Monday, January 16, 2012

holiness and sexuality

In his writing on holiness and sexuality, David Peterson posits "To allow the legitimacy of homosexual acts would frustrate the divine purpose and deny the perfection of God’s provision of two sexes to support and complement one another." His start point for argument is two-fold. I agree with him and I've copied them below:

Holiness and sexuality

We live in a culture that has abandoned traditional sexual values, many of which were informed by Scripture. Even church leaders regularly endorse cultural, rather than scriptural standards. Engaging in debates about sexuality, we find ourselves confronted with fundamental questions about the authority and sufficiency of Scripture. We are challenged to explain why the Bible’s teaching on sexuality has any relevance to our world today.

This article focuses on homosexuality because it is currently so contentious in Christian circles. Theologically and pastorally, however, homosexuality cannot be considered in isolation from human sexual behaviour more generally. What we conclude with regard to homosexuality has profound implications for what we say about every other form of sexuality. Similarly, biblical teaching about homosexuality must be understood in relation to the broader perspectives of Scripture on sexuality. One of the most serious errors in the current debate is the isolation of homosexuality from this wider context.


In addition to such arguments, the issue of justice for homosexuals is also brought into the discussion by many pro-gay church leaders. But the language of holiness is rarely heard. This is remarkable since holiness is the theological context and motivation for the teaching of the Mosaic law about sexual behaviour (Lev. 18:1-30; 20:7-26). Holiness is similarly the basis of Paul’s appeal for distinctive sexual behaviour in several key passages (e.g. 1 Thes. 4:1-8; 1 Cor. 6:9-20; 2 Cor. 6:14 – 7:2). How law and gospel differ in this connection remains to be explored. However, in terms of biblical theology, holiness rather than justice, love, tolerance, unity or personal fulfilment should be our first consideration. Holiness is a gospel issue that cannot be side-stepped.

The consistency of Scripture

In this article, I want to approach the relevant biblical material on holiness and sexuality, to demonstrate the overall consistency of Scripture on this subject. Beginning with the law of Moses, I will expose the framework and purpose of the teaching in Leviticus about sexuality. In so doing, I will show links with the fundamental purposes of God in creation, as revealed in the early chapters of Genesis. Turning to the teaching of Jesus, I will show how he similarly highlights the foundational purposes of God in creation when considering issues of marriage and sexuality. Jesus endorses the essential teaching of the law in this area, while enunciating the radical holiness which is at the heart of the New Covenant he inaugurates.

When the letters of Paul are studied against this background, it is clear that the foundational purposes of God in creation are the basis of his thinking about sexual matters. At the same time, he makes a clear link between holiness and sexuality, as in the Mosaic law. However, the newness of the situation is that sanctification is achieved for us through the redemptive work of Christ. The outcome of that redemption is the present work of the Spirit, empowering God’s people for holiness, and ultimately the resurrection of the body. All this is the context for the apostle’s teaching about the way we use our bodies now.

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