Jesus Creed

Jesus Creed


Jesus and Homosexuality 8

posted by xscot mcknight

Failure is an element of Jesus’ moral logic: when it comes to discussing what Jesus has to say and what he taught about following him, what he said about loving God and loving others, then failure looms large in the Gospels. The simple fact is this: Jesus’ followers failed, and they failed sometimes quite miserably, and failure is written into the fabric of what Jesus has to say about following him.
In the Gospels, failure springs from two major sources — and we could become much more technical, but there is no reason to here. First, disciples of Jesus fail because they do not trust Jesus and his word. One thinks here of Matthew 14:28-31 when Peter fails to walk on water because he loses confidence that Jesus can sustain him. How many times does Jesus say of his followers “O you of little faith”? See Matthew 17:20. Jesus distinguishes apistia from oligopistia, “unbelief”/”lack of faith” from “little faith.” The latter is a failure to trust by a follower; the former by a non-follower.
Second, disciples fail because they do not understand. After feeding the 5000 in Mark 6, in Mark 8 Jesus feeds the 4000. When all done, the disciples are clueless when Jesus mentions the “yeast of the Pharisees and that of Herod” (8:15). Jesus then asks, “Do you still not see or understand?” Disciples fail sometimes because they have not learned to see “through” acts into their meaning, they have not learned theological implications and connections. In short, because they have not understood.
So, let this be said: disciples fail. We can trot out more evidence from Acts or from Paul or from Hebrews or James or from Revelation and it is all clear: the followers of Jesus were not perfect or sinless. I don’t want to suggest that all failure stems from faith-failure or mental-failure, but they are at the bottom.
So, what does Jesus do? This is where some light is shed. In each case, regardless of the failure, there are the following elements: failure, rebuke, repentance, and restoration. If a disciple fails, Jesus tells them they failed; a disciple then repents, and through that repentance finds restoration.
Let’s take Peter: Peter confesses Jesus as Messiah in Mark 8; then Jesus says he’ll go to the Cross; Peter thinks that’s a bundle of nonsense; Jesus rebukes him. (Peter must have backed down after that.)
Then Peter denies Jesus in Mark 14; not once, not twice, but three times. Then after the resurrection, Jesus meets up with Peter and has his way with Peter: Peter has to hear from Jesus three rebukes and three summonses to return to Jesus. He says he loves Jesus, he loves Jesus, he loves Jesus. Then they are reconciled.
This is the NT pattern: failure, rebuke, repentance, and restoration.
But here’s the vital point: Jesus does not disown followers for failure; he points the way with one hand and helps them with the other. Failure does not mean abandonment; it means the time for grace.
Now, when it comes to Jesus and those who are practicing same-sex actions and relationships, if we are right that the Bible sees this as “out of order,” then the Table is both an invitation to grace and at the same time a Table that summons the cracked Eikon to repent and be restored. Is that not what it is all about?
Which means, in my judgment, that the Table welcomes those who practice same-sex actions to be turn and be restored. Does it demand instant perfection? No, but it does summon such persons to open themselves to the healing blessings and graces of Jesus. As long as a person is willing to open themselves to the grace of God, they are welcomed at the Table of Jesus.
I will next deal with the element of reward in the teachings of Jesus, which I think also sheds light on this topic, and then I want to return to the complexity of looking once again at the elements involved in making moral decisions — for I think each element needs to be involved, and each has a contribution to make in our world. Including culture.



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Christian Cryder

posted February 10, 2006 at 8:18 am


Scot, your second to the last paragraph there is a great summary, and I’d agree with it wholeheartedly. The question I’d have is – what do you say to those who feel that homosexuality is not failure in the first place, and therefore any kind of rebuke is out of line, and repentance / restoration is not needed.
It seems to me that this is at the heart of the tension I hear between guys like Driscoll and McLaren – is the practice really problem, and even if it is, should we really be rebuking anyone.
(I almost hesitate to even write this, because I’ve missed a some of your previous posts in this series, and you’ve probably already addressed this; so apologies if this is retread material).



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Scot McKnight

posted February 10, 2006 at 8:21 am


Christian,
There is no simple answer to this one. Someone might tell a lesbian or gay that their actions are “out of order,” but they may not perceive it that way, and I believe that such a perception comes at the work of the Holy Spirit. We are summoned, I think, to be patient and pastoral at the same time as we seek to live and minister the gospel.



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Denny Burk

posted February 10, 2006 at 9:10 am


Scot,
What would you tell a gay or a lesbian? Just curious.
Thanks,
Denny



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Scott Morizot

posted February 10, 2006 at 9:24 am


I agree that is the deep and rich NT cycle, the one we all experience daily in our ongoing journey through the transformation of Christianity. The danger I see is that the four elements have often been reduced to a formulaic approach that looks something like the following.
You see something you understand to be a failure in another Christian.
You rebuke them following another formula you’ve derived from Matthew 18.
If they fail to immediately respond more or less as you expect, clearly they are unrepentant.
As long as they are unrepentant, they cannot be restored in any sort of relationship with you and you believe they also have a broken relationship with God.
I sense a lot of warning in Scripture against our predilection to leap to judgement of others. Are their times when we must discern and judge? Absolutely! And one of the failures of the Corinthian church was that they had not exercised that discernment. (I say one, because you can’t read the letter without being struck by the enormous breadth of their issues.) From the frequency of the statements about judging others or judging ourselves first, I sense a caution.
Part of that, I think, is that if we focus first on others, and if we believe it is our responsibility to change them, rebuke quickly turns to condemnation. Rebuke is necessary at times, though I do also feel the Spirit does not always or even most often choose to use us as the instrument of rebuke of others. That has not been my experience. Probably because my background is so different, the areas of sin in my life which have slowly been revealed over the years (and that revelation is in and of itself a rebuke) have largely not been ones my church would have ever rebuked me for.
Even when you feel the movement of the Holy Spirit through you, it strikes me as critical that you have the relationship and the tone for your rebuke to be received for what it is rather than condemnation. Condemnation drives people away and created wounds and walls. Love embraces even when it corrects. Of course, a lot of the times it actually is condemnation. And is received accordingly. Too many people tend to overlook one of Jesus’ more poignant comments, “Neither do I condemn you.” Recognize that statement was offered without any recorded evidence of repentance. Is it likely repentance followed? Absolutely! How could it not after such embracing love? But it’s not recorded one way or another.
The problem, of course, with many of this particular community we are discussing, is that we have often condemned them. Hatefully. Meanly. In ways that have inflicted deep wounds. Maybe you haven’t ever done it personally, but your brother or sister has. And because it’s your family, you share in the responsibility. Further, we create in the minds of the people we hurt the belief that Jesus condemns them. And he doesn’t, you know? I think he’s already demonstrated how much he loves them. And when you have already inflicted wounds (personally or by extension through your family), you must first repent, seek forgiveness, and demonstrate through your actions that it is real before you will have earned a place where you can be an avenue of rebuke. But you can’t do it honestly if that’s your goal. That’s manipulation and deceit. You may never be the one to show or do anything but love. It may be that will lay the groundwork for later work of the Spirit. There are a number of Christians in the wake of my history who never saw, knew, or understood the eventual fruit of their love for me. God desires us to work with him, not try to replace him.
So I have no real argument with the pattern. We see it again and again in scripture. It’s the formulaic and prescriptive reduction of that pattern against which I rebel.



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Scot McKnight

posted February 10, 2006 at 9:34 am


ScottM,
Good, good points here; I added a bit (bold-faced) to make this point more clear than my original post. Rebuke does not mean disown; rebuke involves time for grace and healing.



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Scot McKnight

posted February 10, 2006 at 9:35 am


We’ll be down for a couple of hours. Electric folks are here converting our fuses into circuit breaker box.



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John Frye

posted February 10, 2006 at 9:41 am


Scot,
You wrote, “There is no simple answer to this one. Someone might tell a lesbian or gay that their actions are “out of order,” but they may not perceive it that way, and I believe that such a perception comes at the work of the Holy Spirit. We are summoned, I think, to be patient and pastoral at the same time as we seek to live and minister the gospel.”
You present an “order” that the lesbian or gay couple are “out of.” You, best that you can, lovingly and pastorally make that “order” known to them. They patiently and honestly listen because somewhere inside them they truly do not want to ‘rebel’ from God. They take your counsel to heart, pray about it, ponder the (same) Scriptures again for the umpteenth time. [This is a very intelligent couple.] They conclude that the Scriptures, blunt as they are and so “plain” to many, really don’t address them and their life situation. The genitalia issue is swamped by a huge vortex called context. They kindly and lovingly report their conclusion to you.
Is this the pneumatic moment? Only the Spirit can reveal to them that they are “out of order”? You are convinced that they are. They are convinced that they are not. Who’s got “the Spirit” right on this one?
Just wondering?



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Scot McKnight

posted February 10, 2006 at 9:58 am


John,
At that point when they disagree with “you” (whoever that “you” is) is when the local church, denomination, or Church Tradition shapes response. No way around this. I believe in pastoral patience, and Holy Spirit work, and in the need for the community of faith to trust and pray.



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Bruce Smith

posted February 10, 2006 at 10:09 am


Thanks for this clear presentation of your position. I wonder if it would be helpful to discuss Scot’s view of cracked Eikons on an ontological level. It seems to me that there are many who live on a level of ontological despair (a state of contrition) without moving to a place of ontological repair (repentance and sanctification). It is not enough to feel like we need grace; like the person in the story of the pearl of great value, we must be willing to turn away from everything that will keep us from entering into His Kingdom fellowship (Mt. 13:45). If it means turning away from our own pleasures and securities in order to find it, we must — for it is worth far more than whatever it may cost us (Mk. 10).
Here in New England, Bill Belichick (who is the head coach of the Patriots) says this very common sense thing about running the football. “It is not whether a team can run the ball, because any NFL team can run the football. The question must be: can you run the ball effectively?” It is interesting to consider whether a person should be admitted to the table while in a state of heart where repentance is not an option (for them). Practically speaking, the fact remains that anyone (including, the unrepentant) who is determined, will find a table somewhere in which they will be (on a human level) be allowed to partake in Holy Communion. Yet, a critical issue must be whether unrepentant “grace seeking” will be “effectual”. Effectual meaning – in a state in which God’s special grace will be dispensed to that person. Scot has done an excellent job demonstrating for us, from a biblical perspective, that it will not be unless we enter into that moment with hearts that are genuinely repentant (whatever our particular sins may be).



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Jamie Arpin-Ricci

posted February 10, 2006 at 10:43 am


Scot,
It is interesting being in the “parachurch” context I am in, as I relate to people in their sin outside of the physical church context. In that context, as my neighbour, the dynamic is different. They are not trusting me to be a pastoral leader, they are seeking counsel, they are not (necessarily) concerned about God- and yet we have relationship. This brings an entirely new set of questions.
I guess it could be argued that Jesus was relating outside of the context of the religious institution, but his culture also had a ingrained concept of itinerant rabbis. Care to shed some light?
Question: Given your framework, how does the woman caught in adultery (“You who are sinless, cast the first stone… Go and sin no more…”) fit into Jesus’ treatment of failure. It doesn’t quite follow the pattern. I really appreciate your help in working through all of this.
Peace,
Jamie



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John Frye

posted February 10, 2006 at 11:01 am


Scot,
Thanks so much for the clarification and expansion on the imaginary dialogue. I had you or me, Scot, in mind with the “you.” So, after we’ve pastorally and lovingly over time exhausted the ‘out of order’ viewpoint on the gay couple and they continue to admit that they believe the Holy Spirit is leading them to disagree with us, we move into the church discipline mode (depending on how our ‘local church’/particular denomination’/'church tradition’ handles discipline)? Is that what you’re saying there “is no way around”?



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John Frye

posted February 10, 2006 at 11:09 am


Scot and all,
I really like Seattle’s Best coffee. Perhaps we need that retreat center with a fireplace, some Krispy Kremes (or bagels and cream cheese) and lots of time to look each other in the eyes as we talk. Isn’t it incredible that God allows us to dialogue with one another, even when we disagree, knowing that we all love God, love people, love the Scriptures and are seeking to serve like Jesus served?
Peace be upon you all.
John and Julie



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Tim

posted February 10, 2006 at 12:05 pm


Jeez, John, and I had you down as a Fair Trade Coffee guy!!!
Tim C.



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Scot McKnight

posted February 10, 2006 at 2:57 pm


Denny,
I can’t do that because it stereotypes and it is important for a pastor to know the situation, person, and context.
Jamie,
Jesus said, “Go and sin no more.” He judged the condemners, and forgave the sinner.
John,
I surely don’t think the next step would be discipline, which I won’t get into here, but continued pastoral care. Seattle’s Best for me, too.



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Chris Jones

posted February 10, 2006 at 3:17 pm


How about leadership? Would you go to a church that had a gay leader?



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Jamie Arpin-Ricci

posted February 10, 2006 at 3:29 pm


Chris,
For me it would depend on what you mean by gay. Orientation? Practicing? Celebate but accepting? It all depends.
Peace,
Jamie



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Chris Jones

posted February 10, 2006 at 3:43 pm


Jamie,
Practicing.



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Bob

posted February 10, 2006 at 8:01 pm


Sigh. Sorry to say it but this series hasn’t helped me with the bigger question of “o.k. but now what” with the relationships in my context. But I came across this in Romans this morning: the God who gives life to the dead and calls things that are not as though they were.
Can we love others (that are not) as though they already were…



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Scot McKnight

posted February 10, 2006 at 8:11 pm


Bob,
Yep, we can love others (that are not) as though they already were… it is called eschatology.
My purpose is not to tell people what to do, but to explore the moral logic of Jesus and apply it to the issue of same-sex acts.



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Becky

posted February 10, 2006 at 8:36 pm


ScottMo, #4, I think you said it well. What you say has been my experience, being on each end. I have tried to communicate it, but you did it well.
I am in a house church, it has been around 29 yrs, we have been a part of it 28 yrs. The whole experience is different because we don’t have a pastor/leader, or a pastor team to look up to. No on is paid to do what is done, all of us have other jobs. The idea is each of us is responsible to bring to the body what God has given us. The idea is each of us is responsible to contribute to the spiritual, physical, and emotional well being of each other. At one time we signed a commitment to that. And it is geared to be more personal.
During the teaching, we go through a book of the Bible, we are free to interrupt with questions, for clarification, to tell the person we think they got it wrong. After the teaching is a time for discussion and/or questions. And we do all – interrupt and have stuff to say after.
At our largest, we were around 60 ppl. At our smallest, 12 I think. Right now we are around 20.
One walks into our time together, and gets the sense of a different tone – we are more personal. As such, relatioship is built so there are varying levels of being able to rebuke when it’s needed.
Just in the last 3 or 4 weeks, it has come out that one person has been in an affair for 9 months and said she was leaving her hubby and kids. She hasn’t left, it may be she’s staying just till after the wedding of one of her kid’s. No one knows if she is repentant. She says she still loves the guy she had the affair with. She says she didn’t expect it would hurt her family as it has. (yeh, that one is something else to address.) She supposedly has stopped contact with the lover. She’s agreed to 6 months of counseling. These in themselves, look like a turn in a better direction.
Her hubby isn’t abusive, doesn’t drink or do drugs or gamble. He’s a good family man, a good provider. She is an unhealed adult child of alcoholics. And her wound is showing so much. The man she has/d the affair with has been married 3 times and has had multiple affairs. Because of my experiences, I see the psych stuff driving her this way. Here is a man like her dad – most likely will be unavailable to give her what she wants. And what we do is look to change dad to get what we want. We try it as kids, and when unhealed, we are driven to try it through other significant people in our life – change dad and get what we need. She says she’s leaving her hubby cuz she’s unsatisfied. Another area in my life I’ve had to look at and work on and repair, so I think I know something of the dynamics going on in her, behind those words. I think the dissatisfaction is with herself and she won’t find satisfaction till she learns it starts with herself.
Another psych dynamic I see going on is she’s really mad at her dad, or both parents, for the lack of needed nurturing that can happen in an alcoholic home. But her hubby is the available target, so she’s spewing it all on him. I’ve been there. I’m open to being wrong, but I think I’m identifying factors involved. And to her, and to me at the time I did it, it seems to make so much sense that the hubby isn’t doing x,y,z, can’t be x,y,z, and that’s why I’m so unhappy in the relationship. But I think, really, she’s pissed off at her parents for her childhood, and hubby is the available target. She’s saying it to her parents, through him.
The miracle is she still is coming to our house church gathering. The miracle is she’s still talking to people one on one from our church, outside of the meeting.
That she still is coming, gives room to address what she is doing. She knows it’s wrong, but is in so much pain, she thinks she’s getting rid of the cause of her pain and going onto something where she won’t have pain. She just wants to be happy. Maybe I’m reading too much of my prior experiences on her, I’m keeping an eye open, but I think I’m not too far off.
She has agreed to 6 months of counseling, individual, and couples. But, then, some think she’s just waiting for her kid’s wedding, then is going to leave. She doesn’t need to be told what she is doing is wrong. She knows that. And so far we have been able to say things to her that she hasn’t taken as rejecting. If so, I think she wouldn’t be coming back to our meeting.
It was interesting that this came up in our church at the time this same thing is being addressed on this list, in this series. How do we deal with someone sinning who is unrepentant? Can we tell if they are unrepentant ? Who knows what’s going on in her heart ?
We have enough life woven into each other, that it is felt she broke trust with us with deception, and it’s up to her now, to regain that trust. Our boundaries with her changed. You don’t deceive and everything’s the same. My words to her were that she isn’t going to find satisfaction till she understands the dissatisfaction is with herself.
So, it’s interesting – we do have the setting where the relationship has had a chance to develop within our house church, to where we all have earned the place to have words with her. Those who are closer to her, can say more. And this is going on while this same scenario is being discussed on this list.
I’ve had to figure out myself how I’m going to treat her. I certainly can’t act as if nothing happened, as if everything’s the same. It’s like – you blew it girl, and now you have some repairing to do here. It doesn’t do any good to tell her she’s doing wrong. She knows it, but is doing so anyhow. But we as the body, can not go on with her as if nothing has happened.
This episode is still ongoing, it will be interesting to see how it turns out, what we all learn from it. And of course, we look for the healing of her wounds, that the marriage might stick together, that both parties might find healing that brings a love, a marriage better than before. Most of all, we pray for the healing. Because it is the unhealed wounds driving the stupid choices.



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Russ

posted February 10, 2006 at 9:31 pm


Scott, I remember once while pastoring a country church in Indiana that a young girl in her early 20′s came forward during our time of committment and after I shared with her about God’s grace and love she became a Christian. That very night my deacon board threatened to resign if I baptised her. The reason? She was living with the man that was with her. After a very long and heated exchange nothing changed except for the fact that I made up my mind then and there I would seek other ministry opportunites.
What a shame that we try to force God’s ways on people instead of letting God Spirit bring about the change. Galatians talks about this in detail. There we learn that the spirit is what brings change, not our self effort or our imposed righteousness.
I personally feel that homosexuality is incompatible with the ways of God though I openly admit it is a compex issue. My problem is not so much what I believe as how I should express it. We have to be willing to accept that to be accepting we will have to “put up” with some things we might not completely agree with. Unfortunately, we tend to accept for a while until they have time to become exactly like us.



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rick

posted February 11, 2006 at 10:06 am


Hey Scott, I just wonder if we didn’t have our “bibles” what would our stance on homosexuality be? I suspect that those who think it is sin now would think that it is sin without their bibles and vice versa. I can’t help to believe that the struggle here is really about relgion and our own prejudices and less about Jesus and God.
As I said before, I would love for you to post about divorce and remarriage, something Jesus was explicit about and is an epidemic in our culture and the evangelical church.
Still, I like coming here and being a voice of reason. (just kidding!) :)



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Denny Burk

posted February 11, 2006 at 10:26 am


Rick in #22,
You have gotten at the heart of the issue in your remarks. Christians are not people who put down their Bible when it comes to figuring out issues of truth and morality. We believe the Bible to be the Holy Spirit inspired written word of God. All human opinions give way to this authoritative witness to Jesus Christ.
Never in our farthest imagination would we think it right or appropriate to figure out what we think about homosexuality apart from the Bible.
Thanks,
Denny



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Scot McKnight

posted February 11, 2006 at 11:29 am


Rick,
We don’t live in a world of Christians without Bibles.
In fact, the Kantian ethical revolution is just that; and there is no transcendent basis for ethical decisions. I like the direction of Christian Smith’s Beleiving Moral Animals.



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Dave deJong

posted February 11, 2006 at 1:06 pm


I’ve followed this discussion with a great deal of interest. Denny: thanks. You deserve accolades for continuing to stand for the truth of the Word of God.
I’m both amazed and saddened at most of the posts. What do you with the Jesus who spoke more about hell than heaven, who told the man who had been crippled for 38 years (never mind sinning, he was crippled!), “Stop sinning or something worse may happen to you.”
I’m not saying that Jesus wasn’t full of the love and grace of God for everyone, including homosexuals. But Jesus NEVER tolerated sin or re-wrote what constitutes sin.
We are indeed all cracked images. But let’s not construct Jesus in our image. Adapting him to the cultural realities of our time is a sure sign we are missing his true message!



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Julie

posted February 11, 2006 at 2:21 pm


So Dave, do you keep the complete Holinesss Code in Leviticus?
Btw, we don’t know what Jesus thought of homosexuality. He either didn’t mention it or the Gospel writers left it out. So it’s hard to use Jesus as the measure for this one.
but sticking with Jesus and your analogy, do you tell cripples to stop sinning to enter the Kingdom of God? If not, why not? Isn’t that the example of Jesus? What has changed that means we don’t follow his example?
If you are relying on Paul for this discussion, then better to use him in your comments about morality than Jesus…



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Bryan Hodge

posted February 11, 2006 at 2:45 pm


Julie, did Jesus talk about sexual immorality?



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Greg Mc

posted February 11, 2006 at 2:50 pm


Scot: How do you justify the jump from disciples, struggling with their failures to unbelieving people who are dead in their trespass and sin and living in open rebellion? From “Jesus does not disown followers for failure;” to “those who are practicing same-sex actions and relationships,”?
Are you saying that Jesus does not see a distinction between the two? I agree that Jesus will never leave or forsake those who come to Him being graciously drawn by the Father, but I don’t see that as a universal promise; Do you?



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Denny Burk

posted February 11, 2006 at 2:52 pm


Dave in #26,
I think you may be making a false disjunction between the teachings of the Apostle Paul and the teachings of Jesus. Paul wrote his letters as if he were speaking for Jesus (e.g. Galatians 1:1, 12). To draw a distinction between the Gospels’ portrayal of Jesus and Paul’s letters can imply a denigration of the Lord’s revelatory work through his apostles (John 14:26; 15:26; 16:13, 15).
Also, don’t forget that Paul’s letters are the earliest Christian writings we have, written well-before the Gospels. Just because the Gospel writers don’t have much to say about the subject of homosexuality, we should not come to the conclusion that they mean to contradict Paul. We would be hard-pressed to make the case that the Gospel writers meant to give a portrayal of Jesus at variance with Paul.
Thanks,
Denny



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Bryan Hodge

posted February 11, 2006 at 2:55 pm


BTW, Julie, you do believe Jesus is God, right? He’s the God who gave the commandments in Lev 18?



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Jim Martin

posted February 11, 2006 at 3:05 pm


Scot,
So glad you did this series. I have not commented because I missed several of your posts. I look forward to reading through them all very soon.



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Scot McKnight

posted February 11, 2006 at 3:09 pm


Bryan,
I think your logic could be better. Let us assume the Trinity and let us assume that God inspired Scripture, including Leviticus 18; but let us also assume developmental revelation; and let us also assume Matt 5:17-48, and posit then that the God who gave those commands also sees them for a place and time, and that Jesus has just transcended them at some level.
It is not that simple — that’s what I’m saying.



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Bryan Hodge

posted February 11, 2006 at 3:57 pm


Scot, I’m only saying that development of revelation does not include the changing of God’s opinions on a subject. That is an absurd Marcionite distinction. I’ve already stated that it is my belief that the SoM is Christ interpreting the Law according to what was always meant (half of what he says if not more is already within the Law itself). What should not be taken as so simple is the passing by of the OT as though that was the old God and this is the new One, Who now sees things differently. I make this statement because I hear people constantly say, “Jesus never condemned homosexuality.” Well, is that true? If He is the God who gave Lev 18, then He did condemn it once. If He condemned it then, not to mention that He condemned sexual immorality in general in the Gospels, then where is the evidence that He would have changed His mind? The SoM indicates that He thinks that MORE than what He said in the OT characterizes true righteousness, not LESS. The burden of proof is upon those who assume otherwise.
So Scot, my logic is fine if it doesn’t presume certain things about the nature of progressive revelation (and that is what I am speaking toward).



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Bryan Hodge

posted February 11, 2006 at 3:59 pm


Secondly, I just wanted to see if Julie believes that Jesus is God, since if not, that has implications on what I just said.



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Scot McKnight

posted February 11, 2006 at 4:25 pm


Bryan,
Thanks for this.
I don’t see the Antitheses as you do, but that hardly entails a Marcionite view of God. Jesus sets aside the lex talionis — my point, then, at least from this perspective of the Antitheses, is that it is not a simple: God wrote Lev 18; same God; therefore…



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Don in Phoenix

posted February 11, 2006 at 4:39 pm


Bryan,
The God who gave the commands of Leviticus 18 also gave the commands of Leviticus 11, and Peter’s vision in Acts 10. Please point out anything – anything at all – in Leviticus that applies under the new covenant! According to the prophets, God’s desire was to write His law on our hearts, and live within us. In Christ, He fulfilled that desire. According to both Jesus and Paul, the new ‘law’ is to love God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength, and love our neighbors as ourselves.
Jesus also said that we would be judged by the same standard we applied to those whom we judged. Therefore, I must assume that you, Bryan, are comfortable with being judged by Hebrew Law. Is your beard in good shape, untrimmed, etc.? How about the fringe on your garments? I hope I would find no trace of pork or shellfish in your freezer. When was the last time you sacrificed a bullock, or a he-goat, or even a turtledove?
Or maybe you’re using Romans 1 to make your judgment. Do I hear you implying that I am attracted to other men since I can remember because, knowing full well who God really is, I made a conscious choice to worship idols and God finally got sick of it and turned me over to “a reprobate mind”? Give me a break – Paul was talking about the righeousness of God: that God could righteously judge pagan nations based on His self-revelation in nature, and the wholesale depravity that worship of idols leads to (as in the behavior of Sodom).
Speaking of Sodom, I know you’re far too intelligent to use Genesis 19, [and that you do not] connect the behavior of the men of Sodom (all of the men) with the behavior of two consenting adults in a loving, committed relationship. Perhaps you’re basing your decision on two words in 1 Corinthians 6, which the KJV honestly translates as “effeminate” and “abusers of themselves with mankind”, while some more modern translations – in deference to their theological or cultural bias – lump the two words together as “homosexuals” or “homosexual offenders”.
It all boils down to what side you take on the scholarly disagreement as to the translation of those two Greek words. If you accept the biased “homosexuals” translation, you are led by the following verses to conclude that homosexual orientation is subject to change, and such change is desirable. If you take the position that “effeminate” refers to a man playing the role of a woman as a transvestite prostitue, and “abusers of themselves with mankind” as any one of the possible translations that attempt to specify the behavior to which Paul referred, you aren’t led to the same inevitable conclusion, and the psychological and spiritual abuses that follow from attempting to rewire an adult’s sexual orientation.
To all, especially Scot, keep up the good conversation!
[SMcK: Comment slightly edited; substance completely unchanged.]



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Bryan Hodge

posted February 11, 2006 at 5:19 pm


Scot, Thanks for always taking time. I have a question for you:
Does Jesus set aside the lex talionis as it was meant in the Law for Israel, or does he set aside an abuse and distortion of it that was being used for (personal revenge rather than limits on reparations for a wrong done)? I think how we answer that question (and I think we’re answering it differently) is going to direct our views of the SoM. I certainly think Jesus calls us to much more than the Law did. I’m just not convinced that He calls us to less by setting it aside (instead of seeing Him set some bad interpretations of it aside). For instance, not desiring another woman who does not belong to you is equated to adultery; but this is what the Law said in summary (“you are not to desire your neighbor’s wife”). The Law telling Israel to love its neighbor does not say to hate their enemies (that was a misapplication of certain other texts).
We have to remember that the comments upon the Law begin with:
17 “Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to destroy but to fulfill. 18 “For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass from the Law until all is accomplished. 19 “Whoever then annuls one of the least of these commandments, and teaches others [to do] the same, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever keeps and teaches [them], he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.”
So He seems to be giving the statement that He’s not setting the law aside.
My question would be this: In your view Scot, does Jesus transcend the Law or an interpretation of the Law? If we view Jesus as setting aside the Law itself, does He not become guilty of what He accused the Scribes and Pharisees of doing?
9 He was also saying to them, “You are experts at setting aside the commandment of God in order to keep your tradition . 10 “For Moses said, `Honor your father and your mother’; and, `He who speaks evil of father or mother, is to be put to death’; 11 but you say, `If a man says to [his] father or [his] mother, whatever I have that would help you is Corban (that is to say, given [to God]),’ 12 you no longer permit him to do anything for [his] father or [his] mother; 13 [thus] invalidating the word of God by your tradition which you have handed down; and you do many things such as that.”
In my view, Jesus sets aside bad interpretations and symbols no longer needed (hand washings, unclean foods, etc.). I don’t see Him setting aside a single moral law. Maybe that will help in seeing why I would see Jesus as condemning homosexuality (since I see it as a moral law and not an 2d Temple misinterpretation nor do I see it as a symbol).
I definitely grant you that it’s not simplistic (afterall, I just had to write all this to just state it), but I just don’t see a strong argument in the direction that some are going toward often with the “Jesus never condemned homosexuality” a) because he never talked about it (If He’s God, He did and if sexual immorality includes it, then He did) or b) Jesus sets aside the Law, so it only has a specific relevance to that ancient context (doesn’t sound like an “until heaven and earth passes away” type argument to me). I know that you may not have this antithesis, Scot, but I get it a lot in my context, and I can’t help but take note of a general “feeling” that the God of the OT has a split personality from the God of the NT (God once was mean, but now He’s nice; He was once intolerant of sin, but now He is tolerant of sin, etc.).



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Bryan Hodge

posted February 11, 2006 at 5:27 pm


“Please point out anything – anything at all – in Leviticus that applies under the new covenant!”
I’m pretty sure barbequing your kids is still a bad thing in the new covenant, Don. But I don’t know maybe you guys have a fellowship built around that as well:)
Have you been reading anything we’ve been writing, Don, or do you just chime in without listening first? We’ve dealt with all of this stuff already. My argument came in a different way that I’m sure you’re not used to dealing with (since you pulled out all of the old strawmen). BTW, since I don’t need to listen to the OT because it talks about trimming the sides of my beard, I guess I can go out and commit murder now too. Hey, if the beard thing doesn’t apply, why would any of it?
Please take note of the difference between symbols used to describe holiness in an ancient Near Eastern context and the moral teachings that make up that holiness. Otherwise, you should be starting a fellowship for practicing serial killers sometime soon.



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Bryan Hodge

posted February 11, 2006 at 5:30 pm


BTW, I thought your explanation of Rom 1 was a little weak. How were you taking the judgment of God in that passage? The judgment is for idolatry. What is the judgment there, Don? BTW, it is about not obeying the truth that is known (not just idolatry). That’s why the Jews are condemned for the same practices in Chapt 2. It’s knowledge of what is true, but refusing to obey it that leads one into the judgment of God concerning views of sex.



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Becky

posted February 11, 2006 at 5:34 pm


Tallis, it does have to do with this discussion. This discussion is about what do we do with others we think are in sin, how do we speak to them toward redemption?
If anyone here knew her, I wouldn’t speak. No one knows her, I think it’s a good example of how do we deal on a very personal level with someone we know is sinning. I think it’s a good example of what do we actually do about whether knowing someone is repentant or not.
Sorry you didn’t see anything relevant in it.



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Julie

posted February 11, 2006 at 5:46 pm


Bryan, this discussion isn’t about “figuring out what I believe about Jesus” as though then you can affirm or dismiss or tutor me in theology, but about listening to a variety of perspectives. I don’t answer “statement of faith” litmus tests because they are used to pigeon-hole.
But feel free to ask me to support what I say. I don’t see the Leviticus Holiness Code as being authored by Jesus. How’s that for starters?



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Julie

posted February 11, 2006 at 5:49 pm


Hey Don, you’re brave. :) Perhaps this is a chance for all of us to see how we treat someone who is unapologetically gay and believes God is not opposed to him…
What comes out of our hearts and out mouths?



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Bryan Hodge

posted February 11, 2006 at 5:52 pm


Julie, I wasn’t asking you if you signed your name to the Westminster Confession. My question has direct relevance as to whether or not you see Jesus as Yahweh, who gave the Levitical commands. Don’t be so presumptuously on edge that someone’s trying to judge you about what you believe. If one does not believe the Bible is the Word of God, then why would I argue to them from the Bible? If one does not believe that Jesus is God, then why would I argue that way to them? See what I mean? If you don’t accept certain presupps, then you’re going to miss any arguments made with them (and I think it helps others to know where you are coming from with YOUR argumentation). BTW, I’m taking from your remarks that you don’t believe Jesus is God. Is that right? How about my second argument then that Jesus condemned sexual immorality?



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Tim

posted February 11, 2006 at 5:53 pm


Take a deep breath, people.
42 comments so far under this section of Scot’s discussion. 80 under the last one. By far the largest number for any subject since I’ve been coming to this blog.
2100 Biblical references to poverty and helping the poor. 6 Biblical references to homosexuality.
Something’s out of whack here.



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Bryan Hodge

posted February 11, 2006 at 5:54 pm


Maybe this is also a chance for us to see how this group treats people who believe homosexuality is wrong? Reading over the past statements made about me, I think I’m the demonized brave one here:)



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Bryan Hodge

posted February 11, 2006 at 5:58 pm


And no comments about breast cancer, Tim! And yet so many are dying from it! All of these issues are important. Let’s not diminish the value of this conversation because other important things exist in the world as well.
Last time I checked. No one is arguing that we should consider the declarations of Scripture to take care of the poor as cultural and not binding. That’s why you wouldn’t expect a whole lot of comments on it. We need to do more, but I don’t know why you would expect that we say more about it when we already agree that the issue needs to be obeyed?



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Tim

posted February 11, 2006 at 6:09 pm


With regard to #46.
Not true, Bryan.
Definition of ‘having enough’, according to Paul: ‘If we have food and clothing, we will be content’.
Definition of ‘having enough’, according to many North American evangelical Christians: having a house with a two car garage, at least one SUV and another car to go along with it, several computers, regular vacations in the sunnier parts of the world…
Average level of giving among North American evangelicals (I’m quoting from memory from Ron Sider’s book here) – between 2.5 and 3.5% (down a couple of percentage points from 25 years ago).
Granted, very few preachers are standing up and saying that we don’t have to help the poor. But in most of our churches, a huge number of people are living lives in which they take it for granted that we don’t have to take seriously what Jesus says about storing up treasures on earth and about caring for the poor.
Paul’s standard for Christians? Check out 2 Corinthians 8:13 – ‘That there might be equality’. He was talking about equality of goods between Christians in Palestine and in Jerusalem. When was the last time you heard a preacher preach from this text that there should be equality of goods between Christians in New York and in Kenya?
Yes, I’m judging myself too. I just think it’s a hopeless oversimplification to say that because no one is saying we shouldn’t help the poor, we all agree on the subject. We don’t. Our actions speak louder than our words.



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Bryan Hodge

posted February 11, 2006 at 6:13 pm


Tim, I totally agree; but my agreeance with you is not going to fill up the blogsite. That’s all I’m saying. People need to be rebuked for what they know the Bible teaches about poverty. But this conversation gets so much because people don’t believe this issue is wrong, or that wrong, or if wrong should have any disciplinary consequences, etc.



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Julie

posted February 11, 2006 at 6:40 pm


Hey Bryan.
You said: But this conversation gets so much because people don’t believe this issue is wrong, or that wrong, or if wrong should have any disciplinary consequences, etc.
Most of the places I’ve been in evangelical Christiandom, homosexuality is seen as categorically wrong, to be opposed. This is one of the few conversations I’ve been in with those on the theologically conservative side that are asking the questions: is it wrong? Is it always? What did the Bible mean? How do we understand the OT and the NT wtr homosexuality? What principles did Jesus give us for sexual morality? How do we treat homosexuals based on what we think about homosexuality? (It will vary.)
I am one voice on this forum. I don’t mind at all that you use the Scriptures to express your viewpoint. I am interested in how you use them. I hold the Scriptures differently than you do, as is evident from my posts. But honestly, I am interested in how those who do see the Bible as “true” (using Scot’s category) justify their positions. How do they do that? That’s what drew me here.
I am sure that my theological bent is more liberal than most posting to this blog. But I am not prepared to define my beliefs in this context. I will say that I don’t see a static picture of an unchanging God in the Bible. Jesus is the breakthrough revelation of God, imho, that challenged the status quo. The Christ of faith continues to be the expression of that guiding picture of who God is. I see revelation as progressive, unfolding through the intersection of Experience, Reason, Tradition and Scripture. This is the balancing act that the church has been engaged in for 2000 years. It is a tricky balancing act and we are all a part of it, regardless of how faithful we think we’re being to any one component. That is why Jesus’s affirmation that the Holy Spirit would lead us into all truth is pretty startling.
From the outside (and even on the inside!) it seems that the HS isn’t doing a very good job! Why can’t we find a congruent picture as to what God is saying about almost anything?
My hunch is that we are too busy hunting down propostional truth and not enough time seeking the disposition of faith – the Sermon on the Mount kinds of attitudes and practices that are transforming of culture, relationships and society–that kind of lived truth.
That said, I am enjoying this discussion because it helps me to see how people who are in a context that I spent 25 years in are working through similar issues using a theological grid with which I am intimately familiar. And I like the scholarship that is being offered that takes the Bible seriously. (I like reading your views against Don’s or Curt’s or Scot’s, for instance. Helps me clarify mine.)
I am sorry if I contributed in any way to your feeling “demonized.”
Keep posting!



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Tim

posted February 11, 2006 at 6:51 pm


Bryan, you said,
Tim, I totally agree; but my agreeance with you is not going to fill up the blogsite. That’s all I’m saying. People need to be rebuked for what they know the Bible teaches about poverty. But this conversation gets so much because people don’t believe this issue is wrong, or that wrong, or if wrong should have any disciplinary consequences, etc.
Bryan, I have no wish to demonise you. I agree with you on the basic issue (I do not believe that the New Testament supports same-gender sexual relationships as an option for Christians). I just dislike the way so many churches refuse to tolerate any disagreement on this subject, and make it the litmus test for obedience, while overlooking so many other issues on which the biblical authors have far more to say. So may I ask you very gently, in your congregation, what are the ‘disciplinary consequences’ for those who refuse to obey the clear New Testament injunctions not to store up treasures on earth, and to practice equality of goods on an intenrational level between Christians, and how do they compare to the consequences for the couple living in a committed same-sex relationship?



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Denny Burk

posted February 11, 2006 at 7:19 pm


Julie in #49,
Just a couple of comments on what you have said:
(1) If you think that God changes, then I suppose that it would naturally follow that His written revelation changes and contradicts itself too. But those of us in the orthodox tradition think it’s important not to define “progressive revelation” as if it were a synonym for “progressive contradiction of previous revelation.” God is not changing and neither is His word (e.g. 1 Sam 15:29).
(2) You mentioned “Jesus’s affirmation that the Holy Spirit would lead us into all truth.” You are referring to a smattering of texts from Jesus’s farewell discourse (John 14:26; 15:26; 16:13, 15). It’s important to remember who the “you” is in those promises. The “you” does not refer to you the reader, but to the 11 apostles (Judas is already gone). The promise pertains to Jesus’ intent to have his apostle play a foundational role in the founding of his new community of faith (Matt 16:18; cf. Eph 2:20). The canonical New Testament is the apostles’ legacy of truth inscripturated for us.
This promise, therefore, drives us not into subjectivism, but into a greater effort to apprehend the written apostolic word–the New Testament. For our purposes here it’s important to remember that a Christian conversation of homosexuality must be grounded in that unchanging apostolic revelation.
Thanks,
Denny



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Bryan Hodge

posted February 11, 2006 at 7:20 pm


Tim, honestly, neither have ever been an issue in my church. My people have been disciplined for drunken parties and fights. I have a small congregation, so maybe that’s why I haven’t dealt with the others. That’s not to say that we don’t have anyone practicing both of those. I just don’t have anyone in open rebellion on those issues. And for me, Tim. church discipline is a matter of rebellion against God and the community, not a matter of making sure no one sins at all. Maybe that would help the picture as well. I have taught my congregation a lot about giving to the poor, helping those in need, and they are really encouraging with it (in fact, we’ve talked more about the issue than homosexuality, which simply got some comments when we went through passages like Lev 18 or Rom 1. I didn’t even discuss it when we went through 1 Cor because I think that passage is teaching more about church discipline and homosexuality is simply one example in it.)
Julie, you didn’t demonize me. I’ve enjoyed talking to you. I don’t mind that you are on the more liberal side of the street. Because you are, however, you should also be aware that the vast majority of evangelical churches in the West today are on the moderate side of most issues. The fundamentalist churches are few and far between (even though they have loud voices that makes it look like its every church out there). I think liberal churches and seminaries tend to characterize the more traditional church with a lot of stereotypes that come out of the fundamentalist tradition.
Having said that then, you can understand that I don’t think the bulk of our church culture is on the conservative side of the issue. Most people though homosexuality was wrong because it is gross, instead of having a real reason. When they no longer view it as gross, they will accept it for lack of a good argument.
You bring up a good point though because I’ve heard these conversations my whole life in churches, whereas some people grew up in more fundamentalist churches I think only know some texts or just assumed it to be wrong. These are the people who often leave the “conservative side” of things to a more liberal one because they were never presented with a good case.
For me, the passage you quoted about the HS bringing us into all truth is to the apostles, not Christians in general. So I see that as something that happens through the apostles, handed down to the orthodox church through the Fathers, etc. I don’t see it as the HS bringing us as individuals with our own private interpretations into the truth. I think that is why we’re not. We must assign ourselves to those God has brought into the truth and believe through them, otherwise our opinions vary and we are lost in a sea of confusion.
Thanks, Julie. I find your conversing to be honest and intelligent, so you are a great value to this conversation.



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Julie

posted February 11, 2006 at 8:05 pm


Hi Denny.
I don’t know if God changes. I do know that our understanding of God changes. That’s what I see revealed in Scripture… an unfolding understanding of God that shows nuances and modifications (not necessarily saying that all of those understandings that build on the past are more correct or preferred… just that we (collective “we”) do adjust our perceptions of God over time).
You said: But those of us in the orthodox tradition think it’s important not to define “progressive revelation” as if it were a synonym for “progressive contradiction of previous revelation.” God is not changing and neither is His word (e.g. 1 Sam 15:29).
This is a misreading of what I said. Progressive revelation isn’t necessarily invalidating or contradicting. However, I do think we need ideological critique as one of our tools in our toolkits when doing Biblical interpretation. It helps to see when the writers are operating from a limited (limiting) framework that differs from what we have available to us today. We have our own blindnesses that will be challenged in the future too.
We do not see God the way the ancients did (let’s look at NT times, for instance). They saw God as a being in a place called heaven about 3 miles above the earth reigning through the blessings and curses he directly delivered to humankind.
We have explored the universe (limited exploration) and have moved God to the invisible sphere. We have altered what we believe about how God is involved in weather and harvest and prayer and more. That doesn’t mean that the OT or NT reporting about God isn’t reported “truly” or that it doesn’t represent God. Rather, it gives us an illumination worth engaging against those other sources of theology: reason, experience and tradition. We are always modifying how we understand God.
Does that make God change? I think a better question is “On what basis do our ideas about what God communicates to us change?”
I appreciate your interpretation of (John 14:26; 15:26; 16:13, 15). Thanks for offering it. If we take that interpretation as accurate, would you agree that apostolic understanding of the faith has been passed on to us “through a glass darkly”? We don’t have a clear directive of how to interpret the Bible anywhere, that I can find. (I’ve been looking!)
Figuring out what Christianity teaches has been one long dicey discussion for two thousand years, everyone claiming that his or her perspective goes all the way back to the apostles. Don’t you think?
How else could Luther or Calvin oppose the “deposit of faith” in the RCC (supposedly handed down from the apostles)?
So my perspective is that we are all doing theology all the time. No one is doing it right. It takes humility to admit our own limitations. To me, that is what grace is good for.
A diversity of interpretations in a community of sincere Christians may have the best chance of approximting God’s perspective, imho.
In this discussion, then, it is apparent that the necessity of finding what we believe God to be saying about homosexuality is urgent because culturally it is no longer in the closet. Whether the first century writings relate God’s communication to our time IS the issue. I agree on that.



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JCM

posted February 11, 2006 at 8:20 pm


this is troubling me and I wonder if someone could provide some
insight for me.
1. are we supposed to celebrate God’s design?
2. this is an all inclusive event-God’s Word says to preserve the
purity of the Gospel and the purity of the church.
3. making sexuality a point of unity is raising the banner of our
sexuality above the banner of our unity in Christ.
thanks in advance for your thoughts on this



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Scot McKnight

posted February 11, 2006 at 10:21 pm


We’ve been “to church” tonight, and while gone some of you got a little testy, so glad I’m back to say a few things:
Don:
Here’s your comment: “The God who gave the commands of Leviticus 18 also gave the commands of Leviticus 11, and Peter’s vision in Acts 10. Please point out anything – anything at all – in Leviticus that applies under the new covenant! According to the prophets, God’s desire was to write His law on our hearts, and live within us. In Christ, He fulfilled that desire. According to both Jesus and Paul, the new ‘law’ is to love God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength, and love our neighbors as ourselves.”
That very comment, love your neighbor, is straight from Leviticus 19.18. The Law he was writing, evidently, in part comes straight from Leviticus.



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Scot McKnight

posted February 11, 2006 at 10:27 pm


Bryan,
Antitheses: Not all are set aside; the lex talionis is set aside. You have heard … straight quotation; antitheses: I say don’t.
He swallows up the Law into a new ethic; “fulfill” means more than establish. I use this analogy: for Jesus, the OT Law is a typewriter, and his teachings are a computer (Apple of course). The Torah is the preliminary expression of God’s will.
I’m with you on the Marcionite ring of some theological interpretations. I’m with those who see eschatological fulfillment.



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Don in Phoenix

posted February 12, 2006 at 2:35 am


This is rich! I mention that Leviticus is generally considered as no longer applicable, and suddenly I am condoning child sacrifice and fellowshipping with serial murderers. “Thou shalt not kill” is still applicable under the Lord’s commandment to love my neighbor as myself. The Hebrew law was given by God to a particular people, and has universally been accepted as NOT APPLICABLE to gentile Christians. The lager point is that conservatives like Bryan are quite selective in their application of Hebrew law and, when called on that issue, tend to use distraction tactics. But, I must confess that Bryan does have one point – I need to spend some more time studying Romans 1 for myself, rather than accepting and repeating the arguments of others. For that, I apologize to Bryan.
I have a much bigger problem with those who say that Jesus’ statement that the Spirit of Truth would lead His disciples into all truth was limited to the eleven apostles. Having begun your life in Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit, are you now perfecting your own salvation through your own intellect, reading letters on a page and attempting to make sense of them without His guidance or inspiration? It is the nature of God to reveal Himself and His will to every generation. If the Holy Spirit stopped leading Christ’s followers into all truth, then what about Martin Luther?
Just food for thought.



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Scot McKnight

posted February 12, 2006 at 8:22 am


Don,
The issue here about ongoing revelation in the Church is the role Scripture and Tradition is to play. What made Luther, of course, was Luther wanted to return to the Bible (sola scriptura) and turn Bible against Tradition and culture.
So the question might be asked in what way the Spirit continues to “reveal”?



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