THE USE OF SCRIPTURE IN NORMATIVE CHRISTIAN ETHICS: THE LIMIT CASE OF HOMOSEXUALITY AS VIEWED IN THE CONTEMPORARY DEBATE (1955-1984)
A revisionist interpretation of the biblical understanding of homosexuality began with the publication of D. S. Bailey's Homosexuality and the Western Christian Tradition in 1955. The exegetical and theological conclusions of Bailey and other revisionists often conflict with the historical Christian teaching that homosexual behavior is morally prohibited. Theological discussion among revisionists concerning the prohibition of homosexuality in the Bible transpires in large part on three successive levels: the exegetical, historical, and systematic. Each category will be treated as a level of the whole problematic starting from the most fundamental, the exegetical level, up to the most speculative, the systematic level. From the analysis of each category an inclusive question will be distilled by way of synthesis. Those questions which cannot be solved by a purely exegetical and purely historical method will be critically evaluated from a point of view which is confessional and based on an adequate understanding of the love commandment, the order of creation, and the marriage covenant in Scripture. On the first level, an exegesis of the biblical texts in question is undertaken to determine the existence of the alleged prohibition of homosexual behavior. Questions have been raised regarding the adequacy of such exegesis. On the second level, where it is agreed that a genuine proscription of homosexual behavior exists in the text, an historical methodology is utilized to determine the applicability of the prohibition beyond the particular historical and cultural context. Incongruities often develop between the assumptions of the critical theologian and the clear intent of the author. Finally, on the third level, where it is acknowledged that a normative and trans-cultural prohibition of homosexuality is intended by the text, various abstract values are employed in an attempt to provide an objective evaluation of homosexual behavior. This creates a dichotomy between the apparently conflicting scriptural condemnation of homosexual behavior and over-arching ethical values which would permit such actions. In each of the three levels of discussion, the revisionist arguments provide an inadequate account of the biblical witness regarding homosexuality. An exegetical analysis of the biblical texts reveals that those texts intend to condemn homosexual behavior. An examination of the continued relevancy of the moral law for Christians demonstrates that the biblical condemnation of homosexual behavior constitutes a trans-cultural moral prohibition. Finally, it becomes clear that the revisionist abstract values are inherently subjective. This renders them inappropriate is establishing an objective ethic which is the traditional Christian and biblical ethic.
TIMOTHY JOHN DAILEY,
"THE USE OF SCRIPTURE IN NORMATIVE CHRISTIAN ETHICS: THE LIMIT CASE OF HOMOSEXUALITY AS VIEWED IN THE CONTEMPORARY DEBATE (1955-1984)"
(January 1, 1985).
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