Jesus and Paul on the Hermeneutics of Sexuality: Introduction; Brueggemann

the-bible-and-sexuality-blog-heading (1)A couple of years ago, I posted a series called “Jesus and Paul on the Hermeneutics of Sexuality.” The point of the series is that we should find our hermeneutics in the scriptures, rather than importing our hermeneutics from law, humanism, or whatever. And the best source of scriptural hermeneutics is to study how Jesus and Paul interpreted and applied the Old Testament.

Here are links to the posts:

Jesus and Paul on the Hermeneutics of Sexuality, Introduction

Jesus and Paul on the Hermeneutics of Sexuality, Part 1

Jesus and Paul on the Hermeneutics of Sexuality, Part 2 (Matthew 19:3-6)

Jesus and Paul on the Hermeneutics of Sexuality, Part 3 (Matthew 19:7-12)

Jesus and Paul on the Hermeneutics of Sexuality, Part 4 (Matthew 5:27-30)

Jesus and Paul on the Hermeneutics of Sexuality, Part 5 (1 Corinthians 6)

Jesus and Paul on the Hermeneutics of Sexuality, Part 6 (1 Corinthians 7)

Jesus and Paul on the Hermeneutics of Sexuality, Part 7 (1 Corinthians 11 and Ephesians 5)

Jesus and Paul on the Hermeneutics of Sexuality, Part 8 (The hermeneutics of Eden; Plato on homosexuality)

Jesus and Paul on the Hermeneutics of Sexuality, Part 9 (Marriage, sex, and loving our neighbors)

Jesus and Paul on the Hermeneutics of Sexuality, Part 10 (Romans 1:16-1:20)

Jesus and Paul on the Hermeneutics of Sexuality, Part 11.1 (Romans 1:21-32, Part 1)

Jesus and Paul on the Hermeneutics of Sexuality, Part 11.2 (Romans 1:21-32, Part 2)

Jesus and Paul on the Hermeneutics of Sexuality, Part 12 (On gay marriage)

Jesus and Paul on the Hermeneutics of Sexuality, Part 13 (Hauerwas addresses homosexuality)

Jesus and Paul on the Hermeneutics of Sexuality: Torn, Part 1

Jesus and Paul on the Hermeneutics of Sexuality: Torn, Part 2

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

Jesus and Paul on the Hermeneutics of Sexuality: Slaves, Women & Homosexuals

Jesus and Paul on the Hermeneutics of Sexuality: Further on Eunuchs and Matthew 19

Jesus and Paul on the Hermeneutics of Sexuality: In Conclusion, Part 1

Jesus and Paul on the Hermeneutics of Sexuality: In Conclusion, Part 2

Jesus and Paul on the Hermeneutics of Sexuality: Grace and Gay Christians

The posts on Torn: Rescuing the Gospel from the Gays-vs.-Christians Debate consider (and reject) biblical arguments in favor of Christian gay marriage made in Justin Lee’s book. Countless similar books have been written, most making similar arguments.
However, in response to my recent post on Tony Campolo’s change in position on Christian gay marriage, reader Dustin pointed to some additional sources of arguments in favor of Christian gay marriage, and these arguments have not been previously addressed here, and so it seemed appropriate to spill some more electronic ink on the subject.

Please don’t ask me to respond to questions answered in the earlier posts. If someone has something new to add on one of those topics, please post at the appropriate post from 2013. Here, I just want to deal with the newly made arguments.

Walter Brueggemann

At thewitness.org, an interview with Walter Brueggemann is posted in which Brueggemann is asked about his views on Christian gay marriage. Brueggemann is, of course, a hugely popular author among many Christians, especially in Old Testament studies.

Sadly, most of his arguments are ad hominem attacks on those who disagree with him.

I incline to think that most people, including the movable moderates, probably make up their minds on other grounds than the Bible, but then they are uneasy if it collides with the Bible or at least they have an eagerness to be shown how it is that the Bible coheres. I don’t think, on most of these contested questions, that anybody – liberal or conservative – really reads right out of the Bible. I think we basically bring hunches to the Bible that arrive in all sorts of ways and then we seek confirmation. …

Well, I think you have to take them [the parts of the Bible that don’t suit one’s preconceptions] seriously. I think that it is clear that much or all of the Bible is time-bound and much of the Bible is filtered through a rather heavy-duty patriarchal ideology. What all of us have to try to do is to sort out what in that has an evangelical future and what in that really is organized against the Gospel. For me, the conviction from Martin Luther that you have to make a distinction between the Gospel and the Bible is a terribly important one. Of course, what Luther meant by the Gospel is whatever Luther meant. And that’s what we all do, so there’s a highly subjective dimension to that. But it’s very scary now in the church that the Gospel is equated with the Bible, so you get a kind of a biblicism that is not noticeably informed by the Gospel. And that means that the relationship between the Bible and the Gospel is always going to be contested and I suppose that’s what all our churches are doing – they’re contesting. …

The reason that’s important to me is that I have the deep conviction that the adrenaline that gathers around the sexuality issues is not really about sexuality. It is about the unarticulated sense people have that the world is falling apart.

The anxiety about chaos is acute among us. Obviously, 9/11 makes that more so, but it was there before that. The world the way we have known it is passing away from us and I believe that people have taken the sexuality issue as the place to draw a line and take a stand, but it’s not a line or a stand about sexuality. It’s about the emotional sense that the world is a very dangerous place. Sexuality is, I think, one way to talk about that. …

Yeah. Well, in my own [Presbyterian] context, I have the sense that continuing to argue about sexuality is almost a deliberate smoke screen to keep from having to talk about anything that gets at the real issues in our own lives.

I think the issues are economic and, you know, many of the great liberals in my church don’t want to talk about economics. The reason for that is many of us liberals are also into consumption in a big way. So this is something else you can talk about without threatening them.

I think it’s very complex and it’s about anxiety and all of that, but in the light of what I was saying, I think it’s a moralistic judgment that people like this are not entitled to well-being. And therefore for the church to sacramentally guarantee well-being for these people is an unearned gift that falls outside the moral calculus.

Now in Presbyterianism the question that’s sometimes put to theological articulation is “too many people are being saved!” You don’t want all these people saved. That’s called universalism. I think it’s the same calculus that is articulated by Job’s friends, that only the obedient are entitled to well-being. If these relationships are understood to be an act of disobedience, then the church ought not to be asserting well-being for them.

Julie Wortman: So there’s a logic to the balking?

Walter Brueggemann: I think it is a logic. I think it’s a logic that’s rooted in fear and it’s rooted in resentment. It is parallel to welfare reform in which the undeserving poor ought not to get food stamps.

Now, morality does matter and living obediently and responsibly is important. But that is always in tension with the other claim we make that the very fact that we exist as God’s creatures gives us some entitlements.

So Brueggemann thinks the gay marriage debates are smokescreens to avoid talking about economic social justice and that his opponents believe too many are being saved et cetera. So this debate among Christians about the scriptures is best won by tearing down our opponents? By imputing motives and then judging their motives? By adopting a position of moral condescension — that only those on my side really love or care?

Sorry. Over and over, Brueggemann very uncharitably mischaracterizes the motivations of his opponents. This isn’t real debate, much less Christian debate. Christians should not engage in such tactics on any subject.

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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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6 Responses to Jesus and Paul on the Hermeneutics of Sexuality: Introduction; Brueggemann

  1. Gary says:

    I agree Jay. I’m a big fan of Walter Brueggemann but these comments of his do nothing to further the search for a proper interpretation and application of biblical passages that mention some aspect of homosexuality.

  2. laymond says:

    I want to congratulate Alabama for making the right decision , finally. down with George Wallace long live freedom.

  3. JMF says:

    Jay — I’d like to respectfully say that the editing of this post is poor. I’ve read through three times and can’t figure out who’s words are in use.

  4. JMF says:

    FWIW, I’m using Chrome on a Mac. Could make a difference.

  5. Dustin says:

    Here he definitely is making a psychological argument, namely using the Terror Management Theory (TMT) rather than a biblical argument. TMT has been shown to influence Christians in many studies. When faced with thoughts of death (he mentions 9/11), Christians have been shown to attack out groups because of anxiety. His main biblical argument centers around Galatians 3:28. He has also used Acts 10:9-15 to show that world is changing into something that is not as we thought it would be. I believe he would say that this “truth telling” rather than an ad hominem attack. Also,l agree with Gary. I don’t think his argument that would win over anyone that opposes gay marriage.

    He does have his finger on the pulse of the Episcopal, United Church of Christ, and Presbyterian church communities because of his direct work with them.

  6. Profile photo of Jay Guin Jay Guin says:

    JMF,

    HTML coding was fouled up for some reason. It looked fine when I wrote it. And now I’ve gone back and fixed the code to delete codes I never added. So odd. Hopefully it stays fixed. Let me know if you have any more problems.

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