The Bible and the blogosphere: Denny Burk contends for biblical sexuality with online Christian witness
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (SBTS) — When the Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage on June 26, evangelical leaders moved swiftly to respond. Before the day was out, Southern Seminary President R. Albert Mohler Jr. released a special edition of “The Briefing” podcast and Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission President Russell Moore recorded a YouTube video urging believers not to panic and to prepare to “receive the refugees from the sexual revolution.” The evangelical world at large was not taken off-guard by the Obergefell v. Hodges decision and went online to make its voice heard.
Denny Burk, professor of biblical studies at Boyce College, is no stranger to the Internet world. He has curated a popular blog, dennyburk.com, for 10 years, offering an evangelical perspective on cultural issues. It was recently featured at No. 18 in Newsmax’s September list of the top 75 religion bloggers. In recent years, Burk’s blogging attention has often settled on gender and sexuality topics, as those issues have moved to the forefront of American culture. In the 48 hours after the SCOTUS ruling, Burk wrote eight posts on the decision, offering his prophetic clarion call for Christians to ready themselves for a new normal in cultural discourse.
“Issues of sexuality and gender are just the tip of the spear in terms of Christianity’s conflict with the culture,” Burk said weeks later in an interview with Southern Seminary Magazine. “What we believe about marriage and sexuality are going to be the issues that divide the sheep from the goats. Our loyalty to Christ is going to be tested in ways it isn’t tested on other issues. People will either show themselves true to Christ’s word, or not.
“I want to keep putting before Christians the responsibility they have to bear witness for Christ in the midst of this. We can’t move. It’s okay to believe things and to stay faithful to Scripture even when it’s unpopular. I hope I’m encouraging people to do that.”
The idea for a blog germinated in 2005, when Burk would watch television with his wife and comment on issues he observed. He gradually realized that he had a valuable biblical perspective to offer, even if cultural commentary was technically outside his discipline of New Testament studies.
Burk was initially sending brief commentaries to friends over email when his students at Criswell College, where he taught at the time, suggested he try a free blog hosting site. A handful of content management systems later — from Xanga to Blogspot to WordPress — Burk had built a foundation for a unique online presence, even if his focus had not fully developed.
“If you go back 10 years ago and look at what’s on the blog, you’d see a lot of stuff about war — especially the Iraq War — you’d see a lot of things,” Burk said. “It’s been a potpourri, because sometimes I talk about sports, sometimes it’s funny stuff. For me, honestly, it’s just what I’m interested in.”
Today, Burk’s posts usually speak to biblical marriage, the sanctity of life, and religious liberty. Recent issues, like the Caitlyn Jenner story and the Obergefell ruling, have brought gender and sexuality to the forefront of Burk’s mind — and the top of his blog feed, where he hopes to counter secular, liberal orthodoxy with the biblical sort.
“The world as God has made it is a fact. There are eternal realities that can’t be avoided,” Burk said. “The latest fads in sexuality will have a consequence that will be harmful to people and will undermine human flourishing. None of the promises of the sexual revolution have paid off, and the same-sex marriage revolution is not going to pay off either.”
Many of the ideas in his forthcoming book Transforming Homosexuality, which Burk co-authored with Boyce College biblical counseling professor Heath Lambert, were baked in the oven of Burk’s regular blogging. He says the genre has improved his writing by forcing him to communicate, as well as giving him an outlet for his reflections.
“Jonathan Edwards had his ‘Miscellanies.’ In some ways, a blog can be for a scholar a ‘Miscellanies,’” he said. “There’s a difference between academic writing and more popular writing, but for me there’s been a connection, because sometimes the popular writing turns into academic writing, or vice-versa.”
Much of the impetus for the blog is Burk’s growing concern for the millennial generation’s particular vulnerability to the prevailing unbiblical worldview of the time, and his desire to see millennials reform.
“Christian millennials have been so ill-prepared for this,” Burk said. “Their understanding of Scripture seems to be very thin when it comes to issues of sexuality, and many of them are prone to emotional arguments. The left edge of evangelicalism just peels off, and it’s unfortunate. I think the average person just wants to be nice, and wants people to know they aren’t mean or bigoted, so it’s hard to withstand those criticisms. The great temptation is going to be to surrender the truth so they don’t have to accept those reproaches, but no amount of social justice advocacy is going to exempt them from the reproaches of Christ.”
Beyond theological and cultural arguments, Burk hopes his approach is steeped in as much Christ-like compassion as Christ-exalting truth.
“In a decade of writing about this, the thing that has been impressed on me is how deeply personal and painful it is for the average person struggling with same-sex desires,” he said. “We don’t need to back down from the truth, but we do need to remember that the gospel is for sinners. If we’re really going to be the church of the Lord Jesus, we’re not going to be out-graced by anybody. We’re going to be generous and gracious and have our arms wide open to sinners of all stripes.”