Friday, September 6, 2013

PM Kevin Rudd is Wrong on the New Testament

My one diversion from my daily tasks is reading and following politics, especially that of Australia and New Zealand. When PM Rudd was overthrown 3 years ago just before the 2010 election, I almost shed a tear or two because I liked the man, Kevin and his Mandarin speaking ability. But I shall be barracking for Tony Abbott tomorrow because PM Rudd has been disappointing even in the past couple of months since returning to power as the Australian PM. From what I know of Australian politics and history, a house divided cannot and will not stand. Australian Labour Party self-destructed over the prolonged Hawke vs. Keating struggle (early to mid 1990s) and in the past couple of years, we have the Rudd-Gillard saga played out.  At least Hawke and Keating were both charismatic figures and political titans in their own right (I have not seen a Hawke since in Australian politics) but Rudd-Gillard battle for supremacy has a lot more spice and spite but lacks weight and substance.

PM Rudd's answer to the pastor who asked him the question on his stance in respect of homosexuality was a classic spin of a tale. I have heard many times before - "But slavery is the norm in the Bible". Wrong, mate. In the New Testament, slavery is not something commanded by God that it ought to be kept or defended as if it is normative for all time. Slavery is a social condition in the 1st century AD, accepted by the apostle Paul since slaves in some urban centres could out-number the citizens and non-citizen residents who were freedmen. When the gospel was preached in these Mediterranean cities, many slaves turned to Christ and in a few letters (esp. 1 Corinthians, Ephesians & Colossians), Paul had to offer advice as to the master-slave relationship, now that in some instances both the master and the slave have become believers.

Paul makes the theological argument that social status matters not in the light of eternity since in Christ, all men and women are free (cf. Gal 3:28). Paul advises the masters and slave owners to treat their slaves with justice and fairness and slaves to obey their masters. Paul does not suggest in anyway that the institution of slavery itself is God-ordained or pleasing to God, since in 1 Corinthians 7:21, Paul recommends that a slave if given the opportunity to be a freedman should avail himself of such option. Nevertheless, as Paul's theology emphasizes that a slave is a freedman in the Lord and that he should not be overly concerned about his status as a slave if his circumstances do not permit him to obtain release as a freedman (1 Cor 7:20-24).

If freedom is enjoined to slaves when opportunity arises, then for Paul, slavery is not the normal condition of human relationships, least of all, a norm for all times as if the New Testament teaches and supports the institution of slavery. On the other hand, Paul teaches against homosexual behaviour between same sexes, either between female and female or male and male (Romans 1:18ff). Paul lists such sinful behaviour together with other sins like disobedient to parents, slanderers, etc as symptoms of fallen humanity (homosexual relations is elaborated upon by Paul as something especially abhorrent to God and against the order of nature). In the beginning, God created in his image, male and female (Gen 1:27) and it is his will that a man should leave his parents and be joined to his wife (a woman) and the two (man and woman) shall become one flesh (Gen 2:1ff). Anyone who reads the Pauline arguments in Romans 1:18-32 and Paul's reference and echo to the creation account in Genesis 2 should know what the New Testament teaches about marriage, the definition of marriage and homosexual behaviour. If such acts of homosexual relations arouse the wrath of God (Romans 1:18) and are deemed un-natural, namely, against the order and purpose of the creation of humankind, we can conclude that for Paul at least (there are other parts of the NT that support this), homosexual behaviour is sinful and this sinful behaviour is especially symptomatic of fallen humanity (Wretched man that I am!) which needs redemption and deliverance which only comes through our Lord Jesus Christ (Romans 7:24-25).

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