The Crisis of Authority in Christ’s Church (II)
In the last issue, I pointed out that McLaren and the ECM crowd keep skirting important, essential doctrinal and ethical issues. McLaren did this from the outset in his book A Generous Orthodoxy and continues to do so to this day. He also continues to employ the same old worn-out, hackneyed phrase, “You don’t understand me.” It is quite possible, Mr. McLaren that the problem does not lie with your critics but with you and the manner in which you express yourself.
This crisis in authority poses a critical problem for serious Christians. Especially during my time in Holland, I was impressed by the theology of Herman Bavinck who taught me that Christians ought to aim at a clear unity among home, church, and school. That is to say, what is taught by the parents in the home should be reinforced in the local congregation as well as in the school the child(ren) attends. In the U.S. this is not easy to attain, but it certainly is do-able when parents take their biblical responsibilities seriously.
These reasons cause me (and my wife) to agree that I don’t want my children anywhere near someone like Donald Miller, Doug Pagitt, or Brian McLaren. Fortunately for us, what we teach in our home corresponds with what is taught in our local congregation. All of our children are out of high school now, but I do want to say that I believe that it is next to impossible for Christian parents to send their child to a public high school. The various agendas in the public school system are “legion,” for there are many of them.
I am also convinced that it is becoming imperative that male Christians and parents must make a decidedly more concerted effort to seek out, find, and then attach themselves to a truly biblical church. Article 28 of the Belgic Confession (1561) states, in part, the following: “We believe, since this holy assembly and congregation is the assembly of the redeemed and there is no salvation outside of it, that no one ought to withdraw from it, content to be by himself, no matter what his state or quality may be. But all and everyone are obliged to join it and unite with it, maintaining the unity of the Church. They must submit themselves to its instruction and discipline, bend their necks under the yoke of Jesus Christ, and serve the edification of the brothers and sisters, according to the talents which God has given them as members of the same body.”
If little or nothing is being taught by dad and mom at home then, I suppose, it really doesn’t matter where you go to church, does it? But if you are genuinely a believer and truly, deeply care about the things of God, you will want to find the best church around. What might that church look like? Let me spend some time telling you what it is not. It is not the church with the coolest praise band. It is not the church with the best youth programs. It is not the church with the largest congregation. It is not the church that builds your self-esteem. It is not the church with the most appealing building(s).
It is, however, the church where the Word of God is preached, where the sacraments are administered properly, and, where necessary, church discipline is also administered. In order to find such a congregation, those who call themselves Christians are going to have to undertake a serious search. This cannot and must not be done flippantly or casually since so much is riding on the decision itself. Serious Christians will be diligently seeking a church where what they teach their children in the home will be reinforced by Sunday School and the preaching in their home church.
Before we move on, I will also say that the most viable option to insure that the triad of home, church, and school is unified and harmonious is to home school your children. Having said that, let’s move on to McLaren’s responses to his article on the homosexual question.
Being Right Isn’t Enough
McLaren has—once again—created one of his patented straw men. He gives the impression that those who are doctrinally and ethically correct are cold, calculated, cruel, and heartless. Why else would he emphasize that we also must be wise, loving, patient, and pastoral. McLaren stresses that he “never said that being right was unimportant—only that we must be pastoral.” Are we surprised that McLaren doesn’t suggest a few ways we might be pastoral in the homosexual question? I’m not. This approach is clearly his modus operandi. Does being “loving” or “pastoral” imply or mean that we never confront the practicing homosexual with the need to repent from a sin that the Lord calls an “abomination?” Does it mean that we only attempt to be understanding, tolerant, and politically correct all the while neglecting the sinners most obvious need: repentance?
Second, McLaren manifests his disdain for Scripture when he writes, “Many readers seem to assume that by quoting verses from Leviticus, Romans, and 1 Corinthians, they have solved the problem.” While it is true that the mere citation of certain texts does not “solve” the problem—the sinner still needs to repent—it is a good start. There have been cases when the so-called “proof-texting” mentality has skewed the true meaning of the Bible. Proper scriptural verses taken from Leviticus, Deuteronomy, Romans, and 1 Corinthians clearly point out that homosexual activity is displeasing to God and therefore evil. McLaren’s “out” is that the ECMers “find the issue more complex.” He does not, however, give us an inkling into the precise nature of the complexity especially with regards to the books of the Bible that he mentioned.
What Isn’t Clear?
McLaren tells us that he is not only aware of the texts but also that he has prayerfully pondered them and has read extensively on the many sides of the issue. This leads him to conclude: “I understand that for many people, these verses end all dialogue and people like me seem horribly stupid not to see what’s there so clearly to them.” Yep. The unmistakable clarity of the verses in question do, in a very real sense, end all dialogue. God will not negotiate the truth and clarity of his Word and we shouldn’t either.
According to McLaren, the degree of difficulty is complicated because “We have become aware of as-yet unanswered scholarly questions, such as questions about the precise meaning of malakoi and arsenokoitai in Paul’s writings…” Really? This is precisely the same nonsense that I heard in 1975 in Holland. Scholarship is hurting—big time. If research hasn’t made the meanings of those words clear in a quarter of a century is there any hope? Moreover, what happened to the certainty that “scholarship” had through the centuries when they understood the meaning of the apostle quite clearly?
Some might not understand what the italicized Greek words above stand for, so let’s go to Scripture and try to find out what McLaren is referring to. He seems to be searching for the “precise” meaning of those Greek words as they are found in 1 Corinthians 6:9. So just as a general exercise, let’s see how some of our major translations view those two words.
As a reference point, I’ll start by giving the text as it is presented in the ESV: “Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.”
The ESV translates the two Greek words with one phrase, “nor men who practice homosexuality.” In a footnote the translators inform us of the following concerning malakoi and arsenokoitai: “The two Greek terms translated by this phrase refer to the passive and active partners in consensual homosexual acts.” So how do the other translations see these verses?
The New American Standard Version of 1995 reads: “Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate (malakoi) , nor homosexuals (arsenokoitai), nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, will inherit the kingdom of God.”
The New International Version translates: “Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes (malakoi) nor homosexual offenders (arsenokoitai) nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.”
The New King James Version reads as follows: “Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals (malakoi), nor sodomites (arsenokoitai), nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God.”
Now let’s turn our attention to what the more technical dictionaries and lexicons have to say. One of the standard lexicons is Liddell and Scott’s Greek-English Lexicon. They translate arsenokoitai as “man-minded” and malakoi as “of things subject to touch,” “soft,” “effeminate.” Walter Bauer’s Wörterbuch zum Neuen Testament is a scholarly work that translates malakoi as “weakness” (Schwachheit) or men and young men who allow themselves to be sexually abused (Männern u. Jünglingen die sich mißbrauchen ließen). The critical German scholar Heinrich Meyer came to similar conclusions. The Dutch New Testament scholar F.W. Grosheide comments that the text in 1 Corinthians 6:9 to which McLaren is referring should be translated “Effeminate men and abusers of themselves with men.” The two words designate “passive and active homosexuals respectively.”
Noted British scholar C.K. Barrett states that the two words employed in the text in question denote “The passive and active partners respectively in male homosexual relations.” This (scholarly) sentiment by Barrett’s fellow-countryman F.F. Bruce.
Simon Kistemaker concludes the following: “The next Greek word, malakoi (homosexuals), relates to ‘men and boys who allow themselves to be misused homosexually.’ This word connotes passivity and submission. By contrast, the third Greek term, arsenokoitai (sodomites), presents men who initiate homosexual practices (1 Tim. 1:10). They are the active partners in these pursuits. From Greek and Latin prose, pottery, and sculpture, we learn that preoccupation with sexual practices was prevalent among men in the first century. These men wallowed in homosexual sins and rivaled even the inhabitants of ancient Sodom (Gen. 19:1-10; see also Lev. 18:22; 20:13).”
So we are left with the question: What isn’t clear? Scholars across the spectrum come up with basically the same translations, but Mr. McLaren would like to have us believe that we simply don’t know the answer to what the Bible says about homosexual activity. And this is precisely the problem, because the Bible is clear. The problem is not the clarity of Scripture, but Mr. McLaren’s unwillingness to submit to the Word of God. To make matters worse, he implicates God by accusing him of unclear revelation.
Do we need a moratorium on speaking about the homosexual issue? Not at all. What is needed is clear preaching about it and other sins given to us in Scripture and calling all men and women everywhere to repent of their sins and serve God according to his Word.
 http://blog.christianitytoday.com/outofur/archives/2006/01, p. 1.
 Ibid., 2.
 Henry G. Liddell & Robert Scott, A Greek-English Lexicon, (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 19409).
 Ibid., 247.
 Ibid., 1076-1077.
 Walter Bauer, Wörterbuch zum Neuen Testament, (Berlin: de Gruyter, 1971), pp. 965 & 217, respectively.
 See H.A.W. Meyer, Handbuch über den ersten Brief an die Korinther, (Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1888), pp. 167-168.
 F.W. Grosheide, Commentary on the First Epistle to the Corinthians, (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1972), p. 140.
 C.K. Barrett, A Commentary on the First Epistle to the Corinthians, (NY: Harper & Row, 1968), p. 140.
 Simon Kistemaker, 1 Corinthians, (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1993), pp. 188-189.