Jesus and Paul on the Hermeneutics of Sexuality: Torn, Part 3

Some time ago, a reader asked me to comment on the theological arguments made in Torn: Rescuing the Gospel from the Gays-vs.-Christians Debate by Justin Lee.

Love

Lee finally turns to this key passage —

(Rom 13:8-10 ESV)  8 Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law.  9 For the commandments, “You shall not commit adultery, You shall not murder, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,” and any other commandment, are summed up in this word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”  10 Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.

Well, now we’ve come full circle! This takes us back to my first post of this series.

But suppose two people loved each other with all their hearts, and they wanted to commit themselves to each other in the sight of God— to love, honor, and cherish; to selflessly serve and encourage one another; to serve God together; to be faithful for the rest of their lives. If they were of opposite sexes, we would call that holy and beautiful and something to celebrate. But if we changed only one thing — the gender of one of those individuals — while still keeping the same love and selflessness and commitment, suddenly many Christians would call it abominable and condemned to hell. As I read and reread Romans 13: 8– 10, I couldn’t find any way to reconcile that view with what Paul tells us sin is. If every commandment can be summed up in the rule to love one another, then either gay couples were the one exception to this rule, and Paul was wrong — or my church had made a big mistake.

Well, that almost makes sense. Really.

But if we decide we’re so smart that we can overrule Jesus’ condemnation of “sexual immorality” — certainly understood by his listeners to include homosexual acts; and if we’re so smart that we can override Paul’s several condemnations of “sexual immorality,” arsenokoitai, and his teachings in Romans 1, well, to get there we have to conclude that Genesis 1 and 2 are not normative for human sexuality. Right?

And yet Jesus argues his case regarding divorce and remarriage from Genesis 1 and 2. And Paul addresses sex in marriage, the submission of spouses, the wrongness of prostitution, and a big chunk of Romans 1 based on Genesis 1 and 2.

And I’m just not willing to claim to be wiser than Jesus and Paul. Genesis 1 and 2 are therefore in fact normative, and so they define in large part of what it means to live a life of love when we are addressing human sexuality. I mean, you can’t repeal it when you don’t like it and impose it when you don’t care.

Moreover, my own conclusions fit the several passages better. They just do.

Now, this conclusion forces us to accept Genesis 1 and 2 as still binding and limiting because those passages describe how God — in his loving wisdom — intends for society to be structured. And God — in his loving wisdom — knows that normalizing other forms of sexual expression would be bad for people we love (or should love).

After all, if Lee’s logic holds, then the very same argument can be made for any number of living arrangements. What limits “love” to monogamy? You see, the argument opens the door for all sorts of things that are clearly destructive to families and societies.

Why not incest? What if my adult daughter and I wish to marry? Well, Paul himself condemned incest in 1 Corinthians 5, even though I’m sure the man and his mother-in-law loved each other.

In short, the logic fits at only a very superficial level. But we have to read the entire text, the entirety of scripture, to do serious hermeneutics. And a serious reading of all the texts does not allow that conclusion.

You see, Lee is confusing agape with eros. I am commanded to love my mother. I’m not permitted to have sex with her. The fact that all commands are built on “love your neighbor” hardly permits all loving relationships to become sexual.

Nor is the question whether anyone else is hurt. First of all, we’re just not wise enough to answer that one. We thought we could look the other way when heterosexual couples moved in together — couples who really love each other, of course — and expect no one to be hurt. And we were very, very wrong.

We seem particularly poor judges of who gets hurt and what is wise when our libidos are involved in the decision-making process. That’s why God went to considerable trouble to advise us of what is right and wrong, wise and foolish, loving and not so loving.

Could a few cases of incest be perfectly safe and harmless, with no abuse and no genetic deformities? Sure. If they use birth control — and the birth control works without fail (a big if) — and if the relationship is truly consensual — lots and lots of ifs. Are we capable of judging how many cases and which cases? Not remotely. Can we normalize incest and not do great harm to society? No.

You know, sometimes you just have to submit to God’s will. Just as my children, when they were young, sometimes couldn’t see the dangers of their decisions and so I had to make them obey whether or not they understood, we should not presume to perfectly and fully understand the purposes behind God’s will. We should trust him enough to obey when it comes to our sexuality — because, as a society, we Westerners have obviously messed things up pretty badly.

I’m tired of going it on our own. I’ve seen the results. I think it’s time to try God’s way once again.

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About Jay F Guin

My name is Jay Guin, and I’m a retired elder. I wrote The Holy Spirit and Revolutionary Grace about 18 years ago. I’ve spoken at the Pepperdine, Lipscomb, ACU, Harding, and Tulsa lectureships and at ElderLink. My wife’s name is Denise, and I have four sons, Chris, Jonathan, Tyler, and Philip. I have two grandchildren. And I practice law.
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