A Response to Michael Brown (Part 5)

Very recently, Pentecostal bible scholar Michael Brown published some “honest questions” for GLBT Christians in an article on Christian Post. His full remarks are here: Some Honest Questions for Professing ‘Gay Christians’. As most of my readers may be aware, my PhD work is in dialogue between Queer and Pentecostal theologians. This is the first post of a multi-part response to Dr Brown’s work. I will reproduce the online text in manageable chunks so that the posts are not too long.

I have responded to the bold sections of the text printed below.

Part Five

1) Are you 100% sure that your interpretation of Scripture regarding homosexuality is correct?

I’m sure that many of you went through terrible struggles trying to reconcile your sexual and romantic attractions with the Scriptures, and it must have been an incredible relief to you when you heard of a different reading of the Word, one that told you that you could pursue a God-blessed relationship with someone of the same sex.[1]

 But are you 100% sure before God that your interpretation is correct?[2] Are you willing to risk your soul in giving yourself to something that may truly be displeasing in his sight?

I once heard a gay pastor give a talk about these issues at a local gay and lesbian center, and to my surprise, he was not dogmatic in his presentation, saying that he thought his interpretation was correct, but he was anything but sure and definite. I asked myself: Then how can he doing what he’s doing?

Of course, it’s good for us to be humble when approaching God and his Word, and none of us can claim to be right about every single doctrinal issue. But there are some hills that we must be sure enough to die on, and before you enter into a sexual relationship with someone, you had better be 100% sure that the union is holy in his sight and that marriage is a real marriage.

Again I ask: Are you 100% sure that God blesses committed, monogamous same-sex relationships? If you say that you are, I can only pray for you. If you admit that you are not, then please, step back and reconsider.

[1] That’s true! It was a relief.

The difficulty for me, though, was that many of these readings, in my opinion, did not do justice (dykia) to the texts. For example, as a young Evangelical it seemed clear to me that Paul did not know about sexual orientation–some scholars, usually Evangelicals, believe he did–but trying to sidestep Romans 1 by invoking the modern understanding did not seem to me to dull the force of his argument. Only when I found what to my mind was an exegetically rigourous argument based on Paul’s historical context (that Paul is condemning sex-practices within Roman Goddess cults, per Jeramy Townsley), did I fully allow myself to identify as gay or begin to seek faithful relationships.

The ‘deprogramming’ from the ‘traditional’ interpretation was very difficult, because it wasn’t just a different reading of the Word written; I had to allow that homosexuality was not a demonic infestation or wound, but a gift of God—something which the Pentecostals around me discouraged with every fibre of their collective being. It is exceedingly difficult to be driven to the wilderness or Exile by a change in praxis! As I say to friends: The journey between the head (which was persuaded) and the heart (which need to unlearn fear) was quite long. Full relief was not immediate, and took many experiences of the Spirit; in fact, it finally required a deliverance (something I was not expecting)!

[2] For myself, I am sure that my reading of Scripture has borne good fruit in my life. Academically and personally, I am persuaded that it also offers something life giving and Christ-centred to others who ask.

This is not the same thing as being 100 percent sure, and I would not say I am. You might ask me what it would take to convince me that I am wrong, and it would take a lot (as it took a lot to convince me of my current position). To put it in a way that Reformed Christians might recognize—in my own self, without Christ, I am incapable of anything that assists my salvation.

If this is true, the solution is not constantly navel gazing (even with a Bible in my hand!), but relaxing into God’s grace, which goes further down than even my deepest sin. If I belong to Jesus, and his Spirit bears witness with mine that I am a child of God, what does 100% certainty about this issue (important though it is) have to do with anything?

My readers are always welcome to include themselves in this conversation, as graciously as they know how!

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