THE BIBLE AND HUMAN SEXUALITY:
CLAIMING GOD’S GOOD GIFT
Prepared by: L. Faye Short
Purpose: The purpose of this overview is to capture the major themes of The Bible and Human Sexuality by Ellen A. Brubaker – a study authorized by the national office of United Methodist Women for use at the local, district and conference levels in UMW or Mission U events. This document accompanies a comprehensive analysis of the book which provides support for the Overview.
From the Introduction to the Closing, The Bible and Human Sexuality advocates for a “new sexual ethic” for our time through the technique of creating confusion and uncertainty about what the Bible teaches and what the Jewish and Christian communities embrace. This method opens readers to a revised understanding with the age-old question, “Did God say?”
The text references liberal, progressive, revisionist, womanist and feminist scholars, to advance this new sexual ethic.
By reinterpreting and questioning everything from the creation accounts to the Law codes to the Song of Solomon to the inter-testament time period, the writer sets us up for a redefined understanding of the teachings and views of Jesus Christ.
One blatantly obvious intention of this book, from the beginning, and throughout the entire text, is advocacy for the acceptance of homosexual practice, and a change in sexual ethics by the Church. For example, under the Law Codes Develop section, questions are raised: “Why should we in the twenty-first century pay so much attention to the law codes of the ancient Hebrews? Should we be for or against gay marriage; for or against the availability of abortion; for or against the submission of women to their husbands; and for or against women’s political leadership? Should we build policies assuming that our commitment to premarital virginity and abstinence can be mandated for all, or will sex education and informed consent lead young people to make healthy choices? Should we prevent gays and lesbians from serving as ordained clergy, or can God’s call include everyone, irrespective of sexual orientation or gender identity?….”
As we move into the New Testament,, the teachings about Jesus Himself are called into question as the author casts doubt on the Virgin Birth, and in essence the Divine Nature of Jesus. She writes: “Perhaps the birth narrative remains in the realm of mystery, with the doctrine of the virgin birth being a way to claim (italics mine) God’s agency or to embody Jesus’ identity as the Son of God.”
Even so, the author postulates that Jesus exemplified and taught a new understanding of love and relationship that would likely embrace the views espoused in The Bible and Human Sexuality.
A selective overview of the birth of the church is given, being careful to avoid Peter’s discourse on the need for repentance and baptism for the forgiveness of sin.
Paul is both extolled, when “he forges new paths for the growing community of faith in Jesus,” and dismissed, “on issues pertaining to the status of women and of sexuality.” The author comments: “There continues to be division within the body of Christ today, based on issues of interpretation and authority of Scripture. …Paul was not the first person in history whose writings may appear inconsistent to some of us.”
In regard to Pauline and other writings in the New Testament, cause is found to discredit or discount much that is part of the Biblical text. The claim is made that that some of the letters attributed to Paul and other apostles were in actuality written by others, “Deutero.” Theologian L. William Countryman contributes: “This brings me to the other and greater barrier which modern readers must overcome in accepting the New Testament witness on the subject of purity—our own traditional preconceptions. Sex is not a primary concept in the New Testament writings nor is physical purity an accepted principle there.” Both of these statements are blatantly false.
Chapter 4 goes to great lengths to discount the process of the canonization of Scripture and the teachings of the church fathers, while giving far too much credence to the aberrant theology of Gnosticism. Inaccurate timelines and misrepresentations of Church history are used to call the foundations of the Christian Church into question. The concept is, if you can pull down existing structures, you have reason to construct new ones.
Another theme throughout this book is the promotion of the right of individuals to interpret the Scriptures for themselves—to “take authority” for their own faith and practice. While a full-fledged call is not given to totally disregard the innate authority of Scripture, or the role of the Holy Spirit, or the place for church leaders, or the significance of Church history; with these already called into question, this step seems natural.
The author encourages use of the “tools of interpretation,” particularly Albert Outler’s “Wesley’s Quadrilateral,” which consists of Scripture, tradition, reason and experience. However, these tools are used in a way neither Outler nor Wesley would approve.
The Bible and Human Sexuality challenges traditional Judeo/Christian, Biblical views on male/female relationships, the family, abortion, homosexual practice, and even righteousness. The new sexual ethic this book advocates looks like what the author described in the final chapter: “At present, there are many couples that make the decision to become intimate before marriage. People are waiting longer to marry, and some deny the need for marriage at all. What will determine a sexual ethic or covenant for such couples? How can the church minister to them? At the same time faithful same-sex couples seek the blessing of marriage for their covenant. How do we in the church respond to their desire to affirm their covenant?”
How does the Church answer? We answer as the Church has since its inception. We affirm that all persons are of sacred worth, but that homosexual practice is incompatible with Christian teaching. We maintain that marriage is between one man and one woman. We call our youth, and the single, to sexual purity until marriage. We cannot affirm what God does not affirm. We are not judgmental, but we make right judgments. To do otherwise would be to harm not bless God’s people.