Is Neil’s Argument Flawed? Is there a link between the slavery and homosexuality texts?

Another post from Neil Hart on gay stuff and the Lutheran Church of Australia

One commentor on the “Lutheran Church Approves Slavery” wrote the folllowing…

Neils argument is flawed. The bible speaks about slavery in a different historical time. In fact if we had kind master many people in our current society would be better off than they are currenlty being slaves to the banks and visa cards. God through his word never directly speaks against slavery. However speaks against the way slaves are treated and how slaves should behave. In fact historically the concept of slavery that is referred to in the bible is different from the slavery spoken about in the 17 and 18th century. When Jesus walked the earth he never seem to concentrate on these subjects either.
The heart of this question is what do we really believe. No sin is any worse than another but if we live santified lives through the power of the Holy Spirit then we will avoid sin and when we do sin acknowledge that sin and repent. Two essential words which seem to have disappeared from our vocbulalry. We sin, we need to repent and seek forgivness. Secondly the Christian life calls for us to die to self. It’s not about this life and what we might want to do. It is about the Father and what brings Glory to him through Jesus and empowered by the Holy Spirit. As a Christian there are certain things I cannot take part in. No big deal. Just becasue I WANT to does not mean I should be allowed to…(the rest of this comment can be found in the comments section of the post “Lutheran Church Approves Slavery”)

thanx for you contribution.

A couple of things stand out for me.

Slavery in the 19th century IS the same as slavery ever was. I say again and will repeat it ad nauseum. It is about owning another human being. It is about controlling their movements, life, marriage, everything. And it is about owning their children and having the right to sell them on. This is the slavery that existed in the 19th century AND it is the slavery that is described in The new testament and enshrined in old testament law. This is the slavery that was defended from scripture by Walther, Melanchthon, Chemnitz and Luther. If it were around today it would be called a great evil. Do we seriously believe that having a mastercard debt is the equivalent of having our children sold away from us, never to be seen again? Slavery is an evil. It is Sin.

As society moves on and social situations change, we conveniently adjust our reading of scripture to suit the new social situation. This is what has happened with slavery. But, i implore you to imagine yourself back in the 1850’s. You would know that the Bible clearly supports slavery. For most Christians, that was enough. “The bible says it, i believe it, that settles it!”

But others saw the horrible injustice and the great suffering it caused and believed in a better social principle of equal rights under the law and a greater godly principle of love. Me?  I stand with those who take the greater principle of love. I imagine that you stand with Walther and all those other bible believing southerners who took up arms and shed blood in support of their firm belief. Thank God they lost.

secondly…you said…”as a christian there are certain things i cant take part in. No big deal”…NO BIG DEAL?? Lets remember what you are saying to my gay friend. You are saying that his sexuality, that fundamental part of his being… the love he feels inside for another person, his sexual drive, his desire to share his life physically and emotionally and intimately with another human being who he loves..the gift of a life long loving committed relationship and all the benefits that come from that, the gift that YOU enjoy today…

You would deny him that….and you would say….NO BIG DEAL!!!!!! At the very least, acknowledge that what you are asking is a huge and horrible life long burden you would place on my friend.

With your comment comes the chance for me to explain my argument from scripture again. And I am pleased for that chance. I want to make sure that the line i draw between the  slavery passages and the homosexuality passages is understood.

I am not saying that the Bible was wrong in its description of slavery and the rights and responsibilities of slave owners and slaves in the time of Paul or in Old testament times. The Bible took an existing social situation and applied a new christian ethic to that situation. In the day, it was radical. It was, according to Ephesians, a principal of mutual submission.

BUT! and this is the great big BUT!

We do not have slaves and masters anymore. Society has changed. We have moved on.

My question is… what do we do with those bible texts which talk about slavery? What are the interpretation principals we now use as we read these passages? What i am asking for is an honest examination of the principals of interpretation you use and a consistant application of those principals to all scripture.

Here are some possibilities.

1. The Bible passages on slavery are the clear word of God. We should stand on the principle that slavery is a part of Gods plan for an ordered society. Perhaps through writing letters to parliament or campaigning for the re-intoduction of slavery. or perhaps by setting up a christian alternative society where slavery is allowed.

2. The Passages contain eternal unchanging principles that come from God But these principles are applied in different ways to different social situations. In this case, what was always understood, for thousands of years, as the clear word of God and direct scriptural command (ie slaves obey your masters!) is…let go of?…forgotten?…adapted?…softened? Those adapted passages now serve the wider principles of the passages. Principles such as mutual submission, the need for an ordered society, using authority tempered with love…whatever… And so we apply the broad principles to 21st century Australia without feeling the need to impose the direct, literal command.

3. we accept that as society moves on and changes, certain sections of the Bible simply no longer apply. That is what Christians have done with most of the Levitical Laws including the laws of the sabbath. Even though it forms such a critical part of the 10 commandments we neither observe the day nor do we apply the Hebrew sabbath principles to our lives. This concept of “moving on” is what christians have done with NT well.  The arguments in ! Cor 11 where women are told to have long hair and men are prohibited from having  long hair are simply ignored today.

remember this passage?

1 Corinthians 11.  “14. Does not the very nature of things teach you that if a man has long hair, it is a disgrace to him, 15. but that if a woman has long hair, it is her glory? For long hair is given to her as a covering. 16. If anyone wants to be contentious about this, we have no other practice—nor do the churches of God.”

we seem to have kinda walked away from that one pretty easily…haven’t we? Oh, sure, we could play all sorts of exegetical games with the text to show how it really means something other than what it says… but… the simple truth remains…we have just…let it go…

Then there is this little gem in the same passage…

“10.  It is for this reason that a woman ought to have authority over her own head, because of the angels.”

to which i say….”WHAT THE???…” In all humility, surely we gotta say that there is some stuff in the Bible that we just dont understand. And thats OK. coz the stuff that matters is very clear…

With no 3’s method of interpretation we look to the big themes in scripture. The revelation of Jesus Christ, God incarnate, whose life death and resurrection restores us to God and gives us membership in the eternal family of the trinity.

So, which is it? which is the biblical interpretation that you apply to the slavery texts? All that i am asking is for an honest consistency between the way you treat the slavery texts and the way you treat the homosexuality texts.

Is it no. 1.? That we should stick to the clear word of God and return to slavery. then i acknowledge your consistency. Just as the clear word of God endorses slavery, so the clear word of God condemns homosexuality. But along with your condemnation of homosexuality i look forward to your Christian campaign through “The Australian Slavery Party” at the next election. (Check out the Australian Christian Lobby. they will prolly be right onboard with you)

Is it no 2.? in which case, we should be consistent and allow the possibility that the “dot points” in Romans 1: 18-32 (probably the key homosexual NT passage) can give way to the wider theme that the consequences of sin are evident everywhere in the world. Perhaps, as we have already done with the slavery text, we can say that society has changed and so we apply the broad theme to 21st century Australia without the literal imposition and the harsh and unfair condemnation of homosexual love.

Is it 3? We can see the broad argument but we also see the confusing sections in the text. Is it true that the “invisible qualities” of God are plain for everyone to see? This would run counter to our confessions which say that human beings are completely unable to know God without the intervention of the Holy Spirit? What does it mean that “God handed them over to their sinful desire”? The Homosexual desires are now god’s fault? He could have intervened but didn’t? He gave up on them? What does it mean that they “received in themselves the due penalty of their errors?” (venereal disease? AIDS? So AIDS is gods punishment to homosexuals??? Is that what it is saying?) Does that mean that gays and Lesbians are just puppets in some cruel heavenly game? What about the part where it says that children who disobey their parents are deserving of death (vs 30-32)? REALLY? MAN! If ever there was a plan for immediate population control…that would be it!

So…No 3 says, an honest look at this passage shows lots of things that I don’t understand so im just not gonna let it play a big part in my understanding of God’s eternal purposes. I will let the clear sections of scripture, the big themes of scripture determine my view of God and his plan for me.

I am not just using all of this as an excuse to ignore certain uncomfortable passages. You and I and the whole christian church have already been doing that for centuries. we have always picked and chosen and adapted and changed and applied and conveniently forgotten from the time when we condemned Galileo as a heretic and even before that. All I am trying to do is to have an honest look at why we do that, to try to be completely and logically consistent in the way we apply scripture.

For me…it is really rather simple…I want the undisputed principle of love to be that which trumps all things. I want the Love of Jesus to rules over our hearts and minds and determine the way we treat all people, especially the marginalised, especially my gay friend whom I ache for.