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Acceptance of homosexuality a hurdle for Church: let’s jump it

In recent years, one of the most engrossing debates in Christianity has been whether to openly affirm homosexuality. Heated arguments, and even violence, have been the hallmark of what should be a civilized exchange of ideas. This is not new to Church-wide debate.: Issues such as multi-ethnic churches, slavery and women’s rights all shared a similar volatility.

But in all three cases, most of the Church has reevaluated its reading of Scripture in light of progressive revelation. A careful look at how we currently read Scripture will show that the homosexual community must also be accepted.

Throughout the Bible, God accommodates his truth to people by making it accessible to the culture in which he is speaking. There are many examples of this, from Old Testament descriptions of an Earth built upon pillars, to New Testament acceptance of slavery and gender roles.

The question is always this: how do we decide what in Scripture is accommodation and what is not?

The answer in previous debates has been simple: while we see Biblical acceptance of bad cultural standards, like slavery and gender roles, we also see a direction in the moral teaching of the Bible that, through progressive revelation, can lead the Church to eventually deny these worldly cultural standards.

In Galatians, for example, Paul proclaims that we are all children of God through faith in Christ Jesus: “There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” Paul is clearly teaching that one of the promises of Christ to the Church is equality. Yet in other places, Paul affirms and commends the subordinate role of women in the Church. Is Paul wrong in one place and right in another?

Similarly, although Paul never speaks out against slavery as being sinful, the overarching moral teaching of the New Testament concludes that we must respect the dignity of all persons. Through progressive revelation, the Church has found the core of this teaching and concluded that slavery is indeed sinful.

In these examples we see God, in revealing his truth through Paul, accommodating the cultural norms of the early church while simultaneously revealing the deeper truth that all are equal in Christ.

Homosexuality is the newest hurdle facing the Church. In the New Testament, Paul speaks out against homosexual acts, condemning them as sinful. Just as in gender and slavery issues, the culture of Paul’s day did not understand sex in terms of “orientation.” This is a very radical and modern concept. Today, when we speak of homosexuality we do not mean two people of the same gender having sex; rather, we mean two people of the same gender loving one another. Science also teaches us that some people are born with a homosexual orientation. With this new understanding of sexuality, monogamous homosexuality can culturally flourish. The New Testament does not speak against homosexuality in a loving, monogamous context, but rather against the sins of lust, wantonness and sexual violence.

We already believe the Bible is sometimes wrong. It is wrong when it describes the Earth as flat and resting on pillars, and it is wrong when it condones slavery. This is not because God is wrong, or because he is lying to us, but rather because he was accommodating the perspectives of those times. The truth behind these Scriptures still holds true: the Earth exists through God’s will and power, and we are indeed meant to respect and obey those in leadership over us.

Paul’s proclamation of equality in Christ is at the core of this discussion. Let us at Eastern University not continue in ignorance, but become enlightened so that we do not discriminate–neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, straight nor gay.

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