Homosexuality and the Clergy by N.T. Wright

N.T. Wright is one of my favourite theologians. He inspires a lot of my favourite authors and has gone out of his way to try and help the regular listener, like myself, understand his deep theology. Since this blog seems to have taken a turn to one topic lately, I thought I’d post this along too to give some room for the other side of the argument. This article is coming from an interesting point of view as N.T. Wright is the Bishop of Durham and he’s involved as his church and the Episcopal Church are wrestling with homosexual marriage and ordaining ministers who are practicing homosexuals. It seems Wright strongly disagrees with Wink, but I still think this is making for a great conversation.

Update: Here is a rebuttal to N.T. Wright’s article that I thought gave a good perspective on the other side by a guy named Scott Gunn that seems to be involved pretty heavily with the church in question.

That wider tradition always was counter-cultural as well as counter-intuitive. Our supposedly selfish genes crave a variety of sexual possibilities. But Jewish, Christian and Muslim teachers have always insisted that lifelong man-plus-woman marriage is the proper context for sexual intercourse. This is not (as is frequently suggested) an arbitrary rule, dualistic in overtone and killjoy in intention. It is a deep structural reflection of the belief in a creator God who has entered into covenant both with his creation and with his people (who carry forward his purposes for that creation).

The appeal to justice as a way of cutting the ethical knot in favour of including active homosexuals in Christian ministry simply begs the question. Nobody has a right to be ordained: it is always a gift of sheer and unmerited grace. The appeal also seriously misrepresents the notion of justice itself, not just in the Christian tradition of Augustine, Aquinas and others, but in the wider philosophical discussion from Aristotle to John Rawls. Justice never means “treating everybody the same way”, but “treating people appropriately”, which involves making distinctions between different people and situations. Justice has never meant “the right to give active expression to any and every sexual desire”.

2 Comments

  • Perhaps the biggest difference between Wright and Wink on this issue is that Wink believes Paul was a sort of pre-modern biologist and therefore understands Paul’s use of words like “nature” to have primarily a biological referent, whereas Wright is going to see Paul as a theologian and understand the apostle’s language in light of the Hebrew narrative.

  • Alan, thanks for the comment!

    I don’t know if I full agree with that, Wink even says in his article that he realizes the scriptures don’t approve of homosexuality. I think their biggest difference is where they see the role of scripture and the freedom of the church. Wink see the church as having freedom to reinterpret these things in the light of Christ and grace, Wright sees it more as trying to understand it and do what it says. Which actually surprised me a little bit, only because my first understanding of the church being an extension of the scriptures and not trying to become exactly what they were was by NT Wright in his analogy of it being like a play where the scriptures are the first 4 acts and the church today is the 5th act. So really, Wink and Wright just disagree on what the 5th act is supposed to look like, not necessarily what the bible says about it.

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