Wesley Hill and the Acts 15 Argument

Wesley Hill:

One of the most prominent arguments for the so-called “full inclusion” of LGBTQ people in the church is the analogy of the early church’s inclusion of Gentiles as Gentiles. In the book of Acts and in the Epistles in the New Testament, Gentile people—despite their ongoing violation of the clear biblical command for those in the covenant family of Abraham to be circumcised—were welcomed and affirmed in the church precisely in their uncircumcised state. In Christ, as St. Paul says, Abraham became “the ancestor of all who believe without being circumcised and who thus have righteousness reckoned to them” (Romans 4:11). Likewise—so the argument goes—LGBTQ people today, despite their ongoing violation of supposedly clear biblical precedent, are also included precisely as sexual minorities. They don’t need to “become straight” (always a losing battle) or give up having sex with a partner of the same sex in order to be full-fledged members in good standing in Christ’s church.

One of the clearest statements of this argument that I’ve run across recently is by the New Testament scholar J. R. Daniel Kirk, which you can read here.

Many traditionalists have offered thoughtful responses to this argument—please do go have a look at this one by my friend Ian Paul—but one of the traditionalist (sorry to keep using that unwieldy word; I still haven’t found a decent alternative) arguments that I think is often underappreciated is that the inclusion of Gentiles in the early Christian community altered what it meant to be a Gentile. There’s no question that the progressive view gets one thing right: The Gentiles were included in God’s family as Gentiles, without having to change their status to “Jewish proselytes” by getting circumcised, keeping kosher, and observing the Sabbath. But as the Gentiles were thus included, their Gentile identity—their culture, their habits, their way of being in the world—was dramatically transformed.

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