The issue of gays in the church seems to have two major components to it. One component is the very practical side of how we deal with homosexuals and their participation in the church. The second component is how we deal with scripture and how we allow it to inform the way we view the world and live our lives. For Christians, it’s all to easy to forget the very personal, practical aspect of this issue while arguing over various interpretations of scripture and so on. So while wrestling with how scripture informs our thinking on this or any matter, it would be wise to always acknowledge the very personal ramifications for our fellow human beings.
At the heart of this issue is the always mysterious relationship between the culture we find ourselves in and the scripture we look to for guidance. One of the issues that this is easily seen from our culture today is the issue of women’s role in church. If we are to take Paul at his word, women must be kept from any kind of prominent leadership role in the Church. Despite Paul’s clear instruction, whole denominations are taking a different view in light of the culture we find ourselves in today. Women are being allowed to be clergy members, elders, and pastors over entire congregations. Whether or not this is appropriate is beside the point. The point I’d like to make is that those who are coming to this conclusion aren’t doing so solely based on their interpretation of scripture. Churches or denominations didn’t begin scouring the scriptures to find some objective theological basis for women leadership. Rather it was a response to the culture and the culture’s evolving view of women that prompted a search for a theological basis to justify women in leadership.
It is precisely because the women in our lives, the women who we experience on a day to day basis that we have side stepped Paul’s instruction to keep them from leading men. It has nothing to do with paper-thin, soggy hermeneutics like William Webb’s “Slaves, Women, and Homosexuals.” It is so simply because what Paul taught does not ring true today. The flaw with William Webb is his assumption that some instructions are “trans-cultural.” But the reality is that no idea, philosophy, or instruction transcends cultural influence.
I think only when we do away with this assumption can we begin to have an authentic debate on the issue of women and homosexuals. Once we come to the conclusion that Paul’s instructions do not all possess timeless truths, we can then open the can of worms.