Posts Tagged ‘Homosexuality’

“Jesus Never Talked About X”

Tuesday, December 29th, 2009

So, Jesus was a Jew.  He didn’t come to begin a religion; he came as the culmination of the Old Testament, in its prophecies & promises.

With that in mind, does anybody really think Jesus had to repeat everything from the Old Testament in his teachings–or we can dismiss it?  That would be a pretty odd expectation.

And yet, modern religious discussion seems to have a new trump-card:  ”Jesus never talked about ______.”  If Jesus never talked about [insert traditional/conservative/disliked belief], then supposedly it has no place in true Christianity–it’s just man-made.  (The argument also has a more reasonable form, which I’ll talk about below–but first I want to look at the dismissive form.)

It might be used against any view seen as “traditional”–anything part of widespread assumptions about Christianity.  As an experiment, I googled “Jesus never talked about”.  Six of the first ten results were on homosexuality.  Another says that all sex-related rules are just man-made.  (That one’s odd, since Jesus did talk about sexual morals.)  Another says that Paul can’t be legit, because Jesus never talked about him.  I tried again, excluding “homosexuality” from the results, and came up with:  Original sin, “saying The Prayer”/”becoming a Christian”/”salvation”, legislating morality, and purgatory.

The Problems

Does anyone really think that if Jesus didn’t explicitly, directly mention something, it’s not sin? Did he talk about rape?  Child abuse?  Did he mention the common infanticide practiced in the Roman Empire?  Did he mention bestiality?

We know he spoke about murder, and sexual immorality in general.  But we don’t know that he ever mentioned these.  Does that mean he condoned them?

So where does this thinking go wrong?

The first problem:  The written gospel accounts don’t pretend to record everything Jesus said.  We can’t say, “Jesus never mentioned X.”  We can only say, “The gospel writers didn’t include anything about it.”  Each gospel writer included and emphasized different portions of Jesus’ teaching; they don’t claim to include all of it. (On the contrary.)

Even if Jesus himself actually did directly mention every moral issue during his time on earth, we don’t have everything he said.

The second problem: Red-letter Christianity.

Sometimes, modern printings of the Bible put the words of Jesus in red letters.  And some people view the red letters as the only part that’s really Scripture, really God’s word.  Oddly, people will reject Jesus’ own view of the Scriptures.  He appealed to the Old Testament as the word of God; he affirmed Moses and the Psalms and the prophets.  They spoke by the Spirit of God–the same Spirit by whom the apostles & prophets of the New Testament spoke.

If you try to separate Jesus from the Scriptures, reading only the red letters, you can’t get very far.  You have to excise all the red letters that talk about Scripture and the Holy Spirit.  (That’s exactly what Marcion tried to do.)

And that takes us back to the third problem: Jesus didn’t come to create a new religion.  He’s not dropping in out of the blue and starting with a blank slate.  Jesus is a Jew; Christianity continues & builds on Judaism.  And according to Jesus, he didn’t come to abolish the Law, but to fulfill it.

Jesus’ birth in Israel wasn’t an accident of history.  He’s not a moral teacher who just happened to appear in Israel, and when he spoke about the Law he wasn’t simply commenting on the prevailing morality of his surroundings–he certainly wasn’t affirming some and discarding the rest.  (It’s not as though he set out to ratify the valid parts of Old Testament morality and ignore the parts he didn’t like.)  The Law was from the Father, with whom Jesus is one.  When he criticized the prevailing morality, it was because they departed from the Law for the sake of man-made traditions.  But the Law itself was the word of God.

If we take Jesus in the gospels seriously, we have to take the rest of the Bible seriously.  Jesus, the Word of God, affirmed Scripture as the word of God.  You can’t separate its teachings from his.

On The Other Hand…

More reasonably, “Jesus never mentioned ___” does raise a question about importance and emphasis.  It’s silly to assume that Jesus mentioned every moral issue and theological truth, but he did specifically teach about his purpose in coming, the kingdom of God, and the central meaning of the gospel.  So it seems reasonable to expect that the main things would show up coming from Jesus himself.

It’s a slippery question, but at least it raises food for thought.

Aside from that, the criticisms people are making might still be valid, even though “Jesus never mentioned X” is a bad argument.  Going back to the list from Google, I certainly agreed with some of the critiques–against purgatory, against some forms of legislating morality, against “praying-the-prayer”-as-magical-words-that-grant-eternal-security.

But to make a valid critique on anything, you need a lot more than this argument from Jesus’ supposed silence.

To Sum It Up

Saying “Jesus never talked about ____” isn’t a good trump card.  It doesn’t do much, though it can raise food for thought.

Homosexuality & Hypocrisy Pt 2: The Gospel in Romans

Wednesday, January 7th, 2009

In the previous entry, I talked about how the Gospel should be at the center of anything we say about homosexuality–and this includes stressing the point that we are all sinners, and no one has the right to feel self-righteous. It’s interesting that Paul makes precisely that point when he talked about it.

Romans 1

Paul talks about homosexuality in Rom. 1:26-27, and then lists other sins in Rom. 1:28-32–like gossip and disobedience to parents.  So, I started pointing that out, when I wanted to show that–biblically–homosexuality is a sin among other sins. To show that everyone–including me–stands condemned in the same way. No one can be self-righteous.

It’s odd. For some reason, I didn’t notice that Paul seems to be making exactly that point. Then recently, it clicked.  When he lists “big” sins with “small” sins, he almost seems to bait a trap for the smugly self-righteous–letting the readers feel comfortable for a moment, before cutting them low.  (Though… See the P.S. at the end of the entry.)

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Homosexuality & Hypocrisy Pt 1: Slogans & the Gospel

Friday, January 2nd, 2009

Lately, I’ve been encountering the combined subjects of homosexuality, hypocrisy, and shallow interaction. I started writing one entry on homosexuality in Romans 1-2, but it ballooned, and became too much for one post. So this will be the first in a small series. (Hopefully, I can keep each post terse! It’s hard for me to be brief.)

The major theme will be “going deeper”. Which is pretty tough to do, consistently.

The Bible & Homosexuality

The biblical passages on homosexuality evoke strong reactions. Many people see them as harsh & mean-spirited. They’re associated with a self-righteous attitude of condemnation–a mindset that looks down on homosexuals as the worst of all sinners. A mindset that ostracizes and rejects. A mindset that doesn’t understand, “Judge not, lest ye be judged.”

Slogans

There are standard evangelical responses. The most common soundbite is, “Love the sinner, and hate the sin.” Unfortunately, it has two major problems.

  1. It’s a slogan–one that’s easy to spit out, regardless of whether there is any love in your life. It’s something Christian kids learn to say, without necessarily learning what it really looks like. So it can sound empty and hollow. Especially if people have been hurt by those who say it without living it.
  2. More importantly: It almost implies a lie. It almost implies that gay people are sinners–unlike us. It does nothing to counteract the bad assumption that gay people go to hell, but straight people are fine.  As though gay people are unique, as sinners, instead of everyone being in the same boat. Self-righteous condemnation.

Canned Answers

There are better slogans, maybe. (“We’re all sinners in need of a savior.” “Jesus said, ‘Judge not, lest ye be judged,’ but he also said, ‘Go and sin no more.’”) Pithy statements can be useful. Canned answers can help. But not when the canned answer reflects canned thinking. Not when the deeper truths aren’t deeply grasped, and lived out. Not when the only thing people hear is canned answers.

So we need to make sure that we know the truths behind the slogans, and that we live in accord with them. Our lives should be adorning the gospel.

Responding With the Gospel

When we talk about homosexuality, at the very core we need to be communicating the gospel. We need to be pointing to the universal need for salvation, and to the work of Christ to save us. To the need for repentance, to the need for trust in him, and to the power & sufficiency of trusting him, apart from any of our efforts to live well.

We’re sinners in need of a savior. Christians shouldn’t view ourselves as “righteous”, and scorn homosexuals as lowly sinners–everyone is together a sinner. And “not judging” doesn’t mean that we never say, “That’s wrong.” Rather, it means not condemning–we speak God’s grace to fellow sinners. In love. There’s no place for self-righteousness. When Christians understand Christ, then we respond with humility and grace and love and the free offer of the gospel. We look with love and care, in part because we know that we ourselves have been forgiven much.

When we understand the gospel, we cannot look down on anyone.

Wrap-up

We need to get past slogans. Or we need to put meat on the slogans we profess. It includes communicating the gospel more clearly. That includes rooting out any hint of self-righteousness. It includes avoiding the perception of being noxious, holier-than-thou “Religious Types”, by living out lives of Christ-like, loving, humble service.

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Update:
Here’s the entire series:
Homosexuality & Hypocrisy Pt 1: Slogans & the Gospel
Homosexuality & Hypocrisy Pt 2: The Gospel in Romans
Homosexuality & Hypocrisy Pt 3: Hypocrisy, Stereotyping, and the Gospel
Homosexuality & Hypocrisy Pt 4: Dealing with Stereotypes
Homosexuality & Hypocrisy Pt 4.5: P.S. On Dealing with Stereotypes