Real theology can be real messy. A few days ago I traveled from Kyiv, Ukraine to Odessa, Ukraine by van with three others. We drove for over nine hours in fog, sometimes so dense that it was really difficult to see the white line in the road in the middle of the afternoon! Since I had traveled to Ukraine by air and am a frequent traveler, I could not help but be reminded that just above us, probably no more than a few kilometers, the sunshine was uninhibited and you could see for a great distance. It all depends on your altitude! Theology can be messy if you decide to penetrate the darkness of a lost world or one can avoid the mess by ignoring it or distancing oneself from it. However, for the believer, is there really such an option? To avoid the real world mess is to avoid the call of God to be an ambassador, representing His Kingdom, and to bring the very solution so needed to make sense of the mess.
Did God really know what He was doing when he created male and female? Could He not just as easily made the male “complete” without the female? Or vice versa? Imagine, we would not even have the word homosexual in our vocabulary! And by the way, in my reading of the two assigned books for this week I do not remember much said about this idea of completeness. If my hermeneutic is correct, completeness, according to the creation narrative is only possible when male and female come together. If that is correct, then two of the same (male or female) cannot be complete, therefore falling short of the creative will of God. That being said, the fog of sexuality is thick these days. The two books assigned for reading each made some important points.
Love is An Orientation: Elevating the Conversation with The Gay Community offered some beneficial input. In bullet format this is my take away from the book:
• Andrew Marin writes, “I propose a new paradigm: it is possible to disagree and yet still peacefully listen, learn and dialogue so that something significant can happen for the kingdom” (Kindle Location 370). I agree with him that evangelicals in general are not used to listening. They are used to telling. I am more of a teller than a listener so I stand in the face of his rebuke and I have and am learning to listen for the sake of the kingdom.
• A problematic Marin statement: “love the sinner, hate the sin’ is the most disdained phrase in the Christian vocabulary. If behavior equals identity, then hating gay sexual behavior is the same thinking as hating the gay person’” (Kindle Location 454). Sin can be expressed in thought and deed. Much of what is identified as sin in both the old and new testaments was behavioral. Jesus identified sinful behavior and talked with people directly about their behavior and yet he did not hate the person. Marin made a broad statement and caught fish that must be thrown back!
• The most beneficial content in the book for me was the list of five questions in Marin’s conclusion. He encourages believers to prepare answers for these questions as they will surely be asked. They are:
1) Do you think that gays and lesbians are born that way?
2) Do you think homosexuality is a sin?
3) Can a GLBT person change?
4) Do you think that someone can be gay and Christian?
5) Are GLBT people going to hell?
Andrew Marin’s book said, over and over and over and over again, that believers must love and listen and accept those in the GLBT community. I got it. He could have used less paper and made his point.
God, Sex, and Gender by Adrian Thatcher was a good read, helpful to assist the traditional evangelical to recognize different explanations for the critical texts concerning gay and lesbian theology. I affirm his desire to encourage a fresh look at the texts and consider alternative view points. I also conclude he too easily distances himself from views simple because they are traditional and not evolving according to his perspective that tradition must evolve with it’s culture and therefore change is necessary. Here are some bullet points about the book from my perspective:
• Thatcher poses questions that are worded so that a negative response is devalued. Case in point: “Re-read Genesis 19:1-11. The traditional interpretation of the story is that God punishes homosexuality. Can you think of some reasons why this interpretation might no longer be sound?” (Pg. 160). Thatcher should take the advice of Marin about open ended questions! Thatcher could have asked the reader if there were other valid interpretations.
• In the same location as the above passage, the author makes a point, that failure of hospitality was the sin. Does he not think that two sins could be taking place simultaneously? I was disappointed that Thatcher made much of his point while not even allowing that more could be taking place and not just this one possible sin.
• On page 161 the author asks why the passage may not be applied to sexual behavior today. Then he makes a shallow comment, “I think the most obvious reason is that there are many laws in the Holiness Code and elsewhere in the Hebrew Bible that Christians do not regard as binding upon them.” This is a generalization without qualification! Yes, he is right, there are many laws that we do not regard as binding! So, does that mean I can throw out any I do not like without qualification (reason)?
• Thatcher writes, “We have discovered, have we not, that the blanket proposition that the Bible condemns homosexuality is hard to sustain?” No! We (I) have discovered that there are other textual and contextual implications that we must be careful to consider but that does not mean that the proposition that the Bible condemns homosexuality is hard to sustain. It just means we must be open and careful.
One reading my post might think I did not like either book. That would be a wrong conclusion. The first book took many pages to say an important message about loving and listening for the sake of the Kingdom. It could have been said more quickly. The second book helped me to see other alternative understandings of the text. I do not agree with all of them, but it is indeed helpful to understand other views.
The issue is still foggy for me. But I know that it is clear above and for the sake of the Kingdom I discipline myself to listen and love and change as God transforms me.
Marin, Andrew. Love is An Orientation. Downer’s Grove, Illinois: InterVarsity Press, 2009.
Thatcher, Adrian. God, Sex, and Gender. West Sussex: Wiley-Blackwell, 2011.