Matt Moore posted a new essay, “Rob Bell, Oprah Winfrey & Other People That Don’t Speak On Behalf Of The True Church” on Feb 19, 2015, and it got me thinking.
From the article:
Former Mars Hill Bible Church pastor and best-selling author Rob Bell told media mogul Oprah Winfrey on Sunday that the American church is “moments away” from embracing gay marriage and thinks “it’s inevitable.”
Matt Moore said this:
But I just want to assure you guys of something, because I surprisingly haven’t seen anyone else say it yet: Christ’s Church is not on the verge of embracing gay marriage, and it never will be.
I agree with both statements. I agree with both statements even beyond the obvious irony – Matt refers to “Christ’s Church” and Bell refers to “the American church,” as if they’re different entities – and I suppose in many ways they are. One can easily be a member of an American church and not be part of Christ’s church.
The problem, though, comes in that I don’t think the usage of different terms actually changes anything. I think you can say, with full honesty (and biblical integrity) that the church will change how it sees gay marriage.
The question comes of how and why (and what that means), because I don’t think that it will or should happen the way Rob Bell imagines. Nor do I think, with all respect, that Mr. Moore is entirely right.
What does ’embrace’ mean?
I think Rob Bell imagines that “embracing gay marriage” means that men who are married to other men (and women who are married to other women) will be leaders in the church, and that the church will stop seeing a difference between heterosexual love and homosexual love. The church’s biblical stance on love will change such that love, itself, is the goal, and the expression and center of that love is not relevant.
I don’t think so.
I think that what “embracing gay marriage” will mean is that the church will open its doors to gay couples such that they are accepted as sinners in need of a Redeemer… just like heterosexual couples, or adulterers, or smokers, or liars, or anyone else.
Right now, it’s far easier to enter a church as an adulterous partner than it is to enter the church as a homosexual. An adulterer is chastised; a homosexual is excommunicated.
The responses aren’t equivalent.
They should be.
Both sins are sins; there’s not really a negotiating boundary for sin, you know? It is what it is – acting outside of the Will of God. God’s given us a clear guideline by which we can judge what He wants in us.
Ah, but there’s the problem, isn’t it?
What about all the words against homosexuality?
Paul – the apostle, the guy who wrote a lot of the B’rit Hadashah, the New Testament, maybe you’ve heard of him – wrote a lot of words about homosexuality. He wasn’t exactly unclear about it – to the contrary, he blasted homosexuality pretty severely.
He did it enough that I think we can trace a lot of the Christian mindset towards homosexuals to his writings. We’re acting on what Paul wrote.
How can that be bad?
Well, as with so many other things, it’s not – but it’s misunderstood, I think.
Paul was a Jew. He wrote like a Jew, he thought like a Jew, he communicated like a Jew.
That means he wrote Eastern thoughts with Western words. That makes a lot of the harsher things he said a lot less harsh – because Eastern identity isn’t the same as Western identity.
In Western thought, a thing is itself. A is A, to quote Aristotle’s law of identity. I am me.
In Eastern thought, a thing can be described as itself. A is like A. I am you, and what I see is me.
Eastern thought is not axiomatic, is not geometric proof. Eastern thought is poetry. Saying a thing means there’s force behind the idea, but very few such ideas are purely axiomatic. (They exist; the Sh’ma is an example.) I’d suggest that Paul’s endorsement of forgiveness for everyone who accepts Christ means Paul’s rather forceful damnation of people who’ve sinned in particular ways has been mitigated somewhat – it’s poetry, very effective poetry, but it’s not law.
Does that mean that homosexuality, then, is able to be blessed in the biblical sense?
No. Paul’s condemnation was poetic in nature, expressed in such a way that it was not axiomatic. However, the Torah doesn’t describe it as anything other than a sin, and thus it is: homosexual acts are sinful. Saying otherwise, or redefining the Bible such that it no longer says what it says, is incorrect.
So what does it mean?
As I said, I think both Rob Bell and Matt Moore are wrong – and Rob Bell’s more wrong than Matt Moore is.
We accept adulterers in the church, including marriages built on adultery; in the end, it all works out in God’s plan. We accept liars. We can accept murderers, drug dealers, all kinds of people – God’s love is greater than any sin they could imagine. Nobody is beyond redemption while they’re alive.
Why would homosexuality be any different? Why would homosexual marriage be any different? I don’t see any reason why a church would reject a homosexual couple that truly wanted the will of God in their lives.
That doesn’t mean the church celebrates the matrimony – I don’t think embracing the sinner means endorsing the sin. A church can welcome a man who’s killed another – a murderer – while not saying “Hey, cool, headshot!” A church can accept a married couple of the same gender while not saying “we need to get us some of that!”
That is the “embracing” I can envision and endorse – the kind of understanding that widens the reach of Christ’s Church, as opposed to closing its doors to people who aren’t good enough.