The Male-Female Union is Not Biblical

Jason Micheli —  July 8, 2014 — 12 Comments

rainbow-cross_aprilMy modest cranny of Methodism recently tabled a motion to ameliorate the denomination’s official language on homosexuality.

Rather than call what surely would have been a divisive and possibly rancorous vote, a counter-motion proposed that Methodist churches in Virginia instead spend the next year engaged in ‘conversation’ over the issue.

I’ve taken initial stabs at the conversation here and here in case you’re late to the party.

Probably not unlike working at Pontiac or Radio Shack, it’s discomfiting to be part of an organization where a bleak and battered future is both a live possibility and largely out of your hands.

A discombobulating experience, yes.

But an unbiblical experience? No.

Those who wring their hands with fright that the Church must face thorny, divisive questions of faith and experience forget that the New Testament itself was written in such a climate.

What we unthinkingly call ‘scripture’ was formed-largely- in the midst of churches arguing over how to read their scriptures (Old Testament) in the presence of the Spirit (potentially doing a new thing in the inclusion of Gentiles in to the People of God).

In arguing over how we should read our scriptures, Old and New, in the presence of the Spirit possibly doing an extraordinary thing in the inclusion of gay Christians, the Church merely mimics an ancient acesis.

So we shouldn’t shy away from the conversation debate.

One of the most prominent parts of this debate has nothing to do with those icky stone folks for who-lies-with-who passages in Leviticus.

No, the grown-up part of this debate has to do with scripture’s positing the male-female complement as the created norm.

What do gay Christians do with that?

The creation story wherein Adam and Eve are made for each other has been understood in the Christian tradition as the foundational text for the normativity of the male-female union.

RogersDr. Eugene Rogers, the teacher with whom I cut my theological teeth, observes how neither Jesus nor Paul ever quote the ‘be fruitful and multiply’ of the creation story when they quote Genesis. Children, then, are not requisite or constitutive of any understanding of marriage for Paul or Jesus.

Not only is a ‘natural’ law understanding of marriage not primary for Jesus or Paul, Rogers notes, how when Paul does quote the creation story (in Galatians 3) he maintains its precise wording in telling fashion:

“…Paul preserves it just when parallelism might prompt him to change Genesis’ wording. ‘There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no ‘male and female:’ for you are all one in Christ Jesus (v. 28).’ 

The first two pairs have ‘neither…nor’ (ouk…oude); the last pair correctly quotes the Septuagint to read ‘no male and female’ (ouk…kai).

Paul denies that the gender of the believer can hinder Christ. Male and female, Christ can draw them: Christ can be all to all.

Christ is bridegroom for women and men; the Church is Christ’s bride regardless of gender. Precisely because Christ is all -the omega- there can also be ‘no male and female.’ 

Christ attracts or orients all desire to God.

‘No male and female’ denies, therefore, strong forms of the complementarity theory (where the male-female relationship is inherent to God’s creative design).

Such a theory of complementarity effectively denies the Christ in whom all things are summed up. 

Thus Paul, when he does quote Genesis 1 at Galatians 3.28 subordinates it to Christ and blocks the implication that complementarity of ‘male and female’ is exclusive.”

Those who oppose the inclusion of gays into the Church and into the covenant of marriage are quick to cite St. Paul and Genesis 1 respectively. Not only does Paul list homosexuality as a vice worthy of God’s wrath (it’s supposed), same-sex unions violate the clear (it’s supposed) creative intent of God (it’s supposed).

As much as Paul becomes the rallying point for the traditionalist perspective, it’s odd- or revealing- that it’s seldom pointed out how Paul minimizes the very categories so crucial to the conservative argument.

If the Jew-Gentile distinction has been obliterated by Christ much more surely has a lesser distinction like gender or sexuality been  transcended.

The normatively of the male-female union may have been biblical in Genesis 1 and onward, but because of Christ it is no longer.

So to speak.

Of course, that Paul makes such a rhetorical move shouldn’t surprise us.

If the male-female union, if being fruitful and multiplying is God’s ironclad intent for human creatures both he and Jesus were in clear violation.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jason Micheli

Posts

12 responses to The Male-Female Union is Not Biblical

  1. Apparently my comment last evening was moderated.

  2. IMHO you’re trying too hard to make your case on this issue. This blog seems to have some illogical arguments and Scripture mining and stretching. I cannot buy your interpretation that Christ died to blur the genders and sexuality in the way He intended for salvation to free slaves of sin amongst both Jews and Gentiles. It is a difficult issue only because some denominations are joining the world in telling all sinners that they are welcome just as they are and then not holding the new Christians accountable for the hard stuff. And indeed the Church is made up of sinners of all flavors. Yet I dont think the Church is called to modernize Scripture to fit today’s worldly moral compass in an effort to fill the pews.

  3. I posted a single comment last night about 8:45pm CST and the blog returned a comment stating something to the effect that the comment was awaiting approval, followed by the name, Jelena Ristic.

  4. No problem Jason. My comment was similar to what Nancy said above. In addition, when arguments or explanations get so convoluted or complex as to render them unintelligible to the average educated person (i.e., me), there’s something wrong. The need for a complex argument to override plan teaching is usually a red flag for me. However, in the interest of open dialogue, could I propose to alternatives:

    1) If you’re going to propose relatively novel, complex theological arguments for the homosexual position that contradict the plain language of scripture, then please invite a biblical scholar on your level who holds to the traditional position who can provide a counterpoint to your argument. Then, we the readers can evaluate both sides. Otherwise, you’re confusing me and potentially others.

    2) Or, you could go the Adam Hamilton route and basically admit scripture is against the homosexual position, but Christians don’t need to follow certain sections of scripture anymore because culture or humanity has progressed beyond 1st Century norms. I personally believe this position is repugnant, but Hamilton is showing his cards.

  5. Eisegesis and Scriptural Truth…
    “While exegesis is the process of drawing out the meaning from a text in accordance with the context and discoverable meaning of its author, eisegesis occurs when a reader imposes his or her interpretation into and onto the text.” (wikipedia)

    This post led me into a wonderland of eisegesis that was fascinating. If I understand your reasoning, the concept of man and wife is not Biblical, and therefore has no meaning for Christians in 2014.

    You Wrote – “What we unthinkingly call ‘scripture’ was formed-largely- in the midst of churches arguing over how to read their scriptures (Old Testament) in the presence of the Spirit (potentially doing a new thing in the inclusion of Gentiles in to the People of God).”
    Your starting point appears to be that believing in Biblical inspiration is the result of not thinking critically. That assertion does not offend me, but I come to a very different conclusion. If God is God at all, He is more than able to transmit truth accurately and completely to chosen writers. Dr. Eugene Rogers, the teacher with whom I cut my theological teeth, observes how neither Jesus nor Paul ever quote the ‘be fruitful and multiply’ of the creation story when they quote Genesis. Children, then, are not requisite or constitutive of any understanding of marriage for Paul or Jesus.”

    Response – Agreed, but so what? Does the absence of “be fruitful” language change anything about the New Testament’s clear teaching related to the reality of marriage as a holy covenant created by God. Both Jesus and Paul have nothing to say about male-male or female-female “marriage” relationships. Absence of those models, does not in any logical way imply that they approved of them, or blessed them. From a purely evolutionary position, a male-male, or female-female paradigm is a biological dead end. Surrogacy, invitrio, cloning, and other technologies are no doorways to abrogate what God created.

    You Wrote – “Not only is a ‘natural’ law understanding of marriage not primary for Jesus or Paul, Rogers notes, how when Paul does quote the creation story (in Galatians 3) he maintains its precise wording in telling fashion:

    “…Paul preserves it just when parallelism might prompt him to change Genesis’ wording. ‘There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no ‘male and female:’ for you are all one in Christ Jesus (v. 28).’

    Response – Eisegesis rears its ugly head. The passage is clearly talking about redemption in Christ being available to all and not just the Jews. The subject of marriage is not addressed or even considered. Omitting verses 26 and 27 seriously twists the meaning of 3:28.
    [Gal 3:26 “So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, 27 for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.”]

    You Wrote – “Thus Paul, when he does quote Genesis 1 at Galatians 3.28 subordinates it to Christ and blocks the implication that complementarity of ‘male and female’ is exclusive.”

    Response – Again, Paul’s words have no “marriage theology” intent, do not explore complementarity, and do nothing to block male-female exclusivity.

    You Wrote – “Those who oppose the inclusion of gays into the Church and into the covenant of marriage are quick to cite St. Paul and Genesis 1 respectively. Not only does Paul list homosexuality as a vice worthy of God’s wrath (it’s supposed), same-sex unions violate the clear (it’s supposed) creative intent of God (it’s supposed). As much as Paul becomes the rallying point for the traditionalist perspective, it’s odd- or revealing- that it’s seldom pointed out how Paul minimizes the very categories so crucial to the conservative argument. If the Jew-Gentile distinction has been obliterated by Christ much more surely has a lesser distinction like gender or sexuality been transcended. The normatively of the male-female union may have been biblical in Genesis 1 and onward, but because of Christ it is no longer.”

    Response – This conclusion does not just dip into eisegesis. It plunges us into the depths of misrepresenting New Testament teaching on sexuality. To conclude that Christ “transcended” distinctions like gender or sexuality, and to present male-female union as “no longer normative” tears the fabric of scripture. We are left with a group of writings that cannot be trusted as anything more than outdated moralisms.

    You Wrote – “Of course, that Paul makes such a rhetorical move shouldn’t surprise us. If the male-female union, if being fruitful and multiplying is God’s ironclad intent for human creatures both he and Jesus were in clear violation.”

    Response – Presenting fruitfulness or multiplying as God’s ironclad intent is a Red Herring. No such intent is presented. It is presented as a joyful outcome of marriage. “blessed is the man who’s quiver is full of them…” (psalms), and there is no salvation or holiness just by multiplying.
    To conclude that Jesus, who was and is the center of our faith, and Paul, who was the first great apologist of our faith, are somehow in violation of God’s word is disturbing.

    As a final thought, I have enjoyed reading your blog, but of course disagree at many points. I believe there is a serious misunderstanding of the conservative position on inclusion in some of your writings. I want to see homosexuals, lesbians, and pangendered people (still not fully sure what that means) come to know Christ as savior and Lord. What I do not want is for them or any other group to promote a Christianity which does not require repentance of sinful behaviors, faith in Christ, and a changed life. Scripture is clear that all humans (including myself) can be attracted to, and participate in many types of behaviors that God says are unrighteous. He calls us to a different life – Holiness.

    The Living Out website has helped me refine my own views on this intensely divisive issue.
    http://www.livingout.org/

    Blessings & Peace
    Dr. Mike Hopper
    Faith United Methodist Church
    Greenfield, Indiana

    • Thank you, Pastor Hopper, for the very logical and scripturally sound rebuttal. Respectfully, Pastor Jason, can we move on from this intensely divisive socio-political issue and focus on challenging, preparing and equipping us to carry the Gospel to every corner of the earth while we still have time.

  6. The PC(USA) is further along than the Methodists in this decades long debate. Now with recent developments in my denomination (proposed amendment to the constitution to redefine marriage) I am revisiting the arguments. I find your’s refreshing. As I read your post I can’t help but be reminded of N. T. Wright and his discussions on Romans. Yes, “when people in a society are part of an idolatrous system… the “image-bearingness” begins to come apart. An obvious sign of that for Paul, Wright says, granted Genesis 1, is the breakup of male-female relations and the turning off in other directions. This early discussion, says Wright, joins seamlessly into Paul’s argument later in Romans 4 about how humankind is restored. Wright observes Paul making a case for how “Abraham specifically did the things, which in chapter one, that human beings did not. They refused to know God, to honor God as God, to acknowledge God’s power and deity,… The result of Abraham acknowledging God and God’s power, recognizing that God had the power to do what he promised and giving God glory, which is the exact opposite word-by-word of what he said in chapter one, is that Abraham and Sarah were able to conceive children even in their old age. Wright notes how Paul is being very precise and drawing out a specific reversal, the coming back together of male plus female, and then the being fruitful, which is the command of Genesis 1: ‘Be fruitful and multiply.’ Thus in Romans 5 Paul can finally speak of how in Christ, who has fullfilled the promises to Abraham, what God wanted to do through Adam has been put back on the rails.” Which leaves me with a question. Who is right about Paul?

  7. If anyone is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of them when he comes in his Father’s glory with the holy angels.” Mark 8:38.

Leave a Reply

Text formatting is available via select HTML. <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>

*