Much to my dismay, my reservoir of blog posts-to-read has overflowed. To be honest, I have a pile in my office of really good posts-to-read from before the turning of the new year. I’m not sure I’ll get to them; they may be either pitched or filed away. We’ll see.
But today I read a very good entry I wanted to commend and pass along: this truly wonderful exposition by Kim Frabricius entitled Twelve Propositions on Same-Sex Relationships and the Church from back in January. Here are her first three propositions:
1. Let it be said at once that the question of same-sex relationships and the church is a question of truth before it is a question of morality or discipline. Is the church’s interpretation of scripture true? Is the church’s traditional teaching true? If they are not, then they have to go, otherwise the faith of the church becomes bad faith. As Milton said, “Custom without truth is but agedness of error.” One other thing in anticipation: Jesus said that the truth will make us free (John 8:32); Flannery O’Connor added that “the truth will make you odd.” But before we say anything more, we must know what we are saying it about. In most discussions on the issue of human sexuality we talk at each rather than with each other; in fact, we talk past each other.
2. I take it that homosexuality – and certainly the homosexuality I am talking about – is a given, not a chosen (a “life-style choice”); a disposition recognised, not adopted; a condition as “normal” as left-handedness – or heterosexuality (whether by nature or nurture is a moot but morally irrelevant point). I also assume an understanding of human sexuality that is not over-genitalised, where friendship, intimacy, and joy are as important as libido, and where sexual acts themselves are symbolic as well as somatic. Needless to say, the “Yuk” factor deployed in some polemics has no place in rational discussion, while the language of “disease” and “cure” is ignorant and repugnant. Fundamentally, homosexuality is about who you are, not what you do, let alone what you get up to in bed. This is a descriptive point. There is also a normative point: I am talking about relationships that are responsible, loving, and faithful, not promiscuous, exploitative, or episodic.
3. What about the Bible? This is the Protestant question. “The Bible says,” however, is a hopelessly inadequate and irresponsible answer. Nevertheless, we must certainly examine specific texts – and then (I submit) accept that they are universally condemnatory of homosexual practice. Arguments from silence – “Look at the relationship between David and Jonathan,” or, “Observe that Jesus did not condemn the centurion’s relationship with his servant” – are a sign of exegetical desperation. No, the Bible’s blanket Nein must simply be acknowledged. But Nein to what? For here is a fundamental hermeneutical axiom: “If Biblical texts on any social or moral topic are to be understood as God’s word for us today, two conditions at least must be satisfied. There must be a resemblance between the ancient and modern social situation or institution or practice or attitude sufficient for us to be able to say
that in some sense the text is talking about the same thing that we recognise today. And we must be able to demonstrate an underlying principle at work in the text which is consonant with biblical faith taken as a whole, and not contradicted by any subsequent experience or understanding” (Walter Houston).
I’d demur a bit about this last point, because the next several go on to show how, for most of the scant references cited, the Biblical material isn’t in fact saying a Nein to “homosexual practice” for various reasons. Kim’s point is that there are Neins being said, but to different things, really.
Nevertheless, this is a great read. Check it out. […Ed Note: If you’ve got time, check out the comments too…]
Also, tangentially, I just worked through the Strategy Report adopted by the New Wineskins Association of Churches. I’ve got some comments that I might put into an upcoming post. I am trying to distance myself from the initial reaction to having my position repeatedly called unfaithful to the bible and then reading the authors of the report decry the arrogance of their interlocutors. How does one react to that? How does one attempt to maintain a charitable and grace-offering relationship with fellow clergy and elders who willingly distort the theological convictions and views of others? Anyway, I’d encourage everyone to read that strategy report, remembering that it is also a rhetorical document.
I have a place in my heart for pastors and churches who are torn by their conscience to remain in our connectional body. There is likely a way to process their schism as faithfully as possible on both sides. (And yes, it is a schism). My greatest concern is with pastoral pensions and medical care…
On the other hand, I’m deeply wounded and ashamed by the tact many of them are taking in their argumentation; they ought be more honest with the true differences on both sides and what that means for the church. And I think that the language used here is simply inaccurate:
- such as with the case of the word ‘coersion’ that comes up with regard to our property trust clause in our Consitution which both defines our connectional system (we’re not congregationalist, nor truly hierarchical) and which defies the history of churches that voluntarily assented to the current constitution and its trust clause when we merged as a denomination in 1983;
- so too the purported arguments about the PUP as “changing” what is in fact a reaffirmation of historical Presbyterian practice (local examination with higher-governing oversight, acknowledging that the scruple issue muddies the waters);
- so too the language that the Trinity Report is “unscriptural” when it is in fact rooted in biblical hermeneutics and full of biblical citation, an exercise (not universally successful) of lifting up the biblical resources for thinking about the trinity while upholding the classical trinitarian formula “Father, Son and Holy Spirit.”
And there are others; those are just the ones heavy on my mind.
Why mention all this here? Well, this group, among others, argues that there is “clear teaching of scripture” on the homosexuality issue, among other things. This has been the recent trope, since most of them adopt Robert Gagnon‘s argument that this is in fact clear cut. But Fabricus is more on point.
That’s enough for the day. May all who read this have a grace-filled Lenten season…