Exploring Our Matrix
The Blog of Dr. James F. McGrath, Clarence L. Goodwin Chair in New Testament Language and Literature at Butler University, Indianapolis
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A friend on Facebook shared this image, and I asked if I could share it here to see what others make of it.
I think that there is a fringe of Christianity that would not welcome the gay sinner into their church with the same attitude that they welcome any other sinner. I don’t think that is the norm though. It has just become the successful stereotype put forth by those that want to portray the church as bigots. And it is generally put forth in a way that sets up a logical equivalence between the actions of the church (promoting Biblical family) and the acts of those that disagree with that. That just plays into the idea that both sides are wrong so they should compromise though. It uses MANS standard of the church attitude being wrong to do that, not God’s. It’s basically a form of projection where it is assumed that the church plays by the same rules as the secular world. But it ignores the fact that while there ARE some sins that God calls an abomination, He DOES love all people and want all men to come to know Him. That just doesn’t click in a world where anything short of “embracing” the LGBT lifestyle is seen as hate. They don’t understand how the CHURCH can love the sinner and hate the sin because they don’t understand how GOD can do that. To them, their actions and desires DEFINE who they are and you can’t really separate that. It becomes more of an identity thing. And as long as it is seen as WHO they are and now WHAT they do, there will continue to be this idea that the PERSON is rejected and not loved.
I don’t agree with the point this cartoon is trying to make, that the church shuts out certain types of people. If we start from the point that homosexuality is a sin then why embrace the sin? The gospel is for all people, all people are sinful, but the gospel and the saving work of the cross were not given to sinful people so that they could remain in their sin.
If homosexuality is a symptom of deeper sin, then this sickness of sin manifests itself as different symptoms in different people. It manifests in myself as lust, pride, greed, anger, but the gospel is given me so that Jesus can clean these things from me, slowly but surely. I don’t come to the gospel and sit at the foot of the cross insisting that I be allowed to keep these sinful things. I don’t deserve to stand before God any more than the homosexual, because he and I are both sick men. The gospel is mercy on the sick man, it cures and purifies and makes whole. But the gospel doesn’t give us excuse to cling to our sicknesses and symptoms.
Likewise with your earlier point about gentiles being excluded, of course they were to be included into God’s people. It started with the promise to Abram, and by the time the Mosaic law was given they could become part of God’s people through ritual circumcision. It was not full exclusion or exclusion based on identity, only exclusion of what was not set apart for God from what was set apart. After ritual setting apart gentiles in Israel’s midst were counted as God’s people. Paul later argued against circumcision not because it was exclusive but because after Christ performed a circumcision of the heart for all people, outward circumcision was no longer needed.
So it was never about exclusion, but God’s holiness requires change in identity. The gospel is for all but it doesn’t let you stay in your sin, not if it is alive in your heart. If I refuse to let go of my dead, uncircumcised, sinful self, my lust, pride, greed and anger, then the gospel isn’t rejecting me, I’m rejecting the gospel. If the doctor tells me I’m sick and I refuse his diagnosis and refuse to let him change me, I’m the one doing the rejecting, not him nor the people who accept his diagnosis.
Daniel, given that the place where we find reference to same-sex male intercourse in the Hebrew Bible is in Leviticus, is it not possible that the nature of the prohibition is ritual rather than moral? Now that we know that there are people who are biologically wired to respond to the pheromones of the same rather than the opposite gender, is there any fundamental reason why, just as we see the abolition of slavery as the outworking of Christian principles beyond what Paul and other NT authors worked out in their time, and the elimination of a sinful practice even though that practice was legislated for and accepted in the Bible, can we not in the same way extrapolate from Biblical principles, such as those quoted in the cartoon, to a different view of same-sex relations than our predecessors for the most part had?
I wouldn’t see such a difference between ritual and moral, all the rituals were there to point to the nature of God, or point to a greater spiritual truth beyond just keeping the law for its own sake. Say the prohibition of foods pointed to a higher truth that cleanness and holiness is important. Food is no longer prohibited for God’s people after Jesus pronounced all foods clean, but the principle is still there.
I think we disagree fundamentally on homosexuality – I still see it as choice. And I can’t give a good answer as to the reams of scientific evidence about the biological wiring, but if I am held accountable to my own seemingly insurmountable sins of wandering mind and eyes, and knee jerk impatience, and intertwining impatience, greed, and lack of trust in God, I don’t see why others shouldn’t be held accountable for their seemingly insurmountable sins. (but thanks be that because of the cross my sins and the sins of the homosexual no longer have the power the to condemn us)
I will say however that Jesus never specifically covered the subject, which gives room for discussion. (but then again if he didn’t concentrate on it then maybe his followers should fix their eyes on other things?)
With slavery I don’t see it in the same light. Being a slave has never been counted sinful. So the freeing of slaves is not only not sinful but is a very good thing, it goes along the lines of what Paul says about being equal – but then again Paul did encourage slaves to be content with their lot. But at the same time I wouldn’t say the OT ever legislated on slavery, but rather tried to redeem it, just look at the year of Jubilee.
But to come back to the point I don’t think the freeing of slaves is a valid comparison. We find evidence that homosexuality being condemned in the OT, but we never find condemnation of the freeing of slaves, nor the praising of the keeping of slaves. Nor in the case of homosexuality was there ever a specific redeeming, as happened with the food laws. Plus Paul himself condemned homosexuality as an offence.
So I still don’t see the offensiveness of homosexuality as something that could be redeemed as food prohibitions were, or deservedly abolished as slavery was. But it comes back to the main point that that’s why we all need Jesus. The homosexual and the angry, lustful man are in the same boat and have the same hope.
“The gospel is for all people, all people are sinful, but the gospel and
the saving work of the cross were not given to sinful people so that
they could remain in their sin.”
I think that those words deserve one of James’s quote posters. What do you think, James?
The posters I’ve shared were made by other people. And since those aren’t my words, it is really up to you and others whether you want to turn them into a poster!
Well, my point wasn’t really about the posters, but about Daniel’s very fine, thoughtful point, expressed with concise elegance.
So, when you say that the church should be “promoting Biblical family”, which biblical family are you talking about?
Adam and Eve’s family, in which one son murders another?
Abraham’s family, in which he has one son by his sister/wife and one son by his concubine?
Lot’s family, in which he has children by his daughters?
Jacob’s family in which he has multiple children to each of his two wives and his two concubines?
David’s family, which included a huge harem of wives?
Solomon’s family, which included a huge harem of wives?
Jesus’ family, who never married and whose father Joseph was not his biological father?
Or perhaps Paul’s family, if he had one, given that he suggested it was a better option for men not to marry.
Biblical marriage is a myth.
I think it’s imperative to reach struggling gay Christian youth and make sure they find enlightened, inclusive, accepting Christian communities and role models. Far too many beautiful souls have languished in the tragically mistaken belief that homosexuality is offensives to God. To say you “love the sinner” does not absolve you from helping create a hostile attitude and environment which has contributed to the alarming suicide rate we see among the gay Christian youth.
My thought on reading this cartoon is: why does the gay person believe he is excluded from the Gospel?
The passage quoted refers to ‘all who labour and are heavy laden… Jew, Greek, slave, free, male, female.’ Last time I checked, gay people did not fall outside any of those categories.
Yes, *some churches* discriminate, but the Gospel as described here by Paul, does not. If I was a gay person hearing those words, I wouldn’t feel excluded – though I might ask why some churches fail to live up to them.
When I count my blessings, gay Christians – including some of the most gifted clergy I’ve known – and inclusive churches are high on the list. I’m forever in awe of people who can keep on in faith, hope, and love in the face of all the “hate [the sin, love] the sinner” garbage that gets thrown in their faces.
We’ve grown beyond polygamy (and the idea of women as property in general) and slavery. Eventually we’ll grow beyond homophobia as well.
Yes. There are two kinds of “heavy-burdened” people: those that see “it” as a burden to get rid of, and those who’re wondering: “what’s He talking about? It’s not a burden!” The first kind is on the narrow road, the latter is on the broad one.
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