Have the Conversation on LGBTQIA – Part 4

ssHere is my last part of the LGBTQIA conversation presentation. Even as I share these articles, my PowerPoints are changing, correcting and transforming. I plan to continue learning and refining my thoughts.

A Quick Recap

In my Part 1, my opening article, I shared that I would address three concerns that non-affirming Christians have posed to me. I agree with their concerns. Here is a summary of how I would address those concerns.

a) The non-affirming conscience rightly concerns about the holiness of God. Are we disobeying God? What is God up to?

My response: In Part 2, I shared that I see God at work in the “gay debates” in three ways: The disarming of religious authorities, the unleashing of freedom (break every enslavement) and the deconstruction of male-dominated patriarchy. I shared what I experienced from worshipping and interacting with LGBTQIA people. I did not see the holiness of God being violated by affirming these people and their desire to get married. Instead, I have seen a more robust examination of the gospel, a restoration of purpose for the church, an excitement about life and several gifts, which include a better understanding of holiness.

b) The non-affirming conscience rightly concerns about our children. Are we setting a bad example? How do we break through the hostility?

My response: In Part 3, I shared the stories and history about Alan Turing, and his royal pardon by the Queen of England decades after his death. The Queen’s affirming stance toward Turing is a positive example of setting a good example. One way to break through the hostility is with empathy, going beyond the right vs wrong arguments. It will indeed take decades to sort out what’s been happening. My hope is that the church can have enough compassion to listen and to step back and see the bad example and injustice that has been done to gender and sexual minorities.

c) The non-affirming conscience rightly concerns about immorality. Are we on a slippery slope? What restraint do we have?

Here is my response, Part 4.

Some Questions

Is it possible to maintain moral fortitude, gospel consistency and also affirm same-sex marriage? My contention is yes. Many theologians, such as Richard B. Hays, have left this door open. Matthew Vines, David Gushee, Jim Brownson and the other Reformation Project activists are going through that door.

Some ask: Aren’t you on a slippery slope? What’s next, a man marrying his teddy bear? My first answer is yes, we my indeed be on a slippery slope. However, are we not supposed to live by faith? Does not our Lord call us to go and brave the slippery slope?

Some Actions I Do Not Affirm

When I say I am “affirming” I need to point out that I do not affirm the following:

  • I do not affirm abuse of others with sex
  • I do not affirm excess of sexual activity or promiscuity
  • I do not affirm rape, prostitution or pedophilia
  • I do not affirm adultery, polygamy or incest
  • I do not affirm revising Scripture

Some Actions I Do Affirm

What then, specifically do I affirm when I claim to be “affirming”?

  • Celibacy as a gift for some
  • Faithful kinship bonds between two people
  • Civil debate and disagreement
  • Revisiting, rereading and reassessing Scripture
  • Love

How do we have moral restraint?

One of my contentions is that Gentile Christians do not live under the supervision of the moral codes in the Old Covenant. Hebrews 8 is the primary source of this contention. The Old Covenant is obsolete. We are no longer under the law. I see the Bible teaching us three ways Christians have moral restraint. It is my belief that such things give the church confidence to navigate the sexual landscape in an affirming manner.

  • The power of the Holy Spirit
  • The guidance of love and justice
  • The wisdom of hermeneutics

The Redemptive Movement Hermeneutic

I want to briefly introduce a hermeneutical approach to reading the Bible developed by a man named William Webb. He used his own principles to arrive at a non-affirming stance toward LGBTQIA people. However, when you study his own work, you can find shortcomings in his application of his own hermeneutic. If he applied his own work more objectively, he would actually arrive at a far more affirming stance toward LGBTQIA people.

Webb’s work has received much criticism from both sides. Affirming people disagree with his conclusions about homosexuals. Non-affirming people disagree with his approach, because he pushes the boundaries of “Biblical authority”.

In my armchair theologian mind however, Webb’s approach is brilliant and gives a good starting framework to speak intelligently about the Bible in various contexts.

The core principle of Webb’s hermeneutic is called the X>Y>Z principle.

“Within the model, the central position (Y) stands for where the isolated words of the Bible are in their development of a subject. Then, on either side of the biblical text, one must ask the question of perspective: What is my understanding of the biblical text, if I am looking from the perspective of the original culture (X)? Also, what does the biblical text look like from our contemporary culture, where it happens to reflect a better social ethic-one closer to an ultimate ethic (Z) than to the ethic revealed in the isolated words of the biblical text?”

William Webb: “Slaves, Women, and Homosexuals: Exploring the Hermeneutics of Cultural Analysis”, pg 31

Further reading:

As Easy as X-Y-Z

The Evangelical Theologian and William Webb’s Redemptive-Movement Hermeneutic: A Theological Analysis

 

 

 

85 comments

  1. Hi Brian, thanks again for your continued efforts to converse without casting aspersions.

    Christians who are affirming of heterosexual unions have cited and regarded Robert Gagnon’s work, The Bible and Homosexual Practice: Texts and Hermeneutics (Abingdon, 2001), as the definitive work on the what the Holy Scriptures have to say regarding homosexual practice.

    For those who are interested, here’s the key points in Gagnon’s synopsis in his own words of his 500 page book: http://www.orthodoxytoday.org/articles2/GagnonHomosexuality.php

    • Ben, I think you mean those who are “non-affirming” :) Gagnon is the infamous theologian who is very opposed to welcoming gender and sexual minorities. We read some of Gagnon’s work and I find it rather pathetic. I am not persuaded by his work because his logic is incomplete and his gospel is rather weak. He does cater to the far right however.

      If you read Gagnon, I highly recommend reading Brownson: Bible, Gender, Sexuality. Brownson has the best response to Gagnon.

      If you want a non-affirming theologian who does so with Christ-like qualities, I highly recommend Richard Hayes: The Moral Vision of the NT. This book has been regarded as one of the most important 100 books in the 20th century. I have few disagreements with Hays.

    • Sorry that I use “affirming” intentionally for those affirming heterosexual unions. :)

      A friend lent me his copy of Hay’s Moral Vision of the NT. I skimmed though it very briefly last year but will be sure to read his chapter on homosexuality.

      I was told that Gagnon’s magisterial work, regarded as his magnum opus, has virtually silenced all those who support homosexual union, as the latter are unable to match his biblical scholarship and scope and depth and width of his arguments. Though I’m sure the LGBT community/Christians will find his work suboptimal (pathetic), yet 9 detailed pages of praise has been heaped upon him and his book by countless reputable scholars!: http://www.robgagnon.net/Reviews/homoblurbs.pdf Also, Gagnon reportedly poses all of his arguments irenically and not offensively. I guess there are always “two sides.”

    • “Sorry that I use “affirming” intentionally for those affirming heterosexual unions. :)

      Ah sorry, my mistake! I misread that one.

    • Gagnon’s work hardly silenced anyone. If you want to follow his thinking, then you need to adopt the entire OT Laws and Jewish regulations. Brownson refutes Gagnon extremely well.

      I’ve also seen Gagnon interact on Facebook. He comes across as a whiny know-it-all who might be gay himself.

    • I dont think there are any christians who have adopted the entire OT Laws and Jewish regulations – including Gagnon. If there were, they would be exercising capital punishments left, right and centre, as was commanded in Leviticus! Many conservative Christians (probably Gagnon included) believe that the ceremonial elements of OT law no longer apply, but that the moral elements do continue to apply – though without the associated earthly punishments.

    • Indeed, you are correct, TomKent. I am unfortunately familiar with Gagnon’s writings, to a degree. I find it flabbergasting that so many Christians, even among the “giants”, decided to divide the Law into the 3 codexes and then say that we must conform to the moral law, while ignoring the ceremonial and social laws. This doesn’t jive with what I see in the New Covenant, especially Hebrews 8.

    • Well Jesus clearly regarded certain elements of the Old Covenant to be valid, and others to not be valid. So while the Old Covenant is gone, the New Covenant does seem to include some elements that were in the Old one. The belief that there are elements of law from the Old Testament that remain valid, and others that no longer remain valid, has always been orthodox Christian teaching.

    • I would challenge this notion a bit, that Jesus “clearly regarded certain elements of the Old Covenant to be valid”. Surely Jesus referenced the Old Covenant and taught from the Old Law. But that is because He was a Jew living in Jewish culture, not, I would claim, because He intended His followers to dissect the Old Covenant.

      We are now free and clear of the Old Covenant and the Old Holiness Code. I for one will never look to them for supervision or guidance for my faith ever again. There was a time when I lived in an Old Covenant fantasy, trying to build a kingdom of priests and holy nation. But that is nothing more than a Bible-based delusion. We don’t have to figure out what carries over between covenants.

      The only debt outstanding after the cross is the debt of love. The only law that remains is the law of love.

      I think what is clear about Jesus is that he knew these two facts:

      1. The Old Covenant was a foreshadow, meant to be temporary (and did not exist before Moses) “In speaking of a new covenant, he makes the first one obsolete. And what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away.” Hebrews 8:13 ESV

      2. The Old Holiness Code must be kept 100% or else game over. If you break the smallest law, such as maybe getting tatoo, you are a lawbreaker who stands condemned. Our only hope is 100% mercy. “For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become accountable for all of it.” James 2:10

    • Well if Jesus simply taught from the Old Law because He was a Jew living in Jewish culture, then surely he would have stuck to it 100%, in line with what you cited from James 2:10. But He didnt. He affirmed some elements and discarded others, to form the New Covenant. So yes, the Old is no longer in force (in it’s entirety) so Christians do not need to worry about breaking the Old Covenant in its entirety and of the corresponding OT repercussions.

      But if no element of the Old Law is in force as part of the New Covenant, then doesnt this mean that it’s no longer a sin to break any of the 10 Commandments? Does that mean it’s okay to murder, for example? No, the reality is that there are elements of the New Covenant, that you can also see in the Old Covenant.

      If the only law that remains is the law of love, then why is the New Testament so long and detailed? Are we simply to disregard when Jesus teaches not to lust, and not to doubt, and the various other policies He and the New Testament writers laid out?

    • Charles Wilson
      Charles Wilson

      Hi Tom. You write, “If the only law that remains is the law of love, then why is the New Testament so long and detailed?”

      When I consider passages, such as Galatians 5:14, NIV, “For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself” I think we do need to question the extent to which we might say that the old covenant (law) is still valid as applicable to any person who confesses faith in Jesus Christ. I don’t think we can just say that Jesus or Scripture “clearly” says this or that, but we do need to start asking more questions.

      Be definition an old covenant cannot be enforce for the parties of the new one, as Brian mentioned from Hebrews. Jesus also had a lot to say about the place, validity, and meaning of the old covenant and law that points to a different application than simply either: 1) the law is valid (even if only certain elements); or 2) it is not valid at all. What I would simply say is that it is valid as much as it is fulfilled in and speaks of Jesus Christ. Believers and parties of his new covenant receive the benefits as it pertains to the person of Jesus and the revelation of him and his kingdom; but not as a binding do or do not this or that kind of application.

    • Yes Charles, I agree, it’s complex. I think that for a start, the Old Covenant helps us interpret the new. So when Jesus makes reference to the Sabbath, we can look to the Old Testament to see how that was defined. Certainly I suggest that the New Covenant trumps the Old. But particularly for elements in the New that are not explored or detailed in the New, I think the Old can help illuminate probable definitions and parameters. I suspect there was good reason that the Old Testament comprises so much of the canon.

    • Charles Wilson
      Charles Wilson

      The good reason I see from Jesus’ words and the apostles is that what came before spoke about Jesus. So, it isn’t to be disregarded per se, but that doesn’t mean that it is still in effect. What is in effect now is Jesus himself and love he commanded. Even believing in them doesn’t preclude that they are in effect towards the believer. What comes to mind are Jesus’ words to the two disciples on the road to Emmaus, “He said to them, ‘How foolish you are, and how slow to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Did not the Messiah have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?’ And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.” (Luke 24:25-27, NIV). And also John 5:39-40.

  2. Since this is my last part of this series, I want to add some comments about the end-game. Because our son is gay, we cannot subscribe to ideologies or theologies that end up in abuse or harm.

    Gagnon’s end-game: love the sinner, hate the sin.
    Hays end-game: keep examining Scripture, keep debating
    Brownson’s end-game: reread Scripture without the heteronormative lens; ask “is this desire/activity redeemable in some way?”

    I refuse to follow the end-game of the following people. I would hope we can see these as utterly un-Christlike:

    John MacArthur: burn in hell, cast them out of your home
    North Carolina pastor: let them all starve to death in a concentration camp
    Pastor Sean Harris: punch your gay children in the gut repeatedly so they man up.

    • Hay’s, though he encourages continued debate and conversation which is excellent, is ultimately not in favor of homosexual union, based on my limited understanding.

      MacArthur, the North Carolina pastor, Pastor Sean Harris, Pat Robertson and the like are easy (and unfortunate) caricatures for LGBT supporters to dismissively shoot down.

      However, the exact same tactic can be done by those who affirm heterosexual unions, by picking on the extreme forms of LGBT advocates and similarly shooting them down.

    • “Hay’s, though he encourages continued debate and conversation which is excellent, is ultimately not in favor of homosexual union, – See more at: http://www.ubfriends.org/2015/07/20/have-the-conversation-on-lgbtqia-part-4/#comment-18866

      Correct. He is not in favor of same-sex marriage. On that point, I disagree. But he makes compelling arguments for moral fortitude and has a good grasp of the gospel messages, for which I am much appreciative. And Hays leaves the debate open in regard to re-reading Scripture in a non-heteronormative way.

  3. bekamartin

    While Pat Robertson is against homosexualty and same-sex marriage, he is NOT against transgendered individuals. Interesting!

    • Does anyone listen to ol’ Pat? He is about as relevant to Christianity as a toad. I do remember reading about that–he makes some good statements about accepting transgender people. Who knows why, his mind is so messed up. I cannot follow his logic most of the time. Maybe he accepts transgender people because technically they still can fit into a male and female world.

  4. Charles Wilson
    Charles Wilson

    Thanks for this series, Brian. I’m a 5 on the Karcher scale and, yes, it’s absolutely relevant to UBF. I hope that sincere conversations can be had on this issue. There are those few people whom everyone suspects is gay, but it’s never talked about and of course people hope that they won’t ever have to talk about it. However, in the messages, it’s quite clear where the church stands in its belief on the place and judgment of LGBTQIA people, sadly.

    I saw enough in the UBF chapter and outside to make me question my convictions. One of my good friends in UBF came out and left. He felt that he couldn’t be there. And I couldn’t fault him for thinking so. I regret that I didn’t know how to welcome him and respond to him at that time. Since I didn’t know what I to say or do, I just let him leave under that pretense. But sadly so did the whole church and then we continued with business as usual. We didn’t have the conversation even though a member of many years left because he thought church isn’t a place for gay people. I saw the same sentiment while fishing. People already know the church rejects them. Seeing that over and over again really hit hard. Why can Jesus welcome hated people, such as prostitutes and tax collectors, but the church can’t? I couldn’t reconcile that. I am glad that I was able to bring it up a couple times when I had opportunities to give messages. Further still, being gay is relegated to a choice in a certain moment of space and time, such as stealing or murder. And, if allowed, will most surely lead to pedophilia, bestiality, and polygamy (which we find by straight people in the Bible–but that’s usually not mentioned by Christians). I was told a few times that a certain Chicago leader’s son came out just to seek attention. Then, after his dad spent more time with him, he went back to being straight and normal. Wow!

    • That is sad, Charles. I know of same-sex attracted people who are open about their orientation, and who have not been rejected by their conservative churches. I think each church is different. A key element can be whether the gay person is celibate. But sadly in many churches even celibate people are on the outer, and any single person is regarded as someone who is lacking (lacking a partner), despite Scripture portraying singleness as a good option for life.

    • Charles Wilson
      Charles Wilson

      That’s great to hear, especially since you call those churches “conservative.” I’m not sure however about adding that kind of condition on to a person being accepted. I don’t think Jesus welcomed sinners under such conditions. If so, I don’t see why the Pharisees and scribes would have had so much trouble with him welcoming them (of course, there are many other reasons we can guess as to why they didn’t like the fellowship he had with those people). I just can’t hold people to being celibate in order to be welcomed. If someone had put any kind of condition on me in order to be welcomed, I would already not feel welcomed, free, and loved. And that is essential, a real key element, I believe. I do agree with you that how scripture portrays singleness as a good thing is twisted. The “marriage problems” and arranged marriages of every member in UBF is an example of this. Who can stay in UBF without being pressured of marriage? It is UBF (or UBFism as Brian calls it) that has a “marriage problem.”

    • I guess it’s useful to consider that there are various contexts for being accepted. I guess perhaps Jesus was happy to accept anyone as His friend. But we know that He was not so accepting when it came to being a disciple (Matt 10:37 etc). And in the churches that Ive been to there are standards of behaviour which if violated, I know I would not be accepted as a disciple either.

    • Charles Wilson
      Charles Wilson

      You’re right. Many churches have many different standards by which people are judged as disciples. It’s one reason why I don’t like going to church. I don’t want to deal with these self-imposed criteria or conditions to e accepted. UBF is very strict as to who is considered by leadership to be a real or true disciple, for example. It was suggested last year that a conference for the “younger disciples” be held and at that conference they would read a book to learn what it is to be a real disciple, because all of their efforts and sacrifices up to that point, well, just didn’t make the cut. They weren’t fishing or feeding sheep and some still considering dating. Sadly, those “young disciples” don’t even know that they were spoken of like this. They don’t know how they are not treated with respect as adults and fellow believers. Many of them had already graduated from college at this point!

      As to the cases of Jesus interacting with disciples and potentials throughout the NT, they are so varied that I think it’s too difficult to plainly say it’s this way or that way. For example, he called Levi to follow him even before asking any other conditions. He just walked up to him while he was still at the tax booth, and said, “Follow me.” Just, wow! And even knowing what he did about Judas Iscariot, which John 13 illuminates was in fact known by Jesus, he didn’t kick Judas out for not making the cut. I don’t see where he kicks anyone out or restricts them in following. He sometimes called them to question, but I can’t think of where he laid down the law of them not following the conditions to be accepted.

    • Interesting point Charles, about whether Jesus actually kicked people out. In the case of the Rich Young Ruler, I get the sense that the ruler may have made the decision himself that he would no longer follow. It seems that Jesus indicated to people where the line was, and they decided for themselves whether they wanted to make the grade. I think the same is true of many practising homosexuals today. IE most are not actually thrown out of churches, but rather they just stop going because they decide they dont want to be celibate.

      In the epistles though, we do see Paul advocating the dismissal of non-compliant people from the congregation.

    • Charles Wilson
      Charles Wilson

      “but rather they just stop going because they decide they dont want to be celibate.” I have not seen anyone physically thrown out. But consider this real life example. The Sunday after the Supreme Court ruled in favor of legal gay marriage, the first thing a pastor at the church went to said on stage was a defense of social media accounts that week where he posted anti-gay images and messages, equating the judicial ruling as the key that opened the flood gates of judgment on America. His first words were, “It’s not hate, it’s love in truth.” If your love is such that it may be confused as hate, I seriously doubt that you know what love is. So, people may not be physically thrown out right now, but to say that they’re leaving the church or don’t feel welcome simply because they don’t want to be celibate is majorly lacking in considering the real situation of the other person and the way and contents of messages being given at churches.

      At another church I visited the Sunday prior to the Supreme Court’s ruling, the worship service began with a 5-7 minute video that was filled with Christian pop singers and politicians urging members to be against welcoming gay people for the sake of preserving the country and their “faith.” Again, the welcome mat is clearly not out at many churches, I would argue specifically evangelical, non-denominational churches. Celibacy is hardly mentioned. They’re preaching that gays are bringing judgment on America! Who would feel welcome in such a place?

      Riches come and go. But sexual orientation is not like money in any relatable sense to the rich young ruler. I’m also not so sure Paul’s issue was “non-compliance.” He was grieved and he was glad to tell the church in the second letter to welcome that man back. Paul tolerated a lot of non-compliance, such as the divisions and super-apostles.

    • Charles, why do you think St Paul wanted that man ejected?

      You seem to be saying that it’s wrong that people would feel unwelcome in church. Is that right? I would agree that newcomers should always be welcomed. But should all people in all circumstances always be welcome? Should Muslims be welcomed in to pray to Allah during a Christian service? Should atheists be welcomed in to lead the prayer time during a Christian service? Should prostitutes be welcomed to ply their trade during the meet & greet phase of a Christian service? Is there not a line to be drawn somewhere to say that certain things are not welcome in church? Revelation chapter 2 teaches that certain things should not be tolerated.

      Please note that I say “certain things”. I do not say “certain people”. You write “the worship service began with a 5-7 minute video that was filled with Christian pop singers and politicians urging members to be against welcoming gay people …” Did the video really urge that? I suspect that the video actually urged against welcoming homosexual practise. Sure there are churches around that are hatefilled and some that include a poor understanding of homosexuality. But the larger and more urban churches these days tend to preach against homosexual practise rather than against same-sex attracted people.

    • Charles Wilson
      Charles Wilson

      Hi Tom,

      To say that the man was ejected for “non-compliance” sounds to me like an HR decision. It’s cold. I don’t think Paul saw that a man in the church violated policy and expelled him as an HR manager might punish an employee, especially since we see his reactions in 2 Corinthians to the situation and how he tolerated a lot of which might be called non-compliance from other people in the other churches. I think we need more consideration as to feelings and situations of others without making blanket statements to eject people and checking them against a list of do’s and don’t’s. We wouldn’t treat our family members like this, right? Would we expel a family member for non-compliance or retract our welcoming or love to them? (I know that sadly many families of gay do withhold their welcoming and love when their son or daughter comes out to them.) Should the church be different? Are we only brothers and sisters when people are compliant? I experienced this at UBF and these are questions I now consider.

      As for the other questions you posed, I think those are red herrings. As you previously mentioned, there’s a Christian context to this conversation. A Muslim isn’t likely at all to come to a Christian service to pray to Allah not a prostitute to get business. These certain things that would disrupt a service are not likely to happen. But it is very likely, no, a weekly reality, that a gay person will be among the congregation during a Christian service, someone there who sincerely confesses Faith in Jesus and is there to worship God, and who will also be exposed to these message rejecting what he or she has found natural in them since they can remember. My point was that reducing the issue to gays just don’t want to be celibate and so leave the church also disregards other dynamics of the relationships and environments of the church. I can’t accept such reductionist arguments and thinking that categorizes gay people like this. It disregards their humanity and automatically vilifies them unless they adhere to certain conditions in order to get through the door.

      (Bruxy Cavey recently had a Muslim in their meeting house who was not their to worship the God and Father of Jesus.)
      http://m.youtube.com/watch?v=BTP1tbfElX8

      That video I referenced did not qualify its statements or specifically call out homosexual practices, but it did promise that if the Supreme Court rules in favor of gay marriage it would be certain doom from the hand of God for America and the Christian faith. It ended with a loud applause. How awful it must have felt to be a gay person among the congregation. I no longer have an optimism regarding the intentions of Christians and church activities, especially that is biased to the church and puts the burden of sin on the other party.

    • Charles I feel like you dodged my question there. Even if you think it’s unlikely that a prostitute would try to ply her trade in a church service, surely you can see my point, which was to ask whether there is a line to be drawn in terms of what is allowed in church? When people dodge my questions, I start to wonder whether the conversation is productive.

      And I asked you why you think St Paul wanted the man ejected from the congregation. Again you havent answered the question. You write of the need to consider feelings etc. And I agree. And I suspect St Paul did that. But do you agree that the man was ejected? And if he wasnt ejected for non-compliance, then why was he ejected? I think it’s unreasonable to say he wasnt ejected for non-compliance unless you can offer a good theory about why he was rejected.

      You ask whether a family should eject a family member for non-compliance. Well I think similar principles would apply. It would need to be a weighty matter. EG I think if a family member refuses to generally contribute to the family or if they are repeatedly violent and unrepentant, then it’s ok to eject them from the home.

      You ask whether we are only brothers and sisters when we are compliant. Well, I think it’s a matter of degree. We all slip up. Slip ups do not mean we cease to be brothers and sisters. But in my opinion, if someone says they dont believe in God any more, then they are no longer a spiritual brother or sister. Likewise if they say they dont believe in the Bible, or if they continue to behave in a way that Scripture indicates is one that indicates they wont be saved, then I would say they cease to be a spiritual brother or sister.

      In regards to the video about opposing gay marriage, I think that video would have been difficult for a gay person who wants to enter a gay marriage or is in a gay marriage. But I think a same-sex attracted person who does not believe in gay marriage, would probably find the video encouraging. I know of people like that. When in a church, we must expect that opinions that line up with Scripture will be voiced. That’s what churches are about.

    • Charles Wilson
      Charles Wilson

      Hi Tom, I did my best to answer your questions. I wasn’t trying to evade them at all, so I’ll try again in hopes I provide clarification regarding my previous responses. I’m not sure how you’re gauging the productivity of our discussion. I do appreciate that we have been able to share our ideas like this, just as the article called for. To me, that’s enough to call it productive. You obviously weren’t satisfied with my responses. Honestly, I wasn’t 100% satisfied by them either, but it’s the best I can gather at this point. So, I’ll try again, but I’d like to start with your last comments.

      You said, “That’s what churches are about.” I strongly disagree with this statement. I don’t think that’s what churches are about at all. If churches are showing themselves in the way that you say they should act, I would not associate such groups as part of the body of Christ because it is not in the example of Christ. I don’t think the function of the church is to be keepers of a moral checklist and either welcome people or mark people for non-compliance and then eject them accordingly. Additionally, I question the lines that are being drawn and who are drawing them. There is much more to “the Church” as the body of Christ in the world. Of course, churches ought to uphold sound doctrine. But how that is done requires much more consideration, I think, than what many churches are doing now.

      This is related in part to getting politicians involved with church matters, which that video did in abundance. Jesus did not lobby politicians or get them involved in church matters. The apostles did not do so either nor did they encourage the church to do so. I find it repugnant. Nor did the apostles blur the lines of the Christian faith with nationalism or fear mongering. Jesus said to give to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and Peter taught to honor the emperor and to respective the government authorities. But they were not to be used to decide church matters, nor was the church encouraged to lobby politicians to make the laws of their nation coincide with the apostle’s teachings and church beliefs. Paul even rebuked the Corinthians for taking each other to court. It is not a stretch at all to say that Christianity in America has tied itself with nationalism and a set of beliefs that are not entirely biblical or encouraged by the apostles. Many people are writing about this problem in American churches.

      “But I think a same-sex attracted person who does not believe in gay marriage, would probably find the video encouraging. I know of people like that.”

      I don’t think so. And I would question the truthfulness of people who told you that they were encouraged by it. Not that they would be called liars, but it’s very difficult for a person to express a difference of opinion before a hundreds of people that strongly don’t agree with them. I think that’s partly why it’s called “coming out [of the closet]” for gay people to tell others they’re gay. Many hide it for good reason. I think it’s too much to reduce marriage to something you simply believe in or not. We have to consider why people even want to get married. Are the reasons for gay people and straight people wanting marry different? I don’t think so. There’s no reason why it should be different. Gays, like anyone else, who desire marriage, desire to be united with someone that they love and want to share their life with. How could that video possibly have been encouraging? It’s not just a video espousing straight marriage or doom and gloom. It’s attacking the very desires of companionship and love that people naturally feel and long for. And to categorize them with violent people, thieves, or as moral corrupters—I couldn’t disagree more with that. It’s an attack on the much of what makes a person human. That too I cannot agree with nor do I believe the Bible (and Jesus and the apostles) teach this.

      “Even if you think it’s unlikely that a prostitute would try to ply her trade in a church service, surely you can see my point, which was to ask whether there is a line to be drawn in terms of what is allowed in church?”

      Again, I don’t see how this question or the similar ones you posed are relevant at all to the conversation, sorry. They are questions I’ve heard before that are used to scare people into seriously thinking about the humanity and lives of gay people in a Christian context. One is not likely at all to happen, and the other is a real, daily occurring thing that needs to be addressed in a Christian way. Are some things inappropriate for a gathering of believers? Absolutely. Is the inclusion of gays relatable to allowing prostitutes to ply their trade? Not at all. Those two groups of people would be going to the congregation for completing different and non-relatable reasons. I don’t think I need to clarify those reasons for you. Is this a matter of moral corruption or bad influence? I don’t think so. Will gays wanting to marry and be united to love each other in a committed relationship under God influence straight people to moral corruption? I don’t think so either. Maybe they will encourage fidelity and love. Will inclusion of gays in the church, even if not married, people who confess faith in Jesus and aim to love each other and serve God, invite or influence moral corruption in the church? I don’t find reason for that to be the case either.

      Is the church only a place for people who already meet the moral checklist and believe in God? In that case I think churches would be empty.

      “But do you agree that the man was ejected? And if he wasnt ejected for non-compliance, then why was he ejected? I think it’s unreasonable to say he wasnt ejected for non-compliance unless you can offer a good theory about why he was rejected.”

      Yes, he was ejected. 2 Corinthians tells us that Paul asked the church to welcome the man back, so I assume he was in fact ejected. Did Paul do it? Not personally. He asked the Corinthians to do it. Was his statement “expel the immoral man’ a universal one? I don’t think so. It was he speaking specifically to them and not to “you” as in all believers everywhere. But I find your setup to be at fault and honestly difficult to answer. Why is your theory the one I need to write against? Why is the standard, otherwise my comment is unreasonable? Again, I think that to reduce it to non-compliance is to not read into the narrative enough. It was not non-compliance. That term implies he just didn’t make the mark or had violated a bullet point. It is devoid of the love we see from Paul towards that man and the Corinthians, and it goes against the life and love of Jesus. It also fails to consider the context of the other problems and the environment of paganism and idolatry in Corinth that was still (or making it’s way into) the Corinthian church’s fellowship. To fully flesh out the reason Paul asked the Corinthians to expel that man requires more thought from me and another post. So, I’m not evading your question, but my response is that it’s already flawed in its setup and not productive to understanding the situation of inclusion of people who are gay into the church. And in my comment, I was asking that you consider it more as well. Paul wrote in the incest they were tolerating in their fellowship was something that even unbelieving people don’t tolerate. It sounds like he used the moral standards around them to make this call. Can we also apply the same standard for including people who are gay or honoring their marriages in the church? If we did so, wouldn’t we begin to freely welcome them? The two cases are very different and is much more than an issue of compliance.

    • Thanks Charles. In a discussion about a controversial topic, it goes without saying that different people will have different points of view on it. That’s not news. What’s news is when person A says why they disagree with person B, especially if they can say why argument B may be flawed, and even better if they can offer an alternative that makes more sense, and can explain why it makes more sense. That’s high engagement, and what I value most.

      You write that “Of course, churches ought to uphold sound doctrine. But how that is done requires much more consideration.” I interpret those words as meaning you disagree but you have no answers. That’s only half an argument, or less.

      You say that you disagree with my reasoning on “That’s what churches are about.” Ok. But then what should churches be about? You say that you question the lines that are being drawn and who are drawing them. Do you think they should be drawn by someone else? Who?

      I agree with you that the inclusion of secular politics & promotion of secular politicians, is inappropriate, but I think that diverges from what we have been discussing.

      You refuse to answer my question about whether prostitutes should be allowed to ply their trade in churches, but you provided me with some understanding of your reasoning, when you talked of corrupting influences verses non-corrupting influences. Thank you. Lets try another example, where perhaps we can see more eye to eye. Do you think churches should comply with members who wish to have polygamous wedding ceremonies?

      Your point that in 1 Cor. 5, Paul used the moral standards around them to make this call, is not one Id considered before. Thank you, that’s an interesting point.

      You say that you disagree that some same-sex attracted people would find that video encouraging. And you think they would be lying to say that. Well I guess you are not familiar with their point of view. They are not lying. They are very honest and very sincere. Here is an introduction to some of them –

      http://www.moorematt.org/
      https://savedjustasiam.wordpress.com/
      http://www.livingout.org/
      http://www.christopheryuan.com/

      You ask how could that video possibly have been encouraging? Well for the people behind the above websites, the video would be encouraging because it’s an affirmation that they are not alone their goal of seeking to obey Scripture.

      You ask are the reasons for gay people and straight people wanting marry different? I think there are probably many similarities, but also some differences. I don’t find this question very influential when looking at this in a Christian context.

      You criticize the video for it’s approach to “categorize them with violent people, thieves, or as moral corrupters … That too I cannot agree with nor do I believe the Bible (and Jesus and the apostles) teach this.” You dont think this is the approach taken in Romans 1 and 1 Corinthians 6 and 1 Timothy 1? Have you read those chapters?

    • Charles Wilson
      Charles Wilson

      Tom, I answered your question twice, but you say again that I refuse to answer. For reasons already explained, I don’t see how those questions relate to the conversation of people who are gay, of gay marriage, and inclusion in the Church. But I’ll answer, No, to the prostitutes plying their trade, and, No, to polygamous marriages in the church, for the same reasons BrianK noted below. It violates the law of love and integrity we find from and in Christ. I think bringing up those questions is rhetoric used by many to incite fear in others and which prevents us from asking better questions in regards to people who are gay. In this vein, I think the question about peoples desires for love and marriage (whether straight or gay) is very relevant, especially so that we can better understand each other. Is the love and companionship people seek different simply because of the gender of the person they love or are attracted to? I can’t see how that would be so. But I’m curious to hear what you think the differences are.

      Yes, I’ve heard of examples of people, like those you’ve mentioned. Thanks for linking to their sites. I’m not calling them liars. But I do know how strong influence regarding certain interpretations of Bible text can lead a person to think certain ways–I was in UBF for 15 years. Actually, I think that we have not done right to those people. Instead of praising their examples, I am more inclined to question why they are being praised and why they seek that kind of life even though they have homosexual desires. Also, for not having seen the video I referenced, you have a strong opinion about what it means and how it should be received.

      My comment about what churches are about was two-fold and was actually what I think churches are not about: 1) being inappropriately political; 2) being the moral measuring stick of the world and holding everyone to certain checklists. What are churches about, then? I’m still trying to figure this out and learn. It’s something I do pray about regularly. I feel like much of the time I spent in church has taught me what churches are NOT about, rather than what they are about it. I’m very disappointed about that. Some basic things I think that churches about to be are: a) the living, body of Christ in the world, b) the gathering of believers in his name, united by his love and love for each other–and this love is what shows themselves as belonging to Christ in the world. There are times to pray together, to worship, to read Scripture, to give the testimony of Jesus, to eat, to care for each other, to remember the poor. We ought to do what is appropriate wherever we are and in ways that build each other up.

      On difficult and controversial issues, I see in the New Testament the apostles approaching things at times on a case by case basis. I think that love determined that above rules or principles, and I think we should do the same. We ought to consider each other, and where we’re at, and what should be the most appropriate course of action to build each other up in love. Asking for churches for to give more consideration to practices and policies is not half an argument or none at all. It is badly needed today. I think we have assumed so much about what is “biblical”, “scriptural” or “right or wrong” that we have neglected the humanity in the people we end up judging, and so just write people off. I don’t like doing that anymore and think that it is not in the example of the life of Christ. I think we’re not meeting eye to eye due to our interpretation of certain passages. I respect that and understand things will be like that. But I don’t think our biblical interpretations should ever take out the humanity from people and so treat them as anything less than people. Jesus said a couple of times, and the apostles support this in their teachings as well, that the defining characteristic of believers is their love for one another. To have the approach of the church as marking people off and ejecting them by non-compliance just doesn’t seem loving at all to me and I don’t want to be a part of that kind of community or belief.

      And, yes, I’ve read those chapters in Romans, 1 Corinthians, and 1 Timothy. I referenced 1 Corinthians 6 in a previous comment. These are the very passages Vines references and brings up other scholars’ work on. And I too am of the mind right now that we do need to investigate further on the meaning of usage of Paul’s words in those passages.

    • Charles thanks for your reply.

      So you reject polygamous marriages in the church because of “the Kingdom law of love and the universal principle of integrity.” How is gay marriage aligned with the the Kingdom law of love and the universal principle of integrity, if polygamous marriage is not? Surely both can be understood as loving, and surely both break the integrity of following the New Testament?

      You write about my question about prostitutes plying their trade in church, that you “… don’t see how those questions relate to the conversation of people who are gay, of gay marriage, and inclusion in the Church.” Well Im raising the question of why we dont have a policy of inclusion for prostitution in the Church. Im raising the question of what an inclusive policy should embrace.

      I have read you state several times that “bringing up those questions is rhetoric used by many to incite fear in others”. I know that’s what you think. I dont raise the question to incite fear though. Instead, I think my questions focus light on the question of what should and should not be included in church.

      Im sorry but Id prefer to defer on the question of what I think the differences are between straight relationships and gay relationships. Could we perhaps first get through the questions that are already on the table.

      When you say that some things “require more consideration”, an analogy comes to my mind, of someone driving their car through a stop sign, and being arrested by a cop. And the driver says to the cop, “well I thought the stop sign needed more consideration.” I mean, if people want to get deeply philosophical and give things deep consideration, then that’s good. But until they receive a great revelation that the stop sign doesnt in fact mean that they should stop, shouldnt they continue to obey the traffic rules? If the driver says to the cop that he didnt stop because he had exceptional circumstances that meant that the stop sign did not apply to him (EG he’s on his way to hospital emergency), then I can imagine the cop offering some sympathy. But again I say, an excuse that simply says the stop sign “requires more consideration” is not something I think the cop would accept as valid.

      It seems to me that there are various sections of Scripture which you want to give more “consideration” to. IE you take a position that you dont know what those Scriptures mean. And it seems to me that very often these Scriptures are relevant to homosexuality. So it seems to me to be a break in logic, for you to then take a position on homosexuality. Going back to the analogy of the driver who wanted to give the meaning of the stop sign more consideration – shouldnt he stop driving until he’s made a decision? How can he go about offering advice to others about stop signs, if he really isnt sure about what the stop sign means?

      Thank you for answering my question about what a church should be about. I see you refer back to Paul ejecting the man from the congregation. Do you think that what Paul did was wrong? Do you think it’s ever appropriate to do that in churches today?

      It’s good to hear that you have read Romans 1 and 1 Corinthians 6 and 1 Timothy 1. So if you have read through those 3 vice lists, how is it that you can criticize the video for it’s approach to “categorize [homosexuals] with violent people, thieves, or as moral corrupters … That too I cannot agree with nor do I believe the Bible (and Jesus and the apostles) teach this.” Are you claiming that those 3 chapters dont do this?

    • Charles Wilson
      Charles Wilson

      Hi Tom. (I hope these long responses aren’t burdens to the readers.) Here are my responses to some of your questions.

      You wrote, “…if polygamous marriage is not.” I’m not sure how the two are hinged on each other. I don’t agree that “surely both can be understood as loving.” Is it so sure? Maybe I’m having trouble answering you because I don’t understand where you’re coming from. I don’t know why you insist that to accept the one means to accept the other. Maybe you could help me with that. How is having one spouse comparable to having multiple spouses?

      Basically, I think it violates the love in Christ (and so his kingdom) and that love which he has for us. Violating such love shows a lack of integrity. For example, Paul speaks of marriage quite a bit. In one sense, he speaks of it as really a type of our relationship with Christ. One helps us to understand the other. Just as we have one husband, Christ, who gave his life for us, the church, we have a union and love committed to him. In the same way, he tells husbands to love their wives as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her. The love is singly devoted in their union. Inviting multiple spouses sounds to me similar to inviting multiple “gods” and unions which is not in line with Christ and his love for us, which is the main reason I find in the Old Testament why kings were commanded to not take multiple wives otherwise they would be led astray into worshiping other gods. In the description of the wedding of the Lamb in Revelation, there are the two parties to the wedding: the bride and the bridegroom (thought the bride, the church, consists of many people, believers, they are represented as a single “person” at the wedding). So the single spouse is consistent in regards to Christ and the church, and love and the kingdom. Polygamous marriage just doesn’t fit into this relationship type with Christ. My experiences with my wife regarding love, union, and committed also lead me to consider the relationship with Christ and views on marriage in this way. She would not feel loved, pure, and as my bride if I brought in other women.

      Hypothetically, if polygamy was allowable, there are many follow up questions I’d have that would also break down the relationship between such marriage(s) and ours with Christ. For example, would polygamist have to marry all spouses at the same time? Could they add spouses later? Could spouses leave? Would we also relate to Christ like this? Does the Holy Spirit work in believers in this way? I would argue no.

      You wrote, “I dont raise the question to incite fear though. Instead, I think my questions focus light on the question of what should and should not be included in church.”

      ** Yes, I understand your question and believe you that you’re not using it to incite fear. But why then are you asking it though? This I don’t understand. What is its relation specifically to inclusion of gay marriage? It sounds like you’re working an angle here, but, I’m sorry, I just don’t get it. I don’t see how using one’s body to perform sexual acts for money as in prostitution is like two people getting married. Can heterosexual marriage also be included here then? The only difference between homo-and hetero-marriage is the genders of the spouses.

      You wrote, “Im sorry but Id prefer to defer on the question of what I think the differences are between straight relationships and gay relationships. Could we perhaps first get through the questions that are already on the table.”

      ** I don’t think that’s a fair response. You repeatedly pressed me to answer what I felt were unrelated questions, but you can’t answer my question to clarify one of your statements. Not sure what to do with that because your viewpoint is inherently based on there being a difference between the two, yet you don’t want to help me understand what those differences are, especially since I don’t see them as you do.

      You wrote, “When you say that some things “require more consideration”, an analogy comes to my mind, of someone driving their car through a stop sign, and being arrested by a cop…”

      ** I don’t think that’s a fitting analogy. If the law of the Old Testament is summed up in loving your neighbor as yourself, how much more the love commanded by Christ in the New Testament. And love isn’t like a law that you ticket someone for or issue an order of non-compliance. Love is kind, love is patient, love is gentle. It’s considerate of the other party. The case of a stop sign and its meaning and enforcement are not meant to be considered on a case by case basis. It also doesn’t have a basis on love and the person of Christ, which the apostles’ teachings do. For example, in one case they asked the Gentiles to not eat meat sacrificed to idols. Later, Paul says that it depends on your faith, but that your actions should be predicated on what is not only allowable and according to your faith but that which builds up others, especially and particularly the weak among you. Likewise, God considers the situations of people and acts accordingly at times. He gives concessions. He allowed meat to be eaten after the flood of Noah’s day, when people didn’t eat meat before (at least, not by design in Genesis 1). The very incarnation of Christ, God becoming flesh to save people, is also, I think, a concession in view of the situation of humankind.

      You wrote: “I see you refer back to Paul ejecting the man from the congregation. Do you think that what Paul did was wrong? Do you think it’s ever appropriate to do that in churches today?”

      ** No, I don’t think that what Paul did was wrong. I don’t see any indication from the narrative that there is a question about what he did as coming from personal bias or an otherwise questionable place. But it doesn’t imply that we expel for non-compliance, as I’ve stated before.

      Yes, I do think churches may find it appropriate at times to expel people for their good and the safety of others. I experienced one such case where a man was suffering from paranoia and violent outbursts. He physically attacked and harmed people on several occasions. The church didn’t know what to do anymore and many feared for their safety and their children’s. Church leaders did not know of any further to help him. So it was presented that this man either seek medical and professional help, or he had to leave the fellowship. Yet, it was offered that if he did seek professional help he would be welcomed back. And the last I heard was that he has been welcomed back.

      You wrote, “Are you claiming that those 3 chapters dont do this?”

      ** Yes, I am. Consider the language used in Romans 1, for example. It’s not as clear as some make it out to be. For example, from verse 21 through the end of the chapter he is directing the readers to a past example. And the example seems to be a group of people that are not the Roman audience of the letter. Now, if he referring in general to all the people who are godless and wicked, from verse 19, I think that would also be problematic to apply it to homosexuals as it is being done today. The people have been given over to these things because of their godlessness. They are not judged as godless because of it. Furthermore, how can we reconcile that people who are gay have done or been so godless and wicked that God has given them over, when it is an orientation that they say they’ve had for as long as they can remember, and not just a mere choice of which orientation to be? Were they godless in the womb? What wickedness would a child have committed in order to be given over like this?

      Such an interpretation and application of the passage that just outright condemns gay people does not fit with the rest of the book of Romans or the person of Jesus in the New Testament. My point is that it isn’t so clear and does require our further consideration as to his words and their meanings. Even Peter said that what Paul writes is hard and difficult to understand. Are we better than Peter in this regard? You may well be, but I’m not.

    • Thanks Charles for continuing the conversation. Yes our responses have become unfortunately long. It’s largely for this reason that I prefer to defer on your question of what I think the differences are between straight relationships and gay relationships, until we have dealt with current questions. And because whether there are few differences, or many differences, is in my opinion, of little consequence. Yes you have been attempting to answer my questions – thank you. But I also have generally answered yours. But ok, Ill give you a partial answer. The key difference, and the biggest problem, is the gender mix.

      In regards to the question of embracing polygamy verses embracing same-sex marriage, you wrote “I don’t know why you insist that to accept the one means to accept the other.” Im not saying that to accept one means to accept the other, as though they are the same thing. But I am saying that I dont see how it would be logical to accept one and not the other. I see this problem in your response. You say that one reason you reject polygamy is that it does not reflect the model of God being the bridegroom and the church being the groom. But on those grounds, same sex marriage likewise does not reflect the (heterosexual) model of God being the bridegroom and the church being the groom.

      You also wrote that Paul speaks a lot of marriage. I see you are implying that a Christian should conceive of marriage as how Paul perceived it. But Paul consistently perceived marriage as heterosexual. At some points in Scripture he allowed no wiggle room for non-heterosexual marriage.

      You seem to reject my “stop sign” analogy on the basis that “the law of the Old Testament is summed up in loving your neighbor as yourself”. But a one line summing up is designed to highlight the what is key. It is not designed to replace the overall picture. You could sum up the road rules as saying be safe on the roads. But does that mean we can disregard the detailed rules? Does that mean we can drive at 10 mph because that should be safer? No. A one line summary of the road rules is insufficient. Likewise a one line summary of Scripture is insufficient.

      I agree with you that interpretation of Scripture must incorporate love. But this claim of yours diverges from my point, which was that you have a tendency to leave some Scriptures to the side, on the grounds that they need more consideration. This is just not the evangelical approach. It’s cherry picking.

      I appreciate your point about God offering concessions.

      Thank you for responding about whether Paul ejecting the man from the congregation, was wrong. You say that this action could be appropriate for a violent church member. Do you think it would be appropriate for a contemporary church to eject someone for the same sin committed by that man in Scripture?

      When I asked whether Romans 1, 1 Corinthians 6 and 1 Timothy 1 categorize [homosexuals] with violent people, thieves, or as moral corrupters as the video did, you responded that they dont. I dont understand how you can conclude that. You only explained your reasoning for the first of the 3 passages though. What about the other 2? And in the reasoning that you did provide, it seems to me that you diverged from the point at hand. The question was whether the passage categorizes homosexuals with violent people, thieves, or as moral corrupters. Your explanation covered various points, but not really that one. And you wrote “Such an interpretation and application of the passage that just outright condemns gay people does not fit with the rest of the book of Romans …” But who says it outright condemns gay people? Many people say it condemns gay sex, rather than gay people. But overall your reasoning on the passage largely reverted to your standard argument. IE “it’s unclear”. AKA needs more consideration. You realise that you actually only follow part of the Bible right? That you basically disregard the bits that you dont like? Sometimes you like to sum up the Bible, but I think you are in fact just summing up the elements you like, and rejecting the elements you dont like, by using an excuse of things being unclear.

    • Charles Wilson
      Charles Wilson

      “You realise that you actually only follow part of the Bible right? That you basically disregard the bits that you dont like?”

      “This is just not the evangelical approach. It’s cherry picking.”

      Thanks, Tom, but I’m going to bow out of commenting further like this. It’s become what feels like an interrogation, and with comment like these I’d rather not continue. Disregarding passages and calling for further questioning and consideration are completely different things. I think these comments are uncalled for and my impression is that you’re really not interested in the opinions I’ve been sharing, but that you’re trying to catch me in some logical fallacy or just that I don’t follow Scripture as you see it. That’s fine with me if you disagree. You don’t want to answer questions and then heap more on me. And I’m fine not having an evangelical approach, whatever that is. Not sure how it’s cherry picking, when I was responding to verses you questioned me about.

      I’m glad to reply to questions about my opinions, but not like this. Maybe we can continue this at another time.

    • Charles Im sorry to have made you uncomfortable. Ive really struggled to grasp how you believe that St Paul was right to expel that man, while at the same time you seem rather opposed (though I see not totally opposed) to expelling people. You wanted to discuss inclusion, and to me, St Pauls actions there are central to that topic.

      But youre right that it makes sense to put this conversation on hold. It doesnt make sense to be arguing for a particular line of thinking about gay things, if you are undecided about the meaning of the most relevant passages.

      Thanks for your time. May God guide and bless you.

  5. Hi Brian, I happen to see this, which I’m sure you’re heard before and have a rebuttal to each of Witherington’s seven points: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/bibleandculture/2015/08/12/on-further-review-why-gay-marriage-cant-be-christian-marriage/

    • Those seven reasons are easily refutable, or a least called into question. He sounds like me defending uBFism :)

    • To respond to all 7 points would be too long for a comment and would need to be an article.

      I’ll say this in regard to the title of that article: “Seven Reasons Why Gay Marriage Isn’t Marriage According To The Bible And Christian Marriage Theology”

      My first thought is that I really appreciate the fact that he claims both the Bible and marriage theology as his authority. This is something often left out of the debates: Christians derive meaning from more than just the Bible. I agree with Wesley on this point, and would argue that we need to include all 3 or 4 legs of the proverbial Wesley Quadrilateral. We take cues from Scripture, Tradition, Experience and Reason. I always add a fifth leg, the Holy Spirit. (I suppose this could be called the Karcher Pentagram :)

  6. Ok I’ll take the bait, Ben :) Here are my initial thoughts on Ben Witherington’s article…

    “Seven Reasons Why Gay Marriage Isn’t Marriage According To The Bible And Christian Marriage Theology”

    http://www.patheos.com/blogs/bibleandculture/2015/08/12/on-further-review-why-gay-marriage-cant-be-christian-marriage/

    1) Jesus was perfectly clear— marriage is when God brings a man and a woman together who are capable of sharing a one flesh union with the possibility of fulfilling the creation order mandate— be fruitful and multiply (see Mk. 10/ Mt. 19).

    >> This is a correct reflection of what Ben calls Christian marriage theology. It is not, however, a fair assessment of all Christian views throughout history. Ben makes the mistake of speaking from the universal objectivist vantage-point—otherwise known as the God-stance. This means he makes a broad-sweeping dictation of truth that cannot be argued against. It can only be accepted or dismissed. The Bible passages he points us to have many teachings and should be looked at critically not pathologically.

    2) Jesus was equally clear in Mt. 19 that the alternative for his disciples was celibacy in singleness, which is what ‘being a eunuch for the kingdom’ refers to.

    >> Ben continues the claim that Jesus is “perfectly clear”. This is a tenuous position to take. Can we know the mind of God so clearly? Can we speak for Jesus comprehensively about marriage, which is a subject that he rarely spoke about and even once said won’t exist one day in the kingdom of God?

    3) In order to meet the requirements for being a husband according to the household codes in Col. 3.-4 and Ephes. 5-6 one must: 1) be a male, and 2) have a partner who is a member of the opposite sex. Men cannot be wives, however much they may try and play such a role, nor can women be husbands, and a relationship that involves either two men or two women produces exactly NO husbands or wives.

    >> This is an explosive route to take in the Bible. Those passages do speak of a community defined by the male and female roles Ben describes. Again he presents his thoughts pathologically—without any critical thought or self-awareness. Those passages speak to a contextualiztion of the gospel in a culture steeped in male-dominated hierarchies, where women were seen as property and at times not even as human beings. It was also spoken to some specific cultures where women took control and reversed the male-dominated hierarchy. In certain cities, women made men their slaves. My point is that we should ask whether God intends us to rebuild the culture from 2,000 years ago or do we contextualize the gospel in our generation, in our various cultures? Might we learn from the way Paul applied the gospel instead of instituting ancient gender roles? Maybe we should listen to another place in the Bible where Paul claimed there is no longer to be any “male and female” in the kingdom of God. I believe that Colossians and Ephesians and Galatians lay the framework for a massive reformation, where the male-dominated hierarchies are dismantled and gender roles become disassociated from our religious faith and values.

    4) The only couple capable of being a father and a mother of their own biological children is a man and a woman. Adoption only makes a person a surrogate father or mother at best. And if one person is the biological parent of the child, whereas his or her partner is not, then in fact one has deprived the child of either their birth mother or their birth father. They have come to have a child ‘out of wedlock’, if one counts either gay or lesbian relationships as marriage.

    >> No argument from me on how babies are made. I find his view of adoption highly insulting. What if a man and a woman cannot have children or are too old to have children? Is it our Christian duty to ridicule them and see them as lesser parents? This is an absurd line of thought that strays from too many other teachings, especially about loving one another. Ben ignores the great reformational teaching in the Bible that being childless or barren does not make one a lesser parent, but can in fact be God’s blessed situation to be a mother of many or a father of nations, like Abraham.

    5) A child deserves to have both a mother and a father, and more particularly their own biological parents if humanly possible. Any relationship which involves two mothers (one of whom is not the real mother) or two fathers (one of whom is not the biological father) does not provide the modeling of what a husband and wife/mother and father relationship should look like under any sort of normal circumstances.

    >> Now Ben strays from both the Bible and Christian marriage theology. Now he speaks as an expert sociologist. I don’t know if he is trained in sociology, but his argument is weak. From what I’ve read, there are studies refuting these ideas. In any case, this is his opinion about family life, not a clear-cut reason that prevents samesex marriage from being blessed by Christians.

    6) Same sex sexual activity, whether between consenting adults or through some other sort of relationship, is clearly defined as a sin in both the OT and the NT, indeed a serious sin. If this is correct, then gay marriage is a non-starter.

    >> What if this is not correct? This argument is illogical. To say that all samesex activity is clearly defined as wrong, and then to say “if this is correct…” is confusing at best. This pathological statement would be better served by delving into the 6 verses out of 31,000 + verses that do have something to say on this topic. I would also add that if the New Testament is so clear about this topic, why can’t Bible translators agree on the English words to use in those verses?

    7) There is an irreducible biological or gender component to being a man or a woman. One does not get to choose one’s biology, one’s XY chromosomes. The creation story in Gen. 1-2 makes perfectly clear that the only ‘suitable companion’ for the man was a woman, and this is because God created us male and female in his image. Only so could we perpetuate the human race. Only so could we be mini-creators of more human beings, so mirroring one aspect of God the Creator.

    >> This is a statement of ignorance. True, we do not choose our biology. But doctors do. It is a documented fact that doctors in the West (and elsewhere) surgically assign gender when a baby is born intersex. Science has long known that pure XX and XY chromosomes are not a universal reality. There are over 30 variations.

    • Thanks, Brian. I’m wondering if you want to reply on Witherington’s post (where there are those who disagree with him), or to see if you could post this on the patheos blog as a point by point response to Witherington’s post.

    • “Science has long known that pure XX and XY chromosomes are not a universal reality. There are over 30 variations. – See more at: http://www.ubfriends.org/2015/07/20/have-the-conversation-on-lgbtqia-part-4/#comment-19070

      I wonder if these different chromosomal permutations partially give rise to the phenomenon in which a person expresses that they feel as though they are gender x trapped in a body of gender y. I say partially because external influences should be factored in as well.

  7. @Ben, I do not feel like being condemned to hell today, so I’ll pass on any blog engagement.

    @David, yes many factors are involved. Some choices LGBTQIA people face is do I conform to the society gender roles? Do I submit to the pure male and female philosophy found in many Christian churches? Or do I seek to know my genuine self? I would encourage reading this FAQ: ISNA – FAQ

  8. Good questions, TomKent, and by the way thanks for this dialogue. I don’t claim to have all the answers, but I am seeking to learn. Here are my reactions:

    “But if no element of the Old Law is in force as part of the New Covenant, then doesnt this mean that it’s no longer a sin to break any of the 10 Commandments?”

    >> I don’t see the new covenant telling us to look to the 10 commandments or the law to define sin. Is there any Scripture telling us to define right and wrong based on the OT laws and regulations?

    “Does that mean it’s okay to murder, for example? No, the reality is that there are elements of the New Covenant, that you can also see in the Old Covenant.”

    >> No, it is not ok to murder, but not because of the 10 commandments, but because of love. The overlap you are seeing, I would claim, is because God is love and His law in the old, obsolete, foreshadow did contain elements of love. But we don’t decide to love because of the regulations.

    “If the only law that remains is the law of love, then why is the New Testament so long and detailed?”

    >> I would answer that the New testament writings are not long and detailed, especially compared to the Old testament writings. For example, Acts 15 tells us how the first leaders of the church explained the new covenant to the Gentiles. Their letter is very short. I would say however, that we need much instruction and learning because love is so deep and wide and takes a lifetime to learn. I see numerous elements of how to love being discussed and explained in the new testament writings. So if there is something detailed, it may be because we need to explore how to love everyone–how to love our enemy, our stranger, our neighbor, etc.

    “Are we simply to disregard when Jesus teaches not to lust, and not to doubt, and the various other policies He and the New Testament writers laid out?”

    >> No we don’t disregard this. But we should also not rebuild what Jesus dismantled. We should learn about love. Why should we not lust? Because of love. How can we not lust? By seeing the beauty of love.

    • Well there are a number of New Testament references that cite the Old Testament, EG various spots in Matthew 5, Matthew 19:4.

      I appreciate your humility and acknowledgement that you dont have all the answers. Neither do I. And neither do those behind the Reformation Project. I may be wrong, but it’s my guess that the reason they distance themselves from the Old Law so strongly, is basically to escape the relevant passages in Leviticus. I think youll find that few theologians outside that organisation would agree with the degree to which they take that approach.

      Thank you also, for this discussion.

    • I should probably make something clear. Vines and the TRP do not subscribe to some of what I am expressing here theologically. I don’t speak for them entirely but yes I have learned from them.

      I speak as a person who is outside Christendom. I am not part of the visible Christian church, as I do not attend church service on Sunday, I do not have daily devotions, I do not set aside prayer time and I don’t own an actual paperback Bible. I am an outlaw theologian with minimal seminary training and a ton of Korean Bible cult baggage… so take my words with a big grain of salt. In fact, get your salt shaker :)

      My main claim is that we all die with flawed doctrine. None of us, even NT Wright, have Christian theology all figured out. I think we need to keep learning. I have learned the most from NT Wright and Charles H. Spurgeon, but I don’t agree with everything they said.

      So I will also die with flawed theology. But I refuse to die without having learned how to love.

  9. We’ve discussed this “outlaw theology” quite a bit in the past here. See my article here: Why I Will Not Try to Obey The OT Law.

  10. “Jesus clearly regarded certain elements of the Old Covenant to be valid, and others to not be valid.” – See more at: http://www.ubfriends.org/2015/07/20/have-the-conversation-on-lgbtqia-part-4/#comment-19200

    In my studies so far, it is this very question that is at the heart of the fractured Body of Christ, the root cause of the splintered visible church called Christendom: What parts of the Old Covenant are binding for Christians?

    When the church began asking that question, about 500 years ago, the Body fractured into over 80,000 denominational camps.

    In God’s manifold wisdom, I see the Body now healing, consolidating into two denominations: those who embrace gender and sexual minorities fully, and those who do not.

    • Im sorry but I just cannot take your comment about consolidating into two denominations seriously. I just see no grounds for that. For a start, theologians who are affirming of gay relations, have long disagreed with each other immensely. Sure, they tend to have the same goals, but their interpretation of Scripture has long been more diverse than the diversity between many denominations on other topics. We continue to see this today on the topic of homosexuality, with figures like B. Bowen saying one thing and Vines saying another, and people like Brandon Robertson taking quite a different angle, and some advocating for monogamous gay relations while others say that because straight Christians divorce, this means that gay Christians should be able to divorce too. There may be some sense of coming together on the issue, but strong divisions continue.

      I thought the church fractured into thousands of denominations over the authority of Popes, of penance and of reading the Bible in modern languages. Do you have any reference, preferably online, that offers more details into a fracturing that granular, of around 500 years ago, mainly due to the Old Law?

    • “Im sorry but I just cannot take your comment about consolidating into two denominations seriously.”

      That’s ok with me, a lot of people don’t take me seriously. I often speak from viewpoints that people don’t see or just dismiss without deeper thought.

      “I thought the church fractured into thousands of denominations over the authority of Popes, of penance and of reading the Bible in modern languages. Do you have any reference, preferably online, that offers more details into a fracturing that granular, of around 500 years ago, mainly due to the Old Law?”

      I would say, as an arm-chair theologian, that you are correct, but to say we got here because of the Pope, penance, and translations doesn’t do justice to the splintering of the Body, in my opinion. I’ll pull together a summary of what I mean when I say that the root cause of the splintered visible church called Christendom: What parts of the Old Covenant are binding for Christians?

    • BrianK, you ask which parts of the Old Covenant are binding for Christians. Firstly, I think its notable that Reformation Project key speaker David Gushee has written “… it is too simple to just say that the entirely of Old Testament law has been set aside for Christians.” (https://baptistnews.com/opinion/columns/item/29174-leviticus-abomination-and-jesus-the-lgbt-issue-part-10 ). BTW, I also think it’s sad that although he says the church needs to have a conversation about gay people, comments to the feedback section to the website Ive cited from, keep getting deleted.

      Ive Googled this topic, and have been reminded that there is a great diversity of opinion amongst Christians on it. I think the following web pages are helpful:

      http://www.trusting-in-jesus.com/Old-Testament-Law.html

      http://www.freereformedchurchlangley.org/the-laws-of-god

      http://www.gotquestions.org/ceremonial-law.html

      Id summarise my position on this in one sentence as – The Old Law helps us interpret the New Covenant.

    • Yes I’m aware there are a variety of opinions. That’s ok with me. I spent 20+ years trying to devise an objective, universal theology that all people in all times would accept. It is called UBFism. But it crashed and burned.

      I’ve come to realize the only universal theology is simply that of love. So I debate here not to prove I’m right (well ok sometimes I want to prove myself!) but to expand my mind and to learn and to share. Thanks for all the engagement right from the start!

      I think it is sad that comments get deleted. We don’t do that here, except in a couple extremely rare cases. In almost 19,000 comments on ubfriends, we have deleted only a couple due to revealing personal, senstive information, along with some self-deletions/retractions from the admins.

      In regard to Gushee, as I said, there are many opinions. That’s ok with me. I am not trying to dictate my Christianity to the world. I am just trying to understand it.

  11. Ok so here is the short version of what I mean when I say the root cause of the splintered visible church called Christendom is fundamentally about this quesion: What parts of the Old Covenant are binding for Christians?

    To start off, I think we can agree that there are three big branches of Christianity: Catholic, Protestant and Orthodox. And we can probably all agree that it is the Protestants who have fractured into thousands of denominations. This article with chart claims there are just over 32,000 denominations, with the explosion starting around 1500 (i.e. the time of the split from the Catholics, the Reformation). Other graphs show an increase in divisions in Protestants around 1820 (around the time the Mormons wrought havoc in Christendom). The big branches as were as I can tell are: Lutheran, Reformed, Anabaptist, and Anglican.

    So what caused these? I agree that Papal authority, ideas about penance, and Bible translations/canon all played big roles in the splits. But my contention is that the root cause of the splintering is about deciding what is binding from the Old Covenant, and if binding, how does the Old Covenant concept get spiritualized in the New Covenant?

    My further contention is that Christendom got way off track and should have been spending the last 500 years setting the example of learning how to love one another. Instead, we have factions debating various doctrines and covenant concepts. Instead of being a beacon of light that comes from love, Christendom has become a testimony of hypocrisy.

    Here are four examples:

    1) The splits began with Luther and the question of whether sacrifice for sin became spiritualized in the New Covenant. Luther’s 95 thesis were almost all about indulgences. Yes he argued against the Papal authority, but his main beef was with indulgences. The questions were about how we are punished for sin and what means of remission does the church have? The Cahtolics taught the doctrine of indulgences. This was a spiritual way to continue the sacrifices for sin in the Old Covenant. In effect, the Catholics argued that the sacrificial system is still binding, but now it is a spiritual sacrifice involving money instead of animals and blood. They claimed the Old Covenant principle of sacrifice were carried over to the New Covenant, but the means of sacrifice became spiritual and under the authority of the Catholic Church. The Church used the OT prophets like Isaiah, Samuel and Daniel (Isa. 1:18, Isa. 13:11, 2 Sam. 12:7-14, Daniel 12:2), the OT writings like Psalms 51:4-9 and 1 Kings 11:11-13 to prooftext the idea of indulgences. They also used the Apocrypha (like 2 Maccabees 12:42) to justify indulgences, which did also kick off the Bible canon debates.

    2) The splits became more numerous with Calvin and the various theories of atonement that developed around the question: How are we saved? The debates raged over our role in salvation. The Arminians lost, but the splintering continued. At the heart of the Calvin/Arminian debate is the question of whether our taking part in our salvation is binding and spiritualized in the New Covenant. The Old Covenant demanded our participation, but does this concept carry over to the New Covenant?

    3) Many more splits came from the question of whether or not the Old Covenant Sabbath Law is this binding and carried over and spiritualized. Many disagreed over the day, is it the Jewish Sabbath (Saturday)? or the day of the resurrection, Sunday?

    4) Big splits came as well from the question of whether the mark of belonging to God’s people concept was carried over from the Old Covenant. The circumcision debate ended in early centuries, but arose in the form of Baptism after the 1500’s. Is baptism, the mark of belonging, binding and if so how is baptism performed?

    So the big questions I see Christendom having wrestled with are these:

    – OT sacrifices: How does this become NT indulgences? Is some sort of visible, tangible remission of sins binding?

    – OT salvation: How does this become NT repentance? Is some sort of role on our part binding in the salvation process?

    – OT Sabbath: How does this become NT Sunday service? Is some sort of weekly attendance binding?

    – OT circumcision: How does this become NT baptism? Is some sort of mark of belonging binding?

    • Okay I see your point. I guess when I wrote ‘penance’, I meant to write ‘indulgences’. But I see from what you have written, that church history has focused more on debate about the Old Law, than I had realised. Thanks.

  12. In my mind, all these divisions should have been settled with the first council letter to the Gentiles. That letter summed up the New Covenant in just one sentence. The apostles and elders were far more deeply concerned with the question of “how do we love?”, than the question of “what are the requirements of the New Covenant?”.

    The brothers, both the apostles and the elders, to the brothers who are of the Gentiles in Antioch and Syria and Cilicia, greetings.

    Since we have heard that some persons have gone out from us and troubled you with words, unsettling your minds, although we gave them no instructions, it has seemed good to us, having come to one accord, to choose men and send them to you with our beloved Barnabas and Paul, men who have risked their lives for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. We have therefore sent Judas and Silas, who themselves will tell you the same things by word of mouth.

    For it has seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us to lay on you no greater burden than these requirements:

    that you abstain from what has been sacrificed to idols, and from blood, and from what has been strangled, and from sexual immorality.

    If you keep yourselves from these, you will do well.

    Farewell.

    Acts 15:22-29 ESV

    • Charles Wilson
      Charles Wilson

      +1. Brothers to brothers. Family love first, advice second, and no burdens. The apostles were even content to later dismiss from those few requirements for sake of each other, such as what Paul wrote in Romans 14 regarding the eating meat sacrificed to idols.

    • And as that section (Acts 15:22-29) ends, we again see the cause of much controversy. Because in addition to simply ‘loving’, the young church is told to follow certain policies. IE “abstain from what has been sacrificed to idols, and from blood, and from what has been strangled, and from sexual immorality.”

      And what did it mean to abstain from sexual immorality? To define it as sexual behaviour that is unloving, is insufficient, because there are some who will argue that polygamy is loving, and there are some that will argue that sexual relationships between people with vast age gaps is still loving, and there are some who will argue that sex outside of marriage can be ‘loving’. It raises the question of whether we can look to the old Law for guidance on what “sexual immorality” might entail? I think we can.

    • “It raises the question of whether we can look to the old Law for guidance on what “sexual immorality” might entail? I think we can. – See more at: http://www.ubfriends.org/2015/07/20/have-the-conversation-on-lgbtqia-part-4/#comment-19228

      We can look to the Old Covenant for guidance, yes. I ask, why would we? Why look backward? Are we not rebuilding what was torn down? Galatians tells us the OT law is no longer our supervisor. The Spirit is now our guide.

      When we see the instructions in the NT about holiness, why look back at the OT codes for the definition of holiness? I employ a reading of Scripture like what Webb controversially proposes, a redemptive movement narrative approach. I do not deny the are arguments and many things to figure out. I am arguing that we look forward with the supervision of the Spirit to do that.

    • BrianK, when I suggest that the Old Covenant can still be referenced for guidance on matters for which the New Covenant may be unclear, you ask why we would look there. My response is that we dont have many other places that we can look. You point out that the Spirit is now our guide. I think that’s a valid point. It’s just that different Christians seem to come up with different answers. So I think seeking guidance from the Holy Spirit is important, but if there is a more concrete guide available, it’s even better.

      To go back to your example from Acts, what I said before still applies in this context. If various Christians seek the Holy Spirit to determine what Acts means when it says to abstain from sexual immorality, I bet some who will claim that the Holy Spirit told them that polygamy is ok, and there are some that will say that the Holy Spirt said that sexual relationships between people with vast age gaps are still loving, and there are some who will argue that sex outside of marriage is likewise fine. I agree with you that it would be nice to move on and leave the Old Covenant behind, but I think that where we have unanswered questions in the New Testament, the Old Covenant can provide some light.

    • I appreciate your thoughts, Tom. It seems outrageous to not have a moral code to look to for guidance. How can we get agreement? Being a Roman Catholic, I would say that having a magistrate style leadership, even with papal authority, and by looking back to the Old Covenant codes, has not created the unity Jesus prayed for and died for in the Catholic church. The Protestants are far being the Catholics as far as creating dogma that is universally accepted. The Orthodox church beats out all of us though, in terms of creating a consistent, universal dogma/worldview.

      “It’s just that different Christians seem to come up with different answers. – See more at: http://www.ubfriends.org/2015/07/20/have-the-conversation-on-lgbtqia-part-4/#comment-19238

      That’s ok with me. In fact, the only way to arrive close to objective truth is to listen to many perspectives. In fact, I would argue that is what our Lord envisioned for His kingdom this side of Heaven. Only in Heaven will there be one all-good, all-applicable worldview (and I’m not even sure that would be true). I know this sounds scary in the realm of sexual ethics, but I’m also ok with that. I think we need to keep learning about humanity and the sexual revolution was helpful to do that.

      “I agree with you that it would be nice to move on and leave the Old Covenant behind, but I think that where we have unanswered questions in the New Testament, the Old Covenant can provide some light. – See more at: http://www.ubfriends.org/2015/07/20/have-the-conversation-on-lgbtqia-part-4/#comment-19238

      I don’t think it would be nice, I think it would be AMAZING! I have no way to explain the all-surpassing effervescent gospel messages without including this point: we ought to leave the Old Covenant, which is obsolete and will fade away.

      The reason I will not attend a church is because churches often do what you say, look to the Old Covenant for concrete guidance. I see that as the very reason Christendom has fallen apart.

  13. So then, what does Jesus say?

    Jesus says, in regard to sacrifice for sins, this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.

    Jesus says, in regard to salvation, Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.

    Jesus says, in regard to the Sabbath, the Son of Man is lord of the Sabbath.

    Jesus says, in regard to the mark of belonging, let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.

    Matthew 26:28, Matthew 11:28, Matthew 12:8, Matthew 19:14

    In short, Jesus says, “What part of fulfillment don’t you understand?” Jesus came to give good news, liberty, sight and the end of oppression. Jesus came to proclaim the Lord’s favor. On this I rest.

    • Well, BrianK, you may read the New Testament to see Jesus say “What part of fulfillment don’t you understand?” But many of us dont see Jesus saying that. Yes there was fulfilment. But as Ive already noted, on various occasions Jesus pointed back to the Old Covenant, referring to elements of it as a valid guide (while also rejecting other elements). As you yourself have cited in Acts 15:22-29, certain elements of the Old are also found in the New.

    • Yes I see your point about Jesus referring to the Old Covenant, and no denial from me that the two covenants are related. The same God is present in both covenants afterall.

      I suppose I would be labeled a dispensationalist by some. I’m not sure this label completely fits because I have not processed any of the eschatology aspects of the Christian faith. I might also be in a agreement with what is called New Covenant Theology. In any case, I’m trying to figure out a theology that does not hurt people :)

      So I’m curious, TomKent (or just Tom?) if indeed “certain elements of the Old are also found in the New” (and there are certain elements), what does that mean? What elements do you see?

    • Youre welcome to call me Tom. You write, “if indeed certain elements of the Old are also found in the New (and there are certain elements), what does that mean? What elements do you see?”

      Well, I thought Id already indicated that. I think it means that some elements of the Old remain in place. When you ask which elements I see, my answer is for example as you cited from Acts 15:22-29, Christians should stay away from sexual immorality. Thats kinda a repeat of what is stated in Leviticus. There are numerous examples of laws in the Old Testament that are repeated in the New, not perhaps as laws any more, but as principles to continue.

  14. Charles and Tom, thanks for this discussion, as this is precisely what I hoped would happen.

    Tom, you asked the very questions I think need to be asked: Should prostitutes should be allowed to ply their trade in churches? Do you think churches should comply with members who wish to have polygamous wedding ceremonies?

    My answers are no and no. My reasoning is based on the Kingdom law of love and the universal principle of integrity.

    The bigger question, it seems, might be who gets to tell each church congregation what to do? I think that is best left up to each congregation. And all congregations should obey the laws of the land. I really am irked by people claiming to be like Christ and yet act as lawbreakers. Jesus didn’t do such things. Jesus did not start a revolt.

    • Thanks Brian! It’s great to have a forum where people are allowed to speak their mind, and discuss the important issues.

      I would ask you what I asked Charles; How is gay marriage aligned with the the Kingdom law of love and the universal principle of integrity, if polygamous marriage is not? Surely both can be understood as loving, and surely both break the integrity of following the New Testament?

      Ill kinda pass on the question of who gets to tell each church congregation what to do. But to some extent Id be happy with your suggestion that each congregation could work it out.

    • Good questions, Tom, and I am certainly not the expert on love and the Kingdom!

      “How is gay marriage aligned with the the Kingdom law of love and the universal principle of integrity, if polygamous marriage is not?”

      I am also far from being an expert on marriage, since I was arranged married… but I can say a few things. Marriage, as I see it, is a social contract dealing with commitment and faithfulness. It is about companionship and relationship. So societies will always have various definitions and laws.

      But as you point out we are not talking about society but about the Kingdom. Here is what I mean by “the kingdom law of love”.

      Love has the power to redeem. So we need to ask, in all matters of ethics, has this or is this redeemable? Can prostitution be redeemed into a healthy, beneficial relationship? I say no. Can samesex marriage be redeemed? I say yes, and there are many examples. Can a polygamous relationship arrangement be redeemed? Perhaps it could. So my “no” is only because I cannot see how polygamy can be redeemed. If someone can demonstrate the redemption, then I would say yes.

      Love has the power of fulfillment. So we need to ask, in all matters of ethics, what does the fulfillment of this look like? The end result of marriage is that is disappears. There will be no marriage in heaven. So all this arguing about marriage is really not a big deal in the Kingdom.

      Love is patient. So in all matters of ethics, we need patience. Maybe I am wrong about polygamous marriages. Maybe they can be redeemed and have a glorious fulfillment. Right now I would say no to polygamy being redeemed and that the fulfillment of such arrangements leads to things outside of love.

      In regard to integrity, one way to express integrity I learned from James Brownson (NT scholar) is this: Don’t say with your body what you are not willing to say with your faith. This rules out prostitution, and says that prostitution is unhealthy for the Kingdom. It rules out polygamy in my mind because the integrity of commitment is splintered. Committing across multiple people spreads our love thin and for most people would result in unhealthy commitment.

    • Tom you also asked a slightly different question: “Surely both can be understood as loving, and surely both break the integrity of following the New Testament?”

      If we speak about “loving” that is a different matter entirely than the Kingdom law of love. To be loving is different that to express love. Can a polygamous relationship be loving? Sure. So maybe it can be redeemed.

      About the integrity of the NT… I don’t see how either polygamy or samesex marriage break the integrity of the NT. The NT presents marriage as a concession, not a command and leaves much room for adjustments. That is good because marriage was often just a matter of acquiring women as property.

      Perhaps what you are referring to is the gender binary language used in the NT and OT? The “male and female” wording is there and yes there are ethical standards presented (such as for leaders being the husband of but one wife). But I don’t see these as laws that cannot be modified. There is only one law in the Kingdom, and that is love.

      So we are free in the Kingdom to learn how to love and how to interact with each other and figure out new ethics based on love.

    • Joe Schafer

      Brian, I basically agree with you, with a caveat. I think we need a better, more robust, more Trinitarian, more gospel-infused understanding of love. Superficial notions of love abound on all sides of this debate, and I don’t like it.

    • “we need a better, more robust, more Trinitarian, more gospel-infused understanding of love. – See more at: http://www.ubfriends.org/2015/07/20/have-the-conversation-on-lgbtqia-part-4/#comment-19285

      Now THAT gets a hearty amen! I think we need to move beyond trying to convince each side of being right. I welcome, include and celebrate the entire LGBTQIAH sepctrum of humanity and support each person and community living as their genuine selves and learning how to love everyone. No argument and no Bible verse will change that.

      And the same is true of those who oppose samesex marriage. No Bible exposition will change the non-affirming mind. No logic will suffice for them.

      My point in “having the conversations” is to keep learning and growing together.

      So I think we who live in America need to do what America does best, and remember the founding principle:

      “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

      If some church or religion wants to expound on this so be it. But I choose to live in peace with those who disagree with me. I also choose to speak up for injustice toward anyone.

    • Thanks for your reply, Brian. One of your key objections to polygamy is that it splinters love. But then, does that mean that we are best to only have one child, so that we dont splinter our love for our descendants? Does having multiple children mean that each is loved less than if there was only one child?

      I am not an advocate of polygamy! But the reason Im not is simply because the New Testament presents it as non-optimal. I think that when you go down the Brownson route of needing to have reasons for everything you believe, rather than simply obeying Scripture, things get messy. I think that under the Brownson approach you will have churches embracing polygamy etc, based on reasoning such as illustrated in my above paragraph.

    • If Vines’ and Brownson’s influence grows, here’s a conversation I foresee in the future –

      Southern Baptist Pastor; “We dont believe in polygamy, because the New Testament indicates God teaches it’s not a great idea”

      Reformation Project Pastor #1: “Well, we dont discriminate. You know, the Bible can be summed up to say the most important thing is love, so we support spouses loving as many people as they feel able!”

      Reformation Project Pastor #2: “Yes you have to consider the moral logic of Scripture. You dont back in Jesus day, they didnt understand the intricacies of the human psyche. The references in Scripture were just referring to abusive forms of polygamy, as was common at the time. Today, we understand the polygamy is a healthy thing. We dont like to judge. We prioritize love!”

  15. Joe Schafer

    I am grateful for this discussion. I don’t intend to jump in to continue with a lot of back and forth. I just wanted to say that Tom asked a great question.

    “How is gay marriage aligned with the the Kingdom law of love and the universal principle of integrity, if polygamous marriage is not?”

    I haven’t heard a really good answer for that yet. I am listening.

    But for opponents of same-sex marriage in the church, that question can be a double edged sword. Because its a safe bet that polygamists were present in the early Church, and the New Testament doesn’t come down very hard against it. Paul might have been talking about polygamy in 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 6 when he said that an elder should be the husband of one wife (not entirely clear). But unless I’m missing something, there are no widespread calls in the NT for polygamists to repent of their polygamy or to change their lifestyle. I’m not saying that polygamy is good. But it was a fact of life that polygamy happened in the ancient world and it was present in the Church. Family life and household relationships in the Roman Empire looked quite different from our nuclear families of today. House churches of the first century included people who were in all sorts of living arrangements, even some who (because of slavery) were living as prostitutes. Very messy situations. Very far from what we would call ideal. On the other hand, are typical heterosexual nuclear families of today ideal from God’s point of view? Perhaps not, in ways that I do not understand.

    This article sheds some light on the messy composition of the early Church.
    http://www.patheos.com/blogs/jesuscreed/2013/11/04/who-attended-those-earliest-churches/

  16. Kent,

    “simply obeying Scripture…”

    What in the heck does that mean? It is impossible to “obey Scripture”. Does anyone obey Scripture? No people don’t because they don’t kiss a man when he walks into church even though Paul gives us FOUR COMMANDS to do so. I am done with that kind of fake Christianity and hypocritical thinking.

    • Charles Wilson
      Charles Wilson

      I am not sure what that means as well, especially since the New Testament scriptures do not say this but rather something very different. 2 Corinthians 3:6 came to mind, “He has made us competent as ministers of a new covenant—not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life” (NIV), and there are many other examples that also come to mind. But we have the Son and the Spirit now.

    • Amen Charles. I haven’t responded to your comments here because for the most part I agree with your line of thought. Apart from a few nuances here and there, I really like your reasoning.

  17. I tend to agree with Charles: “Thanks, Tom, but I’m going to bow out of commenting further like this. It’s become what feels like an interrogation, and with comment like these I’d rather not continue. Disregarding passages and calling for further questioning and consideration are completely different things. – See more at: http://www.ubfriends.org/2015/07/20/have-the-conversation-on-lgbtqia-part-4/#comment-19304

    @Tom: I would like to continue the conversation, but I think you owe me some answers. Here are 4 for starters:

    1. Why do you disobey Scripture and don’t kiss a man when going to church? (or do you?)

    2. Using your line of thinking, we must require women to be silent in church and wear head coverings. Why don’t we do those things? (or does your church?)

    3. How do you understand James when he writes: “For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become accountable for all of it.” James 2:10?

    4. What does Hebrews chapter 8 say about the Old Covenant? In particular what does Heberws 8:13 mean? ” In speaking of a new covenant, he makes the first one obsolete. And what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away.”

    I really want to hear anyone’s thoughts on these four questions. I for one cannot ignore these verses and feel that we cannot negate or explain away these. Thoughts anyone?

  18. Tom, are you saying we should exclude gay people from church? How should we treat gender and sexual minorities?

    “You wanted to discuss inclusion, and to me, St Pauls actions there are central to that topic. – See more at: http://www.ubfriends.org/2015/07/20/have-the-conversation-on-lgbtqia-part-4/#comment-19376

    • ‘gay’ in the sense of same-sex attracted? No.

      We should treat gender and sexual minorities as Jesus would treat them. IE as righteous figures in some cases (Acts 8), as friends in other cases, but when unrepentant then as all unrepentant people should be treated.

  19. Hi again Brian. Yep, here are my thoughts –

    1. Ive not previously given much thought to kissing others at church. If I was a part of a congregation where it was common practise, I would join in. But Im not. I think if I was to start doing it, women would be offended at being kissed, and kissing men would look gay. So Id have to evaluate whether there is sufficient reason to kiss, to make the associated problems worthwhile.

    I see that Brownson comments in his book; “In the ancient Mediterranean world, this cultural practice was the norm both inside and outside the church (and continues today). But other cultures find other ways of expressing the warmth, intimacy and affection …” I guess many Christians have concluded that the kissing was culturally specific and need not apply to all cultures. Im happy to follow suit.

    2. Ive never belonged to a church that requires women to stay silent or wear head-coverings. In terms of women being silent, my understanding is that although there are verses which require this, there are other verses which seem to imply otherwise. EG Acts 2:17 and Joel 2:28 talk of the Holy Sprit causing women to prophesy. Surely prophesy is something that would be most appropriate in church. So perhaps the command to silence was not intended with broad application? I understand that the head-covering is generally regarded to be culturally specific.

    3. I understand James to be referring to those who follow the Old Law perspective that sanctification and salvation are achieved by following the Law. I understand that under the New Covenant, sanctification and salvation are instead granted through faith in Christ. However, I also understand that faith without works is dead, and that Jesus said “If anyone loves me, he will obey my word” (John 14:23), which leads me to conclude that there are still laws (or at least principles) that Christians are expected to follow.

    4. I suspect he’s referring primarily to the system which involved making sacrifices and of needing to be perfect in order to approach God.

    Can I ask you a question too please. Do you think Christians should not cite the Ten Commandments as though they are valid?

    • “So Id have to evaluate whether there is sufficient reason to kiss, to make the associated problems worthwhile. – See more at: http://www.ubfriends.org/2015/07/20/have-the-conversation-on-lgbtqia-part-4/#comment-19378

      Good. So you are employing something like a redemptive movement hermeneutic toward that passage. Certainly those who read that same passage many centuries ago had a very different conclusion. Are you saying some commands of Scripture (like “Greet one another with a holy kiss”) should examined contextually but other commands should just be blindly obeyed?

      “Do you think Christians should not cite the Ten Commandments as though they are valid? – See more at: http://www.ubfriends.org/2015/07/20/have-the-conversation-on-lgbtqia-part-4/#comment-19378

      No I don’t think Christians should be citing/quoting the 10 Commandments, because that is an open door to legalism. Yes I think the 10 Commandments contain many valid truths to consider. Instead, I think we should approach all Scripture with reason, experience, tradition and the guidance of the Spirit.

    • In terms of contextual examination, no i dont think we should discriminate between commands.

  20. Tom,

    I say that some of the biggest problems with the American/Western church are these:

    1. The foundation is a judicial view of the gospel.
    2. The authority is the 10 Commandments/partial codex system.
    3. The purpose is moral conformance.
    4. The hope is for the afterlife and preparing for the afterlife.
    5. The desire is to build a pure community.

    As you can guess by now, I do not live by these concepts. I can accept that those who do live by them are my brothers and sisters in Christ, even though they reject me most of the time.

    My Christianity is very different. I have, along with may progressive/outlaw Christians, developed the following elements of my faith:

    1. The foundation is a social view of the gospel.
    2. The authority is the one law of love, the only debt outstanding.
    3. The purpose is continual transformation.
    4. The hope is for a full life now, and to continue living eternally.
    5. The desire is to befriend the outcast.

    • Very well phrased, Brian. Personally, my inclination and preference is definitely toward the latter 5.

      Yet, by God’s enablement, my wish and desire is to be “Both/And” rather than an “Either/Or.”

    • I appreciated the both/and desire Ben. I also understand what JA often talks about– the danger of the two ditches (conservatism on one side, liberalism on the other).

      While I do agree that avoiding the two extremes is a good idea, I don’t see myself stuck in the ditch of liberalism. Conservatives hate me and say I’m going to hell. Liberals accept me but don’t share my beliefs, such as I believe in creation, the virgin birth, etc. Moderates don’t agree with me (but they are nice about it!) because I am too passionate.

      So in the end, I am just “me”.

      What I do see is a “third way” or triune thinking. The thought is that none of the labels matter in the end. What matters is that we find a way to unity– the unity Jesus prayed for in John 17.

      In other words, Christianity was never supposed to be about excluding those with whom we disagree or disapprove. It is supposed to be about all-surpassing peace in the midst of massive reformational upheaval (the not peace but a sword thinking).