“Simplify as far as possible,” Albert Einstein is supposed to have said, “but no farther.” In the vexed and vexing issues surrounding sex and gender politics in the church and in society at large, we should heed his advice.
Not everyone does—even Christian scholars skilled in reaching large audiences. N. T. Wright, soon to retire from St Andrews University in Scotland for a prestigious perch at Wycliffe Hall, Oxford, is a paragon of both New Testament scholarship and orthodox apologetics. But even he sometimes cuts corners too sharply.
In a recent interview with The Atlantic’s Emma Green, Wright doesn’t satisify her as he considers those advocating the full acceptance of same-sex couples into the Church.
“For 2,000 years, Christian, Jews, and Muslims—Muslims for less than 2,000 years, but you know what I mean—have just said, That’s not what we think a human life is all about. Suddenly, we have a cultural imperative [to embrace LGBT identity] coming in the last 30 years or so.”
Meanwhile, David Gushee, recently president of both the American Academy of Religion and the Society for Christian Ethics and a distinguished professor at Mercer University in the USA, writes for Religion News Service a column equally breezy in its dismissal of Christian colleges and seminaries that hold the traditional Christian line regarding same-sex relations. These schools, Gushee insists, need to get with it. The culture is leaving them behind, including the culture of many of their own students:
“Eventually we come to realize there is more right in change than in implacable attachment to the status quo. Universities are kidding themselves if they think they can lead Christian kids by trying to pull them back.”
What the interested reader might expect from these two accomplished scholars is what is conspicuously lacking: an actual theological argument. Wright basically appeals to tradition while Gushee appeals to current trends. They thus nicely correspond to caricatures of the conservative and the liberal respectively.
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