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» Peter Jennings Reporting: Jesus and Paul, the Word and the Witness
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[...continued from...] Jennings's account of Paul's views on sex is based almost entirely on a fractured reading of 1 Corinthians 7. The issue in that chapter is really not sex. It is, rather, whether new Christians should seek to escape from the obligations of ordinary, contractual human relationships. The statement with which the chapter opens, "it is good not to touch a woman," is probably Paul's quoting or reflecting back to the Corinthians a statement they had made in their letter to him (1 Cor. 7:1). He agrees only to a point: while being single definitely has its advantages, Paul does not want anyone using their new status as Christians as a pretext for abandoning their responsibilities to others. Thus husbands and wives are to fulfill their spousal obligations (including sex) to one another (1 Cor. 7:2-5). While in his opinion it would be better not to get married in the first place, he recognizes that some are gifted to be single and others are gifted to be married (1 Cor. 7:6-9). What he expects is that those who are married will not abandon their spouses, though if the unbelieving spouse chooses to leave the Christian is freed from that relationship (1 Cor. 7:10-15). In general, he instructs new believers to remain faithful to their relationships: Jews should remain Jews, Gentiles should remain Gentiles, married people should remain married, and single people, he advises, should not go looking to get married (1 Cor. 7:17-20, 25-27). Paul makes one big exception: while those who are free should not indenture themselves as slaves, those who are slaves should, if they can do so legally, become free (1 Cor. 7:21-24). He recommends the single (and chaste) life, not because the world is coming to an end, but because serving the Lord is harder for those who are married (1 Cor. 7:28-35). It is ironic that after drawing attention to the occasional nature of much of Paul's writings, his discussion of Paul's view of sexuality would take statements from this one chapter so badly out of context.
It is unfortunate that Jennings's report gave the impression that Paul viewed women as creatures to be kept silent and subjugated. Several women in Paul's orbit had notable-and vocal-roles in ministry. Priscilla was a vocal partner in teaching ministry with her husband Aquila (Acts 18:18, 24-26; Rom. 16:3; 1 Cor. 16:19; 2 Tim. 4:19). Phoebe held the church office of deacon in the Corinthian seaport of Cenchrae (Rom. 16:1; cf. Phil. 1:1; 1 Tim. 3:8-13). Paul spoke approvingly about women praying and prophesying in church (1 Cor. 11:4-5, 13) and encouraged them along with all believers to seek and exercise spiritual gifts (12:31; 14:1, 5, 31), all of which were used in the public worship of the church (14:3-4, 26). It was Paul who gave the ringing declaration, "There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus" (Gal. 3:28 NKJV). Again, Jennings acknowledges the occasional nature of much of Paul's statements and then fails to consider the context of the more controversial comments Paul made about women. For example, in Corinth some women were apparently disrupting church meetings with supposed prophetic revelations giving them independence from their husbands (see 1 Cor. 11:3-5; 14:34-38). Paul's directive in this situation that the women were to be silent was therefore not a general policy prohibiting women from saying anything.
No one should be surprised that Jennings would give a black pastor the one and only comment on Paul's condemnation of homosexual conduct, or that an equivalency would be implied between Paul's view of homosexuality and his supposed endorsement of slavery. The politically correct constantly seek to draw a moral and political parallel between "gay rights" and the civil rights movement. But Jennings would not have needed to look hard to find black pastors outraged at the comparison.
The thin basis for Butts's claim that the condemnation of homosexuals is attributable to Paul and not Jesus is that in the Gospels there is no mention of Jesus saying anything about homosexual conduct. But this silence, if it proves anything, proves that the subject was not a controversial issue between Jesus and the Jewish leaders-which would imply, in turn, that he agreed with them that homosexual acts were sinful. For this same reason the Gospels do not record Jesus commenting on the sinfulness of child sacrifice, bestiality, sex with minors, and various other behaviors. It should be enough to observe that Jesus strongly affirmed the behavioral standards of the Old Testament (Matt. 5:17-20), which of course included condemnation of homosexual conduct (Lev. 18:22; 20:13), and never questioned their moral authority. Surely, then, the burden of proof is on those who would maintain that Paul had misrepresented Jesus in his view of such matters.
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