Friday, September 01, 2017

How to Formulate a Christian Perspective on Same-Sex Unions (and a Bit About The Nashville Statement)

Cloud formation, Monroe County

I'm re-posting this for a friend, who wanted to talk with me about The Nashville Statement. Especially, are the signers of the NS filled with "hate?" The answer is: No.

But this article calls the NS a "Manifesto of Hate." As a example, it cites these affirmations to show the signers of the NS are "mean-spirited and intolerant."
-Marriage is only between a man and a woman.
- Sexual relations outside of marriage are immoral.  

I affirm those two statements. Does this mean I am hateful, mean-spirited, and intolerant?

Am I a "mean-spirited bigot, filled with hate in my heart for those I do not understand"? I don't believe so (I do have problems; I'm not always as loving as I should be.)

This article exemplifies the worst of the same-sex dialogue. "I don't agree with your beliefs" = "I am filled with hate." Disagreement equals hate? I don't think so. I don't even feel hate towards the person who wrote this article. We have different beliefs, and different noetic frameworks, that give rise to and justify our beliefs. Anyone want to sit down over coffee and dialogue about that, minus name-calling?

What about the morality of same-sex unions? For a Jesus-follower the question is: Does God affirm sex-same unions? Here are the steps to take, as I see things. (BTW - our culture has already decided on this one. But in matters of Christian understanding, the moral pronouncements of the prevailing culture are irrelevant. This remains a discussable issue among Christians.)

This process is a slow-cooker. In my case it has spanned four decades of thinking, studying, researching, dialoguing, and praying. You probably do not have the time to do this. But note this: If you are mostly unfamiliar with the literature, then do not hastily judge me. (Like, "How hateful John is!")

Here's the template. 


On a scale of 0-10, how authoritative is the Bible for you (with '0' being no authority, and '10' being fully authoritative). This is the first matter that must be discussed, without which there will be no meaningful outcome.


If the Bible has no authority, or very little authority, then the Christian discussion is over.

However, I am interested in the person who gives the Bible little or no authority. I want to ask them:

"What text (narrative) is authoritative for you? Have you thought about this?"

Again, if someone goes to Step 1a, then the intra-Christian discussion is over. But, since everyone has a worldview, a narrative they live by, what is theirs?

After years of teaching philosophy, I have concluded that few people understand and evaluate their worldview. And note: the rejection of all worldviews is itself a worldview. Like, e.g., the rejection of all metanarratives is itself a metanarrative (contra Foucault, et. al.).


To say that the Scriptures have great authority is to say they guide and influence our faith and life.


We must handle the Word of God correctly, or rightly.

To do this requires study. Two good books on how to interpret the Bible are:

That is, to enter more fully into this discussion at this point, one should have some understanding of principles of biblical interpretation. Everyone cannot invest decades of study into this. But it helps avoiding horrendous mistakes in reading the Scriptures. For example, context is important in the interpretation of anything, to include interpreting the Bible. Because a text without a context is simply a pretext to say what you want the text to say.


This is the question for follows of Jesus who give the Scriptures great authority.

As Craig Keener writes, "My primary vocation is as a Bible scholar, and I need to explain the text faithfully."

Correct. The issue here is: what does the biblical text say, as opposed to what we might wish the text would say.

This is why, e.g., what the prevailing cultural wisdom says is irrelevant to the interpreting of the Bible, and any text, for that matter.


The person who ends up here must justify their interpretation of Scripture, and conclude that God affirms same-sex unions. They might find themselves agreeing with people like Dan Via (presents view #2) and Matthew Vines, et. al., for example.


The person who ends up here must justify their interpretation of Scripture.

At this point I have long laid out my cards on the table. I'm with Keener (and N.T. Wright, Ben Witherington, Tim Keller, Robert Gagnon, Wesley Hill, et. al) when he writes: "I believe that the biblical passages about homosexual behavior are fairly clear... most exegetes, whether they agree personally with Paul or not, still regard Romans 1 as disagreeing with homosexual practice... I would be happy to be persuaded otherwise, but so far it continues to appear to me that this is where the exegesis strongly points."