3 thoughts on “Do plausible interpretations of relevant passages require unity with respect to same-sex marriage?

  1. This argument reminds me of my long struggle with accepting women in church office in the CRC. It would be be sad if your denomination had to split because of differences of interpretation in this matter. However, being a gifted woman with plans to serve God’s people in ministry is not the same thing as advocating sexual deviance (as we have all long thought). For a woman to seek ecclesiastic office is a noble thing (1 Timothy 3:1). But is seeking a lover or marriage partner in the same gender the same sort of nobility? I don’t think so.

    I don’t think so because the two evaluations score differently in the mind of St. Paul. He is the one who gave up on sexual unions and who advised us all to live a single life in order to pursue the kingdom of Christ without distraction, as he did. The Apostle might have advised sexuality and marriage as concession to base lusts (1 Corinthians 7) but he would never consider same sex partnerships as “noble”. He didn’t have to invoke the pantheon of kinkiness portrayed in Isis or Diana. The whole idea of Christian devoting themselves to carnal pleasures and reproduction would have sickened him because Christians ought to have have bigger fish to fry, so to speak.

    Which brings me to my last point. Is this essay by Dr. Peabody the best exegesis the “for” side can can up with? And your response — the traditional, the literal, straightforward reading, the “historical” — that is the best your denomination can manage is giving the members wisdom on such matters now weighing heavy on our culture’s minds? Dipping willy-nilly into the historical context of Paul’s Romans 1 and making us believe that the cult of Isis was exactly what was on the Apostle’s mind is, as Peabody himself says, is sheer imagination and nothing more. To milk this out of Paul’s words in Romans 1:26-27 would require an obvious clue or some signal that this is how the hearers should hear it.

    When I personally worked through the woman in office question, my research led me to believe that Paul was citing incipient Gnostic teachings, teaching which promoted women as unique oracles of wisdom (sophia) so long as they threw off their shackles of the old creator god who had enslaved them and their offspring with a life of subjugation and childbearing. Paul was simply admonishing the heresy then troubling Timothy and his the church. This exegesis might sound fantastic according to centuries of sound, “straight-forward” (i.e. traditional) l readings of the text except that the Apostle himself signals he had these Gnostics in mind when he points them out in the first chapter. He points to them as troublemakers disruptive to the peace and prayers of the church, as ill-motivated and confused in chapters 3 and 4, judging from their inability to articulate what leadership means and affirm the good in creation. In the last chapter he chides them as people puffed up with so-called “knowledge”.

    But there is no clue or signal sex-cult shenanigans in the Letter to the Roman church, though the Imperial court in Paul’s day had plenty of immorality at play and was probably the real background for the Apostle’s insights in the first chapter.

    Be that as it may, it is not good enough to simply dismiss Peabody’s interpretation as less than straightforward, even convoluted and likely contrived. A thorough interpretation of 1 Romans 1:24-27 will have to do more than that. Why is this immorality singled out when the purpose was to prove ALL are sinners in the same category of depravation and idolatry? Why doesn’t the Catechism, as a summary of what we confess and live by faith, spend no words on this ‘ultimate’ sin? (It does no good to say it doesn’t mention alien abductions either because the Catechism and the Three Forms of Unity are indeed to speak where God has spoken with a highlight marker!) Why are gays and lesbians to be shamed in the community of faith when Christ would likely show them compassion if their true ambition was only to love and serve and please one other of the same sex? Indeed, if this is the greatest horror of idolatry, why is it given so little space in Holy Writ? An exegete will do well to remember that any teaching supported by very sparse analogies in Scripture should handled carefully and never be the basis of major doctrine unless it follows clearly, logically and theologically from the major analogies of faith. Especially when major analogies of faith may well clearly contradict it.

    There.. I have given you some advice as a brother in Christ. I have no idea how this email came to me and how it just now alerted me to your troubles as a denomination. Compassion. Compassion. Compassion. And to have the humility to let the Scripture speak for itself — grammatically, historically, and theologically.

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  2. Once again I want to affirm Dr. Peabody’s concern for unity within the church. Our Lord Jesus Himself in His high priestly prayer prayed for unity:

    “…that they may one as we are one…so that they may be brought to complete unity.” On this basis he advocates that those of us in the Reformed Church in America are divisive and creating disunity because we hold to the Biblical teaching that same-sex marriage ought not to be sanctioned in the church because it is immoral. That raises two questions that need to answered. First, does Scripture teach that same-sex sexual relationships are immoral and unbiblical? Dr. Peabody responds to justify his position by claiming that the Apostle Paul’s writing in Romans 1:26-27 as “So a reading of the entire passage would seem to show that Romans 1:26-27 is just a part of Paul’s apostolic diatribe against the prevalent cultic practices of the Imperial City of his day . . .”

    I don’t doubt the the immorality in the Roman culture distressed the Apostle greatly, but on what basis can Dr. Peabody make such a giant leap of assumption that Paul was addressing the abusive homosexual lifestyle of the surrounding culture while not including the loving same-sex relationships of others? Granted he can point to other theologian like Dr. James Brownson to find support, but that is not the CLEAR teaching of Scripture, and such a view is not supported by John Calvin or other great expositors of the Bible!

    Is Dr. Peabody implying that the Apostle Paul totally disregarded the Old Testament law as recorded in Leviticus 18 and 20? This behavior was detestable to the Lord. But in one swoop he disregards key N.T. teachings as
    1 Corinthians 5:1, 18-19 and 1 Timothy 1:8-11 as not pertaining to the issue of unity. His position is that the New Testament is unequivocally CLEAR with the morality of “a loving marriage between committed same-sex partners of either gender who want to live under the vows of wedlock and who see Christ as central to their lives and their life together”. Is it as clear as he would have us believe?

    The clear teaching of Scripture in both the Old and New Testaments do not advocate or condone same-sex relationships. That brings me to my second question, how did our Lord Jesus explain a marriage relationship? In Matthew 19:1-7 Jesus was challenged by the Pharisees concerning the lawfulness to divorce one’s wife. Jesus responds by basing his answer on the Genesis account of God’s original design for the marriage relationship. “Haven’t you read,” he replied, “that at the beginning the Creator made them male and female, and said, “For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be united to his wife and the two shall become one flesh.” So they are no longer two, but one. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.” Jesus defines marriage as between two different beings, a male and a female. Because they are created in Gods image and God joined them together, marriage must be regarded as sacred.

    Because it was God’s plan and His unique physical design of men and women the sexual act is designed not only for their pleasure and to deepen their companionship, but also to produce children. Scripture is very CLEAR that this was God’s plan and design from the beginning. Because of the sacredness of the marriage relationship the participants and sex must have boundaries to protect it. Jesus clarified the standard for marriage that must be upheld: marriage is sacred, loving, monogamous relationship between a male and female. With God’s blessing it becomes the environment in which children are born, nurtured, protected and equipped for maturity and to serve the Lord.

    There is nothing obscure about this. If Christ’s standard is clear, then it’s also clear that anything departing from His standard is morally wrong! The unity within the Godhead on this matter must be the unity Jesus calls for and we in the church must strive for.

    Respectfully submitted for your consideration
    Rev. Dr. Stephen P. Struikmans

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    1. I would love to reply to Dr. Stephen Struikmans comment on what is “clear” but I am presently writing a more extensive reply to Herb Kraker. If he can be patient, I will give him a more than adequate response since his critical essay is exactly what sort of interpretation, devoid of the theological context, is I take issue with.

      with love, Norm Prenger

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