WN: Dr. Willard Swartley is an outstanding New Testament exegete, whom I now consider a friend, after our meeting in 2006. I had this two-part question that did not receive an answer (not his fault) on the occasion of his presentation on the subject in Abbotsford BC in 2004.
Homosexuality Question, October 23, 2004
Dr. Swartley, I have done my best over the years to follow the discussion on homosexuality in the church. I consider the enormous divisive nature of this discussion a great tragedy in light of John 17 where Christ calls us to unity as the only strategy for evangelism. Jesus says in his unmatched High Priestly Prayer:
. . . that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one: I in them and you in me. May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me. (John 17:21-23)
My question is two parts, and in the context of divisiveness on homosexuality so contradictory to Christ’s unity prayer in John 17: the visible unity of the Church.
First, I take you back to the analogy to divorce and remarriage that you consider in your book. Though there is a clear scriptural normative prohibition against divorce and remarriage in Jesus and in Paul, Richard Hays, whose careful analysis of the New Testament moral vision is according to you unmatched, presents an argument from silence in support of remarriage, despite explicit prohibitions against divorce and remarriage in Jesus and Paul:
How can we reject the possibility that a second marriage after a divorce could serve as a sign of grace and redemption from the sin and brokenness of the past? No New Testament writer entertains such a suggestion, but I offer it here as a constructive theological proposal. (p. 373)
Similarly I ask:
How can we reject the possibility that a faithful monogamous homosexual marriage could serve as a sign of grace and redemption from the sin and brokenness of the past?
Second, as we know, widespread divorce and remarriage are the reality throughout our Mennonite churches, throughout most Evangelical churches, and beyond. This came about without the church ever discussing the issue in anything like the wide debate going on about homosexuality around the world today.
Is it possible to conclude that two significant sociological phenomena are primarily driving the enormous church dissension about homosexuality, not Scripture, and different from the equally biblically and more-so theologically significant issue of divorce and remarriage, namely:
1. dominant male leadership in the church that is repulsed by male homosexual acts;
2. the relative paucity of numbers of our children and others declaring as homosexuals or lesbians, versus as many as 50 percent of our congregants going through divorce and remarriage?