So, to be clear, regardless of how Merritt has decided to live his life so that he can love himself while he’s on this earth, orthodox Bible scholars hold to the view that the Holy Spirit has left no wiggle room when it comes to indulging in the practices that are expressly forbidden in the scriptures, sodomy being one of them. According to the Holy Spirit inspired Apostle Paul:
Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. 1 Cor 6:9-10
Like it or not, God has not changed His mind when it comes to the matter of homosexual activity being an abomination. The Word of God is just as applicable in the Twenty-first Century as it was when Lev 20:13 was written:
If a man lies with a male as with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination; they shall surely be put to death; their blood is upon them.
(See also Genesis 19:1–13; Leviticus 18:22; Romans 1:26–27; 1 Timothy 1:10)
Forgive And Forget
God’s forgiveness is available to all sinners who repent. To the sexually immoral, idolaters, adulterers, men who practice homosexuality, thieves, the greedy, drunkards, revilers and swindlers. God will give victory over even the most egregious sins to those He has granted the faith to believe in Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord (Eph 2:9) and thereafter put Him at the center of their lives:
But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God. 1 Cor 6:11
If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. 2 Cor 5:17
I can do all things through him who strengthens me.” Phil 4:13.
There are many verses in the Gospels where Jesus quotes the Old Testament prophets. (The apostles also quoted the Old Testament.) For example, “It is written, “‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’” Deut 8:3; Mat 4:4 and “Then Jesus said to him, “Be gone, Satan! For it is written, “‘You shall worship the Lord your God and him only shall you serve.’” Deut 6:13; Mat 4:10
Paul tells Timothy:
All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work. 2 Tim 3:16
Could Jesus Have Been Wrong?
Today many Christians outright reject the infallibility of Holy Writ. Some say that Jesus could have been wrong and still be the Savior of the World. So, let us consider the possibility that our Lord could have been off base in His teaching. In his article What Difference Does An Inerrant Bible Make? Theologian R.C. Sproul tells of a discussion he had with an old friend, Charlie, who proclaimed that he no longer believed in the inerrancy of Scripture and that after years of studying the Bible he thought Jesus could have been wrong at times. R.C. addressed this with his friend thusly:
Charlie’s point was that Jesus—touching his human nature—did not know all things. He then went right to the Bible to prove it, pointing out, for example, that Jesus does not know the day and hour of His return (Matt. 24:36). But the conversation I had with Charlie wasn’t really about omniscience. It was actually about sinlessness.
Touching His human nature, Jesus is not required to be omniscient to be my Savior. However, He is required to be sinless. Jesus would be numbered among the transgressors for teaching an error. He claimed to speak on the basis on His Father’s authority (John 8:28; 14:10). He also declared, “I am the truth” (John 14:6). That is the highest claim to teaching authority ever uttered. If a man who claims to be the truth and to say nothing except by divine authority teaches error, that’s sin. And if He sins once, we don’t have a Savior. That’s what is at stake.
When I spelled this out for Charlie, he told me, “I’ve got a problem.” To which I replied, “Yes, you do. You want to get rid of Jesus’ view of Scripture and hold onto Him as your Savior and Lord. You’re on very shaky grounds, if you want to be consistent.” Charlie was living in the delightful breeze of a happy inconsistency. But do you see what the issue is here? It is the integrity of Christ.
Sound familiar? Jonathan and Azariah want to get rid of Jesus’ view of Scripture and hold onto Him as their Savior and Lord.
Getting back to R.C., he used his friend Charlie as a “good example of a person who can deny inerrancy but still believe in Jesus as Lord and Savior. But this is possible only if one is inconsistent. Does God demand perfect consistency in our theology for salvation? R.C. says no.
If that were the case, no sinner could be saved because no sinner holds to a perfect theology. That doesn’t mean, however, that we should be content with inconsistency. At the end of the day, inerrancy is inseparable from Christology. If Jesus didn’t teach this view of Scripture, the argument would be over. The issue is not the sacrosanctity of a book, a “paper pope,” or bibliolatry. The issue at stake is the integrity of the person and work of Jesus. He can save us only if He is sinless, and He is sinless only if all of His teaching—including what He teaches about Scripture—is true. (Source)
So to sum up inerrancy:
Inerrancy means that the Scriptures do not affirm any errors. The Bible does not endorse anything untrue. When it tells history, it tells us what actually happened. It may report on what a person said when he told a lie to someone else, but it does not endorse the lie. It is merely giving an accurate report of what the liar said. Where it speaks to science, it does not contradict God’s revelation in the natural world. In sum, the Bible is entirely truthful and has no errors at all in the original manuscripts that the prophets and Apostles actually wrote. We do not today possess these manuscripts, but through the process of textual criticism, we can recover the original wording of the manuscripts with a high degree of certainty. (Source)
I’ll end with a quote by Calvin Goligher from a piece I highly recommend Gay and the Gay Christian:
There is no coherent way to combine the identities “gay” and “Christian.” Homosexual practices are sins, and those who refuse to repent of these sins cannot be Christ’s disciples. The desires that incline towards these practices are also sinful (Matthew 5:28) and those who experience such desires must not entertain or affirm them, but rather resist them and put them to death (Romans 8:13). From these two points, it follows that adopting a homosexual identity is also a sin, since such an identity entails at least a tacit approval of homosexual desires (Side B), if not also of homosexual practices (Side A). For a person to describe himself as “gay,” he must believe that homosexual desires or practices are somehow natural for him. For a person to describe himself as “Christian,” he must sincerely believe that God’s “commandments are not burdensome” (1 John 5:3). When God calls us to sexual purity, he calls us to fulfill the natural purpose for which humanity was created: conformity to his commandments for the sake of communion with him. [Side A and Side B Christianity is examined in the article]
The views expressed by RenewAmerica columnists are their own and do not necessarily reflect the position of RenewAmerica or its affiliates.