A.S. Haley: Yes, Paul Really Did Say That

From Stand Firm in Faith.

Thus, before the 77th General Convention, there were eleven versions of the Holy Bible authorized for use in worship services in the Episcopal Church (USA). And at the 77th Convention, a total of five new versions were proposed to be added to those, and were approved in the House of Deputies.

Or, that is, until a Deputy brought to the floor, at the last minute before adjournment on the fifth day (July 7), a motion to reconsider the Resolution in the form that had passed the HoD just twenty minutes or so earlier (the form with the five new translations listed above). Specifically, the Deputy announced that he was making the motion because he had “discovered”—in just the time since the Resolution had passed—that the English Standard Version used the word “homosexuality” in translating chapter 6, verse 9 of First Corinthians.

He announced that he was “shocked”, and felt “betrayed”, that the House would propose to use such an anachronistic translation in today’s Church. Didn’t everyone know that St. Paul, who lived two thousand years ago, could have known nothing about the “long-term commitments” and deep, mutual love which characterize today’s same-sex relationships? And that to ascribe a modern, only recently developed word like “homosexuality” to the sins of temple prostitution which he was denouncing was a complete case of category mistake? [N.B.: I have paraphrased the Deputy’s remarks from the various accounts on the blogs. If anyone who was there has a more accurate transcription, I will be happy to post it.]

To rectify this horrendous error, the House quickly voted to “reconsider” the Resolution, which meant that it would be considered again, de novo, on the next day, and in the form as proposed by the Standing Committee (i.e., with the two proposed originally, plus the two Contemporary English versions, but without the ESV language). In just a matter of minutes, it was as though “l’affaire E.S.V.” had never happened.

Read it all.

My purpose for citing this article is not quite the same as Haley’s. I’ll let his purpose stand on its own without further comment. What I want to point out from the excerpt above is this. Throughout the long, tortuous debate over homosexuality in many of the Christian mainline churches, opponents of same-sex blessing and marriage have consistently pointed out that homosexuality is only the presenting issue, i.e., it is only the tip of the iceberg that indicates a problem that is much deeper and more serious (the tip of the iceberg didn’t sink RMS Titanic; what lay hidden beneath the surface did and the Church catholic needs to pay attention to this, especially those in the Church catholic who try to use Scripture in support of blessing homosexual partnerships). For folks like me, the issue has always been the authority of Scripture. That is, do we accept Scripture as God’s word to humans or don’t we? The debacle that Haley points out above represents this issue perfectly.

If you are going to accept Scripture as God’s authoritative word to humans, you really do not have the freedom or leeway to change its original languages (Hebrew and Greek) so that you translate them into something they don’t mean (or, as in the case above, to advocate banning the use of a particular translation because you find some of its particular translations offensive). So rather than dealing with the implications of what Paul writes as well as grappling with the context in which he wrote it, what do we do? Give the original language a different meaning or ban those translations we find offensive!

Sorry, folks. No can do if you believe the Bible to be God’s authoritative word. You can say that you do not accept Scripture as God’s authoritative word and I can accept that. You can even say that Paul didn’t really understand the issues around homosexuality and I can accept that, even while thinking that you really need to take something to help cure your delusional thinking. These arguments (and a host of others) all indicate that you do not accept Scripture as God’s authoritative word and we can agree to disagree on that subject.

But it is duplicitous and weasely to say that you do accept Scripture as God’s authoritative word and then try to give it a meaning that simply is not congruent with the original text (or ban those translations that try to render a faithful translation of the original language). And frankly, if you have to resort to trickeration to make your point and support your agenda, your agenda is likely rotten to the core. That includes, BTW, rotten agendas advanced by folks who call themselves orthodox and/or evangelical Christians. Our Lord said that we should be honest and transparent in our speaking (cf. Matthew 5.33-37). In other words, don’t be a dishonest weasel when dealing with others. Say what you mean and mean what you say.

That is why I am opposed to those who advocate same-sex blessings, etc. in the name of Scripture. They have no leg to stand on and so are forced to try to make the text say something it doesn’t by using all kinds of convoluted thinking, including advancing the tired old canard that blessing gay partners is the “loving” thing to do, which is consistent with God’s will for homosexuals because God is love. Anyone who has taken the time to grapple with Scripture knows there is absolutely nothing “loving” about this position. In fact, quite the opposite is true. God created humans male and female and calls them to come together in one union in the context of marriage (see Genesis 1.26-27; 2.20b-24). Our Lord himself endorsed God’s creative intent contained in the Genesis narratives and so for me that puts an end to any of the discussion about whether the Church can bless homosexual partnerships. It simply can’t.

In the final analysis, we have a choice to make. Are we going to try to conform ourselves and our lives to God’s word or make God’s word conform to our agendas? No one who consistently pursues the latter course can legitimately claim to believe in Scripture as the authoritative word of God. No one. That’s their choice, of course, but that also excludes them from trying to foist something ungodly on us in the name of God.

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About Kevin Maney

Fr. Kevin Maney completed his studies for a Diploma in Anglican Studies at Trinity School for Ministry in Ambridge, PA, and did his coursework almost entirely online. He was ordained as a transitional deacon in the Convocation of Anglicans in North America (CANA) on February 9, 2008 and as a priest in CANA on May 1, 2008. He is now the rector for the new parish plant, St. Augustine's Anglican Church in Columbus, OH, part of the Anglican Diocese of the Great Lakes and the Anglican Church of North America (ACNA).