christian logic: slavery and homosexual marriage

The The Isaiah 53:5 Project has a very interesting post, Does the Bible condone slavery?, which is an interesting attempt at justifying the unhesitating and enthusiastic support for slavery scattered throughout their written moral handbook, the Bible.

It struck me on reading it that any Christian who agrees with the argument laid out in the post, must also agree that same sex marriage is fine according to the Bible.

Let’s see how the logic used applies to same sex marriage.

Skeptic: “You know your Bible contains a small handful of verses that mention promiscuous homosexuality. But nowhere does it ever condemn same sex marriage.”

Believer: I agree.

Skeptic: “Well, why not? If the Bible is the word of God, why wouldn’t it clarify such issues?”

Believer: In a sin-fallen world, the battles we fight have to be chosen carefully. The same thing goes for the manner in which those battles are going to be fought.

Skeptic: “Explain.”

Believer: The Bible was never designed to serve as a manifesto on controversial social issues. It is rather primarily the story of how God, over time, has worked His sovereign will in this universe, and is still able to do so, through the hearts and minds and lives of those who trust Him.

Skeptic: “But same sex marriage isn’t just a social issue. It’s a moral issue. Isn’t the Christian Bible supposed to be a moral guide?”

Believer: Of course. But as a rule, the best way to change moral behavior is to transform moral views. And guess what. Beginning in the twentieth century, many people, Christian and otherwise, began to realise that homosexual people could have productive and non-harmful long-term relationships, in the same manner as heterosexual couples. Sodomy was abolished as a crime and decades later it became acceptable for gay people to marry and even be preachers.

Skeptic: “But why doesn’t the Bible just come right out and condemn homophobia in so many words?”

Believer: Did you know that in the Old Testament, there was no framework for same sex couples to live together as long-term partners? All the references to condemning promiscuous homosexuality come hand in hand with references to condemning promiscuous heterosexual sex or greed or other ‘sins of the flesh’.

Skeptic: “But what about in New Testament times? Why didn’t Jesus, as a moral authority, speak out boldly against homophobia and in support of same sex marriage?”

Believer: “Well, numerous New Testament texts, such as Matthew 19:12, Matthew 8:5-13, and Galatians 3:28, make the case for the inherent spiritual worth of every human being regardless of sexual orientation, which effectively laid a base for deep down authentic change in social practice, over time. God’s way is often to work from within, dealing primarily with the spiritual component. Jesus was typically apolitical. Otherwise, encouraging direct confrontation over such a hot button social issue may have fomented revolution, providing Rome with a political excuse for persecuting Christians.”

Skeptic: “Well for me, homophobia is homophobia. It’s wrong, it’s immoral, and the Bible should be against it.”

Believer: On the contrary, homosexual relations in Bible times significantly differed from homosexual relations in modern times. It was not based on the long-term commitment of two consenting adults in love.

Skeptic: “In the Old Testament Book of Leviticus 20:13, homosexuals are actually condemned to death. And Paul had strong opinions on the matter too.”

Believer: Again, the Bible primarily details the account of how God has chosen to deal with the tragic results of a sin-fallen world down through the ages. While recognizing the reality of promiscuous sex of any orientation, the Bible never actually mentions same sex marriage. It rather gives every human being a spiritual basis for worth, dignity, equality, and hope to face difficult circumstances.

Also, in the end, the Bible teaches

“Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”

Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

– Matthew 22:36-40

Hard to make the case that the God of the Bible condones slavery or that the Bible asks Christians to condone slavery when the second part of the greatest commandment is “Love your neighbor as yourself.”

Matthew Henry’s Commentary explains that commandment like this.

“It is prescribed, that we love our neighbor as ourselves. We must honor and esteem all men, and must wrong and injure none; must have a good will to all, and good wishes for all, and, as we have opportunity, must do good to all. We must love our neighbor as ourselves, as truly and sincerely as we love ourselves, and in the same instances; nay, in many cases we must deny ourselves for the good of our neighbor, and must make ourselves servants to the true welfare of others, and be willing to spend and be spent for them, to lay down our lives for the brethren.”

All seems rather clear now. Thanks for your helpful post!