Thursday, April 2, 2009

Gene Robinson on the Bible

Alice C. Linsley

Gay Episcopal Bishop Gene Robinson delivered a speech on March 30 at Emory University titled “Why Religion Matters in the Quest for Gay Civil Rights.” In an interview about that speech, Robinson made these claims:

1. "..beliefs about homosexuality amongst Jews and Muslims and Christians are actually affecting the secular debate over gay civil rights. If you factored out the religious opposition to our civil rights, I think we would be there..."

2. "..what I perceive in the secular movement towards equal rights for gay folk is that we have an instance where the state is impinging on the secular society."

Robinson insists that progressive Christians need to "rescue" the Bible from the religious right. He is quoted here as saying, "It will take religious people and religious voices to undo the harm that has been done by religious institutions … It’s time to start demanding separation of church and state."

Now there's clear thinking! The religious right holds the Bible captive and the solution is to separate church and state. Could someone clarify this for me?

Robinson attacked anti-gay arguments based on the Bible, citing the example of eating pork and wearing two types of cloth as also being classed as "abominations".

Eating pork is a dietary restriction of the first order for devout Jews and Muslims, most of whom consider homosex an abomination. Could someone explain Robinson's reasoning to me?

The prohibition against mixing types, be they fibers or blood, is like the prohibition against confusing the holy with the unholy, or blurring the distinction between life and death, such as happens when a baby goat is boiled in its mother's milk (also forbidden in Scripture). Robinson obviously doesn't understand the binary distinctions that frame the biblical worldview. Or if he does, he rejects them, whereby necessarily rejecting the whole of biblical revelation.

Gene and other activists seem not to recognize that the biblical consideration of homosex is not restricted to a few verses in Genesis and Romans. It is fundamentally part of the binary framework of the entire Bible.He said: "You can’t take a 20th century word, stick it back into an ancient text, and expect it to mean something entirely unknown to the authors of the text. These verses are quoted as if our world has never changed."

The Anglican Primates don't agree. Last month, the Archbishop of Sudan, Dr Daniel Deng Bul, said "we cannot have a different Bible for the 21st century. We can’t change our Bible because of changes in human rights."

Gene, you might note that Archbishop Deng Bul, for whom you have so little respect, is actually a century ahead of you!

Beside that, the world hasn't changed in any essential way. Nothing ever really changes. That is what Plato understood and why he is still the greatest of the philosophers! There is one Reality and all people, in all times and places, exist in that one cross-shaped Reality. Things can only become more what they were created. They can't become less what they were created without rebelling against God's design.

You may say that the ancients didn't "understand homosexuality", but that's a deception and contrary to the evidence. They understood it all too well and tried to keep it hidden. The only verified evidence of homosex in ancient Egypt is a painting hidden on the wall of a cave in the mountains.

Robinson has said, “Although I believe the New and Old Testaments to be the word of God, I do not believe it is the words of God."

Gene, why don't you just admit it? You don't believe that the Bible is the authoritative written word from God. You reject the Bible as an authority for your life and you encourage others to foolishly do the same.

Robinson also cited verses in the Book of Genesis that are used to argue against homosex, saying they should be taken in the context of their time.

I fully agree with that statement. When we take Genesis in historical and cultural context we see clearly why homosex was considered an abomination. It blurs the binary distinctions by which God orders our thinking to preserve our lives and souls.

According to Gene Robinson, the verses which forbid the spilling of a man's seed (onanism) should be considered in light of the ancient Hebrews, who as a minority struggling to multiply, saw the waste of semen as murder.

Wrong. The spilling of seed should be considered in the context of the older tradition of the Afro-Asiatic peoples to which the semitic peoples belong. Onanism is still regarded as an unrighteous deed among Afro-Asiatic tribal peoples. It is a violation of the order of creation. The seed that should fall to the earth is the seed of plants, which spring forth from the earth. The seed of man should fall on his own type (the womb), from which man comes forth. Clement of Alexandria wrote, “Because of its divine institution for the propagation of man, the seed is not to be vainly ejaculated, nor is it to be damaged, nor is it to be wasted” (The Instructor of Children 2:10:91:2 A.D. 191).

Further, Abraham's people were quite fruitful. The ruler-priests among his people had two wives and concubines as well. Abraham had eight sons. Jacob had twelve and Jesse had eight. And the Bible doesn't list their daughters. So the struggling minority interpretation doesn't fit the facts.

Evaluation of Robinson's crusade "to take back the church" makes it apparent that it is driven by ignorance and misrepresentation of the Church and of the Bible.

He said, "I am doing everything I can to undo the harm that has been done by churches... "

"I have tried to bring God's voice to the struggle we are all in. God's voice has been abused in the name of hatred and bigotry for far too long and it is time we took Scripture and the Church back from those that would use it to hurt us."

Gene, it would be easier to start your own church. Oh! You and Louie already did that. Its called "The Episcopal Church."

And were your ego to permit you to work with others, you could help Max Mitchell write his gay bible. Yes, that's the logical thing to do, and ultimately much safer than messing with God's Book.

Related reading:  Genesis on Homosex: Beyond SodomIs Opposition to Homosexual Activity Irrational? by Thomas Stork; Some Thoughts on Sex; More Thoughts on Sex; Gay Agenda Must Destroy the Priesthood; Sweeping Away Gender and the Biblical Worldview


James Gibson said...

Robinson want to replace Father, Son, and Holy Spirit with Me, Myself, and I.

Ed said...

WOW! Seering wit! The closing line is classic! I may just have to post a link on my blog for this one!

Alice C. Linsley said...

It might help your readers to understand that the biblical consideration of homosex is not restricted to a few verses in Genesis and Romans. It is fundamentally part of the binary framework of the entire Bible.

Ed said...

Right, I think one of the biggest misconceptions that a lot of people have is that they think there's no "external logic" to the Bible. Therefore, for example, they find no explicit condemnation of abortion as murder in the Scriptures, so they feel free to conclude that it is okay for Christians to abort their babies.

I think one of the fundamental problems is not even that modern people do not know how to read the Bible, but rather that they do not know how to read most books, especially ancient books.

(Of course the bigger problem is that they have no Tradition to guide them.)

Anonymous said...

Well, Gene has the cultural wind at his back, especially given todays Iowa court ruling.

Actually, is there much of anything the early church fathers said about this topic? One tends not to hear much about the role of church tradition in these discussions. At least I haven't.

Out of curiosity, are there now LGBT groups starting to agitate within the Orthodox churches? For my own spiritual health I try to ignore what is going on the TEC, but I wonder if that a bad long term strategy, as the activists won't be satisfied with just capturing the Episcopal church, I don't think.

Not that I don't care about my Anglican brothers and sisters, but at this point only prayer will help them

- Steve

Alice C. Linsley said...

Quite right, but the only wind that brings life is the Spirit of God.

Homosex is not condoned or ignored among the Orthodox. When a Russian priest performed a same sex ceremony in secret, Alexy of all Russia, ordered the priest defrocked and excommunicated the "couple". The church building was then deconsecrated and leveled to the ground, and the property was sold.

If Edmond Browning had taken such steps way back when... ECUSA may have survived, even prospered.

Anonymous said...

I could be wrong about this, but it is my impression that Edmond Browning did quite a bit to set the stage for 2003 and VGR, and to discourage any church discipline in this area (Righter, Spong).

But I think there is an air of inevitability about the election and promotion of VGR. If not him, there would have been someone else. The seeds for this were planted in the 60s at the Episcopal Divinity School and other seminaries, and then nurtured in a few hothouse dioceses (Newark) in the 80s. But you would know much better the timeline than I.

- Steve

Ed said...

If Episcopalianism is anything like Methodism, the ultimate roots of the problem stem from the absorption of Enlightenment philosophy by many of the clergy in the late 1800s.

Among the Methodists, anyway, when their universities were set up, they sent their best and brightest clergy and future clergy to be trained in Germany by Kantians, Hegelians, Feuerbachians, and the likes of Schliermacher. This produced any number of problems. Most immediately it produced the notion that all religion was good for was to establish morality for society. Thus you see the Christian moralism of the late 1800s, the temperance movement, the social gospel, etc. It also led to a weakening of Methodism's identity which led to active involvement among some in Masonry and among many in the fledgling "ecumenical movement." (And of course there was the constant trend towards "demythologizing" Christian doctrines such as the resurrection and miracles in favor of notions more palatable to "modern" sensibilities.)

Actually, this was all very widespread by the beginning of the twentieth century. Methodism has not had a heresy trial since around 1905, when a raving heretic professor from Boston Seminary was acquitted of heresy charges that he was obviously guilty of (sorry, I don't have the time atm to look up the precise date).

How all of this compares with Anglican/Episcopalian history, I don't know. But what I meant to say with all of that is that Methodism was much, much farther down its present path even a hundred years ago than most people realize. It has taken a great deal of time for these heretics to "enlighten" their "ignorant" and "superstitious" laity. It is being done, over time, but it does not seem to be as advanced among the Methodists, generally, as it does among the Episcopalians. They forced their last bishop who denied the resurrection openly into an early retirement, I believe. No repudiation, no defrocking, just making him stand down and shut up for a while. After all, differing from the "ignorant masses" on a subject so "trivial" as the resurrection of Jesus could never be cause for an excommunication! "Would a loving God really want that?"

I fail to see why they would ever want to call themselves "Christian." But then again, maybe that's because I have something like integrity and have absolutely no desire to live parasitically off of "unenlightened" people who provide me with a structure for financial support...

If you do not believe that Christ rose from the dead, you're not a Christian, end of story.

Alice C. Linsley said...

Steve and Ed, terrific comments, both of you. Lots to think about here.

The Enlightenment has had the effect of making Christianity look like a religious fable. Yet many of the great thinkers of the period termed "The Enlightenment" were Christians. They would be shocked at the dryness of western intellectual thought today.

Alice C. Linsley said...

BTW, The Ocholophobit has an interesting discussion touching on the influence of the Enlightenment, here:

Anonymous said...

Ed, fascinating comments on Methodism, which I know virtually nothing about (remember hearing about Harry Fosdick, a Methodist I believe, and one of the leaders of the social gospel movement of the early 20th century.) and, rightly or wrongly, have assumed is following the same trajectory as the Episcopal church, although perhaps at a slower pace.

Enough other people have written about the Episcopal/Anglican timeline with more accuracy than I could - you probably could find something under titusonenine or maybe even wikipedia if interested. I came into the church in the 90s (and left last year) so only can really discuss the more recent stages of decline. There are a couple of pivotal points in relatively recent history, that different people assign different weight to. One would be the 'Philadelphia 11', 11 female priests ordained illegally in 1974, and confirmed (I believe) at general convention in '76. Or before that, the lack of discipline of the bishop of California, James Pike, for denying publically the creeds (I think wikipedia has a decent summary of his life - a very sad story, really, as his life spun out of control as he became more heterodox). Some people go back even further, picking examples such as the year remarriage after divorce was permitted, or when use of birth control by married couples was officially sanctioned (somewhere in the 30s, I think). But you probably could go back even further to the 1800s or even 1700s. The Episcopal church has long been tolerant of heterodoxy and genteel agnosticism, but I think until recently the expection was this was kept to oneself.

- Steve

Alice C. Linsley said...

Homosexuality represents a category that does not conform to the created order with its binary distinctions of male/female, East/West, night/day, etc. That is why homosexuality is considered an abomination along with sex with animals. Both blurr the distinction between humans in the image of God and creatures not in the image of God.