Skip to comments.Contexts and pretexts
Posted on 03/15/2006 12:25:16 PM PST by sionnsar
Ive been surfing the Integrity website lately (for reasons that will become apparent Friday). Last night I decided to check out their FAQ page. There they try to deal with some of the obvious questions and objections that naturally arise when a group claiming to be Christian advocates something diametrically opposed to Gods Word, the created order, and the uniform voice of the Church throughout the ages up to today.
It deals with questions like, Doesnt the Bible condemn homosexuality?
Theres a link under this particular question to an apologetic site called, Whosoever, that purports to deal with the question biblically, but the counter arguments offered there are, well, not quite the best they have to offer.
In dealing with Romans chapter 1:18-32, for example, they conveniently start with verse 24 rather than verse 18 and stop at verse 27 rather than proceed to verse 32.
When obscuring biblical truth its always best to divorce it from its literary context after all. Romans 1:18-23 sets homosexual desire described in 24-27 in the context of the Fall (Genesis 3) and Romans 28-32 widens the scope to include all sinful impulses or orientations resulting from the same. In other words, taken in context, Paul points to the homosexual impulse and homosexual behavior as just one among many egregious examples of the way humanitys original turning away from God has marred (not destroyed) the imago dei, the image of God, in accordance with which we were created.
But divorcing these several verses from their context allows the author to suggest that:
While Paul is certainly not favorable toward the homosexual acts that he is writing about it is interesting to note that Paul classifies them as unclean which is not necessarily a moral precept [insert shellfish argument here] According to the Holiness Code lobsters and shrimp are unclean also.
Its difficult not to pull your hair out when confronted with an argument like this. First, as the rest of Romans 1-3 makes clear (and as Dr. R. Gagnon points out here) Pauls primary context is Genesis 1-3 not the purity code. Second, the secondary context is the Old Testament moral code (again, not the purity code) as is easily discerned when verses 24-27 are considered in their proper context, verses 29-32.
They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; they are senseless, faithless, heartless, ruthless. Although they know God's righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them. (Romans 1:29-32)
Moreover when Jesus, in Mark 7:20-23, argues that it is not what a man takes into his body that makes him unclean but rather what comes out of his heart, he gives a great demonstration of how flexible the word unclean had become by the 1st century. Jesus applied it to sinful/immoral impulses, not just shellfish.
The author then turns to make what he must think is a winning point:
It must be remembered also that Paul was referring to homosexual ACTS, not homosexuals.
This is true, but as is so often the case, it is also irrelevant. No one from the orthodox suggests otherwise. Basic Listening Skills are obviously lacking.
But this is my favorite part (the capitalized portions are in the original text):
AND NO ONE KNOWS WHAT HOMOSEXUAL ACTS PAUL WAS TALKING ABOUT... NO ONE KNOWS THE BACKGROUND... We must ask ourselves "what type of homosexual acts was Paul talking about?" Was he talking exclusively about homosexual acts connected with idolatry? (Perhaps that was the only kind of homosexual activity he was familiar with.) Was he talking about pederasty? Was he talking about homosexual acts committed with slaves? Was he talking about people of heterosexual orientation committing homosexual acts? Just exactly what type of homosexual acts was he concerned with? Do people have the Right to just ASSUME that these verses were a blanket condemnation of homosexual sex in every context?
Of course the reason the author is laboring this point is because Pauls description of the homosexual impulse and behavior in Romans 1 is so comprehensive. Paul makes absolutely no distinction between pederasty, prostitution and loving monogamous homosexual unions. This is the core problem for Integrity et al. Pauls words are so descriptive in verses 26-27 and yet so comprehensive, that all homosexual acts and impulses fall easily within them.
They have no other recourse but to create distinctions where the text makes none.
Like I said, these arguments are not the best Integrity et al has to offer.
The best comes from Dr. Walter Wink, who is honest enough to admit that the bible does indeed uniformly condemn homosexual behavior and also honest enough to admit that he thinks the bible is wrong on the merits.
At least with Dr. Wink, the choice is clear. We can either conform to Gods Word or we can make gods who conform to ours.
Of course, it's always fun to point out that in Leviticus, homosexual activity is placed squarely between child sacrifice and bestiality .... and are those now OK, too?
One supposes that, in making the comment, it's best not to dwell on the fact that our society is increasingly in favor of the former, and not necessarily ill-disposed to the latter....
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