Homosexuality, Marriage, and Matthew 19

Vigil Held For Marriage Equality Rights On Day Supreme Court Hears Prop 8“Jesus never said anything about homosexuality.”

Home many of you have heard that statement, dear readers? I’m willing to bet more than just a few. Reality, however, is completely different. Jesus had quite a bit to say about marriage, especially since he lived in a culture where Jewish men had been given the right to divorce their wives for almost any reason at all. Matthew 19:3 records that, “Some Pharisees came to Jesus asking, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any reason at all?”

What I want to do today is examine the answer Jesus gives them.

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The Bigoted Supporters of Marriage Equality

So-called Marriage "Equality" RallyBecause I have issues with consistency, I have a problem with the way the term “equality” is getting tossed about right now in the debate over so-called homosexual marriage.

Ultimately, my problem is that the folks banging the marriage equality drum don’t actually believe in marriage equality. Justice Sotomayor asked Ted Olson an intriguing question––namely, if marriage is a fundamental human right, then what state restrictions can exist, specifically regarding polygamy and incest between adults.

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The Intrinsic Problem With Public Schools

J. Gresham MachenJ. Gresham Machen is perhaps best remembered for his stringent opposition to the rising tide of liberal theology in the 1920s. In his academic works, such as The Origin of Paul’s Religion and The Virgin Birth of Christ, as well as in his more popular writing, such as Christianity and Liberalism, Machen took a flame-thrower to the so-called liberality of the liberals of his era, and ours as well.

Less well remembered is Machen’s opposition to the creation of a federal Department of Education––roughly fifty years before such a federal department was established. Machen wasn’t known for pulling his punches, and he certainly didn’t on this subject:

A public-school system, if it means the providing of free education for those who desire it, is a noteworthy and beneficent achievement of modern times; but when once it becomes monopolistic it is the most perfect instrument of tyranny which has yet been devised…Place the lives of children in their formative years, despite the convictions of their parents, under the intimate control of experts appointed by the state, force them then to attend schools where the higher aspirations of humanity are crushed out, and where the mind is filled with the materialism of the day, and it is difficult to see how even the remnants of liberty can subsist. Such a tyranny, supported as it is by a perverse technique used as the instrument in destroying human souls, is certainly far more dangerous than the crude tyrannies of the past, which despite their weapons of fire and sword permitted thought at least to be free.

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Tuesday Tunes: “Hey Jude” (Wilson Picket, featuring Duane Allman)

1968 was a wild year. Three college students were killed at a civil rights rally at a whites-only bowling alley in Orangeburg, SC. Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated at the Lorraine Hotel in Memphis, Tennessee, leading to riots across the United States. Bobby Kennedy is killed after a speech at the Ambassador Hotel by Sirhan B. Sirhan. In the City of Chicago, at the Democratic National Convention, police clash with protestors while the whole world watches.

And at FAME Studios in Muscle Shoals, Alabama, black and white musicians are working side by side on Wilson Pickett’s forthcoming album, when a session musician (not yet famous in his own right) named Duane Allman convinces Pickett to cover “Hey Jude” by The Beatles. If the boys from Liverpool had some soul, this is what it would have sounded like…

So You’re a Ministerial Candidate. Now What?

free church scotland congregation lewisIn a lot of ways, I’m somewhat unique where seminarians are concerned. I came to seminary with my theology almost fully formed, with the majority of my main theological struggles behind me; I also came as one who had been through the call process multiple times, although not as a Presbyterian. To be fair, this makes me something of a nightmare for a portion of my professors, since I have a very different perspective on what will truly be helpful to seminary students. While I appreciate all of the tips on preaching, I’m the only instructor of homiletics I know of that teaches students how to surreptitiously check to make sure their fly is zipped before entering the pulpit.

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Bound to Get Riled Up: Southern Presbyterians and Slavery

Zion Presbyterian Church, Charleston South Carolina

The now destroyed Zion Presbyterian Church in Charleston, South Carolina. This was the first Presbyterian Church ever ruled by black elders.

I want to begin this post by saying that much of what I’m going to have to say is going to be misunderstood at best. At worst, I’m going to be tarred with the broad brush accusation of being a closet racist.

That disclaimer aside, I have found few theologians as consistently useful, confessionally rigorous, and Biblically faithful as the old Southern Presbyterians. Of course, in our own day, the few Southern Presbyterian theologians that are widely remembered are recalled primarily for their support of slavery. It is this issue that has so overshadowed their memory that when they are mentioned, it is as cautionary tales.

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The Privileges of Paul’s Kinsmen, Part 2 (Romans 9:4-5)

Having given something of an overview of the privileges of Paul’s kinsmen in Romans 9:4-5, I’d like to look at these privileges again, but more narrowly.

In the first privilege that Paul mentions (οἵτινές εἰσιν Ἰσραηλῖται, “Who are Israelites…”) it is of utmost importance to see that the antecedent of οἵτινές (who) is Paul’s kinsmen according to the flesh who are anathema, separated from Christ (9:3) and that this group of unbelievers are even now called Israelites (εἰσιν = present active indicative 3rd person plural). The tense of the verb in 9:4a as well as the relationship between 9:1-5 and 9:6a resists every effort to relegate the prerogatives of Israel to the past. Furthermore, Paul’s bold assertion that the glorious privileges of Israel belong to unbelieving Israel (which is the antecedent of οἵτινές) resist the effort of some commentators to argue from 9:6b (“not all of those from Israel are Israel”) that the promises refer to eschatological Israel (the Church, without any regard for ethnic origins) rather than historical Israel. Whether the second “Israel” in 9:6b is the Church or the believing portion of historical Israel, the point there is this: the privileges given to Israel can never be construed to guarantee the salvation of any individual Jew or synagogue of Jews, and therefore the unbelief of Paul’s kinsmen cannot immediately be constructed to mean that God’s word of promise has fallen.

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