More Light Presbyterians has put up an item on their Web site that begs for a response. It’s entitled “15 Biblical Reasons to Vote Yes on Amendment B,” the proposal that eliminates the “fidelity in marriage, celibacy in singleness” standard now in the PCUSA Book of Order. Every verse and assertion in this piece needs to be addressed, so here goes:
Biblical Commands to Love, Welcome All, and Work for Justice
“Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?” Jesus said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.” (Matthew 22:36-40)
We are to love all, not necessarily approve of everything they do. This doesn’t speak to the issue of homosexuality at all, unless you assume that in order to love someone, you have to put God’s imprimatur on their every desire.
“God is love, and those who abide in love abide in God, and God abides in them.” (I John 4:16)
“Love” in the New Testament refers to a love that is not self-seeking, not self-centered, not self-justifying, willing to admit its faults, always looking out for the good of others. Given the divine disapproval of homosexual behavior found elsewhere, it seems unlikely that it would be considered loving to tell gays to ignore God’s condemnation of their behavior.
The Parable of the Good Samaritan shows that purity of heart takes precedence over legalistic ritual purity laws. (Luke 10:25-37)
This assumes that the prohibition on homosexual behavior is a matter of “legalistic ritual purity,” rather than a matter of ethics. The prohibitions on sexual immorality, and particularly (though hardly exclusively) of homosexual behavior in the New Testament would belie this.
“For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life. Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.” (John 3: 16-17)
I’m not sure what this has to do with approving gay sex. I suppose the implication is that no form of condemnation is now permitted to followers of Christ. If so, that makes Paul’s ethical injunctions, not to mention Jesus’ condemnations of the Pharisees and others inexplicable.
“And what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God.” (Micah 6:8)
This was written, of course, in a day when both the writer and his readers would have been in complete agreement regarding homosexual behavior. I’ve never quite understood why the recitation, like a mantra, of the word “justice” is supposed to prove someone’s case for whatever it is they are advocating. It isn’t enough to just wave words around, you’ve got to make an argument, and citing an Old Testament prophet who would have been appalled at what MLP is advocating isn’t the way to do it.
“Therefore you have no excuse, whoever you are, when you judge others; for in passing judgment on another you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, are doing the very same things.” (Romans 2:1)
I guess if you’re going to rip something out of context, you might as well do it right. Not only does this come immediately on the heels of Paul’s condemnation of homosexual acts, but it refers to those who “did not see fit to acknowledge God.” (Romans 1:28) The judgment that they would claim instead belongs to God: “We know that the judgment of God rightly falls on those who practice such things.” Paul’s words are hardly meant to say that we may not judge behavior–he’s just gotten done doing that with regard to more than a dozens different behaviors.
Biblical Consecration of Non-Traditional Families and Non-Traditional Relationships
The story of Ruth and Naomi shows Biblical consecration for “non-traditional” families. (The Book of Ruth)
There is no hint in Ruth that Naomi and her daughter-in-law were sexually intimate.
David and Jonathan. (1 and 2 Samuel) Even the most conservative plain text reading of this story would conclude it’s certainly an extraordinary covenanted relationship.
The story of Lydia (Acts 16: 11-15) shows Biblical consecration of a female-headed household.
And the point is what? So Lydia was a female head of household. What’s that got to do with homosexuality?
Jesus was an unmarried man in a tradition culture and his group of followers consisted of a sort of non-traditional extended family. So too with Paul.
And again I’ve got to ask, what’s the point?
Biblical Welcome of Eunuchs Provides a Model for LGBT Equality
Eunuchs, by any definition, were sexual minorities and it is likely that the term “eunuch” was a sort of catch all euphemism to describe many different sorts of sexual minorities in the Biblical era. See for example, Jesus’ discussion of eunuchs below:
“For thus says the LORD: To the eunuchs who keep my sabbaths, who choose the things that please me and hold fast my covenant, I will give, in my house and within my walls, a monument and a name better than sons and daughters; I will give them an everlasting name that shall not be cut off…. for my house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples.” (Isaiah 56:4-5,7)
Jesus welcomed sexual minorities. “For there are eunuchs who have been so from birth, and there are eunuchs who have been made eunuchs by others, and there are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. Let anyone accept this who can.” (Matthew 19:11-12)
The first Gentile convert to Christianity was a sexual minority. (See Philip and the Ethiopian Eunuch, Acts 8:26-39)
It is true that eunuchs were “sexual minorities,” but given that “eunuchness” is never condemned or prohibited in Scripture, I’m not sure why they are a suitable “model for LGBT equality.” By that standard, they are also a model for adulterers’ equality, or bestialists’ equality.
Gentile Inclusion in Acts Also Provides A Model for LGBT Equality in the Church
“What God has made clean, you must not call profane.” (Acts 10:15)
Where does God call homosexual behavior “clean”?
In Acts 15, the Apostles welcomed Gentiles into the church. This was a radical reversal because previously Gentiles were seen as “by nature” unclean and “by practice” polluted by idolatry. (See Acts 15:1-21)
Quite true. It was also expected that upon becoming Christians, they would give up idolatry. Again, for this parallel to work, you’d have to contend that those Gentiles who were particularly attached to their idols, who had, say, worshiped them since childhood, for as long as they could remember, should have been allowed to continue worshiping them. And citing this passage is yet another example of serious chutzpah, given the admonition in verse 29 that Gentile converts were to abstain from “sexual immorality.”
“As many of you as were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus.” (Galatians 3:27-28)
As with virtually all of these references, there’s a specific idea here that is generalized into meaninglessness. Apparently the reasoning is that because we are all “one in Christ Jesus,” that means that it is no longer permissible for the church to require any kind of moral standards from its members (or its ministers, given the title of the article). In fact, this passage has nothing to do with moral behavior, but is rather an affirmation that our ontological status before God is no longer one of division along the lines (ethnicity, gender, social status or class) that are so precious to humans, but rather those who are His are all equally children of God.
After posting this, MLP got a few more suggestions:
1 Corinthians 12:25-26 “that there may be no discord in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. If one member suffers, all suffer together, if one member is honored, all rejoice together.”
I have no idea why this applies, unless the suggester is saying that we must never make other Christians feel bad. I’m sure all of those fundamentalists that MLP so regularly take to task will be glad to hear that.
“Important to any theological discussion of gender and sexuality in the church is Paul’s statement to the Corinthians (2 Cor 5:17), “…if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation”! A variant of that understanding is found in Galatians 6:15: “For neither circumcision nor uncircumcision is anything, but a new creation is everything.” Think of that. If the physical sign of the covenant is irrelevant to the life of faith, why should cultural models of gender and sexual relationships matter? Being “in Christ” is the only thing that is relevant to Paul because it demonstrates and enables the New Creation for the believer.
Jim also points out the importance of Matthew 8:5-13 and the possibility that the Centurion’s Servant may have been a eunuch or other sexual minority.
On the Matthew passage, Jim has an overactive imagination–there’s nothing there that would suggest the servant was anything other than, you know, a servant. As to 2 Corinthians and Galatians, he conflates them because of the reference to the new creation, but they are referring to different things. In Galatians, Paul is writing against the Judaizers, who would have imposed the requirements of the ceremonial law on Gentiles. He is saying that ethnic origin and ceremony don’t matter, only our being new creatures in Christ. In 2 Corinthians, he is saying that wordly standards for judging people (power, title, class, etc.) no longer matter, but only whether one is a new creation in Christ. But in neither place does he hint that our status as new creations means that the moral standards that he himself writes of frequently have been set aside. Rather, we are now called to an even higher standard, that of the adopted children of God. Our salvation is not dependent on moral perfection, but that doesn’t mean that we aren’t expected to live, by the power of the Holy Spirit, in a manner befitting God’s children.
“There is NO condemnation in Christ Jesus” Romans 8:1
Meaning, apparently, that all of that stuff Paul wrote exhorting his readers to be imitators of Christ, to live holy lives, to lay aside immorality, were just Emily Littella moments. “Never mind.” And wasn’t Paul the one who wrote, just a couple of chapters earlier, “Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means!” (Romans 6:1-2) I guess he’d just forgotten about that part when he got to chapter 8.
“But Jesus has now obtained a more excellent ministry, and to that degree he is the mediator of a better covenant, which has been enacted through better promises. For if that first covenant had been faultless, there would have been no need to look for a second one….. In speaking of a “new covenant,” he has made the first one obsolete. And what is obsolete and growing old will soon disappear.” Hebrews 8:6-7, 13
I have no clue why that applies. Are there no moral standards in the new covenant? Or are there only the ones of which the More Light Presbyterians approve?
So that’s it. That what one prominent gay advocacy group in the PCUSA was able to come up with my way of making a “biblical case” for changing the ordination standards of the denomination, and, by extension, for the church accepting homosexual behavior as moral and approved by God. It’s no wonder some folks want the church to focus on experience rather than Scripture in making its decision.