Thursday, August 07, 2008

The Most Appalling Passage in the New Testament

In reading the new book Christianity and Homosexuality: Some Seventh-Day Adventist Perspectives, one of the essays in the theology section was written by Roy Gane of Andrews University, who was responding to a gay-positive exegesis of the Pauline "condemnations" of homosexuality. In it, Gane put forward a story in 1 Corinthians 5 that I had never noticed before. And while it did support Gane's point, I have to say that I was flabbergasted at the passage, as I don't think I've read a more appalling passage in the whole New Testament. Here it is:
It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that does not occur even among pagans: A man has his father's wife. And you are proud! Shouldn't you rather have been filled with grief and have put out of your fellowship the man who did this? Even though I am not physically present, I am with you in spirit. And I have already passed judgment on the one who did this, just as if I were present. When you are assembled in the name of our Lord Jesus and I am with you in spirit, and the power of our Lord Jesus is present, hand this man over to Satan, so that the sinful nature may be destroyed and his spirit saved on the day of the Lord.

Your boasting is not good. Don't you know that a little yeast works through the whole batch of dough? Get rid of the old yeast that you may be a new batch without yeast—as you really are. For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed. Therefore let us keep the Festival, not with the old yeast, the yeast of malice and wickedness, but with bread without yeast, the bread of sincerity and truth.

I have written you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people— not at all meaning the people of this world who are immoral, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters. In that case you would have to leave this world. But now I am writing you that you must not associate with anyone who calls himself a brother but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or a slanderer, a drunkard or a swindler. With such a man do not even eat.

What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside? God will judge those outside. "Expel the wicked man from among you."
I have long been appalled at the notion of disfellowship. I cannot conceive of any act more un-Christian than disfellowship, the moral equivalent of throwing somebody out of a lifeboat. There is absolutely nothing in the life or words of Christ to suggest such a thing, and much to commend against it. And yet here is Paul, unequivocably advocating for disfellowship. How can such a fundamentally selfish act be considered Christian? That's the same misguided thinking that drove the Puritans to witch hunts, and inspired some yahoos in North Carolina to boot out fellow church members who didn't vote for President Bush. I can't deny that the passage is there in the Bible, but I also can't accept that it's not a mistake. Sometimes the only moral response to texts like that is to make like Thomas Jefferson and get out the scissors.


Mike said...

Brother if the bible itself (the inspired message God) is wrong then what is right?

Don't get me wrong, I can see how that would be very hostile towards people who choose different paths in sexuality, and would seemingly be unchristian. However, maybe God has a message regarding alternative sexual practices?

Am I the type who wants to ban all homosexuals and other non-heterosexual people from the church? No, not really. I'd rather that they be taught the precious truths of the bible. Therefore, if they are acting in a way that is not right in God's eyes, then they would learn to further their Christian life by showing their commitment to the Bible, which is the message that God has provided for us.

Just a different way to look at it.

In Christ's Love,

Mike said...

The scissors? I am reticent to jump to this conclusion... were will you stop? Why shouldn't we cut out the genesis account? Its quite clear through scientific research that the bible would do better without such a "backwards" passage. Oh and don't forget another disturbing portion of the bible... the whole idea of a blood sacrifice-Jesus. Sacrificing your God, for your salvation... wouldn't the bible read better without such an odd concept?

Anonymous said...

I agree this passage does seem contrary to christs teachings and I would take it in the following way to conform with christs and the bible's broader message. Simply don't be proud of the immoral things a brother/sister in christ does, instead condemn those immoral actions and ask them to stop doing those things and insist they be a positive influence on the church community. If they boast of immoral acts how can they be a good influence on the church?