Jared Stuart, in the Feb. 21 Graphic, and professor Maddox, in the March 14 Graphic, defend homosexual behavior by attacking the authority of scripture. They make several claims that are misleading and confusing. For the sake of those who are struggling against this (or any other) sin, the biblical witness must be defended.
Mr. Stuart notes that those who defend the Christian moral tradition take a simplistic, fundamentalist, “second grade” approach to scripture. For this approach, Stuart would substitute an impossibly nuanced “paradoxical” approach which effectively robs the scriptures of any moral authority.
I am a Catholic. The Catholic tradition is not fundamentalist, but it does not rely on reason so heavily as Mr. Stuart does. In a fallen world, both reason and culture can go seriously wrong.
Christian revelation keeps reason from veering off course into falsehood. All Christians must anchor their reflections in that revelation.
According to Mr. Stuart, the Bible puts forward “equal and opposite points of views for any one subject,” and therefore gives us no clear guidance on anything. The premise of this argument is obviously false. The Bible does not present equal and opposite points of view on taxes, on infanticide, on charity for the poor, on bestiality, or on the mercy of God toward the repentant, to name but a few examples. There are some issues on which the biblical witness is confusing, but many, many more on which it speaks clearly.
Neither is its witness divided on homosexual behavior. Scripture consistently condemns homosexual acts across very different Hebrew and Roman cultures separated by one thousand years (Gen 19:1-11; Lev 18:22; Lev 20:13; Rom 1:18-32; 1 Cor 6:9; 1 Tim 1:10).
Writing from within a Roman cosmopolitan culture which rejected Jewish moral teaching, Paul did not bow to that culture’s prevailing, widely accepted, norms. He said “do not be deceived (1 Cor 6:9).” Sin and culture can blind the sinner to a recognition of his or her own sinfulness. The clear and consistent biblical witness is as relevant today as it was 2000 years ago.
Professor Maddox claims that “the Bible says nothing about homosexuality as we use the term today.” I find this puzzling. The Bible certainly condemns homosexual acts. Moreover, those who defended such acts in the ancient world no doubt argued that homosexual love was as fulfilling as heterosexual love, and that homosexual attraction was innate.
Paul was almost certainly familiar with arguments for homosexuality that are similar in kind to those put forth today. Nevertheless, he condemns homosexual acts.
Professor Maddox also claims that there are all sorts of behaviors condoned in scripture (multiple wives, slaves) that we do not condone today. This is much too broad an argument, and threatens to sweep all scriptural authority away.
For one, it ignores New Testament developments which point the way toward freedom for slaves and equality for women: “there is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus (Gal. 3:28).” At the same time Paul points the way toward a development of the Christian message toward equality for women and slaves, he reaffirms and develops the condemnation of homosexual behavior in Romans 1.
Pepperdine should reach out in love to those who suffer from homosexual attractions. To reach out by abandoning the scriptural witness against homosexual behavior is a betrayal of homosexuals, who have a right to the truth about sexual love. It would be callous and uncaring for anyone who holds to the Christian moral tradition on homosexual behavior to be silent in a world (and on a campus) that needs to hear the truth in love.
Professor Maddox claims that to demand that someone (homosexual or heterosexual) be chaste is frequently to demand the impossible.
Implicitly, this claim denies the grace that God gives to us sinners, denies the Christian vision of holy friendship and chaste love that is the only real alternative to the world’s unchaste and unsatisfying compromises, and denies hope to those who desperately want and need an alternative to the slavery of unchastity.
March 21, 2002