Jesus, the Bible & Homosexuality, by Jack Rogers: Chapter 2

Chapter 2: A Pattern of Misusing the Bible to Justify Oppression
In Chapter 2, Rogers makes an argument that many bring up in this discussion: the church has a long history of using the Bible to justify oppression. We misused the Bible concerning African-Americans, we misused the Bible concerning women and we are now doing the same thing with the LGBT community. Rogers shares the views of some of our most renowned theologians, and they are, quite frankly, despicable. Speaking about the state of Africans in America, theologian and former professor at Columbia Theological Seminary James Henley Thornwell (1812-62) said:

“As long as that race, in its comparative degradation, co-exists, side by side, with the white, bondage is its normal condition…we cannot but accept it as a gracious Providence that they have been brought in such numbers to our shores, and redeemed from the bondage of barbarism and sin” (21).

Charles Hodge (1797-1878), who served on the faculty at Princeton Theological Seminary for 58 years and trained over 3000 seminarians, had an extremely low view of women – and used the Bible to support his views:

“If women are to be emancipated from subjection to the law which God has imposed upon them;…if, in studied insult to the authority of God, we are to renounce, in the marriage contract, all claim to obedience, we shall soon have a country over which the genius of Mary Wollstonecraft would delight to preside, but from which all order and virtue would speedily be banished…there is no deformity of human character from which we turn with deeper loathing than from a woman forgetful of her nature and clamorous for the vocations and rights of men” (28).

Certainly, we look on these statements now and can hardly believe that well-meaning, faithful Christians could have held these beliefs. Certainly, 100 years from now (of course, sooner would be better), Christians will look back on some of the writings of our time and say with astonishment, “How could have well-meaning, faithful Christians held those beliefs about our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters? That seems so preposterous!”

Rogers argues these beliefs were possible because of Scottish Common Sense Philosophy and the theological system of Swiss scholastic Francis Turretin. It was the Scottish Common Sense Philosophy that was of most interest to me, particularly because it is so intricately tied to Princeton Seminary, my alma mater. I lived in Alexander Hall for my first two years at Princeton, which was named after Archibold Alexander, who was at Princeton from its founding. It was Alexander who established the curriculum at Princeton Seminary, and he recommended Scottish Common Sense Philosophy as the primary method of biblical interpretation.

Scottish Common Sense Philosophy says that people should accept what was common sense of all humankind – we know the reality of the world exactly as it is. Rogers quotes Charles Hodge, who asserted that “the Bible is to the theologian what nature is to the man of science. It is his storehouse of facts” (30). For Common Sense philosophy, the truth is obvious. This lends itself very well to a rationalistic and literalistic understanding of the Scriptures. Rogers writes:

“Common Sense philosophy and Turretin’s theology allowed seemingly good, intelligent, devout people to ignore the basic principles and lessons of Scripture and to brutalize other human beings by enslaving them. The combination of Common Sense and Turretin enabled people to use the Bible to claim divine justification for common cultural prejudices” (32).

In looking at the ways in which people have misused the Bible in the past, he is trying to show a pattern of misuse – a way in which we have dealt with the “Others” in our lives we did not apparently fully understand. He writes:

“In each case, leaders in the church claimed that (1) the Bible records God’s judgment against the sin of people of African descent and women from their first mention in Scripture; (2) People of African descent and women were somehow inferior in moral character and incapable of rising to the level of full white male “Christian civilization”; and (3) people of African descent and women were willfully sinful, often sexually promiscuous and threatening, and deserved punishment for their own acts” (33).

Rogers argues that we are following the same pattern of misuse with the scriptures today. He says that those who opposed homosexuality:

“…claim that (1) the Bible records God’s judgment against the sin of homosexuality…; (2) people who are homosexual are somehow inferior in moral character and incapable of rising to the level of full heterosexual “Christian civilization”; and (3) people who are homosexual are willfully sinful, often sexually promiscuous and threatening, and deserve punishment for their sins” (34).

Rogers argues for moving beyond these rationalistic and literalistic methods for interpreting scripture, as it clearly allowed for the possibility of great wrongs to be committed. He wants to argue for a more Christ-centered approach to reading the Bible, seeing Jesus as its central character and interpreter. Rogers believes that when we look at the whole meaning of scripture, we will find less and less possibilities for the exclusion of gays and lesbians in the church and its ministry.

I really resonate with this approach to thinking about our history and how we interpret the Bible. We absolutely must learn from our history, and history tells us that we have screwed up…a lot. It’s also very important, especially as Presbyterians, to think about how our own history, and our own historical theologians, have helped us arrive at the place we are now. For all the good that Archibold Alexander and James Henley Thornwell did throughout their lives, for all of the good they did to bring about the Gospel to the world, we have to be able to look back at them and their ideas and theology now and say there were some places that they simply did not get it. It’s not so much chronological snobbery – it’s just a realization that we know things today that they simply didn’t. We have different experiences, and different knowledge about the way the world works and the way in which God works in the world.

So, knowing that some of their theology and ideas were simply wrong – it makes sense to assume that their methods of interpretation could also have been seriously flawed. It’s time to reexamine scripture – with an openness to the movement of the Spirit, and with a knowledge of our own encounters and personal experience. It’s not to say one necessarily trumps the other, but I don’t think it makes sense to try and interpret scripture without thinking at all about our life experience and the encounters we have with people of all races and genders and sexual orientations who are all created in the image of God.

I’m going to include, at the end of each of these posts, a link to an article written by Real Live Preacher, on the issue of homosexuality. I’ve always loved his writing, and I hope you will too. In his post, “This is How it Happened,” he shares how he changed his mind on this issue, particularly inspired by a video interview with Lewes Smedes called “There’s a wideness to God’s mercy,” put out by Soulforce. The video is really good, and so is Real Live Preacher’s post.

This post is part of an ongoing review of Jack Rogers’s book “Jesus, the Bible and Homosexuality.” For more information about the series, you can read the first post here. Individual Chapter Reviews: Chapter 1, Chapter 2, Chapter 3, Chapter 4, Chapter 5, Chapter 6 and Chapter 7. I also share some Final Thoughts about the book here.

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Comments

  1. says

    i too resonate with this approach. it is sad — and, at times downright depressing — that we haven’t really learned from our past and our lived history, at least not yet. i think one of the best things that we can do moving forward is to assume a posture of radical theological humility. one that understand that we have been wrong in the past and will definitely be wrong in the future.

    this requires that we hold our theology and even scripture loosely (and i know a lot of people will turn and run away when they hear that), as dynamic and relational, not static and infallible because they themselves are predicated upon our finite, limited, and flawed interpretations. if our past and our tradition as taught us anything it is that our interpretation can — and will be — horribly wrong at times.

  2. jessica says

    I have a few issues with your arguments. Please regard this as a humble attempt at discussion. I apologize for any strong language that I may use, I just become very impatient with arguments that attempt to claim the Bible as supportive of their argument, and then cite it as an unreliable source. (From an older post of yours: “If it is the Bible that is causing us to delay accepting and celebrating LGBT persons as being fully human and fully created in the image of God, just as they are, then perhaps we need to say, “Enough with the Bible already…””)

    Why do people pretend that the Bible, and its teachings, mean anything to them, when really they rest upon the words of fallen man?
    Why do they pretend to serve Christ and work for the truth, when they so fervently deny it? Why call oneself a Christian at all? Why do they not admit that they submit to the authority of no god but the one of their own “musings?”

    If you would read the Bible, you would see that it is in fact, a result of THE CURSE, that woman desires to have the vocations of man, RE:”there is no deformity of human character from which we turn with deeper loathing than from a woman forgetful of her nature and clamorous for the vocations and rights of men.”

    We are so far deformed, that as a culture, we no longer recognize our deformity. Woman was created with the AWESOME responsibility of helping her husband. You can say otherwise, but you are going outside of scripture to do so.

    And so it is with homosexuality.

    These theologians, at least in the selection offered, may have looked at a political situation, and not an ethnic one, when saying this of Africa:“As long as that race, in its comparative degradation, co-exists, side by side, with the white, bondage is its normal condition…we cannot but accept it as a gracious Providence that they have been brought in such numbers to our shores, and redeemed from the bondage of barbarism and sin”

    Can you deny that it WAS Providence that brought an unreached people to a land where, at one point in our history, was a nation with reverence to God? I would gladly accept enslavement, if it brought about my salvation, and that of my progeny. I do not think that slavery was right, but in man’s wickedness and greed, it was one means that God used to bring people enslaved to FALSE gods out of eternal slavery, in exchange for a temporal slavery.

    Missionaries, unfortunately, are not always as ambitious as slave holders. Thanks be to God that He used our ill for the ultimate good of many, many people that loved Him and were called according to His purpose.

    The example mentioned above, does not equal a claim that those church leaders believed that “(1) the Bible records God’s judgment against the sin of people of African descent and women from their first mention in Scripture; (2) People of African descent and women were somehow inferior in moral character and incapable of rising to the level of full white male “Christian civilization”; and (3) people of African descent and women were willfully sinful, often sexually promiscuous and threatening, and deserved punishment for their own acts” (33).”

    Did Rogers simply make this conclusion up? I did not see, in either of the passages that he offered and you re-printed here, any belief that women or Africans were “inferior,” “immoral,” “sexually promiscuous,” or “threatening.” I also did not see in those passages that women or Africans were “willfully sinful” and that they “deserved punishments for their own acts;” However, the Bible teaches that this is so–as it is also true of white men and any other person after Adam, but for Christ, our true and perfect representative.

    Rogers argues that we are following the same pattern of misuse with the scriptures today. He says that those who opposed homosexuality:

    “…claim that (1) the Bible records God’s judgment against the sin of homosexuality…; (2) people who are homosexual are somehow inferior in moral character and incapable of rising to the level of full heterosexual “Christian civilization”; and (3) people who are homosexual are willfully sinful, often sexually promiscuous and threatening, and deserve punishment for their sins” (34).

    I am opposed to homosexuality.
    1)I agree that the Bible does record God’s judgment against the sin of homosexuality, as it does all sin.
    2)I do not believe that homosexuals are “inferior in moral character and incapable of rising to the level of full heterosexual.” (The latter part is simply emotional rhetoric that doesn’t really mean anything, but works to establish the “victimhood” of homosexuals. )
    3)I do believe that the Bible teaches: “people who are homosexual are willfully sinful, often sexually promiscuous and threatening, and deserve punishment for their sins”
    Homosexuals are not alone, however, in regards to this last description.

  3. says

    A relatively minor point, but for those who look at the Bible as a kind of sex and reproduction manual: St. Paul states that celibacy is best but for those who burn with passion, they should get married.

    How can heterosexuals possibly expect homosexuals to “just control themselves” when their own scripture indicates this isn’t possible for most people? Paul’s words could be taken as an implicit endorsement of gay marriage.

  4. says

    I look forward to the rest of the series with the hope that we will get to actually discuss the relevant biblical texts.

    The reasoning by Rogers, as you have summarized it, is rather convoluted. Perhaps you can clarify. I do not understand the connection between:

    Scottish Common Sense Philosophy says that people should accept what was common sense of all humankind – we know the reality of the world exactly as it is.

    and

    the Bible is to the theologian what nature is to the man of science. It is his storehouse of facts

    and

    The combination of Common Sense and Turretin enabled people to use the Bible to claim divine justification for common cultural prejudices

    You have attempted to assert that Hodge used the Bible in order to justify what “was common sense of all humankind.” Yet the quote from Hodge says absolutely nothing about “what was common sense of all humankind.” The quote from Hodge was simply explaining the purpose of systematic theology and it was not unique to Hodge or Turretin. Here is the context of Hodge’s quote:

    The Bible is no more a system of theology, than nature is a system of chemistry or of mechanics. We find in nature the facts which the chemist or the mechanical philosopher has to examine, and from them to ascertain the laws by which they are determined. So the Bible contains the truths which the theologian has to collect, authenticate, arrange, and exhibit in their internal relation to each other. This constitutes the difference between biblical and systematic theology. The office of the former is to ascertain the state and facts of Scripture. The office of the latter is to take those facts, determine their relation to each other and to other cognate truths, as well as to vindicate them and show their harmony and consistency. This is not an easy task, but one of slight importance.

    Then as far as the parallel goes:

    (2) People of African descent and women were somehow inferior in moral character and incapable of rising to the level of full white male “Christian civilization”; and

    Can you please provide further quotation from Rogers or Hodge that justifies his understanding of Hodge’s comment regarding women? Where does Hodge say that women are of inferior moral character? He certainly says no such thing in the quote provided.

    He wants to argue for a more Christ-centered approach to reading the Bible, seeing Jesus as its central character and interpreter.

    You don’t think Hodge did that?

    To quote Richard Muller in “Calvin and the Calvinists”:

    …the theologies of the Reformers and of their orthodox successors consistently place Christ at the center of their discussions of redemption, consistently understand Christ as the center and fulfill­ment of divine revelation, and equally consistently understand the causality of salvation as grounded in the divine purpose.

    Richard Barcellos notes:

    A “whole-Bible” hermeneutic was manifested in the seventeenth-century Reformed orthodox understanding of the scopus of Scripture. Though scopus could refer to the immediate pericope, it also had a wider, redemptive-historical focus. Scopus, in this latter sense, referred to the center or target of the entirety of canonical revelation; it is that to which the entire Bible points. For the Reformers and for the seventeenth-century Reformed orthodox, Christ was the scopus of Scripture.

    I fully agree with you when you say we need to be able to look back on these men and their ideas and disagree with them and say they are wrong. Thornwell was wrong in his defense of Southern slavery. Amen. Always reforming our minds. But let’s be careful to reform our minds to Scripture, not to our own standards – because that’s not really reforming our minds now is it? It’s just leaving our minds as they are – weak and corrupted by sin.

  5. Calvin says

    I have a minute free from work, so I’ll engage (per your Facebook request).

    Let me preface this by saying that I agree with the overarching principle gays and lesbians are entitled to equal treatment (legally, morally, and otherwise). More than that, it seems pretty clear that those who oppose “gay rights” are on the losing side of history because our generation is supportive or at least ambivalent (“who cares?”) about these rights.

    That said, I intentionally used the “losing” side of history rather than the “wrong” side of history to make my point. It is anachronistic to say that [insert Biblical interpreter/tation making x racist, sexist, homophobic contention] was despicable, evil, wrong, etc; such statements are lacking in historicism.

    It is “chronological snobbery” to take that view. When the theologians you cite wrote, their views on woman (or 19th C. views on African-Americans), were the received wisdom, the “common sense” of the day. It is something of a historical cheap shot for anyone to play moral one-upmanship with ancient views.

    Now, no doubt, there were those who challenged the conventional wisdom re: women, minorities, and, over the past 30 years or so, gays and lesbians. These social movements changed/are changing what is conventional woman, what is obvious.

    That’s why I’m not so sure attacking the method of interpretation (SCS Philosophy) will make much of an impact. In fact, it seems to me that one could use SCS to justify your position that the proper interpretation of the Bible dictates acceptance of Gays and Lesbians–it is increasingly becoming society’s “common sense.” But I’m out of my wheelhouse on this issue.

    Anyhow, I’ve spent too much time on this. Interesting issue, and I don’t feel like I’ve given your post full justice. Keep up the good work.

  6. says

    I agree. As I’ve pinged off this issue personally, I’m convinced the focus needs not to be the rejection of Scripture, but instead radically changing the interpretive framework from which we approach challenging texts. Moving away from viewing scripture empirically and towards a more Christocentric/pneumatocentric paradigm is absolutely essential. Thanks for posting on this, Adam!

    http://pastorstrangelove.blogspot.com/

  7. jessica says

    In my opinion, Paul Maurice Martin 01.07.09 at 11:36 am gave an incorrect interpretation of
    1 Corinthians 7

    ” A relatively minor point, but for those who look at the Bible as a kind of sex and reproduction manual: St. Paul states that celibacy is best but for those who burn with passion, they should get married.

    How can heterosexuals possibly expect homosexuals to “just control themselves” when their own scripture indicates this isn’t possible for most people? Paul’s words could be taken as an implicit endorsement of gay marriage.”

    If we allow scripture to interpret scripture, I think we might find that marriage is a good, godly, and God-established relationship. Paul’s words, being inspired, would not be found to contradict God’s when He said that man and woman are to “leave and cleave” as husband and wife.

    Even if Paul was saying, “ONLY if you burn, get married,” those words allow for one who is tempted with sexual immorality to fight their burn and marry–thus a man who is tempted to sleep with many women can fight it by finding a godly wife who will be his help, AND the man who is tempted to sleep with other men can find himself a godly wife, who can also help him.

    Let’s realize that it is very extraordinary that one NOT burn, so it is very ordinary that most should marry. A homosexual is indeed “burning,” and thus a godly marriage would also help him.

  8. says

    Moving away from viewing scripture empirically and towards a more Christocentric/pneumatocentric paradigm is absolutely essential.

    I’m sorry, but what does that even mean? “Viewing scripture empirically.” Should I read it with my eyes closed?

  9. says

    @Brandon: What part of Hodge’s quote do you think is NOT speaking about the inferiority of women?

    “…there is no deformity of human character from which we turn with deeper loathing than from a woman forgetful of her nature and clamorous for the vocations and rights of men…”

    Are we reading the same quote?

  10. says

    @Adam: yup, we’re reading the same quote. Hodge says absolutely nothing about the “moral inferiority” of women, as was originally claimed. He also doesn’t say anything about the inferiority of women in general. What he says, along with Scripture, is that men and women are equal in God’s eyes, yet God created women, like men, to serve a specific role in life. Part of the curse is that women seek to abandon their role and usurp the authority of men.

    If Hodge was alive today he might obviously see many other things (like “Christians” promoting homosexuality) to loathe even deeper, but I see nothing wrong with his statement. He would likely say today that he loathes the deformity of human character of men who, forgetful of their nature, abandon their God given responsibility to lead.

  11. says

    @Brandon – I really don’t know what to say. I’m not sure how you can look at a quote like Hodge’s where he says there is no deformity greater than a woman who doesn’t know her place – and NOT think that he is saying that women are inferior to men. I have many friends & family who are more conservative than me, and even they could have serious issues with the implications of what you’re saying here. I’ve really had it with the whole Reformed/Classical Reformed/Calvinist/____ group of folks who think they’re reading the Bible right (and everyone else isn’t) and are able to read their sexist and homophobic beliefs into Scripture.

    Comments like this are nothing more than anti-women – while claiming to just be going “back to the Bible.”

  12. says

    @Adam: I’m sorry I don’t agree with your friends and family. I’m also sorry that you’ve had it with Reformed theology, and that you have a problem with authority. If you do believe something, you should believe it because it is the correct interpretation of Scripture. Likewise f you don’t believe that your interpretation is correct, then you have no place believing it. So your complaint is quite silly and your postmodern disdain for authority is only very thinly veiled.

    Comments like this are nothing more than anti-women – while claiming to just be going “back to the Bible.”

    Why does that bother someone who doesn’t care what the Bible says? If the Bible does teach distinctive roles for men and women, you’ll just set the Bible aside, right? How many references have you even made to any particular passage of Scripture in this whole series? If you are so confident that Reformed interpretations of certain passages are wrong, then let’s get at it. Write an exegetical post and let’s hammer out what the Bible says. Stop throwing vague complaints around.

    1 Timothy 2

    11 Let a woman learn quietly with all submissiveness. 12 I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet. 13 For Adam was formed first, then Eve; 14 and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor. 15 Yet she will be saved through childbearing—if they continue in faith and love and holiness, with self-control.

    Ephesians 5

    22 Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. 23 For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. 24 Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands.

    25 Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, 26 that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word…

    1 Peter 3

    3:1 Likewise, wives, be subject to your own husbands, so that even if some do not obey the word, they may be won without a word by the conduct of their wives, 2 when they see your respectful and pure conduct. 3 Do not let your adorning be external—the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewelry, or the clothing you wear— 4 but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious. 5 For this is how the holy women who hoped in God used to adorn themselves, by submitting to their own husbands, 6 as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord. And you are her children, if you do good and do not fear anything that is frightening.

    7 Likewise, husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered.

    Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood

  13. says

    What does not make sense is the arbitrary accommodation to some social structures from the ancient near east, but not others. So where can I pick up a slave? My house needs a good cleaning. My wife and I would also like to go out for a nice dinner, but haven’t the time to find a babysitter. I promise I will be a benevolent owner as Paul tells slave owners to be. We will treat them like family, only force them to labor for us without wages which makes them a slave! They also need to be obedient to that role as well without disagreement.

    Remember that for Hodge, women had a very different social role to fulfill as well compared to our contemporary context. Not that I am legitimating our contemporary western context whole hog on that ground. I am only making a comparative judgment. So unless you can tell me where I can pick up my slave this week, it’s really an arbitrary point about Hodge, women, etc. with only a traditional assertion rooted in personal taste to govern it.

  14. says

    @Brandon.

    “If you do believe something, you should believe it because it is the correct interpretation of Scripture.”

    And who gets to decide what the “correct” interpretation of scripture is?

  15. Jason says

    Blake (And who gets to decide what the “correct” interpretation of scripture is?,

    The Church does, not you or me. The Church. Hence Brandon’s reference to authority.

    Adam (I’ve really had it with the whole Reformed/Classical Reformed/Calvinist/____ group of folks who think they’re reading the Bible right (and everyone else isn’t) and are able to read their sexist and homophobic beliefs into Scripture.),

    Well, not exactly EVERYONE ELSE doesn’t agree with them. There is the Roman Catholic Church, as well as the Eastern Orthodox Church, two admittedly small sections of Christendom, but what could they matter to you, the Pope of Pomo?

  16. says

    @Jason.

    I don’t see the Church brokering a single interpretation of scripture. I see many differing and diverse interpretations. There are differences among Catholics, Eastern Orthodox, and Protestants, to generalize. And even among those major groups there are significant differences in interpretation, especially among Protestants. All these groups are part of the Church are they not?

    So again, I will ask, who decides what the correct interpretation of scripture is?

    It would appear that there is no single interpretation with a monopoly on correctness, only many differing interpretations, each of which is only partially correct.

  17. Jason says

    All these groups are part of the Church are they not?

    No. They are not. Strictly speaking, the Roman Catholic Church considers itself the vera ecclesia, so the rest don’t really count as “Churches” in the authoritative sense. Same for the Orthodox. The inverse is true for Protestants. For them, the vera ecclesia is a generalized or abstracted mass of piety – and this is not necessarily a bad thing! But I would imagine that the reason you “don’t see the Church brokering a single interpretation of scripture” and that you “see many differing and diverse interpretations” is because you are a Protestant, thereby not actually subscribing to the doctrine of “one, holy, apostolic Church.” You see no unified Church, and therefore you see no unified interpretation of Scripture. I suppose your inability to see a unified Church is difficult (as it is for me, a Protestant!) on Sundays when your church recites that line in the Nicene Creed, if it does so.

    Anyway, the correct interpretation of Scripture depends on which Church you ascribe authority to. “Correctness” comes down to a question of authority. If you think, say, that the United Methodist Church’s tradition is the most authoritative, and therefore the most trustworthy, then you will likely align yourself with that interpretation as the most correct.

    So, again, I will say that the Church decides what the correct interpretation of Scripture is. But who decides what the correct Church is?

    Now that’s the question.

  18. says

    @Jason.

    Well you just said a whole lot there. Most of which our Orthodox and Catholic sisters and brother would surely disagree with. Your exclusion of those two groups as part of the Church at large is a pretty hefty accusation and bears no resemblance to the witness of ecclesial history. And definitely goes against most scholarly accounts.

    The problem with your description of the Church viz. scriptural interpretation is that it leaves no room disagreement. Not to mention ecumenicism. Everything must be strictly and rigidly uniform and homogeneous. That has never been the case. There has always been disagreement. There was disagreement in the early church and that has continued to present day. As I recall that is what led to the Protestant Reformation, a watershed I am sure you are grateful for. Just because a person or group has a different interpretation of the text doesn’t mean they are not part of the Church. If that were true the Church would be a lot smaller than it actually is. Disagreement and diversity make the Church beautiful.

    I never said that I didn’t believe in one Church. Actually I do. But to me that doesn’t mean that there is no room for diversity or flux or difference.

    I am getting the sense that you think one small group/sect is the true, correct Church. And that that should be true for all persons at all times and in all places. Is that true?

  19. Jason says

    Well you just said a whole lot there. Most of which our Orthodox and Catholic sisters and brother would surely disagree with. Your exclusion of those two groups as part of the Church at large is a pretty hefty accusation and bears no resemblance to the witness of ecclesial history. And definitely goes against most scholarly accounts.

    Did you read what I wrote, Blake? I didn’t “exclude” the RCC or Orthodox communions! I simply described an ecclesial-theological fact: that those two communions historically have excluded Protestants. I wrote that the Roman Catholic Church thinks WE are not valid communions, not that I think the Roman Catholic Church is not a valid communion. I, for one, am Protestant, and I disagree with the RCC on this point. Hence my being Protestant. But you can’t tell me that the official Roman Catholic position on this point is that I am just as much a member of the Church as a baptized, communed Roman Catholic is. That just is not true.

    I am getting the sense that you think one small group/sect is the true, correct Church. And that that should be true for all persons at all times and in all places. Is that true?

    No, it isn’t. One large group that holds together its members with harmony, unity, and integrity is the true, correct Church, i.e. the most authoritative expression of the Christian tradition. The jury is still out for me as to which present incarnation of the Christian tradition represents that today, though obviously as of today I believe the Protestants are doing well enough. But I do worry about the mainline’s adherence to the tradition. They seem more exercised by the spirits of the age than by the Spirit of the Holy Trinity.

    And yes, of course there’s always been “difference” and diversity within the bounds of the faithful fold. No sensible person could deny that. But to say that essential theological differences persist or have persisted at the level of theological leadership of the Church is silly. A house divided against itself doesn’t, can’t, and has never stood. Witness the early death of gnosticisms, comprised of inherently fragmented narratives of the Gospel that couldn’t support themselves.

    And in one sense I suppose you are right. My position finally does not have any room for disagreement. But neither does unity leave any room for disagreement. If we are to “leave room for disagreement,” what are we to make of the professed goal of being conformed to the likeness of Christ? Do we want to “leave some room for disagreement” there? Surely not! At some point, the moderns will have to wake up and realize that difference for difference’ sake is not the Gospel. Love for the sake of love is. And there can be no “disagreeement” in the end. The end is harmonious music.

  20. Jason says

    Disagreement and diversity make the Church beautiful.

    Surely you don’t believe that! Diversity is a fact of creation, and surely a natural beauty at times, but it does not constitute the Church’s particular beauty. The Church has more than “diversity” to offer an ugly world. The love of God the Father for the world, the gift of Christ given for humanity on the Cross, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit make the Church beautiful.

  21. says

    @Drew: Your logic is invalid. Scripture’s command for slaves to submit to their masters remains binding for all ages to all slaves. If a slave exists today, he must submit to his master (Titus 2:9). (Also, all slave owners must treat his slaves “justly and fairly”, Col. 4:1). Likewise, if a woman exists today, she must not seek to usurp the authority of men.

    @Blake:

    And who gets to decide what the “correct” interpretation of scripture is?

    You do. We are to exhort each other daily and reason with one another, but all the while, Paul says ”Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind.” (Rom. 14:5)
    @Jason:

    The Church does, not you or me. The Church. Hence Brandon’s reference to authority.

    I appreciate the effort, but please do not speak for me. The Roman Catholic church, is not an authority, and neither is any other ecclesiastical order. I was referring to Adam’s disdain towards the very notion of authority, of someone claiming that there is a proper way to read the Bible (though we may struggle to agree on it) and that therefore, there is an understanding of Scripture that is authoritative and must be submitted to. The Bible is our authority, not the Church of Rome, or England, etc.

    @Blake:

    Disagreement and diversity make the Church beautiful.

    God does not think so! Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity! Psalm 133:1

    Disagreement causes believers to search the Scriptures to discern the truth, bringing a greater understanding of the truth.God ordains heresy in the church in order to stir us from apathy and drive us to seek Him in His Word.

    @jessica: amen!

  22. Jason says

    The Bible is our authority, not the Church of Rome, or England, etc.

    This is lunacy. The Church to which you belong is the authority. We cannot know what Scripture says without the voice of the Holy Spirit, and we cannot know the voice of the Holy Spirit without the Church. I am a Protestant, but the kind of hyper-biblicism you’re proposing is an all-out-every-man-for-himself war. In that case, we should all stop going to meet at church and should just sit in our houses with the biblical text, CERTAIN of our idiosyncratic interpretations of it.

  23. says

    @ Brandon

    “Scripture’s command for slaves to submit to their masters remains binding for all ages to all slaves.”

    My logic is only “invalid” if you tell me why a specific premise is wrong. Moreover, the conclusion is invalid only iff you think slavery should be supported by Christians. Guess you did not understand me then. Or, you are indeed that blind to what injustice means. Two possible responses:

    1) Is it permissible to own slaves? If not on what grounds? Is there some sort of clause that grandfathers slave owners in? If you are only arguing for the permissibility of slaves to be consistent with your position toward homosexuals, well, I will let that lack of regard for people step out on its own pedestal. Justice and compassion should not be the victims of logical consistency for those who have time for such squabbles.

    2) If you do not think that there is a serious flaw in the idea that slavery should be permitted, I suggest you do a little more exploration of the slave trade because any endorsement of slavery seems to be a complete misrepresentation of the intent of the Gospel. How you can argue this consistency is something that I think everyone reading would be interested in seeing.

  24. says

    @jessica @brandon

    “Scripture interprets Scripture”

    Then who interprets the scripture that interprets the scripture. This is what Harold Camping preaches and he is of the conclusion that Christ is no longer in the church (*any* church mind you) and that the end of the world is coming in 2012 based on his own divining from biblical numerology. Clearly there is not one accord among those who believe this hermeneutic is valid. If it were valid, would there not be more agreement? The reason is that scripture never interprets scripture, only people do interpretation. Only people did interpretation when the scriptures were written. Only people do interpretation who decided which books to enclose in the canon before sealing it off. If scripture interpreted scripture it would be a dusty book on a shelf no one ever read because text cannot interpret a text unless someone outside of the text reads in (and *all* reading is by its nature an interpretation).

  25. says

    @Drew:

    So unless you can tell me where I can pick up my slave this week, it’s really an arbitrary point about Hodge, women, etc. with only a traditional assertion rooted in personal taste to govern it.

    Your logic seems to go like this:

    Slaves are told to submit to their masters in the Bible

    Wives are told to submit to their husbands in the Bible

    If slaves are no longer a part of our culture, then wives should not have to submit to their husbands

    Slaves are no longer part of our culture

    Therefore wives do not need to submit to their husbands

    The third step is invalid. Please let me know if that is not the argument you are making.

  26. says

    @Drew: Well, you seem to have figured out pretty easily that you disagree with Harold Camping, so it’s case closed for you. That’s my only point. You are responsible for you what you believe. If you say the church decides, well, like has already been mentioned, you have to pick a church/denomination. So in the end it always falls back to the individual. Every individual is responsible to seek the Scriptures to determine if these things are so. No one gets to sit back and rest on the supposed authority of an institution.

    Clearly there is not one accord among those who believe this hermeneutic is valid. If it were valid, would there not be more agreement?

    You need to demonstrate that the differences arise as a result of the hermeneutic. Clearly we are not all going to agree on everything because we are all sinners and our minds do not function without error because of our sin. So simply pointing out disagreement amongst people is not sufficient to determine the validity of a hermeneutic.

    The reason is that scripture never interprets scripture, only people do interpretation.

    You should probably slow down and consider what you are saying. How many times does the New Testament explicitly interpret the Old Testament? Hundreds. Beyond that, all the phrase means is that Scripture is non-contradictory, so when we encounter a difficult passage, we seek to understand it in the light of the whole Bible. So calm down and stop making a caricature of the hermeneutic practiced by Protestants for 500 years.

    (btw, the Westminster Confession that Adam seems to make some appeal to in the next review post states the following):

    IX. The infallible rule of interpretation of Scripture is the Scripture itself: and therefore, when there is a question about the true and full sense of any Scripture (which is not manifold, but one), it must be searched and known by other places that speak more clearly.

  27. says

    Brandon,

    I know exactly what I am saying. I am not sure you are all as clear as you perceive yourself to be.

    1) “Clearly we are not all going to agree on everything because we are all sinners and our minds do not function without error because of our sin.”

    2) “How many times does the New Testament explicitly interpret the Old Testament?”

    Your view of scripture removes human agency from its composition. If it is Scripture that interprets Scripture, and not people, then people who follow this rubric should not be in disagreement. If they are in disagreement then even this hermeneutic understands that Scripture is in zero sum interpreted by people. And yes, that includes Paul’s and Jesus’ (among others) interpretation of the Hebrew scriptures in light of the new Covenant. Your assertion tries to hold two things together that are incompatible. either people interpret Scripture, or they do not. To say that only Scripture interprets scripture is impossible to actually do without human agency. Hence, people interpret Scripture – even if that is by Scripture alone.

    Regarding what you consider my “flawed logic”. You just don’t understand what I am saying.

    “If slaves are no longer a part of our culture, then wives should not have to submit to their husbands”

    What I am asking is why you think this is a priori an invalid assertion. It would seem that if the bible reveals that owning slaves is appropriate as long as I am a kind owner, and if Scripture interprets scripture, then it is only reasonable to say that I may own a slave! See, it’s really simpler than what you presented. You conflated the arguments.

    The next step is that if you affirm this premise, then it would seem that the biblical role of women ought to stand as well. If it does not stand, then we must ask on what grounds you assert that owning slaves is not a proper social role, while the social role of women is indeed proper. I am looking for consistency across the hermeneutic of “scripture interpreting scripture”. So if you say that slavery is an acceptable christian institution as long as the owner is benevolent and treats that slave “like a brother” well and good and we are basically done here. Although I would urge to to reconsider that position – a different argument.

    So, to re-cap: there are three arguments here, I am using slavery as the first premise to the argument which is a yes or no answer.

  28. says

    Disagreement and diversity make the Church beautiful.
    Surely you don’t believe that! Diversity is a fact of creation, and surely a natural beauty at times, but it does not constitute the Church’s particular beauty. The Church has more than “diversity” to offer an ugly world. The love of God the Father for the world, the gift of Christ given for humanity on the Cross, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit make the Church beautiful.

    Wasn’t Pentecost, the so-called “birthday of the church” predicated on diversity?

    Acts 2: 2When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. 2And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. 3Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them. 4All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability. 5 Now there were devout Jews from every nation under heaven living in Jerusalem. 6And at this sound the crowd gathered and was bewildered, because each one heard them speaking in the native language of each. 7Amazed and astonished, they asked, ‘Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? 8And how is it that we hear, each of us, in our own native language? 9Parthians, Medes, Elamites, and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, 10Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, 11Cretans and Arabs—in our own languages we hear them speaking about God’s deeds of power.’

    Or what about Paul’s description of one body/many members?

    Is diversity necessarily the opposite of unity? Or might it be possible that despite our diversity of theological viewpoints we are yet unified by the Christ in whom we put our faith?

  29. says

    @Drew: Again, you are either caricaturing my view or you don’t understand it. I apologize if I am not clear regarding the phrase “Scripture interprets Scripture.” I assumed you were familiar with it’s historical meaning. If you would like to learn more about it, you can start with this brief overview http://www.equip.org/atf/cf/%7B9C4EE03A-F988-4091-84BD-F8E70A3B0215%7D/JAI010.pdf

    I appreciate your clarification of your argument.

    It would seem that if the bible reveals that owning slaves is appropriate as long as I am a kind owner, and if Scripture interprets scripture, then it is only reasonable to say that I may own a slave!

    Yes, it is not unbiblical to own a slave, provided you follow all of the biblical guidelines for doing so, which the slave owners in the South did not. They were manstealers (which the bible condemns) among many other things. Make sure you understand the historical role of a bondservant and that you are not anachronistically imposing your understanding of slavery onto the text. Capitalism has led to great prosperity in our modern world, making it no longer beneficial to be a slave. This was not always the case 2,000 years ago.

  30. says

    @melissa: The various parts of the body of Christ refers to the different work we do. We are told that we all have the mind of Christ. We are to be of one mind, though God has given us diversity through differing gifts.

  31. says

    The question for me, however, is what exactly does having the mind of Christ mean? What does it mean to be of one mind in Christ? Does it mean that we agree on all matters of theology and interpretation, or does it mean that we all agree on the fundamental truth of God’s gift of grace and redemption in Jesus Christ?

  32. says

    So long as our dead man of sin remains, we do not fully have the mind of Christ. Transforming our mind is part of our sanctification. No one is fully sanctified in this life, thus no one fully has a transformed mind that thinks just like Christ all the time. Yet that is our goal.

    1 Cor. 1:10

    I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment.

    What is the mind of Christ? In large part it is Scripture. Scripture is the Word of God, it is His thoughts. Christ prayed that the Father would transform our minds. In John 17:16-17 He said:

    They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth.

  33. says

    Yes…and then how do we also take seriously Christ’s words when he proclaimed himself to be “the way, the truth, and the life?” Or John’s prologue, which tells us that not only is Christ the Word, but also that this Word “became flesh and dwelled among us, full of grace and truth?”

    I could say much more about my thoughts on scriptural interpretation (but I won’t!), but for the purposes of this discussion, I think it’s important to say that for for me, Christ is the lens through which we read scripture, in the sense that what is revealed to us concerning Christ through the scriptures informs the way that we read the rest of the scriptures. Maybe, in some sense, not all scripture is created equal?

    I guess I’m just trying to figure out how the Bible as word of God points us to Christ as living Word of God…the Christ who by his incarnation became “God-with-us” in order to reveal God to us. For me, Christ is the primary revelation of God, and the Bible is (but) a witness to that revelation, as well as a witness to the various ways that God revealed Godself to the world before Christ.

    This is why, it seems to me, that unity should be a matter of shared faith in Christ, as opposed to a matter of getting everyone to agree on difficult scripture passages. Does that make sense at all? I guess it also begs the question, is there a difference between disagreement and division? It seems to me that we can disagree on (ultimately) non-essential things, but work to keep those disagreements from dividing us. If there’s one lesson I think the church needs to learn, it’s that the Christ who unites us is more important than the differences that we let divide us. How much better off would the church be if it tried harder to cross boundaries and heal divisions?

  34. says

    Melissa, the Bible points us to Christ in all that it says. It describes His life, His death, His resurrection, and the significance of all of it.

    For me, Christ is the primary revelation of God, and the Bible is (but) a witness to that revelation, as well as a witness to the various ways that God revealed Godself to the world before Christ.

    You really need to reconsider your assumptions about the Bible and submit yourself to what it teaches about itself. Peter specifically denies that the Bible is just a witness:

    2 Peter 1:16 For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty. 17 For when he received honor and glory from God the Father, and the voice was borne to him by the Majestic Glory, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased,” 18 we ourselves heard this very voice borne from heaven, for we were with him on the holy mountain. 19 And we have something more sure, the prophetic word, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts, 20 knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation. 21 For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.

    All of the Bible is on the same level of revelation as Christ’s words. Hebrews 1:1-2 “Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son…” Christ’s ministry (his life and death) is exceedingly beyond that of any other prophet or priest, yet that does not negate that God has also chosen to speak through other people just as authoritatively.

    This is why, it seems to me, that unity should be a matter of shared faith in Christ, as opposed to a matter of getting everyone to agree on difficult scripture passages.

    It’s an interesting opinion, but do you have any Biblical support for it? We are never told to just be content with a certain set of ideas. We are constantly told to exhort each other, to grow in knowledge and understanding. God says in 2 Peter 3:

    13 But according to his promise we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells. 14 Therefore, beloved, since you are waiting for these, be diligent to be found by him without spot or blemish, and at peace. 15 And count the patience of our Lord as salvation, just as our beloved brother Paul also wrote to you according to the wisdom given him, 16 as he does in all his letters when he speaks in them of these matters. There are some things in them that are hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other Scriptures. 17 You therefore, beloved, knowing this beforehand, take care that you are not carried away with the error of lawless people and lose your own stability. 18 But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity. Amen.

    Certainly we can disagree without dividing, but not about everything. The example throughout the New Testament is that there are wolves amongst the sheep. We see throughout that we are to separate ourselves from false teaching, Paul’s letter to the Galatians being a prime example.

    I would again urge you to reconsider your view of the Bible and revelation.
    http://www.trinityfoundation.org/journal.php?id=22

  35. says

    @Drew, I’m certainly willing to re-evaluate my statement about slavery not being unbiblical. (You’ve actually provoked me to re-read John W. Robbins’ exposition of Philemon, which he claims is Paul’s subtle argument for the abolition of slavery http://www.trinitylectures.org/product_info.php?cPath=21&products_id=163 )

    But again, the validity of the institution of slavery is irrelevant. If someone is a Christian and a slave today (slaves do still exist) then they must submit to their masters. In our context, if a Christian is an employee, they must submit to their employer. The principle remains binding. We are to submit to the authorities God has placed over us. This principle is not rooted in any cultural norm and it will never be done away with.

    When Scripture teaches that women are to submit to men, it never roots the argument in culture. It roots it in 1) Christ’s relation to His church, and 2) creation. So long as Christ remains head of His church, men are to remain the heads of their wives. And so long as men and women exist, God’s order of creation (referring to their nature, not the time they were created) requires women to submit to the authority of men.

  36. says

    There’s a lot to say here – but I just don’t have the time – and I want to be working on getting out the review of Chapter 5 of Rogers’s book, in which he discusses the Scripture verses that have been used in the conversation about homosexuality.

    @Brandon:

    “…And so long as men and women exist, God’s order of creation (referring to their nature, not the time they were created) requires women to submit to the authority of men….”

    Sure is easy to say that when you’re the male, isn’t it…?

  37. says

    I think it is quite fair to say that we’re coming from different places as far as our beliefs about Biblical inspiration and authority. Many of your arguments presuppose a view of the Bible as inerrant/infallible. Many of my arguments presuppose a view of the Bible as humanely written and compiled, though inevitably guided by the Holy Spirit.

    This contributes to our disagreement about whether Christ is “above” the Bible or not. I view the scriptures as holy because they point us to God and God’s saving work in Christ. You view the scriptures as holy because, in essence, God “wrote” them using humans as mediums.

    Is not Christ incarnate the ultimate revelation of God? In John 1, it states that ” No one has ever seen God. It is God the only Son, who is close to the Father’s heart, who has made him known.” Christ is the revelation of God, and the Bible is how we come to know the Christ who we have not seen.

  38. says

    @Adam – it has nothing to do with me being male. I was not really raised with this view. I have come to understand it over several years through a study of Scripture. One of the interesting things I was surprised by is that godly women do not object to it as I had a tendency to do at first. It seemed strange to me that they would not be up in arms, but they welcome it in a way that I would not if I were in their position because God has created them with a different heart.

  39. says

    @Ungodly Women – I’m guessing that according to Brandon’s definition of “godly women” – there may in fact be some ungodly women here who read this blog. Just wanted to let you know that you’re okay – I’m okay with the fact that you’re ungodly. Namaste.

  40. says

    @Brandon – You said, “If someone is a Christian and a slave today (slaves do still exist) then they must submit to their masters.”

    Can you explain that statement? Because I find it quite appalling, even within its context in the paragraph (“The principle remains binding. We are to submit to the authorities God has placed over us. This principle is not rooted in any cultural norm and it will never be done away with.”) You really believe that modern day slaves, regardless of context, must submit to the people who have enslaved them?

  41. Jason says

    Just wanted to let you know that you’re okay – I’m okay with the fact that you’re ungodly. Namaste.

    Okay, so Brandon has left the ballpark of conversation that is recognizably modern or liberal, and he has entered into a whole other world of politics, a world surely foreign to most of the readers of this blog, but especially to the author. My issue is not with Brandon. I don’t agree with him on this point, and really I think the fight he is fighting can only be won in a context where ecclesial authority is more sophisticated. He’s doomed in his current evangelical context, and maybe it’s a good thing that he’s doomed. But that’s another problem. My question is for Adam’s most recent snarky remark in Brandon’s direction.

    Adam, do you really think it’s altogether silly to speak of godly versus un-godly living? Your dismissal of Brandon’s rhetoric with a sarcastic joke belies your attitude toward a theology that commits itself to accounting for SIN. There are totally justifiable ways of speaking of ethics by employing the language of “godly” and “ungodly.” According to the Reformed faith, we’re all ungodly, and Christ died for us to make us godly. Why are you being such a jerk about using those terms?

    Or, if this is merely about Brandon’s application of the terms to a specific ethical question, why the fuss? If he thinks the position on women’s ordination is not as settled for you, who take it to be of dogmatic certainty, why accuse him for calling women who do not act in the way he proposes ‘ungodly?’ He’s only being honest. Certainly YOU think that HE is ungodly, but you’d never write it, because your true feelings are “offensive,” a fact which you are likely too much of a coward to reveal.

    But more importantly, why would anyone be okay with someone being ungodly? That’s not okay. That’s like looking at a blind person and telling them, “You know what, I’m OKAY with your blindness.” The blind person doesn’t care if you’re okay with her blindness. No one’s JUDGING the blind person for being blind. If you’re a believer, though, you’d be a fool not to pray for her ultimate healing through the gift of sight.

    Adam, it’s OKAY to talk about sin, and it’s OKAY not to be okay with it. And if you think Brandon is being ungodly by leveling his biblical interpretation toward this political issue, THEN SAY SO. But the passive aggression is unimpressive. You’ve got to work in a grammar of sin into your writings. Otherwise you come off as a wimpy, warmed-over liberal from the 70’s.

  42. says

    Interesting conversation.

    A few quick notes:

    1) Scripture may interpret Scripture, but it does not do so in the manner of high school forensics. It is not a question of gathering a carefully constructed argument in defense of your particular position. All Scripture does not speak with the same depth about the nature of Christ’s reconciling work, and our interpretation must be governed by those texts that affirm themselves as foundational to our understanding of the nature of our living God.

    2) Women’s subordination to men is…if we are to be truly scriptural about it…a direct result of and “punishment” for our fall from grace in Eden. Whether you take that second Genesis story literally or understand it in terms of narrative archetypes, the truth remains: if we believe that in Christ we are reconciled to God and one another, then we gotta let that crap go.

  43. says

    @Joel: This is what the Bible teaches:

    1 Cor 7

    21 Were you a slave when called? Do not be concerned about it. (But if you can gain your freedom, avail yourself of the opportunity.) 22 For he who was called in the Lord as a slave is a freedman of the Lord. Likewise he who was free when called is a slave of Christ. 23 You were bought with a price; do not become slaves of men. 24 So, brothers, in whatever condition each was called, there let him remain with God.

    Ephesians 6

    5 Slaves, obey your earthly masters with fear and trembling, with a sincere heart, as you would Christ, 6 not by the way of eye-service, as people-pleasers, but as servants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart, 7 rendering service with a good will as to the Lord and not to man, 8 knowing that whatever good anyone does, this he will receive back from the Lord, whether he is a slave or free. 9 Masters, do the same to them, and stop your threatening, knowing that he who is both their Master and yours is in heaven, and that there is no partiality with him.

    Colossians 3

    22 Slaves, obey in everything those who are your earthly masters, not by way of eye-service, as people-pleasers, but with sincerity of heart, fearing the Lord. 23 Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, 24 knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ. 25 For the wrongdoer will be paid back for the wrong he has done, and there is no partiality.

    1 Timothy 6

    1 Let all who are under a yoke as slaves regard their own masters as worthy of all honor, so that the name of God and the teaching may not be reviled. 2 Those who have believing masters must not be disrespectful on the ground that they are brothers; rather they must serve all the better since those who benefit by their good service are believers and beloved.

    Titus 2

    7 Show yourself in all respects to be a model of good works, and in your teaching show integrity, dignity, 8 and sound speech that cannot be condemned, so that an opponent may be put to shame, having nothing evil to say about us. 9 Slaves are to be submissive to their own masters in everything; they are to be well-pleasing, not argumentative, 10 not pilfering, but showing all good faith, so that in everything they may adorn the doctrine of God our Savior.

    Why?

    1 Peter 2

    18 Slaves, be subject to your masters with all respect, not only to the good and gentle but also to the unjust. 19 For this is a gracious thing, when, mindful of God, one endures sorrows while suffering unjustly. 20 For what credit is it if, when you sin and are beaten for it, you endure? But if when you do good and suffer for it you endure, this is a gracious thing in the sight of God. 21 For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps. 22 He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. 23 When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly. 24 He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed. 25 For you were straying like sheep, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.

  44. says

    @David,

    Paul believed Christians are reconciled to God and united through Christ… so why didn’t he “let that crap go”?

    12 I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet. 13 For Adam was formed first, then Eve; 14 and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor.

  45. says

    @Brandon: I cannot believe that you are trying to make a biblical case for slavery. Slavery – in any contact – is absolutely unjust, immoral and wrong. God, in the scriptures, is a God who is against slavery and the unjust treatment of God’s people. This is clear from the way in which God brought God’s people out of slavery in the Hebrew Scriptures.

    I’ve known people before who try and make this biblical case for slavery – and it is antithetical to the gospel.

    @Jason – my snarky comment wasn’t really necessary – and simply came out of the mood I was in last night. I knew when I hit the “Submit” button that it was not going to be helpful.

    However, Brandon’s comment about “godly women” implied that women who did not believe this one perspective on submission were simply ungodly. I absolutely disagree with Brandon’s belief on this issue related to “biblical” leadership and submission – I think it’s ludicrous and backwards. But I haven’t called Brandon “ungodly” on this blog. And I think there are many women who are very “godly” who Brandon would probably call otherwise because they don’t read the biblical text the same way he does.

  46. Jason says

    I know you haven’t called Brandon “ungodly” on this blog. You have only managed to imply that you think he is so.

    By the way, this guy has uncannily characterized a vast section of American Christianity hospitable to the likes of a POMOMUSINGS. It’s pretty amazing, prophetic even.

  47. says

    @ Brandon: Nicely evaded, my friend! It’s always best not to tackle a challenging interpretation directly, particularly if you don’t have a good answer for it.

    Paul? Or deutero-Paul? Paul can’t simultaneously recognize and affirm the leadership of women in the church…which he does implicitly and explicitly in both his letter to the church at Rome and his letters to Corinth…and then say that women should just sit down and shut up. We are forced, as we read scripture, to manage the tension between a Paul who tells us in Galatians that in Christ all human categories are cast aside in the face of Christ’s redeeming love and a “Paul” who demands that the church conform to the sociocultural expectations of second century Roman society. Despite the protestations of presuppositional faith, that is a real tension. With most contemporary literalists, you choose to resolve this tension in a way that 1) affirms your own power 2) permits the brokenness of the fall to remain and 3) rejects the core teachings of Paul about redemption, reconciliation, and the transformative role of the Holy Spirit.

  48. says

    Adam, please do not misrepresent me. As is very clear from my comments, I am not trying to make a biblical case for slavery. I am undecided on the issue as I haven’t studied it enough. There are clearly passages that indicate a Christian master can justly own a slave. There are also biblical arguments in favor of abolition (like the book I linked to discussion Philemon).

    I am inclined to agree with Robbins. But either way, the bible very, very clearly commands Christian slaves to submit to their masters, including the ones who treat their slaves unjustly. There is no getting around the clear teaching of Scripture on this issue. We are to submit to our authorities, including those unjust authorities, because Christ did so for the sake of His people. Submission is not antithetical to the gospel.

  49. says

    In theory, I agree with the statement that

    Submission is not antithetical to the gospel

    However, this is an incomplete thought. All by itself, it implies that there is no Biblical/theological basis for standing up to injustice. This is line of thinking is what keeps women in abusive relationships (“Well…the Bible tells me to submit…and Christ suffered according to God’s will…so I suppose I have to stay in this relationship, because the Bible tells me so….”)

    We can’t talk about submission without talking about justice. Jesus certainly stood up to the authorities – church and political leaders alike. He submit to God’s will, but challenged and overturned conventions of his time, even (or especially!) conventions concerning women. Paul landed in jail for “breaking the rules” by preaching the gospel. God’s justice, it seems, challenges the notion of blind submission. Even though God may have ordained public offices and civil laws for the sake of keeping order in society, our submission to these orders doesn’t mean that we aren’t granted the ability or right to question injustice or immorality.

  50. says

    @David, so you prefer the scissor method?

    @ melissa, certainly we are not talking about blind submission, but we are talking about submission. If an authority commands us to break God’s command, then we follow God, not man (Acts 5:29). However, as shown in the passages I quoted, Christians are told to submit to unjust masters (1 Peter 2:18) for the sake of the gospel.

  51. says

    The key phrase there being “for the sake of the gospel.” But we still have to be careful that we don’t ignore God’s call to justice. And there are likely to be many circumstances when there are tensions between these things, tensions where the Biblical witness could be used to argue either side. There’s also the matter of what constitutes “God’s command;” the matter of what in Paul and in the rest of the Bible constitutes general exhortation (for-all-times) versus specific exhortation (for particular communities or circumstances). I am certain that we will disagree here.

  52. says

    @ Brandon

    If you think this is just about Philemon you are sadly mistaken. It goes way beyond that back to we interpret the Levitical code and more. You need to look more. Any why trust the word of man in a commentary when all you need to do is read your Bible for it’s clear and plain truth? If Scripture interprets Scripture alone, then such pandering to man is sinful and you should repent for following the words of man rather than the infallible Word of God which is clear and plain.

    So to be absolutely clear since you have done all but answer my question:

    1) Christians should support slavery and encourage all slaves to submit to their masters. Now the bible says nothing of what to do if said master is cruel. So I would say that it must be more consistent to say that even in that circumstance, a slave should submit. This is, by the plain witness of Scripture, a Godly institution. The caveat that Paul gives as a mouthpiece to God’s utterances is that the master should treat the slave “as a brother”. Yet those who work without receiving wages should continue to do so lest the disobey God’s foreordained salvation plan for them.

    2) Women must submit to their husbands, with the only exception of adultery as Scripture makes plain. The Bible is more clear that divorce is bad and says nothing of women who are emotionally and physically abused by their husbands. Therefore again, rather than read into Scripture anything that might be false, it is better for women who are abused by their husbands to forgive them and stay strong in the marriage even if they are abused.

    3) “We are to submit to the authorities God has placed over us. This principle is not rooted in any cultural norm and it will never be done away with.” By this token, people should have never protested either for or against Proposition 8. Once the judges made their ruling, silence should have been the response from Christians since not being silent or protesting wold be rebellion against those same authorities. This means that those Christians who believe in the true Word rather than the idols of man in New Jersey, Massachusetts, Canada, and other nations that have legalized marriages and unions between those of the same gender ought to allow those unions to continue. Not to submit to this authority betrays God’s own revelation for how He uses the nations to enact His holy will which re measure by the plain and clear truth of Scripture alone.

    Any concept of revolution, including the American, the French, and any war in general, is unGodly by default since any revolution is a rebellion against submission to the authorities God has placed above us. Even the Reformation was sinful – especially the Anabaptist peasant revolts against the Catholics and Lutherans was rebellious before God since the King and the Pope were clearly in authority over the nations. The Barmen Declaration and the Confession of Belhar were also symbols of man’s rebellious nature and should likewise be rebuked.

    Have I got it right? Or am I missing something?

  53. says

    @Drew,

    You misunderstood and misrepresented my understanding of Scripture previously. I have corrected you and provided you with a resource to gain a fuller understanding of the comment “Scripture interprets Scripture.” Therefore, please refrain from continuing to intentionally misrepresent my view for rhetorical effect.

    1)

    Now the bible says nothing of what to do if said master is cruel.

    Did you read any of the passages that I quoted above, or did you just skip over them once you saw they were from the Bible? Please re-read (or read for the first time) 1 Peter 2:18-25. It is addressed specifically to slaves who are “suffering unjustly” at the hands of a master that is not “good” but rather “unjust”.

    2) Husbands who are emotionally and physically abusing their wives are not loving their wives as Christ loved the church and he is not loving his wife as his own body, which Ephesians 5 commands. Therefore chuch discpline/intervention is warranted. 1 Cor. 7:11 tells us that a wife may be separated from her husband for a time, but that she should either remain unmarried or seek reconciliation. In addition to adultery, neglect is also grounds for a divorce (1 Cor. 7:15), which would include a husband who is unwilling to be reconciled and cease the abuse.

    I recommend a PCA position paper if you want to look more in depth at the issue:
    http://www.pcahistory.org/pca/2-267.pdf

    3) We in America are in a rather unique situation. We are all, to some degree, civil rulers. We all have a role in the operation of our government. Voting is not disobedience. But in the end, as has already been discussed, if a law of man requires us to break a law of God, then we obey God, not man (Acts 5:29).

    As for revolutions, yes, many of them are sinful. John MacArthur preaches that the American Revolution was sinful. There is a very interesting 2 volume series of sermons from England and America from the Revolutionary War era that comment on whether or not the revolution was sinful. Most, however, understand the American Revolution to be a just exercise of the doctrine of lesser magistrates (thus the Declaration of Independence signed by the Second Continental Congress).

    Certainly much of the violence involved in the Reformation was sinful. But the refusal to submit to Rome’s false teaching is fully justified and Biblical.

  54. says

    @Brandon

    1) I don’t think I have misrepresented a thing here. You still have not answered my question if you think that slavery should be supported by Christians or not. The passage you quote says this:

    “For what credit is it if, when you sin and are beaten for it, you endure? But if when you do good and suffer for it you endure, this is a gracious thing in the sight of God.”

    All this says is that it is good to suffer at the hands of injustice. So, if you are a slave of an unjust master, deal with it. It’s better to be beaten in obedience (yes mas’sah, may I have another) than beaten in disobedience (ain’t gonna do that today mas’sah, can you spare the switch today). Hence, it is better for Christians to support existing institutions of slavery than not. Yes or no? If Scripture is indeed irrefutably consistent, then this must, in all reasonable logic, be affirmative and Christians should support people in the midst of their slavery rather than seek any abolition of these existing institutions.

    2) I have no idea where you get the idea that bondage in v. 17 somehow deals with abuse since the context is what to do with an unbelieving spouse who abandons the other spouse. The point is clear, as is consistent with the Law that adultery and abandonment by an unbeliever are the only grounds for separation. As with salves, the woman must deal with it. Moreover, it does not say anything about what the strictures are for a man who gets caught in adultery. Women were to be stoned. Note that even in the spurious John 8 Jesus never tells them not to stone the woman. That was the Law. He gambled that their own guilt would save the woman. The same Law exists for two men caught in sexual acts. So stoning should be permitted in these circumstances – if at least for same gender sexual acts between two men since there is enough doubt that Jesus would support stoning of adulterous women.

    3) Next time an angel of the Lord tells you to break God’s Law let me know. Also, you ought to agree that the American Revolution was sinful, and I can find no argument based on this hermeneutical method that it was not sinful, much as other revolutions – especially that of the 16th century peasants in Lutheran Germany or those who drafted the Confession of Belhar among many many others (three cheers for the Crusades!). To say that we are all civil rulers “to some degree” is important. We elect officials to represent us. We also elect local judges to office. We elect them to positions of authority and so, the laws they write and ratify are binding. No, voting is not sinful, but protest most assuredly must be as is any act of “civil disobedience”. Hence, the Civil Rights movement was a clear act of disobedience against the elected authorities who made binding rules to divide the races. Martin Luther King Jr. should have paid heed to his Bible a bit more than he did. Maybe that is an idea for a blog post that you should consider for this coming Monday.

    It is clear that “false teaching” for you is a matter of taste and not fact. Stoning homosexuals is justified under this interpretation; submitting to cruel masters among slaves is justified; if a husband is a believer and is beating the crap out of his wife, the wife ought to submit regardless; any revolt against unjust systems except for those that a given group believes are “false teachers” (which means a lot of conflicting sects that follow the same hermeneutic including the Jehovah’s Witnesses) is sinful, unless God directly tells you to do otherwise as in the release of the apostles from prison. These are only some of the logical outcomes of a clear and plain reading of Scripture that is consistent (I know what the hermeneutic is all about so please don’t assume I am somehow negligent with my understanding of this tradition). I say it is a matter of taste because I don’t think you would want to agree with these various outcomes even if you have to agree that these are the ways in which the society in the first 100 years of the first millennium were regulated and in which Jesus and the apostles preached.

    Basically you continue to prooftext without any regard to context. I am doing the same thing with context here to see what it looks like if we actually apply it. It is clear that by using this method what one does is assume that one’s tradition has got it right and chooses to assert this traditional lens to read Scripture. You might not think that is what you are doing, but it is. The Catholics who you believe are apostate have done a far more meticulous job of justifying every structure they have in place and every theological proposition against the whole of Scripture – only in a far more rigorous manner than the traditions of which you are a product. You are making a choice to believe this way Brandon, a choice that has nothing to do with Scripture at all.

  55. says

    @Drew,
    1) It’s hard to have a conversation if you can’t remember what we’re talking about. You claimed that the Bible doesn’t say anything about how a slave should respond to a cruel master. My point in quoting 1 Peter 2 was to show that you were quite wrong.

    If a Christian is a slave, he should submit to his master and he should not make escaping slavery his primary goal. If he has the opportunity to end his slavery, he may do it, otherwise he is to remain obedient, even to an unjust master. That is one side of it.

    The other side is how a Christian master should act. He is to treat his slaves justly.

    As to whether or not Christians should seek the abolition of all slavery: Christianity is not primarily a political or cultural movement. It is spiritual. Paul’s letter to Philemon is an example of how Christians are to engage in political or cultural issues. Paul says that he could have commanded Philemon to release Onesimus, but he would rather have Philemon do it of his own volition. Paul saw that the relationship between Philemon and Onesimus was better recognized as brothers in Christ, rather than slave and master and so he very strongly asked Philemon to free Onesimus. I believe this is the most Christian attitude towards slavery, but I do not think I could say that every form of slavery is unjust – just as forgiveness of sins is Christian, but eternal damnation is not unjust. Note that Paul did not demand Onesimus’ release because of justice – in fact he recognized the obligation Onesimus had and offered to pay Philemon for his freedom, echoing Christ’s cross work.

    And again, I will repeat myself because it is usually the first thing we think of: slavery as it existed in America in the South was unbiblical. It was manstealing, which is condemned in Scripture. It was racist, which is unbiblical. It was unjust.

    2)

    Moreover, it does not say anything about what the strictures are for a man who gets caught in adultery. Women were to be stoned.

    Please take the time to read the Bible before telling me what it says.

    Leviticus 20:10

    ‘If there is a man who commits adultery with another man’s wife, one who commits adultery with his friend’s wife, the adulterer and the adulteress shall surely be put to death.

    Deuteronomy 22:22-24

    22″If a man is found lying with a married woman, then both of them shall die, the man who lay with the woman, and the woman; thus you shall purge the evil from Israel.
    23″If there is a girl who is a virgin engaged to a man, and another man finds her in the city and lies with her,
    24then you shall bring them both out to the gate of that city and you shall stone them to death; the girl, because she did not cry out in the city, and the man, because he has violated his neighbor’s wife. Thus you shall purge the evil from among you.

    As for stoning… are you unaware that those laws were for the judges of Israel to rule a theocratic nation specially set apart by God? Are homosexuals and adulterers deserving of death by stoning today? Absolutely, but God will deal with them in his time. But do not forget that we are all guilty. Jesus’ point was that everyone deserves death, not that no one deserves death.

    No, voting is not sinful, but protest most assuredly must be as is any act of “civil disobedience”.

    It depends on the nature of the protest. Again, note that Paul taught that Christians are to be subject to the governing authorities, but he was willing to go to prison in order to obey God. In that since, Paul was engaging in civil disobedience. Yet Paul was not sent to jail for rallying the citizens against the state. He was sent to jail for preaching the Gospel. Was some of what Martin Luther King, Jr. did sinful? Maybe. Thanks for the blog post idea, I’ll think about it. (As an aside, much of the civil rights legislation is ridiculous. No one is obligated to render a service to anyone they don’t want to, regardless of how hateful and ignorant their reasons might be for refusing service.)

    if a husband is a believer and is beating the crap out of his wife, the wife ought to submit regardless

    Again, if you’re not even going to read what I write, then please stop replying to my comments.

    As for Christians disagreeing and speaking against false teaching, that is what we are commanded to do by God. But we also have to be willing to accept the consequences of speaking out, which may include imprisonment or death.

  56. says

    Brandon,

    I have read the bible. It’s better to refrain from ad hominem. I think the interpretations and proof-texing are patently absurd.

    1) I offered an important quote from the 1Pet. chapter in context. Therefore, I clearly remembered what we are talking about wince I referenced the passage in question. Keep condescension in your head and focus on the issue.

    “Christianity is not primarily a political or cultural movement. It is spiritual.”

    That’s just patently wrong. Whether or not one thinks it is primarily this or that, it is indeed political since it’s inception (Jesus before Pilate, the issue with Herod, etc.). This is a totally moot point.

    “I do not think I could say that every form of slavery is unjust” Hence, under the right conditions, Christians should support slavery, i.e. indentured servanthood. My only point here. And yes, you did evade it once more. The answer is much simpler than you have presented. What this does not say, nonetheless, is what Christians should do with people who were kidnapped against their will and made slaves already. Seems they should deal with their lot in life until the kidnappers are dealt with.

    2) “Are homosexuals and adulterers deserving of death by stoning today? Absolutely, but God will deal with them in his time.” Touche, they BOTH are to be killed. My only point here to which you have again conceded. Again in the right social structures which should be more representative of God’s own theo-political structures as is clear in scripture. So why not have capital punishment for adulterers and homosexuals today? Saying that God will deal with it in time is a cop out. Shouldn’t responsible Christian leaders seek Godly punishment as is witnessed in Scripture for these crimes against God? Why say that God will deal with it here and not have the same attitude for other cases like murder or even blasphemy?

    3) “Yet Paul was not sent to jail for rallying the citizens against the state. He was sent to jail for preaching the Gospel. Was some of what Martin Luther King, Jr. did sinful? Maybe.” Like his clear disobedience to the state. Would you say that his March on Washington was sinful? How about Rosa Parks refusing to get to the back of the bus where she was legally obligated to go? It appears that the American Revolution was sinful. I am sure other revolutions were sinful as well. Especially the peasants in Germany who rose up against the Lutheran political structures in the midst of the Reformation.

    “Again, if you’re not even going to read what I write, then please stop replying to my comments.”

    I did read it, I just think it’s absurd. The idea that a woman should submit to a husband who is a believer regardless of the circumstance is clear enough (with the exceptions of adultery and unbelievers who choose to leave). Or, where is the Scripture that says if the husband who is a believer abuses his wife on a regular basis that she may leave him? Does abuse, even psychological abuse merit divorce? Or may she leave him temporarily, but then have to come back to him every time he apologizes for it and makes peace? That happens in most abuse cases actually. Would you recommend that they find a way to “make it work” rather than separate, even if it appears that this will only prolong the abuse for the wife and further damage the kids should there be any? Sounds like the Taliban had it right.

    Brandon, the point of all of this is to demonstrate that you are making arbitrary decisions (i.e., Catholicism = false teaching) with what to do with the text based not on the text, but on your traditional assumptions, from whatever source they come, which you are deluded into thinking are immutable.

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