Thien Dang Faith and Mission of the church Case study My dear friend Jacob, it is to my understanding that you are conversing with your sister-in-law who perceives that God has biologically determined her sexuality; that it is acceptable to continue “walking in the light” whilst maintaining her homosexuality. I write to you this letter to unveil and provide biblical Truth and perspective on this matter. As this situation is one of sensitivity, I propose that you request of your sister-in-law, Carey, to remove all presuppositions and pray with a heart of humility and openness—I ask that you do the same as I provide you with a wealth of information and scripture. This endeavor will be approached fourfold: exegetically, systematically, hermeneutically, and pragmatically. For this situation, it would behoove us to examine the scripture of 1 Corinthians chapter 5. However, we must acknowledge that the bible was written for us, not to us; therefore, we must determine the context of 1 Corinthians through means of exegesis. Corinth was a location destroyed by a Roman consul in 146 B.C. It laid dormant for one hundred years, until rediscovered by Julius Caesar as a Roman colony. “Why did he seek to establish a colony there?” one might ask.1 The formation of a colony was twofold: First, all the necessary ingredients for economic boom were available—adequate water supply; the relationship to Rome; being master of the two harbor for East-West commerce; and control of the Isthmian games, which ranked just below the Olympian in importance. Second, Corinth was repopulated by freedmen from Rome; and since their status was just 1 Gordon Fee, First Epistle to the Corinthians above that of a slave, and since Rome was overpopulated with such, it was a convenient way for Rome to rid itself of potential trouble. There was great influx of people from the West and East, consequently leading to a diverse array of laws, culture and religion. Sexual sin was also prominent as Corinth was a seaport where money flowed and women and men were readily available. The very wealth that attracted artisans and tradesmen also allured philosophers of all kinds. One might say that it was the ancient New York, Los Angeles and Las Vegas of that era.2 Such a concoction of diversity and influences led scholars to speculate that Corinth was subject to Gnosticism: a dualistic view of matter and spirit, i.e., matter (flesh) is evil and spirit is good.3 This led to some Corinthians application of no moral value to the body’s lustful desires; whilst others, conversely, diverged dramatically and attempted to purge the body from it’s desires, abstaining from marriage and sex altogether. Thus, Paul writes to the Corinthians to address these problematic philosophies—the former will be considered in analyzing 1 Cor 5. With no regard for the morality of the physical, a man succumbed to his sexual desires and committed adultery with his father’s wife. James Benedict assess that these Gnosticinfluenced Christians misunderstood the Christian doctrine as “a declaration of the temporality and insignificance of matter which nullified all law pertaining to material things, especially…laws concerning sexual conduct.”4 This corresponds with the boasting and pride others exhibit at the man’s adulterous acts with his ibid. F.F. Bruce, 1 and 2 Corinthians 4 James Benedict, “The Corinthian Problem of 1 Corinthians 5:1-8 2 3 father’s wife (2,6). In summation, Paul prescribes a solution to the problem: that they “deliver this man to Satan for the destruction of the flesh (5)…and purge the evil (13).” Though the meaning may be ambiguous, we will adopt the perspectives of Benedict, Gordon Fee, and James Burton Coffman and assume that this passage implies the excommunication of the sexual immoral person for the salvation of the church.5 When we address the context in a systematic theological lens, what does the bible say about sexual immorality and expulsion of a sinful person within the church? In relation to the former, and more specifically Carey’s case, we will examine Romans 1:26. Paul indicates that God abhors the act of homosexuality. There is no ambiguity in the meaning or definition of the word because Paul refrains from using it; rather, he describes the act to which the unrighteousness was participating in: they were exchanging “natural relations for those that are contrary to nature,” and “men were consumed with passion for one another, committing shameless acts with men” (26-27) He uses strong language by asserting that “God gave them up to a debased mind” (28) and that those who practice such things, alongside those who approve the practice “deserve to die” (32). Other biblical verses that reject homosexuality are Lev 18:22; 1 Cor 6:9-10; 1 Tim 1:9-10. The premise for such verses is that homosexuality is unnatural, immoral and without harmony to God’s natural design. Keep in mind that it is the act of homosexuality that discontents God, not the person himself/herself. James Benedict, “The Corinthian Problem of 1 Corinthians 5:1-8”; James Coffman, Coffman Commentaries on 1st Timothy; Gordon Fee, First Epistle to the Corinthians. 5 We must also consider whether or not homosexuality is biologically determined. Jacob, I’ve concluded that homosexual desires cannot be biologically determined, as James clearly states in James 1:13, “God does not tempt.” The assertion that homosexuality must be embraced because God imposes such an infliction, or desire, is contrary to what James 1:13 and Romans 1:26 affirms. We must acknowledge that the act of homosexuality is a form of sexual sin that is tantamount to the lust men often experience. It is simply a different type of sexual sin. The supposition that homosexuality is genetically determined grants Satan the ability to suppress one’s will and blind the truth. Conversely, if Carey accepts that it is a sexual struggle, then she will attain the capability to see that Scripture supersedes human assumptions and she is “enticed by [her] own desires” (James 1:14). Embracing Scripture will give her the strength to overcome and fight her sexual desires; to combat the internal conflict within her—a battle that Paul too experienced, as well as other men and women struggling with sexual temptation (Romans 7:13-20). Paul also necessitates the expulsion of evil to prevent further infection of the church (1 Corin 5:5). Adam Clarke asserts that no individual is granted the power to exercise this practice in today’s church; that the authority was restricted exclusively to the apostles.6 However, I repudiate this claim because God uses similar language in Deut 17:2-7, commanding Moses to put to death the evil that is in the midst of their presence. Jesus also comports with this concept in Matt 18:17 when he ascribes this authority to any individual in Christ and ultimately a church. The 6 Adam Clarke, Commentary on the Holy Bible concept here is that the excommunication of a sinner from the church will enable him/her to acknowledge the sin and recognize the potential damage inflicted to both the church and individual, ultimately leading to his/her repentance. This tactic proved beneficial as Paul expresses his joy at a sinner (possibly the man mentioned in 1 Cor 5) whose grief led to repentance (2 Cor 7:8-10). Hermeneutically, it is certain that there are differences in 1 Cor 5 and Carey’s case. One, the sexual context in chapter 5 addresses adultery, whereas Carey’s case is associated with homosexuality. And two, 2 Cor 7 is indicative that the man acknowledged his action was of sin, whereas Carey proclaims that it is intrinsic and natural. However, they certainly share a commonality: sexual sin. Though the epistle to the Corinthians was written centuries ago, it is undoubtedly applicable to modern society. They both engaged in acts of sin; therefore, the bible demands a repentant heart as a prerequisite to grace and salvation. According to the entirety of the bible, homosexuality is unnatural and unpleasing to God; therefore, we must maintain that the same rule should be revered and upheld. How does this appear pragmatically? If Carey insists that despite what God says; that homosexuality is biologically determined; that it seems impossible to alleviate her desire for women, then I suggest that you attempt to convince her that it is the act of homosexuality that is condemned, not her. Temptation—from Satan—is inevitable; but if she acknowledges that her actions are of sin and repents, relinquishing her life of darkness, so will God keep his promise and lavish her with grace. It is the responsibility of the church to bear her burden and accompany her amidst her endeavor to overcome temptation. I, alongside with many of my friends, struggle with sexual temptation on a constant basis. Do I fail at times? Certainly. But occasionally failing is antithetical to relishing in sexual immoral acts. Considering the conventions of homosexuality and excommunication in the Bible, it is evidential that Scripture provides blatant instructions for the church. In the case that Carey refuses to acknowledge her sin and repent, it is clear that God states the impossibility of continual fellowship with the church. It not only infects the church with adverse theology, it calices Carey’s heart and prohibits her from realizing the effect of sin. To ensure the salvation of the church and possibly Carey’s, it essential to remove the cancerous tumor affecting the body. Scripture is seemingly clear, and I must boldly, but loving proclaim that the refusal to change results in excommunication.