Monday, October 19, 2015

Fallible Jesus

Dr. Kirk didn't contest much of what I said about Jesus and Scripture. He just thinks Jesus (along with all the rest of Scripture) was wrong in insisting on a male-female foundation for sexual ethics, though that is not Jesus' fault because he was captive to his culture on this issue and lacked adequate information (!). So that idea that Jesus had, that the duality of number in a sexual union is predicated on the God-ordained duality of the sexes for sexual pairing ... you can forget about that apparently. 
Kirk appealed to the Gentile inclusion episode in Acts 10-11 as a basis for departing from Jesus and the entirety of Scripture to promote homosexual unions. 
Today I am participating in a forum in which I will be advocating, for the first time, for the full inclusion of LGBTQ people within the life of the church, and for the church’s support of these sexual and gender minorities in their quest to follow Jesus and their quest to sustain lifelong committed partnerships with the partners of their choice. 
What does it look like to love our LGBTQ siblings? I have come to the conclusion that it means recognizing that the same Spirit that is at work in me to move me into the faithfulness and, yes, ethical life that is the fruit of the Spirit is also at work in them.

I this post I will go by Gagnon's summary of Kirk's position in their recent debate (along with some direct quotes from Kirk). On Facebook, James White corroborates Gagnon's summary. Several issues:

i) Appealing to a fallible Jesus to make room for their social agenda is becoming more popular among "progressive Christians." In addition to Daniel Kirk, other examples include 
Brandon Ambrosino, Peter Enns, and Randal Rauser.

ii) I suppose the ostensible justification for this move would be the claim that fallibility is an implication of Christ's humanity. If he was truly human (as well as truly divine), then he must have been subject to the intellectual limitations of human nature and human experience. If so, there are basic problems with that contention:

a) Fallible humans can have true beliefs. Although fallibility creates the possibility of error, it doesn't make error inevitable in any particular case. And, indeed, "progressive Christians" like Kirk could only claim that human beliefs are automatically mistaken on pain of self-refutation. After all, to say Jesus was wrong presumes a standard of comparison. In order for Jesus to be wrong, Kirk must be right. 

b) In addition, Scripture has a doctrine of inspiration. Even if humans are naturally fallible, there are situations in which God doesn't leave humans to their own devices. Rather, he supernaturally protects some humans from error.

Of course, "progressive Christians" like Kirk reject inspiration. My immediate point, however, is that you can't rest your entire case on unaided human nature, as if that's a given. In principle, that's consistent with divine assistance. Something above and beyond merely human resources.

c) Finally, in orthodox Christology, the two natures of Christ aren't mutually independent. Rather, the divine nature can act as a check on the human nature. Even if (ex hypothesi) Jesus qua human were fallible, it doesn't follow that his humanity in union with his divinity is fallible. Although his humanity can't affect his divinity, his divinity can affect his humanity. In the hypostatic union, the divine nature retains control. 

Again, "progressive Christians" like Kirk might reject that. But my immediate point is that there's nothing in the logic of the Incarnation to render Jesus fallible. 

iii) If Christ's view of sexual ethics is a culturebound reflection of his social conditioning, why stop there? Why not say his view of God is simply mirrors his Jewish cultural conditioning? Why think he knew what God was really like? Is God just? Is God merciful? 

By the same token, why not say his view of the afterlife is just a reflection of his Jewish milieu? Why think he knew what happens to us after we die? Maybe there is no heaven or hell. 

By the logic of "progressive Christians" like Kirk, had Jesus grown up in modern-day Boston, he might well be an atheist. Had he grown up in India, he might well be a Hindu. Had he been a member of the Hitler Youth, he might well be a zealous Nazi. 

iv) Let's assume for the sake of argument that Acts 10-11 provides a valid analogy for "the full inclusion of LGBTQ people within the life of the church"? What would that prove? Why does Kirk even feel the need to justify his position by finding a foothold for his position in Scripture? After all, if Jesus could be so wrong, why think Christians in Acts 10-11 have any special insight into the issue? Why bother with Scripture at all? Why turn to Scripture? Why assume that's a potential source of ethical guidance? If even Jesus can't be trusted to get it right, why treat Acts 10-11 as a trustworthy signpost?

v) What does it mean to Kirk to follow Jesus? Why would you follow a fallible spiritual guide? Indeed, in this case, Kirk does not follow Jesus. 

What's the value of "the full inclusion of LGBTQ people within the life of the church"? Hasn't the church become an obsolete institution? The church is traditionally defined by theological presuppositions like the classification of humans as sinners whose iniquities must be atoned. But from Kirk's perspective, aren't those antiquated categories, to be replaced by psychological and sociological categories? 

Why the fatuous pretense of invoking the "Spirit's" direction? What's the value of clinging to remnants of Christian theology? Why is it even important for Kirk to consider himself a Christian? Why not reclassify himself as a secular humanist? Isn't that more intellectually honest? Isn't it time for folks like Kirk to drop the token religious residue and assume a consistently naturalistic outlook? 


  1. Steve, can you please post a link to James White's facebook page where he made the comments to which you are referring? Thank you.


  2. John 5:30 "“I can do nothing on my own. As I hear, I judge, and my judgment is just, because I seek not my own will but the will of him who sent me.
    So, if Jesus was judging by the will of the Father how would Kirks claim square that? Is the Father fallible also?

  3. Thanks for this, it made me think of some things I've come across in my circle of friends...

    When you said: "Why bother with Scripture at all? Why turn to Scripture?", it just gave further proof that people like this appeal to scripture, not because they believe it to be an authority, but because they are using it as a weapon against orthodoxy. If they can show "by scripture" (by scripture twisting really) that "scripture says" that the "full inclusion of LGBTQ people within the life of the church" is true, right, and good, then some Christians may be deceived and fall for it.

    Casting doubt on the authority, interpretation, and veracity of scripture has been a common tool of these people - c.f. Rob Bell, etc...