This past week there was an explosion in the blogosphere and I missed it. Lisa Miller wrote a piece for Newsweek called “Our Mutual Joy” and the pundits and opponents of gay marriage waged an all out war in cyberspace. One of the best responses is by Al Mohler and you would benefit from reading it.

This morning I had an opportunity to reveiw Miller’s article. I am shocked that Newsweek  has chosen to cast its lot with such a poor piece of journalism, especially since this subject has such far-reaching cultural importance and implications. If what is at stake regarding the fight for homosexual marriage weren’t such a blatant, hostile assault on one of the most fundamental social instutitions on the planet, the case made for gay marriage in this article would be almost laughable.  The blatant disregard for and misrepresentation of biblical teaching is grossly irresponsible by Miller. There are many things to point out that are simply wrong with this article, but let me narrow it down to a handful.

  1. Miller claims that “while the Bible and Jesus say many important things about love and family, neither explicitely defines marriage between one man and one woman” is an outright lie. It simply isn’t true. Jesus said, “Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, ‘Therefor a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh’? They are no longer two but one flesh” (Matthew 19:4-6a). Jesus is quoting from Genesis 2:24-25. The use of “male” and “female” is singular, implying that the standard for biblical marriage is between one man and one women. Did biblical characters violate this God-ordained standard by taking one multiple marriage partners and engaging in sexual immorality? Yes. But the characters of Scripture are necessarily models for our imitation when their actions clearly violate a biblical prescription or principle. We can, however, learn from their mistakes, and learning does not neccessitate repeating those mistakes or embracing them as God’s accepted standard for right and wrong.
  2. Miller states that Jesus never said anything about homosexuality, and this is true. But what is implied by the author is that since Jesus never says anything about homosexulity, therefore he must have not found it an important or critical enough issue to tackle. But this is an argument from silence. We can’t say with certainty one way or the other what Jesus’ take on this issue was. However, Jesus was a Jew. It isn’t hard to speculate as to what Jesus’ stance would have been considering he came to fulfill the Law and the demands of the Law are made clear in the OT. Furthermore, Jesus would have had good reason not to mention the issue of homosexuality. His audience was primarily Jewish. Homosexual practice would have been readily condemned within the communities where Jesus preached his message. The reason we see the Apostle Paul dealing with the issue of homosexuality is that he ministered in primarily a Gentile context.
  3. “No sensible modern person wants marriage – theirs or anyone else’s – to look in its particulars anything like what the Bible describes.” Certainly, if what you mean here is that biblical marriage is defined by examples of polygamy, bigamy, pre-arranged marriages and sexual immorality and this is the expected norm. But the missteps of the characters and personalities in Scripture, while they often reveal God’s grace, mercy and transformative power as God responds to man’s perpetual rebellion against Him, clearly don’t  live up to the ideal prescribed for biblical marriage. This ideal is shown to us in Ephesians 5:22-33. Read it and I suspect that any man and woman will say, “Show me that kind of marriage, a marriage where the man gives himself away in love for the sake of his bride, and the bride esteems, loves, respects and submits to the man who is willing to die for her,” and most “sensible modern person(s)” will take that over the culture idea of marriage.
  4. Miller’s misinformed attack on the modern “traditional family” by comparing it to the concept of family in the Old Testament is misguided. The modern nuclear family is not intended to resemble the Old Testament concept of family which was framed around passing down the covenant promises of God and the Scriptures make not apologies for this.
  5. Miller blatantly misrepresents the message of the Apostle Paul in 1Corinthians 7. He was not anti-marriage nor a stauch proponent of singleness. Paul understood celibacy to be a gift from God, not the preferred status for all followers of Jesus, nor for all of humanity. He simply states within the context of 1Corinthians 7 that an earthly family divides one’s loyalties between the Kingdom and earthly obligations. Celibacy may have been the Christian ideal, but it is an ideal that comes from a particular gifting from God. It isn’t practical nor expected for a world populated with Image-bearers both Christian and non-Christian.
  6. Miller has chosen to either take a maliscious approach to the language of Scripture, is flat out ignorant, or has poor journalistic integrity in her articulation of what the Bible teaches about homosexuality. Miller states, “Sed between women has never, even in biblical times, raised much ire.” It raised enough ire that Paul wrote the “the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth…For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature…” (Romans 1:18, 26). I guess, in Miller’s mind, the wrath of God isn’t that big of a deal. I have to wonder what kind of cross-referencing that Miller did in study because it seems blatantly obvious that she only included the “facts” as she discovered them to support her predetermined conclusions about why Biblicists should accept and promote gay marriage. At least if you are going to quote someone like Neil Elliot as a scholar on the meaning of homosexuality in the Bible, you should at least reference an opposing opinion on the subject, someone like Rober Gagnon of Pittsburgh Theological Seminary, an expert on the issue of homosexuality and its meaning within the biblical language and context.
  7. This article assumes that postmodern Western culture is the enlightened culture over and above biblical culture and context. Miller assumes that the recent cultural standards are better than archaic biblical standards, using our disregard for the Levitical code as an argument to pick and choose what principles and commandments to adhere to in Scripture based on human reason and our current cultural climate and context. In effect, Miller sees the words of Scripture at face value as irrelevant. She disregards the fact that true scholarship takes the initiative to find out what something means in its context and extract the derived principles that apply universally regardless of immediate context. If Miller did her homework she would know that the Levitical code is rooted in concern about holiness and righteousness, issues which transcend the odd cultural practices that symbolized this concern in Leviticus. She would also know that these ceremonial issues of cleanliness have been fulfilled in the person and work of Jesus Christ.
  8. Finally, Miller makes a broad assumption about the gospel and inclusion, as if Jesus accepts all people without conditions. While it may be true that the invitation of the gospel is available to all, those who come must come in repentance because God is holy. The sacrifice of the Son of God is meant to satisfy the wrath of God stored up for sin. Jesus welcomes all gay and lesbians to come to the cross of Christ and find a Savior, but the conditions for coming are the same for homosexuals as they are for all of sinful humanity. We must come in repentance, forsaking all patterns of sin, for the Son of God suffered and died because of our sin. We can seek to justify and rationalize our lifestyles as normal or acceptable based on the standards of culture, but the reality is that God’s holiness transcends culture and human reason. God has made it clear that all men have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. His Word has made it clear that there are many transgressions for which His Son died – greed, malice, murder, envy, sexual immorality, dishonesty, covetousness, pride, homosexuality, adultery, divorce, lust, gossip, slander, hypocrisy – the list goes on and on. In the end, the issue is this: Who is our authority for true acceptance by God? Will our authority be human reason and human expectations of who or what God is like ? Or will it be God’s standards are revealed in His Word?

Lisa Miller completely misses the mark in this article. It isn’t just because I disagree with her that I feel this way. It is also because it is a poorly written article that irresponsibly misrepresents God as revealed in Scripture.