What We Talk About When We Talk About Gay Marriage image

What We Talk About When We Talk About Gay Marriage

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You may have picked up that Rob Bell and I had a good old chat the other day about whether gay sex is sinful, among other things. There's been some fascinating online discussion about it, and some of it has made me think it would be good to state simply exactly what I was (and wasn't) asking, and exactly what Rob was (or wasn't) answering. Thus.

My position, laid out logically, is simple:

1. Followers of Jesus today should obey all New Testament prohibitions, unless it is clear from the context that the texts only apply to specific individuals or churches.
2. Various New Testament texts prohibit homosexual sex for followers of Jesus, without any indication that these texts only apply to specific individuals or churches.
3. Therefore followers of Jesus today should not have homosexual sex.

The first premise is an evangelical statement about hermeneutics. The second premise is a biblical-theological statement about exegesis. Based on those two premises, the conclusion obviously follows. So when someone rejects the conclusion, as Rob does, my main question when in dialogue with them is to establish which of the two premises they reject. With me so far?

For instance, there are all sorts of people who reject #1 but accept #2. Almost all non-Christian biblical scholars do: they believe that Paul (among others) was prohibiting homosexual sex, but they don’t think that means we should, because they don’t operate with anything close to an evangelical hermeneutic. On the other hand, there are others who accept #1 but reject #2: people who would champion a hermeneutic of obedience to New Testament instructions, but who would argue that the New Testament only prohibits promiscuous homosexual sex, and has nothing to say about committed same-sex relationships. So my goal in that part of the interview was to establish which of these represented Rob’s position, on the basis that I couldn’t critique or engage with a position until I knew exactly what it was. His answer to that question, I figured, would help me know whether it was a discussion about hermeneutics (how we apply biblical imperatives) or about exegesis (the meaning of specific biblical texts).

I’m still not sure what his answer is. From the final few minutes of the interview, I’m still not sure that he’s sure what his answer is. But it was a fascinating conversation, and I’m hoping it was helpful - to him, perhaps, and to anyone else who is still making their minds up about this stuff. Of course, I believe the arguments for both premises are overwhelmingly strong, and I’d have enjoyed getting into some debate with Rob about either or both of them. But it was not to be. Maybe next time.

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