Tag Archives: Proposition 8

Sexual Ethics and Logos Christology: Neither Natural Law or Nihilism

UPDATE: ** After conversing with Chad via text message, I have concluded that this post affirms most of what Chad argued. There was just confusion with my reading of his conclusion.  But other than that, this is the approach I take. **

Below Chad posted on how Jesus as a rabbi loosed/bound some laws as weightier than others.  While we may disagree on the issue of marriage, I think it is suffice to say that neither Chad or I believe in Natural Law or Nihilism.  Natural law or the idea that there are ordinances that govern the material universe was appealed to by proponents of the recently overturned Proposition 8.  I believe personally that natural law ethics are problematic because of the refusal to deal with particularity; as one professor of mine puts it so succinctly: “Nothing is natural.”  I think that philosophically speaking, cultural conservatives are encapsulated by the logic of natural law, speaking in universals, and discussing what the “rights of man” are.  On the other hand, there is on the other side a proclivity towards what I consider a form of nihilism, that idea that “nothing has any meaning” because all is, in the end, socially constructed and it is the human right to continue to construct and re-construct a world for herself.  I think that purpose is a gift, and that humanity needs help in making the world a better place; in fact, humanity needs a word who continues to speak in a tradition that transcends human particularity but at the same time, invites humanity in its differences to participate in the life of the Creator.

I think distinctively for Christians, this word is the Logos, Christ Jesus, the Word of YHWH who embraced embodiment.  I make no apologies when I say this but Marcion remains wrong because Jesus IS the precedent in the “Old” Testament; Jesus’s story is the story first from the Hebrew people to everyone second.  So, whenever one says that Jesus did this or that as a rabbi, I would like to say, no, we do not know that really since we are unsure which Judaism Jesus practice.  What we do know is this: Christ Jesus is the Logos of the God of Israel, and therefore as special revelation Jesus interprets himself; Jesus of Nazareth in other words, is special revelation that is self-interpreting , the Word interpreting Scripture.  Therefore, he alone has the right to correctly reveal and continue to disclose the multiple meanings of the biblical text. The Logos is the end of the Scripture, and the Logos is the end of all of creation (Colossians 1).  Paul is unable to write Romans 1 (under the auspices of natural law language) without first knowing the revealed law, in this case Christ Jesus, the crucified and risen logos. This is where the theologies of the apostle Paul and Clement of Alexandria meet: Christ is the Logos Incarnate,  is at once, the Law (in the Hebrew Bible), the Law-Giving/Covenant making God Yahweh, as well as the covenant-bearing Son of  Humanity (for more on this from Clement, read his Stromata [I translate it as Carpets] Book 1, specifically his views on Moses receiving the Logos.

I find it difficult to agree with the thinking of natural law arguments or nihilism.  We are either trapped by the subjective whims of a free humanity without limits or bound by what an elite few consider to be “natural.”  Logos Christology frees us from the hopeless binary of either of the first two approaches.  Christ, as the Wisdom of God, corrects human foolish behavior by teaching us the right way.  In the context of the Hebrew Bible and human sexuality, I think that Chad’s analysis falls short. First of all, because something happens with God’s permission does not mean that God honors it, like polygamy.  Of course, I know, that is part of Reformed theology in some circles, but biblically, polygamy fails.  Polygamy happens AFTER the fall (whether it is the fall to violence with Cain and Abel or the fall to empire with Nimrod). David epically fails on his own because he breaks the Law given to Moses, you know, the parts about the king not having multiple wives or building large armies or having slaves; check Deuteronomy 17:14-20. The Deuteronomist is notorious for making a mockery of the monarchy; there is no endorsement. Only warning, disobedience, and tragedy.  The one true king who governs Israel is the Logos itself, or indirectly guiding the Israelites like Wisdom led them out of Egypt according to the Apocrypha.  God never honors or endorses polygamy, concubine, sex slaves, or anything like that; God however does work within those human bodies who practiced these acts because God governs in meekness, through us weak and ignorant human beings.

Outside the mystery of the Incarnation, humanity remains too stupid to know what right or wrong is.  Of course, there is God sends us hints (some call it common grace, others prevenient grace) of what is good and right (the logos with a small l that is carried by the Spirit of God throughout the world).  Jesus had to teach his followers how to pray. He had to teach them about marriage. Whenever I see the added subtitle “Jesus’s teaching on Divorce,” I want to split my hairs and scream! Jesus is disclosing knowledge on marriage and the nature of it; this is what Matthew 19 is about.  Our narrow focus on the two or three verses on divorce does the entire chapter a disservice.  Not everyone can accept Jesus’ words (revelation) precisely because it was NOT natural for humans to understand what marriage is all about.  Marriage does have a purpose, a purpose given to it by the Logos, for man and woman to become 1: 1+1=s 1.  A mystery and revelation simultaneously, much like the idea of the Trinity.

Both natural law social conservatives and nihilist social progressives rely on the idol of marriage, the notion that everyone needs to marry, and family is natural and so is being with another person is as natural as being human, but this notion of relationships is faulty because we never take into consideration Jesus’s words at the end of Matthew 19, about those who leave their households (families, relationships) inheriting the Kingdom of God. This is quite disturbing, the family values of Jesus, that is.

What does this all mean, in conclusion? Should Christians go around creating a theocracy by force? Of course not, but neither should secularists.  However, it is the free gift of God that the church teach what is the purpose of marriage, through living example as well as preaching of the Word.  One cannot conclude just because something appears in Scripture without commentary from God, does not mean God gave it approval.  Instead, we must first check to see how the Word interprets itself (Jesus understands the canon) and work our way out.  We must be taught by the Educator (another Clement reference, I know, I know) before we can teach the world what we have learned.

Jesus, binding, loosing, and Biblical sexual ethics

I was reflecting on Jesus’ words regarding divorce the other day. Jesus was asked point blank how he felt about it. His answer draws on the ideal situation presented in Genesis 2. It is God who has pronounced that a man and a woman become one flesh when joined together, therefore we shouldn’t rush to undo that. Nevertheless, Jesus is quick to point out that humanity doesn’t always function according to the ideal, so God shows that the divine meets us where we are and grants that the ideal is not always possible where humanity is involved. So God allows divorce.

A thematically similar thing happens in the Hebrew scriptures. The patriarchs all had more than one wife. Or concubines. Or slaves with which they acted married. None of them even came close to Genesis 2 ideals.

Then there is King David. Validated as a man after God’s own heart, even though he was an adulterer, a bigamist, and had a ton of concubines. Far far away from the Genesis 2 sexual-relational ideal.

Now to switch gears a bit. There is a Hebrew concept of Torah interpretation called “binding and loosing”. This is the process by which Rabbis interpret certain laws to be more important than others and give instruction on whether to keep them or break them in certain circumstances. Jesus does this, for example, when he teaches that it is lawful to heal or rescue a donkey on the Sabbath.

Therefore when Jesus tells his followers that whatever we bind on earth will be bound in heaven and whatever we loose on earth will be loosed in heaven, he is giving us permission to make interpretive judgements about scripture, and that God, at least on some level, will honor those calls.

Given these things, I believe it is appropriate to reconsider our stances on homosexuality. Nowhere in scripture does God advocate doing away with the Genesis 2 ideal of marriage because of the hardness of the human heart. But what is validated is making a person’s sexuality a non-issue as we strive towards God together. God honored the binding and loosing of marriage and divorce, sexuality and multiple partners. I advocate that we honor the sexual-relational ideal of Genesis 2, but for our time, allow a person’s sexuality to be a non-issue while we get on with the business of weightier matters, much in the same way God did with David, the Patriarchs, and those who divorce. A sort of “doing good on the sabbath”. Loving others and treating them with respect is weightier than a sexual purity law, at least according to every example in the Bible. Except Ezra. But he was a jerk.