Last night, at life group, we talked about the fifth chapter of Dick Staub’s book The Culturally-Savvy Christian. I blogged through this book at the end of last year, as it very profoundly impacted me–especially this chapter, which is called “God’s Transforming Presence”.

In my blog entry on that chapter, I wrote:

The first thing that was ever true of you is that you were created in God’s image. Your being created in the image of God predates, and runs deeper, than your sin. This is why God is committed to your restoration, not your destruction. He wants to make you again what he made you before; and we know what that looks like because he sent his son into the world to show us not simply himself, but also ourselves.

Jesus is the only human to ever perfectly bear the image of God. In him, we see who we were always meant to be. The Bible says, in Romans, “For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters.” Don’t get distracted by the words “foreknew” and “predestined” (as a good Arminian, I’m trying not to). The point is that God’s purpose for you is to be conformed to the image of Jesus. That is, God is at work in you, transforming you into the image of the one who perfectly bore the image of God.

All the crap in your life, all the stupid decisions you make and all the ridiculous things you say and do happen because you let something less true of you define you. You are not defined by your sin; you are defined by the God in whose image you are made and who is committed to restoring that image in you, transforming you to become who he originally intended you to be.

God is with you, if you place your eternal hope in Jesus Christ. God wants to transform you, and he invites you to participate in your own transformation. I believe that this happens, not in the big areas of life, but in the small ones.

  • You come home from work and turn on the TV. But maybe, instead, you stop and ask God what you should do, and he tells you to talk to your spouse, or open your Bible, or play with your kids. And you do that.
  • Somebody cuts you off on the road and you curse them out and give them the one-fingered salute. But maybe, instead, you assume the best–that they genuinely didn’t see you. Maybe you pray for them.
  • You’re working on a project that you can’t fix. There’s one thing that you just can’t figure out, so you throw it against the wall and curse until the air is blue. But maybe, instead, you take a deep breath and ask God to give you patience and wisdom.

This list could be infinitely long. But it’s in these small areas where our character is most clearly demonstrated and where we are most lastingly transformed. This is where we learn patience, selflessness, humility, and how to love well. If we can’t beat the small things, we’ll never accomplish the big things. Where do you need to experience God’s transforming presence today? He’s there, with you, waiting on you to stop fighting against him and give him enough space to work a true miracle.

I don’t want to beat a dead horse, but I thought I should finish my critique of Jennifer Wright Knust’s article on cnn.com called The Bible’s Surprisingly Mixed Message about Sexuality. In this article, Knust presents a fairly typical, liberal argument on what the Bible says about homosexuality. So far we’ve covered the supposed dual creation account, the bizarre theory of original human androgyny, and the sexuality of David and Jonathan. Today we’ll look at the way in which Knust explains away the several clear passages of Scripture in which homosexual sex is expressly forbidden.

It’s true that same-sex intimacy is condemned in a few biblical passages. But these passages, which I can count on one hand, are addressed to specific sex acts and specific persons, not to all humanity forever, and they can be interpreted in any number of ways.

The book of Leviticus, for example, is directed at Israelite men, offering instructions regarding legitimate sexual partners so long as they are living in Israel. Biblical patriarchs and kings violate nearly every one of these commandments.

Leviticus, part of the Torah, contains a record of the covenant entered into by YHWH and his people Israel, the newly-freed slaves from Israel. This covenant takes the form of a typical Ancient Near Eastern covenant and contains certain stipulations by which the people of Israel must abide. If they fail to keep these stipulations (also called “commands”), then they will experience certain curses, which are also outlined in the covenant. Knust rightly points out that “biblical patriarchs and kings violate nearly every one of these commandments”, which of course is why Israel was finally sent into exile in Babylon in 587-6 BC.

Knust is half-right when she says Leviticus is directed at Israelite men. It is also directed at Israelite women, and anyone who would like to join the Israelite community. In fact, the covenant lays out the distinctive nature of what it means to be a member of the people of the one true God. It’s not simply “the law of the land”, as Knust seems to indicate; instead, it outlines how one gets into, and stays within, the people of God. In other words, it defines the people, not the land.

Paul’s letters urge followers of Christ to remain celibate and blame all Gentiles in general for their poor sexual standards. Jesus, meanwhile, says nothing at all about same-sex pairing, and when he discusses marriage, he discourages it.

For Paul’s full treatment on the topic of marriage, you should read 1 Corinthians 7. When you consider Paul’s background as a Pharisaical Jew and his respect for Torah and belief in the strict sexual standards found there, it’s no wonder he thought of the Gentiles, with their temple prostitution (particularly in Corinth), rampant adultery, pedophilia and homosexuality as having poor sexual standards. Similarly, the reason we don’t have a record of Jesus mentioning anything about same-sex intimacy is because his most vocal opponents were those who held a very high view of Torah and Tradition, and who strived to keep both with every fiber of their being.

Only a little more than a century ago, many of the very same passages now being invoked to argue that the scriptures label homosexuality a sin or that God cannot countenance gay marriage were used to justify not “biblical marriage” but slavery.

Yes, the apostle Paul selected same-sex pairings as one among many possible examples of human sin, but he also assumed that slavery was acceptable and then did nothing to protect slaves from sexual use by their masters, a common practice at the time. Letters attributed to him go so far as to command slaves to obey their masters and women to obey their husbands as if they were obeying Christ.

These passages served as fundamental proof texts to those who were arguing that slavery was God’s will and accusing abolitionists of failing to obey biblical mandates.

Anybody who supported African slavery was a total fool who had no understanding of either history or Scripture. Roman slavery was not at all like American slavery. Tim Keller addresses this in his excellent book The Reason for God. The slavery argument is a dead-end for the Bible’s perspective on homosexuality.

Knust relies on questionable sources and bad exegesis to build her argument that the Bible supports homosexual practice. The simpler, clearer perspective is that the Bible means what it plainly says about same-sex intimacy; that is, it is one of many sexual practices that are out of bounds for those who want to be a part of God’s people.

There is one reason, however, that Christians don’t need to condemn homosexual practice. Paul writes, in 1 Corinthians 5:

I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people—not at all meaning the people of this world who are immoral, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters. In that case you would have to leave this world. But now I am writing to you that you must not associate with anyone who claims to be a brother or sister but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or slanderer, a drunkard or swindler. Do not even eat with such people.

What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside? God will judge those outside. “Expel the wicked person from among you.”

Indeed, it is not the place of the Christian to judge or condemn those outside of the church. It is when sin is brought inside the doors of the church that we must judge it. We are not to judge, nor disassociate from, “the world”. God, who judges everyone, will be the one to judge those outside. Our task is to tell them that he has lovingly offered a way out of the condemnation that comes from his judgment–that is, through faith in Jesus Christ. Christians must confront homosexuality and all sin within the church, but we need not condemn it in the world.

After a long weekend off and my traumatic Cabela’s socks episode, I wanted to get back to this post from cnn.com called The Bible’s Surprisingly Mixed Message about Sexuality by Jennifer Wright Knust. The first two posts can be found here (1) and here (2).

Based on the writings of one Rabbi and one verse from a Gnostic gospel, as well as a passage from Paul taken wildly out of context, Knust concludes,

God’s original plan was sexual unity in one body, not two. The Genesis creation stories can support the notion that sexual intercourse is designed to reunite male and female into one body, but they can also suggest that God’s blessing was first placed on an undifferentiated body that didn’t have sex at all.

Heterosexual sex was therefore an afterthought designed to give back the man what he had lost.

As I’ve already written, this is highly suspect. But, of course, if heterosexual sex is just an afterthought (disregard that little bit about “Be fruitful and multiply”), then homosexual sex could be an equally valid afterthought. Now if only there was a place in the Bible where we could see God blessing two men engaging in a homosexual relationship…

Despite common misperceptions, biblical writers could also imagine same-sex intimacy as a source of blessing. For example, the seemingly intimate relationship between the Old Testament’s David and Jonathan, in which Jonathan loved David more than he loved women, may have been intended to justify David’s rise as king.

Jonathan, not David, was a king’s son. David was only a shepherd. Yet by becoming David’s “woman,” Jonathan voluntarily gave up his place for his beloved friend.

Thus, Jonathan “took great delight in David,” foiling King Saul’s attempts to arrange for David’s death (1 Samuel 19:1). Choosing David over his father, Jonathan makes a formal covenant with his friend, asking David to remain faithful to him and his descendants.

Sealing the covenant, David swears his devotion to Jonathan, “for he loved him as he loved his own life” (1 Samuel 20:17). When Jonathan is killed, King David composes a eulogy for him, praising his devotion: “greatly beloved were you to me; your love to me was wonderful, passing the love of women” (2 Samuel 1:26).

Yes, that’s right, David and Jonathan were gay. Because they loved each other. Which, as every knows, means they were having gay sex. Sorry to be sarcastic, but seriously, the jump from love to sex says more about the sexualization of relationships in our own culture than it does about the nature of the relationship between David and Jonathan. We are, after all, the culture that thinks Frodo and Sam were gay.

The Hebrew word found in this passage (ahobah) has a wide spectrum of meaning, much like our own English word “love”. According to Holliday’s Lexicon, the word can mean the love between a husband and wife, the love between friends or people in general, or God’s love for his people. In fact, when the Bible wants to talk about sex, it does so unabashedly, and usually with the language of “lying with”.

Sex often has very little to do with love, both in our own culture and in the culture in which the Bible was written. Though we like to talk about sex and love as though they are the same thing, they are not. Knust’s view here is a grasp at straws, and she anachronistically reads the views of our culture back into the pages of Scripture.

If David and Jonathan were gay, and if God had wanted us to know that they were and he approved of their homosexual relationship, then he would have made that clear. But the fact is, there is nothing about their story or the language that is used to lead us to believe any of what Knust postulates. The Bible does not use language that sexualizes their relationship. That liberal scholars like Knust sexualize their relationship says more about the liberal perspective of sexuality and relationships than it does about Jonathan and David.

I posted earlier today the beginning of my response to an article on CNN’s religion blog by Jennifer Wright Knust (who claims to be “a Bible scholar and pastor) called “The Bible’s Surprisingly Mixed Messages on Sexuality”. I imagine, because I’m so incredibly long-winded and full of myself, that this response will be in at least 3 parts. This is the second.

Knust goes on to write:

Ancient Christians and Jews explained this two-step creation by imagining that the first human person possessed the genitalia of both sexes. Then, when the androgynous, dually-sexed person was placed in the garden, s/he was divided in two.

According to this account, the man “clings to the woman” in an attempt to regain half his flesh, which God took from him once he was placed in Eden. As third century Rabbi Samuel bar Nahman explained, when God created the first man, God created him with two faces. “Then he split the androgyne and made two bodies, one on each side, and turned them about.”

When the apostle Paul envisioned the bodies that would be given to humanity at the end of time, he imagined that they would be androgynous, “not male and female.” The third-century non-canonical Gospel of Philip, meanwhile, lamented that sexual difference had been created at all: “If the female had not separated from the male, she and the male would not die. That being’s separation became the source of death.”

Rabbi Samuel bar Nahman’s quote comes from a document called Midrash Beresihit. Here is the full quote (from http://www.headcoverings-by-devorah.com/MidrashBereishit2.html)

Rabbi Jeremiah ben Eleazar said: When the Holy One created Adam, He created him hermaphrodite [bisexual], as is said, “Male and female created He them . . . and called their name Adam.”(Bereishit 5:2)

Rabbi Samuel bar Nachman said: When the Holy One created Adam, He made him with two fronts; then He sawed him in half and thus gave him two backs, a back for one part and a back for the other part.

I find it difficult to believe that Rabbi Samuel speaks for all ancient Judaism when he says these things. This is, after all, the same text in which we find the following statement:

Rabbi Eleazar further stated: What is meant by the Scriptural text, “This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh?”

This teaches that Adam had intercourse with every beast and animal but found no satisfaction until he cohabited with Chavah [Eve].

So not only do we find in this Midrash the claim that Adam & Eve were a single person until God sawed them in half, but now we come to find out that Adam committed bestiality with every living creature on the face of the earth! (I wonder what Eve was thinking when he did this, since she was obviously still connected to the back of him.) I find it hard to believe that this teaching would gain a firm hearing in the 3rd or 4th century after Christ, much less in the Judaism of his time. Knust implies that all ancient Jews believed this way, which I find very hard to believe.

She also claims that ancient Christians believed this, as well. Paul, she says, imagined that humans would, at the end of all things, be androgynous, and she quotes a text: “not male or female”. This is a snippet from Galatians 3. Here is the full verse: “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” Of course you can see from reading the text plainly that Knust takes this passage wildly out of context. Paul is not talking about the way things will be at the resurrection; he is talking about the way things are now because of what Christ has done.

Knust then goes on to quote from “the third-century non-canonical Gospel of Philip” as though it represented a fairly typical Christian perspective. What she fails to disclose is that this is a Gnostic Gospel. In other words, it is heretical, and does not coincide with orthodox church teaching nor represent the beliefs of “ancient Christians”.

Well, I’ve been droning on and on for long enough now. I suppose I’ll have to continue this in another post.

Last week, Mark Driscoll, Pastor of Mars Hill Church in Seattle, tweeted an article from cnn.com about homosexuality. The title of the article is The Bible’s Surprisingly Mixed Message On Sexuality. Knowing what I do about Mark Driscoll, he was not endorsing the article, but, I assume, posting it so that some might give it some response. I intend to do that here.

Jennifer Wright Knust is the author of the article and a book called Unprotected Texts: The Bible’s Surprising Contradictions about Sex and Desire. I haven’t read the book, but the subtitle gives away her perspective. I can only hope that the scholarship displayed in her book is far greater than what she displayed in this article.

Let’s start with this:

In Genesis, for example, it would seem that God’s original intention for humanity was androgyny, not sexual differentiation and heterosexuality.

Genesis includes two versions of the story of God’s creation of the human person. First, God creates humanity male and female and then God forms the human person again, this time in the Garden of Eden. The second human person is given the name Adam and the female is formed from his rib.

This is a fascinating misreading of the text, but a favorite one of liberal scholars. There are not two versions of the creation story, but rather two perspectives: one macro, one micro. Genesis 1 is the cosmological and theological perspective of Creation. Genesis 2 is the localized and anthropological perspective. Approaching it from a literary point of view, anyone who has ever read a great book will instantly see that Genesis 1 is an introduction, or prologue, of sorts. Or, thinking about it from a filmmaker’s perspective, Genesis 1 is the narration over the opening credits.

Genesis 1 is more song than story, and in it we see Creation from the perspective of God’s throne. Genesis 2 brings us from heaven to earth, giving us the perspective of God’s footstool. These are not two competing stories of Creation. They are complimentary.

It fascinates me that liberals love to read Genesis this way because this is such an overly literalistic way to read the text. They’re reading the Bible so literally that puts the literalism of the Young Earth Creationists to shame! Knust is saying that God created one person with both sexes in Genesis 1, and then he created two people–one male and one female–in Genesis 2. I can’t help but wonder if liberals read the Bible this way to try to make it sound as ridiculous as possible.

Knust also claims that God’s original intention for humanity was androgyny. By this she means that God originally created one person containing both genders. Unfortunately, this position cannot be supported by the Hebrew text, which clearly states in 1:27-28, that God created a plurality of persons “male and female”. To put it simply, a plural pronoun is used. There is more than one person in Genesis 1.

Furthermore, if God’s original intention is androgyny, how might the command of verse 28 be explained? “Be fruitful and multiply.” Clearly, based on the text of Genesis 1, God’s original intention was, in fact, sexual differentiation and heterosexuality resulting in procreation.

This post is already getting long, and there is much more to say in response to Knust’s article, but that will have to be saved for later.