February 25, 2013

Responses to Adam Hamilton on Marriage, Slavery, and Bible

Maxie Dunnam

Kansas United Methodist mega church pastor Adam Hamilton’s essay in “The Washington Post” comparing church disapproval of homosexual practice to early 19th century support for slavery has provoked several published responses. Check out columns by Asbury Seminary President Tim Tennent and Good News leaders Rob Renfroe and Tom Lambrecht. There’s also my own piece in “Patheos,” introduced by Tim Dalrymple.

Here are recent comments from former Asbury Seminary President Maxie Dunnam, a revered evangelical leader within United Methodism:


As much as I appreciate Adam, I think he has fallen into the too-easy position of talking about people having used Scripture to support slavery and people now using Scripture to make the case against the practice of homosexuality and same sex marriage. Though not explicitly talking about marriage, he says he observes the love and relationship of same sex couples he knows very much like his and his wife’s love and relationship. None of the Scripture that speaks of the sin of homosexuality is related to the sexual intimacy and commitment of marriage.

To put people who support the position of Scripture on the issue of homosexuality in the same “bag” with those who used Scripture to support slavery is more than a far stretch, it is unreasonably. When we appeal to Scripture in determining our faith and our lifestyles, we have to do more than use isolated texts, or even isolated “bundles of texts.” We have to allow scripture to interpret scripture, and I believe that is often best done by thinking of the “trajectory” of the larger narrative.

It is clear as you read the whole of Scripture that the witness does not support human slavery…the “trajectory” is clearly opposed to one person being a slave to another, the affirmation is that every person is a unique, unrepeatable miracle of God, all precious to God and of utmost value…none more valuable than another.

The “trajectory” is clear in relation to human sexuality. It is in the order of creation…”God made them male and female”, made them complementary in so many ways, including sexual intercourse, with the sexual relation between male and female essential for the ongoing life of human kind . God created us in such a way that man and woman could become “one flesh.” This is a powerful witness within itself and should provide a clear picture of God’s intention for human sexuality.

Some folks say that Jesus did not address the issue of homosexuality. He did it clearly in his definition of marriage. He referred back to the order of creation. God “who made them male and female, and said, ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.”(Matt. 19:4-5). If this is not enough, the “trajectory” is clear and confirmed throughout Scripture. God’s plan is for human sexuality and the procreation of the race is the marriage of male and female sharing in the intimacy of the sexual relationship in the context of marriage.

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9 Responses to Responses to Adam Hamilton on Marriage, Slavery, and Bible

  1. The decision to re-define “love” to allow or even encourage homosexual practices is required by those who need to sacrifice orthodoxy to fashion. Behind this one is allowing sex outside of marriage between “consenting” adults, which used to be called adultery. Loving each other (agape) is to be encouraged. Having sex with each other (eros) is to be limited to appropriate and biblical models, no stretching to stay fashionable or politic.

  2. skotiad says:

    There you have the great divide between liberal and orthodox. Dunnam’s approach is, see what the Bible says, as a whole. Adam Hamilton’s approach is, find a way to plug any issue into one of the core “isms,” in this case, racism. Bring up the word “slavery” and you’ve already got the audience in your hand. In fact, it kind a comes down not to analysis but plugging “slavery” and “same-sex marriage’ into the same sentence. If I can segue to another matter, it’s also true for Rachel Evans’ books – amid all her cutesy ancedotes there is the occasional “feminist burp,” a mention of “patriarchy” or “sexism” that lets you know she’s on the side of the angels. The Bible, as she points out repeatedly, can be questioned and disagreed with, but the belief that the Bible is nothing but a tool of patriarchy is never questioned.

    Obviously Maxie Dunnam’s orthodox approach takes more mental effort, BUT, also obviously, much of the groundwork has been done already, since we have two millennia of Christian tradition to fall back on. A medieval peasant might have been stupid and illiterate, but he would have rolled on the ground laughing if you asked him, Should two men be able to marry? Adam Hamilton has a seminary degree and somehow can’t plug into the basics of Christian morality.

    What’s the guiding principle: What does God say? or, What my liberal sociology prof would approve of?

  3. Jim Berkley says:

    Here is a comprehensive set of arguments from Robert Gagnon that devastates any attempt to compare homosexual practice to race or slavery: http://www.robgagnon.net/articles/homosexIncestPolyAnalogy.pdf

    According to Gagnon, if you want to use analogies, homosexual practice is most analogous to incest or polyamory.

    Jim Berkley
    Roslyn, WA

  4. Reblogged this on Revving It Up and commented:
    Usually I like to start out by saying “it would seem” in a lot of what I write. It leaves room for other possibilities and for open discussion, but my caveat does not apply to Pastor Hamilton’s position. He is wrong! Too often “experts” and “theologians” miss the most basic of things. They never see the “forest for the trees,” to use an old but still valid phrase. What follows is an excerpt from Pastor Hamilton op-ed piece:
    “There are a handful of Scriptures (five or eight depending upon how one counts) that specifically speak of same-sex intimacy as unacceptable to God. Conservatives or traditionalists see these as reflecting God’s timeless will for human relationships. Progressives look at these same scriptures in much the same way that progressives in the nineteenth century looked at the Bible’s teaching on slavery. They believe that these verses capture the cultural understandings and practices of sexuality in biblical times, but do not reflect God’s will for gay and lesbian people.”
    Pastor Hamilton’s gives us a number of five or eight scriptures speaking against homosexuality. I believe it is in an effort to say “Look at the whole Bible. There are only a few passages that speak against homosexuality, but the whole book, especially the Jesus parts, are about LOVE.”
    Firstly, trying to give or take validity from God’s word based on the number of passages regarding an issue is way off the mark. How many passages say specifically, “Thou shall not steal.” While theft is a subject throughout the Bible there is still only one passage that specifically prohibits it (Ex. 20:15). While it is quoted and referenced often from Leviticus up through the Pauline books, there is still just one. Does this make theft any less abhorrent to God? No, it does not.
    Secondly, Love is the most distorted of God’s creation by man. Out of this distortion all sin grows. Again, I quote Pastor Hamilton:
    “The love they (gays and lesbians) shared with others looked very much like the love I share with my wife –a deep friendship and companionship.”
    One thing may look very much like something else, but is neither the same nor made from the same substance. I am not saying that homosexuals cannot love people, cannot be honest and caring and compassionate, but at the core something is amiss.
    The analogy of a watch comes to mind. A watch as designed by its manufacturer has precise specification as to the way it is made and the materials used. A counterfeit copy can look the same to the untrained or desirous eye. It can even perform the same, at least to a degree and for a time, but it is not the same. It is a distortion of the originally planned thing. So too are homosexuality and homosexual relations, especially in the context of church-sanctioned marriage.
    This distortion lies in the love of self. Love of self got Adam and Eve in trouble and we suffer from the same today. Our language – English, throws other curveballs in defining love. We love possessions. We love (put) many things before God and others. Two people hooking up for a night of sex are said to “make love” even when there is no trace of love at all, but rather lust – another perversion of the God-given means of creation and the driving force of desire and intimacy that is supposed to bring husband and wife together “as one flesh.”
    I agree with Maxie Dunman. The overall arch of the Bible narrative from the point where it is “launched” in Genesis evidences God’s design of and pleasure in” one-man-one-woman” and the procreative powers of heterosexuality. The Bible never speaks positively about homosexuality or any sort of “intimate” love between same sexes other than that of friendship and concern – let’s say “agape.” Any attempt to hang clean curtains on dirty windows is at best misguided at worst it is a willful misrepresentation of God’s word – regardless of any good-intentioned motives.
    As to slavery, the human story of the Bible does not begin with “He made them slave and master.” It is incorrect to cite the morale right of ending slavery to justify the immoral wrong of normalizing and “God-ifying” that which He has condemned.
    Lastly, Pastor Hamilton predicts that even conservatives/traditionalists will one day read the Biblical injunctions against homosexuality, as we now read those that were used to support slavery up until the 1860s, in regards to the rights of homosexuals. What rights does he mean? If he means the rights to own and transfer property, to freely associate, to be free from persecution, violence and so forth, then I agree that would be a good thing. As human beings and as citizens of a republic with a constitution and laws homosexuals should be afforded all the rights of any citizen. One right they do not have, and no one has, is to force something upon faithful people that they know in their hearts is wrong based on scriptural evidence and church tradition and practice. Nor does anyone have the right to force them into such practices that violate their beliefs.

  5. It seems rather strange that those advocating same-sex marriage are the same ones who have been telling us for years that marriage is an outdated social institution.

    • sandytnaylor says:

      The two things aren’t really contradictory. Both are rooted in a pretty low view of marriage. As one of our neighbors put it, it’s harder to get out of your TruGreen contract that to get out of marriage. Marry, divorce, marry, divorce, conservative and liberal churches both overflowing with “serial polygamists.” Allowing gays to marry doesn’t mean the culture is more accepting of gays (thought it is), it means marriage is no longer a big deal. Trade cars, trade spouses.

      • I couldn’t agree more. Of course, the roots of this lie in the sexual liberation movement of the 60’s.

        Once the uniqueness of traditional marriage is kicked to the curb the sky will be the limit. And marriage will lose its meaning and sacredness, as it has done in many parts of Europe and Scandinavia. Enter Brave New World.

        Then it will be on the next great liberal deconstructive cause.

  6. […] Responses to Adam Hamilton on Marriage, Slavery, and Bible (juicyecumenism.com) […]

  7. […] Asbury Seminary president Timothy Tennent and pastor Maxie Dunnam, have weighed in on it here and here. While Hamilton doesn’t add anything to the argument in his sermon last fall, which I wrote […]

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