I will here argue that the recent debate regarding same-gender marriage has ushered in a new stage of Biblical unfaithfulness that is so radical that it couldn’t be predicted by even the most perceptive of observers in the very recent past.
In 2008 the Rev. Dr. Mark D. Roberts posted the following paragraph on his blog.
For more than thirty years, I have been involved in discussions of homosexuality and ordination. In the early years of this conversation, there was lots of debate about the meaning of biblical texts that deal with homosexual behavior. There seemed to be a common assumption among the debaters that biblical teaching, if rightly understood, should be binding on the church. But, in the last decade, as folks who oppose gay ordination have kept talking about specific biblical texts, those on the other side have mostly stopped this conversation. I haven’t heard one proponent of gay ordination say: “If it can be shown that the Bible truly regards all homosexual behavior as sinful, then I will change my mind and oppose it.” Rather, I have heard many say, in effect, “Whatever the Bible might teach about homosexuality, I am convinced that homosexuality is not always wrong. So, given this conviction, the biblical call to love and justice means that I will support gay ordination, no matter what the Bible might actually say about homosexuality.” Notice that this position is still based, to an extent, on Scripture and its authority. But the individual interpreter assumes the freedom to decide which portions of the Bible are inspired and which are not.
And so, a mere six years later, we find the Rev. Roberts description of Scripture’s use by supporters of same-gender marriage to be hopelessly out of date. For, it’s no longer the case that Scripture is interpreted with “the freedom to decide which portions of the Bible are inspired and which are not.” No, based on the Rationale record provided by Presbyteries in support of same-gender marriage, Scripture itself is found to be utterly irrelevant to their deliberations.
Let’s review the facts:
- Less than half (46.7%) of Presbytery Rationales in support of same-gender marriage even once mentioned the Bible or Scripture
- Across the entire 24,000 word Rationale record I can find only three direct references to Scripture (i.e., text with chapter and verse)
- Two references to Hosea 2:14–23 (Presbytery of Albany and Presbytery of National Capital), both in virtually identically worded statements
- The above discussed quote of Gal. 3:27–29 by the Presbytery of New York City, in which they attributed a Scriptural statement by the Apostle Paul to Jesus Christ
- If Scripture is only quoted with reference three times, then what is the common nature of Rationale text in which Bible or Scripture is used? It is the authors telling us what they believe Scripture to teach, often in the most general and/or selective terms, without the slightest attempt at demonstration other than an occasional claim of guidance by the Holy Spirit.
That this represents the product of a serious study of Scripture strains my credulity beyond its breaking point.
I conclude that what we have in the same-gender marriage Rationale record is nothing less than a postmodern Christian declaration of independence from Scripture. That is, having finally achieved a clear majority in PCUSA governance, they have, by a clear and complete disregard for Scripture, declared their independence from its testimony and authority. What stands in Scripture’s place is now whatever they decide to believe and conclude can be pushed through the PCUSA’s polity.
It’s often difficult to accept conclusions such as the above because they fall so far beyond what are assumed to be the boundaries of the possible. However, if we review again the beliefs of postmodern Christians (see “Postmodernism and Christianity,” HONORING CHRIST IN OUR RELATIONSHIPS) it becomes clear that the boundaries of the possible have been extended to where this conclusion is entirely credible.
- “The traditional coherent presentation of the orthodox system of belief, developed through the centuries, based on deductive reasoning and the interaction of the Bible, have to give way to relativistic theology (Guarino 1993: 37-40). Relativistic theology appears to be the theology of liberation and numerous socio-political systems. The core Christian message is no longer normative; instead, truth is subjective and relevant only to the culture and society of the day (Grenz 2001: 40).”
- “Foundationalism seems to be replaced by nihilism (Nietzsche 1968:1). Christian foundation such as scripture, creeds and confessions, and ecclesiastical traditions appear to be no longer meaningful. Biblical text cannot be understood with certainty since the “postmodern condition” concerning the theory and practice of interpretation is “incredulity towards meaning” (Lyotard1984: xxiii).”
- “The concept of truth, including biblical truth, seems to have no correspondence to objective reality (Moreland 2004: np). Hence, the search for truth appears to be a vain exercise and the reader should be content with individual/personal interpretation. Systematic theology should be replaced by “edifying” theology, which aims at a continuing conversation between the reader and scriptures, rather than discovering truth.”
Perhaps those in this position of presumed power consider themselves to be at the cutting edge of religious thought, elite carriers of a new and marvelous idea. If so, they would be wrong. I conclude this section with the words of John Calvin from his Institutes of the Christian Religion, written five centuries ago.
“Furthermore, those who, having forsaken Scripture, imagine some way or other of reaching God, ought to be thought of as not so much gripped by error as carried away with frenzy. For of late, certain giddy men have arisen who, with great haughtiness exalting the teaching office of the Spirit, despise all reading and laugh at the simplicity of those who, as they express it, still follow the dead and killing letter.”