This post is written by Andrew Marin, President and Founder of The Marin Foundation.
Specifically regarding the biblical texts regarding homosexuality, have you ever tried to argue with your other the theological and historical-cultural correctness of your views, while your other argues their theological and historical-cultural correctness of their views, in the same conversation? It gets nowhere because contemporary debate has been conditioned for people to talk past each other, and then wrongly understand [and label] it as dialogue. I refuse to enter into such “debates.” Why?
I refuse to do so because the Bible shows it is pointless.
In Matthew 4:1-11, Satan temps, tests, argues, debates, whatever you want to call it, with Jesus to try and use God’s own words against the Son. We all do this in one way or the other, well intentioned or not, because we’re all working through our own lens of interpretive correctness. This structure lends itself to engaging in theological debates through quoting verses that we already have a high-level of buy-in with, and believe strongly in, as our baseline justification for the potential of the other’s worldview conversion.
It doesn’t work. And it’s pointless.
The grand ending in vs. 11 is Matthew saying “the devil left.” The devil “leaving” does not mean Jesus “won” the argument, because all they did was quote verses at each other. Neither does it mean that Jesus’ quotes were so convincing that Satan began believing in the Way of Jesus, and thus, no longer led a rebellion throughout human history against God.
I rather believe in viewing this back-and-forth passage structurally. It is a brilliant example justifying the uselessness of quoting verses in response to others quoting verses against you. By saying this, I am not suggesting that it was not proper of Jesus to quote verses in response to Satan. This interplay was needed for Jesus to directly face Satan in humanity’s domain, and directly deny Satan’s advances–thus cementing His pure reign as Savior.
Moving further, I actually believe this passage was worthy of being recorded by God through Matthew because it is as an example of how not to engage others. As this passage shows, there was no conclusion reflecting the preemptively desired outcome from either party. Structurally, the overwhelming majority of Jesus’ other recorded engagements with others, were based in connections and conversations around humanity, politics, and religious ethics (all in all Jesus’ other engagements could be summed up as “The Way’s framework of civic engagement”), rather than Jesus having to prove his divinity.
Jesus was unconcerned with proving his divinity, in any sense, even when Satan or the religious gatekeepers tempted him to do so. He instead lived his divinity through his convictions and works, in which he relationally engaged with others–both with his disciples and those he encountered through moments in time. Therefore I see no point in quoting scripture against others also quoting scripture because neither’s desired outcome will ever become reality. Rather, we must live our theology such that Jesus’ divinity does not have to be proven but felt, and related to, through our own conversations, works, and relational engagements.