Pastor Brian McLaren responds to the responses to his response to “the homosexual question” that he wrote about last week. This newest essay extends to three times as long as his original piece, but it can be summed up as follows: McLaren still doesn’t have a position on whether homosexuality is a sin, and most of those who responded to his original piece are not very nice. We shouldn’t discuss the homosexual question until conservatives learn how to be nice to people they disagree with.
You can go read the entire McLaren essay on Christianity Today’s leadership blog at the following link: “Brian McLaren on the Homosexual Question 4: McLaren’s Response.” There is plenty to comment on in this new piece, and I will offer some critical observations here.
Many readers seem to assume that by quoting verses from Leviticus, Romans, and 1 Corinthians, they have solved the problem.
I think the issue here is that we are not agreed as to what the “problem” is. McLaren seems to think that the main “problem” is that conservatives aren’t “pastoral” in the way that they respond to homosexuals. But his definition of “pastoral” seems to be something along the lines of being in touch with other people’s woundedness—a definition far short of the biblical ideal (Acts 20:28-31).
But for many of us, we define the main “problem” far differently than does McLaren. Yes, we could all be nicer, but it doesn’t help anyone if Christians are nice without also being truthful. We don’t have a Gospel for homosexuals to believe in if we cannot call them simultaneously to repentance from their sin. This goes not just for how we address homosexuals, but for how we address any sinner. And if we cannot say to them that God desires to save them from their sin (including homosexuality) then the Gospel becomes a truncated perversion of the message that the Bible calls us to preach. If at least part of the “problem” includes whether or not to call homosexuality sin, then yes “quoting from Leviticus, Romans, and 1 Corinthians” does provide a solution.
McLaren also writes:
We have become aware of as-yet unanswered scholarly questions, such as questions about the precise meaning of malakoi and arsenokoitai in Paul’s writings, and we wonder why these words were used in place of paiderasste, the meaning of which would be much clearer if Paul’s intent were to address behavior more like what we would call homosexuality.
Here we need to make a technical note. The words malakoi and arsenokoitai appear in 1 Corinthians 6:9, and scholars do dispute their meaning. But paiderastês actually denotes a more specific activity—the practice of older men having homosexual relations with young boys. Contrary to McLaren’s claim, therefore, pederasty is not “the behavior more like what we would call homosexuality.” Most of us use the term homosexuality to refer to all same-sex sexual activity and orientation. This sentence doesn’t adequately reflect what is going on in scholarly discussions, and it betrays more misunderstanding on his part than it does careful attention to a subtle debate.
McLaren also makes this unbelievable statement:
These questions are all the more challenging for some of us when we realize that the Leviticus texts themselves, if taken literally, call for the death penalty. Nobody (I don’t think?) takes that literally, nor do we take many of the other 611 Mosaic proscriptions literally. Why take these selected verses literally, and only partially so?
Here, McLaren employs an old liberal saw that in one fell swoop relativizes the entire Old Testament law! Now I know there are huge hermeneutical debates about how the OT law relates to us as NT believers, but this statement from McLaren makes it look as if he thinks Evangelicals have no answers to these kinds of questions. All this remark really does is give ammunition to those who would like to treat the Bible as an irrelevant book.
McLaren also claims that some of the responders have said things about him that aren’t true: “we only wish they could extend the same grace and not assume or assert things about us that aren’t true.” One thing about McLaren that is true is that he continues to stay mum on the morality of homosexuality. Contrary to his claim at the end of the article that he still hasn’t taken a position, McLaren needs to know that not taking a position is a position.
For this reason, his non-stance on homosexuality more resembles that of one who is “always learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth” (2 Timothy 3:7) than it does a pastor who would faithfully lead his flock.
Here are the Relevant Articles on CT’s Leadership Blog: