Monday, December 8, 2008

Newsweek's Sloppy Theology

Justin Taylor links to some important responses to Newsweek's latest foray into biblical studies:

Here's the tease for Lisa Miller's new Newsweek cover story on The Religious Case for Gay Marriage: "Opponents of gay marriage often cite Scripture. But what the Bible teaches about love argues for the other side."

In addition, you can read the editorial note by Newsweek editor Jon Meacham:

No matter what one thinks about gay rights—for, against or somewhere in between —this conservative resort to biblical authority is the worst kind of fundamentalism. Given the history of the making of the Scriptures and the millennia of critical attention scholars and others have given to the stories and injunctions that come to us in the Hebrew Bible and the Christian New Testament, to argue that something is so because it is in the Bible is more than intellectually bankrupt—it is unserious, and unworthy of the great Judeo-Christian tradition.

He goes on to suggest that homosexuality is in the same category as race, and that those opposed to gay marriage will meet the same defeat (logically and legally) as those opposed to segregation.

Al Mohler has a detailed response, and concludes in this way:

Newsweek could have offered its readers a careful and balanced review of the crucial issues related to this question. It chose another path -- and published this cover story. The magazine's readers and this controversial issue deserved better.
Mark Hemingway is more curt:

So should I be surprised that Lisa Miller, Newsweek's religion reporter natch, can't even get through the first paragraph of her story without evincing an understanding of Christianity and its basic texts that is grossly oversimplified and distorted, filtered through an almost exclusively liberal political lens, not to mention catty and downright insulting?

Read the entire post HERE.


Mainline Mom said...

While I admit to be somewhat on the fence about the legislative issues surrounding gay marriage, I am certainly not undecided about what the Bible says about homosexuality being sin and I find this article sad but not surprising. I don't like living in a world increasingly full of Bible bashers.

rmkton said...

I think we do a disservice here to not look beyond the theology that you may have a problem with. Let's not use poor theology or writing as an excuse not to address the larger issue. If Lisa Miller oversimplified Christianity have we oversimplified homosexuality? I think we have...

Have we fully grasp the complexity here? Do our biblical models account for that? For example, there is growing evidence that (at least some) homosexuals have genetic factors that predisose them toward homosexuality which a 1st or 2nd century writer would have no idea of. It is a complex one of the problems I have with our evangelical biblical model is oversimplification. Now you can take the approach that predisposition does not matter, if the Bible says it is sin it is sin (and many evangelicals do take this approach)...but I find that a lot easier stance to take if you are not a homosexual.

I recently came across a publication about how Christians helped save Jews during the holocaust; this article was from a Christian publication. In the publication it mentioned the specific people groups (besides Jews) that Hitler targeted for elimination (i.e. Roma, ethnic Poles, mentally disabled) but failed to mention if I were a gay person I would have to ask myself why...was it a mistake? oversight? not worth mentioning?...or do Christians not care that homosexuals were systematically eliminated too (est. 5000-15,000 amoung 50,000 who were imprisoned during WWII). The "oversight" was glaring. Do Christians not care about them b/c they are homosexuals and not just Jews? or Poles?

To be honest, I am not sure how I feel about gay marriage. Do I think it will lead to divine retribution by God against America (as Pat Robertson suggested) Do I think domestic partners should have some legal standing...yes. Will it somehow dilute the traditional view of marriage?...I don't know.


Todd Pruitt said...

Well Mike, if I may be so bold - you are wrong.

Guess what, I'm predisposed to sin but that is no excuse. I'm predisposed to lie to get myself out of trouble but I have to choose not to lie. I am predisposed to covet but I have to discipline my heart and mind to not do so.

I am "prone to wander, Lord I feel it. Prone to leave the God I love." But I need the Lord and my brothers and sisters to help me remain faithful.

Clearly there are some emotional issues that homosexuals deal with that are difficult. But that does not change the physical, emotional, and spiritual devestation of homosexuality.

There is evidence that some addictive behaviors may have a genetic component. If that is true should that lead us to conclude that we should leave addicts to the fate of their addictions?

Mike, I know that what the Bible says holds very little weight for you but it does on this blog.

rmkton said...

Todd, if I may be so bold, your comparison is not valid...genetic predisposition is not the same as willfully lying. You have compared genetic predisposition to having a sinful nature...not valid True there are other behaviors that we classify as "sin" that have genetic bases such as addictions. With this in mind we have to be careful of what we label as sin. This may seem that I am making excuses here for sin...I am not. But this knowledge adds a layer of complexities that evangelical biblicals models do not take into consideration.

It is not true that I do not regard the Bible highly...I just approach it differently than you do.

Mainline Mom said...

Not that I think this matters a lot, but the "evidence" for genetic predisposition toward homosexuality is a myth, the study that originally claimed this was completely debunked as full of glaring scientific error years ago.

However, it IS a hugely complex issue and it is hardly a choice for those dealing with it. We should not treat it lightly or be dismissive of it as simply sin. To me, it's in the same vein as telling kids "don't have sex...the end."

Todd, possibly the greatest treasures I found at COS was the Young Families class. We took on the hard issues and gave them consideration not ordinarily found at evangelical churches, including looking at not just the biblical factors surrounding homosexuality but the scientific and psychological ones as well. Mike Mcgee led the scientific part of this, I belive he is a degreed pyschologist and a counselor...somehow tied to Eastern College. He knew the history and had read all the past and current studies, but of course the biblical bottom line was still the same.

Todd Pruitt said...


I'm not going to drag this thread out in order to debate homosexuality with someone who doesn't even know what to believe.

For someone who doesn't even seem to have a model for how to interpret the Bible you sure do dismiss "the evangelical model" (whatever that is) with great ease.

Sorry if it seems harsh but when you dismiss entire sections of the Bible then you certainly do have a low view of Scripture.

It is exhausting to debate, discuss, or otherwise converse any subject with anyone who does not know what they believe. My patience extends pretty far with unbelievers who don't know what to believe. But for those who profess to be brothers but haven't even made up their mind if they believe the Bible...

Todd Pruitt said...


Let me get this straight. You say my comparison is NOT valid and in the same breath you say it is valid when it comes to addictions.

Thanks for the help.

The point still stands. If there are genetic dispostions toward same-sex attraction (NOT PROVEN by a long shot) it does not change the fact that homosexual behaviour is a sin.

Mainline Mom,
Clearly there are a lot of complexities regarding homosexuality. In many cases these complexities should give us compassion for those who are haunted by what they fully know is sinful and very destructive.

In some cases psychology can be helpful although I am very cautious about the secular humanistic underpinings of psychotherapy.

Jason, Melissa & Eowyn said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jason, Melissa & Eowyn said...

Though the Novemeber election has compelled us to tenaciously cling to our guns and religion, my husband and I find your auspicious placement at COS to be exceedingly providential and encouraging. Your scriptural fluency and unabashed proclamation of "Christ crucified" from the pulpit and this blog inspire hope within our (yuppie) evangelical hearts. Further, the posture assumed by Lisa Miller is certainly not unpredictable in light of Newsweek's reputed objectivity :) However, our distress lies moreso in the endorsement of such sentiments by professing Christians who seem to have exchanged the truth of God's word for a lie. Thank you for your commitment to unequivocally proclaiming Truth!

Todd Pruitt said...

Jason & Melissa
Thanks for the kind encouragement. It is characteristic of sinful man to exalt his supposed wisdom above that of God. Is there not something in all of us to want to make the rules? Don't we all tend toward the desire to be the final court of arbitration in all matters?

Thank God for His Word without which we would be lost.

Your fellow intollerant bigoted religious gun-clinger,

rmkton said...


I am not sure if you won't see it, or can't see it (or are genetically predisposed against seeing it). You keep saying I don't know what I believe and that I don't have a model to interpret scripture...but you make that statement judged by your standards. I know what I believe and think I have explained it well. The fact that I don't have easily accessible answers for complex issues does not mean what I believe is invalid or less than what you believe (how incredibly postmodern of me I know)

Believe it or not, I understand and have sympathy for the fact that the model of faith that you defend is like a fortress that is being bombarded on many sides...from within (the church) and from without (the world). I know this is challenging and the discussion frustrating. I have been where you are...yet we can keep so busy trying to defend the fortress that we don't realize that it serves as a prison as well. Once one has fully left the prison it is impossible to go back. Some day I hope you find your way out.

Todd Pruitt said...


I realize it is comforting for you to condescend to me and cast my confidence in God's Word as akin to hiding in a fortress against the mean and nasty realities of life. I'm sorry that is where you used to live but it is certainly not where I am.

You must have grown up in a very unhealthy church.

If your belief system is "I don't know and can't know," then, yes, you have explained yourself well. The prison of your unbelief will not serve you well in the end.

You have already confessed in an earlier post that you have not found what you are looking for. I am saddened that you believe more of us should be in that same boat. I trust that you'll excuse those of us who are in the prison of beleif in what God has said. However, I find Him to be a more reliable guide than either you or me.

the topic is closed


Harley A. said...

How does a homosexual gene get passed on ?

Todd Pruitt said...


Excellent question.

This is one example of the many complexities that makes believing what God has said on the topic entirely unrealistic. I wish God had access to modern scientific method prior to the inspiration of Scripture so that He would have avoided so many errors.

rmkton said...

Todd, very interesting assessment you make here..."you must have grown up in a very unhealthy church." that would be COS...however I would not hold COS in any way responsible for my views. They are my own.

Agree to end this thread...

toothdoc said...

I had a real fear when I went to dental school years ago that the scientific knowledge would challenge my faith. How awesome that just the opposite occurred. When you look in detail at the complexity of our bodies, they are truly wonderfully made. But even more generally, look at the Hebrew creation story and compare it to the other "learned" civilizations of the ancient world and their "creation" stories. Even with our modern science, the order of creation is the same. Further, the Levitical laws regarding unclean animals and touching dead animals, diseased people, etc. We can see with our modern "knowledge" how those rules protected the Hebrews from bacteria and disease. How awesome is our God who made such beauty.

In all humility as the theological neophite on this blog, I believe that many of the criticisms levied against Christians derive from the few throughout history who have attempted to apply scripture to others lives instead of looking inward. I know you have preached many times on the dangers of attempting to explain what God has left as a mystery. To me that is where I have to return to the adage, "God is God and I am not."

Finally, Mike I want to thank you for reopening my eyes to the glory and privilege of being a slave to Christ! There is freedom in the servitude and I surrender anew to the risen Saviour. I do pray that we all would be refreshed in the realization that there is only freedom in Christ.

rmkton said...


It is not Christ's is man's.

Noel said...

If one applies the “genetic predisposition” argument to homosexuality, then it should also apply it to other issues as well. If we do this then we have to excuse anger, aggression, and hostility issues in women because the latest research shows that women who behave in such a manner have a “variation in a specific serotonin receptor.” ( ) We could also justify extra martial affairs, because higher levels of testosterone have been proven to increase libido which make these individuals prone to “wander.” I believe it is safe to say that most of us have a genetic predisposition to sin and to use genetics as a way to excuse it is a weak argument at best which opens the door to excusing a whole linty of behaviors.

toothdoc said...

Modern, enlightened people say "genetic predisposition", the church has for ages said that men are born sinners. We are so much smarter than god :(

Todd Pruitt said...


Take a deep breath and let it go.

Todd Pruitt said...

Liberals and the Joel Osteens of the world have dismissed the notion of sin. Now, rather than sinful we are disfunctional. Jesus did not come to save us from the wrath to come but to give us satisfying and successful lives.

As H. Richard Niebuhr observed about the liberal protestant church of his day:

"It seems that a God without wrath brought men without sin into a kingdom without a king through the ministrations of a Christ without a cross."

Pete Morris said...

I shudder with dread for those who will not follow me on to the rock, the cleft in the wall that shields me from the coming storm of the wrath of God. The screams of terror and anguish, as they get their wish to a spend eternity apart from the safe rock, break against the bloodied arms that hold me safe. The wrath, the wrath, be fearful and dread the wrath.

We who cheat, who lie, who steal, who lust, who connive, who take advantage of the weak and poor, the widow and orphan our very seconds of life are but wisps waiting for the quick judgement of the wrath, oh the wrath, what exact justice - at what moment will it fall on callous haters of God's Son? He will not be trifled with nor will He long be made little of, because His wrath will not forever be held from it's wild vengeance.

Find help, find it now. There is no other way, no hope, no luck. We're guilty as judged and as truth and justice demand the payment will be taken. Call to Jesus, God the Son.