Moravian Forum (5)

Written Questions from the Audience Addressed to Both Speakers

First: “In reading the Gospel – Christ made us anew – nothing is mentioned to my understanding regarding homosexuality. Christ’s first commandment is “we shall love one another.” How does this apply to homosexuality?”

John’s answer: Jesus both comes as the Second Adam, restoring creation where Adam and Eve failed; and he comes as the Prophet (Deuteronomy 18:15) to fulfill the Law of Moses. Jesus affirms man and woman in marriage as rooted in the order of creation (Matthew 19:1ff). In terms of the former, for anyone to use an “argument from silence” to say Jesus is not concerned about the matter, they need first to demonstrate the positive presence of homosexuality in the biblical order of creation. When Christ makes us “anew,” he is redeeming us (“to buy back out of slavery to sin”) to the purposes of the order of creation, of how the image of God is defined therein. In terms of the latter, in fulfilling the Law of Moses, Jesus also affirms 1) man and woman in marriage in Genesis 1-2 as a comprehensive proactive, 2) the prohibition against homosexual acts in Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13, and 3) in Paul’s language (he who says Christ makes us anew), he argues, in the context of creation and rebellion against it, that women and men both engage in “shameful lusts” of homosexual acts (1:26-27), and in addressing homosexual actions as separate from the kingdom of God in 1 Corinthians 6:9-11, he combines the Hebrew words use in Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13 that describe homosexual acts. As well, we can add, in terms of Jesus’s context, homosexuality was not an issue in first century Judaism. Neither were sorcery, sacred prostitution and child sacrifice — the three principal sins for which Jeremiah repeatedly prosecuted pre-exilic Judah — yet not explicitly addressed by Jesus. But all of these issues still percolate in the Gospels. Here are two angles. First, in Matthew 15:19, as Jesus speaks of what is produced by evil thoughts, the word used for “sexual immorality” is porneia, from which the English term “pornography” comes, and in ancient Greek literature it involves every form of extra-marital sexuality including homosexual actions. And second, Jesus uses the word we translate as “hell” in the context of Jerusalem facing the coming judgment. This is a powerful metaphor tracing back to Jeremiah 19 as one major example, where the Greek term gehenna comes from the Hebrew term g’hinnom for the Valley of Ben Hinnom. Here, as the result of sorcery, sacred prostitution, other sexual immoralities, the Judahites were burning their children alive at the trash dump and collecting their charred remains in Topheth jars as a sacrifice to the pagan god Ba’al. In other words, for the Jews in the hearing of Jesus, this metaphor of fire and the death of innocence brings to mind all the related realities. Or, In other words, if we grasp the assumptions of the biblical text in Genesis 1-3, the rest of the biblical story line falls into place. Finally, to love our neighbor as ourselves is to give all we are able in order to bless others, to treat them as we ourselves which to be treated. An example of how I have sought to do this, in this context, is mentioned in my prepared remarks with respect to Arline Isaacson, co-chair of the Massachusetts Gay and Lesbian Political Caucus. To love our neighbors is not to ratify their life choices, but more deeply yet, to ratify their common humanity as given by God equally to us all, and for which we are all likewise accountable.

Susan’s answer (yet to be received):

Second: “Where is the middle ground? Where can we meet as children of God in love? (and acceptance – of both views).”

John’s answer: Is there a middle ground in terms of true definitions? Is Jesus Lord, or only partly Lord? Is there something that is partly biblical and partly pagan, with a middle course to be chosen for the sake of comity? Thus, if the question is seeking such a “middle ground,” it is not there.

However, if there are different interpretations as to what the Bible says, is there common ground to discuss and debate? Yes, and delightfully so for all people of good will, where the goal is first to serve honest relationships regardless of what gains agreement and what does not. This is love of God and love of neighbor. This is the structure of my Mars Hill Forum series (click on its icon at www.teii.org), and in my broader political agenda at www.prepartisan.org.

Also, however, both views cannot be accepted simultaneously, without requiring the other party to forfeit his or her position, and that would not be an act of love. What we do is celebrate each other’s equal humanity, and trust judgment to Jesus.

Susan’s answer: (                                  ).

Third: “Would you be willing to have your paper posted on the web site?”

John’s answer: It is found here (Susan’s paper and my paper) and at the Moravian website (Susan’s paper and my paper).

 

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