The Bible, Homosexuality and Hermeneutics, Part 2

As a brief follow up to the previous post, I include a few statements made to Steve Chalke’s affirmation of same-sex marriage, specifically “permanent and monogamous homosexual relationships.”

Steve Clifford, general director of the Evangelical Alliance, highlighted in his response what he perceives to be at the heart of this shift in Chalke’s position (see the link in the previous post).

Generations of Christians have faced the challenge of making the gospel relevant within their cultural settings. The danger we all face, and I fear Steve has succumbed to, is that we produce 'a god' in our own likeness or in the likeness of the culture in which we find ourselves.

Steve's approach to biblical interpretation allows for a god in the likeness of 21st century Western-European mindsets. His call for "Christ-like inclusion" is not radical enough in its inclusiveness. We all come to the gospel in our brokenness, with an attachment to things, self-centeredness, addictions, fears and pride. We all need a saviour in every area of our lives, including our sexuality. We all live with pain. The radical inclusiveness of the gospel means we are all welcomed. In a wonderful grace-filled process we find repentance and forgiveness and Christ commits himself through the work of the Holy Spirit to bring transformation to our lives - a life-long process.

I agree with Clifford’s assessment of Chalke’s hermeneutic, his foundational premise of biblical interpretation.

Chalke reinterprets key biblical texts, and he acknowledges that his position is not consistent with “what has traditionally been regarded as an orthodox understanding of Scripture.” To this, Peter Ould asks the following important questions:

  1. If arsenokoites refers to prostitution, to support your case can you cite one contemporaneous Greek source (I’ll take anything from 200BC to 200AD) which uses the word in that context?
  2. If Romans 1 refers to Cybele temple prostitution, how does the mention of female homosexuality in that passage fit in with the fact that Cybele female prostitutes were never homosexual?
  3. If “nature” in Romans 1 refers to one’s individual nature rather than generic human nature (phusis), to support your case can you cite one contemporaneous Greek source which uses the word in that context?
  4. If the correct pastoral response is to affirm homosexual behaviour within monogamous committed couples, what is your opinion of groups like True Freedom Trust who help gay Christians live a single chaste life or other pastoral support which helps men and women explore their past and sometimes establish new sexual identities?

Most of Chalke’s interpretations of these key texts are untenable.

Brian McLaren, who celebrated and blessed his gay son’s wedding late last year, supports Chalke and his view. When asked about Chalke’s change on this issue he replied (noted in the article by Dickinson):

I’m sensitive to [the silence of many Church leaders], because I struggled with that for many years myself. I was tacitly complicit in the conservative view, even though I didn’t hold it – ever, really.

As a leader in the Emergent Church movement, McLaren raised questions for many years on this issue. Whenever he was asked about it, he would simply claim he was only asking questions. This statement sheds a great deal of light on what was behind all the questions he asked all those years. It was not seeking clarity on the issue, or attempting to have open honest dialogue in submission to the text of Scripture. It was with a desire to move in the direction of affirming, or helping others to affirm the acceptability of same-sex unions.

When I look back now from this vantage point with the recent acknowledgment made by McLaren, it both saddens and frustrates me: saddens because of another one undermining the authority of God’s Word, and I do truly feel grief and sorrow for him; frustrates because he was given a very public voice, through speaking and writing, among Evangelicals and in many ways he undermined (intentionally?) much of what Evangelicals affirm, misleading some along the way.

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