Monday, August 3, 2009

Too Much Information

As I mentioned last Thursday, I can't imagine the pressure of writing/speaking to regular media. The concern that items could be edited or distorted beyond your oversight is difficult enough, let alone that the size of the audience increases scrutiny.

That said, I do think there is a lesson we can learn from a recent NT Wright article in the London Times. While several of Wright's positions concern me at times (General Anglicanism and the New Perspective on Paul, to name two), he is also perplexing because he can do some strong scholarly work on orthodox issues as well. This article is right along with the enigma that is NT, for he supports a Biblical position, yet I found one method of his support to be slightly concerning. In an article that was calling out recent Episcopalian decisions to ordain homosexuals, Wright states:

Paganism ancient and modern has always found this ethic, and this belief, ridiculous and incredible. But the biblical witness is scarcely confined, as the shrill leader in yesterday’s Times suggests, to a few verses in St Paul. Jesus’s own stern denunciation of sexual immorality would certainly have carried, to his hearers, a clear implied rejection of all sexual behaviour outside heterosexual monogamy. This isn’t a matter of “private response to Scripture” but of the uniform teaching of the whole Bible, of Jesus himself, and of the entire Christian tradition.
I appreciate Wright's willingness to refer to homosexuality as sin and as denounced in Scripture, including the words of Jesus. I also appreciate his affirmation that the pagan is going to find this perspective foolish. However, another paragraph had a comment that concerned me:
That wider tradition always was counter-cultural as well as counter-intuitive. Our supposedly selfish genes crave a variety of sexual possibilities. But Jewish, Christian and Muslim teachers have always insisted that lifelong man-plus-woman marriage is the proper context for sexual intercourse. This is not (as is frequently suggested) an arbitrary rule, dualistic in overtone and killjoy in intention. It is a deep structural reflection of the belief in a creator God who has entered into covenant both with his creation and with his people (who carry forward his purposes for that creation).
My Concern: Why make the appeal to Jewish and Muslim thought? Notice that Wright does not claim that Christianity, Islam and Judaism are the same thing, but this statement could easily be misunderstood to suggest it. (While each system believes in a Creator God, the Jews say their creator god is not the Father of Jesus, and the Muslim says their creator god chose Ismael over Isaac. We're really talking about three different gods, or a schizophrenic god, certainly not the God of Scripture.) If our appeal is to Scripture as our guide, this statement could be misunderstood to imply each tradition gives equal authority and respect to the Word of God. In reality, Islam and a Judaism that rejects Jesus as the Christ are both components of the very paganism that Wright addresses in first quote.

Again, I am not claiming that Wright is a pluralist (though his New Perspective greatly diminishes the Roman distortion of the gospel). I just think the article would have been stronger and more biblical if it had not included the second quote. Perhaps Wright's intentions was to respond to anticipated claims of narrow-mindedness and bigotry, and he was merely pointing out that we are not the only faith that sees homosexuality as sin. Perhaps he typed all that and yet an editor left that portion on the newsroom floor. But left as it is, I think it sends a confused message.

My intention is not to throw stones at NT Wright, but to point out that I can have a similar temptation. We must makes sure we appeal to the Bible as the standard not a standard. Quite frankly, it doesn't matter what the Jew or Muslim thinks of homosexuality, the Bible says it is wrong. So often I think we look to support ourselves by saying the celebrity/scientist/philosophy/other religion also believes what we proclaim. But often, these claims serve as too much information and distract the person from seeing that Scripture alone has the authority to bind the will and conscience of man.

For more important than sharing a perspective on homosexuality, we know we disagree when it comes to the gospel. Therefore, we should be cautious about appearing as bed-fellows since we disagree on the most crucial issue of life. Ultimately, all issues find their root in how we view Jesus, and if we can't agree on Jesus, then we probably don't ultimately agree on the issue either.

Praying that in God's grace He would allow me to engage others about issues while shifting their focus from the issue to our Savior. For He is ultimately who they need to know.