Slaves, Women and Homosexuals

Over the past few decades, some Christians began comparing the legitimization of homosexuality and the legalization of same sex marriage with earlier struggles in our society over slavery or the status and role of women in the church and society. One of the more recent examples of this argument can be found in an article published in the Washington Post by Adam Hamilton, the well known and influential senior pastor of the United Methodist Church of the Resurrection.

The underlying assumption is that just as people used the Bible to resist the abolition of slavery in the 19thcentury or the advent of women’s rights in the 20th century, so we are on the “the wrong side of history” if we do not, likewise, realize the same thing is happening with respect to the way the Bible is being interpreted as relates to homosexuality. After all, the argument goes, opposition to homosexuality and same sex marriage is passing away, and before too many more years we will all be shocked – and even embarrassed – that we opposed it. Whatever biblical affirmations one may find concerning slavery or prohibitions concerning women or homosexual behavior are therefore (it is argued) culturally bound and should be set aside for a more enlightened and inclusive view. However, I am not convinced these three categories are as comparable as the argument implies. Certainly, we would all agree this is one argument we cannot afford to get wrong, and therefore deserves greater scrutiny.

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The Voice of Anselm Rises again

Anselm was a well known 11th century Benedictine monk who has mostly been forgotten by the contemporary church.  He was the Archbishop of Canterbury and was known for his courage.  His ministry was marked by many conflicts with the power brokers of his day as he insisted on the truth of the gospel.  He was also known for his great theological mind.

I would like to focus on Anselm’s argument for the existence of God.  Today the church is standing against a headwind of atheism.  This wind of atheism cannot last long because it has no foundation and offers no positive vision.  Nevertheless, the gusts of atheism do kick up from time to time and, tragically, slay thousands in their path.

Anselm’s ontological argument is powerful by virtue of its simplicity.  If God exists, Anselm reasoned, then He is the source of our life and capacity to think.  Therefore, it would be impossible for us to think of a God greater than the one who actually does, in fact, exist.  Therefore God is “that than which nothing greater can be conceived.”   Anselm’s argument came back to me this week when I was reminded of an outspoken atheist named Bobby Henderson who a few years ago introduced what he called the “Flying Spaghetti Monster” religion as a parody against all religions.

Henderson’s basic point was that because it is impossible to prove that God exists, then, equally, no one could disprove his counter claim that the world was actually created by the great Flying Spaghetti Monster.  This, inevitably led Bobby Henderson to found the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster and a religion known as, you guessed it, pastafarianism.  However, the Flying Spaghetti Monster has exercised no redemptive acts, and by Henderson’s own account, exists only inside his head.

It wouldn’t take even an elementary school child five minutes to “think” of a dozen ways that the God of their deepest longings and hopes is greater than the Flying Spaghetti Monster.  So, if Bobby Henderson wants to “invent” a God, he at least should stretch the limits of his own imagination.  For indeed, the God of Biblical revelation is truly beyond even our greatest conception of him.  This God is not only attested through Scripture, but through countless ages in the lives of those who have been transformed as well as those who have been eyewitnesses of his majesty.  This is, after all, transfiguration Sunday.

Thanks, Anselm, you have reminded all the jaded 21st century cynics that even the mind of Bobby Henderson testifies against his own argument.