Sunday, November 23, 2003
(Theological Foray #11, for those counting)
Through one of my friends, I began reading Musings, a blog run by a member of the Wesley Foundation at UVA. I'm pretty sure I actually met him a few months ago before a friend's baptism, and if he's who I think he is (I apologize for not being sure; I can usually remember most things I learn about people except for their name), he's a very nice guy. However, as tends to be true with most Methodists I've met, he's also a theological liberal. Thus, this post should not be construed as "fisking," but rather as an attempt on my part, speaking as an Evangelical/Anglo-Catholic, to argue for the theologically conservative view of Scripture and to try and understand some of my theologically-liberal brothers in Christ. That said, it's time to begin.
In a post a few days ago, the Virginia Gentleman argues in favor of gay marriage, and then responds to some of the comments made by myself and others in a follow-up post. I've already written about homosexuality here and here. I will try and bring up the points he's made, as I recognize them, and answer them in turn.
1. One should not comment on the matters of another denomination.
I don't buy this. Something David, the Pope, Billy Graham, Peter Akinola, and I have in common is that we're all Christians. We may respectively be Methodist, Roman Catholic, Baptist, and Anglican, but before that we're in Christ. While matters of church governance, such as if the Presbyterians want to have synods instead of bishops or the Orthodox don't want to have musical instruments in their services, aren't really my business, those matters which speak to the heart of Christianity are as much mine, or David's as they are any other Christian's. We all believe in the truth of the Bible, and, though we call it different things, use reason, tradition, and faith as guided by the Holy Spirit to interpret it. We are all called to follow the Great Commandment (love God and love your neighbor) and the Great Commission (go and make disciples of all the nations). While we may disagree about how to follow these, we cannot restrict ourselves by artificial barriers when we believe we must speak in love to correct our brethren.
2. Homosexuality is different from adultery, incest, pedophilia, polygamy, and other deviant sexual practices.
Yes and no. For the sake of argument, I'll grant you that it is differs from adultery in that a vow has not been broken (though certainly vows could be found to allow for this), from pedophilia in that it is consensual, and from polygamy in that it is between two partners instead of more (though I don't see an argument outside of one man and one woman that would restrict marriage in such a way). I do ask how it differs from incest, though. If I can marry my guy friend, why can't I marry my legal-age sister, so long as we both love each other and want a committed relationship? If you argue that it might lead to genetic problems in the children, would it be okay if one or both of us were sterilized? If dangerous procreation is the issue, then perhaps I could marry my brother. Can I marry my widowed mother or father and, if not, why not? Paul addresses this last issue directly in 1 Cor. 5:1-5. If it is wrong to sleep with your mother-in-law, then I don't see how, without ignoring the authority of the Bible, the practice of homosexuality can be reconciled with Paul's condemnation of it in Romans 1:24-27 and 1 Cor. 6:9-11.
3. Just because something is "physically laughable," it is not necessarily wrong. After all, we don't see conservative Christians protesting airplanes. If something isn't specifically condemned in the Bible, then it's okay. Look at Acts 10:14-15 and 10:28.
Humans certainly don't have wings to fly, but we do have brains to think and hands with which to build. Two men or two women do not have the body parts necessary to create a life (yes, this argument could be applied to sterile couples...that's a can of worms, but as I understand it, Roman Catholic doctrine, which doesn't bind me, says that infertility is grounds for annulment or divorce). Thus, the only benefits carried by marriage are those not especially different from those obtained by incorporating. If you want to give groups of people the ability to form communistic corporations of property to gain tax breaks and inheritance rights, I don't know that I'd try and stop you. However, that is not and never will be a marriage. The argument over committed homosexual partnerships not being specifically banned by the New Covenant (most of the Old Covenant being fulfilled by Christ's sacrifice) is a non-sequitur, as all forms of homosexuality, no matter how loving, are forbidden. By the same logic, you do not have the right to have pre-marital sex or sex with your mother-in-law, no matter how much you love each other. This doesn't mean that we need to vilify homosexuals, as we are all grievous sinners, but that we need to help them with their sin, as we would hope that they would help us deal with our own as they become known. Just as an alcoholic shouldn't go to church drunk or refuse to try and change his ways, a homosexual should not try and obtain religious backing for homosexual marriage or refuse to abstain from his or her sin. People do stumble, but choosing to go on an anti-Biblical path is far different.
4. As imperfect creatures, we can never truly know the will of God. Our view of God's will must always be open to change.
Forgive me, but I think that this argument sounds dangerously close to agnosticism. We are fallible and fallen, but we do have Holy Scripture upon which to base our decisions. Arguments about slavery, the role of women in the church, and a celibate clergy are ones which, while evidence for and against can be found, no obvious answer exists. Homosexuality, along with things such as thievery, drunkenness, and adultery, are specifically forbidden. Though the Holy Spirit may help us discern the answers to things on which the Bible seems ambivalent, I would ask you what other parts of the Bible are no longer valid due to changing views. If one part of the Bible is wrong in essence, then surely the whole thing is of suspect reliability. And, if we don't know which parts are trustworthy and which are bunk, then we are merely picking and choosing to follow the parts that fit our preferences. The only answer in which the Bible retains its authority is to say that it is infallible and thus unchanging.
5. Who are we to judge? We need to love sinners and be accepting of them, as we are also sinners. Any opportunity, such as ministry, that is open to one should be open to all. Christ Himself never said anything about homosexuality; only his Apostles did.
We are not to judge the soul of others, but we can certainly judge whether their actions are sinful or not (as we're all sinners, it shouldn't be shocking that sometimes a person will do something sinful, though they certainly are not their sin but are rather controlled by it). Though we accept sinners as brothers and sisters in Christ, we cannot and must not accept their sins. To be one of God's people, you must renounce your sinful nature and seek to sin no more. Furthermore, not everyone is called to do every task. I cannot get pregnant. Homosexuals must not act on their impulses. Alcoholics must give up drinking. This is not a special condemnation, but has been brought made public by the very openness it requires. Some sins are fairly easily concealed, such as lustful thoughts or gluttony by someone with a high metabolism. Others, such as homosexuality and alcoholism, tend to become public. In 1 Tim. 5:20, we see that sinners are to be rebuked before the church. To receive authority within the church, we read in 1 Tim 3:2-9 that a leader must be upright and blameless. Though we all sin, one who sins publicly and does not repent can hardly be said to meet this qualification. Finally, the argument that Christ never specifically condemns homosexuality simply doesn't hold water. Firstly, most of the Epistles were written before the Gospels; the Gospels were addressed to those already familar with the basics of Christianity but who didn't know the history behind it. Each Gospel writer emphasized different things, and it is my belief that something already denounced as sinful wouldn't necessarily have to be included. Though condemned in the Old Testament, we still regard homosexuality as sinful and circumcision as unnecessary, as the former is also condemned in the New Testament, while the latter is not.
Once again, I say these things not in an effort to harrass or attack Dave, as he obviously cares about the hurt others feel, but rather to try and be like Priscilla and Aquila and correct a fellow believer whom I believe is mistaken. While sympathy for and mercy towards others is to be commended, we must always remember that God's will takes priority over ours, no matter how much it hurts.