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Slavery Love Marriage and The Bible

By Dr. Andrew Corbett, September 3rd 2013 Printable icon Listen: Listen to Dr Andrew Corbett's response to Mr Kevin Rudd's answer to Matt Prater on QandA

President Obama decrying the Bible as outdatedDuring his first Presidential election campaign, President Barack Obama gave a speech about why he thought the Bible was outdated and therefore should not be used to guide any public policy decisions. He cited the Bible's condemnation of certain foods, fabric combinations and slavery as ample evidence to convince his audience that when the Bible similarly condemns certain sexual practices it should also be readily dismissed. His comments were very amusing and won him much popular approval. But then multitudes of Bible scholars began to point out the obvious errors in President Obama's 'reasoning' (which largely went unreported in the Mainstream Media). Consequently, or coincidentally, he has not repeated these remarks.

Ps Matt Prater and Kevin RuddBut last night (Monday, September 2nd, on the ABC TV program "Q & A"), Australian Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd did. He was likewise cheered for his amusing comments about the Bible being outdated on issues like slavery and therefore its statements about sexuality. Most of the subsequent twitter traffic has applauded Prime Minister Rudd for his 'bold and clear defence of same-sex marriage'.

Ps Matt Prater, of New Hope Church Brisbane asked, "You claim to be a Christian yet you recently came out in support of homosexual marriage - something the Bible says is wrong. If you call yourself a Christian why don't you believe the words of Jesus in the Bible?" The Prime Minister responded by saying that Bible also commending slavery (which is wrong), therefore it was also wrong when it comes to its statements on sexuality. Mr Rudd's response met with rousing applause from the audience and much favourable Twitter traffic. Pastor Matt on the other hand was pitched as a typical narrow-minded, cold Christian Fundamentalist. I know Matt. I know that he is not like this. I also know that Matt deeply loves people - irregardless of their sexual identity. Given the appropriate opportunity, I'm sure that Pastor Matt could have responded in a compassionate manner to what is often a very heated and volatile public debate.

But it is worth noting that Prime Minister was unfair to Pastor Prater and his actual question, because he ignored three key factors by giving the answer he gave. Let me explain.

 

WHAT KEVIN RUDD HAS IGNORED

1. WHAT THE BIBLE ACTUALLY SAYS

Prime Minister Rudd's response to Pastor Matt Prater was, "Well mate, if I was going to have that view, the Bible also says that slavery is a natural condition. St Paul said in the New Testament, 'Slaves be obedient to your masters'. Here's the verse that the Prime Minister was 'quoting' -

Bondservants, obey in everything those who are your earthly masters, not by way of eye-service, as people-pleasers, but with sincerity of heart, fearing the Lord.
Colossians 3:22

The ancient Greeks taught that a reasonable argument basically consisted of three components:

(i) A Major Premise

(ii) A Minor Premise

(iii) A Conclusion (that follows from both premises)

Based on this framework, we might display Kevin Rudd's argument thus-

(i) The Bible says slavery is a natural (biologically genetic) condition.

(ii) The New Testament says that slaves (Greek word doulos, literally, a volunteer servant) should obey their masters (literally, employer).

(iii) Therefore the Bible's statements about homosexuality are wrong.

Hopefully, framing Mr Rudd's 'argument' in this way will make it immediately obvious that his statement was neither well grounded or reasonable. Firstly, his Major Premise- "The Bible says that slavery is a natural condition." is false. There is nothing in the verse (or any other verse) that he has cited, which remotely suggests that slavery is a "natural" condition. This is a gross distortion of what the Bible says. It stretches the limits of credulity (what can be accepted as true) to claim that either the Bible states that slavery is a natural condition, or (despite the Bible's silence on it) that slavery is a natural condition! This preposterous claim asserts that certain people are born to be slaves because they are genetically predisposed that way! This is an outrageous and unsustainable claim! Mr Rudd is being extremely mischievous to even dare to suggest that the Bible teaches this!

Secondly, his Minor Premise- St Paul said in the New Testament, 'Slaves be obedient to your masters', fails to distinguish that the word "Slaves" does not mean what Mr Rudd claims, rather, it means someone performing indentured servitude. That is, it could be a person who has been unable to repay their debt and they are now working it off. Unfortunately, this also meant that the person's family was indentured as well under these circumstances. The Bible neither endorses or commends this practice! It does, however, have something to say to those who do the indenturing ('Masters') that they should treat their servants fairly and kindly (Colossians 4:1). It also says that any servant should be released no longer than six years after they commenced their servitude -

When you buy a Hebrew slave, he shall serve six years, and in the seventh he shall go out free, for nothing.
Exodus 21:2

This kind of "slavery" bears no resemblance to what was called "slavery" in Europe or the Americas from the 18th century into the 19th century. It's also worth noting that the New Testament condemns the slave trade and equates it with murder!

¶ Now we know that the law is good, if one uses it lawfully,
understanding this, that the law is not laid down for the just but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and sinners, for the unholy and profane, for those who strike their fathers and mothers, for murderers,
the sexually immoral, men who practice homosexuality, enslavers, liars, perjurers, and whatever else is contrary to sound doctrine,

First Timothy 1:8-10

Unfortunately for Mr Rudd, along with condemning slavery, the New Testament also condemns the very thing he is claiming that it supports: homosexuality (1Tim. 1:8-10).

As far as I know, the above represents the only 'Biblical' argument that Mr Rudd proposed. Despite this, some journalists reported that Mr Rudd had 'trumped' the Pastor with his Biblical knowledge. This may indicate either how little Mr Rudd, or how desperately little the average Australian journalist, knows of the Bible!

 

2. LOGICAL REASONING

Mr Rudd then made two philosophical comments in support of same-gender marriage.

"If you accept it to be natural and normal to be gay then it follows it is not right for two folk who love each other to be denied marriage," he said.
He said the Bible was about "universal love, loving your fellow man".
(news.com.au)

Firstly, he stated that homosexuality was natural and inborn. He offered no support for this statement - despite the overwhelming biological evidence to the contrary! But even if we granted Mr Rudd this point, he used it in the following way -

MAJOR PREMISE: (i) Homosexuality is natural and inborn.

MINOR PREMISE: (ii) Whatever feels natural and inborn is morally acceptable (to God).

CONCLUSION: (iii) Therefore, same-gender marriage must be legislated for.

I have already stated that Mr Rudd has not demonstrated his Major Premise. The thousands of former-homosexuals who testify to formerly feeling homosexual as their inborn identity, who have now become heterosexual, can not easily be dismissed and is obviously an unwelcome fact to those promoting that homosexuality is 'natural'. 

Mr Rudd is greatly mistaken by His Minor Premise that whatever feels natural and inborn is morally acceptable to God. The Bible describes the human condition as 'fallen'. This at least means that although our universal forefather, Adam, was created to be absolutely loving (without any selfishness) he abandoned this virtuous state and chose to fall into selfishness ("The Fall"). As a result of The Fall, all humans are now morally corrupted - even if ever so slightly. This affects each one of us. It naturally, quite literally, means that we feel certain longings, urges and desires which are (to say the least) inappropriate. Thus, simply because we have an urge, does not mean that we are justified to act on that urge. In fact, if it wasn't generally acknowledged that such urges were actually inappropriate (if not 'wrong') then our world would be plunged into anarchy and chaos! The thief could plead their innocence on the basis that they had a 'natural urge' that they were 'born with' to justify their stealing. The murderer could claim an overwhelming 'urge' to kill someone was justifiable on the basis that it was how they truly felt. And so on! Homosexuality may be morally right or morally wrong, but it is certainly not found to be so on the basis of urges, feelings, or even how they identity themselves.

Consequently, Mr Rudd's conclusion based on this line of reasoning is stunning - because it simply bears no logical connection either to his Major or Minor Premise!

But he also used one final line of argument that goes like this, "...it is not right for two folk who love each other to be denied marriage," he said. He said the Bible was about "universal love, loving your fellow man". Anyone who has read the Bible, should immediately recognise that love is indeed a major theme of the Bible - but it is not what the Bible is "all about". But let's put this argument of Mr Rudd into its logical form -

MAJOR PREMISE: (i) The Bible is about universal love of your fellow man.

MINOR PREMISE: (ii) Two people of the same gender may love each other.

CONCLUSION: (iii) Therefore, marriage should not be denied to two people of the same gender.

A casual reading of the Bible will reveal that it is a story. It is the story of God's unfolding plan to redeem mankind. It is the "Proto Story" -  the story from which all other stories find their structure and outline. It is the story of God taking a person(Adam > Abraham) and the nation that descended from them (Israel) and forming a covenant with them (involving Laws, ceremonies/festivals, sacrifices) which they subsequently broke and how God then sent His Son to establish a new covenant (by keeping all the laws, fulfilling all the symbolism of the ceremonies/festivals, and offering Himself as the ultimate sacrifice for sins).

What we would also notice while reading the Bible through, is that it describes what we might call 'inappropriate love' which it paints as morally wrong. It also states that love is not a justification for marriage, when it states that "Solomon loved many women...you shall not enter into marriage with them."

Now King Solomon loved many foreign women, along with the daughter of Pharaoh: Moabite, Ammonite, Edomite, Sidonian, and Hittite women, from the nations concerning which the LORD had said to the people of Israel, "You shall not enter into marriage with them, neither shall they with you, for surely they will turn away your heart after their gods." Solomon clung to these in love.
First Kings 11:1-2

Even though Solomon "loved" these women, God forbad him from marrying them. It appears that "being in love" with someone is not the (sole) prerequisite for marriage. It's also worth pointing out as a marriage celebrant for some twenty-five years that nowhere in the documents necessary to proceed with a marriage, is "love" a requirement. Since Governments register marriages, they are generally concerned with the five actual prerequisites for marriage being satisfied which are utterly objective. This is because marriage is not a regulating of people's love lives! Marriage is a covenant commitment to have, to nurture, to make a 'home' with (involves bearing or raising children), to guide and be guided, to provide for, and to protect.

A society is strengthened when 'homes' - where dad, mom, and their children are in a loving, low-conflict, harmonious environment. This is best made possible when children are raised by their married biological parents. The social data to support this is overwhelming. Because this has a direct bearing on a society's social and economic wealth, governments are involved in registering such relationships to ensure that women and children (traditionally the more vulnerable ones in a home, and arguably the ones most damaged by family breakdown), in particular, fare best. Apart from this, the Government has no interest (and should have no interest) in its citizens' affections for others.

 

3. THE QUESTION

Thirdly, the Prime Minister actually ignored the question he was asked. Pastor Prater, with whom I have directly spoken today and verified this, asked how Mr Rudd could justify calling himself a Christian when he is now denying one of the plain teachings of Jesus? Pastor Prater's question was really: Mr Rudd, what do you consider a Christian to be? Instead of answering this question, the Prime Minister launched into a misquoting of Colossians 3:22 about servants honouring their commitment to work for their employers! I am staggered that the media has not asked the PM to give an account for his ignoring of the question, his misrepresenting the Bible, or his faulty logic!

 

A CHRISTIAN RESPONSE TO THOSE STRUGGLING

The Christian message is not one targetted against homosexuals! On the contrary. In fact, we are generally not the ones raising this issue. We are mostly on the defensive about it - as we are again in this case. The issue of sexuality does not even appear near the top of the list for us - yet time and time again we are asked to state the Biblical position on it and then scolded for being intolerant when we do so (which is rather ironic that our views cannot be tolerated!). The problem with the human condition is not primarily inappropriate sexuality - it's selfishness (to put it nicely) or to be frank: self-deification (making ourselves out to be our own God and thus enemies of the One True God). Despite this insult to our Creator, He has sent His only Son into the world to pay the price for our sin and make it possible to be reconciled to God. Thousands of homosexuals have done this and discovered the grace and love of God transforming them. But it's not just homosexuals. It's also worse people who have discovered it as well. People like me.

 

Andrew Corbett

Legana, Tasmania, 3rd September 2013.

Printable icon Listen to Dr Andrew Corbett's response to Mr Kevin Rudd's answer to Matt Prater on QandA

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