Homosexuality, the Bible, and the Church (Introduction)

At the end of the semester, we have to decide and defend what we’ve come to believe. Let me explain.

As a college student, there are classes I cannot wait to attend, and there are classes which require a considerable amount of determination to sit through. I’m thankful my experience has been mostly the former and dotted with the latter. This semester, I’m a senior taking five classes: three are related to communication/cultural studies, and two are related to biblical/theological studies. In the I can’t wait to attend vs I would rather be anywhere else dichotomy, I’m 4 for 5. One of the classes I really enjoy is called Critical Issues. We’re working through three books examining traditionally difficult disagreements in the Christian faith under the instruction of Dr. Vena. These are: homosexuality, the historical Adam, and gender roles.

Currently, we’re reading “Homosexuality, the Bible, and the Church,” a book published by Zondervan which tasks four theologians with outlining their views. William Loader and Megan DeFranza will argue in favor of the church affirming homosexual union, while Wesley Hill and Stephen Holmes will argue for a traditional view of Christian marriage, that is marriage being only between a man and a woman. As students, we do the reading, and someone prepares and presents the current author’s argument to the class. It may sound like a recipe for all out war, but it’s actually been really great so far.

Once we’ve worked through all three books, heard all the positions presented, and been given ample time to mull it over, we write a paper outlining our positions on these critical issues. This will be a very formative exercise for me. I identify pretty strongly with the enneagram 5 (the observer), and as such have the ability to hold opposing views in tension and still live in harmony. Some folks no doubt see this as a defect, but it’s the way we fives are built. We’re prone to do a lot of reading and come away at peace knowing neither position is a definite conclusion. This exercise will force me to acknowledge a position and attempt to defend it.

I don’t know what to think about homosexuality in the church. Nor do I have a hard and fast opinion concerning the historical Adam (whether or not Adam was a real person or an archetypal figure in the creation myth). My third perspective is less of a mystery; I think I know where I’ll come out on gender roles. At its best, higher education in the humanities shows us our place in the historical landscape and gives us the tools we need to think well about the issues at hand. It’s a space in which we are invited to become who we will be. It is not indoctrination – I really don’t know what the professor believes – but a formative process which challenges us to hear and choose, to look and to build.

My goal is to summarize each of the arguments made by the four authors on homosexuality. And I hope this enterprise will help me to think through their positions. If it also helps the reader gain a broader view of the issue (which is not obvious), or to locate herself in the contemporary discourse, that would be good – though not the primary goal. I fear that too often teaching masquerades as the final word instead of one answer gained through one specific method of interpretation.

I can’t wait to dive into these four positions on homosexuality in the church. I trust I will become a better person of the Christian faith for having tangled with the arguments at hand, and I hope, in some way, you might too.

In the meantime, you might enjoy last week’s podcast episode in which we take a look at some positions on homosexuality in the church.

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