Doing Proper Christian Anthropology

In the midst of a report from the Christian Century (h-tip SF) is this gem of a quote from Bishop Bruno of Los Angeles:

Bishop Jon Bruno, who heads the Los Angeles Episcopal Diocese, said the court decision resonates with the church’s baptismal vows to strive for justice and respect for all. "To paraphrase St. Paul," Bruno said in a May 15 statement, "there is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, gay nor straight in Jesus Christ our Lord."

Wow.

Did you see what Bishop Bruno did there? He changed Scripture. Hope he’s packed some asbestos underwear along with his pine pyjamas.

On a more serious note though, Bishop Bruno’s statement raises a huge hornet’s nest around the area of biblical anthropology. What does it mean to be human and what kind of categorisations can we use to describe humans?

Such questions, and their Scriptural answers, were key to me for moving away from viewing myself as homosexual. I’ve written before that issues of ontology are at the heart of the journey from "gay", but let me just lay out here briefly the key problem I have with Bruno’s statement.

"Gay" isn’t a biblical term to describe human beings

It’s such a simple observation, but it challenges the whole liberal agenda. Simply put, when the Bible categorises human beings, it never views the people of God as regards their sexual orientation. Although homosexual practice is mentioned, sexual orientation itself never gets a look in. Other categorisations do – male and female, jew and greek, slave and free – but gay and straight simply isn’t found in the Bible.

And this is important, because a true biblical justice and equality theology should seek to liberate those whom Scripture says are equal to others. So the passage that Bruno quotes makes it absolutely unequivocal that soteriologically there is no difference between men and women. Misogyny is therefore a sinful and unBiblical practice. It is good to be a man and it’s good to be a woman. I can build a "male theology" and a "female theology", because the Bible tells me different things about men and women that I can build upon.

Later on, Paul writing to Philemon about the slave Onesimus makes it totally clear that he wants Philemon to view Onesimus as a social and political equal. Slavery is therefore a corrupt and evil practice and true Christians down the centuries have always been opposed to it. However, slavery continues and Paul has instructions for how slaves should behave to their masters (Eph 5), so we can build a "slave theology" – how slaves should behave and live – from the Bible.

Paul writes that we are all equal in Christ, Jew or Gentile, and John has a vision of all the peoples and tribes and nations gathered round the throne worshipping God together. From this we learn that there are no inferior races and that all are equal, whether brown, white, black or yellow or any shade inbetween. However, since the adoption of the elect Gentiles into the people of God still leaves the Jewish people and their covenant relationship to be explored, it is correct to speak of a "Jewish Christian theology" and a "Gentile Theology", for the two groups will, biblically, approach God in different ways, for while there is no compulsion on any Gentile to follow the Mosaic Law, some Jewish converts may still wish to do so (Acts 15).

But when it comes to sexuality, the Scriptures are amazingly silent. We cannot in any sense build a "gay theology" because the Bible doesn’t have any guidelines for us. It might be proper to speak of "the experience of Christians who are attracted to people of the same sex", but that isn’t the same as a biblical theology. Furthermore, while we can speak of a "Jewish Christian" or a "slave christian" or a "female Christian" as biblical terms, to talk of a "gay Christian" is to posit an identity that the Bible doesn’t seem to recognise. In fact, the Bible bottom line doesn’t recognise "gay" at all, so to attempt an anthropological statement such as "gay Christian" is to use an entirely un-Biblical term. It’s simpy not an identity that the Bible understands humans to validly exist within – it’s not a Scriptural way of describing one’s self.

For myself, when I understood this it was like the chains falling of me. I suddenly realised that I wasn’t a "gay Christian", I was a "male Christian", a "Gentile Christian". I understood that it was wrong of me as someone who was united with Christ to identify myself in a manner that he didn’t view me as. And in doing so, I was liberated. The binds of "gay" fell away and I realised that the whole gay/straight continuum was simply an unChristian way of viewing humans. It hindered the healing work of the Spirit because it constrained people in a way that we were not meant to be restricted.

Ultimately, what Bishop Bruno is doing in making this statement is creating a false picture of humanity. Christ calls us to see ourselves as male or female, called to singleness or marriage, and to discover sexually the imago dei within us within that framework and within no other framework. Any other sexual anthropology takes us away from Jesus and who he intended us to truly be.

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