When does truth change? Or does it? Perhaps what changes is how society perceives something according to an ever-changing set of cultural and contextual mores. In their book Unchanging Witness: The Consistent Christian Teaching on Homosexuality in Scripture and Tradition ( B&H Academic, 2016) S. Donald Fortson III and Rollin G. Grams offer the idea that society’s view towards homosexuality may have changed to include legalization of same sex marriages, and the right of transgender people to use the restroom of the gender they identify with, but for the Christian, there is still the very real presence of God's Word which is unequivocal about the topic. Their premise is that the meaning of God's Word has not changed in the tens of centuries since it was written, and when it is compared with the traditions of peoples throughout history, things have not really changed until the last few decades. But what has really changed. Not God's word, not the facts of how homosexuality has been seen across the centuries, just how today's culture sees it.
So we are forced to look at the fact that postmodernity and even modernnity have created a new paradigm. A culture that sees truth as a moving target. Your truth may not resemble mine, but if it's valid for you, it's equally as valid and as true as what I might believe. The problem with that is God never authorized mankind to put their own slant on His Word.
So this book, Unchanging Witness, looks at homosexuality from a variety of standpoints, and in doing so the authors find no reason to suppose that for the various millennia of Judeo-Christian tradition that rabbis, priests, pastors, scholars, and theologians have been misinterpreting God's Word as far as the comments, the prohibitions and the teachings concerning Homosexual activity. I want to be very clear at this point. The authors are very sensitive to the many different approaches to the LGBTQ movement, even within Christian churches who have identified as open and affirming, who focus on the commands to love one another to the exclusion of the various categories of sinful behavior that are found throughout Scripture, and express their opinions in a very respectful way.
The book is divided into two parts: Part I includes discussions of the "Gay Christian Movement", Historic Christianity and Homosexual Practice (from the times of the Church Fathers, the Middle Ages, and during the Renaissance and Reformation. The authors move next to the "Modern Church and the Homosexual Crisis". This section includes discussion of approaches of Roman and Orthodox Catholics, Evangelicals and Mainline Denominations"
Part II is a discussion of the Bible and homosexuality, and the authors address texts from both the Old and New Testaments. In this section they also include information from extra-biblical literature about the prevailing views of homosexual practices in the surrounding societies at large.
This is a very touchy subject in many churches, and many pastors have strong feelings one way or another about how to deal with issues relating to the LGBTQ population within the church and within the larger community as a whole. There is also an excursus concerning women and slavery, pointing out some major differences in the issues, and how it is not necessarily fair to say that just as the church's positions on women and slavery have changed, so is it time to change the prevailing thought on homosexuality.
This is not necessarily an easy book to read, but it is certainly one that will make you think, and hopefully solidify your position on the topic. God's Word has not changed over the millennia, and the reader is forced to ask himself if the Word has suddenly changed now, and if so what else in Scripture that has been part of our theology across the years might also be subject to re-examination.
Obviously the authors have their opinion on the subject, and that is that from the beginning there are scriptural prohibitions against homosexual behavior and activity. Usually laws are enacted because a certain type of behavior is causing a problem, in this case, God had ordered the people to go forth and multiply and that wasn't going to happen within same sex partnerships. So even though homosexual practices have been around for a very long time, and they manifest themselves in a variety of ways, it goes against God's created order.
There is no hate, no animosity expressed here, just a careful examination of what God's unchanging and eternal Word says about a subject that is one that must be addressed by local churches and members of their various congregations. This seems to be a call to remember that while Jesus loved sinners of every class and type, he did not encourage them to continue with their sinful behavior. As he told the woman caught in adultery (see John 8:1-11) "has no one condemned you? Then neither do I condemn you, go now and leave your life of sin."
Do you love someone enough to share the unchanging truth of God's Word as well as the good news?
I received a copy of this book in exchange for a review. I was not required to post a positive review.