Luke Timothy Johnson is well-known among those in my profession. He’s a prolific, accomplished scholar of the New Testament. But in a recent essay for Commonweal magazine, he offers a shocking public endorsement of homosexual marriage, as well as a blatant rejection of the authority of scripture on this issue. Here is the relevant excerpt:
I have little patience with efforts to make Scripture say something other than what it says, through appeals to linguistic or cultural subtleties. The exegetical situation is straightforward: we know what the text says. But what are we to do with what the text says? We must state our grounds for standing in tension with the clear commands of Scripture, . . . I think it important to state clearly that we do, in fact, reject the straightforward commands of Scripture, and appeal instead to another authority when we declare that same-sex unions can be holy and good. And what exactly is that authority? We appeal explicitly to the weight of our own experience and the experience thousands of others have witnessed to, which tells us that to claim our own sexual orientation is in fact to accept the way in which God has created us. By so doing, we explicitly reject as well the premises of the scriptural statements condemning homosexuality-namely, that it is a vice freely chosen, a symptom of human corruption, and disobedience to God’s created order.
I have at least one thing in common with Johnson. I too have little patience with those who do hermeneutical gymnastics with Scripture in order to obscure or eliminate the Bible’s clear condemnations of homosexual behavior. But where we disagree profoundly is what we should do with the Scripture’s teaching on this matter. Johnson says we have to reject Scripture for a higher authority. I say (following 1 Timothy 3:16) that the Scripture is the word of God written. As the word of God, the Scripture bears God’s own authority so that there is therefore no “higher” authority that we can appeal to.
Al Mohler is commenting on the article at his website: “Homosexuality and the Bible — The Rejectionist Approach.” His reflections are worth reading.