I was asked recently what I thought about Walter Wink's essay, "Homosexuality and the Bible" published by the Fellowship of Reconciliation, eleventh printing 2006, which can be read here. And, since I express myself better in writing, here is my unvarnished opinion:
Dear Mr. Wink,
I read your essay with great interest, especially considering you are a United Methodist Minister, a denomination I was part of for many years.
In your opening sentence you say, “Sexual issues are tearing our churches apart today as never before.” And yet, as a trained pastor and teacher you know that this issue has always been a problem, a sin, as written about in Holy Scripture. I believe you use this issue to praise your voice in calling for ‘tolerance’ which is actually a call to disregard the Law of God.
You write: “And the repugnance felt toward homosexuality was not just that it was deemed unnatural but also that it was considered alien behavior, representing yet one more incursion of pagan civilization into Jewish life.” It is alien behaviour because we are created in the image of God, which precedes paganism and any other presupposition encountered from earlier cultures and practices. It is alien because man and woman were created to be “one flesh”. This is what we, as Christians, know as the sacrament of God through holy matrimony. Because of your wont to interpret Holy Scripture as you will, within the norms of culture as you say, you either cannot or will not recognize and uphold that fact. You are leading your sheep astray.
You refer to homosexuality and left-handedness as if they are comparable attributes -apart from any moral standard- and yet, later, you write: “Where the Bible mentions homosexual behavior at all, it clearly condemns it. I freely grant that. The issue is precisely whether that Biblical judgment is correct. The Bible sanctioned slavery as well, and nowhere attacked it as unjust.” Which is it? Do you believe that homosexuality is a genetic trait or a sin to be overcome? What about those born with a predisposition toward alcoholism or gluttony? Do you preach moderation? abstention? Do you distinguish between a predisposition and enacting upon it? Maybe you should give thought to God’s saints who, through circumstance, various temptations and trials have persevered in their sanctification and produced the fruit of heaven. Those who follow not only the Gospel of Christ, but the Law of God and illuminate HUMILITY, MERCY and WISDOM.
Sacredness of Scripture
I found it engaging your personal knowledge of St. Paul. A man, a murderer, touched and transformed by God to be a shepherd of His flock. You write: “No doubt Paul was unaware of the distinction between sexual orientation over which one has apparently very little choice and sexual behavior, over which one does.” Let me concede your point for the sake of argument. Suppose Paul didn’t know what we think we moderns know today: that homosexuality is not a choice, but a genetic attribute. We also know today that children born of alcoholics are likely to be one themselves someday. We know that environment and genetics predispose children to obesity. How does this change your message to them regarding Christ? Does the message change according to the circumstance? How much more does one with a predisposition toward a specific sin need to hear the Truth?
I believe, however, that St. Paul was inspired of the Holy Spirit and the words recorded in the Bible are nonnegotiable. If one accepts your argument that St. Paul was in the dark and Scripture may be re-interpreted continually “..then for that person, to call the Scriptures “inspired of the Holy Spirit” is a concept without meaning. They would have no basis for viewing the Bible as a trustworthy guide for life or for salvation. So the real question is, “why would anyone accepting this view of Scripture want to claim the name of Christ?” -Mike Stickles, Orthodox Christian
You write about slavery and prostitution being “upheld by the Old Testament” as if the text encompassed the culture. You wrote that American slave owners used numerous Scriptural passages to justify slavery, admonishing the practice of self-justification through selecting which verses to uphold and yet, you practice the same. A foundation soon crumbles through continual shifting.
You said: “The crux of the matter, it seems to me, is simply that the Bible has no sexual ethic.” and also, “Approached from the point of view of love rather than that of law the issue is at once transformed. Now the question is not “What is permitted?” but rather “What does it mean to love my homosexual neighbor?”
This is the mantra of liberal thinkers in an evolving theology: where the law hurts and infringes upon my sensibilities, apply the gospel, rather than the law of Christ. It’s the paradigm that says, “I’m not going to change; God must meet me right where I am.” A neighbor who truly loves his homosexual neighbor will, with love, share with him the Law of God. The purpose of the Law is not to self-righteously judge and condemn, it is to reveal the difference between good and evil, to manifest sin. This is what should not be forgotten in your dynamic theology.
The Question of Authority
You quote Jesus Christ, “Why do you not judge for yourselves what is right?” St. Luke 12:57 and then, “Such sovereign freedom strikes terror in the hearts of many Christians; they would rather be under law and be told what is right.” I want to know what God said. I want to know how Christ would have me to live my life and am thankful for Holy Scripture as my roadmap. But, taken alone, without the correct lens with which to view Scripture, one is utterly lost in a sea of thousands of denominations all claiming that authority. Is it a stretch to say that you would disagree with your free-will church down the street where homosexuality is treated as a sin? And, aren’t they, too, using their God-given freedom to interpret Scripture within the current cultural mindset? “Is this not the radical freedom for obedience in which the gospel establishes us” Who grants your authority, Mr. Wink?
You wrote: “The truth is, we are not given unequivocal guidance in either area, abortion or homosexuality.” If I didn’t know better, I would say this quote came from the liberal Anglican community. The fact that it comes from a United Methodist minster indicates the reach of moral decay within the Prostestant world. Your theology as expressed through this essay is a great example of what happens when men make gods in their own image and seek justification through a butchered Bible. As you tickle the ears of many in your care, many others are coming home to the Orthodox Church whose theology does not change, where Tradition is upheld as the guardian of Holy Scripture and where sacredness has meaning. It is the church that extends the love of Christ to all her members, while not glossing over the Truth that may cause another to repent and draw nearer to God. I invite you to lay aside your false teaching and open the door to the ancient faith.
Peace be to you.