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The Bible and Same-Sex Sexuality

Greg Strand – October 10, 2013 Leave a comment

The past couple of weeks Darrell Bock, Senior Research Professor of New Testament Studies, and Executive Director of Cultural Engagement at the Hendricks Center for Christian Leadership and Cultural Engagement, led a discussion on The Table Podcast about the Bible and same-sex sexuality. Joining him were colleagues from Dallas Theological Seminary: Robert Chisholm, Department Chair and Professor of Old Testament; Joe Fantin, Associate Professor of New Testament Studies; and Jay Smith, Professor of New Testament Studies.

Bock opened this two-part series with a reference to The Queen James Bible (2012). This provocative title is related to two issues. Historically, it is a reference to what some claim about King James, viz. that he was gay. Biblically, it is a reference to the intent of this translation, viz. it is a gay-driven translation so that the eight key biblical texts that explicitly address homosexuality are reinterpreted and retranslated. The key texts are the following: Genesis 19:5; Leviticus 18:22; Leviticus 20:13; Romans 1:26-27; 1 Corinthians 6:9; 1 Timothy 1:10; Jude 7.

Here is how the Bible is described:

A Gay Bible

The Queen James Bible is based on The King James Bible, edited to prevent homophobic misinterpretation.

Homosexuality in The Bible

Homosexuality was first mentioned in the Bible in 1946, in the Revised Standard Version. There is no mention of or reference to homosexuality in any Bible prior to this – only interpretations have been made. Anti-LGBT Bible interpretations commonly cite only eight verses in the Bible that they interpret to mean homosexuality is a sin; Eight verses in a book of thousands!

The Queen James Bible seeks to resolve interpretive ambiguity in the Bible as it pertains to homosexuality: We edited those eight verses in a way that makes homophobic interpretations impossible.

There is much to say in response. But I will first let Darrell Bock and his colleagues from DTS do this, which they do very capably.

Queen James Passages in the Old Testament,” Part 1. 

00:12: Guest introductions and the goals of revisions in the Queen James Bible

04:13: Does Noah’s situation in Genesis 9 contribute to a biblical perspective of homosexuality?

09:03: Does the story of Sodom and Gomorrah in Genesis 19 contribute to a biblical perspective of homosexuality?

15:08: Does the prohibition in Leviticus 18:22 contribute to a biblical perspective of homosexuality?

23:11: What does the term “abomination” mean in Leviticus 18:22?

29:22: Israel’s call to holiness and the code for serious offenses in Leviticus 20

34:03: Does David’s description of Jonathan in 2 Samuel 1:26 contribute to a biblical perspective of homosexuality?

38:33: Responding to the challenge that Jesus did not object to homosexuality

 

The New Testament View of Same-Sex Sexuality,” Part 2. 

00:13: Homosexuality in the larger Greco-Roman culture

03:50: Paul’s transcultural message in Romans 1

10:07: Is there any doubt about what Paul describes in Romans 1:27?

12:03: The phrase “natural sexual relations” in Romans 1:26

17:20: Jewish, Greco-Roman and contemporary views of homosexuality

23:06: Active and passive terms for homosexual partners in 1 Corinthians 6:9

33:18: Paul’s message of hope in 1 Corinthians 6

34:11: What is the significance of 1 Timothy 1:10 in this discussion?

37:29: Does Jude 7 contribute to a biblical perspective of homosexuality?

The significant cultural changes we are presently experiencing are unprecedented for any living today. For example, the cultural sentiment is sympathetic to same-sex marriage and the laws of many States are following closely behind. The moral dominoes are falling, and the speed with which they are falling is increasing.

There is a call, a commitment and a cost to stand faithfully on the Word under the Lordship of Jesus Christ. The day in which the culture was sympathetic towards and reflective of Christian truths is behind us. This is what it means that we live in an increasingly post-Christian day. What we as Evangelicals must not do is to whine, become alarmist or play a martyr (this is wrong on two accounts: it reflects a “poor me” attitude, and there are those believers in many parts of the world who are literally giving their lives for the sake of Christ and the gospel, which none here are called to do as of yet). Writes one, to the extent that we respond in any of these ways, “to that same extent we show we’ve embraced an unbiblical and nominal Christianity.”

Mark Dever has insightfully written “How to Survive a Cultural Crisis,” which consists of “seven principles for surviving the very real cultural shifts we’re presently enduring.” These are just the principles. Make sure you read the further elaborations of each of these principles.

  1. Remember that churches exist to work for supernatural change.
  2. Understand that persecution is normal.
  3. Eschew utopianism.
  4. Make use of our democratic stewardship.
  5. Trust the Lord, not human circumstances.
  6. Remember that everything we have is God’s grace.
  7. Rest in the certainty of Christ’s victory.

A few questions to process living faithfully in this present day:

  1. How are you processing this cultural change?
  2. What are you doing to prepare God’s people to live life faithfully in the midst of this change?
  3. Where are you most tempted to doubt . . . what are the truths you most need to hear?

Ryan T. Anderson, co-author with Robert George and Sherif Gergis of the book, What Is Marriage?: Man and Woman: A Defense (New York: Encounter, 2012), has distilled the major thesis of the book into a 12 page paper: “Marriage: What It Is, Why It Matters, and the Consequences of Redefining It.”

Here is the abstract:

Marriage is based on the truth that men and women are complementary, the biological fact that reproduction depends on a man and a woman, and the reality that children need a mother and a father. Redefining marriage does not simply expand the existing understanding of marriage; it rejects these truths. Marriage is society’s least restrictive means of ensuring the well-being of children. By encouraging the norms of marriage—monogamy, sexual exclusivity, and permanence—the state strengthens civil society and reduces its own role. The future of this country depends on the future of marriage. The future of marriage depends on citizens understanding what it is and why it matters and demanding that government policies support, not undermine, true marriage.

Here are my brief annotations on this book, from which this article is based:

This book contains a powerful and convincing argument in its instruction and defense of marriage between a man and a woman, and against Same-Sex Marriage, based on church tradition, natural law and the public good, i.e. not first and foremost on theological grounds. This makes their rationale one of the best “publicly accessible” defenses written for the contemporary discussion/debate.

This is an extremely valuable abbreviated summary of this excellent work, which I encourage you to read and, then, to forward on to others to read.

As a brief follow up to the previous post, I include a few statements made to Steve Chalke’s affirmation of same-sex marriage, specifically “permanent and monogamous homosexual relationships.”

Steve Clifford, general director of the Evangelical Alliance, highlighted in his response what he perceives to be at the heart of this shift in Chalke’s position (see the link in the previous post).

Generations of Christians have faced the challenge of making the gospel relevant within their cultural settings. The danger we all face, and I fear Steve has succumbed to, is that we produce ‘a god’ in our own likeness or in the likeness of the culture in which we find ourselves.

Steve’s approach to biblical interpretation allows for a god in the likeness of 21st century Western-European mindsets. His call for “Christ-like inclusion” is not radical enough in its inclusiveness. We all come to the gospel in our brokenness, with an attachment to things, self-centeredness, addictions, fears and pride. We all need a saviour in every area of our lives, including our sexuality. We all live with pain. The radical inclusiveness of the gospel means we are all welcomed. In a wonderful grace-filled process we find repentance and forgiveness and Christ commits himself through the work of the Holy Spirit to bring transformation to our lives – a life-long process.

I agree with Clifford’s assessment of Chalke’s hermeneutic, his foundational premise of biblical interpretation.

Chalke reinterprets key biblical texts, and he acknowledges that his position is not consistent with “what has traditionally been regarded as an orthodox understanding of Scripture.” To this, Peter Ould asks the following important questions:

  1. If arsenokoites refers to prostitution, to support your case can you cite one contemporaneous Greek source (I’ll take anything from 200BC to 200AD) which uses the word in that context?
  2. If Romans 1 refers to Cybele temple prostitution, how does the mention of female homosexuality in that passage fit in with the fact that Cybele female prostitutes were never homosexual?
  3. If “nature” in Romans 1 refers to one’s individual nature rather than generic human nature (phusis), to support your case can you cite one contemporaneous Greek source which uses the word in that context?
  4. If the correct pastoral response is to affirm homosexual behaviour within monogamous committed couples, what is your opinion of groups like True Freedom Trust who help gay Christians live a single chaste life or other pastoral support which helps men and women explore their past and sometimes establish new sexual identities?

Most of Chalke’s interpretations of these key texts are untenable.

Brian McLaren, who celebrated and blessed his gay son’s wedding late last year, supports Chalke and his view. When asked about Chalke’s change on this issue he replied (noted in the article by Dickinson):

I’m sensitive to [the silence of many Church leaders], because I struggled with that for many years myself. I was tacitly complicit in the conservative view, even though I didn’t hold it – ever, really.

As a leader in the Emergent Church movement, McLaren raised questions for many years on this issue. Whenever he was asked about it, he would simply claim he was only asking questions. This statement sheds a great deal of light on what was behind all the questions he asked all those years. It was not seeking clarity on the issue, or attempting to have open honest dialogue in submission to the text of Scripture. It was with a desire to move in the direction of affirming, or helping others to affirm the acceptability of same-sex unions.

When I look back now from this vantage point with the recent acknowledgment made by McLaren, it both saddens and frustrates me: saddens because of another one undermining the authority of God’s Word, and I do truly feel grief and sorrow for him; frustrates because he was given a very public voice, through speaking and writing, among Evangelicals and in many ways he undermined (intentionally?) much of what Evangelicals affirm, misleading some along the way.

In the recent release of Christianity, Steve Chalke affirms same-sex marriage. This is the same Steve Chalke who wrongly claimed the penal substitutionary view of the atonement was “cosmic child abuse” (The Lost Message of Jesus [Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2003], 182). Though there is much to be said about both of these issues, and there is a relation between them found in biblical interpretation, my focus in this post is on the former.

The theme of this fascicle is “The Church and Homosexuality.” I briefly highlight the content in the links below to give you a brief summary of what each author writes. My intent is to state the main argument of each article as objectively as possible so you can “hear” the essence of each author’s own “voice.”

Lest one conclude that I am open on this issue, or I equivocate, it is important to state that I affirm the following definition of marriage which is for our good, and I also affirm that anything outside of God’s divine design for marriage is not only sinful but results in brokenness:

We believe that God first created man and then created woman, from the man, as a complement to the man.  God established marriage as a one-flesh union between the man and the woman. This covenantal relationship is the union of a man and woman that is life-long (permanent, i.e. until separated by death), exclusive (monogamous and faithful), and generative in nature (designed for bearing and rearing children together, i.e., be fruitful and multiply), and it is to reflect the relationship between Christ and the Church.  Marriage is the original and most important institution of human society, and the one on which all other human institutions have their foundation.  Because God is good and His design for marriage is good, and because this is the foundation of human and societal flourishing, we strongly affirm the one-flesh union of man and woman which glorifies God, serves the good of spouses, the good of children, and the common good of society.

Here, after this lengthy yet important excursus, is an overview of the articles.

  • Dickinson, who serves as the editor of the magazine, begins this issue by focusing on evangelical views on the subject of homosexuality and the Church.
  • Chalke, founder of Oasis Global and Faithworks and Stop the Traffik coalition and sr. pastor of Oasis Church, London, affirms same-sex marriage, specifically “permanent and monogamous homosexual relationships.” Late last year he “conducted a dedication and blessing service . . . of two wonderfully gay Christians,” and wrote a liturgy for this kind of service. Chalke engages in (re)interpretation of a few key texts based on a trajectory hermeneutic (think of William Webb’s “‘redemptive movement’ hermeneutic” or “‘trajectory’ hermeneutic”) rooted in Jesus’ teaching and practice of “inclusion.” He acknowledges, rightly, that his view “is a departure from what has traditionally been regarded as an orthodox understanding of Scripture.”
  • Downes, Christianity’s theologian in residence and director of the Center for Missional Leadership, affirms and “unpacks the traditional evangelical understanding of homosexuality.” He does so following the structure of the “Wesleyan quadrilateral,” which consists of Scripture, the foundational, tradition, reason and experience.
  • Clifford, general director of the Evangelical Alliance, responds to Chalke in two articles. He claims Chalke’s reinterpretation of the Bible is based on “a god in the likeness of 21st century Western-European mindsets,” and that his inclusive ethic is not radical enough.
  • Holmes, senior lecturer in theology at St. Andrews and chair of Evangelical Alliance’s Theology and Public Policy Advisory Committee, affirms that Chalke has identified the right problem but his recommended “changes fail to be radical enough, biblical enough, or inclusive enough.”
  • Weber, writer for Christianity Today, reports Chalke’s disclosure/announcement, gives some history of Chalke’s previous controversial statements among Evangelicals in England on the atonement, and provides a few responses from others, both those who agree and disagree with Chalke.

Ruth Dickinson, “The Church and Homosexuality,” Christianity (February 2013)

Steve Chalke, “The Bible and Homosexuality: Part One,” Christianity (February 2013)

Greg Downs, “The Bible and Homosexuality: Part Two,” Christianity (January 2013)

Steve Clifford, “The Bible and Homosexuality: A [Evangelical Alliance] Response to Steve Chalke

Steve Clifford, “Not Radical Enough

Steve Holmes, “Homosexuality & hermeneutics: creating counter-cultural communities

Jeremy Weber, “Steve Chalke Stuns British Evangelicals By Coming Out in Support of Same-Sex Relationships,” Christianity Today Gleanings