I argued that those who have a justice hermeneutic regarding the issue of gender are very likely to see homosexuality in exactly the same light. I quoted Krish Kandiah who said, ““As an egalitarian I believe that leadership roles are available to men and women in the church, this does not lead me to change my views on homosexual sex.”
Steve Chalke begs to differ and this is national news. The narrative is taking shape. Slavery, women and now homosexuals. Unlike William Webb and his redemptive hermeneutics who argued that the trajectory wasn’t continuous across all three issues (see Greg Downes attempts to argue that very case in Christianity Magazine), leaders like Steve Chalke are now arguing that it is. Exactly the same arguments in fact. Here is Steve Chalke:
“Here is my question: shouldn’t we take the same principle that we readily apply to the role of women, slavery, and numerous other issues, and apply it our understanding of permanent, faithful, homosexual relationships? Wouldn’t it be inconsistent not to?”
There are several differing debates about to erupt in evangelicalism. Firstly and most obviously, does Steve Chalke have his hermeneutics & exegesis right? What s the right way of reading Scripture with regards to homosexuality? I know that there are many evangelicals who are committed to gender equality in the church but disagree with Steve Chalke and the EA have been quick to say so with links to further resources. I recommend this book as a good starting point, presenting as two sides to the argument. Peter Ould as always is quick off the mark with some helpful questions to begin with.
There are plenty of problems with Steve Chalke’s arguments; he bows to our cultural demand to have relationships, he reduces celibacy to those who are gifted or called, he fails to see the power of community to those who are single or even the value of singleness itself and a whole host of other weaknesses. Those are for another post another day.
Secondly, there will be a return to the question, ‘what is an evangelical?’ as Steve Chalke will continue to lay claim to the label. Leaders like Chalke argue that there are evangelical methods but not evangelical conclusions. Others argue that it’s not ok just to get your working out right, you actually have to get the answer right too. So will there be another rupture in evangelicalism? Christianity magazine has a good article on how the issue should be handled. I’d be interested to see in particular what organisations like Spring Harvest do now. It essentially split the last time Steve Chalke started a controversy (over the atonement), I wonder what will happen now.
My point is simple: depending on how they’ve made the case for gender equality will dramatically affect the persuasiveness of their case on homosexuality. For conservative cavemen and women with our stone-age views on women and repressed desires to own slaves the pressure will not be the same but for those who have argued on an hermeneutic of justice and equality may well find, ultimately, Steve Chalke’s and others arguments hard to resist. John Piper questioned whether these evangelicals will have the courage to swim against the cultural tide. It seem the time to find that out is now.