Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Homosexuality, Bible Interpretation, and Authority by Paul Dean



There is yet another defection from the authority of Scripture in the evangelical communion in the form of invoking Scripture to defend homosexuality. The Archbishop of Armagh asserted not too long ago that “reason” may be applied to Scripture texts that seem to condemn homosexuality so that a different interpretation may be gleaned. Such a notion is flawed on a number of counts.

First, while reason must be applied in bible interpretation, what is meant by the Archbishop’s assertion is that human reason apart from God’s presuppositions trumps God’s word. Such is a logical impossibility if God’s word is God’s word in that it would necessarily be grounded in God’s presuppositions.


Second, the reason to be applied comes from contemporary notions of whether or not homosexuality is deemed natural or unnatural. Human reason apart from God’s revelation is fatally flawed in that it is affected by sin. Man apart from God has been given over to a darkened understanding. That does not mean that man cannot understand anything. It does mean that he cannot understand spiritual truth apart from a new nature.

Third, to say that homosexuality is natural and therefore cannot be viewed as sinful is a rejection of the moral character God Himself has ascribed to homosexuality. Human sophistry may be used to define homosexuality as natural but it cannot get around God’s moral pronouncements.


Fourth, as always, the problem lies in attempting to sit in judgment on God’s word. Attempting to find answers to moral questions apart from God is not only flawed and impossible, but essentially sinful.


Fifth, authority is the issue. What is our source of authority when it comes to the question of whether or not homosexuality is sinful? Is it God’s word or something else? Will we allow scientists who presuppose the naturalness of homosexuality to simply explain away God’s word with the imposition of their worldview upon the interpretation process? Or, will we affirm the presupposition that God’s word is true and leave it there in terms of whether or not homosexuality is sinful? Even if homosexuality were due in part to certain genetic factors, understanding that a so-called “homosexual gene” is a scientific impossibility, does that negate its sinfulness? Are not all sins and the propensities of all men affected by genetics? And yet, God holds us accountable for sin.


Sixth, certainly, the Archbishop’s argument is that those who commit homosexual acts who are not naturally homosexual are in sin but those who are naturally homosexual and commit homosexual acts are not in sin because they are not going against nature. Again, this position cannot be sustained from the text but must be imposed upon the text.
Unfortunately, the Archbishop is in spiritual danger. Bible teachers are charged to rightly divide the word of truth and are admonished to be careful in the handling of Scripture for they will receive a stricter judgment.


Let us love the homosexual enough to tell him the truth that he might be saved. And, let us do ourselves and the world a favor by not getting things backwards. It is not worldly reason that must be applied to Scripture but Scripture that must be applied to worldly reason. We don’t understand in order to believe. We believe in order to understand. 

5 comments:

Anonymous said...

The writer obviously makes the assumption that the scriptures are infallible and inerrant, so it follows that he rejects any interpretation that says the text doesn't mean what it looks like it says. The Bishop of Armagh on the other hand, begins with the concept of the Wesleyan Quadrilateral: that the text must be subject to the scriptures in their context and entirety, and then interpreted in the light of tradition, reason, and personal experience.

The issue is not so much about homosexuality as it is the desire to defend the "authoritative word of God". There is concern that the six day creation of the world has fallen like a domino to the concept of theistic evolution in the minds of many Christians. The subordination of women has been overtaken by equality, procreation as the purpose of sex has been supplanted by birth control, life-long marriage to one partner has been decimated by divorce, the widowed remarry, capital punishment is outlawed in many countries, women are being ordained to ministry, inter-race marriage is becoming acceptable.

Let us suppose that Paul would have been opposed to the changes mentioned above, and that he was strongly opposed to homosexuality and that it really mattered to him. Now a question: might it be possible to say that Paul could have been wrong about that?

He was wrong about some things wasn't he? He thought that the second coming of Jesus was imminent, and that it would be better for Christians not to marry.

In a letter attributed to him, but no longer thought by biblical critics to have been written by him, we read that women should be silent, they should not teach, nor have authority over men, and that they are responsible for sin coming into the world. Catherine Booth had something to say about that. Now in many denominations there are more women in ministry than there are men.

Many people are now coming to the same conclusion about the Bible's passages about homosexuality, that they no longer apply. The Bishop of Armagh is suggesting that for some people, same-sex behaviour is natural, not unnatural. Paul's argument is that it's not natural and that it is the consequence of idolatry. He was not aware that homosexuality has nothing to do with idolatry, but that it is a product of sexual orientation, not a choice that men and women make. One might say now if one were writing the passage that it would be unnatural for a gay person to be heterosexual, as many have discovered. This is the point the Bishop is making, and reason and personal experience by many bear this out.

Former
Canada and Bermuda

Anonymous said...

Former Canada and Bermuda...yeah!

Anonymous said...

I agree a key issue here is "how is scripture to be treated?" What does it mean to rightly divide the word of truth? Sven, perhaps this could be a letr series? For my money this series has thrown up issue of ethics, biblical studies and social justice that could all be profitably explored beyond GLBT issues.
Former
Australia Eastern

Anonymous said...

Former Australia Eastern

You ask "What does it mean to rightly divide the word of truth"?
No doubt you are quoting from the KJV, and repeating the proof text of Dispensational Systematic Theology, developed by the Plymouth Brethren.

The problem with the text as it is translated from the Greek NT is that it is inaccurate. The writer of 2 Timothy was not suggesting that the scriptures can be divided at all but must be accurately interpreted.

More recent translations reflect that. The RSV uses the word "handling", the new NRSV goes one step further with "explaining" and the NEB takes liberties with the original text but puts the focus on the right place, not about differences in ethics and morality, but here it is:

"Try hard to show yourself worthy of God's approval, as a worker with no cause for shame; keep strictly to the true gospel, avoiding empty and irreligious chatter; those who indulge in it will stray farther and farther into godless ways, and like infection of their teaching will spread like gangrene. Such are Hymenaeus and Philetus; in saying that our resurrection has already taken place they are wide of the truth and undermine people's faith."

And right there in that text lies a quandary because elsewhere we are told in John's gospel "that anyone who hears my word and believes in him who sent me (already) has eternal life, and does not come under judgment, but has (already) passed from death to life." And in 1 John 3:14 "We know that we have (already) passed from death to life because we love one another." And that is the good news of the Gospel!

Former
Canada and Bermuda

Anonymous said...

Former Camada and Bermuda
Iam in furious agreement with you. Unfortunately, in not including quotation marks I did nt make it clear that " rightly dividing e word of truth" was a quote from the blog article ( second last para) .
Former
Australia Eastern