Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Christian Sexuality (Part 7) Homosexuality, Patriarchal Images, and the Order of Creation

Perhaps no subject carries such political, and emotional power in discussions of spirituality as the issue of homosexuality. In discussions between liberal and conservative church traditions, between evangelical Christians and those who are non-religious and politically astute, between traditional Republicans and Democrats this issue rises to a head of frustration and anger. There appears no way to pour this brew without it foaming over. For one side the issue is one of acceptance and personal freedom, and for the other the subject is rooted in an orthodox Biblical interpretation and moral codes of God. These issues are non-negotiable for both sides, and the discussion agitates the participants.

From my personal position as an evangelical Christian, I find myself trapped between the two sides. I am a staunch advocate of personal freedom, and a believer in the great acceptance found in the Gospel, and the Person of Jesus Christ. I am not willing to surrender a inch of precious ground on these issues. Yet, I also believe in a conservative orthodox reading of the scripture. I want the Bible to say what it says, and I believe that what it says is applicable to me today. I believe that the moral codes outlined in the text of scripture apply to me as a follower of Christ, and in my stumbling ways do my best to keep its injunctions. For me this is true in the subject of sexuality as much as any other topic.

Being trapped between the worldviews I have sought for a position which honors and respects all people, and yet holds to my ancient traditions rooted in the writings of the prophets and apostles.

This is my struggling conclusion on the subject of homosexuality in the larger context of human sexuality as it is rooted in the Christian understanding of the character of God, and story of redemption. My understanding concerning this sexual lifestyle are rooted in my faith in Jesus, my trust in the Bible as God's word, and my desire to live out my own sexuality as a ritual behavior before my God. It is my belief that my sexual choices are a life ritual which model the character of my God, and the story of His redemptive work among human beings. I do not expect those who do not follow the way of Christ to live according to this ritual pattern. Yet, daily I come across people who naturally live in accordance with this Biblical ritual pattern, and it causes me to wonder if they intrinsically follow by instinct something I have come to discover through worship.

What I Find in the Bible Concerning Divine Masculine and Feminine:

The Biblical record of God gives us a primarily masculine image. The reference to God in familial relationship to humanity is that of Father. The reference to Jesus is that of His Son, and as the Bridegroom to His Church. These relational images are distinctly masculine, and our interaction with God is couched in these terms.

There are feminine-divine moments which appear upon the historical/biblical scene. The Spirit of God hovers upon the face of the waters in a sort of birthing picture of creation. At the forming of humanity both male and female represent the image of God - "in the image of God created He them" as the KJV says it. Reference is given to being protected "under [the] wings" like that of a mothering hen. Yet, these examples of feminine care coming from God appear to be the exception in the Biblical expression of God's relational interaction with humanity, and not the rule.

The Divine feminine may be the exception in the Biblical narrative in respect to describing the character of God in famial relationship to humanity, but the fact that humanity in both its male and female parts is described as fulfilling the imago dei has caused me to earnestly seek a fulfillment of the feminine divine in the scriptures.

I find this fulfillment in the Bride who at the end of times is united intimately with the Son. This I view as the fulfillment of the divine-feminine. The Church of the faithful lovers of Christ becomes united as one with Him in the day of the fulfillment of all things, and in that moment the divine feminine finds its place of completion.

What Christian Sexuality Says About the Divine Masculine and Feminine

The discovery of imago dei in its fullness will not be found in a man alone (except the man Jesus, Who uniquely walked as the "Fullness of the Godhead"), instead it is the combination of man and woman together which fulfills the beauty of imago dei. When God created man and woman in His image, He established the vision of the divine in them equally, and when a man and a woman become one, the image presented to the world is potentially a fuller picture of divinity than when either are alone. So my living in a heterosexual relationship models the character and glory of God.

My practice of heterosexuality is a ritual lifestyle mirroring the order of creation in which God placed the fulness of His image in both man and woman. Living in Biblical Sexual Mores is my way of following the God I serve, and making a prophetic lifestyle declaration of His character. My relationship with my wife is a picture of the coming together of the divine masculine and the divine feminine. We are more like God than either of us are independently.

Christian Sexuality and the Story of Redemption

The ritual model I live does not stop in its liturgical proclamation with revealing the character of God, but I believe my sexual choice reveals a lesson about the story of human redemption as well.

The intimate relationship of a man and a woman prophetically reveal this story of God's search for a lover found in Jeremiah 3, and other similar passages of covenantal love. In Ephesians 5 Paul speaks of marriage as a mystery which unveils the relationship of Christ and the Church.

My convenantal relationship with my wife becomes a picture of the very mystery of the Gospel. God's search for a lover, and the eschatalogical fulfillment of intimacy discovered in the Wedding Supper of the Lamb are seen in my relationship with my wife. As the Lord Jesus seeks a bride without spot or wrinkle, a faithful heterosexual marriage models the mystical relationship between Jesus and His Bride.

My Expectations of Those Not Following the Christian Way

Since I follow the way of Christ in a heterosexual ritual lifestyle as a model of my own faith in God, I do not expect that those who do not follow my Jesus to follow my path. Yet, I believe that those who come to understand the character of God and His plan of redemption will find an empowering lifestyle ritual in Biblical sexuality. As strange as it may be to say that a limitation on human behavior has the potential for power, and beauty, I do believe that it is so for me and my faith in Christ.


Anonymous said...

Wow, Phil. You articulated this so beautifully. I have struggled to say these same things so many times, and you did it so well.

The most important thing in this is something I have said several times before: We cannot expect those who are not following Christ to live by Christ's "rules".

Your position (which resonates so well with me) strikes the necessary balance between loving people where they are, yet living by conviction and principle in our own lives.

Thank you!

Pastor Phil said...

Thanks bro. That's high praise from such an articulate person as yourself.

David said...

Hi Phil,
I too am torn in this struggle and your articulated it very well.
Revolution has a heart to reach the homosexual community, and NOT do it like the church as we know it.
Thanks for the insight.

Shiloh Guy said...


You have thought this out and worked this out very well. I am proud to have you as a brother who loves as Jesus would love and who can make such a strong argument not for simple tolerance but for active love and outreach!


Unknown said...

I often wonder why we focus so much on one issue of fractured sexuality - i could spend hrs just on my own sexual brokeness.

Then again what are we prepared to do with our theological positions? If we are who are created in the imagio dei are created therefore to be for the other does that some of us will offer up our own sexual choice/freedom because it is a hetrosexual one to live out life partnerships of a non-sexual nature with those whose orientation seems prohibited to express their nature?

Love to me is more than just acceptance it is about active commitment to lay down our own rights and freedoms at our own cost and inconvenience to help others...

Anonymous said...

very well articulated.

I guess I struggle with this a bit Phil because it seems as though you are saying a non married person cannot fully demonstrate or symbolically and ritually manifest the divine mystery of the masculine and feminine of God or the relationship of God with his church.

I also struggle with the issue of gender aside from sexuality - - such as people born with a gender externally that does not match their brain chemistry or hormones.

The final reason why I find your essay difficult to accept is that I get a bit nervous when sexuality is so closely tied to gender and the role of living out that symbolism. I think there are ramifications from that that fundamentalism has clasped onto very tightly.

having said all that, I think you communicated yourself with eloquence and grace and that is to be commended.

I think I'm just more comfortable with Christians saying "this is what I believe the Bible says about it" and end there. There are very far reaching implications of heading down the paths of covenants and ritualistic symbolism.