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Misinterpreting Scripture: David Runcorn on Genesis 18-19

The term ‘sodomy’ for homosexuality comes from the story of Sodom and Gomorrah in Genesis 18-19.  The use of this term by the Church indicates the consistent understanding of the text throughout the Church’s history: it is a story about, among other things, homosexuality in Canaan.  Not so, say a number of modern interpreters who wish to find some other meaning in the story or who, more likely, have an agenda to find anything in the text other than a story about disordered sexuality.  In the Pilling Report, David Runcorn follows the recent interpretation of several others as he puts forward a single interpretation that fits his agenda.  For these interpreters, the story of Sodom is a story about hospitality—not accepting the stranger.  In this way, the text is made irrelevant for the Church of England’s present confusion over the issue of homosexuality.[1]
So, have modern interpreters, followed by some western Anglicans such as Runcorn, discovered a better interpretation of Genesis 18-…

Misinterpreting Scripture: David Runcorn on Leviticus 18.22 and the Need to Read Scripture in Literary Context

Possibly most misinterpretation of Scripture is simply the result of not reading a text in its own literary context.  This is the sort of thing warned against in primary school.  Take, for example, one of the arguments regarding Leviticus 18.22:
You shall not lie with a male as with a woman; it is an abomination.
David Runcorn argues in the Pilling Report of the Church of England on human sexuality that this text is not about men in homosexual relationships.[1]  His interpretation appeals to what he thinks is the cultural context for this verse, and he uses that line of reasoning to try to limit the way the text otherwise seems to read.  (After all, are not laws written for broad application unless otherwise limited?)  The suggested cultural context by Runcorn is a male dominated society in which men are being told not to behave like women in passive sexual acts (i.e., penetrated by another male).  In this way, the text is dismissed from any relevance to homosexuality: it becomes an arc…

Our Great and Awesome God

Introduction
The Exodus of Israel from their subjugation in Egypt meant more than freedom.  It meant becoming a people and gaining an identity among the nations.  No longer a slave community serving the Egyptians, they were brought by God out of Egypt to their own land.  God made a covenant with them that gave them their own, unique laws among the nations.  They told their own story, beginning with the patriarchs—Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob—continuing with the judges and kings, and looking beyond their exile to God’s redemption.  Yet, more than anything else, this becoming a people meant becoming the people of God, and that meant telling their story as the story of God’s dealing with them.
Our Awesome Deliverer and King (Exodus 15)
The story of God that Israel told declared that God is great and awesome.  It is a story they learned at the very beginning of their history as a nation.  God was their awesome deliverer.  Israel would tell from generation to generation that “the LORD displayed …

In Memorium

Eugene Edgar Grams (1930-2016): A Son’s Tribute
Eugene Edgar Grams was born in Rosendale, Wisconsin on 19 September, 1930.  He married Evelyn Phyllis Louton in Potgietersrus, Transvaal, South Africa on 20 March, 1952.  He died peacefully, though after a time of failing health, in Springfield, Missouri on 9 December, 2016.  He is survived by his three sons and six grandchildren.
Our hearts are sad to say goodbye, but we rejoice in the sure hope that Dad’s absence from the body means that he is present with the Lord (2 Corinthians 5:8).  Though we cannot fully comprehend these things on this side of the curtain of death, we believe that Dad is now with his beloved Phyllis, with their daughter, Faith Hope Grams, with his parents, William and Martha, and other family and friends, including Dad's beloved sister, Arlene, who died as a young girl.  We, as Christians, believe that to depart from this life and be with Christ is far better than what we now experience in a fallen world (Philip…

Brief Thoughts on Women’s Ordination, Homosexuality, and Slavery

I teach Biblical ethics.  Each year I do so, I wonder whether I should put on the list of topics to consider ‘women in ministry’.  We always discuss sexual ethics—particularly homosexuality, given challenges to orthopraxy in the West in our day on this topic.  But does a discussion of women in ministry belong in a course on ethics in the same way that a topic like homosexuality does?  Is it not more a matter of 'polity'?
The answer is in part what we understand by ‘ethics’.  Too often, we think of ethics as ‘quandary ethics’—what should we do when faced with challenging circumstances?  This approach to ethics is all about major challenges and struggles: abortion when a mother’s life is in danger, going to war when faced with a major, evil force like the Nazis or Isis, or homosexuality—a challenge in a different way given that some clergy and scholars are challenging the long-standing teaching of the Church in our day.  
Yet ethics is more than quandary ethics.  It is also, and m…

'Nature' and ‘Against Nature’ in Romans 1:26-27: A Study in the Primary Sources

Introduction
In Romans 1:26-27, Paul distinguishes ‘unnatural’ from ‘natural’, saying that homosexual acts among both women and men are ‘unnatural’. 
Romans 1:26-27 For this reason God gave them up to degrading passions. Their women exchanged natural intercourse [physikēn chrēsin, natural use] for unnatural [para physin, against nature],  27 and in the same way also the men, giving up natural intercourse [physikēn chrēsin, natural use] with women, were consumed with passion for one another. Men committed shameless acts with men and received in their own persons the due penalty for their error.
This understanding, however, has been questioned, and the debate centres around what Paul means by ‘natural’ (physikon and kata physin)and ‘unnatural’ (para physin).  Those questioning this understanding in recent years (it was not questioned in the history of the church until now)[1] focus on the notion of ‘natural’ rather than the Greek phrases, but both are pertinent to the discussion, as we sh…