Sexuality and Scripture: Further Reflections in Response to Nicholas Wolterstorff

In his speech in favor of same-sex marriage in October, Nicholas Wolterstorff emphasized that he was not speaking as an authority or expert on the subject. Indeed, he has recently clarified that, should the CRC maintain traditional Christian teaching on homosexual practice, he will abide by that decision. I laud Wolterstorff for his humility and honesty with respect to this matter.

At the heart of Wolterstorff’s speech was his confession that, based on experience, he no longer believes committed, same-sex relationships violate the biblical command to love one’s neighbor as oneself. It is this experience that prompted him to reconsider Scripture’s teaching on homosexuality.

Man Sitting Beside the Seashore Wearing Red Long Sleeve Beside of a Man Wearing White and Grey Polo Shirt

It’s worth emphasizing how much Wolterstorff and I agree. Wolterstorff agrees that the Mosaic law condemns homosexual relationships in Leviticus 18:22 and 20:23. He also agrees that several New Testament passages, specifically Romans 1, 1 Corinthians 6:9-10, and 1 Timothy 1:9-10, could legitimately be interpreted as condemning the practice of homosexuality.

However, Wolterstorff believes that Christians are no longer bound by all of the stipulations of the Mosaic law, and he believes that none of these New Testament passages are sufficiently clear to require the church’s rejection of committed same-sex relationships.

In a spirit of friendship, I wish to offer three of my own reflections in response. (I have written a fuller response to Wolterstorff here. Wolterstorff responded to me here.)

First, we should reflect carefully about how to understand the relevance of the sexual code in the Mosaic law. Just because homosexual practice is condemned in the Mosaic law doesn’t mean it is immoral. A primary theme of the New Testament is that Christians are not under the law. That’s why we don’t submit to its sacrificial system, its penal code, its prohibitions against tattoos, or its rules concerning a woman’s menstrual cycle.

At the same time, that doesn’t mean the Mosaic law has no moral relevance for Christians anymore. We continue to submit to its prohibitions of incest, bestiality, and adultery, all of which are found in the very same passage as the prohibition of homosexual practice. Indeed, the prohibition of homosexual practice appears in the very same part of the law as the command to love one’s neighbor as oneself (Lev. 19:18).

So how do we determine what parts of the law remain morally binding on Christians? We follow the guidance of the New Testament. The Jerusalem Council famously declared that while the Gentiles are not bound to keep the whole Mosaic law, they are obligated to observe its teachings regarding sexual immorality (Acts 15:29). And Paul combines the very words used to describe homosexual practice in Leviticus 18:22 and 20:23 (arsenos . . . koiten) to condemn the practice in 1 Corinthians 6:9-10 (arsenokoitai). It would be hard to imagine stronger evidence that the Mosaic law’s condemnation of homosexual relationships remains binding for Christians.

Continue reading this article, published in the CRC’s denominational magazine, the Banner, here.

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About Matthew J. Tuininga

Matthew J. Tuininga is the Assistant Professor of Moral Theology at Calvin Theological Seminary in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

Posted on December 12, 2016, in gender, Homosexuality, Law, Marriage, sexuality and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Comments Off on Sexuality and Scripture: Further Reflections in Response to Nicholas Wolterstorff.

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