REVIEW. Fall 2014 Vol. 39 No. 4

The Bible’s YES to Same-Sex Marriage: An Evangelical’s Change of Heart by Mark Achtemeier (WJK, 2014), 137 pp;

A Letter to My Congregation by Ken Wilson (Read the Spirit, 2014), 196 pp;

“Five Questions For Christians Who Believe the Bible Supports Gay Marriage” by Kevin DeYoung, The Gospel Coalition, 2014.

(PDF version available here.)

We’ve always been a pilgrim people, as Reformed theologian Peter Leithart knows: “At each juncture, God calls his people to shed old ways and old names, to die to old routines and ways of life, including ways of life God himself has established. We do not like this.  We do not want our world shattered, even if God rebuilds from the rubble.” Achtemeier and Wilson are fit for such a pilgrimage.

Dedicating his book “to my dear wife”, Achtemeier affirms a partnered life for gays. This contrasts with another Presbyterian’s dedicating his antigay book to his wife, as if he’d never heard of Jesus’ New Commandment. Laying down one’s prejudice for others ought to be a snap to laying down one’s life.

Whatever else Wilson and Achtemeier marshal in revising their earlier notions – and they engage Bible verses they’d read differently – their impetus is to do justice, love mercy and submit to Jesus’ summation of the Law and Prophets. Read more →

REVIEW. Summer 2014 Vol. 39 No .3

Romans 1-7 For You by Timothy Keller (The Good Book Company, 2014) 201 pp
“5 Ways to Debate Same-sex Marriage” by Jim Denison, Denison Forum, February 28, 2014
“Polarizing President” by Joel Belz; “For Better, For Worse” by Joel Belz
“From Gay to Joyous” by Marvin Olasky, World, February 8, 2014
“Pattern of Deception” by Joel Belz
“Milestone Melodies” by Marvin Olasky, World, May 31, 2014.

By Dr. Ralph Blair

(PDF version available here)

Yale’s Wayne Meeks’ work on Paul’s world advises knowing the social history “then and there [and warns not to]‘explain’ [their beliefs, thoughts and actions] by some supposedly universal laws of social behavior.”  Keller blunders badly here. He projects 21st century gay romance into an ancient power-structured world of sex abuse, saying: “As a cultured and traveled Roman citizen, Paul would have been very familiar with long-term, stable, loving relationships between same-sex couples.” No!  Keller’s scenario would have been meaningless 200, let alone 2,000, years ago. His agenda-driven fantasy flies in the face of what Brown University classics scholar and Christianity Today contributor Sarah Ruden explains of Paul’s world: “There were no gay households; there were in fact no gay institutions or gay culture at all”. As “cultured and traveled” as Paul surely was, he wasn’t aware of what wasn’t there.  Besides, romantic love, as C. S. Lewis explained, emerged in the Middle Ages.  Keller’s “gay” concoction contaminates his commentary. Read more →

REVIEW. Spring 2014 Vol. 39 No .2

Abusing Scripture: The Consequences of Misreading the Bible by Manfred T. Brauch, (IVP Academic, 2009) 293 pp;

First Peter by E. M. Blaiklock (Word, 1977) 113 pp;

Connecting Christ by Paul Louis Metzger, (Thomas Nelson, 2010) 328 pp. 

By Dr. Ralph Blair

(PDF version available here)

A kids’ quiz asks, “Which One Doesn’t Belong?”, e.g., red, blue, cat, yellow?  Grown-ups fail that test at I Corinthians 6:9.  Paul reprimands Christians who, in suing one another in pagan law courts instead of settling disputes among themselves, are as evil as thieves, swindlers, slanderers, drunkards, the greedy and those to whom he refers with a now indecipherable term. Yet, today, while suing each other in pagan law courts – especially over gay issues – careless and incompetent Christians use that obscure term to slander and otherwise abuse all lovingly committed same-gender couples

For wanting as loving a marriage as heterosexuals can have, gay folk get slandered and robbed – like the victims Paul had in mind.  Pushing today’s gay couples into that cryptic category is scriptural abuse that becomes spiritual abuse and more.  An eminent classics scholar, Blaiklock reminds us: “Like all minorities, [Christians, too] were slandered.  Their conduct was vilified, misrepresented and misunderstood.”  This is still the case. Read more →

REVIEW. Winter 2014 Vol. 39 No .1

“Sex Without Bodies” by Andy Crouch, Christianity Today, July/August 2013

“Christianity and Homosexuality” by Tim Keller, Redeemer Report, October 2013

By Dr. Ralph Blair

(PDF version available here)

The executive editor at CT thinks: “There is really only one conviction that can hold [the LGBT] coalition of disparate human experiences together [and it’s] the irrelevance of bodies – specifically, the irrelevance of biological sexual differentiation in how we use our bodies.”  To the contrary: It’s the relevance of “biological sexual differentiation” that accounts for the LGBT coalition.  It’s the anti-LGBT coalition that peddles “irrelevance of bodies” – pushing mixed-orientation marriages or lifelong celibacy, thus refusing to recognize that “matter matters”, to use Crouch’s play on words.

Fixated on genitalia, he ignores the major sex organ, the brain – poetically, the heart.  So, he misses the complexity of interpersonal neurobiology intrinsic to sexual attraction.  He dismisses what partners perceive in one another: a fascinating otherness from one’s sense of self. For rape, any body will do. In a loving marriage, it’s this embodied person who’s cherished – what William Penn felt when an ocean separated him from his wife and he longed for his “beloved, [for] more thy inward than thy outward excellencies which yet were many.” Body parts change over time. Yet embodied love can grow ever deeper.  But on same-sex love, antigay scolds get hung up with Tinker Toys. Read more →

REVIEW. Fall 2013 Vol. 38 No .4

Paul for Everyone: I Corinthians by N. T. Wright (John Knox Press, 2004) 272 pp.

Bible, Gender, Sexuality by James V. Brownson (Eerdmans, 2013) 300 pp.

(PDF version available here)

A popular Anglican bishop grants that two words in I Corinthians 6:9 “have been much debated” but he claims that “experts have now established [that they] clearly refer to the practice of male homosexuality.” That’s not been established.  Yet Wright insists, again against scholarly consensus, that the “two terms refer respectively to the passive or submissive partner and to the active or aggressive one”.  Obsessing over body parts while overlooking historical practices and cultural context, his “submissive partner” includes heterosexuals’ slaves, prisoners of war, sojourners and, as in attempted rape at Sodom, angels.  Yet he insists that Paul “places both roles in his list of unacceptable behaviour.”  Wright contends that, “in our day”, such sexual activity “distorts and defaces [God’s] image” and leads to “the opposite direction” from God’s kingdom.  Sneering it’s turned into the “novelty [of] ‘gay’ ‘identity’ [he mocks, it’s] ‘discovered’”.  Such a typically disturbing discovery of un-asked for and unwanted same-sex attraction is just as much a discovery as was his own heterosexual orientation – though, for his discovery, he was culturally prepared.  Moreover, the anal sex he deems so unacceptable is less common among homosexuals and more common among heterosexuals than he seems to assume.

When it comes to the same-sex oriented, this married bishop belittles “the implication that all humans need active sexual experience … in order to be complete, to be fully alive”. Yet, for folks with needs like the Wrights, “the central place of sexuality within the human make-up indicates that we shouldn’t take it lightly.”  To him, a loving same-sex marriage is “distorted” by definition and distracts from “that full humanness … which will be completed in the final ‘kingdom of God’ [where] they will neither marry nor be given in marriage”.  Of course, the good and privileged folks will have already enjoyed their marriages here. Read more →

REVIEW. Summer 2013 Vol. 38 No .3

“Marriage and Politics” by Sherif Girgis, Ryan T. Anderson and Robert P. George, National Review, February 11, 2013
Cal Thomas, “When Public Opinion Trumps Eternal Truth”, Washington Examiner, March 27, 2013

(PDF version available here)

Sixty years ago, a homophile monthly’s cover read: “HOMOSEXUAL MARRIAGE?” (ONE, August 1953)  In 1963, its cover dropped the question mark: “Let’s Push Homophile Marriage”. In 1964, IVCF did not reappoint me to its staff at Penn because I pushed for evangelical support for gay couples. Three years later, while doing my dissertation on homosexuality, the U.S. Supreme Court finally legalized interracial marriage.  Today’s gay marriage debate is yet another episode in the long history of struggles by people denied (often in the name of God) what the powerful enjoy for themselves. Though oppressors know their needs for closest intimacy, they close their minds and hearts to others’ needs.

God is emphatic: “It’s bad” for man to be alone!  (Bruce Waltke’s rendering of the Hebrew) Besides communion with God, we need closest human kinship. God’s gift of a mate (not another beast of the field!) brought joy: “At last, bone of my bone, flesh of my flesh!”  In this biblical phrasing, “gender distinctions play no role”. (James V. Brownson) Read more →

REVIEW. Spring 2013 Vol. 38 No .2

Misreading Scripture with Western Eyes by E. Randolph Richards and Brandon J. O’Brien (InterVarsity, 2012), 240 pp;
Kent Van Til, “Singleness and Celibacy”, Perspectives, December 2012;
“Opposing the Truth-Trashers” by Joel Belz, World, November 17, 2012;
“Our Culture of Deceit” by Joel Belz, World, December 15, 2012;
“Where ‘little lies’ Lead”, by Joel Belz, World, February 23, 2013.  

(PDF version available here)

Kierkegaard’s bicentennial brings to mind these words of his: “It is not the obscure passages in Scripture that bind you but the ones you understand. With these you are to comply at once. If you understood only one passage in all of Scripture, well then, you must do that first of all. It will be this passage God asks you about.”  His wisdom warns of abusing clearly ambiguous texts while ignoring clear contexts of calls to seek for others what we want for ourselves. But, oblivious to our misunderstandings, insensitive to our insensitivities, we can do a lot of damage.  So, Richards (a dean at Palm Beach Atlantic University) and O’Brien (editor-at-large of Christianity Today’s Leadership Journal) make real hermeneutical contributions by noting blindness and bias in Western readings of the Bible that, after all, springs from ancient Middle Eastern culture.  They warn against imposing our assumptions and they point to the Bible’s own.  And they do it with good sense and wit. Read more →

REVIEW. Winter 2013 Vol. 38. No. 1.

Torn: Rescuing the Gospel from the Gays-vs.-Christian Debate by Justin Lee (Jericho Books, 2012) 259 pp.

(PDF version available here)

Since lesbian and gay youth are ridiculed, caricatured, guilt-tripped, kicked out of families, churches and Christian schools, it’s not inexplicable that they’d try to steer clear of their abusers – including the religious ringleaders of that abuse. The abuse is fueled by Bible verses that are abused by the ignorant and the self-righteous.  So, some of the abused seek safety in vague “spirituality” or in the seeming “open-mindedness” of liberal religion.  Hurt, frustrated, angry and cynical, others fall into the ever-increasing category of the “Nones”.  But, thankfully, some are finding a home in the Gay Christian Network where they can pursue, with other serious Christians, either a life of committed celibacy or life in a committed monogamous partnership with another Christian who happens to be gay or lesbian.  Justin Lee started GCN in the wake of his own struggle for a coherently faithful integration of his same-sex orientation and Christian discipleship. Read more →

REVIEW. Fall 2012 Vol. 37. No. 4.

“More Than a Legal Issue”, Christianity Today, July/August, 2012.

“The Party Line: No Such Thing as an Ex-gay” by Eric Metaxas,, June 6, 2012.
(PDF version available here)

Over the years my correspondence from CT editors has ranged from bizarre, intrusively personal, even prurient, through gracious and fully supportive. Here, editors who enjoy the right to be married assume that, had they, as kids, discovered their orientation to be homosexual they’d have lived the lifelong celibacy they’re demanding of homosexuals. “We believe gays and lesbians should not be denied fundamental rights granted to every other American.”  But their effort to deny marriage for same-sex couples does deny a fundamental right granted to themselves and all heterosexual Americans.  Unwillingness to “weep with those who weep” alone and rejoice with those who rejoice” in a cherished same-sex partner, is pathetic.  For CT to say something’s wrong by “divine laws” is CT’s right; to try to legislate from a religious opinion onto all other Americans would be like Muslims trying to impose Sharia on all Americans.  And we are dealing with “more than a legal issue”; we’re dealing with the Golden Rule!  Read more →

REVIEW. Summer 2012 Vol. 37. No. 3.

“Old Testament Law and the Charge of Inconsistency” by Tim Keller.  Redeemer Report, June 2012.
(PDF version available here)

When we’re said to “pick and choose” Bible verses, it can be frustrating.  Keller says: “I vainly hope that one day someone will access their common sense (or at least talk to an informed theological advisor) before leveling the charge of inconsistency.”  Well, we all do have canons within the canon.  Some are substantial; some, but spins on pet peeves. Read more →

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