13 April 2008

Gay Bibliolatry 101 (Part Three)

Gay Christian 101

In the chapter titled "Eunuchs In History And Scripture Are Gay Men", the author mostly covers territory already covered in depth by Born Eunuch website scholar Faris Malik, although he doesn't credit Malik in his source notes. He presents historical evidence that all ancient eunuchs weren’t castrated. He establishes that “eunuch” was one of the words used in antiquity to describe what are now called Gay men. He points to the presence of eunuchs throughout the Bible, and explains why most, if not all of them, were probably homosexual men.

Most important of all, he identifies the Scriptural passage in which Jesus Christ speaks of eunuchs so born from their mother’s womb and exempts such men from heterosexual marriage (Matthew 19: 3-12). Refuting the lie that our Savior never spoke directly about Gay people is the most important thing Rev. Brentlinger could accomplish with his book, and he does so with winningly strong polemics!

Too bad he can't win for losing, though. When the Reverend gets this kind of firm grip on his subject matter, he seems to become over-confident and prone to eisogesis. In this case, he advances the following preposterous argument to explain why, in the 8th chapter of Acts, the eunuch that Philip converts to Christianity necessarily had to be a born eunuch/Gay man:

. . . a castrated eunuch (was prohibited) from entering the congregation of Israel. Because this prohibition was strictly observed among Jews, Philip, a Jew, would not have ignored the Law of Moses. Remember that at this time in history, no one on Earth knew that Jews and Gentiles were one body in Christ. The Apostle Paul had not been saved yet, nor had Ephesians been written. The early Church was a largely Jewish group who believed they were still required to keep the Jewish law(Acts 15). Therefore, because Philip was willing to baptize the eunuch and admit him membership in the Christian congregation, he must have known that the Ethiopian eunuch was not a physically castrated eunuch(p.252).

Whoa now! Exactly how would Philip have known this? Did he undo the eunuch's robe and inspect his genitalia? What nonsense! Philip converted the eunuch because The Holy Spirit commanded him to do so (Acts 8: 26-39), and Scripture does not indicate that genital inspection was part of the directive! Here are other pertinent facts that Rev. Brentlinger overlooks:

1) Philip was evangelizing for the Christian faith, not the Hebrew faith that Pharisees practiced. As one of the original Apostles taught by the Messiah, he certainly wouldn’t have needed the Apostle Paul to show him the difference!

2) For the same reason, Philip would've known that the Holiness Code didn’t apply to Christian converts. When asked to list which laws Christians must follow in order to win Eternal Life, the Messiah complied; slightly different versions of His list can be found in Matthew 19: 16-19, Mark 10: 17-19, and Luke 18: 18-20 (as well as in my blog sidebar). The Christ also refuted aspects of the Holiness Code in Matthew 15: 10, 11, Mark 7: 1-15, and Luke 6: 1-5. Simon Peter's indignant reaction to the Pharisees' attempts to revive the Code (Acts 15: 6-10) confirms that the Apostles knew it was invalid.

3) Philip would have known that Gentiles could be Christians because, again, the Messiah taught him so! Before ascending into Heaven, Jesus Christ instructed the Apostles to go and evangelize among all nations (Matthew 28: 19, 20, Mark 16: 15 and Luke 24: 46, 47), and that instruction was confirmed by Simon Peter in Acts 15: 7.

Therefore, the Apostles and those they’d already taught knew that salvation wasn’t restricted to Jews, and they knew it long before Paul came on the scene! Granted, Paul's letter to the Galatians (not the Ephesians) probably disseminated this information among more people than had ever been exposed to it before, but he merely clarified the teaching. He didn’t originate it! Here’s a prime example of a Christian who idolizes the Apostle Paul so much, he wants to credit him for work initiated by the Savior. Paulinists have a bad habit of overlooking Jesus Christ's teachings, especially this one from Matthew 10: 24: A disciple is not above the teacher, nor a slave above the master.

The next two chapters, "The First Century Context of Romans I" and "Malakoi and Arsenokoites in 1 Corinthians 6:9 and I Timothy 1:10" deal in depth with the writings of the Apostle Paul. I dreaded reading these chapters, and they ended up being as tedious as I expected! Brentlinger identifies himself as a Conservative Christian, so it doesn't surprise me that he would place high value on Pauline doctrine. Most, if not all Conservative theologians do! However, being a Gay Conservative Christian means he has to confront the apparently homophobic attitudes Paul expressed in some of his letters. That means his readers must endure page after page of painful parsing of text as he struggles to prove that the Apostle harbored no anti-Gay bigotry!

He succeeds in establishing that the context in which Paul spoke of homosexual conduct was idolatry (something that’s obvious from the text of Romans 1: 18-26), and probably was in reference to ancient temple prostitution. He also proves that there’s no agreement among scholars on the exact meaning of obscure Greek words that Bible bigots choose to translate as “homosexual men”. What his research and reasoning don’t do, however, is support his implied suggestion that Paul approved of same-gender couplings that weren't connected to idolatry, and that he would've favored modern Gay relationships if he could have observed them. Given Paul’s characterization of such same-gender intimacy as degrading and unnatural, I very much doubt it!

What Rev. Brentlinger unintentionally does, by supporting the idea that the word malakoi refers to effeminacy in men, is call into question whether femme guys like myself can enter the kingdom of Heaven. In his zeal to erase possible homosexual connotations, he forgets that Gay men are more than the sum of their private parts! Gender expression plays just as big a role in Gay identity as sexual expression (and in my mind, there's no difference between the two). If I valued Pauline doctrine as highly as the Reverend does, I might be feeling unsettled right now! Fortunately, I don’t.

Unlike the Reverend, I can let the Apostle Paul be the fallible human being that he was. It doesn’t matter to me if he was a hetero-bigot at the time he wrote his letters to the Romans and Corinthians! As a Christian, I couldn't care less if he spoke disparagingly about my sexuality. Why? Because I know that the Savior didn’t, and the Savior is my ultimate authority. Frankly, I think these two chapters have less to do with giving Gay Christians arguments to fend off Fundie attack than they have to do with making a Fundie hero palatable for Liberal consumption.  Fail!  Neither mission was accomplished!

In his final chapter, "Are Christians Under The Law?" Rev. Brentlinger argues that under the New Covenant brought to us by Jesus Christ, we are not subject to any Biblical law. He writes:

Christians are not required to keep any part of the Old Testament Law to be right with God . . . because God has given us the righteousness of Christ . . . there is no reason for us to rely on our puny human ability to keep God's Law(p. 372).

I strongly disagree with him, and Scripture disagrees with Him, too! The Messiah is quoted as saying . . .

LUKE 16: 16, 17
The Law and the prophets were in effect until John (The Baptist) came. Since then, the Good News of the kingdom of God is proclaimed, and everyone tries to enter it by force; but it is easier for Heaven and Earth to pass away than for one stroke of a letter in the Law to be dropped.

. . . and after making this statement, He commences to preach against adultery and greed.

The Law Jesus Christ refers to isn’t the Levitican Holiness Code, but that list of requirements for Eternal Life I mentioned earlier. Christians observe a modified version of the Ten Commandments, God’s original Covenant with His chosen people (Exodus 20: 1-17)! Even the Apostle Paul confirmed this truth in his letter to the Galatians when he wrote: The Law (of Leviticus) . . . does not annul a Covenant previously ratified by God (Galatians 3: 17).

However, breaking the Commandments won’t preclude a Christian from salvation; the Reverend is right about that. The Savior’s sacrifice on the cross means that all true believers can be forgiven their sins. They need to do more than just believe that Christ is the Son of God, though! They must believe that the example He left us was a blueprint for living and follow it. After all, didn't the Messiah teach that the one who believes in Me will also do the works that I do (John 14:12)?

There’s definitely a code of conduct for Christians! If there weren't, the Savior wouldn’t have provided one upon being asked (Matthew 19: 16-19). If there weren't, He wouldn’t have given His teaching about stumbling blocks that make a believer fall into Hell (Mark 9: 43-48). If there weren't, He wouldn't have told the adulterous woman He saved from stoning to go your way, and from now on, do not sin again (John 8:11). If there weren't, He wouldn't have affirmed loving your neighbor as yourself as the greatest of all God's Commandments (Mark 12: 31). If there were no code of conduct for Christians, Jesus Christ wouldn't have spent so much of His limited time on Earth chastising the behavior of the Pharisees and warning his flock away from their example! How could Rev. Brentlinger be such a diligent Bible scholar and yet ignore the following directive?

LUKE 13: 24-28
(Jesus Christ said)"Strive to enter through the narrow door, for many, I tell you, will try to enter and will not be able. When once the Owner of the house has got up and shut the door, and you begin to stand outside and to knock at the door, saying: 'Lord, open to us!' Then in reply He will say to you: 'I do not know where you come from.' Then you will begin to say: 'We ate and drank with you, and you taught in our streets!' But He will say: 'I do not know where you come from; go away from me, all you evildoers!' There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth when you see Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God, and you yourselves thrown out."

Rick Brentlinger is totally wrong to preach that the Law has no jurisdiction over Christians! Such a wayward teaching has potential to lead the Savior's lambs astray. This is the worst example of eisogesis to be found in Gay Christian 101!

"Gay Christian 101" concludes with Part Four.

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