Smoke And Mirrors

I thoroughly enjoy reading points of view which are hostile to my own. For the entertainment value; to get an insight to what the “other side” has to say on an issue; and of course–blog-fodder.  One of the best sites for opposing points of view for me is the Huffingtonpost.com, it provides all three.  Two blogs I follow had recently touched on this issue at the same time, so I’d like to tip the hat for the motivation. The first can be found at SomeMusician.wordpress.com, (an atheist site I highly recommend).  And the other is 4Simpsons.wordpress.com.  

I’d like to address this article: The Bible Supports Same-Gender Marriage, from HuffPo since it is this kind of teaching I find more dangerous than mere disagreement to whether the Bible is true.  Rev. Dr. Janet Edwards’ method of teaching biblical topics is becoming more prevalent in liberal churches, and thus is gaining mainstream appeal.  Rather than addressing what the Bible does say about the  particular issue directly, Edwards makes her case from passages which have little to nothing to do with the subject at hand.  In my opinion a selfish misinterpretation carries more integrity than a blatant obfuscation.

Edwards first describes a fellow woman pastor of the PCUSA, (the hyper-liberal branch of the Presbyterian church which endorses homosexuality, same-sex marriage, women and homosexual pastors) who faced a church court for performing a wedding ceremony for a lesbian couple.  Edwards concludes the reason for exoneration is ”that if there was anything close to a rule against same-gender marriage in the Bible, Rev. Southard would have been found guilty last week, as would the other ministers who have been compelled by their faith to marry same-gender couples and went before her to church court — and were acquitted.”

So on what basis does Edwards and the PCUSA council determine “the Bible supports same-gender marriage”?  Let’s look at the reasoning Edwards uses to defend the title of her article.

What the Bible does say is that God has called all creation very good. In other words, God makes all kinds of people and loves the diversity of humankind.

Just as a point for biblical accuracy and chronology, creation was declared “very good” before the fall of man-kind.  Prior to the sin of Eve brought to the world through Adam, all of creation was very good.   However, post fruit-consumption the world became exceedingly depraved.  Was it God’s love of diversity which instigated the flood, or the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah?  I understand where Edwards is trying to get the reader.  She begins her appeal by positioning her audience in the politically correct “diversity” mindset.  However I wonder if she would include pedophiles, zoophiles, murderers, child-sacrificers, adulterers, or any other declared sinful activity in which people engage to be a part of this beloved diversity among humanity?  Does Edwards really think God endorses this diversity?

What the Bible does say is that we are not meant to live alone. God creates LGBT people, knowing them in their mothers’ wombs, and declares them good. And in Genesis, the Lord said, “it is not good that the man should live alone; I will make him a helper as his partner.” The loving relationships and families forged by LGBT people are gifts to them from God because they, just like all humans, are not meant to live alone. And these families of choice that include friends, sometimes, and, more and more, children, are beautiful gifts from God to our communities.

God in His omniscience does know each of us in our mother’s womb.  He knows the lives we will lead, but is this to be taken as an endorsement of every decision we make?  “God knew me from the womb, therefore ____ is morally acceptable”.  Or does it speak to the value God places on the degree of autonomy we possess?  What the text does tell us is that the partner created for Adam was a woman, Eve.  Adam was not given the choice between a man or woman with whom to forge his relationship.  Was it a coincidence, or should we understand there was an intentionality behind the coupling of Adam and Eve?  Does Edwards remember the command to the partnered couple to “multiply”, a task same-sex unions cannot fulfill?  Giving Adam a partner cannot reasonably be taken to be understood as an acceptability of any romantic relationship.

What the Bible does say is that God is love. Out of this love, God enters into covenantal promises with Noah, with Abraham, with Israel, with Jesus’ disciples, with the world. More than any other Biblical material dealing with marriage, these loving covenants in Scripture are the foundation for our current understanding of marriage as a long-term commitment between two people to support one another, build families together and up build their communities together.

What these cited Covenants lay a foundation for is salvation not marriage.  But for the sake of argument, let’s use these Covenants to relate to marriage.  God routinely refers to the relationship between Himself and the others in the covenant as a Husband and Bride.  This language is used to emphasize the commitment of the Covenant.  But notice God is noted as the Husband and Israel as the Bride.  Same with Jesus, the Church of believers is described as His bride.  It always references a man-woman marriage scenario.

When we open our eyes to our neighbors, we recognize gay and lesbian couples whose lives bear all the qualities we recognize as marriage. God’s love as expressed in the Bible has led us to our present conception of marriage as a bond of loving commitment.

Whether homosexuals can love or commit to one another is not the issue.  What is central to Edwards’ argument is whether same-gendered marriages are endorsed by the Bible as acceptable.  After all, I can presume there might be father-daughter, or mother-son marriages who could form loving commitments.  The emotional state of romantic love is not what determines a proper marriage relationship.  When Paul commands husbands to love their wives, they are told to do so as Christ loves the Church.  It is a sacrificial dutiful love.  Wives are commanded to respect and honor their husbands.

What the Bible does say is that God can help us see new things where we were blind before. For example, God inspires us to use the covenantal pledge of fidelity between two women, Ruth and Naomi, as the second most-read Bible passage at weddings. The first most-read is 1 Corinthians 13, the ode to love which, of course, was not written as a primer for marriage but can serve well as one. When we know same gender couples whose marriages and whose service in our communities epitomize the qualities of love captured by the Apostle Paul, we must stand up for the revelation that God has inspired us to see.

This entire reference to Ruth and Naomi is irrelevant to the issue.  First, all the women in this book of the Bible are married to men, and vice versa.  While the passage may be read at weddings, the point of the passage is loyalty.  The genders of the two people are irrelevant to the point.  When Ruth does marry (both times), she marries a man.  We also see from the marriage of Ruth to Boaz, it is not driven by love, either emotional romantic love, or the committed dutiful love Paul lays out in Corinthians.  So on neither reference does a defense for same-gendered marriages survive.

What the Bible does say is that judgment belongs to God. Period. Jesus said it many times: Judge not that ye be not judged. The faithful thing to do according to Scripture is to listen to and to love your neighbor as yourself. We are to examine the log in our own eye long before we have the audacity to point out the speck in the other’s eye.

The infamous “Judge not” passage is always the last refuge to the one rationalizing their sin.  It is the most quoted, and the most quoted out-of-context verse in the bible.  The ‘judge not’ passage, is intending to “remind” us we ought not be offering judgements on moral issues (or rather judgements on things I do).  In context the passage is an admonition of hypocritical judgement of others, rather than a blanket command to withhold making moral judgements.  In fact we are told to rebuke, correct, and expose sin when committed by professed believers (Ephesians 5:11, 1 Timothy 5:20).  Whatever the message of the “judge not” passage, it is not relevant to the issue of same-gendered marriage.

What we have from Edwards is a smoke screen.   Where she does reference–loosely–the Bible for her apologetic, the citations are either irrelevant to her message, or they serve to defeat her argument.  I find it suspect she did not even address the passages which actually deal with the issue.  It is conveniently left out that:

100% of the verses addressing homosexual behavior denounce it as sin in the clearest and strongest possible terms.  100% of the verses referring to God’s ideal for marriage involve one man and one woman.  100% of the verses referencing parenting involve moms and dads with unique roles (or at least a set of male and female parents guiding the children).  0% of 31,173 Bible verses refer to homosexual behavior in a positive or even benign way or even hint at the acceptability of homosexual unions.

I don’t see how anyone can honestly read what the Bible has to say on homosexual behavior and take from it an acceptability or endorsement.  You may not agree with the declaration the Bible makes on homosexual behavior and the nature of marriage, and you don’t have to.  But let’s not pretend the Bible is silent on the issue.  According to the Bible, “The Christian God is Not OK With You Being Gay”.

Comments

  1. Great response to her post. HuffPo is certainly a unique place. I posted some comments there when they gave the floor to another false teacher. Most of the responses were “Get out of here with your Fox / Limbaugh / Beck talking points” and other random insults. (I don’t follow any of those outlets and of course Beck isn’t a Christian, but even if I did follow them it wouldn’t mean my claims were wrong).

    P.S. Thanks for the link to the atheist site. Always interesting when even atheists can see how “progressives” are making up their own religion.

  2. What happened to your Dan Savage rant?
    I was going to comment, but now it’s missing. Anyhow, I am going to agree with you on this John. Mark your calendars, folks.
    The bible is decidedly not friendly to homosexuality or gay marriage. It is a gross misrepresentation of scripture to make that case. It is trying to make the bible say what you wish it would say instead of what it does say.
    Homosexuals should not get the wrong idea here. Neither should liberal straight people.
    The bible clearly says that homosexuality is an abomination, that those who do it deserve to be killed, and that God will toast their sinful bodies in hell for eternity. Thus spoke God.
    The bible is not friendly to “sin”, nor is it accomodationist. Let’s be very clear on that.

  3. Jesus brought the message of love and forgiveness. Yet, many of you christians find it hard to tolerate homosexuals. What is the actual harm they cause? If they do not harm anyone by being what they are, it does seem wery hypocritical to judge them. The reference to child molesters and such is totally irrelevant, because childmolesters are childmolesters wether homosexuals or heterosexuals and it is obvious how they harm others.

    Homosexuality is condemned in the bible, especially so in the old testament, but so are many other things including working on a sunday and eating pig. How is a person to know what bible commands hold true to gods word, when the clergy can not agree on the subject? Or allmost any subject in the book.

    Declaring christians should not tolerate homosexuals, you are actually proclaiming, that christianity is not a religion of love and tolerance. Jesus and his love message is only an advertisment. What a pity it can be interpreted in so many ways. A pastor prieching that bible does not condemn homosexuality, propably has just as much faith in that vision, as any of you who would condemn it on the basis of the same book. How, could this mess be used as a moral basis? Moral issues have to be decided on better grounds, than a god possibly said something that can be interpreted in so many ways to some sheepherders so many thousand years ago. I challenge that god to “come out of the closet” to clear up this mess and suffering his followers have achieved and prove his actual existance!

    Oh, by the way, the part about multiplying and filling the land with people in the bible, it has been achieved.

    • Jesus brought the message of hell and damnation more than he brought love and forgiveness.

      There is a difference between tolerating a person, and tolerating thier sin. I don’t have to be ok with someone’s sin in order to love them, I can tell them it is sin and that they need to repent, that is not unloving at all.

      • “Jesus brought the message of hell and damnation more than he brought love and forgiveness.” I sopose there is nothing much to add to that. Exept maybe, that a stick and a carrot are something used to guide an ass.

        Christians loudly opposing homosexuality are being really interrested in the personal sins of others, are they not? Or is it only a few particular sins, that they happen to be blameless for themselves? So, the question arises, are they doing what their religion demands of them? Wether christians should be good and forgiving people or should they be on the lookout for their “neighbours sins”? Is it really what Jesus demanded of them? If that is a part of being a christian, I am especially happy I am not one. It must be a burden to try and watch for ones fellow man, for him not to “sin” in his bedroom…

        • As I have said many times in the past, the seemingly disproportionate attention to homosexuality by Christians is due to the “in your face” attitude the homosexual advocates use when speaking about it. They petition to have curriculum in elementary schools, and are called names when they offer their thoughts on the issue. Homosexual advocates are so over the top when it comes to the issue that other sinful behaviors are not. Again, as I said on the other posts and comment sections of those, we don’t see political and social movements to get adultery taught in schools for example. This is one of the few (if not the only) sin that is forced into public discourse and opposition is riduculed, slandered, labeled, and silenced. If homosexuals were content with “leaving it in the bedroom” it would not see the same attention, but it is anything but left in the bedroom.

        • “Christians loudly- opposing homosexuality are being really interrested in the personal sins of others, are they not?”

          Go check your history. Was pro-gay theology the dominate view of the church for 2,000 and then these awful conservatives came along to try and change it? Did both Christian and non-Christian cultures always celebrate (oxymoronic) “same-sex marrage” and then conservative Christians decided to change that?

          Of course not. The apostate pro-gay theologians brought it up and part of their playbook is acting like we’re the ones obsessed with it.

          And when one of the logical consequences of making sexual preferences into civil rights is that young children will be forced to learn that these perversions are “normal.” That is definitely worth fighting.

          • What makes homosexuality a perversion? The fact that it has been condemned by christianity as an abomination? What else? The fact homosexuals are “coming out of the closet” seems to me, as an outsider, to be a result of surpressing their existance by christian churches. It has not been only confined to the bedroom, because if I am not wrong, conservative christians condemn it there also. Or are you playing with double standards? Are you only opposing the sin of those homosexuals who are christians, or all homosexuals? Christianity is not by far the only determining factor of values in modern western society. It is loosing its grip by the hour.

            Sexuality has “come out of the closet” in general, in the western society. Market economy endorses the pornographic industry, but that is not condemned in the bible is it? Better and better contraception and sexual education makes sexuality a normal part of our lives without the inevitable result of population growth or venerable disease. Sexuality is not anymore a sorry hush-hush thing, but more like the normal part of human life that it actually is. This is so also with homosexuality. It seems only more outrageous to you because it has been more of a hush-hush to you than any other kind of sexuality. All because of silly laws of the bronze age jews. The society, that “needed” those laws does not exist any more.

            • All practicing homosexuals are sinning. The difference with homosexuals who profess to be Christian is that they are open to rebuke and outspoken admonishment by other Christians.

              You’re right, society is becoming more and more depraved. It has influence on children. They become sexualized early, not even teenagers, but those in elementary schools are being inundated by a sexual culture. You think 10 year olds sexuality being expressed is a positive result of being “hushed” but oppressive bronze-age Jews? Yes, the pornographic industry is addressed by the Bible, not using that word, but there is an admonishment to not lust after others, nor to cause others to sin which is exactly what pornography does. Open public sexuality is not a part of humanity which is inate to our nature. If you think people don’t need restraint from outside themselves, I hope I’m long dead before that happens.

              • The most outrageous ways sexuality is presenting it self in the society, is a result of restricting it wery harshly. That produces double morals. Perversions exist even if they are confined in the closet. For example, many harsh christian communities have lately been revealed to be places where characters of authority have abused children in a sexual way.

                Gay parades are sometimes meant to be provoking, but the provocativenes is a result of the condemnement, not the result of homosexuality. Homosexuality may be a sin, but is sin not something that is between the person himself and what ever gods he worships? Everybody has the right to believe in what ever gods they want, but it is immoral to take those gods into politics and try to enforce your particular superstition on the laws of the society. There are more people in western world reading horoscopes today then going into churches, but we do not set our laws according to horoscopes, do we?

                Children are traditionally under influence of sexuality in many cultures, especially where family groups live in small accommodations. It is unhealthy how sexuality is used by the free markets to create needs we do not have, as they do with everything, from food to fastfood and from clothes to fashion. Sexuality is transformed into a consumer product and twisted in any possible way to produce more money to rich people. Porn industry may be a good example of depravation, but you do not see christians attacking it as vigorously as they are attacking the equal rights of homosexuals. Why? When 10 year olds are induced to sex they are serving the “needs” of adults, but those adults have unhealthy relationship with their own sexuality, wich is most likely the result of denying sexuality wether homo- or heterosexual.

  4. “Better and better contraception and sexual education makes sexuality a normal part of our lives without the inevitable result of population growth or venerable disease. ”

    You are wildly misinformed. That is the opposite of what has happened. In the last few decades STDs have exploded in the number of types and the amount of people getting them.

    • Neil, I am not misinformed, I was merely trying to phrase my answer short. The developement is not all good, since the conservative religious people are so eager to stop the sexual education. Sexuality is all over the western culture these days and you can not stop it, but there are those who act wery irrisponsibly about it, by denying the educational part of it.

  5. I happened to come across your blog. Since you state in your “About” page that “Truth in Religion and Politics is dedicated to examining controversial topics in an uncontroversial and in depth manner to help discern truth from falsehood; to think deeply on issues concerning important matters”, I felt particularly inclined to respond to this post.

    Nearly every person who acknowledges an aversion to homosexuality does so on the basis of what he or she believes the Bible has to say. In their mind, there is no doubt whatsoever about what the Bible says and what the Bible means. Their general argument goes something like this: Homosexuality is an abomination and the homosexual is a sinner. Homosexuality is condemned in both the Old and New Testaments. Therefore, if we are to be faithful to the clear teachings of Scripture we too must condemn homosexuality. Needless to say, this premise is being widely debated among evangelicals today and seriously challenged by biblical scholars, theologians and religious leaders everywhere.

    It rarely occurs to any of us that our reading of Scripture is profoundly colored by our own cultural context and worldview. Clearly, throughout church history most Christians who have used the Bible to condemn other Christians were acting in good faith. However, history has revealed that what many were defending was their presumption of what the Bible teaches, not the truth of Scripture.

    Since I happen to speak and write on this very topic, I thought you might find some of these posts of interest. I would particularly recommend to you the following posts: “A Good Life in the Closet?”, “Romans 1: What Was Paul Ranting About?”, “Romans 2: Paul’s Bait and Switch” and “Why No One in the Biblical World Had a Word for Homosexuality.” However, you may find the other posts quite applicable and relevant as well.

    -Alex Haiken
    http://JewishChristianGay.wordpress.com

    • I’m struggling to see what this has to do with the content of my post. I think it rarely occurs to people that filtering the words of the Bible through their contemporary culture is the worst possible way to interpret the Bible. In fact, the vast majority of the Bible is written plainly enough that the simplest most straight forward understanding is usually the correct one. As far as what is considered moral and immoral is very plain. What causes the trouble is the doctrinal issues, and that is where churches divide.

      Perhaps rather than self promote, you could address what I have written. It’s not that I am opposed to self-promotion, but it’s a bit tacky if you’re not a regular.

  6. What this has to do with the content of the post is that I believe the presuppositions you hold on this issue are distorting both your reasoning and your conclusions. You close your post with the remark, “But let’s not pretend the Bible is silent on the issue.” I submit that the Bible is exactly that. I submit that not only does the Bible not oppose what we know as homosexuality, but also does not even recognize its existence. There was no such thing as “homosexuality” and “heterosexuality” per se. Those categories were not even on the radar screen — so they were never what was being discussed. To insist otherwise is to squirt our later-day prejudices into the biblical text, wearing the fig leaf of biblical authority. I therefore suggested a few posts for you to read in which I address this in some detail, so we can discuss this.

    As for the notion that “the vast majority of the Bible is written plainly enough that the simplest most straight forward understanding is usually the correct one,” I think this is true only up to a point. The Bible contains both surface and depth. If one reads one’s Bible long enough and attentively enough, questions are bound to strike one that notes on the bottom of the page don’t satisfy. Take a look at the posts I suggested and then, as you say, we can “examine this controversial topic in depth to help discern truth from falsehood.”

    -Alex Haiken
    http://JewishChristianGay.wordpress.com

    • The Bible is silent on the issue? Now that is about as much bias as I have ever heard on this issue in either direction. Your conclusion flies in the face the entire existence of the communication of God with his people. Unless, what you mean by silence is, the address of same-sex desires. Only in this respect is the Bible silent. What the Bible condemns is same-sex sexual activity. But that is true for everything condemned. The condemnation is of the behavior. We are told in the Bible to fight against desires that lead to sin — same-sex sexual activity being one particular sin — and not to give in to those desires. One thing you can not do honestly is claim the Bible is silent on homosexual sexual activity. And if that is your contention, then I’ll have to leave the conversation on this matter here. I can’t bring myself to entertain such an absurd idea.

      As far as taking a look at your posts, I am not opposed to doing such a thing. But I think if you want to discuss this issue, you’ll bring the arguments to me instead of me having to search for your points. That’s usually how it works. I wouldn’t visit your page, tell you I don’t agree with you, and then give you an assignment to read my blog in order to find out why. I would just bring my arguments to you.

      And I’m curious — what do you think my presuppositions are, and why do I hold them?

  7. While you insist my “conclusion flies in the face the entire existence of the communication of God with his people,” let us not forget that over the course of Christian history, sincere believers have found biblical “proof” that the world is only 6,000 years old, that slavery is God-ordained, that women and blacks should not be allowed to vote, that interracial marriage is wrong, that women should neither preach or wear lipstick, and on and on. The Bible verses that once footnoted these notions are all still in the Bible. One of the lessons we can learn from these experiences is that reading and interpreting Scripture is not always quite as simple as some would like to believe. A text does not simply “say what it says” despite the rational good intentions of some readers. For reading Scripture is not only a matter of what is written there, but also what we expect to find there, what we bring to the text, and what we take away from it. Reading Scripture then is by no means a clinical or a neutral affair. And we must not forget that while it may seem evident to us that others did terrible things in the past, it isn’t always so easy to see that we ourselves may be doing terrible things today.

    As for my making you have to search for my points, you are absolutely correct. I apologize. I should not give you the assignment to have to find them. I therefore offer you the following links:

    “A Good Life in the Closet?” deals, in part, with the infamous and often quoted passage of Leviticus in context. Link: REMOVED

    “Romans 1: What Was Paul Ranting About?” and “Romans 2: Paul’s Bait and Switch” deal with the first and second chapter of Romans. Links: REMOVED and REMOVED, respectively.

    “Why No One in the Biblical World Had a Word for Homosexuality” deals with why I submit that not only does the Bible not oppose what we know as homosexuality, but also does not even recognize its existence. Link: REMOVED
    And lastly, “When Truth is Too Costly” deals with why it is often so difficult for people to come to terms with the notion that what they have been taught about these passages may be wrong. REMOVED

    For what it may be worth, I too was taught what you currently believe and accepted it for many years. But like the many other evangelicals today, as well as biblical scholars, theologians and religious leaders who have changed their mind on this issue, I too discovered that the standard canonical interpretations of the few passages that generally get appealed to in this debate do not survive close scrutiny. I did not arrive at this conclusion overnight, nor do I expect anyone else to.

    -Alex Haiken
    REMOVED

    • Ok, so you admit sending me on a mission to search for your arguments is wrong, then you give me some links to follow. I have removed them from your post, and any other attempts to advertize will get you banned. Now you can either discuss the merits of my arguments specifically, or we can part ways. I appreciate and encourage discussion, but you aren’t really discussing anything. You are simply telling me my presuppositions are causing me to misunderstand the Bible, but offer no reasons. You then send me to your site in an effort to understand your position. No thank you.

  8. I am indeed offering reasons. As you are likely quite well aware, we live in a society where (sadly) people today increasingly have little or no patience for anything that requires more than 15 seconds to explain. I have taken the time to provide you with specific links to posts I have written that respond to your questions and state my position succinctly and, I believe, articulately. But you have chosen to remove the links. Your blog states it “is dedicated to examining controversial topics in depth.” Here we have one of the biggest — if not the biggest issue — facing both society and the Chruch today, and I would welcome the opportunity to do exactly that. But it would appear that, at least in this instance, you are not.

    • No, what you are doing is telling me my presuppositions are getting in the way, and by extension my conclusions about what the Bible says on the issue is wrong. You have offered no reasons for why I am wrong at all. What you have done is direct me to your site. I have repeatedly asked you to discuss the CONTENT of my post here. For some reason, you won’t. I am dedicated to examining issues. And have asked you to do so. So you you can either discuss the post, or don’t. But don’t complain that I wont research your blog in an effort to see why you think I’m wrong. I welcome a discussion with you, but alas, you’ll have to lay out your position here. I’m not researching your view for you.

  9. Ok, so you copied and pasted one of your posts, which I deleted. I see this as dishonest and now I will thank you for taking the time to visit, and perhaps you’ll do so again. But for not I will not discuss this any further with someone who refuses to discuss, but rather is insistent on promoting his own blog. Thanks for stopping by.

Trackbacks

  1. […] this comment on John’s excellent response to a HuffPo fluff piece by a false teacher promoting pro-gay theology:  Christians loudly […]

  2. […] Much like Dr. Janet Edwards’ attempt to show biblical support for same-sex marriage (See: Smoke And Mirrors), Kipp displays a selfish approach to this issue.  One wroght with emotional appeal but no […]

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