Thursday, December 13, 2012

What God Hath Not Joined: Church's Response to Gay Marriage

From Christianity Today blog...

What God Hath Not Joined

"Have you not read that the one who made them at the beginning 'made them male and female,' and said, 'For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother, be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh'?" [Matthew 19:4-5]  So Jesus declares that in the first marriage and in every marriage since, it is God himself who joins particular members of the opposite sex together in a natural relation unlike any other. So Jesus declares that in the first marriage and in every marriage since, it is God himself who joins particular members of the opposite sex together in a natural relation unlike any other.

All societies have honored this special union that Christians, Jews, and Muslims rightly recognize to be a gift of the Creator. Even in an atheistic context like Russia during the Communist period, Muscovite couples were married with festal trappings at what passed for a sacred site, Lenin's tomb.

Our generation has introduced a tear in this universal fabric. Same-sex activists are clamoring for the state to grant homosexual couples marital status. These blows to the definition of marriage are landing not only in the North American civil sphere, but within churches. Theological arguments may not hold much sway in public debate, and there are certainly good social reasons for preserving the definition of marriage. But for the defense of marriage in both civil society and church, Christians must look to—and guard—the deep theological foundations of marriage.

This is an excellent article that goes on for several pages and is very well written and in depth.

Humphrey goes on to point out the many convoluted revisionists who try to explain away the clear prohibitions on all homoerotic behaviors.  For example, those that claim Paul was simply writing out to the limited culture of his day and that it's like he insistence that women wear head coverings.  But Humphrey points out:
[In] Paul's times, in fact, were "gay-positive" or at least "gay-tolerant." Paul and other New Testament writers take a decisive stand against behavior frequently condoned and sometimes idealized in the surrounding cultures. What was wrong then is wrong now.
Sometimes an appeal is made to contemporary opinions about same-sex relations: "Yes, Paul disapproved of such activity, but he had nothing whatsoever to say about homosexuality as we understand it today." The biblical writers, they claim, assumed that homoerotic behavior was an avoidable moral choice, but if Paul had had the benefit of our psychological studies, he would have taken a different position. If people are born gay, how can it be sinful?
In reality, it makes little difference whether nature or nurture inclines us toward any one sexual behavior. Paul was well aware of the compulsive nature of sin. He put forth the gospel as God's means of dealing with the sin that enslaves us, as well as with sins we deliberately choose.
A bold variation on the argument that Paul was scientifically limited is that he was theologically limited. So Eugene Rogers (Sexuality and the Christian Body, 1999) argues that God's grace is wider even than Paul himself suspected, embracing same-sex couples as well as Jew and Gentile.
Paul, Rogers claims, says that God himself acts "against nature" in "grafting" Gentiles into the olive tree, the people of God (Rom. 11). Similarly, Rogers argues, God can act "against nature" in approving same-sex relations. This, however, reads against the sense of both Romans 1 and 11. Romans 1 speaks about what is contrary to nature in the created order. Romans 11 offers a figure of speech to help the Roman Gentile Christians appreciate their inclusion by God.
Rogers strangely clinches his argument: Same-sex couples find in their union "a means of grace," so it must be holy. This appeal to experience that contradicts Scripture is the most common revisionist position today. We know better than Paul and other writers of Scripture, he says, because they just didn't understand the grace that characterizes the loving union of two men or two women. Wasn't Jesus always welcoming outcasts from Israel among his followers? Now God, Rogers says, is doing something similar but new in the church.
But what of Jesus' call to repentance? To a woman caught in another sexual sin, adultery, he says, "Go and sin no more." The revisionists remove homoerotic sin from the lists of sins in the New Testament and treat homoerotic relations as though they fit with Paul's list of Jew or Greek, slave or free, male and female. They obscure the crucial distinction between characteristics over which one may have little or no control (such as same-sex desires), and actions for which one must answer to God. 
Is the attempt to bless homoerotic relations truly heretical? It is true that this is not an obvious theological attack on, say, the divinity of Christ or the necessity of the Atonement. But it is indirectly heretical because it upholds a corrupt imitation of marriage, which should properly be a living icon of Christ and the church—a theological picture that mediates God's glory and truth, directing us to the greater reality. Paul calls marriage a "great mystery" that speaks of Christ and the church (Eph. 5:32). So, for example, husbands are to love their wives as Christ loves the church. Indeed, the relations of husband and wife, and of Christ and the church, illuminate each other.
Husband and wife, representing Christ and the church, can only be parodied in same-sex "marriage."
God himself enacted the first marriage covenant. A marriage, like the relation of Christ to the church, is not finally a human creation. (Hence the Orthodox insist that a marriage is effected by God himself, and Roman Catholics say the priest is only a witness.) In contrast, God does not join people of the same sex together but calls the behavior they seek to sanctify an abomination. To bless homoerotic relations underscores human willfulness.
Edith M. Humphrey is associate professor of New Testament at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary.

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