Gay hermeneutics have been with us for a while now. Until recently, the writings of gay apologists were cloistered in their intellectual commune, inaccessible to all but those who had a vested interest in what they had to say.
But that has now changed, thanks to the new popularization of these ideas in the more approachable writings of men like James Brownson and Matthew Vines. As a result, the gay hermeneutic has tainted many in the evangelical church and resulted in a widespread acceptance of the gay-affirming reading of scripture.
Now if the Bible can be misread to support—or at least not condemn—homosexual practice, then what can’t we make the Bible say? If we approach the word of God using the methods of Brownson and Vines, there is no teaching that can’t be explained away or reinterpreted to justify any behavior. It’s all fair game. We no longer approach the scriptures to find out what God is saying to us, but we manipulate them so we can feel good about ourselves. And we drown in the slough of exegetical subjectivity.
Let me illustrate to drive this home.
Let’s take for example the biblical prohibition of incestuous relationships—you know, close family members having consensual sex with each other. Applying the gay hermeneutic to this behavior, it might go something like this:
Traditional Christian: Don’t you know that Leviticus 18 condemns incest?
Incest-affirming Christian: Yes, Leviticus 18 condemns this behavior, but Leviticus also condemns eating bacon and shrimp. These are all part of the Old Testament Holiness Code that no longer applies to Christians. And remember, Jesus never condemned incest. So he must have been OK with it.
Traditional Christian: But the Apostle Paul condemns incest in 1 Corinthians chapter 5. He said the man who was sleeping with his father’s wife was to be put out of the church!
Incest-affirming Christian: Well, this is true. But Paul was referring to incest as he knew it, as a kind of uncontrolled sexual excess. He knew nothing of the loving, committed mother and son relationships that we know about today. In fact, Paul’s world wouldn’t have understood this, and we know this because Paul said those kinds of sexual relationships weren’t known even among the pagans! The ancient world just didn’t have a category for real love between a mother and a son.
Traditional Christian: What about Lot’s daughters? They got their father drunk so he’d have sex with them to get them pregnant. That’s not wrong?
Incest-affirming Christian: What was wrong wasn’t so much the sex, but that it was coerced by his daughters. This has nothing to do with consensual sex between a father and a daughter. It also points to the main sin of Sodom where Lot and his daughters used to live. That was the sin of inhospitality for which God destroyed it. Lot and his daughters learned that behavior and lived a reclusive life away from people to avoid interacting with them. As a result, there were no men around for his daughters to marry. This whole affair was the result of that mentality they brought with them when they fled from Sodom.
Traditional Christian: The whole idea of a father and a daughter or a mother and a son having sex with each other is shameful and repulsive. Everybody knows it’s wrong.
Incest-affirming Christian: I understand the gag reflex that comes with the idea of incest, but how many people in loving incestuous relationships do you know? If you knew some that I know, you might change your mind. Their homes may not be traditional, but their love for each other is real and true. And God is always on the side of love! What’s wrong with two consenting adults who love each other wanting to get married and spend their lives together? That’s a good thing, isn’t it? Besides, what they do with their lives is nobody’s business if they’re not hurting anyone.
Traditional Christian: How many people do you think really have this kind of sexual attraction? Why should the whole concept of marriage we’ve had for thousands of years be changed to accommodate a small minority?
Incest-affirming Christian: This may indeed be a sexual orientation that is experienced by a small minority, but it’s real for them and demands Christian love and understanding. The way we‘ve treated them in the church has caused deep emotional harm and maybe even driven some to suicide. I don’t expect my arguments will persuade many people, but that’s only because we don’t know many older daughters who want to marry their fathers or older sons who want to marry their mothers. If in time more fathers and daughters and mothers and sons “come out”, that will probably change.
Well, that’s enough to make my point that this kind of hermeneutical approach to the Bible makes a mockery of the word of God. It is not approaching scripture to find out what it demands of us. It’s rather approaching the Bible to do what we can to make it say what we want it to say. So what’s at stake today is not so much marriage or the family or sexuality, but the authority of scripture for all of life and doctrine. And that’s where the true church of Jesus Christ needs to take the battle.