Monday, November 03, 2008

Marriage and California Proposition 8

There's a lot of passion in California about Proposition 8, defining marriage as only between a man and a woman. There's so much stupidity all around, it's hard to find any footing, and as usual, the problem is the stupidity of Christians, just as Jesus said: "You are the light of the world . . . but if the light in you is darkness, how great is that darkness."

First, let's dispose of the folly that gender is in the same category as racial or religious distinctions, as opponents of the measure speciously argue. It's been most exceptional in history to make "racial" distinctions in marriage, unlike in gender. No culture anywhere until today - including those like ancient Greece which were perfectly OK with homosexual conduct - ever imagined that marriage had anything to do with homosexuality. Only the modern West has considered blowing off the fundamental distinction of gender in marriage. In sharp contrast, "race" is really an artificial construct. Male and female are much more fundamental in humans. To equate these distinctions is preposterous, and can only be done by implicitly accepting the delusion that fundamental racial differences exist among humans.

The modern West has been most consistent the last 500 years in holding to preposterous racial theories to justify its plunder and slaughter in the rest of the world, so it's maybe not coincidence that precisely this culture, having found racial and gender distinctions equally fundamental in the past, now finds both equally insignificant today.

It's pretty clear that homosexuality is a consequence of brokenness. Homosexuals, for instance, have a far higher incidence of abuse as children than the general population, especially sexual abuse. To say this is OK is sort of like accepting accident arthritis as normal. You don't find fault with people for getting arthritis as a result of being smashed up in car accidents, but it doesn't do them a lot of good to decide that there's nothing wrong with that condition, even if you don't know what to do about it.

That takes me to my next point. Christians like to base their condemnation of homosexuality on the authority of the Bible, especially Paul's writings. But if they would read these, they would find that Paul doesn't rest his case on the Bible, so Christians should shy away from that approach today, following Paul's example. His evidence that homosexuality is a problem, when he wrote to the Corinthian church, is in no way based on the Bible.

Instead, Paul says, "Such were some of you, but you were washed . . ." Paul's evidence that his list of problems were problems - including other practices that Christians tolerate beautifully both in their churches and in the politicians they support - is that when people met God in their church, these problems were getting repaired.

In the churches today where noses are out of joint about homosexuals, do homosexuals or other people with problems actually get repaired when they show up? The biblical rule is clear: until homosexuality or any other problem is getting repaired in your church in the people who walk in the door, you need to shut up and instead find out why you have no good news to offer - speaking of getting problems repaired.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Advising that Christians should not rest anything on the authority of the Bible is peculiar advice, but especially so when the reasoning behind such advice is because Paul did not do so with homosexuality in 1 Cor. 6. For the Christians that do read Paul's letters (your insinuation is they do not), they will find in the same letter to the same Corinthians, Paul resting his condemnation of sexual immorality, which presumably incorporates homosexuality, on biblical examples in 1 Cor. 10.

He harkens back to the time of Moses and the judgments upon the children of Israel for lust, idolatry, sexual immorality, tempting Christ, and complaining; explaining that these "became our examples" so that we should not lust after evil things. He continues to do so habitually throughout his letters for all manner of topics.

Paul's advice to Timothy is markedly different from your advice to readers of your blog as he explicitly tells him that "All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness" (2 Tim. 3:16). I don't find him suggesting Timothy avoid the Bible on certain issues. Rather, sound biblical doctrine was reiterated in these letters to Timothy.

It seems fitting that we as Christians should immediately resort to the authority of the Bible with as many issues as possible, like Jesus does in Matthew 4:4, 4:6, 4:7, 4:10, 11:10, 21:13, 26:24, 26:31, etc. It is not as though God's cleansing leading to repairs, as you put it, is going to differ from His word. It is, after all, the same God behind both.

12/10/2008 5:27 PM  
Blogger Peter Attwood said...

I'm glad you brought up these points.

What's clear in Paul's approach is that the Bible is the proper authority to use with those who already know it's authoritative, not with others. Thus Jesus was always confronting the scribes and Pharisees with the Bible, because they fancied themselves believers in it. But with others, he resorted to the word of God manifested in daily life, not the Bible - examine his parables. In general, as we also see in his dispute with the Saduccees concerning the resurrection, Jesus worked within whatever canon of the word of God the one he was dealing with recognized, and no more.

Paul certainly didn't avoid the Bible in his letter to the Corinthians, as you point out. But he didn't go beyond what God was actually doing in their lives. We see this in Galatians, too, where Paul appealed to how God had given them the Spirit and how God was doing miracles among them to show the foolishness of legalism. Only having laid that foundation did he go on to parse the Bible.

For Paul, the Bible was not a text book or a legal code to cite as an authority so much as a testimony of how God has always done things, demonstrated by how he does them now. Thus the authority of the Bible is eroded in our mouth by the absence in our lives of God demonstrably giving evidence to the same truth right now.

It really is the same story now as in the gospels. The scribes and Pharisees were very big on the Bible and its authority. As Jesus told them, "You search the scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life, and they testify of me."

The Bible was their substitute for reality, because they didn't hear its message, which is to go to God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ for everything, instead of using the Bible's authority to make it right even if God is not around.

It's not my advice to avoid the Bible, which I teach whenever I have opportunity. But it is my advice to use the Bible as the Bible directs us, and not as a substitute for the God it directs us to. Jesus taught the Bible better than anybody, but the scribes and Pharisees spent a lot more time in the details of the text than we see in the teaching of Jesus in the gospels, while they lived it a whole lot less.

We're supposed to rely on the authority of the Bible, but we can only do that when we are under the authority of the Bible, as demonstrated in our lives. The message of the Sermon on the Mount, which Jesus gave in response to those disciples who followed him up there when they saw his authority against demons and disease just before, is that the authority to make cripples walk arises from the power of God to walk in His steps.

If that's not there, we have no right to invoke the authority of Scripture (Psalm 50:16-17).

12/10/2008 11:24 PM  

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