(how to tell the biblical story in a way that makes a difference)

Homosexuality, Black Friday, and the disordered human condition

In his chapter on homosexuality in The Moral Vision of the New Testament Richard Hays argues that in Romans 1:

Paul is offering a diagnosis of the disordered human condition: he adduces the fact of widespread homosexual behaviour as evidence that human beings are indeed in rebellion against their Creator. The fundamental human sin is the refusal to honor God and give God thanks (1:21); consequently, God’s wrath takes the form of letting human idolatry run its own self-destructive course. Homosexual activity, then, is not a provocation of ‘the wrath of God’ (Rom 1.18); rather, it is a consequence of God’s decision to ‘give up’ rebellious creatures to follow their own futile thinking and desires. The unrighteous behavior catalogued in Romans 1:26-31 is a list of symptoms: the underlying sickness of humanity as a whole, Jews and Greeks alike, is that they have turned away from God and fallen under the power of sin. (387)

Now, doesn’t that definition of “humanity” as “Jews and Greeks alike” strike you as odd? If Paul is offering a “diagnosis of the disordered human condition” or, as Ian Paul puts it in the Grove booklet on Same-Sex Unions, “telling the cosmic history of the failure of humanity” (24), why does Paul speak specifically of the coming wrath against the Greek (Rom. 2:9)?

The inclusion of same-sex believers and the non-inclusion of Gentiles

The purpose of this post is, first, to register the fact that J. Daniel Kirk has used Acts 15 to argue for the affirmation and inclusion of gay Christians in the church. I hadn’t seen these before—thanks, Andy, for pointing it out:

Kirk thinks that the “inclusion of Gentiles” constitutes a compelling narrative paradigm for the inclusion of LGBT believers in the church.

Same-sex same solution (simplified). And what was James on about?

Ian Paul, who is a staunch defender of the traditional view, thinks that my modest proposal regarding the relevance of the deliberations of the Jerusalem Council for the seemingly intractable controversy over same-sex unions is a “bizarre misreading of the narrative”. My sense is rather that he has misread my post, but since that could be my fault rather than his, I want to try and clarify the reasoning.

Same-sex same solution? Does the Jerusalem Council suggest a way forward?

Some years back I wrote a book called Speaking of Women: Interpreting Paul. I took the view that both sides of the debate at the time were misreading Paul in their pursuit of polemical advantage, but I came down nevertheless on the egalitarian side of the fence. I think that male headship in Paul is a social construct having to do not with authority over the woman, and certainly not with an innate authority over the woman, but with social prominence. Sadly the debate still goes on in the modern church, but as far as I am concerned there are good biblical reasons for moving beyond the historical patriarchalism both of scripture and of the church.

Jesus is Lord (still)

We visited Philippi in September. We were staying in Kavala, in eastern Greece, formerly Neapolis, which is where Paul landed having sailed from Troas via Samothrace in response to a visionary summons to Macedonia (Acts 16:11-12). The extensive ruins of the Roman colony of Philippi lie about 12 miles inland.

We climbed to the Acropolis that looks down on the ruins of the city, we wandered past the supposed prison from which Paul and Silas were liberated by an earthquake, crossed the forum to the imposing remains of Basilica B, skirted round to the octagonal Basilica of Paul with its faded mosaics, and took a leisurely stroll along the Egnatian way. A short distance from the site is the Gangitis river where Paul met and baptised Lydia (Acts 16:13-15).

The rider on the white horse and the war against the beast and the kings of the earth

Someone got in touch asking about the interpretation of John’s vision of a rider on a white horse and the war against “the beast and the kings of the earth” in Revelation 19:11-21.

What does Revelation 19 and the rider on the white horse defeating the beast, false prophet, and other kings represent? Is this symbolic of Christ’s conquest over the nations (perhaps a parallel of the millennium in Rev. 20?) or is it pointing toward a specific judge over a particular enemy (Rome or Jerusalem)?

I think the answer is “yes”, but anyway here in summary is how I read the passage…

Same-sex same old story?

The narrative-historical approach recognises that the biblical story works on different levels. Modern (evangelical) theologies tend to highlight the universal story of the individual person who is a sinner in need of salvation, etc. More recently greater attention has been given to an overarching but largely uneventful story about God and the ultimate renewal of creation, which has helped to extend the ethical and social reach of modern (evangelical) theologies.

Kingdom and mission: a pants classification

I mentioned before the distinction that Scot McKnight makes in his Kingdom Conspiracy book between a “pleated pants” view of kingdom as the redemptive activity of God and a “skinny jeans” view of the kingdom as social activism in which the church may be more of a hindrance than a help.

You probably have to be American really to appreciate the sartorial metonymy, but I think we can usefully extend the classification.

Paul’s parable of the olive tree

In Kingdom Conspiracy: Returning to the Radical Mission of the Local Church Scot McKnight takes aim at two broad misconceptions of what the kingdom of God is: the “skinny jeans” reduction of kingdom to social activism, and the more conventionally religious “pleated pants” approach, which regards the kingdom as primarily an expression of God’s redemptive presence in the world.

The church should not be doing mission on the basis of a false view of this central biblical concept. The “kingdom of God” belongs to the story of first century Israel and what it became, and McKnight argues strenuously that how we think about and do mission today must take this historical narrative into account.

As Scot McKnight says, the meek ought to have inherited the land

Let me state this as clearly as I can…

(I’ve picked up something of Scot McKnight’s combative tone of voice here.)

The sermon on the mount in Matthew 5-7 was not preached to or for the benefit of the post-Christendom, modern-going-on-postmodern, global church.

It was preached to beleaguered first century Israel. It was a call to a section of first century Israel to pursue a particular course of action, to think in a particular fashion, to embark on a particular journey at a time of extreme national crisis, when a storm and a flood were about to sweep away the house that Israel had built on the sand.


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