Mars Hill Forum #154, Salem College, October 4, 2015: “Biblical Theology, Homosexuality and Pastoral Ministry” in the Moravian Church
Further Questions from the Audience
Questions Addressed to Both Speakers:
1] What is your understanding of “sexual immorality” as used in the New Testament?
- John: Rooted in the assumptions of marriage in Genesis 1-2, and Jesus giving anchor there, his use of “sexual immorality” (e.g., porneia in Matthew 15:19) refers to any sexual intimacy outside the marriage of one man and one woman for one lifetime.
2] Jesus’ reply to the question about the 7 brothers who had the same wife as one after another died was that in heaven they are like the angels, neither marrying nor giving in marriage, etc. Is sexual orientation a thing of the present world only?
- John: “Sexual orientation” is a foreign concept in the Bible. We are all created male and female, and in an exceedingly small number of cases in a post-fall world, there is environmental pollution that can harm and confuse genetic sexuality in a given person. But this is not where the debate finds locus. In the debate over the seven brothers (from the apocryphal book of Tobit as used by the Sadducees in their opposition to Jesus) this reference (e.g., Matthew 22:23-33), the question at hand is the possibility of angelical sexuality, and Jesus says angels do not marry (which in the Hebrew, means the same thing as sexual intercourse). To the point of this question, Jesus seems clearly to be saying (and this goes back to a theology of filling and subduing the earth in Genesis) that once the eschaton arrives, marriage will have served its purpose, and as preparation to embrace and understand the marriage of the Lamb and the church.
3] How do you justify your position about homosexuality using the Bible as your only source?
- John: The Bible is the locus of this specific forum, and is not my only source, but the one that holds unique interpretive leverage. In my book, Genesis and the Power of True Assumptions (see johnrankinbooks.com), I argue that the whole of liberal arts inquiry is founded in Genesis 1-2, and for example, science and the scientific method, in contrast to all pagan religion. Thus, the Bible can be tested by any and all intellectual inquiry, on this subject, or any other.
4] As the Mosaic Law and the laws of Leviticus speak to what is wrong or sinful, is there a level of sin that is tolerated?
- John: “Toleration” is not the question. All sin is by definition “broken trust,” and the Law of Moses gives boundaries externally that lead to the inner transformation needed, fulfilled in the eschaton, and always, where mercy always triumphs over judgment, for those willing to receive it.
5] Do you believe that the homosexual lifestyle is by choice alone or are there other determinants?
- John: There are many factors where choice is imposed on boys and girls in their youths, and the most cardinal commonality is what I call “the chosen absence of the biological father.” See The Surprising Testimony of Three Lesbians at Harvard (click here).
6] Why do you think male gays try to molest younger boys and force their lifestyle on them and never let them escape?
- John: For those who do, the sociological data shows that these are men who themselves were thus abused as children. An ugly cycle.
7] If a young person boy/girl comes to a homosexual pastor with a question of their sexuality, what direction will that pastor send the child?
- John: Good question, and to make understatement, homosexual exploration is always a possible recommendation. I have a friend of mine, a Unitarian minister, who over the years, has counseled multiple dozens of such people to explore homosexuality. And then he said in a public forum to me once, candidly and surprisingly, that in every case, the psychological well-bring of these people never got better, and for many, much worse.
8] Why in the life of our Moravian Church must we now make such a decision? After all, to condone homosexuality will likely drive a wedge into our church. Don’t we have more important issues, like bringing people to Jesus Christ?
- John: I come from a line of many Presbyterian ministers and abolitionists, and one of them, the Rev. John Thomas Rankin, was known as the “Manager of the Underground Railroad,” aided by his seven sons, and Harriet Beecher Stowe (from my native Hartford area) got some of her stories for Uncle Tom’s Cabin from him. In view of the Moravian’s remarkable abolitionist history, we are theological and political cousins. I agree with your question. But wedges will be driven by those who want to twist the Scriptures to their own destruction.
9] Has the committee taken into consideration that an affirmative decision on this subject will most likely split the southern province of the Moravian Church?
- John: From my vantage-point, yes.
10] Adultery is lots of fun and makes many happy. Will adultery be the next activity condoned by the church?
- John: A two part reply: 1) “Fun” like the sweet that turns bitter and poisons the soul. 2) Good question, with plenty of historical precedent, with specific reference to the years leading to the Babylonian exile of Judah in 586 B.C.
Questions Addressed to Rev. Parker
- We We heard the story of Rev. Parker’s life and why we should respect homosexuality, but we never heard reasons why we should accept the marriage – that is what I wanted to hear.
- Do we follow Jesus or man?
- Bible has nothing positive toward homosexuality – only against. If the Bible is true it is a sin. If it is untrue, then the bible is a lie. If you are calling God a liar, you are the same as Eve, not believing God by listening to Satan. And now the Church wants to call God a liar. What is the difference?
- How do you see the words of the Apostle Paul? Do you consider Paul’s words the “word of God”?
- Why did she not adhere to the gospel before preaching it, because the clear teaching of the Bible states in 1 Cor. 6:9-10 that no homosexual will have any part in the kingdom of God.
- I’m interested in hearing more about your pre-adolescent feelings of being “different”. I’m also interested in more information (perhaps statistics) on how the “spectrum of sexuality” is populated. Thank you for sharing your story.
- Members of the Joint Board of Ardmore Moravian Are aware that they are responsible for the actions of its membership and its leaders. How do we protect our board members and Church from Legal Liability if we expose it to all LifeStyles? Are we protected by our insurance coverages if we knowingly invite people who may expose our congregation to acts that may be inappropriate or carry criminal liabilities?
- How can we walk through God’s Acre and see all gravestones as equal … and not embrace as all humans are equal?
- Will the Moravian Church be able to hold its motto as true if the non-essential of “who we love” is not accepted?
Questions Addressed to Rev. Rankin
1] What is the Hebrew translation of Genesis 1 that Dr. Rankin’s paper referred to?
- My own translation, and in all my books in print, I do my own Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek translations.
2] Did I hear you correctly when you said all “other sexualities other than heterosexuality advance human brokenness”? Doesn’t heterosexuality, which is far more prevalent than homosexuality, advance far more human brokenness when we think of rape, sexual abuse, infidelity, sexual trafficking, etc., etc., etc.?
- I was referring to the heterosexuality of one man and one woman in marriage according to Genesis 1-2. Any sexuality outside of this is rooted in broken trust, and most of it is heterosexual in nature, and none of it is intrinsically healthy.
3] Why choose a message that is too above the average listener?
- Fair question, and yet, if I do not work hard at equipping the church with biblical literacy, I would ill-serve the Gospel. The Bible is the most intellectually rich and important text in the world, and has more literacy genre in its pages than anywhere else — all in service the storyline of God’s love for all of us. And given the eisegetical agenda to infuse homosexuality into the Bible, I need to exegete the Bible on its own terms, and this involves a deep encounter with the Bible on its own terms.
4] Jesus speaks of marriage between a man and a woman in Matt. 19 and Mark 10 in the context of stating a person who divorces and marries another commits adultery. Since we no longer follow Jesus’ conclusion with regard to divorce, why is his preamble still valid?
- If you regard any portion if Scripture as invalid, you become an arbiter over the Bible itself, and can disregard anything you wish. Adultery is committed in remarriage for those who willfully break covenant with an original marriage. Forgiveness is always possible, but the reality remains the same.
5] Please describe your process or methodology to determine which statements or commands in the Bible are timeless and eternal and which are culturally conditioned.
- Great question, and mostly simply, it is a matter of understanding creation, sin and redemption as introduced in Genesis 1-3. Whatever comports with the biblical order of creation is eternal, and the whole redemptive process seeks to restore it across covenantal history until realized in the eschaton. Again, my book, Genesis and the Power of True Assumptions, addresses this (see johnrankinbooks.com).
6] Where does Jesus address traditional marriage in the Bible? Where does Jesus talk about “pornia”? Or was that Paul?
- Key texts: Matthew 19:1-9; Matthew 15:15-20; 1 Corinthians 5:1; 6:13, 18; Galatians 5:19.
7] If the biblical view of marriage is one man and one woman, why is there so much polygamy in the Bible?
- Polygamy happens in a sinful world, not a part of the order of creation, and the Bible is candid in showing sin wherever it is found.
8] Are sexual variations intended by God or an aberration of God’s intention of male and female?
- Anything outside of man and woman in marriage is an aberration, but as God does not force goodness on us, we reap what we sow.
9] It seemed from your opening remarks about the conversation with some lesbian women that you were attributing their homosexuality to early sexual abuse.
- It is their testimony, not mine (click here), but also dynamically acknowledged beyond (also click here).
10] Are you suggesting with your opening remarks on the lack of loving fathers, that if loving fathers were present in all families, there would be no homosexuals?
- It would make the largest possible difference. Click here for several anecdotes that look at it from complementary angles.
11] Is there a study supporting your assumption that homosexuality is a result of abuse, that is supported by academic standards? Why do you feel that it cannot be a way in which someone is born?
- Yes, there are many studies, but academia is adverse to giving them honest review. Where is the genetic evidence of being born homosexual? The homosexual rights movement has largely given up on this attempt after decades of trying. Indeed, in Goodridge and other court decisions leading to the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision legalizing same-sex marriage, not once was there any attempt to argue for homosexuality being an inborn trait.
12] Do you affirm intersexed persons as being part of God’s good creation?
- All persons are made in God’s image, of complete equality. Hermaphrodites et al. inherit such brokenness, as do all of us do in different capacities.
Questions Addressed to No One in Particular
1] Why no presentation from the conservative viewpoint. Get rep. from Bob Jones U. or Southeastern Baptist Seminary.
- John: “Conservative” as a political or theological perspective? Biblical is what matters to me. That would have been an enlightening inclusion.
2] If not the church, who will show love and grace to the sinner but lead them to the truth of Scripture?
- John: Agreed.
3] Please relay old and new testament scripture regarding homosexuality and the covenant of marriage. If our church is to uphold scripture, then should the church discourage the behavior as it does other sins? Should the clergy be held to abstain from homosexual behavior?
- John: These Scriptures have been referred to contextually thus far. For a simple summation in the midst of political and theological debate, click here.
4] Can bisexual births be seen as defects in the gene pool that once was “pure” before the “fall”?
- John: I assume you mean intersexed or hermaphroditic. The gene pool is ill-effected by environmental toxins and the stresses of sin on the body, and yes, intersexuality is one of an infinite varieties of aberration. we all need the Savior.
5] How important is God’s word in coming to a decision about whether the Moravian Church will ordain practicing homosexuals?
- John: It is the original, final and critical source for all professing Christians.
6] Why invite open sin into the church? They want the church to affirm a lifestyle of sin – please do not accept this – the church is rapidly declining.
- John: Agreed.