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WHEN THE MIND STAYS BEHIND: AN OVERVIEW OF PTSD ON SERVICEMEN RETURNING FROM WAR

ptsd

Introduction

Since the fall of man, war has been part and parcel of the human experience. From the moment two brothers, Cain and Abel, warred against each other the earth has been saturated with the blood of mankind. The fall had greater consequences than what Adam and Eve had gambled on that fateful day. Moreover, war not only brought death, but also Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). I have often wondered if–from a theological perspective—PTSD is the result of a fallen/imperfect brain failing to be resilient at times when most needed, or were our brains simply not created to suffer trauma to such an extent. One would argue the former is more likely. Whatever the theological implications of PTSD, the fact is that it remains with us for the time being as part of the human reality, and current military chaplains would do well in understanding this phenomenon.

Military Chaplains are more likely to be approached by someone with trauma injury, than a military counselor or psychologist. In current military culture, anything that may resemble a “shrink” carries the stigma of “crazy people’s doctor”, and thus creates mistrust within the ranks; especially when the client is a senior leader. Unfortunately, chaplains are not well equipped to deal with men and women who experience symptoms of PTSD. Most can’t even recognized the signs and symptoms of PTSD. The few who are able to manage these clients with care have acquired these skills through trial and error, have a background in counseling and/or psychology, or they have simply sought the extra education necessary to help survivors of trauma. To this aim one will discuss PTSD from the perspective of an unapologetically Christian military chaplain with a laymen’s understanding of current works of PTSD. This work will discuss symptomology, differential diagnosis, latest research, etiology, and treatment.

Description of Symptomology—Physical, Emotional, Behavioral, Indicators

Dr. Glenn Schiraldi offered a great definition of PTSD in his book entitled The Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder Sourcebook. He defined it as a “normal response by normal people to an abnormal situation.” However, during the course of one’s research few definitions of PTSD have surfaced. Most scholars are concerned mainly with defining PTSD in terms of signs and symptoms, than conceptualizing it into a broad definition; a practical approach which is beneficial to the discussion at hand.

According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual IV (DSM-IV) PTSD is classified as an anxiety disorder and diagnosis of PTSD must meet six criteria. First, there must be a stressor which is an exposure to a traumatic event with a serious threat to life or physical integrity to the victim or someone nearby. This criterion is easily met by all veterans of military conflicts. The question has been raised whether there should be a distinction between actual threat and perceived threat. However, in light of the DSM-IV lack of defining and distinction, “the US Department of Veterans Affairs has recently liberalized the evidentiary requirements of Criterion A to include a fear of hostile military or terrorist activity.”

The second criterion for PTSD is intrusive recollection. This condition is the one most often depicted in Hollywood and the most popularly associated with the condition. Intrusive recollection comes in the form of nightmares, flashbacks, dissociation, or severe distress on reminders. These intrusions occur due to triggers, which can be internal or external. These triggers lead to the third criterion for PTSD which is avoiding of stimuli associated with the trauma. This is when the victims begin to avoid people, places, and activities which may remind them in some form, of the trauma. This will also include avoiding certain feelings, thoughts, lack of interest in sexual activities, and avoidance of conversations which may have some loose connection to the trauma.

The fourth criterion is hyperarousal. Hyperarousal is the body’s continued response as if the threat of the trauma is present. In essence, the body continues to react as if in a fight or flight mode. The client may have increase pulse and blood pressure, accompanied by sweating and rapid-shallow breathing. A client with PTSD may have sleep disturbances, may be easily irritated, unable to concentrate, and may be impulsive. Furthermore, the client might demonstrate hyper vigilance, exaggerated hyper response, and outbursts of anger.

The last two criteria for PTSD are duration and functional significance. Proper identification of PTSD requires that symptoms of intrusive recollection, avoidance, and hyperarousal have lasted longer than one month.Moreover, clients with PTSD will have severe disruption in their social and occupational lives. In essence, they are unable to function in society as they once did. These last two criteria are often the culprit in the disruption of marital and family relationships.

By way of example, one can turn to Shakespeare’s famous play Henry IV’s iambic pentameter uttered by Lady Percy to her husband Hotspur. These lines are filled with symptoms of PTSD, which Lady Percy finds difficult to understand.

O, my good lord, why are you thus alone?

For what offence have I this fortnight been

A banish’d woman from my Harry’s bed? (lower sexual drive/interest)

Tell me, sweet lord, what is’t that takes from thee

Thy stomach, pleasure (lack of interest in pleasures) and thy golden sleep? (Trouble sleeping)[…]

[…]Thy spirit within thee hath been so at war

And thus hath so bestirr’d thee in thy sleep, (Nightmares)

That beads of sweat have stood upon thy brow (Sweating)

Like bubbles in a late-disturbed stream;

And in thy face strange motions have appear’d,

Such as we see when men restrain their breath (Possible flashback expressed in his face)

On some great sudden hest. O, what portents are these?

Some heavy business hath my lord in hand,

And I must know it, else he loves me not. (Causing relationship problems)

Symptoms of PTSD affect all areas of the client’s life; emotional, behavioral, psychological, spiritual, relational or interpersonal effects, and physical effects. A military chaplain would do well to become familiarized with these signs and symptoms:

Significant Factors in Differential Diagnosis

Many disorders have similar signs and symptoms as PTSD, and as a result, many combat veterans who have PTSD are misdiagnosed. For this reason, it is essential to recognize the differentiating characteristics found among these conditions. A combat veteran may either be misdiagnosed, or may actually have a comorbid condition alongside PTSD. Knowledge of these differential diagnoses will benefit a military chaplain to approach a counselee appropriately, and effectively.

Antisocial Personality

Victims of combat PTSD often have difficulty adjusting, and reintegrating once again into society. Some who are married become serial divorcees, and some who never married have difficulty in keeping a stable relationship. In fact, according to a study done by George Mason University, “PTSD-related numbing/withdrawal is particularly associated with interpersonal problems in combat veterans and other trauma survivors…. and suggests that this pattern also extends to individual psychological distress in partners.”

Moreover, many upon discharge from the military are unable to maintain employment, and have long periods of unemployment. All of these features can be misconstrued as antisocial personality at face value. The differing factor between PTSD and antisocial personality lies in the onset of behavior. All personality disorders begin at childhood, and a proper interview on a client’s background may provide information on whether the pattern of behavior occurred prior to the trauma. Only when the behavior began after the trauma, can it be attributed to PTSD.

Borderline Personality Disorder

Survivors who struggle with PTSD at times display overt behaviors which may be attributed to borderline personality disorder (BPD). Uncontrolled anger, self-injury, suicide attempts, mood swings, and even regression to adolescent behavior can persuade a clinician to diagnose a client with BPD. However, an essential element of BPD is an inability to tolerate being alone. Those suffering from PTSD in the other hand prefer to be alone, and are often intolerant to interaction with others. Contrary to BPD, PTSD survivors do not have dependence on feedback from others. In fact, BPD patients appear to have a need to have their very existence verified by others.

Substance Use Disorders-Abuse, and Dependence (SUD)

Substance use disorders are co-morbid disorders to PTSD. According to the National Center for PTSD website, 80% of people with PTSD have a co-occurring disorder which substance abuse is most prominent, and from a different perspective out of those people with substance abuse disorder, 60% of them have a co-occurring disorders of which PTSD is the most prominent. Due to this level of co-morbidity many veterans suffering from PTSD, often are diagnosed only with either substance abuse disorder or substance dependence disorder. It is important to gather enough history from the client during the exploration stage to avoid overlooking PTSD.

Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI)

According to the Department of Veterans Affairs, “The primary causes of TBI in Veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan are blasts, blast plus motor vehicle accidents (MVA’s), MVA’s alone, and gunshot wounds.” The close connection between TBI, PTSD, and SUD makes it difficult for a clinician to diagnose accurately. In fact, according to the National Center for PTSD, patients with TBI often meet criteria for PTSD on screening instruments for TBI and vice versa. Some of these positive screens may represent false positives, but many Iraq-war Veterans have experienced a mild traumatic brain injury and also have PTSD related to their combat experience.

Military chaplains who recognize these dynamics will be able to appropriately direct those who seek their help. These complex arenas of seemingly related disorders can be confusing, but a working knowledge of them allows the chaplain to raise flags when survivors have diagnosed conditions that can be confused with PTSD and vise versa. A caring chaplain always seeks to be an advocate to those whom he or she serves.

Latest Research on Disorder.

In the past years, many studies have come to the forefront in regards to PTSD on military personnel. However, since the military chaplain is a pastor to the whole family, one will look at studies done in regards to parenting and family relationship among veterans with PTSD. According to the National Center for PTSD families with one spouse affected by PTSD are 1.6 times more likely to divorce than those with unaffected spouses.The University of Minnesota conducted a one-year study on 468 Army National Guard fathers returning from Iraq. The findings suggested that symptoms of PTSD influence family structure on multiple levels increasing the difficulty of adjustment. Furthermore, the study demonstrated that, “PTSD symptoms of emotional numbing/avoidance may manifest in detachment from family activities and reduced monitoring of, and involvement with children, and hyperarousal symptoms may spark volatile ore emotionally dysregulated parent-child interactions, particularly in stressful situations (such as those around discipline or conflict).”

Another research conducted by University of Utah on forty nine wives of the Utah Army National Guard revealed some interesting findings. The aim of the research was to identify the psychological vulnerability of spouses of military men suffering with PTSD. The study revealed that spouses were more likely to report having psychological symptoms of either depression or PTSD when they perceived their military partner to have PTSD symptoms, which the military partners did not acknowledge themselves. Furthermore, the study revealed that spouses who knew that their husbands have faced high levels of combat were more resilient. Conversely, those who perceived that their husbands had faced low levels of combat had an increased marital dissatisfaction. Perhaps they felt that they could not identify an understandable cause for their husbands PTSD.

One final note worthy study was conducted by Tel Aviv University in conjunction with Ariel University Center of Samaria. The study examined the correlation between PTSD and parental attachment. They were able to gather 504 participants with 286 of them being part of the control group. The participants were asked a series of inventories and questionnaires. The findings revealed, “veterans who suffered from PTSD…reported lower levels of both parental functioning and parental satisfaction, compared to veterans who did not suffer from PTSD.” The researchers suggest that when the family members witness the father’s difficulty readjusting to his former role in the family, they react with “resentment and destabilization of familial borders. This, in turn, may further undermine father’s perception of their parental functioning and the satisfaction from their role as a parent.”

In recent years, the military has begun to look into improving resiliency. The chaplaincy corp. is at the head of this campaign, and as such a good understanding of the latest research on PTSD and family relationship can only be beneficial. In a culture where divorce is already at an extremely high rate, the preservation of the integrity of the family ought to be a major goal of the chaplaincy ministry. A chaplain who understands the dynamics of PTSD and how it affects the family relationships is more capable of guiding a family into a healthier and more sympathetic environment.

Possible Etiological Factors and Assessment Issues.

The complexity of PTSD and the various areas in the client’s life, which are affected by it, leads to making a distinction between diagnosis and assessment. The diagnosis looks at the various signs and symptoms while assessment looks at the larger picture; that is behavioral history, relationships, and other areas of psychological function. In fact, some researchers will argue that a decision of PTSD on purely diagnosis gives an incomplete picture of the client. Three reasons are given for this position. First, a diagnosis of PTSD does not contribute much to choice of a treatment method. Second, the information gathered in the diagnostic does not say much about other areas of the patient’s life; areas which are more likely affected by PTSD. Third, the diagnosis for PTSD has changed so much since the inception of the DSM that it would be very easy to overlook some important characteristics of PTSD. In light of this rationale, it is important that a thorough history is taken in the exploration stage.

According to Alexander C. Mcfarlane, “the inclusion of PTSD in DSM-III arose from a consensus that the nature and intensity of the stressor was the primary etiologic factor determining the symptoms that people develop in the presence of extreme adversity.”These stressors, in the case of military personnel, are usually combat related, although according to recent studies sexual trauma has become more prevalent especially among female veterans. In fact, national surveys have suggested that 13%-30% of women veterans experienced rape during their military career. In the face of such disconcerting statistics, a military chaplain has to think in broader terms than just combat related PTSD.

Beyond the stressors there are other etiological factors that ought to be considered, such as family history and concurrent psychiatric disorders. A study conducted in 1985 found that 66% of the PTSD veterans had a family history of psychiatric disorders. Moreover, the study also found that 50% were suffering from another psychiatric disorder. Dr. McFarlane deduced, “these data suggested that PTSD probably shares common etiologic processes with both the anxiety disorders and depression and hence may share some of the same vulnerabilities.”

Preferred Therapeutic Interventions of Treatment

As a military chaplain endeavors to be a helper to those who are struggling with PTSD, a working knowledge of current treatment methods may be of help. The purpose is not to for chaplains to become counselors and clinicians themselves, for this falls outside of the scope of practice of a chaplain. However, knowledge never harmed anyone, only ignorance. The goal is to have enough knowledge to avoid saying or doing something that may trigger a counselee, or worse re-victimizing him or her.

The consensus among researchers that one has encountered in the course of this research seems to indicate that cognitive-behavior therapy is the preferred treatment for PTSD. This seems to be closely followed by psychopharmacology therapy and eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR). A brief description of each one of these treatments should suffice to inform a military chaplain.

Cognitive Behavior Therapy

Cognitive behavior therapy embraces a variety of techniques that are at a therapist’s disposal. These techniques include exposure therapy, stress inoculation training, cognitive processing therapy, and cognitive therapy. Exposure therapy confronts the client with frightening but realistically safe stimuli continuing until the anxiety is diminished. Stress inoculation training educates and gives a client the tools necessary to manage his or her anxiety. These may include self-dialogue, role-playing, muscle relaxation training, and breathing retraining. In cognitive processing therapy, the client is challenged to deal with troubled cognitions acquired during trauma, to include self-blame and false beliefs. Cognitive therapy is based on the theory that an interpretation of an event, rather than the event itself, causes different emotional states. In regards to PTSD, counselors’ focus on the survivals appraisal of safety/danger, trust and views of themselves, which serve to maintain a continued sense of a current threat.

Psychopharmacology

Psychopharmacotherapy recognizes that PTSD is involved with specific neurotransmitters, neurohormonal, and neuroendocrine systems. It also recognizes that a great number of PTSD clients have co-morbid psychiatric disorders; therefore, it is no surprise that some of the medications used to reduce PTSD symptoms are helpful in some of these co-morbid disorders. Based on current studies selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors and serotonin–norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SSRI’s and SNRI’s) are currently the best established drug treatments for PTSD, and they are often used as first line of treatment.

EMDR-Eye movement Desensitization and Reprocessing

Since trauma is stored in a set of related and unprocessed thoughts, images, and emotions, practitioners of EMDR theorize that the application of either eye movement or bilateral stimulation helps the client process and/or desensitize the traumatic thoughts or emotions. EMDR has become more popular in past years and its effectiveness cannot be denied. Often EMDR treatment is combined with other treatments, especially cognitive-behavior therapy.

Conclusion and Prognosis for Recovery

The prognosis for recovering from PTSD is very encouraging for those who seek and finish the treatments available to him or her. Unfortunately, recent studies have indicated that 68% of military personnel that seek help for PTSD abandon the process and never finish.  According to this study, the reason behind this trend is the stigma found among young military men in regards to seeking psychological or psychiatric help. Furthermore, Survivors of PTSD who are discharge from the military often lack the financial resources to seek treatment, and the Department of Veterans Affair does not have adequate resources to help them. A recent study found that the current cost for PTSD treatment in a five-year period (2003-2008) totaled $1,097,312,949, a drop in the bucket when the actual need according to current deployment is around $200 million annually. The study concludes that the main culprit behind this statistic is the inadequacy of Veterans Health administration and Department of Defense institutions in dealing with this crisis, and the scarcity of resources available to treat PTSD in these health care institutions.

Indeed the prognosis is encouraging, yet there a variety of dynamics that hinder the process to a healthy mind. The military chaplain can be a catalyst in the life of someone who is thinking about seeking help for his or her psychological wellbeing. The Chaplain can be harmful to a survivor of PTSD, and even re-victimize them by making ignorant statements. Conversely, the Chaplain can be a therapeutic person, and even encourage the survivor to seek help for the sake of their family and their sanity. The deciding factor on whether a chaplain harms or helps a survivor is knowledge. An inform chaplain, well acquainted with the dynamics of PTSD will change a survivor’s life for the better. An inform Chaplain Corp can change the military culture to be more open to psychological/counseling help. It is one’s hope that the Chaplaincy ministry becomes the leadership in targeting the current emergency, for the sake of Airmen, Soldiers, Marines, Sailors, and their families.

Bibliography
Barnes, Sean M., Kristen H. Walter, Kathleen M. Chard “Does a History of Mild Traumatic Brain Injury Increase Suicide Risk in Veterans With PTSD?.” Rehabilitation Psychology 57 (2012): 18-26.

Cahill, Shawn P., Barbvara Olasov Rothbaum, Patricia A. Resick, and Victoria M. Follette. “Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy for Adults.” In Effective treatments for PTSD : practice guidelines from the International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies, edited by Edna B. Foa, Terence M. Keane, Matthew J. Friedman, and Judith A. Cohen, 139-222. New York: Guilford Press, 2009.

Candince M. Monson. “Couples and PTSD.” National Center for PTSD. http://www.ptsd.va. gov/professional/ptsd101/flash-files/couples_therapy/player.html (accessed April 7, 2012).

Cigrang, Jeffrey A., Sheila A. M. Rauch, Laura L. Avila, Craig J. Bryan, Jeffrey L. Goodie, Ann Hryshko-Mullen, and Alan L. Peterson. “Treatment of Active-Duty Military With PTSD in Primary Care: Early Findings.” Psychological Services 8 (2011): 104–113.

Cohen, Estee, Gadi Zerach, and Zahava Solomon. “The Implication of Combat-Induced Stress Reaction, PTSD, and Attachment in Parenting Among War Veterans.” Journal of Family Psychology 25 (2011): 695.

Creamer, Mark, Darryl Wade, Susan Fletcher, and David Forbes. “PTSD among military personnel.” International Review of Psychiatry 23 (2011): 160-165.

De burgh, H. Thomas, Claire J. White, Nicola T. Fear, and Amy C. Iversen. “The impact of deployment to Iraq or Afghanistan on partners and wives of military personnel.” International Review of Psychiatry 23 (2011): 192-200.

Friedman, Matthew J. et al. “Psychopharmacotherapy for Adults.” In Effective treatments for PTSD: practice guidelines from the International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies, ed. Edna B. Foa, Terence et al (New York: Guilford Press, 2009), 245-278.

Garcia, Hector A., Lance P. Kelley, Timothy O. Rentz, and Shuko Lee. “Pretreatment Predictors of Dropout From Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for PTSD in Iraq and Afghanistan War Veterans.” Psychological Services 8 (2011): 1-11.

Garske, Gregory G. “Military-related PTSD: A Focus on the Symptomatology and Treatment Approaches.” Journal of Rehabilitation 77 (2011): 31-36.

Gates, Margaret A., Raymond C. Rosen, Darren W. Holowka, Jennifer J. Vasterling, Terence M. Keane, and Brian P. Marx. “Posttraumatic Stress Disorder in Veterans and Military Personnel: Epidemiology, Screening, and Case Recognition.” Psychological Services March (2012): 1-22

Gewirtz, Abigail H., Melissa A. Polusny, David S. DeGarmo, Anna Khaylis and Christopher R. Erbes. “Posttraumatic Stress Symptoms Among National Guard Soldiers Deployed to Iraq: Associations With Parenting Behaviors and Couple Adjustment.” Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology 78 (2010): 599-610.

Harrison, Jeffrey P., Lynn F. Satterwhite, and Walter Ruday, Jr. “The Financial Impact of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder on Returning US Military Personnel.” Journal of Health Care Finance Summer (2010): 65-74.

Jakupcak, Matthew, Daniel Conybeare, Lori Phelps, Stephen Hunt, Hollie A. Holmes, Bradford Felker, Michele Klevens, and Miles E. McFall. “Anger, Hostility, and Aggression Among Iraq and Afghanistan War Veterans Reporting PTSD and Subthreshold PTSD.” Journal of Traumatic Stress 20 (2007): 945-954.

Monson, Candice M., Paula P. Schnurr, Patricia A. Resick, Matthew J. Friedman, Yinong Young-Xu, and Susan P. Stevens. “Cognitive Processing Therapy for Veterans With Military-Related Posttraumatic Stress Disorder.” Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology 74 (2006): 898-907.

Morissette, Sandra B., Matthew Woodward , Sara Dolan , Suzy Bird Gulliver , Nathan A. Kimbrel, Eric C. Meyer, and Marc I. Kruse “Deployment-Related TBI, Persistent Postconcussive Symptoms, PTSD, and Depression in OEF/OIF Veterans.” Rehabilitation Psychology 56 (2011): 340-350.

Najavits, Lisa M. “PTSD and Substance Abuse.” National Center for PTSD. http://www.ptsd. va.gov/professional/ptsd101/flash-files/Substance_Abuse/player.html (accessed April 7, 2012).

Palm, Melody. “PTSD.” class lecture, Assemblies of God Theological Seminary, March 14, 2012.

Renshaw, Keith, and Sarah B. Campbell. “Combat Veterans’ Symptoms of PTSD and Partners’ Distress: The Role of Partners’ Perceptions of Veterans’ Deployment Experiences.” Journal of Family Psychology 25 (2011):953–962

Rodrigues, Camila S., Keith D. Renshaw and David H. Jones. “Psychological Symptoms and Marital Satisfaction in Spouses of Operation Iraqi Freedom Veterans: Relationships with Spouses’ Perceptions of Veterans’ Experiences and Symptoms.” Journal of Family Psychology 22 (2008): 586-594.

Sadler, Anne G., Brenda M. Booth, Brian L. Cook, and Bradley N. Doebbeling. “Factors Associated With Women’s Risk of Rape in the Military Environment.” American journal of industrial medicine 43 (2003): 262-273

Shapiro, Francine. Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing: Basic Principles, Protocols, and Procedures. New York: Guilford Press, 1995.

Sharpless, Brian A., and Jacques P. Barber. “A Clinician’s Guide to PTSD Treatments for Returning Veterans.” Professional Psychology: Research and Practice 42 (2011): 8-15.

Schiraldi, Glenn. The Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder Sourcebook: a Guide to Healing, Recovery, and Growth. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill, 2009.

Shakespeare, William. Henry IV, Part 1. Amazon Digital Services, Kindle edition.

Sonnenberg, Stephen M., Arthur S. Blank, and John A. Talbott Eds. The Trauma of War : Stress and Recovery in Viet Nam Veterans. Washington, D.C: American Psychiatric Press, 1985

Summerall, E. Lanier. “Traumatic Brain Injury and PTSD.” National Center for PTSD. http://www.p tsd.va.gov/professional/pages/traumatic-brain-injury-ptsd.asp (accessed April 7, 2012).

Williams, Mary Beth, and John F. Sommer Jr. ed. Simple and complex post-traumatic stress disorder : strategies for comprehensive treatment in clinical practice. New York: Haworth Maltreatment and Trauma Press, 2002.

Williams, Mary Beth, and Soili Poijula. The PTSD workbook : simple, effective techniques for overcoming traumatic stress symptoms. Oakland, Calif: New Harbinger Publications, 2002.

Wolf, Marion E., and Aron D. Mosnaim, edrs. Posttraumatic Stress Disorder : Etiology, Phenomenology, and Treatment. Washington, D.C: American Psychiatric Press, 1990

Yaeger, Deborah, Naomi Himmelfarb, Alison Cammack, and Jim Mintz,. “DSM-IV Diagnosed Posttraumatic Stress Disorder in Women Veterans With and Without Military Sexual Trauma.” Journal of General International Medicine 21 (2006):S65-69.

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A BIBLICAL PERSPECTIVE ON HOMOSEXUALITY: IMPLICATION TO THE CURRENT DEBATE

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Introduction
One of the most well-organized and well-funded movements in the United States is the homosexual movement. The effectiveness can be measured by the impact. Most North Americans consider the homosexual lifestyle an alternative lifestyle. Major denominations such as The United Methodist Church and Episcopalian Church have accepted homosexual behavior as sanctioned by scripture. The “don’t ask don’t tell” policy in the armed forces has been repealed, and currently four states have legalized homosexual marriage. Christianity Today sheds light into a schism within the Presbyterian Church USA due to the homosexual issue.[1] The battle lines have been drawn, and the best hope for the world lies within the wall of the church. As such, the church must not linger in responding to the current crisis. The church must critically engage homosexual theology and learn to respond in a Biblical manner. The aim of this paper is to move the debate toward these two goals.

The Battleground Verses
Genesis 19:1-29
Homosexual theology theorizes the Genesis 19 story of Sodom and Gomorrah has no connection to homosexuality. Homosexual theologians have proposed three different interpretations of Genesis 19:1-29. The first, and perhaps the most meaningful, argument from a Biblical perspective is that the rest of scripture does not identify the sin of Sodom as homosexuality. When cross-referencing how other Biblical writers deal with the story of Sodom and Gomorrah, it gives the sense other Biblical writers understood the sinfulness of Sodom and Gomorrah as being a general lack of moral and ethical behavior; more specifically, injustices such as failure to care for the poor and needy, gluttony, and pride.[2]When Jesus refers to the story of Sodom and Gomorrah, he seems to address the lack of hospitality not homosexuality.[3]
The strongest verses used by homosexual theologians to identify the sin of Sodom as other than homosexuality are found in Ezekiel 16:48-49.

As I live, declares the Lord GOD, your sister Sodom and her daughters have not done as you and your daughters have done. Behold, this was the guilt of your sister Sodom: she and her daughters had pride, excess of food, and prosperous ease, but did not aid the poor and needy.[4]

According to Daniel Helminiak, in the case of Leviticus 19 the meaning of the text is quite obvious if cross-referenced to other portions of scripture. The book of Ezekiel identifies the sin of Sodom as a refusal to take in needy travelers.
A second interpretation is drawn from the use of the word ידע (to know ). They argue the word is used over 900 times in the Old Testament, and only 15 times does the word imply sexual connotation.[5]Therefore, it is very unlikely the request by the citizens of Sodom had anything to do with sexual intercourse. In this interpretation, it is suggested that the citizens of Sodom and Gomorrah wanted to interrogate the angels to see if they were spies. They suggest this interrogation may include some form of torture, thus adding to their iniquity.
The third interpretation is that the sin of Sodom was a desire for gang-rape and violence. These men may not even be homosexual since Lot offered his own daughters as replacement. In essence, their sin was rape not homosexuality. These verses do not prohibit a loving and monogamous homosexual relationship between two consenting adults. Some may add that the event was aggravated by the fact that these guests were angels.[6]

Biblical Response
The liberal theologians are correct when they assess that the sin of Sodom was a lack of hospitality; however, this is only part of the issue at hand. As it is often the case, sinful acts never happen in a vacuum, for they are usually accompanied by a host of other sinful acts. The fact that other Biblical writers, and Jesus, have highlighted the pride, gluttony, and lack of hospitality does not divert the verse from the sexual implications. Moreover, the liberal theologians seem selective in their choice of verses. Ezekiel 16:48-49 does not seem to mention homosexuality, yet verses 47 and 50 are ignored by liberal theologians. The larger context states:

Not only did you walk in their ways and do according to their abominations [emphasis mine]; within a very little time you were more corrupt than they in all your ways. As I live, declares the Lord God, your sister Sodom and her daughters have not done as you and your daughters have done. Behold, this was the guilt of your sister Sodom: she and her daughters had pride, excess of food, and prosperous ease, but did not aid the poor and needy. They were haughty and did an abomination[emphasis mine] before me. So I removed them, when I saw it.

The key word in the larger context is the word abomination. This is a translation of the Hebrew word תּוֹעֵבָה which is used in Leviticus to describe the sin of homosexuality.
When it comes to the use of the word  ידע liberal theologians are correct in that this word is mostly translated as knowledge. However, they fail to recognize that out of the ten times it is used to denote sexual intercourse, seven of them are in the book of Genesis. Skilled exegetes do not interpret verses based on statistical analysis, but on the immediate context. Another factor that must be taken into account regarding the use of the word  ידע in this passage is Judges 19:1-30. The author of Judges seems to purposely make parallels between his narrative and the narrative of Sodom and Gomorrah. This close connection between the two narratives helps identify what the Jewish community believed regarding the Sodom and Gomorrah narrative. It would be difficult to make a case that the use of the word ידע in this parallel narrative has no reference to sexual intercourse.
Making a case that the sin of Sodom and Gomorrah was a desire for rape and violence becomes two issues mutually exclusive of one another to liberal theologians. In essence, they seem to believe that homosexual acts and rape and violence cannot occur at the same time. What they fail to recognize is for these men to rape the male visitors homosexual tendencies have to be implied. Heterosexuals do not generally have an erection for other heterosexuals; a basic requirement for rape. Again, one must emphasize that the sins of Sodom and Gomorrah were more than just homosexuality, it was a multiplicity of sins which came together incurring God’s wrath. 

Leviticus 18:22 and Leviticus 20:13
There are two lines of argument when it comes to interpreting the Leviticus passages on homosexuality. Even though they are closely related there is enough distinction to deal with each argument individually. The first argument is based on the application of Levitical laws to modern Christianity. During the debate in California over proposition eight, homosexual advocates broadcast several ads chiding Christians for their hypocrisy and selectiveness when it comes to Levitical laws. They accomplished this by equating the prohibitions of homosexual acts and prohibitions on eating pork and shrimp. Jack Rogers makes a case that these prohibitions were culturally conditioned, not applicable to Christians redeemed under the new covenant.[7]
The second argument states that the prohibitions against homosexuality in the Levitical laws were given to their connection to idolatry and cult prostitution.[8] This argument might add the idea that prohibition may have been given more directly to heterosexual men who engage in homosexual acts with other heterosexual men. In other words, the prohibition is not against the homosexual men, but heterosexual men who engage in homosexual acts. Those who propose this view are adamant that homosexual men were not prohibited in acting upon their own nature.[9]

Biblical Response
When dealing with Levitical laws, one must not make a blanket statement that all Levitical laws are obsolete and do not affect believers today. If that is the case, then why is the book of Leviticus still in the canon today? Liberal theologians fail to distinguish between ceremonial laws, which had a cultural element to them, and moral laws, which have been carried on and will remain truth to the end of times. It is helpful to notice that the ceremonial laws had the consequence of being declared unclean while the moral laws were often punishable by death. A responsible theologian will recognize the context of these commands, and realize that alongside the prohibition of homosexuality the prohibition of adultery, rape, bestiality and incest exists. Making a case that homosexuality does not apply today because it was part of the Levitical laws also provides a similar line of reasoning for all the other sexual perversions.[10]
When liberal theologians make the case that the condemnation for homosexual acts was for heterosexuals and not for those with homosexual tendencies, they are guilty of the special pleading fallacy. Special pleading fallacy is the addition of favorable details to support one’s argument. Nowhere in the Biblical text is special consideration given based on sexual orientation. In fact, the Bible consistently condemns homosexual acts and makes no mention of orientation. The Hebrew people had no concept of sexual orientation as articulated today.[11]

Genesis 9:18-27
The narrative depicted in Genesis 9 is important to this topic. A survey might find some believe the story of Ham peekingat his father’s naked body led to his own curse. At least this is how some remember it. However, a closer reading of the narrative reveals the Sunday school version is a diluted and inaccurate version of the Biblical text. The narrative has bewildered biblical scholars. Several issues come to light with this pericope. It is Ham’s son Canaan who receives the curse, the biblical text implies Ham was inside the tent, and the Hebrew text gives indication of a more serious crime.
Many commentators jump to the conclusion that Ham’s crime was, at minimum, culturally offensive, and at most voyeurism. However, as Wold concludes, “No narrative or legal source—in either the Bible or the ancient Near East—gives evidence that seeing a naked person was offensive or criminal.”[12]  Further difficulties arise when it is recognized that according to the text Ham was inside the tent—he had to go outside to tell his brother—thus Ham’s act was beyond just peeking.[13] The Septuagint is more explicit by using the word ἐξελθὼν, rendering the text as “went out and told.” Readers must ask the question “What was Ham doing inside the tent in the first place?” Further evidence that the crime was beyond voyeurism is found in verse 24, “When Noah awoke from his wine and knew what his youngest son had done [emphasis mine] to him.” The use of the verb hDc¶Do (ʿāśâ) is unexpected if the crime was nothing more than voyeurism.
The severity of Canaan’s punishment for his father’s crime should also be considered. The severity is highlighted by the knowledge that in the Ancient Near East it is customary for the penalty to befall the person who commits a crime. Canaan was cursed into a life of servitude, and a punishment of this magnitude requires a crime that befits it. Voyeurism does not seem to warrant such an extreme penalty.
 Upon arriving at the conclusion that the crime was beyond voyeurism, in light of the Hebrew text the most likely crime was homosexual rape. The key to this exegesis is found in verse 21b to 22a, rendered as: “[Noah] became drunk and lay uncovered in his tent. And Ham, the father of Canaan, saw the nakedness of his father…” The Hebrew word l™A…gVtˆ¥yÅw is a hithpael imperfect which; “The passive uses of the Hithpaelmay express either (a) the notion that the subject is transformed into a state by an unexpressed agent or (b) the notion that the subject transforms itself into such a state.”[14]Most biblical translations choose option b. Nonetheless, further study of the context makes a compelling case for option (a). That is, Noah did not uncover himself, but rather he was uncovered. A better translation would be, he became drunk and was uncovered.
At this junction, the exegete should begin the task of trying to discover who uncovered Noah. The Hebrew text does not waste any time in making this evident. In the English translation, verse 22a begins with, “and Ham the father of Canaan,” this is not the case in the original language. In fact, the Hebrew begins with √rGÅ¥yÅw  (and he saw), which actually connects it with the previous verse; in this verse, the waw+imperfect (or wayyqtl) functions as a waw relative of succession. According to IBHS, “Situations described with wayyqtl are mostly temporally or logically succeeding.”[15] This is not an indication that the English translation is being deceitful, for a literal translation would seem awkward to an English audience. English is a language requiring specific word order, which often is not parallel to the Hebrew word order. The verse divisions, which came at a later time and are not original to the text, create further complications. The artificial division placed in this text has robbed it of its intent. When read together, it becomes clear Ham is the antecedent for both the “uncovering” and the “seeing.” It is not unusual in Hebrew to have the antecedent follow a compound predicate.
It may be said that even with these adjustments the text does not describe a homosexual act. At first glance it does not, but further study of Hebrew euphemisms shed light on the topic. The idea of uncovering and/or seeing the nakedness of someone is often used in scripture in reference to sexual acts. Leviticus uses the phrase to denote incest in chapter 18 verses 6-18 and chapter 20 verses 11 and 17-21. It is used in other passages of scripture in connection with prostitution, incest, and rape (Ezekiel. 16:36; 22:10; 23:18; Isaiah. 47:3; Ezekiel. 16:37; 23:10; 23:29). In other instances, seeing the nakedness of someone entails an opportunity for rape, literally or metaphorically (Lamentations. 1:8-10, Habakkuk. 2:15; Nahum. 3:5). It is quite evident that in the scriptural use of this phrase, whether literal or metaphorical (such as in the case of Jerusalem), the image being conveyed is not voyeurism, but illicit sexual acts such as rape, incest, and adultery.
This information should be enough to make a case that Ham raped his father while he was in a drunken stupor. Further proof can be found by focusing on to the response of Ham’s brothers, and the curse on Canaan. Shem and Japheth’s chose to enter the tent and not see their father’s nakedness, both in the sense of sexual intercourse and in the literal sense. The Hebrew writer purposefully makes a stark contrast between these deeds. Shem and Japheth would not dare see their father’s nakedness. Their noble and pious action is at the opposite extreme of Ham’s heinous deed.
In light of what has been discovered from the original text, the fact that Ham’s son is cursed is more logical. Since Ham used his own seed to bring shame and dishonor upon his father, it is his seed which is cursed; the punishment fits the crime. The timing of this writing  must be kept in mind. The people of Israel are about to embark on the conquest of the land occupied by Canaanites. The story has an etiological function alongside other stories, which serve as evidence against the Canaanites. In essence, the Canaanites have not changed their inheritance; they remained just as their father Ham, deserving of God’s wrath and punishment.
Romans 1:24-27
Engaging the New Testament perspective on homosexuality, Romans 1: 24-27 is perhaps the most hotly debated text. This passage presents difficulty for homosexual theologians, and a myriad of interpretations are proposed by liberal theologians. Some interpretations are simple attempts to explain away the texts, while others are thoughtful academics endeavors. This section will focus on those endeavors which are the most popularly accepted liberal interpretations.
There are three well-developed liberal perspectives worthy of engaging in discussion. John Boswell proposed the first interpretation. He makes a case that Paul is condemning heterosexuals who are engaging in homosexual behavior. It is an argument based on the use of the word “natural/fu/sin ” in Romans 1. The second argument proposes Paul was expressing a cultural bias not applicable for all people at all times. The third and final argument among liberal scholars is that Paul is only condemning pederasty, not true homosexuals in the form of inversion. This last line of argument goes as far as making a case that Paul does not identify homosexuality as sin.

Biblical Response
John Boswell’s argument has become the most popularly accepted interpretation among liberal theologians. In his book Christianity, Social Tolerance, and Homosexuality he writes,
On the other hand, it should be recognized that the point of the passage is not to stigmatize sexual behavior of any sort but to condemn the Gentiles for their general infidelity … The reference to homosexuality is simply a mundane analogy to this theological sin; it is patently not the crux of this argument …What is even more important, the persons Paul condemns are manifestly not homosexual: what he derogates are homosexual acts committed by apparently heterosexual persons. The whole point of Romans 1, in fact, is to stigmatize persons who have rejected their calling, gotten off the true path they were once on. It would completely undermine the thrust of the argument if the persons in question were not “naturally” inclined to the opposite sex in the same way they were “naturally” inclined to monotheism.[16]
There are several basic flaws in this line of argument. The most radical is the attempt to redefine the word natural/fu/sin outside of the context given by the passage. Beginning in verse 19, Paul expounds a series of stages faced by those who chose to continue in sin and not accept the truth revealed by God. Verses 19 and 20 make it clear God has revealed, in the creation of the world, His attributes and moral expectations. Paul makes it clear mankind is without excuse before natural revelation. In verse 21 Paul proposes that sinful humanity has chosen to foolishly exchange God for idols, which leads to God giving them over to their own self-destructive fates. Paul specifically mentions homosexual behavior as one of the fates God allows upon sinners. As renowned scholar Ben Witherington III states,
Vv. 26-27 are about as clear a condemnation of homosexual and lesbian behavior as exists in the NT. Paul speaks of actions, not inclinations, attitudes, or genetics … In Paul’s view homosexual behavior flows naturally from idolatry in that it is a rejection of the creation order that the Creator God set up in the first place.[17]
It is an obvious case of eisegesis  to assume that the behavior described in this text is not in reference to homosexuals simply because they chose to engage in homosexual acts. The underlying presumption is that a true homosexual would simply partake in this activity out of who they are, not as a choice. However, this assumption lacks any scientific evidence or theological support.
The second argument, that Paul was simply expressing Jewish cultural bias and it should not be used for modern Christians, becomes a double-edged sword for liberal theologians. Those who made that argument automatically agree the Jewish faith understood the Old Testament verses as condemning homosexuality. With that in mind, one must simply prove Paul did not view the law as useless and inapplicable to all people. As previously discussed, portions of the Levitical Law are still normative to all believers. Jewish prohibitions against bestiality, adultery, incest, and homosexuality were understood by the New Testament church as prescriptive. The context of this text reveals that Paul is speaking in universal terms. He speaks not of Jews alone, but of all created men who have chosen rebellion. Paul is not condemning just cultural Jews, but Gentiles and beyond who practice ritual or secular homosexuality.
The final interpretation was proposed by Robin Scroggs, who claimed that since the most dominant form of same sex relationship in the Greco-Roman was pederasty, and it was often exploitative, Paul only had in mind this form of same sex relationship. The argument is that Paul never condemns homosexuality—those who have a natural inclination toward those of the same gender. This argument has already been partially answered in response to previous arguments. However, the premise of pederasty must be engaged. While it is true that pederasty was a commonplace same sex relation in the Roman Empire, it was not the only known form of same sex relationship. Paul, who was a well-educated man, surely had knowledge of all of them. Yet he never makes an exception for any other form. He makes a blanket statement with no qualifications. There is evidence of Paul making exceptions in some of his other teachings, such as divorce and meat sacrifice to idols. If Paul had any exceptions in mind, he would have mentioned them at some point. No exception is made, and the text describes not only male homosexuality but also lesbianism, ensuring that the text is understood as all encompassing.

1 Corinthians 6:9 and 1Timothy 1:10
The two vice lists written by Paul in Corinthians and Timothy fall under scrutiny by liberal theologians due to the inclusion of the words aÓrsenokoi÷taiß and malakoi«, which the New American Standard Bible translates as homosexual and effeminate. Liberal theologians attempt to redefine the lexical meaning of these words. In the case of malakoi«, Scroggs gives it the narrow definition of effeminate callboys.[19] Conversely, Dale Martin gives it a broader definition of effeminate. He goes further by making the point that since the passage condemns any feminine trait by males, it should be discarded as misogynistic.[20]In the case of aÓrsenokoi√tai, Scrogg defines it as the active partner of the callboy (malakoi«), and Martin argues that it refers to those who exploit other males by means of sex.[21] 
All of these definitions are attempts by liberal theologians to narrow the meaning of the word, or expand it to the point that it becomes inapplicable and unfit for modern day audiences. Scroggs’ definitions are somewhat accurate to a certain extent. For this reason, liberal theologians engage these two passages of scriptures together. However, they should be separated and dealt with individually.
In the case of 1 Corinthians 6:9, the words malakoi« and aÓrsenokoi√tai are mutually dependent on one another, and they either rise or fall together. Indeed, malakoi« is a reference to “being passive in a same-sex relationship, an effeminate especially of catamites.”[22] In this context, aÓrsenokoi√tai is a reference to the active partner in the homosexual relationship. Scroggs is correct in his definitions and his understanding that this verse is a reference to pederasty relationship. However, to make a case that Paul does not oppose any other form of same sex relationship is an argument from silence. Other Biblical passages, such as Romans 1:26-27, provide clarification.
In the case of the list dictated by Paul in 1 Timothy 1:10, the word aÓrsenokoi√tai is without a qualifier such as malakoi«, and it should be translated as homosexual. The word is borrowed from the LXX version of the Old Testament’s Leviticus 20:13; 18:22. The word seems to be a fusion of the words a‡rsenoß (male) and koi÷thn (to have intercourse)[23]used in Leviticus 20:13, in reference to homosexual acts. Recognizing that Paul often used the LXX as a source in his letters, it is possible to conclude Paul is purposely making a connection to the prohibition on homosexuality in Leviticus 20:13.  

Cultural Redemption Perspective
Homosexual theologians propose that the same redemptive process applied to the place of women in our culture and the abolition of slavery can be applied to the place of homosexuals. They add that the church has learned from its mistakes and accepted the ultimate ethics towards laborers and women, but refuse to apply the same redemptive process to homosexuality. Indeed, for liberal theologians homosexuality is the last civil rights movement. The few churches which have adopted this redemptive process to homosexuality have come to the conclusion that homosexuality is not a sin, but a gift from God.[24]
The cultural redemptive movement is one of the most common and well developed arguments for homosexuality. The idea is to look at how scripture deals with cultural issues such as the place of women and slavery, and how they progressively redeemed the culture from these social ills. This is done by taking the Biblical text and expanding it to its redemptive goal in our context. Using slavery as a case in point, one can demonstrate how scripture moves this issue from its inception in the original culture, through the biblical witness, and into the New Testament. In the original culture slavery was characterized by many abuses; a truth that the Israelites themselves experienced. With the introduction of the biblical text, slavery is regulated by providing better working conditions and fewer abuses. This influence necessarily leads to our current culture, where slavery is completely eliminated and the working conditions of a laborer are improved. When one takes all these elements—original culture, Bible, and current culture— the ultimate ethic expanded from scripture is the elimination of slavery, improvement of laborers working conditions, better wages, harmony, respect, and teamwork among all levels of an organization.[25]
When it comes to the issue of homosexuality, the same redemptive process cannot be applied; in fact, the reverse is true. William Webb, following the same process, recognized that the original culture was actually more accepting of homosexual activities prior to the biblical witness. The honest assessment of the biblical perspective of homosexuality arises at the conclusion that the Bible has a consistent negative view of homosexuality. In light of this, there is no evidence that the redemptive process should apply to homosexual activity.[26]
Biblical Outings
David & Jonathan
In support of the homosexual lifestyle, the homosexual community tends to address what it considers positive examples of homosexuality in scripture. The three often cited “homosexual couples” are David and Jonathan, Ruth and Naomi, and Daniel and Ashpenaz. Liberal theologians propose that based on the use of the word soul in 1 Samuel 18:1 David and Jonathan loved each other both physically and emotionally. They recognize that the Hebrew text use of the word נֶפֶשׁ is a reference not only to the spirit, but also the body; thus, the implication of this verse is a homosexual union akin to today’s gay partnership. Based on Samuel 18:2-4, David’s intimate relationship is demonstrated when he moved to Saul’s house to be with Jonathan. Later Jonathan stripped naked before David, a conclusion based on the idea that men in the ancient near east did not wear underwear.[27]
The argument continues by highlighting that the appropriate translation of Samuel 18:21 should be properly translated as today you are a son-in-law with two of my children. Counter to the tradition translation “Therefore Saul said to David a second time, “You shall now be my son-in-law. If there is any doubt left that this relationship is of a homosexual nature, liberal theologians quote 1 Samuel 20:41, where it notes that they kiss each other until David had an erection (based on the use of the word גדל).
Biblical Response
It is best to address each verse individually in response to the liberal theology. For the sake of space, only the many assumptions and misconception made by the Homosexual theology perspective will be addressed. The first issue brought to the forefront by those who hold to a liberal view is the use of the word נֶפֶשׁ. The word can be translated as soul or person, yet context is the best evidence for choice of translation. It is not always true that every time the word appears all its semantic range is implied. The expression made that the soul of Jonathan was bound with the soul of David is no more erotic than that described in Genesis 44:30-31, where Judah tells Joseph that Jacob’s (his father) soul is bound up with Benjamin’s soul.[28]
Most conservative theologians recognize that David moving into Saul’s house had nothing to do with being closer to Jonathan; in fact, it is more likely the move was a political decision made by Saul. When the text talks about Jonathan removing his outer garment it does not imply he was naked. While it is true ancient near eastern men did not wear underwear, it is well know that they wore many layers of robes. Therefore, it is conceivable that the removal of the outer garment will leave Jonathan wearing an inner garment.[29]
The Biblical description of David and Jonathan kissing each other cannot be filtered through a western lens; in fact, the practice of one male kissing another is still part of Middle Eastern culture. The use of the word גדל in this text has no sexual connotation to imply an erection. The semantic rage of this word has thirty-seven meanings, none of which has a sexual connotation. Moreover, according to Talmudic tradition, the penis is referred to as a small organ, and thus the assumption of an erection is unfounded.[30]
On a final note, the liberal theologians argument that 1 Samuel 18:21 implies Saul recognizes David as his son-in-law through Michal and Jonathan is also unfounded. Ancient Israel had no concept of homosexual marriage, nor did any surrounding culture. Saul was not excited about David’s friendship with Jonathan, and saw it as a threat to his throne. In light of this, the traditional translation is the most plausible.[31]

Ruth & Naomi
The homosexual relationship of Ruth and Naomi was highlighted in The Children are Free: Reexamining the Biblical Evidence on Same-sex Relationshipsby Jeff Miner and John Tyler Connoley. The authors’ state the relationship described in this verse is of a homosexual marriage covenant. The book sold millions of copies, and today many saints are being persuaded by this to be a more tolerant Christianity.
Miner and Connoley begin their exegesis with the question “Can two people of the same sex live in committed, loving relationship with the blessing of God?” The authors’ first premise begins with historical analysis of the life of a woman in the Ancient Near East. A woman in Israel had to rely on her father or her husband for sustenance; therefore, Naomi’s status as a widow was an assurance of poverty. They recognize that the command to take care of the widows and orphans stems from the fact that these were the most vulnerable members of society.[32]
The second premise is drawn from Ruth’s words in verse 17 “Where you die I will die, and there will I be buried. May the Lord do so to me and more also if anything but death parts me from you.” Proponents of this view hold that this level of commitment can only be characterize as love. Ruth willingness to die alongside Naomi is the same level of commitment found in marriage. Some add that the author already hinted at this fact in verse 14 “Then they lifted up their voices and wept again. And Orpah kissed her mother-in-law, but Ruth clung [emphasis mine] to her.”
The Hebrew word daveqah (דָּ֥בְקָה) translated as cling, cleave, stick to, and hold-fast in the English text, is the same root word used in Genesis 2:24 “Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast [emphasis mine] to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.” A verse understood as part of the marriage covenant to which the author is making an allusion.[33] They may add that Naomi and Ruth were lovers, and Ruth’s marriage to Boaz was a matter of convenience, since the text never mentions that Ruth loved Boaz. Furthermore, the book closes with emphasis on Naomi and her grandchild Obed; leaving Boaz completely out of the picture

Biblical Response
The best way to understand the argument posed by liberal theologians is by outlining it into the premises proposed by this exegesis. In essence Miner and Connoley state:  (1) If Ruth had a radical love for Naomi, and (2) the passage uses language of a marriage covenant, then (3) Ruth and Naomi were homosexual lovers. As persuasive as it may seem, there are several fallacies in this line of argument. First, this argument is a non-sequitur; the conclusion does not follow its premise. As it is true of most non-sequiturs it is missing a third premise, which should rewrite the line of argument as: (1) If Ruth had a radical love for Naomi, and (2) the passage uses language of a marriage covenant, and (3) if radical love is indicative of sexual intercourse, then (3) Ruth and Naomi were homosexual lovers.
Only by having this premise will the conclusion follow, but the line of argument enters into a new problem. Two of the premises are false, and thus the conclusion is false. Premise one is true; Ruth demonstrated a radical love for Naomi by putting her life in danger of starvation, and perhaps even assault, when she could have chosen to be comfortable in her father’s house. However, premise two is false. The assumption is made that the word daveqah can only be a reference to marriage, and the book itself invalidates this assumption. The word appears three more times in the text, “Boaz asks Ruth to stay’ [emphasis mine] with his servant girls while gleaning during the harvest (2:8). Ruth tells Naomi that Boaz asked her to stay’ [emphasis mine] with his workers until the harvest was finished (2:21), and Ruth followed Boaz’s advice and stayed close [emphasis mine] to the other women until the harvesting was finished (2:23).”[34]Peter Ould states that the verses in the second chapter of Ruth “are clearly not invitations for Ruth to form covenant unions with either the workers or the other women.”[35]
The last premise (the added premise) is also false. The omission of this premise stems from the homosexual community’s attempts to define homosexuality as an emotional attachment between two people of the same gender, which they define as love. A homosexual is actually defined as, “relating to, or characterized by a tendency to direct sexual desire toward another of the same sex;”[36]that sexual attraction/lust ought not to be confused with love. One can love his or her own child in a radical manner to the point of death, yet this does not imply sexual attraction to one’s children; the mere though is deviant. Therefore, the premise is necessary in this line of argument, and the text gives no evidence for this premise.

Daniel and Ashpenaz
The argument on the supposed relationship between Daniel and Ashpenaz is based on Daniel 1:9 that reads,and God gave Daniel favor and compassion in the sight of the chief of the eunuchs [Ashpenaz].” Liberal theologian propose that The Hebrew phrase My¡ImSjårVlá…w dRs™RjVl, which is translated by the ESV as favor and compassion, describing the relationship between Daniel and Ashpena, is best translated as showed mercy and engaged in physical love. They argue that the most common translation of chesed (dRs™Rj) is “mercy”, and rachamim (My¡ImSjår) has multiple meanings: “mercy” and “physical love.” It is unreasonable that the original Hebrew would read that Ashpenaz “showed mercy and mercy.” A more reasonable translation would be Ashpenaz “showed mercy and engaged in physical love” with Daniel[37]
Furthermore, they propose that the lack of a romantic interest or sexual partner of Daniel elsewhere in the Bible lends credibility to this interpretation. They also add the plural form of MAjår in My¡ImSjår for emphasis, and thus it gives it more importance in the text. Liberal theologians believe that the translators who are unwilling to accept a prophet of God as homosexual have corrupted the text by opting for innocuous terms.

Biblical Response
There are several issues with this perspective making it the weakest case for homosexual outing in the Bible. While it is true that dRs™Rj is most often translated mercy it also carries a larger semantic range. It is considered an essence of the covenant relationship between God and His people. dRs™Rj is descriptive of an unbroken, faithful, and steady love. It is often a referent of God’s love for His people, and translated as faithfulness, mercy, goodness, and/or kindness. As Waltke stated, “a most important term for describing the nature of the covenant and its spiritual obligations.”[38]Additionally, My¡ImSjår has a wider sematic range that what liberal theologians admit. According to The Hebrew and Aramaic Lexicon of the Old Testament (HALOT), in general it carries the meaning of “a feeling of love, loving sensation, mercy (originally designated the seat of this feeling, meaning bowels, inner parts of the body, the inner person).”[39]In the context of human relationships it means the inner self, inner being, referent of a mother’s love for her child as in 1 Kings 3:26, and of brotherly love among siblings as used in Genesis 43:30.[40]Moreover, this word has a special idiomatic function when connected with dRs™Rj, taking the meaning of grace, favor, and pity.  Thus, both words have slightly different definitions, and do not have to be taken as repeating the same emotion. This idiom is also use with YHWH as the antecedent in Psalms 25:6. Surely, the Hebrew text is not implying physical love in this text. The case posed by liberal theologians falls under the weight of the excluded middle fallacy (also known as false dichotomy)[41]. Note that none of the lexical definitions given have any implications of sex. The LXX, which predates the MT, uses the words εἰς ἔλεον καὶ εἰς οἰκτιρμὸν (mercy and Compassion) in translating this verse.
It is an established fact in biblical hermeneutics that context gives meaning, not the number of times it is translated. Exegetes understand that there are circles of context, which preserves the integrity of the text. The immediate context, the paragraph context, the major section of the book context, the full book context, the context in light of other books by the same author, genre context, Sitz im Leben context, the testament context, the larger biblical context. Keeping this in mind, there are several violations of context in the liberal view. The immediate context tells us that God gave (NAtÎn) these desires to Ashpenaz. The Sitz im Leben context tells us that the text is written to a people who lived in exiled for violating the laws of YHWH. Recognizing that these laws included harsh prohibitions against, it is counterintuitive for God to put desires He readily condemned in the heart of Ashpenaz.  On final note the idea that a lack of a romantic interest or sexual partner of Daniel in the Bible lends credibility to his homosexuality is an argument from silence. As any philosophy professor would chide, an argument from silence is never sound (pun intended). In one’s opinion Stephen miller offers the best explanation for this verse:

The writer again emphasized the fact that God was in control of the situation. He was able to direct the hearts of the captors to accomplish his sovereign will (cf. Prov 21:1). “Favor” (ḥesed) in this context suggests goodwill, and “sympathy” (raḥămîm) conveys compassion or a tender feeling. Ashpenaz had genuinely grown to admire and feel affection toward these Jewish captives. God’s common grace, which operates in the hearts of unbelievers, is exemplified here.[42]

Responses to the Homosexual Crisis
There are four different responses by Christians to the homosexual community. At first it seems a continuum, with hostility at one point of the spectrum and compromise at the other end, allowing for variation in between. However, the responses are based on the level of opposition to sin and the level of care for the sinner. The combination of these two factors creates a grid matrix of four different areas, each representing a different response. These areas are as hostility, compromise, apathy, and love (see Figure 1).
Fig. 1

Hostile
When a Christian has a high opposition to homosexual acts and a low care for the sinner, the response is hostility. This response is greatly represented by groups such as the infamous Westboro Baptist Church. For the most part, this is nothing more than a misguided attempt to strong-arm someone into changing his or her views. It is widely recognized that this militant method is ineffective and counter to a Christian witness.

Compromising
At the opposing end of the Hostile Response is the Compromising response. Compromise is chosen by those who have a low opposition to the sin of homosexuality and have a high level of care for homosexuals. The most representative group with this response is The Universal Fellowship of Metropolitan Community Churches, a denomination whose members and clergy are mostly gay, lesbian, or bisexuals and the United Methodist Church who arrived at the conclusion that homosexuality is a gift from God. These denominations have opted to love homosexuals at the expense of their own eternal destiny; that is they love them to hell.

Apathetic
Those who have a low opposition to homosexual acts, and a low level of care for homosexuals, fall under the category of apathy. There are no denominations or groups representing this category, for they are found among both liberal and conservative denominations. These are the people who live by the slogan of, “live and let live, they are not hurting anybody.” This group of people has deluded themselves into believing that to confront the issue is to be judgmental. This group of individuals is a byproduct of the lack of discipleship in the churches. They have not yet realized that apathy is the opposite of love.


Loving
The final response to the homosexual community is based on a high opposition to the homosexual sin accompanied by a high level of care for those with homosexual tendencies. This is the most appropriate response for Christians. Those who fall under this category are found mostly within conservative, evangelical denominations. They confront homosexuality with a concern of the final destiny of those who act on their desires. These Christians do not glory in bashing homosexuals for their sinful acts, but care enough to lovingly confront them with biblical truth. Moreover, they do not treat homosexuals as second class citizens within the churches for they recognize that being homosexual is not the sin, the act itself is.

Conclusion
Three concluding truths should be recognized in response to the homosexual crisis. First, while the church should not affirm sinful activity such as homosexuality, adultery, idolatry, or greed, it should welcome anyone—gays included—to discover who God is and to find his forgiveness. Second, the Bible does not condemn homosexual inclinations, but rather sexual activity outside of a marriage relationship between husband and wife. In fact, no writers of antiquity, including biblical ones, ever spoke of “sexual orientation;” they talked only about sexual behavior. Third, specific Scriptures uniformly reject the legitimacy of homosexual relations in favor of a heterosexual union.[43]The church must stand guard that no form of “Christianized homosexuality” be adopted. There is no more a form of Christian homosexuality than there is Christian bestiality or Christian incest.  
   This paper encourages further debate and research on this issue. The principle of proper response can be applied not only to the homosexual community, but also to other deviant behaviors. Indeed the church must always respond in love and in accordance to biblical standards. In the near future the homosexual debate will become more heated. The church’s response will be the deciding factor on the outcome of this battle.


[1] LaTonya Taylor, “Talk of Presbyterian Split Grows.” Christianity Today. http://www.christianitytoday. com/ct/2001/december3/14.21.html ( August 12, 2012).
[2] Jacob M. Caldwell, “The Viability of Christian Same-Sex Unions: Why Scripturally Normed Faith Communities Must Support Homosexual Relationships.” Theology & Sexuality 16, no. 1 (2010): 62.
[3] James R. White, and Jeffrey D. Niell, The Same Sex Controversy: Defending and Clarifying the Bible’s Message about Homosexuality (Minneapolis: Bethany House, 2002), 45.
[4] Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture references are from the English Standard Version.
[5] Donald J. Wold, Out of Order: Homosexuality in the Bible and the Ancient Near East (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1998), 80.
[6] James R. White and Jeffrey D. Niell, The Same Sex Controversy: Defending and Clarifying the Bible’s Message about Homosexuality (Minneapolis: Bethany House, 2002), 50.
[7] Jack Rogers, Jesus, the Bible, and Homosexuality: Explode the Myths, Heal the Church (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2006), 73.
[8] Paul Copan, When God Goes to Starbucks a Guide to Everyday Apologetics (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2008), Kindle Edition location 1334.
[9] Canon DR Ron Cassidy, “The Clear Teaching of the Bible on Homosexual Practice,” The Expository Times 109, no. 15 (2004): 299.
[10] Greg L. Bahnsen, Homosexuality, a Biblical View (Phillipsburg, N.J.: Presbyterian and Reformed Pub. Co., 1978), 44-45.
[11] Willard M. Swartley, Homosexuality: Biblical Interpretation and Moral Discernment (Scottdale, Pa.: Herald Press, 2003), 31.
[12] Wold, 65.
[14] Bruce K. Waltke and Michael Patrick O’Connor, An Introduction to Biblical Hebrew Syntax (Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns, 1990), 431.
[15] Ibid., 547.
[16] John Boswell, Christianity, Social Tolerance, and Homosexuality: Gay People in Western Europe from the Beginning of the Christian era to the Fourteenth Century (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1980), 108-109.
[17] Ben Witherington III and Darlene Hyatt, Paul’s Letter to the Romans: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary (Cambridge, UK: Eerdmans, 2004), 69.
[18] Robin Scroggs, The New Testament and Homosexuality (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1983), 114-115.
[19] Ibid., 106.
[20] Dale B. Martin, “Arsenokoites and Malakos: Meanings and Consequences,” in Biblical Ethics and Homosexuality, ed. Robert L. Brawley (Louisville, KY.: Westminster John Knox Press, 1996), 127.
[21] Ibid., 123.
[22] William Arndt , Frederick W. Danker and Walter Bauer. A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature (BDAG). 3rd ed. (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000), Loc cit.
[23] BDAG’ Loc cit.
[24] Randy Thomas, “Church Claims Homosexuality a Gift, Not a Sin–Jeff Buchanan Responds,” exodusinternational.org. exodusinternational.org/2011/05/church-claims-homosexuality-a-gift-not-a-sin-jeff-buchanan-responds/ (accessed April 20, 2012), 1.
[25] William J. Webb, Slaves, Women & Homosexuals: Exploring the Hermeneutics of Cultural Analysis (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2001), kindle edition, location 332.
[26] Ibid, 366.
[27] Uri Wernik, “Will the Real Homosexual in the Bible Please Stand Up?” Theology & Sexuality 11, no. 3 (2005): 52.
[28] Robert A. J. Gagnon, The Bible and Homosexual Practice: Texts and Hermeneutics (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2001), 147.
[29] Wernik, 52.
[30] Ibid, 54.
[31] Ibid, 53.
[32] Jeff Miner, and John Tyler Connoley, The Children are Free: Reexamining the Biblical Evidence on Same-Sex Relationships (Indianapolis: Jesus Metropolitan Community Church, 2002), 29.
[33] B. A. Robinson, “Same-Sex Relationships in the Bible: Conservative and Liberal Viewpoints,”Religious Tolerance .org, N.p., 29 Feb. 2012. Web. 22 Apr. 2012. <http://www.religioustolerance. org/hom_bmar.htm>. (accessed September 2, 2012).
[34] Ronald G. Falconberry, “Does the Hebrew Word Dabaq Imply that Ruth and Naomi Were Gay?,” Ronald G Falconberry Writing Profile  Suite101.com http://ronald-g-falconberry.suite101.com/does-the-hebrew-word-dabaq-imply-that-ruth-and-naomi-were-gay-a297623(accessed April 22, 2012)..
[35] Peter Ould, “Ruth and Naomi—An exegesis: An Exercise in the Fundamentals of Orthodoxy.” An Exercise in the Fundamentals of Orthodoxy, 22 Apr. 2012. .22 (accessed Apr. 22, 2012.).
[36] Inc Merriam-Webster, Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, Eleventh ed. (Springfield, MA: Merriam-Webster, Inc., 2003).
[37]B. A. Robinson, “Same-Sex Relationships in the Bible: Conservative and Liberal Viewpoints,”Religious Tolerance .org, N.p., 29 Feb. 2012. Web. 22 Apr. 2012. <http://www.religioustolerance. org/hom_bmar.htm>. (accessed September 5, 2012).
[38] Bruce Waltke. A commentary on Micah (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2007), 392.
[39]Ludwig Koehler, Walter Baumgartner, M. E. J. Richardson and Johann Jakob Stamm, The Hebrew and Aramaic Lexicon of the Old Testament, electronic ed. (Leiden; New York: E.J. Brill, 1999), 1218.
[40]Ibid, 1218.
[41]a type of logical fallacy  in which only two alternatives solutions are considered, when in fact there is at least one additional option.
[42] Stephen R. Miller, vol. 18, Daniel, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1994), 68.
[43]   Paul Copan, When God Goes to Starbucks: A Guide to Everyday Apologetics (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2008), Kindle Edition location 1234-1318.

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BOOK REVIEW: THE NEXT CHRISTENDOM BY PHILIP JENKINS

Introduction
Dr. Philip Jenkins, a professor at Pennsylvania State University and Distinguished Senior Fellow at the institute for Studies of Religion in Baylor University, has spent some of the best years of his life researching and writing books on history, religion, and criminal justice. His book, The Next Christendom: The Coming of Global Christianity is my first encounter with any of his work. While observing contemporary religions trends, he has been capable to recognize and predict some of the possible future trends in Christianity. As Dr. Jenkins himself concludes, “The era of Western Christianity has passed within our lifetimes, and the day of the Southern churches is dawning. The fact of change itself is undeniable: it has happened, and will continue to happen.” (page 3) The future of Christianity looks starkly different than the modern experience  
The Authors Thesis
Dr. Jenkins’ thesis for his book is that Christianity is now rooted in the so-called third world, and there will be a global shift to the global south where the new seat of Christianity will be established. He arrives at his thesis by looking at several religious trends in the world and statistics. He states that,
 In the 1900, 83 percent of the world’s Christians live in Europe and North America. In 2050, 72 percent of Christians will lie in Africa, Asia, and Latin America, and a sizable share of the remainder will have roots in one or more of those continents…If we imagine a typical Christian back in 1900, we might think of a German or an American; in 2050, we should rather turn to a Ugandan, a Brazilian, or a Filipino.” (preface)
 If the author’s thesis is correct, and one believes it is, one can expect a renewed conflict between religious groups especially among Muslims and Christians, possible conflict between northern and southern forms of Christianity, and finally a large number of political and social ramifications.
Major Points
The first half of Dr. Jenkins’ book gives us a quick glance at the history and the current state of affairs of the Christian world. He first describes the theological orientation of the growing Christianity of the sought. In his own words, he states “Generally, we can say that many global South Christians are more conservative in terms of both beliefs and moral teaching than are the mainstream churches of the global North; this is especially true of African churches.” (pg 8) This was a surprising statement considering that most renowned Hispanic theologians espouse a liberation theology point of view. In fact, according to the author, liberation theology is nothing more than a branch of western theology. The author also states that the global south is very characteristically charismatic and Pentecostal in nature with a great supernatural orientation, “and are by and large far more interested in personal salvation than in radical politics” (pg. 9)
Furthermore, the author makes the case that one of the reasons for their conservatism and supernatural emphasis has to do with the fact that, unlike the western church, the global south is not a stranger to persecution and martyrdom. They are constantly confronted with competing religions such as Buddhism, Islam, and Hinduism, but more importantly one would add that Christianity in the global south confront demonic powers found within the animist and many of the syncretistic sects such as Santeria, Candomble, and Obeah. Many of these competing religions are the reason behind the death of many Christians in the global south, such as Islam, leading them to a stronger reliance on the spirit of God and a stronger conviction upon the Biblical views. Nonetheless, the author gives us this caveat
“As Southern Christianities continue to expand and mature, they will assuredly develop a wider theological spectrum than at present, and stronger liberal or secularizing tendencies may well emerge. For the foreseeable future, though, the dominant theological tone of emerging world Christianity is traditionalist, orthodox, and supernatural.” (pg 11)
The author reminds us that Christianity, in fact, began in the global south with an eastern culture. One could very well say that Christianity is returning home. He recalls Christianity found in Ethiopia and Armenia. While most western historians suggest that western Christianity began with Constantine in 313 AD, they fail to recognize that early states that established Christianity as their official religion prior to the Edith of Milan. In fact, ”Almost certainly, Armenia was the first state anywhere to establish Christianity as an official faith, which it did around the year 300.” (pg 25) Even more astonishing is the fact that the Ethiopian church is equally ancient, “By the time the first Anglo-Saxons were converted, Ethiopian Christianity was already in its tenth generation.” (pg 25) Moreover, according to Dr. Jenkins the average Christian in 1200 AD would have been of Middle Eastern or Asian descent.
The second half of the book, the author introduces his view on what shape and form Christianity has taken in the global south. “About a third of the world’s Christians by 2050 will be African, and those African Christians will outnumber Europe’s by more than two to one. The Christian world will have turned upside down.” (pg 112) Furthermore, “By 2050 only about one-fifth of the world’s 3.2 billion Christians will be non- Hispanic whites. Soon, the phrase ‘a white Christian’ may sound like a curious oxymoron, as mildly surprising as ‘a Swedish Buddhist.’” (pg 3) As a result of this, it is predicted that conflict will arise between traditionally western Christianity and the global south. 
The new upcoming Christianity seems to have adopted many cultural practices, which appear to be suspect in the eyes of western Christians. It is not unusual to find churches in Africa who continue practices which appear more Jewish than Christian. African Christians find it difficult to understand why they should treat the Old Testament distinctly from the New Testament. Western culture must recognize that the Old Testament is more culturally familiar to them than the New Testament. Moreover, the practice of exorcism is very common in the global south. The author indicates that the Latin American congregations (even in churches who are not Pentecostal) practice healing, exorcism, and spiritual warfare. They do so recognizing that, “The Bible itself so readily supports a worldview based on spirits, healing, and exorcism.” (pg 160)
While to most western Christians these expressions of faith may seem syncretistic. The author refutes that view by citing a true example of a syncretistic movement:
Northern Mexico is home to a native people called the Tarahumara, who have adapted elements of Christianity to a traditional mythology. They believe in God and his wife, the Virgin Mary, who correspond to the Sun and Moon, together with their son Jesus. The divine family created all Indians, while non-Indians are the offspring of the Devil and his wife. (pg 164)
As it is evident, this example of true syncretism shows a faith that is so far from Biblical truth that it cannot be recognized as a authentic Christian faith. Same can not be said about Christians in the global south who merely practice that which they found within the worldview of the Biblical text.
The author believes that Christianity in the global south has not developed a view akin to western culture’s separation of church and state. In fact, such a view seems counterintuitive when many of the leaders of political activism are members of the clergy a fact that has its benefits and detriments. It is expected that clashes with Islamic politics will increase. According to the author,
Of the world’s twenty-five largest nations by 2050, at least nineteen will be predominantly or entirely either Christian or Muslim. If we imagine that the current religious balance will still continue at that point, then there should be a remarkably even balance between Muslim and Christian forces. Seven countries will be wholly or mainly Muslim, ten wholly or mainly Christian, and two deeply divided between the two faiths. (207)
Christianity in the global south is more community-oriented form of Christianity than its western sister. They are constantly responding to poverty, disease (such as HIV), and many other forms of social injustice. They have not developed a bifurcation between compassion ministry, and the proclamation of the Gospel. An aspect that one believes western culture ought to emulate. Fortunately, the next Christendom seems to have the right perspective on this issue.
Critique
Dr. Philip Jenkins book was an eye opening experience, which led me to consider investigating genuine Latin American theology. A theology completely divorced from western influence and developed within indigenous fellowships. It has become well known that the African community of believers has verbalized their theology, but the Latin American community has not taken this step. Dr. Jenkins book has become essential in exposing Western Christianity to the Christian faith that stands at the horizon. One area of concern is in regards to the author’s definition of Christian faith. He seems to have a very broad definition, which includes faith groups who are beyond the scope of Biblical truth, such as The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. It would be beneficial to draft a similar work within the boundaries of a conservative definition of Christian. In this manner, the word would not only be beneficial to the western church, but also to the endeavors of future missionaries.

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RUTH AND NAOMI: FIVE EXEGETICAL VIEWS OF RUTH

File:Ruth Naomi Obed.jpgThe book of Ruth is recognized by both Jewish and Christians alike as inspired, and canonical. In the Jewish community, it is read on the feast of Pentecost, and it is highly regarded by those who convert into Judaism. In the Christian tradition, it is grouped together with the historical books. In the Jewish tradition, it is grouped as part of the kethuvim or writings. Within the kethuvim, The Book of Ruth is part of Hamesh megillot (the five scrolls) alongside Song of Songs, the Book of Lamentations, Ecclesiastes and the Book of Esther.
The book of Ruth is one of the only two books of scripture named after a woman,[1]and the only one named after a gentile woman. Tradition and conservative scholars agree that the book was most likely written by the prophet and Judge Samuel. It was written to introduce the family of the famous King David who was the great-grandson of Ruth. The story takes place during the time when Israel did not have a king; the time of judges. It tells an amazing story of loyalty, and of God’s providential guidance of events for those who accept His precepts. Ruth, a Moabite widow, chooses to stay with her mother-in-law and accepts a life of destitute by her side. However, the Lord’s providence, and the wisdom of Naomi guide her to her kinsman redeemer Boaz who becomes her savior out of dearth and ruin.
To Christian it has become a treasured text often preached as an analogy of Christ relationship to the church. As Boaz was Ruth’s kinsman redeemer, so is Christ our kinsmen redeemer. Other Christians find a connection between Proverbs 31:10-31 with Ruth. The Book of Proverbs has a detailed description of an excellent wife, and amazingly Ruth the Moabite is the only one woman in the whole of scripture given this title. To Christian it is no small feat that a Gentile, and not a Jew was worthy of this title, and thus part of Christ’s genealogy. When it comes to sermons, it seems that often the focus is placed in the relationship between Boaz and Ruth, or on Ruth’s character of loyalty and faith. However, few have endeavor to develop an exegesis based on the relationship between Ruth and Naomi as expressed in Ruth 1:6-18. In this paper, one will briefly develop four distinct interpretations to this relationship; three from a western perspective and two from the majority word; more specifically Africa, and Latin America. The goal is to highlight how different communities contextualize their theology and to the distinction between Western exegesis and Majority world’s exegesis.
Conservative Western Exegesis
Western Evangelical View
The western evangelical community sees in this story a beautiful picture of loyalty portrayed by Ruth. Beginning from an understanding of cultures from the Ancient Near East they recognize that nations were divided by language and theology. Ruth’s statement to Naomi that the God of Naomi shall also become her God flows naturally from the previous statement that Naomi’s people shall become her people. In her context, it is more likely understood that to adopt the identity of Naomi’s people it is inseparable from adopting Naomi’s God. It is well known that the Moabites were considered the people Chemosh. However, Chemosh was not the only God that they worshiped, just the chief God. The Moabites were a henotheistic culture.[2]
The key verse, according to the western view, in this dialogue is verse seventeen where Ruth declares that even in death she will not be separated from Naomi. In her framework, this is Ruth’s way of making a commitment to be responsible for Naomi’s burial including whatever ritual may be necessary for the burial. The dialogue is a picture of loyalty and the merciful heart of Ruth. Everything that Ruth is willing to do draws out of the strong relationship with her mother-in-law, not from being convinced of a monotheistic faith in YHWH.[3]Furthermore, Mark S. Smith makes a case that the rhetoric in Ruth 1:16-17 is akin to a covenant made between two nations such as the one in 1 Kings 22:4 and 2 Kings 3:7. He adds that, with the death of Naomi’s son, the relationship between them has been severed. The covenant was meant to restore that relationship with the hope of overcoming struggles together.
The evangelical view applied this knowledge as an example of the ideal relationship between mother and daughter-in-law. The central character of Ruth becomes a hero of faith and an example of compassion for more modern audience. God honors Ruth’s radical love for her mother-in-law; who providentially guides Ruth through Naomi, and restores what they had lost.[4]
Messianic View
Messianic Jews have taken a different take when it comes to this relationship. While agreeing with the evangelical view, they go a step further in their assessment. Ruth, to Messianic Jews is not only a picture of the faithful church, but an example of how gentile Christians should relate to the Jewish people. They based their view on Ruth 1:16, “Don’t urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God” (NIV). [5] Messianic exegetes take each element from Ruth’s response as a sign of her heart.[6]
Messianic churches highlight that in the Hebrew text Ruth uses the personal name of God YHWH, and not the generic term elohim. They conclude that this was a conversion to Judaism and that she not only expressed her Love for the God of Israel, but she also loves the people hence why she stated “your people shall be my people.” Moreover, she expresses her love for the land of Israel evidence by her statement “Where you stay, I will stay.” This threefold love is what messianic Jews call the heart of Ruth, and every follower of Yeshuah Hamashiach, as they prefer to call Jesus the Christ, must have the same heart. Indeed, they agree with evangelicals that Ruth id a representation of the church, and as such the church must love God, the Jews, and the Land of Israel as Ruth herself illustrated.
Liberal Western Exegesis
The Liberal western exegesis has become a curiosity among many, and a serious interpretation among some denominations. In The Children are Free: Reexamining the Biblical Evidence on Same-sex Relationships, Jeff Miner and John Tyler Connoley make the case that the relationship described in this verse is of a homosexual nature. His book sold millions of copy and today many saint are being persuade to what they perceived to be a more-tolerant Christianity.
Miner and Connoley begin their exegesis with a question “ Can two people of the same sex live in committed, loving relationship with the blessing of God?” The authors’ first premise begins with some historical analysis about life of a woman in the Ancient Near East. Women in Israel had to rely on her father or her husband for sustenance, and therefore, Naomi’s status as a widow was an assurance of poverty. They recognize that the command to take care of the widows and orphans stems from the fact that these were the most vulnerable members of society.[7]The second premise is drawn from Ruth’s words in verse 17 “Where you die I will die, and there will I be buried. May the Lorddo so to me and more also if anything but death parts me from you.” Proponents of this view hold that this level of commitment can only be characterize as “Love.” Ruth willingness to die alongside Naomi is the same level of commitment found in marriage. In fact, some add that the author already hinted at this fact in verse 14 “Then they lifted up their voices and wept again. And Orpah kissed her mother-in-law, but Ruth clung to her.”[8]The Hebrew word daveqah (דָּ֥בְקָה) translated as cling, cleave, stick to, and hold-fast in the English text, is the same root word used in Genesis 2:24  “Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.”[9] A verse understood as part of the marriage covenant to which the author is making an allusion.[10]It is quite obvious they may add that Naomi and Ruth were Lovers, and Ruth’s marriage to Boaz was a matter of convenience since the text never mentions that Ruth loved Boaz; furthermore, the book closes with emphasis on Naomi and her grandchild Obed; leaving Boaz completely out of the picture.
Majority World Exegesis
African view.
African theologians, when approaching Ruth 1:14-17, look for cultural similarities between Ruth context and their own. In fact, they have developed a theological approach, which has been termed as the Bosadi (Womanhood) perspective. Madipoane Masenya, a theologian with a Northern Sotho worldview, has written several compelling works based on the book of Ruth. She notes that the Ruth’s decision to stay with her mother-in-law is not shocking to a woman from Northern Sotho. In her culture, the death of a husband does not sever the relationship between the mother-in-law and the daughter-in-law. In addition, Ruth’s decision to take of Naomi by gleaning from the fields later in the text would be the natural course of events for a Northern Sotho daughter-in-law. In South Africa, the daughter-in-law becomes part of her husband’s family, and as a daughter-in-law, she is expected to take care of her husband’s parents in their old age. However, Masenya admits that the largest distinction between her culture and the narrative of Ruth and Naomi lies in their deep and caring relationship. Indeed, Northern Sotho daughters-in-law tend to be subservient to their mothers-in-law. Masenya believes that those who read the narrative of Ruth can view her as having no choice in doing what her mother-in-law commands, or they can see a daughter–in-law who chooses to do what’s best for her mother-in-law. She strongly suggests that the relationship between Ruth and Naomi is essential in changing the cultural hostility in the Northern Sotho mothers and daughters-in-law.[11]
Masenya recognizes in a different article that, within a patriarchal driven culture, these women were capable of getting themselves out of poverty and emptiness. She sees this narrative as a tutorial for women in patriarchal societies to trust God, and to work in their context to get themselves out of their predicament. In fact, Masenya suggests that, at times, sacrifices ought to be made in order to gain better status. Her conclusion is drawn from what she believed was a sexual advance by Ruth upon Boaz. She reasons that feet were a euphemism for male genitalia, and when Ruth decided to uncover Boaz’s feet that she was risking what little status she had to gain greater status. She encourages African women, that even within the milieu of a patriarchal culture, women are capable of affecting change in their own families. She reminds her readers of the expression, “Mmago ngwana o swara thipa ka bogaleng translated as, ‘the mother of the child holds the sharp part of the knife…the proverb means that when crisis strikes a particular family, it is usually the woman in the family who will act as an agent to save the situation.’”[12]
Latin American
Much like their African brothers and sisters Latin American theologians approach the text looking for those elements that speak to their cultural and social dilemmas. Latin American theologians suggest that the book of Ruth is a political call to solidarity among humanity. In their analysis of the historical context, they believe that the text was written in the time of Ezra-Nehemiah and that the book of Ruth along side the book of Jonah was written to protest the social reforms of Ezra and Nehemiah. They see a parallel between the return from Babylon and Naomi’s return to Bethlehem. In fact, they make a case that the main goals of the text are threefold. First, it aims to favor miscegenation as the norm to shape the social group. Second, it places women as an example of public virtue, which is social justice. Third, the book of Ruth demonstrates the transforming power of solidarity and compassion.[13]
In light of this when Latin American theologians approach Ruth 1:14-17 they see this dialogue as the moment in which the solidarity between Ruth and Naomi is forged. They become revolutionaries against the social norm and seek mutual help to improve one another’s future. In fact, Ruth becomes a revolutionary heroine as Agustin Fabra so candidly expresses that it is not easy to accompany one who is left alone and helpless, one who has nothing to offer because he/she needs everything. Therefore, Ruth’s act of deciding to stay with Naomi contains many more aspects than merely love with tender affection, for she is also willing to share her fate with all the consequences this may have. It is a decision not only emotional, but also ethical and of great moral courage.[14]Furthermore, Latin American theologians recognize the level of difficulty implied in the oath made by Ruth. Ruth had to look for a solution that would be beneficial for both her mother-in-law and herself. She could not marry someone who was not related to Naomi, for doing so would leave Naomi alone once again. In the context, she understood that no man would take in the mother of a former spouse.
Conclusion
The western-evangelical view is perhaps the most popular and widely accepted interpretation of this interchange. The careful research into the cultural and historical background is quite commendable; however, one is left with the feeling that there is more to this text than a mechanical often far off understanding. However, most western evangelicals fail to ask the reason behind Ruth and Orpah’s hesitation to leave Naomi. Indeed, Ruth’s willingness to cast her lot with Naomi cannot be left un-scrutinized. One proposes that Naomi’s character and her strong relationship with Ruth and Orpah, prior to her sons’ death, is a big factor in her daughters-in-law’s response. Perhaps the Biblical writer is making not only a case for a faithful character like Ruth, but also for a caring mother-in-law like Naomi.
The Messianic view is strong for the same reasons the evangelical view is strong. The Christology gleaned from the text is compelling and in ones opinion valid. However, the weakness in this view is found in the attempt to transform the political ideology of Zionism into a biblical doctrine. It is admirable that an attempt is made to contextualize the storyline to the current struggle of the Jewish people. The Jewish people today feel the constant throng of radical Islamist and suffer daily at the hands of suicide bombers or rockets across their border. Moreover, they are surrounded by their enemies who want nothing more than to drive them into to the, and consider them occupiers of a land that does not belong to them. When a minister of the Gospel tells them that faithful Christians should love them, their land, and by extension their rights to this lands, is sweet to their palates.
Nonetheless, as much sympathy one has for the struggle of Israel, the truth is that Ruth does not make any reference to the land of Israel, or whether one should love or hate this land. To one’s surprise, since messianic Jews tend to have a fairly good grasp of the Hebrew language, the fault lies on a misunderstanding of the Hebrew text. The line “Where you stay, I will stay” as rendered by the New International Version may be misunderstood. The Hebrew word translated as “Stay” in this verse is ’alin (אָלִין) is a Qal imperfect first common singular, and it is better translated as Lodge or Stay overnight.[15]The word is used in the story of the Levite and his concubine located in Judges 19:21, “And the old man said, ‘Peace be to you; I will care for all your wants. Only, do not spend the night in the square.’”[16]Simple cross-reference with a concordance should alert the student of God’s word to the fallacy in this view. Ruth was simply stating that she was not going to leave Noemi’s side. It could very well be true that Ruth loved the land of Israel, but this verse does not serve as evidence for it.
When it comes to the Western-liberal view, the best way to understand the argument is to outline it into the premises proposed by this exegesis. In essence Miner and Connoley state that:
Premise one: If Ruth had a radical love for Naomi
Premise two: and the passage uses language of a marriage covenant
Conclusion: then Ruth and Naomi were homosexual lovers.
As persuasive as it may seem, there are several fallacies in this line of argument.  First, this argument is a non-sequitur; the conclusion does not follow its premise. As it is true of most non-sequitur it is missing a third premise which should rewrite the line of argument as:
Premise one: If Ruth had a radical love for Naomi
Premise two: and the passage uses language of a marriage covenant
Premise three: and if radical love is indicative of sexual intercourse.
Conclusion: then Ruth and Naomi were homosexual lovers.
Only by having this premise will the conclusion follow, but the line of argument enters into a new problem. Two of its premises are false, and thus the conclusion is false. Premise one is true; Ruth demonstrated a radical love for Naomi by putting her life in danger of starvation, and perhaps even assault when she could have chosen to be confortable in her father’s house. However, premise two is false. The assumption is made that the word daveqah can only be a reference to marriage, and the book itself invalidates this assumption. The word three more times in the text, “Boaz asks Ruth to “stay” with his servant girls while gleaning during the harvest (2:8). Ruth tells Naomi that Boaz asked her to “stay”with his workers until the harvest was finished (2:21), and Ruth followed Boaz’s advice and “stayed close” to the other women until the harvesting was finished (2:23).”[17] Peter Ould states that the verses in the second chapter of Ruth “are clearly not invitations for Ruth to form covenant unions with either the workers or the other women.”[18]
The last premise (the added premise) is also false. The omission of this premise stems from the homosexual community attempts to define homosexuality as an emotional attachment between two people of the same gender, which they define as love. Unfortunately for them, a Homosexual is defined as, “relating to, or characterized by a tendency to direct sexual desire toward another of the same sex,”[19]and in addition one proposes that sexual attraction/lust ought not to be confused with love. One can love his or her own child in a radical manner to the point of death, yet this does not imply sexual attraction to one’s children; the mere though is deviant. Therefore, the premise is necessary in this line of argument, and the text gives no evidence for this premise.
The African worldview, as expressed by Masenya, in regards to this text is commendable in that it contextualizes the text. Counter to the western evangelical point of view, the dialogue becomes more dynamic and engaging with the audience. While westerners see the text as just an example of faith and loyalty, Africans find this book as a source of healing for a social ill. The narrative helps the process of bringing reconciliation within interpersonal relationships, more specifically mothers and daughters in law. However, one must disagree with Masenya’s interpretations in regards to Ruth’s uncovering of Boaz’s feet. An understanding of the Jewish culture and Jewish literature ought to weaken this perspective. It seems counterproductive that the Biblical writer will spend so much time demonstrating the level of integrity of Ruth, and then have her commit an act counter to her own character. Furthermore, whether this book was meant to elevate the family of King David, or as some propose, to counter the Ezra-Nehemiah forced-divorce ruling, this act would not argue against the attempted goal.
Finally, the Latin American view is admirable in that it seeks to deal with contemporary issues of Poverty, immigration, Nationalism, and enculturation. There are definitely elements in the book of Ruth that elevate social concern for those who are considered the untouchables of society. However, to advance this view as the main thrust of the text is misleading, and simply an attempt to turn the text into a  revolutionary script. Furthermore, One would propose that the narrative was written prior to the Babylonian conquest during the reign of David or Solomon. Evidence to the contrary is weak and based on flawed documentary hypothesis.

All of these exegetical works have weaknesses, and strengths. Taken them together helps inform one another’s work creating a more holistic exegetical work. The tools of Western Christianity, and the perception of the majority world can create an effective method of biblical interpretation. Further dialog among both camps will only benefit, and strengthen the missionary work among those who are yet to have an effective Gospel witness in their midst.


[1] The other book is Esther, neither the Protestant nor the Jewish tradition consider The Book of Judith canonical; thus it is not included as an option in this assessment.
[2] Daniel Isaac Block, Vol. 6, Judges, Ruth, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1999), Loc. cit.
[3]Victor Harold Matthews, Mark W. Chavalas and John H. Walton, The IVP Bible Background Commentary: Old Testament. electronic ed. (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2000), Loc. cit.
[4] Mark S. Smith, “‘Your People Shall Be my People’: Family and Covenant in Ruth 1:16-17,” The Catholic Biblical Quaterly 69 (2007): 256-258.
[5] Emphasis added;
[6] Eric D. Lakatos, “FAQ Tikvat Yisrael: What is the “heart of Ruth?”.” Tikvat Yisrael Messianic Synagogue of Cleveland Ohio. http://tikvatcleveland.org/faq.html#ruth (accessed April 21, 2012).
[7]Jeff Miner, and John Tyler Connoley, The children are free: reexamining the biblical evidence on same-sex relationships(Indianapolis, Ind.: Jesus Metropolitan Community Church, 2002), 29.
[8] Emphasis added. All Scripture references are from The Holy Bible: English Standard Versionunless otherwise noted.
[9] Emphasis added.
[10] B. A. Robinson, “Same-Sex Relationships In The Bible: Conservative And Liberal Viewpoints,” Religious Tolerance .org, N.p., 29 Feb. 2012. Web. 22 Apr. 2012. .
[11] Madipoane J. Masenya (ngwan’a Mphahlele). “Struggling with Poverty/ Emptiness: Rereading The Naomi-Ruth Story in African-South Africa.” Journal of Theology for Southern Africa 120 (2004): 46-59.
[12] Madipoane J. Masenya, “NGWETSI (BRIDE) The Naomi-Ruth Story from an African-South African Woman’s Perspective,” Journal of Feminist Studies in Religion 14, no. 2 (1998): 51.
[13] Carmen B. Ubieta, “Ruth y Noemi,” Canal Comunidad iVoox. MP3 audio file. http://www.ivoo x.com/ruth-noemi-carmen-bernabe-ubieta-audios-mp3_rf_574218_1.html.
[14] Personal Translation from: Agustine Fara, “Ruth, La Humilde Heroina,” Monografias.com. http://www.monografias.com/trabajos88/ruth-humilde-heroina/ruth-humilde-heroina.shtml (accessed April 21, 2012).
[15] Ludwig Koehler, Walter Baumgartner, M. E. J. Richardson and Johann Jakob Stamm, The Hebrew and Aramaic Lexicon of the Old Testament. electronic ed. (Leiden; New York: E.J. Brill, 1999), Loc cit.
[16]Emphasis added
[17] Ronald G. Falconberry, “Does the Hebrew Word Dabaq Imply that Ruth and Naomi Were Gay? | Suite101.com.” Ronald G Falconberry Writing Profile | Suite101.com. N.p., 22 Jan. 2001. Web. 22 Apr. 2012. .
[18] Peter Ould, “Ruth and Naomi – An exegesis | An Exercise in the Fundamentals of Orthodoxy.” An Exercise in the Fundamentals of Orthodoxy, N.p., 17 Mar. 2009. Web. 22 Apr. 2012. .
[19] Inc Merriam-Webster, Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary., Eleventh ed. (Springfield, Mass.: Merriam-Webster, Inc., 2003).

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Self-actualize Christian.

SELF-ACTUALIZATION
THROUGH THE LENS OF FAITH

Introduction 

 “A musician must make music, an artist must paint, a poet must write, if he is to be ultimately happy. What a man can be, he must be. This need we may call self-actualization,” with these words humanist psychologist Abraham H. Maslow launched the concept of self-actualization. Dr. Maslow posed in his article to the Psychological Review journal that a human has a hierarchy of prepotency in which the lower level prepotent needs overtake the consciousness of an individual until it is met, and the next prepotent need monopolizes his/her consciousness. Maslow organized this needs as physiological, safety, love, ‘esteem, and self-actualization. The physiological need, is a reference to a person’s basic needs for food and water. The safety need is a person necessity to feel free from threat to his or her life in the form of wild animals, criminal acts, and tyranny. The love need, is in reference to a person’s need to feel affection and a sense of belonging. The ‘esteem need, as Maslow describes it is, “need or desire for a stable, firmly based, (usually) high evaluation of themselves, for self-respect, or self-esteem, and for the esteem of others.” Finally, the focus of this paper, the need for self-actualization, which Maslow describes as, “the desire to become more and more what one is, to become everything that one is capable of becoming.”

The term self-actualization 

While Maslow may have started a third wave in humanist psychology, the term Self-actualization was not his original idea. The German-Jewish neurologist and psychiatrist who was a pioneer in modern neuropsychology, Kurt Goldstein, coined the term self-actualization. Admittedly Dr. Goldstein had a more general definition as posed in his book The Organism: A Holistic Approach to Biology Derived from Pathological Data in Man:

 This tendency to actualize its nature, to actualize “itself,” is the basic drive, the only drive by which the life of the organism is determined …Normal behavior corresponds to a continual change of tension of such a kind that over and again that state of tension is reached that enables and impels the organism to actualize itself in further activities, according to its nature. Thus, experiences with patients teach us that we have to assume only one drive, the drive of self-actualization, and that the goal of the drive is not a discharge of tension 

 The point of disagreement between Maslow and Goldstein is the timing of the self-actualization. Maslow proposes that self-actualization occurs only upon all the previous prepotencies being met, thus sometime in the future. Conversely Goldstein believes that the potential to use all the capacities in self-actualization is available and present at the moment the organism requires it; thus no future development of this is implied.

Who is self-actualized? 

 For Goldstein self-actualization was a driving force, a motive, but for Maslow the highest level to be achieved in psychological development. Nonetheless, they both had relatively similar ideas in describing a self-actualized person. Maslow stated that self-actualized people have “an unusual ability to detect the spurious, the fake, and the dishonest in personality, and in general to judge the people correctly and efficiently.” One can summarized that the self-actualize person possesses unique characteristics such as, a realistic orientation to life; acceptance of self, others, and nature; spontaneity; problem-centeredness instead of self-centeredness; and an air of detachment. Furthermore, Self-actualizers need periodic privacy, show autonomy and independence, have a fresh appreciation of people and things. It is not overwhelmingly surprising that another developmental psychologist Jane Loevinger in describing her final stage of ego development, the integrated stage (a key element of this stage is being self-actualized) states that only a small portion of individuals are self-actualize. In fact, Maslow himself concludes, “Though in principle self-actualization is easy, in practice it rarely happens (by my criteria, certainly in less than 1% of the adult population). Maslow came to label this insight as psychopathology of normality.

Self-actualization and Self-denial 

 “Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.” Formally defined as “The willingness to deny oneself possessions or status, in order to grow in holiness and commitment to God. This practice is commended and illustrated by Jesus Christ himself, and underlies Christian fellowship within the church.” This Teaching of scripture is well attested by scripture. In essence, a life of service is the prescribed life for the believer, a life of self-denial, not of self-elevation. As imitators of Christ, Philippians 2:5-11 becomes the most clear verse on this theology, for he denied himself all the divine accolades to become human and serve; going as far as dying upon the cross. Christ is the model of a Christian life, characterized by self-denial, self-sacrifice, and service. Christ has called us to take up our own cross, and lead a sacrificial life. Furthermore he ensures us that, “If anyone would be first, he must be last of all and servant of all.”

 At this juncture most would assume that the biblical theology of self-denial runs counter to the psychological concept of self-actualization, and thus it is irreconcilable to the Christian faith. Nonetheless, careful examination demonstrates a surprisingly high level of compatibility between self-actualization, and biblical teachings. First and foremost one must to the fact that Maslow made a point of caution in regards to self-actualization. He clarifies that, “the unrestrained expression of any whim, the direct seeking for “kicks” and for non-social and purely private pleasures…is often mislabeled self-actualization.” In his own words self-actualization is not to be equated to selfish ambitions.

There must also be a clarification in regards to the biblical theology of self-denial, for a distinction must be made between self–denial and self-rejecting. Self-rejecting adults suffer from depression, low self-esteem, and codependency. Jesus was not self-rejecting, but he chose to practice self-denial to seek and accomplish the will of the father. Christ knew who he was, and believers must also know who they are in Christ. We have value, and worth before Him, and we have been endowed with gifts and talents that must develop as we walk with Him. In fact, Biblical self-denial is the cultivation of these gifts and talents to be effective tools for the kingdom contribute to God’s work, and more importantly to become more like Christ. A person with low self-esteem and who feels worthless cannot be an effective servant of Christ. One learns to have self-denial by submitting to the will of the father, recognizing their value in the kingdom, and acting upon the gifts He bestows on him/her.

Furthermore Self-denial must be expressed in total submission to the will of God. Believers who seek to become fully effective servants, and who seek to be self-actualized will do well in seeking first the baptism of the Holy Spirit with the evidence in tongue. Empowerment for the work of the kingdom makes a believer a more effective servant, and taps into his full potential according to the gifts given to him/her. Correctly Maslow said, “What a man can be, he must be” One would modify this to say: what a man has been called to be; he must be empowered to actually be. Musicians must make music, but only spirit filled musician can create an atmosphere of worship.

Conclusion 

Thus self-actualization fits well with self-denial, for in the process of becoming more like Christ, one becomes self-actualized. With profound insight Bremer and Hill state, “Some individuals point out similarities between the psychological concept of self-actualization and the theological doctrine of sanctification. Sanctification generally suggests the transformation of the person toward being more Christlike, becoming more the human God intends. If God is the author of the actualizing tendency, it may well be that sanctification and self-actualization are essentially the same experience expressed in different terms. It is hard to disagree with this assessment, for the best example one can fathom of a truly self-actualized person is Christ. In essence to be like Christ is to be self-actualized, and to become self-actualized one must live a Spirit filled life of Self-denial; that is service. Abraham H. Maslow may have merely discovered a truth that scripture has taught for over two thousand years.

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How Should Christians Approach the Levitical Laws? [A quick note]

Introduction
Christ said, “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished” (Matt 5:17 [ESV][1]), but the author of Hebrews stated in speaking of a new covenant, he makes the first one obsolete. And what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away (Heb 8:13). Statements such as these found in the New Testament can send mixed signals to the readers, but an in-depth study of the biblical text reveals that what may seems as contradictory its simply a lack of understanding.
This lack of understanding has placed many into two extreme views towards the Mosaic laws. Some have gone the way of the Judaizers, and have called for full adherence to the levitical laws; such as the Ebionites, and some modern independent messianic churches. Others have fully rejected anything that is found in the Mosaic Law, rendering the Pentateuch useless for the teaching of biblical principles and effectively turning these books into uninspired text; such as Marcion. Still others whimsically pick and choose which laws to follow and which ones to reject. These extremes are unnecessary, harmful to the church, and its effectiveness. The body of believers is best served by seriously engaging the text, and exegete the biblical teaching on the law. One proposes that the Mosaic laws are beneficial to the body of believers, if properly understood, as the early church was able to discerned. In essence the New Testament believers identified universal principals found in the Pentateuch apart from those laws, which were culturally bound.
Continuity and Discontinuity
Paul described the role of the Old Testament law as a tutor that guided, protected, and preserved the nation of Israel to fulfill their purpose as the nation through which the Messiah would come[2]. In Paul’s understanding once the Messiah had come there was no longer a need for this tutor, and the law of Christ fulfills the intent of the Mosaic laws[3]. One can surmise from Paul’s writing that he understood that there were some universal principals, which established continuity among the old and new covenant. This continuity is mainly based on the desire of God to have a relationship with a people. This desire began to express itself from the moment that He chose Abraham and by faith, through grace established a covenant relationship with him. Embedded in that covenant relationship is God’s plan of providing a redemptive path by which the nations can have a relationship with Him [4]. Additionally this relationship, as all relationships comes with it’s own set of responsibilities and expectations.
Continuity
The most evident expectation that comes across both covenants is the requirement for holiness and reverent fear of the Lord. Holiness in the Old Testament is a description of God as the omnipotent, transcendent, wondrous being, perfect in morality and flawless in ethics. Holiness is the totality of God’s attributes, the same quality that separates humanity from him. Also, by Old Testament standards things and people are holy by their association to a holy God. The scriptures make a clear distinction between the holy and the common, and the common is subdivides as the clean and the unclean. A clean person, being the norm, can either become polluted by sinful behaviors or association to unclean things, or it can be purified and become holy through a blood sacrifice; often a lamb. Anyone associated to a holy God must live a lifestyle of holiness; separate unto God in complete submission and fidelity.
The distinction between clean and unclean at first glance seems to do more with healthy practices than with moral, ethical principles. Nonetheless the book of Leviticus is more concerned with spiritual health than physical health [5]about clean spiritual lesson being taught although nothing unclean can become holy, they could become clean. Sickness and death are contrary to the character of a living God, for they came as a result of the fall of Adam and eve. Therefore, anything that led to these ends was to be separate to God. They were an object lesson to the character of God; the God of Life.
The New Testament continues theses universal principles of holiness as a gift of God through the perfect blood sacrifice. All who call on the name of Jesus, and accept his sacrifice purified themselves, and are separate unto God; a separation from the common that brings them into a close relationship with a Holy God. As a result He expects them to continue living a life of holiness. Thus Peter himself rightly proclaims the levitical theme “as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, ‘You shall be holy, for I am holy.’”[6] The principle of holiness is an example of continuity between Old and New Testament.
Discontinuity
Conversely, there are elements of discontinuity from the Old to the New Testament. Many of the Mosaic Laws are in the context of Israel as a theocratic nation. There had to be provisions to allow Israel to thrive as a nation in the Ancient Near East, such as capital punishment, and holy war. These laws are no longer in effect since the new covenant is with believers who are not a nation. Furthermore there seems to be an understanding in the Old Testament that Israel’s mission was to be the landing strip for the coming Messiah, and many of the laws served as object lessons, analogies, and symbols to prepare Israel and the world for the Messiah and His teachings. Examples of some of these laws are the sacrificial system, the Sabbath, and the priesthood. All of these laws are fulfilled in Christ who became our once and for all time sacrifice, our eternally interceding High Priest and our present and future rest. As the writer of Hebrews ever so eloquently states
Now if perfection had been attainable through the Levitical priesthood (for under it the people received the law), what further need would there have been for another priest to arise after the order of Melchizedek, rather than one named after the order of Aaron? For when there is a change in the priesthood, there is necessarily a change in the law as well. For the one of whom these things are spoken belonged to another tribe, from which no one has ever served at the altar. For it is evident that our Lord was descended from Judah, and in connection with that tribe Moses said nothing about priests. (Heb 7:11-14 emphasis added)
The biblical student would do well in knowing how to recognize the biblical principles in the Pentateuch, and the laws that are not applicable to believers under the new covenant.
How to sift through the law?
As the apostle Paul wrote in his letter to Timothy, “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness” (2 Tim 3:16). Paul was more likely making a reference to the Old Testament to the inclusion of the Pentateuch. Leaders of the church must endeavor to understand the universal principals found in the Pentateuch. The levitical law carries much relevance to the church, for they inform the believers of God’s character, and how to approach Him.
In order to decide whether a particular law presents a universal truth or a temporary cultural law, there are four questions that must be asked. First, one must ask if a particular law was a direct expression of a principal regarding God, the way He made humanity, or how to relate to Him. If the passage falls under these categories then they are universal truth; the Ten Commandments are a good example. Second, was the law a concrete application of a universal truth designed to prepare Israel and the world for the coming Messiah? If the passage falls under this category the church recognizes that the Messiah has come and that the intended object lesson of these laws have been fulfilled; Sabbath, circumcision, priesthood, and sacrifices are some of the laws that fall under this category. Third, was the law a necessity in order to allow Israel to function as a nation? If the law falls under this category it has to be understood that the people of God is no longer a nation in a physical land, and do not need to function as one; thus rendering this law obsolete. Good examples of these categories of laws are capital punishment laws, and holy war. Finally, one must ask was the law an example of God accommodating and applying the principal of good relationships, and Godly living in their cultural context. These laws were designed only to accommodate humans and not to serve as object lessons pointing toward Christ. Examples of these laws are style of clothing laws, mourning behaviors, business transaction, and expression of worship; all of these were closely connected to Ancient Near Eastern culture[7].
 


[1] All scripture references are from the ESV unless otherwise noted.
[2] cf. Gal 3:24
[3] cf. Gal 6:2; 1 Cor 9:21
[4] cf. Gen 22:18; Acts 3:25, Gal 3:16
[5] Roger Cotton. “Biblical Holiness.” Old Testament theology Handbook (Springfield, MO: AGTS. 2011), 80A.
[6] cf. Lev 11:44
[7] Roger Cotton. “Prescribing Old Testament Law: A Proposal.” Old Testament theology Handbook (Springfield, MO: AGTS. 2011), 115-116.

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IS GOD GUILTY OF GENOCIDE?: A CHRISTIAN RESPONSE TO THE NEW ATHEIST.

Introduction
The God of the Old Testament is arguably the most unpleasant character in all fiction: jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving control freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniac, sadomasochist, and capriciously malevolent bully.[1] This colorful description voiced by Richard Dawkins echoes the view of many modern day atheist, and skeptics. They have concluded through a desultory reading of the scriptures that the Old Testament describes a God that has many of the moral flaws found in His creation. The list of charges against God is quite extensive: mass genocide, jealous egocentric deity, racism, xenophobia, infanticide and irrelevance of God to morality. One proposes that all of these charges can be answered, and the God of the Old Testament be reconciled with the Christian perspective of a loving and just God.
39 and he [Joshua]captured it with its king and all its towns. And they struck them with the edge of the sword and devoted to destruction every person in it; he left none remaining. Just as he had done to Hebron and to Libnah and its king, so he did to Debir and to its king.
40 So Joshua struck the whole land, the hill country and the Negeb and the lowland and the slopes, and all their kings. He left none remaining, but devoted to destruction all that breathed, just as the Lord God of Israel commanded.(Josh 10:39-40 [ESV] Emphasis added)[2]
Holy war or YHWH’s war is an undeniable element of the narrative of the Old Testament, and as such it is befitting that believers of a good God have a response for the skeptics. In order to accomplish this task, one must first point out that this seemingly mass genocide did not occur in a vacuum. An understanding of the larger metanarrative of the Old Testament will reveal that these acts of Israel were not genocidal in nature. Neither was it an act of ethnic cleansing motivated by racial hatred. It was an exacting of just punishment upon wicked and disobedient nations.
Canaan Crossed The Line
The first question that must be answered pertains to whether the Canaanites deserve this punishment. According to scripture, God waited 430 years before punishing the Canaanites[3]. It seems that from God’s perspective they had not crossed the point of no return, and thus chose to withhold his punishment. Although he promised this land to Abraham, the Canaanites were not wicked enough to morally justify the sort of punishment as received by Sodom and Gomorrah. Nonetheless, by the time the Israelites reached the promise land the Canaanites had become a stench in God’ nostril due to their immorality.
The scriptures forbids the Israelites from engaging in adulterous relationships, from offering their children as sacrifice to false gods, from engaging in homosexuality, incest, and bestiality. Furthermore, it warns that these were the practices committed by the Canaanites before them, and like them they could be expelled from the land. These acts were an offense to God, and demonstrate that they were not innocent. What’s more, all of these obscene acts practiced by Canaanites were closely connected to the Canaanite idolatrous beliefs. Their god El had incestuous relationship with all of his sisters; Astarte, Athirat (also called Asherah or Elat), and Baaltis. El was brutal enough to slay his own son Lutpan (the kindly one). His son Baal engaged in incestuous relationship with his sister Athna, and with his father’s consort/sister Athirat. In fact, these three goddesses Astarte, Athirat, and Anath were considered sacred prostitutes, whose role were to have yearly sexual relations with Baal to bring about a fertile crop. The goddesses were mainly concerned with sex and war. To the Canaanite the best expression of their faith was the use of temple prostitutes.[4] The nations of the land simply reflected in their life the ethics of their idols. Canaanite religion was not just a set of abstract theology practice in privacy, but a worldview with deep and profound effects upon their society. It is no wonder YHWH wanted to ensure they would not influence the children of Israel.[5]
Was Canaan Accountable?
At this junction most new atheists ask the follow up question on whether it was proper to judge people who have not been taught God’s laws. After all for the past 430 years since Abraham, they have passed this practices from father to child. Are they to be judged on what they do not know or understand? First, one must point out that the Canaanites were being judged not on the basis of their idolatry, but based on the moral depravity. Most of the prophetic utterances against Israel were based upon a breach of their covenant with YHWH, but this is never the case with the gentile nations. The gentiles are judged based on their moral practices. Doing what they know to be wrong, at times even by their own moral standards (cf. Mic 1-2).
The Christian worldview maintains that God has revealed enough in nature to understand what is morally right (cf. Rom 1:19-20). Even atheists, who argue for a morality without God, come to the conclusion that there is an innate moral code in all humanity. Kai Nielsen a known atheist put it this way:
“It is more reasonable to believe such elemental things [as wife-beating and child abuse] to be evil than to believe any skeptical theory that tells us we cannot know or reasonably believe any of these things to be evil. … I firmly believe this is bedrock and right and that anyone who does not believe it cannot have probed deeply enough into the grounds of his moral beliefs.[6]
Kai Nielsen considers this intuitive morality to be the bedrock of any form of morality, theist or atheist. C.S. Lewis in his Abolition of Man makes a strong case that all humanity follows a natural law. The appendix of his book is filled with numerous quotes from various cultures, and regions of the world, which are in agreement in what he calls the Tao or the way.[7] They agree in moral points such as honoring parents, being faithful in marriage, not murdering, lying or stealing[8]. In essence morality is not as elusive for those who have not received a special revelation from God. The Canaanites had incurred God’s wrath upon themselves, just as Israel itself would in later years leading to their removal from the land.
 Who Decides?
Who decides when a nation is ripped for judgment, and who decides who is to be the arbiter of mass genocide? These are the questions often asked once the fact that the Canaanites were wicked is established. The questions are well founded; after all we condemn Nazi Germans for their ethnic cleansing of millions of Jews, and the Hutus for their part in the genocide of thousands of Tutsi, but we do not condemn Israel for the mass killing of men, women, and children in Canaan. The questions have two assumptions that must be dealt with first before answering: Who decides?
Racially motivated Ethnic cleansing
The first assumption lies in the view that the war against Canaanites constitutes racially motivated ethnic cleansing. In fact atheists have charged God as being a racist and a xenophobe, but one contends that this is far from accurate. God’s command to destroy Canaan, as developed earlier, was motivated by their moral decadence not their ethnicity. In fact, his chosen nation Israel would face similar consequences for practicing the same behaviors. Contrary to the claims of new atheist, God made provisions in the Mosaic Law for the benefit of the foreigners. God explicitly points out that as the Israelites were once estrangers in a foreign land they were to treat the foreigners with dignity (cf. Lev 19:34; Deut 10:18-19). God even requires that any civil law established by the Israelites must apply equally to the children of Israel and to the non-Israelites living among them (cf. Lev 24:22; Num 35:15). Moreover, God makes room for the foreigner to participate in religious feasts such as Passover.
It must be also brought to light the fact that the people of Israel constituted a mixed multitude as described in Exodus 12:38. Moses himself was married to a Cushite/Ethiopian woman. From the beginning of the Pentateuch we see the scriptures holding foreigners in high regard. The Abram narrative is filled with encounters with foreign characters that are more virtuous than Abraham himself such as Melchizedek, an unnamed Egyptian pharaoh (Gen 12), and Abimelech of Gerar. The Abrahamic covenant itself states that through Abraham’s seed “all the families of the earth shall be blessed,” hardly a xenophobic promise. Israel’s negative attitude towards gentiles does not stem from racial prejudice, but a theological threat to the worship of the one true God. In Israel a foreigner that accepts YHWH as their God, was readily accepted by all (cf. Rahab, Ruth, Uriah).
Indiscriminate Genocide of men women and children
The second assumption is that the biblical narrative is describing genocide akin to those committed by Nazis and Hutus. There are two elements under this assumption that need to be discussed which will help us understand the nature of these battles; ancient near east exaggeration rhetoric, and the term hΩeœrem. After an analysis of each of these elements the picture that arises from the ashes of Israel’s military conquest are less bloodied than proposed by some.
Ancient Near East Exaggeration Rhetoric
The language often quoted by new atheists as proof text of the genocidal nature of Gods “Holy war” can be placed in the category of ancient near east exaggeration rhetoric. It was not unusual for them to describe the utter destruction of nations which in fact were not completely destroyed.  Note Joshua’s wording in regards to his conquers of the south of Canaan, “So Joshua struck the whole land, the hill country and the Negev and the lowland and the slopes, and all their kings. He left none remaining, but devoted to destruction all that breathed, just as the Lord God of Israel commanded” (Jos 10:40). Yet as we later find in the same book, not all of the Canaanites were destroyed (cf. Josh 13:13; 15:63; 16:10; 17:12–13, 18). Moreover, the book of judges which continues from where the book of Joshua ends, confirms that not all of the Canaanites were destroyed (cf. Jud 1:21, 27–28, 2:3), and that some remained with Israel as a thorn in their side.
Joshua was not being dishonest about his achievement; he simply was a warrior of his day. He used the daring, and boasting hyperbole of his days. There is plenty of evidence of other ancient near east cultures using the same manner of language. Egypt’s Tuthmosis III boasted, “The numerous army of Mitanni was overthrown within the hour, annihilated totally, like those (now) not existent.” In fact Mitanni’s forces lived on to later centuries. The Moabite king Mesha (840/830 BC) boasted, “Israel has utterly perished for always.” The kingdom of Israel continued for another century until the Assyrian destroyed it in 722 BC.  Rameses II also boasted in 1230 BC “Israel is wasted, his seed is not” yet Israel continued for another 500 years. Joshua was not alone in his use of exaggerated accomplishments[9].
Devoted to destruction
Another area useful to grasp the nature of these battles is the proper understanding of the Hebrew word hΩeœrem (M®rEj). This word (often translated ban, devote to destruction, and dedicated)[10] is the core of much of the misunderstanding. While at first glance the word seems to imply complete annihilation of all who are dedicated, or devoted to destruction closer evaluation reveals otherwise. To make this point one will use an early passage in Deuteronomy 7:2 which reads and when the Lord your God gives them [the Canaanites] over to you, and you defeat them, then you must devote them to complete destruction [hΩ∞reœm MérSjA]. You shall make no covenant with them and show no mercy to them.” At first glance it does seem like a call to genocide, but as we continue to the following verses we read:
 3 You shall not intermarry with them, giving your daughters to their sons or taking their daughters for your sons, 4 for they would turn away your sons from following me, to serve other gods. Then the anger of the Lord would be kindled against you, and he would destroy you quickly. (Deut 7:3-4)
It seems odd to have commands regarding marriage to a people whom in earlier passages have been declared a “ban”, or dedicated for destruction. The answer to our dilemma is found in the continuing verse “But thus shall you deal with them: you shall break down their altars and dash in pieces their pillars and chop down their Asherim and burn their carved images with fire.” (Deut 7: 5). It is evident that the passages emphasis is the destruction of Canaanite religion (cf. 12:2-3); it was more important to destroy Canaanite religion than the people themselves. Ar Dr. J. Gary Millard points out the main concern of this destruction (hΩeœrem) was the establishment of Israel’s religion in a land purged of idolatry. The hΩeœrem language in Deuteromnomy 7 assumes that despite the command to bring punishment to Canaan, it did not entailed total annihilation; hence the warnings in regards marriage. The root issue was not the people of Canaan, but their religion. Israel had to ensure that they were not contaminated by these idolatrous practices, or they themselves would also face the risk of being devoted to destruction. [11] Scholars like Richard Hess and Paul Copan, have made a case that hΩeœrem in the context of battle should be understood as applying to combatant, and not to the civilian population. Paul Copan states that the stock phrase “man and women”, and “men, women, and children” appear to be formulaic idiom for describing the inhabitants of the city; without predisposing the reader to assume, age or gender.[12]
Furthermore, it is well know that most inhabitants of Canaan did not live within the city walls, they lived in the regions surrounding the city, and most would be driven out at the sight of battle (cf. Jer 4:29). Those who likely remained in the city were the political leaders, and troops. To conquer Canaan, Joshua did not needed to kill every civilian in sight, but simply destroyed his or her religion, and government. In the midst of all this fighting, mercy was extended to all who desired it in repentance; as was the case with Rahab.
Who Decides?
In light of these arguments, and having clarified some of the assumptions the question remains, who? decides when a nation has gone too far. Who is the arbitrator of the nations? The simplest answer to this question is “God”, for only God can judge a nation and declare that it has gone too far. This only brings to light the importance of the prophetic leadership within the nation of Israel. Special revelation is the only means by which God communicates his judgment on the nations. When the Israelites attempted to go into battle against the Philistines without receiving a revelation from God, they were defeated and overpowered by their enemy (1Sam 4, cf. Num 14:41-45, Josh 7). Special revelation was given to Moses regarding the Canaanites, and Israel operated under this divine guidance. Had the Israelites attacked Canaan without special revelation, they would have not been justified for their actions, and in all likelihood, be defeated. God’s call to war is not for the non-prophet organizations. Furthermore, it must call attention that this form of God’s calling was not meant as a universal principle for all times, and all cultures. It was a special calling for Israel in their context.
As Dr Paul Copan keenly summarizes:
The crux of the issue is this: if God exists, does he have any prerogatives over human life? The new atheists seem to think that if God existed, he should have a status no higher than any human being. Thus, he has no right to take life as he determines. Yet we should press home the monumental difference between God and ordinary human beings. If God is the author of life, he is not obligated to give us seventy or eight years of life.[13]
This is the essential distinction between a Christian and the new atheist, and the reason why some of the explanations presented may not be cogent to an atheist. While the Christian strongly affirm the existence of God as creator, sustainer, judge, and ruler of His creation, the new atheist refuse to admit His existence, and thus they are not accountable to Him in any way. The charges placed on God of genocide, xenophobia, and racism are unfounded if the biblical evidence is properly understood. Nonetheless, the new atheist requires more than mere apologetics, but a paradigm shift from naturalism, to the supernatural. Only then can they recognize the loving and just God of Christianity.


[1] Richard Dawkins. The God Delusion (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2006), 31.
[2] All scripture quotations are from the ESV unless otherwise noted.
[3] Genesis 15:16
[4] Walter A. Elwell and Barry J. Beitzel, Baker Encyclopedia of the Bible (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Book House, 1988), 411-12.
[5] Paul Copan. Is God a Moral Monster?: Making Sense of the Old Testament God (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Publishing Group, 2011), 160.
[6] Kai Nielsen, Ethics Without God, rev. ed. (Buffalo, New York: Prometheus Books, 1990), 10,11. qtd. in Copan, Paul. “Who are you to impose your morality on others.” Enrichment Journal Summer 2010: 115-116
[7] C. S. Lewis borrows the term from Chinese Confucianism, the word Tao or Dao is a metaphysical concept meaning the way or the path.
[8] Appendix in C. S. Lewis, The Abolition of Man (New York: Macmillian Co., 1950), 51-61.
[9] Paul Copan. Is God a Moral Monster?: Making Sense of the Old Testament God (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Publishing Group, 2011), 171-172.
[10] Willem A. VanGemeren ed. New International Dictionary of Old Testament Theology and Exegesis. 5 vols (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1997), 276-277.
[11] J. Gary Millard. Now Choose Life: Theology and Ethics in Deuteronomy (Downers Grove: IVP, 2002), 157.
[12] Paul Copan. Is God a Moral Monster?: Making Sense of the Old Testament God (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Publishing Group, 2011), 175.
[13] Paul Copan “Is Yahweh a Moral Monster: The New Atheist and Old Testament Ethics.” Philosophia Christi 10:1( 2008), 13.

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