Skip to main content

Hermeneutics and Same Sex Marriage

There are (I think) three basic hermeneutic approaches for those who want to align a pro-same sex marriage view with scripture. And, let's be fair, they may have even arrived at these views from scripture through applying these hermeneutics.

The first is the no comment hermeneutic. It says "the Bible does not address modern homosexuality, i.e. a consensual loving monogamous relationship between equal adult parties." This is true and should be recognised as a reason for caution by both sides of the debate in how scripture is applied to contemporary categories. OTOH the implication cannot be, but often is, that therefore the Bible doesn't speak to this issue through its general teaching on sexual ethics. This is because (Christian) biblical ethics, properly understood, is not a list of doos-and-don'ts and then when those doos-and-don'ts fail to cover a situation we have to make it up. Biblical ethics give us an ideal, a goal, they are teleological more than deontological, and so we do not need every situation covered in scripture as any situation that falls short of the God given goal is in effect wrong.

The second is the trajectory hermeneutic. It runs thus: "the Bible presents us with a trajectory of increasing liberation, the NT is more permissive than the OT; slavery and patriarchy are affirmed in the Bible but Christian tradition has come to realise they were wrong in light of the deeper teaching of scripture. As we have recognised the rights of slaves and women we are on a trajectory that now must embrace homosexuality." I would not accept this hermeneutic for two reasons, 1) I do not believe it recognises the consistency of scriptures teaching on the dignity/worth of all humanity and in particular of women and the oppressed; 2) While the issues of women and slavery are often paired in the NT e.g. 1 Cor 7, household codes, etc, (not least because most women of that era had little more rights or status than slaves) there is no correlation between these subjects and homosexuality. So even if we allow for a trajectory of liberation (I don't) there is no Biblical reason to make homosexuality the next step up that ladder than anything else originally disapproved of by scripture.

The third is the slippery slope hermeneutic. This is in many ways the least credible, but in fact the one most commonly heard. It goes like this: "well the Bible says no divorce, but we allow divorce, so who is to say we shouldn't allow gay marriage. and anyway we used to think beer and dancing were bad and now we all drink Bud' and go line dancing." This shows how often those who missed out on the debates the first time round interpret a biblical position on a contentious issue like divorce or alcohol as a simple and inevitable loosening of standards and don't understand the sound biblical reasoning behind it. This is worrying as it means many Bible believing Christians do think a pick and choose approach to scripture is the common practice and do not understand the complexities of biblical interpretation and application. It does not seek biblical justification for the next step but merely points to a lack of biblical justification for the last step . . . so what the hell does it matter what we do?

None of this is to say that I think this solves all arguments or deals with more philosophical and theological questions around the issue. I know that I would need to defend most of these assertions in more detail - this is just a blog post after all. What these hermeneutics illustrate to me is that we need to pull our discussion back from the argument in hand and actually have some basic discussions about what it means to faithfully interpret the scripture. It ceases to become gay marriage that divides us but a more fundamental issue of scriptural interpretation. Sloppy and slapdash approaches to biblical interpretation are not the sole preserve of the pro same sex marriage lobby but more conservative Christians are just as capable of being culpable on this. How sincere are we really about being biblical in this - or do we just want to be right?

Let me know what you think :-)

Comments

Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

The Addictive Power of End Times Speculation

The mighty Rhett Snell has picked up his blog again (I wonder how long he'll last this time), check out his theory on why people get so into annoyingly unbiblical end times nonsense.

I think that where codes-and-calendars end times theology is dangerous, is that it can give a sense of false growth. We read a theory online, or hear it from some bible teacher, and we come to think that we have mastered an area of our faith. A bit like levelling up in a computer game, or Popeye after he’s eaten some spinach. At worst, we begin to believe that we’ve taken a step that other Christians have not; that we’ve entered an elite class of Christianity.

The false link between suicide and mental illness

One characteristic of human society is the tendency to keep doing something over and over again despite it not working. One example would be our approach to incarcerating criminals to punish them instead of rehabilitating them, compounding their trauma and making it harder for them to live productive law-abiding lives when they get out. But this is the "common-sense" approach, the intuitive human response to the failings of others, punish them and they wont dare do it again. It has never worked, ever, but let's keep doing it. Secular society is screwed because it cannot comprehend that its vision is blurred by sin and therefore knee-jerk, common sense solutions are usually destructive and counter-productive.

So it is with our response to suicide. To kill yourself must be the response of the weak minded and sick - so the thinking goes - so to combat rising suicide we treat individuals medically. Yet suicide is a perfectly rational response to a world as broken as ours and…

Wars and Rumours of Wars

I write in the morning after the USA 2016 Elections, which featured the historic election of Donald Trump. Apart from my personal interested as a resident of planet Earth at this time, it is interesting to note some of the apocalyptic language emerging in discussions of what this means. Even archaeologists are turning to the medium of prophecy. Hear the word of Tobias Stone,
So I feel it’s all inevitable. I don’t know what it will be, but we are entering a bad phase. It will be unpleasant for those living through it, maybe even will unravel into being hellish and beyond imagination. Humans will come out the other side, recover and move on.  Stone suggests that future historians will be able to draw clear lines from Brexit to Trump to the 3rd World War, or something equally bad. Mind you, just because historians can draw those lines doesn't mean they are here.

Then there is the word of Thom Hartman who is more interested in the domestic fallout than the fallout shelter. 
The last …