There are so many different opinions and interpretations about the present theological “hot potatoes’ that one easily looses one’s way in its jungle. (Here, here, here, here and here… People question the way I relate to Scriptures where the Apostle Paul writes about homosexuality. Their statement is: “What did the apostle Paul really know about same-sex relations? There are so many new things that we have learned since New Testament times about the complexities of sexuality!”
They make a good point. By the Way: after having allowed myself a “slumbering blog state” for a number of months (it was hard to find time to write and express my deepest feelings), I am encouraged by different people to NOT GIVE UP writing blogs. I feel that the discussion on same sex relationships needs yet another perspective and I am motivated to use this occasion as a re-entry to the blog sphere.
“They make a good point”, I stated earlier. It is true that since the writings of the New Testament many more things have become clear to us; the (dark) wrestles of life and our soul have been brought to the surface and have been examined, analyzed, evaluated, and explained like never before.
I know that not everything we need to know about sex is right there on the pages of the Bible. Many authors who have written about sex and who researched sex had an awful lot of good things to say. Yet, I dare say that the Bible is my only and supreme authority on the subject of sex.
With that I don’t mean that it is our only source on the subject. There is a whole lot to learn from tradition, experience, and reason (including scientific investigation). But these latter mentioned sources are not authoritative. While they can provide important information and insights, it is clear to me that what the Bible is actually teaching us on a given subject supersedes all other sources. Again, we know more about sex in general, and about same-sex relations in particular, than the Apostle Paul did. It would be unwise to ignore what we can learn, there is a whole lot to learn from what people tell us about the experience of same-sex attractions, and what scientific investigation tells us about the complex issues of attraction and sexuality. All different aspects of humankind as expressed through our genes, cultures, social circumstances and theological insights need to be brought together to help us understand the question at hand. But yet… how do I dare to say that the Bible supersedes all of our insights by speaking with authority to a subject like sexuality?
Well, here we finally come in on the subject of kleptomania…It is at this point that a parallel can be drawn to sexuality. The majority of the people living in the world today have probably a greater insight and knowledge about stealing than Moses ever had. In the Ten Commandments a simple and straightforward commandment is given: “You shall not steal!”
There is really no nuance nor is any explanation given about the way this should (could) be considered. There are no links to praxis, history, experiences or principles. You shall not steal. That’s it. Don’t steal; IT IS WRONG!
During my years as pastor in New Life Church Stockholm (www.newlife.nu) I have had to deal with some people who were compulsive thieves. When meeting with them, one thing they told me was the fact that they could not help doing it… they stole things that were of no interest or value to them, and yet, time after time they stole even if it meant that their relationships and trust with other people and friends got broken. The surge to steal was like a beast within them they could not handle.
In regards to this matter, there are major drives and issues which drive people into such destructive behavior. There are psychological, social and other issues involved… YET, time after time again I had to come back in my conversations with them to that same statement, or commandment: You shall not steal!
That statement did not give me room for interpretation, or nuances. It did not give room to wiggle. It was one of those “one liners”, almost too clear, too obvious… It was unnegotionable. A cold fact… You shall not steal. No explanation, no excuses. Although much reasoning and information could be brought into the matter, only one thing remained the same: “You shall not steal!”
The point I want to make is the following: when it comes to the basics, what is right and what is wrong; the Bible supersedes all other sources. It is our authoritative guide on ethical issues. Of course we will have to consider where the rubber hits the road; that’s in the praxis in our pastoral dimension. I know there are people who steal because they have nothing to eat, others because they have a responsibility for their families. Others because they have been abused and victimized by greedy economic systems (I will in the near future write more about greed and such systems). But no matter what we can give as explanation for our actions, stealing was, is and remains wrong!
In some occasions we choose to forgive and forget, in other occasions we counsel, yet in others we send people to jail. But no matter what the cause and circumstances might be the basics are: It is wrong to steal! In the discussion on the so-called “sin catalogues” which were used by Christians and churches 30-60 years ago we have heard time after time again how insensitive the Church has been. OK! Many leaders have crawled to the cross a number of time and affirmed their guilt in these matters… But we have to realize that the large majority of the people using “the sin catalogue arguments” have not received the kind of insensitive treatment they are relating to. It’s “hear-say” in most occasions. The Church, because of its historical guilt complex has gone the opposite direction and has allowed everything without nuances as an appeasement to the guilt memory.
In days past, conservative Christians have often done a terrible job in dealing with the complexities and nuances of human sexuality. But no matter what these complexities and nuances might be… the fact remains the same: the word of God remains true and it supersedes all other sources, whether they are endorsed or not by our society or ideologies. I might be politically incorrect but I will continue to follow His Word and Truth as a basic authority yet, with a heart open to be touched to be able understand the complexities people experience.
That’s the Way I see it!
John van Dinther