Sunday, June 14, 2009

Quote / Misquote

Ephesians 4v7-13
But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it. This is why it says:
"When he ascended on high, he led captives in his train and gave gifts to men."
(What does "he ascended" mean except that he also descended to the lower, earthly regions? He who descended is the very one who ascended higher than all the heavens, in order to fill the whole universe.) It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, to prepare God's people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.
We looked at this passage in housegroup this week. I've read it before, but don't think I'd ever checked back to the OT passage that Paul quotes here. This time I did and found it says this:

Psalm 68v18
When you ascended on high, you led captives in your train; you received gifts from men, even from the rebellious—that you, O LORD God, might dwell there.
Now hang on! Paul says that God gave gifts to men, but the original says that God received gifts from men. This is really bad. If I heard a preacher making such a mistake today I wouldn't rate them very highly! Paul has a point to make about God giving gifts, but he can't find an OT verse to support his claim, so he misquotes one... entirely changing the sense of the verse.

Oh, and there is nothing in the original passage about descending either. The image is of the triumph of a conquering king receiving tribute from his enemies.

Anyone have any thoughts on this? I'm bamboozled.

Monday, June 01, 2009

Homosexuality in the clergy (again)

Several years ago the issue of (practicing) homosexual clergy threatened to tear the Anglican church apart. I blogged about it at the time. Now the same issue has landed in the Church of Scotland (the denomination I grew up in) and is similarly threatening to tear that church apart.

Having just re-read what I wrote nearly four years ago, I find myself more-or-less in agreement with what I wrote back then.

There are two camps here:

First there is the 'Conservative' camp who say "homosexual practice is a sin, it is condemned in the Bible, therefore we should not allow practicing homosexual clergy". Of course, many of this group eat pork and wear mixed fabrics and somehow justify doing these things - which are also listed as sin and condemned in the bible.

Then there is the 'Liberal' camp who say "some people are made gay, God wouldn't make them that way and then bar them from Christian ministry". Of course, the same reasoning would not apply to folk who were naturally inclined towards lying, stealing or psychopathic behaviour.

So what have the Church of Scotland done? Well, they've done something interesting. First of all, they voted in favour of the appointment of one, specific, practicing homosexual minister. Then they resolved not to appoint any other (known, practicing) homosexual ministers for at least two years, in which time a committee would look into the issue and write a report.

I almost approve of this plan of action.

But I have two questions, one for each camp.

To the liberal camp I must ask: "Why are you not pressing for homosexual marriage?" The bible is quite clear: sex outside of a loving, committed, monogamous, married relationship is not what God intended. So if God did create some people gay and intends for them to be that way, then the message the church should be sending out to homosexuals is twofold - abstain from sex until you find the right person for you, and don't have sexual relations with that person until you are married. Promoting any other message regarding sexuality is creating an inequality with heterosexuals.

To the conservative camp I must ask: "Why would homosexual practice (within the confines of a gay marriage) be a sin?" Basically, as I see it, there are things condemned as sin in the bible that are no longer considered sin today. Could this not be one of them? I don't believe that God creates arbitrary rules for no reason. Therefore, if homosexual practice is a sin, there must be a good reason for this - it must be bad for the individual, for society, or for our communion with God.

[Slight digression] I tend to favour the implied beliefs of C.S. Lewis with regard to 'forbidden fruit', as expressed allegorically in 'Perelandra'. There the 'Adam and Eve' characters were forbidden from doing a certain thing and, unlike Adam & Eve, they managed to abstain from it. Later, they were commended for their actions and given permission to do the forbidden thing. There was nothing wrong with the action, God was merely testing their obedience.

What if 'that was then, this is now' is a valid argument? When the original commandments were given, ensuring the growth, continuity and racial purity of the Israelites was a high priority. Mixed marriages with other races were forbidden, failure to produce offspring was frowned upon. In that context, of course, a homosexual relationship would be seen as a bad thing. It would not serve the continuity of the race. But our priorities have changed since then. We don't frown upon childless couples.

The original biblical principal is this: "It is not good for [a] man to be alone." (Genesis 2v18) - I wonder if it is less bad for a man to be with another man (within the confines of a committed gay marriage) than for a man to be on his own.

What is more important here, gender or relationship?

Some would argue from the point of view of design 'it is obvious [biologically speaking] that God made man to go with woman...' but that doesn't take orientation into account. To the homosexually oriented person it is obvious that they should be with another man.

I still don't know. I hear what both sides are saying, and I think they're both wrong - at least in part.

I doubt this will be the last post on this subject...

Grace and peace.