With this posting I will address five of the themes. In my next posting I will look at the last four and Koenig’s conclusion. But first I want to address the suggestion that we are treating LGBT persons as defective because they are not allowed ordination.
The church, through centuries has considered all unrepentant sin as a barrier to ordination. This is not to say that it hasn’t happened over and over, but it has never happened because the Church as a whole gave approval to sin, but rather because the church failed to discipline and/or correct biblically the unrepentant sinner. And clearly such discipline and correction has nothing to do with defective persons but instead with sinners who wish to have their sin approved.
The first overarching theme that would help the church ordain LGBT persons is:
1. Exodus, liberation from bondage and oppression.
This is certainly a grand theme of the Bible beginning with the Israelites release from their bondage as slaves in Egypt. And in scriptures the theme can be seen in both the physical release of captives by other peoples and nations and the spiritual release of those who are captive to sin. One of the more terrifying pictures in scriptures of someone in bondage is the demoniac of the New Testament. “Constantly, night and day he was screaming among the tombs and in the mountains, and gashing himself with stones.” (Mark 5:5) Luke reports that later he was healed and sitting at the feet of Jesus, a beautiful picture of a captive’s release from bondage.
But the greedy, the intellectual or religious unbeliever, the sexual sinner are all released from bondage by Jesus. Such a theme covers all of us, including those who are in bondage to their homosexuality.
2. The prophetic call for justice against domination
I am not sure I would call this an overarching theme, but it is certainly a biblical theme. God sometimes uses nations and peoples to judge and try his people. But he in turn chastises them for their domination of others. And in the context of the gospel and the New Testament God is concerned about leadership abuse.
Therefore, I exhort the elders among you, as your fellow elder and witness of the suffering of Christ, and a partaker also of the glory that is to be revealed, shepherd the flock of God among you, exercising oversight not under compulsion, but voluntarily, according to the will of God; and not for sordid gain, but with eagerness; nor yet as lording it over those allotted to your charge, but proving to be examples to the flock. (1 Peter 5:1-3)
And yet this same New Testament letter admonishes believers to not “be conformed to their former lusts which were yours in your ignorance, but like the Holy one who called you be holy yourself also in all your behavior; because it is written, ‘you shall be holy for I am holy.’ (1:14-16)”Calvin, in his commentary, clarifies this sense of holiness that God calls believers to when he writes:
In bidding us to be holy like himself, the proportion is not that of equals; but we ought to advance in this direction as far as our condition will bear. And as even the most perfect are always very far from coming up to the mark, we ought daily to strive more and more. And we ought to remember that we are not only told what our duty is, but that God also adds, “I am he who sanctify you.”
It is added, In all manner of conversation, or, in your whole conduct. There is then no part of our life which is not to be redolent with this good odour of holiness.
It is God who has the authority and it is he who calls the believer to holiness. But it is also God who sanctifies. Christ is the Chief Shepherd and redeemer; his grace and mercy is full of pleading for the sinner to repent. Those who refuse to repent have to do with him and his authority. While domination may be a sin among humanity it is God’s right to rule. It is his right to demand repentance.
3. Jesus’ insistence on associating with women, lepers, “outcasts and sinners.”
There is an implication in this third theme that those who agree with the biblical teaching that homosexuality is sin are not friends with the marginalized and sinners. That is a particularly obnoxious view held by too many progressives. First, we are all sinners, some have claimed the righteousness of Christ others have rejected his gift. But nonetheless Jesus calls us to be friends to those who need his love and forgiveness. And I find that most Christians who are orthodox and evangelical are deeply involved with the outcast and sinners.
Koenig forgets that there is also love in discipline and truth telling. Jesus loved and forgave the sinner. He also told them to go and sin no more.
4. Paul’s insistence that faith in Jesus, not adhererence to a set of legal requirements, is the constituting factor for membership in the covenant people.
Certainly we are saved by grace. We do not enter the community of Jesus, the Church, without the righteousness of Christ. He calls us, redeems us and places us in his Church. As Paul writes in Ephesians, “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as result of works, so that no one may boast.” (2:8-9)Yet, Paul goes on to write that we were made new in order to walk in the good works that God has laid out for us. “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.” (2:10)
And in 1 Corinthians, Paul after listing the sins of the unconverted, including homosexuality and coveting, writes, “Such were some of you, but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God.” (6:11) Note that the believers were such sinners but now they are washed, sanctified and justified.
Leon Morris, in the Tyndale Commentary, writes of verse 11;
The tremendous revolution brought about by the preaching of the gospel comes out in the quiet words, And that is what some of you were. It was no promising material [none of us are] that confronted the early preachers, but people whose standards were of the lowest. It had required the mighty power of the Spirit of God to turn people like that away from their sins, and to make them members of Christ’s church. Three times Paul uses the strong adversative alla, but, to stress the contrast between the old life that they had left and the new life in Christ.Justification by Christ brings us into the community of believers but we are transformed and begin growing away from our former life as we walk united to Jesus Christ.
5. The systematic extension of the gospel to those previously considered outsiders in Acts
One cannot be certain it was a ‘systematic’ extension, but it was an extension planned for before the foundation of the world. (Ephesians 1:4; 3) It was a part of God’s promise to Abraham. His seed would bless the nations. (Genesis 12:3)In Acts the first time the Jewish church welcomes the Gentiles they praised God with some rather unique words. “When they heard this [that God had received the Gentiles] they quieted and glorified God, saying, ‘Well then, God has granted to the Gentiles also the repentance that leads to salvation.” (Acts 11:18)
Calvin comments on Luke’s use of the word repentance, “The word repentance alone is expressed in this place, but when he addeth unto life, it appeareth plainly that it is not separated from faith. Therefore, whosoever will rightly profit in the gospel, let him put off the old man, and think upon newness of life, (Ephesians 4:22) that done, let him know for a certainty that he is not called in vain unto repentance, but that there is salvation prepared for him in Christ.” So the two, faith and repentance, are not separated; salvation by faith is as Dietrich Bonhoeffer puts it “costly.” The sinner sheds his skin, so to speak, and with the help of the Holy Spirit keeps shedding. Go and sin no more is always Jesus’ command to us.