Imparting a classical education at home. Check out the Edwards Academy.

Psalm 78
. . . we will tell the next generation the praiseworthy deeds of the LORD, his power, and the wonders he has done. .
so the next generation would know them . . . and they in turn would tell their children.
Then they would put their trust in God and would not forget his deeds but would keep his commands.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Does Newsweek have a point?

A friend in my Bible Study Fellowship group asked if I’ve read the Newsweek cover story on gay marriage and the Bible and, if so, what I thought about it. I hadn’t read it, but now I have and I thought I would post a few thoughts.* I’m veering a bit off the homeschooling track, but this post does underline a key goal of our homeschool: teaching our kids to understand the world around them with the mind of Christ.

First, a few Scriptures to remember:
But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumphal procession in Christ and through us spreads everywhere the fragrance of the knowledge of him. For we are to God the aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing. To the one we are the smell of death; to the other, the fragrance of life. And who is equal to such a task? Unlike so many, we do not peddle the word of God for profit. On the contrary, in Christ we speak before God with sincerity, like men sent from God.
(2 Corinthians 2:14-17)

The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned. (1 Corinthians 2:14)

But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth. (Jesus speaking in John 16:13)
Although we must always be ready to give an answer (“But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect…”1 Peter 3:15)  we must remember that non-believers will be arguing without the Holy Spirit’s illumination (“See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ.” Colossians 2:8).

Christians attempt to persuade gay marriage advocates on the basis of the facts, pointing out the damage gay marriage would inflict on marriage between a man and a woman, the benefits of traditional families, and the dangers of homosexuality. But in this way we’ve just invited them to disprove our facts. We need to admit to ourselves from the outset that the truths of the Bible will be foolishness to our foes.

In the Newsweek article the author tries to take every Biblical argument against gay marriage and discredit it. In this attempt it is obvious from the first paragraph that she cannot be taken seriously by believers in the Bible.
Let's try for a minute to take the religious conservatives at their word and define marriage as the Bible does. Shall we look to Abraham, the great patriarch, who slept with his servant when he discovered his beloved wife Sarah was infertile? Or to Jacob, who fathered children with four different women (two sisters and their servants)? Abraham, Jacob, David, Solomon and the kings of Judah and Israel—all these fathers and heroes were polygamists. The New Testament model of marriage is hardly better. Jesus himself was single and preached an indifference to earthly attachments—especially family. The apostle Paul (also single) regarded marriage as an act of last resort for those unable to contain their animal lust. "It is better to marry than to burn with passion," says the apostle, in one of the most lukewarm endorsements of a treasured institution ever uttered. Would any contemporary heterosexual married couple—who likely woke up on their wedding day harboring some optimistic and newfangled ideas about gender equality and romantic love—turn to the Bible as a how-to script?
The author, Lisa Miller, cleverly mischaracterizes the Scriptures and then mocks anyone who would follow them as she interprets them. But Lisa Miller reveals right off the bat that she doesn’t understand the Bible. There is no mention of God’s clear disapproval of Abraham’s conduct (Gen. 17:18-19). She doesn’t acknowledge that Christian theology holds that Jacob was chosen by God in spite of his imperfections to show us that we cannot earn God’s favor. Yes, many of his actions are indefensible. (Do Jacob’s deceptions to his father contradict the Bible’s teaching on honoring parents? Of course not.) She tries to point to the conduct of Judah’s and Israel’s kings as an example, but fails to acknowledge that all of Israel’s kings were wicked and many of Judah’s were also wicked. The exile of the Israelites to Babylon was God’s judgment on His nation’s failure to obey His commands. In short, God gives us the example of Biblical heroes to demonstrate that we cannot live up to His standard and that we need God’s mercy in Christ. Miller's New Testament facts are equally foggy. Here she says Jesus preaches that we should hold earthly relationships loosely but later she will claim that Jesus wants us not to be lonely and sad. 

The article goes on, and is filled with misrepresentations of Christian belief. It is easy for her to mock a caricature of Christian belief rather than respond to actual Christian doctrines, and many readers will be fooled into thinking that the caricature Miller presents is the real thing. But we are not deceived by such hollow thinking.

In another example of the author’s shallow representation of Christian teachings, she suggests that Jesus’ loving acceptance of the woman at the well (John 4) should encourage us to accept homosexuality. The author writes:
In the Christian story, the message of acceptance for all is codified. Jesus reaches out to everyone, especially those on the margins, and brings the whole Christian community into his embrace. The Rev. James Martin, a Jesuit priest and author, cites the story of Jesus revealing himself to the woman at the well— no matter that she had five former husbands and a current boyfriend—as evidence of Christ's all-encompassing love. The great Bible scholar Walter Brueggemann, emeritus professor at Columbia Theological Seminary, quotes the apostle Paul when he looks for biblical support of gay marriage: "There is neither Greek nor Jew, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Jesus Christ." The religious argument for gay marriage, he adds, "is not generally made with reference to particular texts, but with the general conviction that the Bible is bent toward inclusiveness.
In quoting expert scholars, the article tries to cloak itself with authority, but this is once again a false representation of the Bible’s message. Christ indeed reaches out to everyone—and calls on them to receive His redemption. He never endorses their sinfulness. This is the hope of the Gospel: that Jesus came to save us from our sins. It isn’t that we meet God’s approval and therefore receive His love. No, we fall far short of His approval, but in His mercy He extends His love and hope in Christ. Romans 5:8 reminds us, "But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us."

The article concludes with:
More basic than theology, though, is human need. We want, as Abraham did, to grow old surrounded by friends and family and to be buried at last peacefully among them. We want, as Jesus taught, to love one another for our own good—and, not to be too grandiose about it, for the good of the world. We want our children to grow up in stable homes. What happens in the bedroom, really, has nothing to do with any of this. My friend the priest James Martin says his favorite Scripture relating to the question of homosexuality is Psalm 139, a song that praises the beauty and imperfection in all of us and that glorifies God's knowledge of our most secret selves: "I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made." And then he adds that in his heart he believes that if Jesus were alive today, he would reach out especially to the gays and lesbians among us, for "Jesus does not want people to be lonely and sad." Let the priest's prayer be our own.
It is somewhat ironic that she brings up human need, which she defines as community relationships. Actually, the Bible teaches that Jesus is the only satisfaction for every human need. He is the Bread of Life, the Living Water, the Light of the World, the Father to the fatherless, the King of kings. In Christ we have our sustenance, our direction, our family, and our authority. The physical needs are temporal; the spiritual needs are eternal. Jesus promises freedom from loneliness and sadness in heaven (Revelation 21-22), but promises trouble in this world ("I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world." John 16:33). It is wrong to suggest that Jesus desires us to find a cozy, happy existence. It is an unwelcome truth to modern ears, but God’s aim for our life is that we be a living sacrifice in worship to Him. This might not be a cozy, happy existence.

We must know the Scriptures so that we can confidently stand firm against the basic principles of the world and stand on Christ. In this, we must avoid two errors. One error is to conclude that Christian belief is irrational because it requires the Holy Spirit’s guidance to comprehend it. The truth of the Bible is hidden to non-believers, but it is not senseless. When we encounter truths that require faith to accept (the Trinity, election, creation) it is not because these truths are irrational. No, it is just that these truths transcend our finite ability to comprehend infinite truths. We cannot simply say, “God said it, so I believe it.” We need to be ready to explain the hope we have in Christ and be ready to teach it to others. On the other hand, we must not deceive ourselves and pridefully try to defend our faith in the realm of human wisdom. Trying to do this has ensnared so many Christians as they respond to articles like this one from Newsweek. 

The real threat of articles like this in Newsweek is not what they have to say about gay marriage and the Bible. It is that Christians will be either deceived by them or drawn into argument against them. Instead, let’s know our Scriptures so that we are not deceived and let’s compassionately love people as Jesus did: by sharing with them the Gospel.** 

*Evidently a debate over this story is raging in the blogosphere, but I’ve not been paying attention. Arguments over this sort of thing are futile; there’s no persuading gay marriage advocates by citing Scripture or by attempting to disprove their facts. I’m posting a response not to debate the point line by line but to (perhaps) assist Christians like my friend in understanding the article Biblically.
**I Corinthians 15:1-4 reads, "Now, brothers, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain.
For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures...

All Scriptures taken from the NIV, emphases added.

Newsweek cover story published December 6, 2008, magazine dated December 15, 2008. You may find it online, but I'm choosing not to link to it.

No comments:

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...