Skip to comments.What the Bible Really Says About Sex . . . Really?
Posted on 02/09/2011 3:51:50 PM PST by wmfights
Has the church misunderstood the Bibles teachings on sexuality for over two thousand years? The current issue of Newsweek magazine reports on new scholarship on the Good Books naughty bits that is supposed to turn our understanding of the Bibles teachings on sex upside down.
Lisa Miller, Newsweeks religion editor, wrote the article entitled What the Bible Really Says About Sex. Well, the one thing you need to know up front is that the article falls far short of its title.
Miller bases her report on two recent books Michael Coogans God and Sex: What the Bible Really Says and Jennifer Wright Knusts Unprotected Texts: The Bibles Surprising Contradictions about Sex and Desire. Neither of these books breaks new ground. Instead, the books distill arguments that have become common among liberal and revisionist Bible scholars and homosexual activist groups.
Coogan, trained as a Jesuit priest, has served as editor of The Oxford Annotated Bible, a favorite study Bible among theological liberals. He currently serves as director of publications for the Harvard Semitic Museum. In God and Sex, Coogan argues that the biblical condemnations of various sexual behaviors and relationships should not be considered normative for today. In his words, the biblical texts on sexuality reflect the presuppositions and prejudices, the ideas and ideals of their authors. He argues that we should not be bound by those same prejudices.
He rejects outright the belief that the Bible is in any objective sense the Word of God. The guild of academic biblical scholars has adopted a liberal approach to the Bible, he affirms, and the real problem is that the great multitude of church-goers have not joined the scholars in this liberal approach. Coogan laments the fact that we have not succeeded in changing the way most nonspecialists and even many in the clergy think about the Bible. Instead, people still maintain that the Bible is Gods word, plain and simple: that God is the author of scripture.
Yes, Dr. Coogan, people do still maintain that belief.
To his credit, Coogan does not argue dishonestly. He is straightforward in presenting his rendering of the key biblical texts, for his main point is that the church is not bound by the presuppositions and prejudices of those texts.
Jennifer Wright Knust follows a very different game plan in Unprotected Texts, though she shares Coogans rejection of biblical inspiration. Knust, who teaches religion at Boston University, bases her revisionism on the claim that the Bible simply lacks any consistent sexual ethic. The Bible is not only contradictory but complex, she insists. Some parts of the Bible promote points of view that, from a modern perspective anyway, are patently immoral.
An ordained American Baptist pastor, Knust argues that the Bible is so contradictory when it comes to sexual matters that we cannot gain any consistent sexual ethic from its pages. Her agenda is clear from the start she wants to overthrow the normative authority of the Bible on matters of sexual morality.
Lisa Miller summarizes the arguments of Coogan and Knust by explaining that they are each attempting to steal the conversation about sex and the Bible back from the religious right. Putting the two books together, Miller explains that they argue along these lines: first, that the Bible is an ancient text, inapplicable in its particulars to the modern world. Second, that sex in the Bible is sometimes hidden. Third, that that which is forbidden is also allowed. And fourth, that accepted interpretations are sometimes wrong.
Well, one immediate problem with this set of arguments is that they are themselves contradictory. Is the Bible itself wrong, or just its interpretations? If the Bible is just an ancient text, which is not relevant in its particulars for the modern world, why argue over its interpretation? They need to get their story straight.
Knust and Coogan cannot even agree when it comes to the particulars. Knust claims that King David enjoyed sexual satisfaction with Jonathan, and that this thus serves as evidence of an authorized homosexual relationship within Scripture. Again, to his credit, Coogan is too careful a scholar to go with that kind of argument. David and Jonathan were covenant partners, he argues but despite the claims of some gay activists, they were not sexual partners.
Lisa Miller notes that Coogan and Knust are hardly the first scholars to offer alternative readings of the Bibles teachings on sex. As a matter of fact, almost all of the arguments made in these books have been around for the past thirty years. Miller argues that it is the populism of these books that sets them apart. With provocative titles and mainstream publishing houses, they obviously hope to sell books, she explains. But their greater cause is a fight against official interpretations.
In response to that, Lisa Miller quotes me: Thats why Albert Mohler, president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, that citadel of Christian conservatism, concludes that ones Bible reading must be overseen by the proper authorities. I enjoyed my conversation with Ms. Miller, but my point was not that the church needs proper authorities, but that just any interpretation of the Bible will not do. The authority in this issue is that of the Bible itself. Those who read it as bearing the very authority of God will read the Bible quite differently than those who see it as a human book conditioned and warped by human frailty and fallibility.
The most important point I made to Lisa Miller is that revisionist interpreters of the Bible are playing a dishonest game. Consider the audacity of their claim: they claim that no one has rightly understood the Bible for over two thousand years. No Jewish or Christian interpreter of the Bible had ever suggested that the relationship between David and Jonathan was homosexual at least not until recent decades. The revisionist case is equally ludicrous across the board. We are only now able to understand what Paul was talking about in Romans 1? The church was wrong for two millennia?
I have far greater respect for the intellectual integrity of the scholar who reads the Bible and interprets it honestly, but then rejects it with candor. This is far superior to evasive and clever attempts to make the Bible say what it plainly does not say. The Bible is brutally honest about human sinfulness in all its forms, including sexuality. Nevertheless, the Bible presents a consistent and clear sexual ethic. The issue is not a lack of clarity.
The real problem here is not that the Bible is misunderstood and in need of revision. To the contrary, the real problem is that the ethic revealed in the Bible is both rejected and reviled.
I think he sums up nicely why Scripture must be preeminent.
One need read no further than “Jesuit”.
The salt of the earth.
There are many great Jesuits. Unfortunately, they are overshadowed by the heretic ones.
Oh, right, because they can use it to ‘beat up on Christians’, but don't you dare do this to the Koran, or they're going first condemn you, then second understand when your head is cut off.
I'm sorry, liberals, but the bible doesn't give permission to shack up. And that's the whole basis of your homosexual or free-sex philosophy. There goes homosexual ‘marriage’, which is just a legally binding version of shacking up, and not a union of a man and a woman. And there also goes empty marriages, as again, it's not a union of a man and a woman, it's two people shacking up for some other reason.
When people take the liberty of C&P’ing to include only the parts they like and the interpretations they like for those parts, somehow any text ends up saying exactly what the “interpreter” WANTS it to say.
“You will be wise like God....” Where have we heard that before?
Indeed, that is true. There are few easier ways to find oneself rejected, reviled, and ridiculed than by affirming traditional (pre-1930s) Christian sexual morality.
You nailed it. I have always wondered, if the homosexual interpretation of scripture were accepted, why is it ok for them to have casual sex, but that heterosexuals can only have sex within the bonds of matrimony.
That was exceptionally well written, direct and concise. The conclusion is also point blank. Well done.
I love Mohler. He is one of my favorite Baptists.
new scholarship ... blah blah blah”
Newsweak magazine?? A source for biblical truths??
What the Bible Really Says About Sex . . . Really?
Uh, it’s a good thing and should be done in a moral/ethical fashion.
So that you don’t ever feel ashamed of how you treat the person willing
Actually, I was a bit shocked when hearing a reading from (IIRC) proceedings
from a Puritan church proceedings when a husband was being chastized for
not have “intimate relations” with his spouse as often as she desired.
And I grew up thinking Puritans were a bunch of prudes?
That's it in a nut shell! Also, they don't care if they discredit Scripture and it's author in the process.
"Scholars" like this show the worst kind of logic.
If the Bible isn't the Word of God, then it isn't anything. If the Bible isn't the Word of God, then it should be completely ignored.
Maybe no subculture in history has been more misunderstood than the Puritans. They were a life-loving, exuberant people who believed that God gave life to be enjoyed. They tended to wear colorful clothing, had some of the most well-stocked wine cellars anywhere, and knew how to get busy in the sack.