A False Hermeneutic of Love
Recently, someone I would call a brother in Christ has written on homosexuality and same sex marriage. His post is more exploratory as he is opening up to the possibility that practicing homosexuality is entirely permissible to a Christian worldview. He adopts what I would deem a "hermeneutic of love" that is rooted in absent-minded heterosexual thinking about marriage. [Editor's Note: Since the initial writing of this piece Bruce Jenner, Irish vote, and many other things have occurred that seem relevent]
True confession, I do not feel like I have come to grips with my tone and voice when discussing these matters. This is not the first (homosexuality and christian ethics), second (a book review) or third (gracious table) time I have written on the topic of homosexuality in the past 12 months. The topic is quite important to me. I am scared each time I hit "publish" because I regularly feel off pitch in my discourse. Like my aforementioned brother "I think as a culture and a church we have been getting [homosexuality] wrong." However, we do not agree on what the culture or church has gotten wrong. At this important point we diverge without a hint of future reconvergence.
His provocative opening question was simple,
If God created love, which I believe to be the single most beautiful thing in all of creation, and if He chooses to give true, genuine, intimate love to two men or two women, then how can we say it’s wrong?
Well, let me offer a provocative answer. If all the hypotheticals to this question are true I would answer that we can't say it is wrong. Unfortunately for my brother he begs the question in his presuppositions. I am not looking to debate the biblical case for homosexuality. I simply want to confront this false styling of a question. I'm convinced this skewed hermeneutic of love has laid dormant in heterosexual thinking and silently caused a ruckus. This provocative question will help us understand some false lines of thinking in the church as a whole.
First, "if God created love." God is love (1 John 4:8). Love is a critical attribute prescribed to God in the Scriptural witness. Love is not created any more than righteousness or holiness. We must retain the Creator and created distinction. We must also extrapolate it when we discuss attributes of our Creator. Pure, holy and righteous Love is ontologically native to God. When we want to look at "true, genuine, intimate love" we cannot separate this from God's being. We cannot speak of a created manifestation of our own definition. Love in God is is the only way we can define love in us. We will need to look at God revealed to understand God in His being. Only in Jesus Christ do we see true love.
Exaltation of love in creation is a false paradigm. It is the wrench in the whole argument. Love can only be the "most beautiful thing in creation" when it remains faithful to love exemplified by God. This means that the Incarnate logos's death on the cross is the epitome of love. God's love for creation is literally laid bare for the world to see on the cross. This is the most beautiful love in all creation. It is a love that dies to self for other people (John 15:13). It should be understood that no other human love can achieve this level. Neither heterosexual or homosexual can obtain this. We must reject idealistic tendencies that make arguments look simple.
Second, "if He chooses to give." Jesus Christ is the ultimate love that God has given to us. He has given Himself. "Love" is not something we are given apart from Jesus Christ. Neither is it something we can give apart from Christ. Love in us is our emulation of God's love in Christ. It is our dying to self that emulates Christ's dying. Love then is modeled not given. Our love is our poor modeling of Jesus Christ. This frees us from minimalist definitions of love that are driving toward emotional-psychological intimacy or sexual relationships. It lets us see biblical love and then apply it to the sacred and specialized love of marriage (Eph 5:25-29).
This type of love (modeled in Jesus Christ) can be reflected by one heterosexual male to another heterosexual male. It must if I take seriously Christ's love for me on the cross. It should be clear that the original question reads a specific and distinct definition of love (specialized intimacy unparalleled between two people). Christ's example transcends this and teaches every Christian to "love one another." A cross-section definition of love for argument purposes is woefully simplistic and unstable. Then it is being read back into the Triune God. "True, genuine, intimate love" means nothing if it does not exclusively mean a love which models the Trinity and God's eternal being.
We need to stop and process what kind of hermeneutic this is. This experience of creation being read back onto the Creator God under the excuse of "He gave it to us" (nevermind that this sounds an awful lot like Adam in the garden). Can we read emotional intimacy between any two people back into God's being? Could we do the same about anger between any two people? The danger of this ground up epistemology should be obvious. It innately belongs to self-justification. Even if something is true it cannot use this form of argument. The same is true for homosexuality.
Any argument for homosexuality needs to come from God to us. To prove this point, the original question attempted to demonstrate this very type of argument. Unfortunately, my brother's true base defined love first and only then work up to God. We cannot read up to God apart from Jesus Christ who is God revealed. If we wish to discuss this issue we must read through the hermeneutic of Christ. More specifically, we must evaluate all love by the cross which is redemptive in nature for the fallenness of creation.