Thursday, 16 February 2017

Desperate Artifices

The Bible is Not a Wax Nose To Be Twisted At Will

When consciences become seared one of the outcomes is folk attempting to "explain away" the Bible's clear teaching.  When the Bible commands, "Thou shalt not . . . " the man with a seared conscience responds with a couple of common subterfuges.

The first (and probably the most intellectually honest, albeit erroneous) is to agree that, yes, the Bible does indeed condemn "x", but the Bible has no standing in human life and society.  The Bible is mistaken, irrelevant, tells lies, etc.  This response does not deny that the Messenger says that "x" is wrong, forbidden, and condemned.  Rather, it attacks the Messenger as having no relevance, authority, or standing in the matter.

The second subterfuge is to agree that yes, the Bible condemns "x" and forbids the practice of "x" but "x" has a narrow or technical meaning.  It does not apply to every instance of "x".  In this way, one can still maintain some vestiges of credibility as a believer, but only by perverting the teaching of the Bible, making it say what it does not.

Thus it has come to pass with respect to the Bible's teaching on homosexuality.  There are plenty of scholars in subterfuge number one.  Such folk are knowledgeable on the widespread practice of homosexuality amongst the Greeks and Romans (that is, in New Testament times).

As Kevin De Young points out:
By the first century AD, the Roman Empire was increasingly divided on the issue of homosexuality.  As public displays of same-sex indulgence grew, so did the moral condemnation of homosexual behaviour.  Every kind of homosexual relationship was known in the first century, from lesbianism, to orgiastic behavior, to gender-malleable "marriage", to lifelong same-sex companionship  [What Does the Bible Really Teach About Homosexuality? (Nottingham: Intervarsity Press, 2015), p. 83.]
He cites Thomas Hubbard (Homosexuality in Greece and Rome: A Sourcebook of Basic Documents) and  William Loader (The New Testament on Sexuality).  Such scholars are honest about the widespread practice of homosexuality in the ancient world--in all its forms and manifestations--and equally honest about the Bible's universal prohibition and condemnation of such human actions.  For example, Bernadette Brooten who has written authoritatively on lesbianism in the days of the early Church, and who is herself a homosexual, faces up to the plain and obvious declaration of the Bible:
I see Paul as condemning all forms of homoeroticism as the unnatural acts of people who had turned away from God.  [Bernadette Brooten, Love Between Women: Early Christian Responses to Female Homoeroticism (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1996), p. 244.]
These people are avoiding the force of the Bible by rejecting the Bible's authority, not by attempting to argue that the Bible condemns only certain forms of homosexuality, not a special (higher) form of homosexuality, only recently discovered--that is, the life-long love commitment of to members of the same sex.  Scripture, apparently, does not condemn this kind of homosexual fidelity, but only homosexuality in its pederastic, orgiastic, bi-sexual, trans-sexual, or polygamous forms.

This is the second subterfuge attempting to evade the Bible's teaching and authority.  It rests upon a manifest self-deception.  It attempts to make the Bible say something it does not.

Advocates of subterfuge #1 end up flatly rejecting the advocates of subterfuge #2 as being self-deceived.
Some interpreters, seeking to mitigate Paul's harshness, have read the passage [in Romans 1] as condemning not homosexuals generally but only heterosexual men and women who experimented with homosexuality.  According to this interpretation , Paul's words were not directed as "bona fide" homosexuals in committed relationships.  But such a reading, however well-intentioned, seems strained and unhistorical  Nowhere does Paul or any other Jewish writer of this period imply the least acceptance of same-sex relations under any circumstances.  The idea that homosexuals might be redeemed by mutual devotion would have been wholly foreign to Paul or any Jew or early Christian.  [Cited in De Young's book (p.86), quoting Louis Crompton, a homosexual man and pioneer in queer studies, from Crompton's Homosexuality and Civilization (Cambridge, MA: Belknap Press, 2003), p. 114.]

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