40 Questions for Affirming Christians Part 1
Kevin DeYoung of the Gospel Coalition posed 40 questions for affirming Christians. I’m guessing most/all of them are meant to be more attacking than genuine questions, but I’d like to try to answer at least some of them briefly for those who really do want to know. A few other responses I’ve appreciated:
- Patheos’ Unfundamentalist Christians
- Ben Irwin
- Matthew Vines on Religion News – not answering the questions from DeYoung, but asking 40 questions of non-affirming Christians
1. How long have you believed that gay marriage is something to be celebrated?
I’d prefer the term “marriage equality” but I digress.
For me, the shift to a fully affirming stance happened about 5 years ago. I knew I was going to be starting at a more liberal seminary and I wanted to have some idea what I thought about it before then. For the record, in my time in that seminary I was never a part of a direct conversation about it so maybe it wasn’t even helpful from that perspective. For a few years before that, I fully supported the legal rights of same-sex couples – that just seems like basic human decency and has nothing to do with a Christian ethic of marriage.
2. What Bible verses led you to change your mind?
The better question really should be how the narrative of the Bible fits into your thinking. The question somewhat presupposes that the Bible is a magic answer book where you just have to find the right verse to answer the question. “I’m not sure what I want to eat for dinner tonight, so I better find the relevant verse.” That’s not how the Bible works, but a theme that will probably emerge over these questions is where we put our trust: in our interpretation of the Bible, or in the living person of Jesus.
In any case, 5 years ago, I took a fairly conservative approach to figuring out what I thought about it. I analyzed the various arguments and various verses repeatedly used against same-sex relationships being honoured by God. I expected to conclude that it was obviously sinful and I would be prepared to do better against my liberal heathen classmates (ok, I’m not that confrontational, but I’d at least feel more secure in my traditional position). I found none of them remotely convincing as I dug into the Greek and the surrounding context and how the ancient world would have understood it. Some were completely nonsensical while others made sense but were definitely not convincing enough on their own. I didn’t even go out of my way to read affirming perspectives at the time, just did some unpacking of the non-affirming arguments.
Unlike many stories, I did not change my mind because I knew gay Christians who challenged my presuppositions. I knew a couple of gay non-Christians, which wasn’t a problem for me since they weren’t even claiming to follow Jesus, but none that forced me to face the question. I made a decision to tackle it as objectively as I could (of course there’s no such thing as truly objective) and I concluded that my previous understanding made less sense to me than the alternative.
3. How would you make a positive case from Scripture that sexual activity between two persons of the same sex is a blessing to be celebrated?
That’s a misleading question between committed and consensual relationships between two members of the same sex was not really considered a possibility at the time Scripture was writing. I could point to the creation story and the beauty of marriage, so why wouldn’t I want to allow others to experience that? We could point to Ecclesiastes 4:8-12 about life together being better than life apart – not specifically about marriage, but a good principle including and beyond marriage. We really could use any text that points to marriage as a positive and if we are not presupposing that it only one man and one woman allowed in that, that’s a positive text.
There’s another interesting underlying question here: do you err on the side of something being evil if Scripture isn’t blatantly obvious, or do you err on the side of love? Which side has the burden of proof? Many who see God primarily as a judge would err on the side of “if in doubt, assume it’s evil, just in case it pisses off God.” I prefer Jesus’ framework that love sums up the law. If it looks like love and there’s no convincing argument against it, I’m not going to spend my time judging it. In fact, Jesus also warned against that judgement impulse (among other places in Scripture). As is often the case, the underlying question is really: what is God really like? Can God really be as loving as Jesus, who Scripture calls God’s exact representation to us?
5. Do you think Jesus would have been okay with homosexual behaviour between consenting adults in a committed relationship?
6. If so, why did he reassert the Genesis definition of marriage as being one man and one woman?
The biblical passage in question is when Jesus confuses the Pharisees by saying that men cannot divorce their wives for no reason. That’s a pretty great message: women are not disposable, marriages are not disposable. There may be some cases where divorce is the only real option, but Jesus helps remind us of a better way to approach marriage than just a business transaction to end when convenient. In fact, this vision of marriage is part of what makes me want to share it with other couples who understand it, regardless of which genitals are involved.
I see no reason to find the fact that Adam and Eve were one man, one woman to mean that every marriage can only be between a man and a woman. They also got married in a garden – does that make my marriage in a church invalid? They were also naked the entire time before they got married – does that make my marriage invalid because I wore a suit and Emily a dress? They were also vegetarians (we are not). They were also in the Middle East (we are not). Basically the only thing that Emily and I share in common with Adam and Eve are that we are a woman and a man, but why are we dwelling on that as the only prescriptive part of the story while realizing that the rest of it is descriptive? I find it very hard to be convinced by the “Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve” argument.
We’re stuck back around to making the Bible a rule book to throw at others instead of a powerful story of God’s love for the world inviting all to be a part of the Kingdom.
I’m not sure if I’ll do all of these, but I’ll try to revisit at least some more of them later.