Monday, June 25, 2012

The Bible, Jesus, and Same-Sex Marriage


Let’s be honest. Most of the sexual mores in the Bible are skewed because they reflect the customs and practices of a pre-scientific age and a pervasively dominant patriarchal culture.

Consider these examples:

-- Menstrual blood was deemed “unclean” and sexual intercourse during this period was strictly forbidden (Lev. 18:19; 15:19–24).
-- A woman left her father’s dominion to enter the dominion of the head of the family into which she was marrying. In the event of the husband’s death, the woman stayed in the new family, either as the mother of the children, or being passed to another son through the institution of levirate marriage (Gen. 38:7–11; Deut 25:5–10).
-- Polygamy (many wives) and concubinage (a woman living with a man to whom she is not married) were regularly practiced in the Old Testament. These practices are mentioned numerous times without condemnation.
-- A woman was expected to be a virgin when she married, while male virginity is never even mentioned. A man could accuse his bride of not being a virgin and the woman would then be subjected to a test. If the test proved false, the man was subjected to a fine and would never be permitted to divorce his bride. If the test proved true, then the woman was to be stoned to death (Deut. 22:13–21).
-- A man could divorce his wife quite easily, but a woman had no legal right of divorce, since she was basically the possession of the man, the head of the family (Deut 24:1–4).

Given the assumptions, biases, customs, laws, and practices of a pre-scientific, patriarchal culture, it should come as no surprise that the few times homosexual behavior is mentioned in the Bible it comes under condemnation.

When Paul condemned homosexual behavior in Romans 1:26–27, he would have assumed that these were heterosexuals acting contrary to nature. Paul would have had no concept of homosexuality as a sexual orientation. The idea of sexual orientation as a disposition determined genetically or very early in life would have been foreign to Paul and his world. We now know that human sexual orientation is complex, involving genetic makeup and physiological conditions over which one has no control. The possibility of a committed, faithful same-sex union would never have occurred to him.

The Bible cannot possibly supply us with specific answers to questions of sexuality and marriage faced in the modern world and church. To look to the Bible for such answers and proclaim them as God’s will for today is both silly and foolish. To do so is to use the Bible as an instrument of oppression and death.

On the other hand, the Bible gives us the Gospels, and the Gospels portray the theological meaning and significance of the Christ Event, as the early disciples understood it. Jesus is presented as “the authority” for those who would live a Christian life. For Christians, Jesus is Lord and the life of faith is a life of discipleship to the living Christ.

The historical Jesus, of course, would have shared some of the cultural presuppositions of his day and age, but interestingly, there is not a word about homosexuality in the Gospels. Jesus condemns “lust” in Matthew 5:27–28, not as sexual desire per se, but as an exploitive desire to use the other sexually for one’s own gratification.

Jesus opposed divorce and this is subject to different interpretations. The most likely basis for such teaching was Jesus’ desire to provide some equality to the playing field (see Mark 10:1–12). In that culture men could legally divorce their wives for any reason whatsoever; whereas women did not have a legal option. Jesus wanted to give women some leverage by eliminating the male option of divorce.   

What we know for sure is that Jesus embodied and taught an ethic of love and compassion, and considered this ethic to be the heart and core of conformity to the will of God (Matt 22:34–40). We know that Jesus was a boundary breaker. He disregarded and violated Israel’s purity laws, challenged the status quo and the reigning traditions of the Hebrew Scriptures and oral law that he considered oppressive, and overturned barriers that excluded, marginalized, and condemned various persons and groups.

The trajectory of the Divine Will incarnated in Jesus of Nazareth culminates for Christians in the living Christ, who is the archetype for all our relations and interactions with others.

I have no doubt that the living Christ is prodding, leading, and calling us—the body of Christ in the world—to welcome, accept, and approve of same-sex marriages where partners vow mutual fidelity, honesty, responsibility, love, and care for one another.  

10 comments:

  1. This post deeply grieves the Holy Spirit within me. I am deeply concerned about the basis of your theology. Have you been to seminary? It seems as if you misunderstand "living under the law" versus the freedom allowed in Christ. You also seem to forget that Paul wrote under the inspiration of the Spirit a part of the all knowing God Himself and not out of his own human biases. This can only mean that God inspired the Bible knowing what today's culture would be and what science would discover. You also seem to forget that Jesus is God Himself in human form and was not subject to cultural biases of merely human origin. I deeply fear that you are leading your congregation into heresy, and provoking the anger of the almighty God. What God says is not subject to change with time. Either all of the Bible is God's inerrant Word or none of it is. We don't get to pick and choose the parts we like and only follow what feels good.

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  2. I find this article heart breaking, and even more so because of your position as a leader in a church. As the pastor of a congregation you have been entrusted with a great responsibility of preaching the truth of God's inerrant Word to those that come to your church, and instead you have thrown more than a shadow of doubt over the entire Bible for many. Why should they believe any of it if these pieces are to be taken out and not used in today's society. God did not give us His Word so that we could pick and choose what sounded nice and easy, and didn't make wrinkles in our lives. God provided His Word for us to come to know Him, it is God's love letter to us, His people. The reason the Levitical laws do not apply today is not because our society has changed, I would argue we aren't so very different at all, but because Jesus came to earth, lived as a man, and died for the sins of all, that we might be free from the law. That was God's gift to restore His people to Him after we brought the earth under a curse by sin. Jesus provided a new covenant for us, and under that new covenant He still inspired Paul to write that homosexuality is a sin, going so far as to refer to it as depraved, shameful and unnatural. Paul's next statement seems very applicable to this situation - "Furthermore, just as they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, so God gave them over to a depraved mind, so that they do what ought not to be done. They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed, and depravity...Although they know God's righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them." - Romans 1:28-32. Yes, God calls us to love others, to love our enemies, to love sinners, but we have never been called to love sin. We are to love the sinner and hate the sin, for humans that is hard, nearly impossible at times, but for Jesus that is simple. We are not called to mistreat, abuse, or hurt a homosexual, but we are called to hate the sin of their homosexuality. Jesus has no problem with this, and just as Jesus told the robber at His crucifixion that He would be with Him in paradise that day, so I believe Jesus will welcome homosexuals who know the Lord personally and accept Him as the one true God who died and rose again to cleanse sinners of their sin. I only single out homosexuals here because that is the basis of this article, the same is true for any sinner. Not one of us is free of sin on this earth, but we are NOT to encourage anyone in their sin, and as a brother or sister in Christ it is our responsibility to confront the person with their sin.

    As for the comments on divorce, I find it very sad that your argument is that Jesus opposed divorce to level the playing field for women. This had nothing to do with it. Jesus opposed divorce because marriage is to be an image of Jesus's relationship to His church, and He has not nor will He ever divorce His people. Your comments on Paul seem very limiting as well, Paul went to nations who did not know the Lord, in America most of us have been raised and live in a society with strong Christian views, I find it very likely that Paul could conceive of a monogamous homosexual relationship and not simply people who suddenly changed their opinion on what interested them sexually. And even if Paul could not, Jesus knew exactly what would happen in America in 2012, and He is not surprised by it, and His Word was written for us just as much as for people 2000 years ago. I will be praying for you and your congregation that the Holy Spirit will bring truth of Jesus and His Word.

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    1. Anonymous, I'm not sure a reply is in order. You have so many assumptions that you think are the absolute truth, that I don't share at all. A story comes to mind. A young man from the city went to spend some time with an uncle who lived on a farm. The young man asked him one day why a a particular cow didn't have any horns. His uncle explained that there are several reasons a cow wouldn't have horns: some lose their horns, some breeds simply don't have any, some are not born with any, etc. Then he said, "But the reason that particular cow doesn't have any horns is because that cow is a horse." I think you are seeing a cow and I am seeing a horse.

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    2. Every religion "picks and chooses" which books to include in the Bible...do you realize how many books are left out? The Bible was not written by God, but inspired by him, during a time of oral traditions...therefore it its possible that God's original meanings were lost in translation after several repetitions of the stories. Therefore to blindly follow the Bible without using your own mind and conscience is plain ignorance. Please don't use your ignorance to condemn a fresh perspective. I have been seeking a more tolerant church and to find a church leader who teaches God's love towards all is a breath of fresh air... And to the author of the original post, thank you, and don't be discouraged by those who don't know any better and use religion to spread hatred towards those who are different

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  3. The litmus test for true doctrine versus false teaching is very simple. Can you show me where in scripture the Bible supports this position? Since homosexuality and divorce are both mentioned in the Bible, it is reasonable to think your stance should be supported Biblicly.
    Mary

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    1. The litmus test you speak is only a litmus test for those who agree with your assumption/bias that the Scripture is inerrant or infallible. I have a very high regard for sacred Scripture and have invested most of my life studying Scripture, but I do not believe it is inerrant or infallible. My position is supported from Scripture on the basis of my interpretation and understanding of the life and ministry of Jesus presented in the Gospels.

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  4. First of all, look up Leveticus dude! Plus Sodom and Gamorrah??... And divorce is an abomination, not leverage or whatever it is you're decided what is the best for you to pick and believe. Marriage signifies the love and commitment God has for the church, meaning all of his believers, and is never to be broken. Also premarital sex between both are condemned. Any and all sex outside of marriage is a sin, which inclludes premarital... I am wayyy concerned about your preachings. The Bible is oretty clear if one is ready it and knowing that we cannot pick and choose what we want to believe and God's Word is full and true all the way through, not just parts of it. I understand there are many interpretations, but you are totally off base on alot. I pray for you.

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    1. Thanks for your prayers. Paul seems to say in Romans 8, and I certainly believe that God is able to take wrongheaded and misguided prayers and turn them into something good. So, please keep praying.

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  5. First of all you are not a true Christian nor should you be the pastor of a Baptist church if you do not believe that the Bible is THE INFALLIBLE WORD OF GOD!

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    1. That's ridiculous! Not worthy of a response.

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