The story that made World Vision trend on Twitter

Image courtesy of World Vision US

Image courtesy of World Vision US

Today, World Vision helped care for more than 4 million kids. They do so every day, and they do it without making headlines. There’s not much of a story there, I guess.

But when they announced that Christian employees in monogamous, same-sex marriages didn’t have to fear for their jobs anymore? All hell broke loose.

For a while, World Vision was trending on Twitter. Not because of the 70,000 people they helped gain access to clean water that day, but because of outrage over the fact that a cross-denominational Christian humanitarian organization decided it wasn’t its job to police a theological difference among denominations.

A gospel issue?
Of course, those voicing outrage don’t see it that way. To them, there is only one position you can hold on the issue of same-sex marriage and still be considered a Christian. Russell Moore claimed the gospel itself was at stake. John Piper argued that World Vision was trivializing the cross. Franklin Graham went so far as to say that “World Vision doesn’t believe in the Bible.”

I’ll grant that same-sex marriage is a deeply divisive issue among Christians. (I believe there are people of good faith on both sides of the debate.) But show me which of the great ecumenical creeds — Apostles’, Nicene, Athanasian — makes homosexuality a litmus text for orthodoxy.

Show me which of the defining scriptural summaries of the gospel* say anything about same-sex marriage.

And if we celebrate a polygamist king as a “man after God’s own heart,” then why do we assume that a monogamous relationship between two people of the same gender is supposedly a deal-breaker for God?

We don’t need to trivialize differences of opinion on same-sex marriage. But to characterize it as a gospel issue? To me, that seems to miss the point of the gospel.

A justice issue?
I don’t envy the leadership at World Vision. To those who saw their (initial) decision as an attempt to pander to a broader audience: the people at World Vision know who their donor base is. They knew there would be a cost (update: though it seems they underestimated how much it would cost).

Some might ask, “Why take the risk? What about the kids?” It’s a fair question. But another question worth asking is whether it’s right to marginalize one group in order to pacify someone who is willing to hold impoverished children hostage to make sure they get their way.

But the stakes are even higher. Many countries — including some in which World Vision serves — have seen an alarming resurgence of homophobia in recent years. We’re not just talking about places where same-sex marriage is controversial. We’re talking about places where being gay can land you in jail — in some cases for life. We’re talking about places like Uganda and Nigeria, where homosexuality has been criminalized with the support of some US evangelicals who, having lost the culture wars here, are seeking out fertile territory elsewhere. Anti-gay rhetoric in this country has real-world consequences elsewhere. Wherever you stand on same-sex marriage, we we should be able to agree that these trends in other parts of the world are alarming.

One of World Vision’s commitments is to build a world where every person is respected, loved, and given a chance to thrive. Can they really do that halfway around the world if they don’t do so among their own staff here?

A personal issue
For many who weighed in on the controversy, this debate is an abstraction. For me, it’s more than that.

I spent four years writing for World Vision. I had colleagues who were gay, who were afraid of losing their jobs, who had to live in the closet because if they didn’t, they would be fired.

I’m also a World Vision donor. My family and I sponsor four kids. I’ve seen firsthand the difference they makes in impoverished communities.

So for me, this is about colleagues who no longer have to choose between their identity and doing something they believe in. It’s about my sponsored kids and their friends — many of whom have lost sponsors because, evidently, some people think that’s an OK way to retaliate.

This is personal. It’s about people. You may disagree with World Vision’s decision. But please don’t sacrifice children on the altar of your convictions. Especially not over an issue that cannot be construed as a tenant of orthodoxy according to any ecumenical creed or biblical summary of the gospel. Not over questions about which Christians legitimately disagree.

World Vision’s employment policy is not a gospel issue. Loving others is.

* Romans 1:1-4, Romans 3:21-26, 1 Corinthians 15, Philippians 2:5-11, Colossians 1:15-20, 1 Timothy 3:16; 2 Timothy 2:8, 1 Peter 3:18-22. See The King Jesus Gospel by Scot McKnight for a list of definitive gospel summary passages in the New Testament.

41 thoughts on “The story that made World Vision trend on Twitter

  1. Your mention of the evangelicals having “lost the culture wars here, [and] seeking out fertile territory elsewhere” made me think of the parallel with the tobacco companies. As smoking has been frowned upon and reduced in the US, they have sought to cultivate markets in other areas of the world for their deadly products. Likewise, since we know that in some cases, homophobia has resulted in the deaths of LGBTQ persons, the evangelicals are following the pattern of the tobacco companies in purveying their deadly product in other parts of the world. Oh, it may have existed there before they came, but their toxic teaching of lies and distortions about the behaviors of same-sex-loving persons have resulted in the codification of hatred into the legal systems of some countries, with more to follow. So, bravo to World Vision! Their courageous action on behalf of justice and compassion shows that their vision is not a narrow one but one that is good for all God’s children.

  2. The problem is that Christians cannot legitimately disagree over this issue. If words mean anything, the Bible is perfectly clear that homosexuality is a sin. So to take the position of this article is to say that what the Bible says about homosexuality just does not matter that much.

  3. Well stated Harold, WV was organized to forward the truth of the gospel, what they are being now is anything but a light shining in darkness. They are celebrating/affirming sin, God is sovereign and will tend to His children, and I can almost guarantee things are gonna get bleak for WV.

  4. World Vision without the true gospel of Christ, is no longer supporting the Gospel going forth and ministering spiritually and physically. It is just another “good” deed. It helps physically, not spiritually. Our natural bodies will waste away one day whether rich or poverty stricken. But, our Spirits will never die, and when people begin accepting lies and things contrary to the Bible, that’s when deceit sets in. Satan is the Father of all lies. He seeks to destroy. Good deeds don’t get us to heaven or save people. Works WITH faith do.

  5. Let’s be honest. World Vision has straddled the fence for years. At churches, they proudly present themselves as a “christian” organization. At conferences and in other arenas, they are a “relief and development organization” or a “humanitarian organization.” They have worn the christian hat when it’s convenient for them. They finally had to choose a side of the fence.
    They chose poorly.
    And all this blog post does is provide justification for walking away from scripture.
    Shame on you.
    Shame on world Vision.

    • And, I might add, the Bible says many things about marriage. Some of them are pretty confusing. But the one thing that the bible NEVER says about marriage…is that it’s between two people of the same sex. NEVER. It’s always between people of the opposite sex. WV got it wrong.

    • What you fail to acknowledge, Gregg, is that some people won’t give to an organization that labels itself “Christian.” The former “Christian Children’s Fund” changed its name to “ChildFund” for that very reason. So, far from “straddling the fence” because they wanted in some way to renege on the “Christian” aspect of their mission, they are, instead, “drawing the circle wider” in order to attract more donors from among the non-Christians of the world in order to help more people around the world, because the need is greater than Christians alone have been able to meet. I’m guessing if you asked most WV employees, they would say that 1) they themselves are Christian and are working with WV as an answer to the call of Christ, and 2) that they may or may not agree with the stance taken by the WV leadership on this one issue, but that for them it is a minor issue compared with the great good the organization does for needy people worldwide. People such as you that make one issue the litmus test for the work of an entire organization bring shame on the name of Jesus much more than WV does by considering the sexual orientation of their workers to be irrelevant to the talents they bring to help accomplish WV’s work. Does your Bible not indicate, as mine does, that Jesus had his harshest words of condemnation for the legalistic Pharisees, whereas his words for acknowledged “sinners” were full of grace? You and others like you who have posted similar responses to yours might learn something important if you and they reread what you think you know with that in mind.

      • I don’t fail to acknowledge that at all. People who don’t want to give to a Christian organization now have a very easy place to go: “Worldly Vision.”
        The bible is very clear that marriage is only between a man and a woman. NOWHERE in scripture does it say marriage is between two people of the same sex. World Vision has chosen to defy scripture and God’s definition of marriage. That’s not me making it a litmus test, that’s WV making a scripture-defying decision. You can call me a Pharisee all you want, but Pharisees were guilty of making law more important than grace. I’m doing no such thing. At the end of the day, we are all saved by grace. But you forget an important piece of Jesus’ teaching. As he dispersed grace, as he forgave sins, he always finished with this: “Now go and sin no more.” If World Vision wants to repent of this sinful decision and “go and sin no more”, then good for them. Otherwise, they are living a life defying scripture.

  6. Explain to me how supporting gay marriage helps PROTECT children in countries where homosexuality is a punishable crime. Seems to me it’s exactly the opposite. Now, in Uganda, WV children are attached to an organization that has just publicly supported an act considered a crime in their country. That’s not protecting children, that’s putting them at risk.

    • I’ve learned that people who get their britches in a knot over things like someone else’s homosexuality or the gracious treatment of homosexuals by others probably have a spiritual problem that no amount of explanation can overcome. Sadly, Gregg, there is no answer I could give you that would satisfy you, because you are oriented toward your construal of “God’s law” rather than “God’s love.” Some day, I hope you will have experienced enough of God’s love that you’ll see that your earlier rabid championing of “God’s law” was a misguided attempt to overcome your fear of the punishment you thought you yourself merited. Abide in Christ, Gregg, and let him assuage your fears, so that you no longer feel the need to do harm to others with your harsh judgments.

      • I am so sorry to hear that you think “God’s Law” is directly opposed to “God’s love.” I wonder what definition of “love” you might be using. It does not seem to be the Biblical one. Filling up our conversation with grace and salt does not equate to affirming sin. And refusal to affirm sin is not Pharisaism. Loving people means being committed to their good no matter what, not doing whatever is necessary to avoid a confrontation just because they love their sin and want to live in it.

  7. This is a gospel issue because this is a moral issue.

    It’s a moral issue because WV now allows their employees to have sin by having gay sex, without repercussion—a right apparently not extended to people who fornicate and commit adultery.

    It’s also a theological issue because it’s a Trinitarian/Creation issue.

    I’ll also add this issue isn’t remotely a justice issue. That you and them would couch it as such—on the same level of poverty—is 1) remarkable; and 2) has more to do with Rawlsian sensibilities than Scriptural sensibilities.

    You can certainly dismiss my issue with WV as anti-gay—linguistic rhetoric that never ceases to amaze me…But you certainly can’t dismiss it as anti-Christian.

    • Jeremy, I’m not surprised we disagree on this. I’m not bothered that we disagree strongly. But I am disappointed by the suggestion that I would try to dismiss your conviction as “anti-gay” or “anti-Christian.” While I do not believe the traditional view on same-sex relationships is quite the slam-dunk case you think it is (nor do I think it’s a valid litmus test for Christian orthodoxy), I do appreciate that this is a hugely controversial issue for Christians, that challenging long and deeply held assumptions within the church should be done with a good deal of circumspection (which is not to say it shouldn’t be done at all), and that there are people of good will and (in my opinion) good faith on both sides.

      • Quit throwing around the phrase “litmus test for Christian orthodoxy.” No one is saying WV’s leaders aren’t Christians for changing this policy. We’re saying they’re defying scripture by changing this policy. It’s easy to speak of it in broad strokes and try to simplify people’s arguments into “either you believe this way or your not christian” but I don’t see that in these comments. I see people saying WV, which has in the past professed to be a Christian organization, has chosen to not side with Scripture on this issue. So the question isn’t “either you believe this way about this issue or your not christian” the question is “do you believe Scripture to be the infallible, holy, irrefutable word of God?” If so, then repent of this decision to defy scripture or kindly stop using Christ’s name while conducting business in a way that defies scripture.

    • It’s interesting to me, Jeremy, that you interpret WV’s ignoring the sexual orientation of its workers as “allowing their employees to have…gay sex.” Since when do we expect a relief organization such as WV to monitor whether its employees are having sex with a same-sex partner or an opposite sex partner, let alone having sex at all? When I was in college, we called such monitoring “in loco parentis” – that is, the college acting as surrogate parents to the students so they didn’t do anything of which their parents would disapprove and thereby get into trouble. During my four years there, fortunately, the administration of that Christian institution realized that they weren’t “morality police,” they were educators; and they provided their students with excellent education and left the parenting to the parents and behavioral choices – and consequences of them – to the students. You may not like the fact that WV has decided not to monitor – nor to stand in judgment of – the sexual orientation or behavior of its employees; but it’s got more important things to do with its resources than that, such as helping needy people in crisis who have few other sources of help than WV. If you can’t support them in that mission, then send your dollars to the needy through another channel; but don’t denigrate the fine work of WV just because you want them to police the behaviors of grown adults who are helping them do their work.

  8. Pingback: Rage against the World Vision backlash (in a totally awesome way) « Ben Irwin

  9. Seems you forgot some very clear scripture : Romans 1:24-32 “Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. 25 They exchanged the truth about God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised. Amen. Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural sexual relations for unnatural ones. 27 In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed shameful acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their error…32 Although they know God’s righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them.”

    • Nicole, people such as yourself get so hung up on Romans 1.24-32 that you fail to read something Paul wrote that is directed at you – Romans 2.1-16: “Therefore you have no excuse, whoever you are, when you judge others; for in passing judgment on another you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, are doing the very same things. You say, ‘We know that God’s judgment on those who do such things is in accordance with truth.’ Do you imagine, whoever you are, that when you judge those who do such things and yet do them yourself, you will escape the judgment of God? Or do you despise the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience? Do you not realize that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance? But by your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath, when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed. For he will repay according to each one’s deeds: to those who by patiently doing good seek for glory and honor and immortality, he will give eternal life; while for those who are self-seeking and who obey not the truth but wickedness, there will be wrath and fury. There will be anguish and distress for everyone who does evil, the Jew first and also the Greek, but glory and honor and peace for everyone who does good, the Jew first and also the Greek. For God shows no partiality.

      “All who have sinned apart from the law will also perish apart from the law, and all who have sinned under the law will be judged by the law. For it is not the hearers of the law who are righteous in God’s sight, but the doers of the law who will be justified. When Gentiles, who do not possess the law, do instinctively what the law requires, these, though not having the law, are a law to themselves. They show that what the law requires is written on their hearts, to which their own conscience also bears witness; and their conflicting thoughts will accuse or perhaps excuse them on the day when, according to my gospel, God, through Jesus Christ, will judge the secret thoughts of all.”

      And, lest you forget, Jesus had a few words in that regard as well: “‘Do not judge, so that you may not be judged. For with the judgment you make you will be judged, and the measure you give will be the measure you get. Why do you see the speck in your neighbor’s eye, but do not notice the log in your own eye? Or how can you say to your neighbor, “Let me take the speck out of your eye”, while the log is in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your neighbor’s eye” (Matt. 7.1-5).

      • Quoting scripture is not judging. Shame on you for implying it. God has already passed the judgement. And he did so in the Scriptures. Recalling God’s judgement on an issue doesn’t make us a judge any more than a court recorder reading the judge’s ruling out loud makes him/her the judge.

      • Its so easy to quote scripture regarding to sin. Yes we ALL have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God! That means every single one of us no matter what your sexual orientation.Ephesians 2 even states “All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath. 4 But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, 5 made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved.” But Grace does not condone continuing to live in sin. Christ set us free of the burdens of sin so we can be alive and free in Him. That does not mean we are free to live however we desire. I would say the same to those acting in heterosexual sin outside of marriage. Sin is Sin point blank there is no calling one lesser than the others.Romans 6:1 What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? 2By no means! We are those who have died to sin; how can we live in it any longer?

        To those that would say we are judging, I would say no. I personally care deeply for the lost, and those who choose to live in sin though they know the truth are blatantly denying the work of Christ on the cross. I do not judge you I pray for you because I love you and desire that you see the same freedom in Christ that I have received. God is love, but that does not change the fact that God is a righteous judge. He sent His son to pay the price for our sin but if we choose to continuing living in sin that we are NOT covered under his death and choose NOT to truly live in the freedom and love of the Father.

  10. Demanding an Ecumenical Council to make a declaration about homosexuality is simply an argument from convenience. It was not even a question. I notice that you don’t say, “Show me one verse from the Bible where homosexuality is condemned.” Why? Because we know where scripture stands. I suppose we can all be in doubt about some Baptist creeds since some of them didn’t mention homosexuality (or fornication, adultery, stealing, etc.)…maybe they thought it was okay! Which means we can be orthodox and steal a lot, because it isn’t a litmus test for orthodoxy or a true follower of Jesus.

  11. Excellent post. Love your quote: “Then why take the risk?… It’s a fair question. I’d like to think it’s because they understood there’s more than one justice issue at stake. Ask yourself: is it right to marginalize one group in order to pacify a set of donors who are (evidently) willing to hold impoverished children hostage to make sure they get their way?”

    • Yes, Emily. You’re right. It’s not about “not wanting to condone evil” or anything other than power politics and wanting to win the culture war, no matter whom they hurt. How they can believe that honors Christ is beyond me.

  12. Ben wrote:

    “Show me which of the defining scriptural summaries of the gospel* say anything about same-sex marriage.”

    Ben,1 Timothy 1:9-10 says that homosexuality is contrary to sound teaching according to the glorious gospel of the blessed God:

    9 realizing the fact that law is not made for a righteous person, but for those who are lawless and rebellious, for the ungodly and sinners, for the unholy and profane, for those who kill their fathers or mothers, for murderers 10 and immoral men and homosexuals and kidnappers and liars and perjurers, and whatever else is contrary to sound teaching, 11 according to the glorious gospel of the blessed God, with which I have been entrusted.

    Here is an even stronger passage, saying that homosexuals will not inherit the kingdom of God and we are not to be deceived about this matter:

    1 Corinthians 6:9 Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, 10 nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, will inherit the kingdom of God.

    It can be positively harmful to pretend that there is lack of doctrinal clarity about the issue of homosexuality.

    Ben wrote:

    “Explain how it’s OK to celebrate a polygamist king as a “man after God’s own heart,” yet somehow a monogamous, same-sex relationship between two people is supposedly a deal-breaker for God.”

    Ben, the fact is that under the Mosaic law God allowed polygamy, though Jesus later taught that it was not God’s ideal. For example:

    Deuteronomy 21:15 “If a man has two wives, the one loved and the other unloved, and both the loved and the unloved have borne him sons, if the firstborn son belongs to the unloved, 6 then it shall be in the day he wills what he has to his sons, he cannot make the son of the loved the firstborn before the son of the unloved, who is the firstborn.

    • I should add that while the Mosaic law accepted polygamy, homosexuality was a death-penalty offense:

      NASB Leviticus 20:13: 13 ‘If there is a man who lies with a male as those who lie with a woman, both of them have committed a detestable act; they shall surely be put to death. Their bloodguiltiness is upon them.

      NIV Leviticus 20:13 “‘If a man has sexual relations with a man as one does with a woman, both of them have done what is detestable. They are to be put to death; their blood will be on their own heads.

      • Sadly, people who believe the Bible contains words that are directly from God without reference to their human transmitters and their personal and cultural and religious circumstances fail to recognize that every “reading” of Scripture is always and already an “interpretation.” They also fail to recognize – or at least acknowledge – that everything written in what we have accepted as “Scripture” is always and already an interpretation by the authors of their own religious sensibilities in the context of the culture and circumstances of their day. Thus, for us to argue over whether “Scripture says” one thing or another, especially when some of us think it relates to culture and circumstances and others think it relates only to “God’s mind and heart”, is almost futile. That is why Jesus told us not to judge others – because all of us know only partial truth, and the part one knows, another may not know. That’s why the Apostle Paul told us in 1 Corinthians 13 that faith, hope and love are of the utmost value, because in the end, everything partial – including our “knowledge,” such as it is – will fall away and be seen as the inadequate material that it is. Are we to believe Jesus – or the gospel writer represented in the title as “Matthew” – and Paul? That’s up to us to figure out, isn’t it? But if we take the words attributed to them as being from “God’s mind and heart,” we will, won’t we?

      • Your answer seems to leave you with the Bible insofar as you choose to accept it. Since it is a long book, a person may find a good deal that he can accept. But that does not necessarily make him a faithful communicator of God’s mind. Yes, the writers wrote from their own world framework, but they wrote the words that God inspired them write. The Bible in many places indicates that the message is the very word of God. I hate to say this, but your comment above makes me wonder whether you consider God able to communicate his word to his servants so that they can convey it in the way he intended.
        When the apostle Paul said that we only know in part, he was not saying that only part of the Bible represents what God actually says. He meant that Scripture and present experience only present part of reality. You are right that we are not to judge one another in the sense of condemning one another, because our knowledge is partial. But to claim that we are not to evaluate ideas on the basis of Scripture is to undermine the basis for Scripture in the first place, which was to convey to us what God has to say. Whether you or some denominations doubt that this is its function does not change the fact that it has this function. And those who live according to Scripture will continue to evaluate the world around them according to it. Of course, we have the indwelling Spirit, too, who helps us to understand both the Word and our experience.

  13. xnlover, you write:

    Sadly, people who believe the Bible contains words that are directly from God without reference to their human transmitters and their personal and cultural and religious circumstances fail to recognize that every “reading” of Scripture is always and already an “interpretation.” They also fail to recognize – or at least acknowledge – that everything written in what we have accepted as “Scripture” is always and already an interpretation by the authors of their own religious sensibilities in the context of the culture and circumstances of their day.

    A biblical passage that denies the importance of the interpretation of the writer is 2 Peter 1:20-21:

    20 But know this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation, 21 for no prophecy was ever made by an act of human will, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God.

    • And again, what you cited from 2 Peter (not 1 Peter) is a case in point. The context controls the interpretation, since Peter seems to be making reference to the “prophecy” that confirmed that Jesus was God’s Son through citing the words that Peter, James and John had heard on the Mount of Transfiguration. This contrasted with the claims of the Pharisees and other Jewish leaders, who said that Jesus did not fulfill the scriptural promises of God relative to the identity and function of the Messiah, so they rejected his claims and the claims of the early Church that he was the one whom they needed to follow in order to be faithful to God.
      If you want to claim that everything we have in the Bible is “prophecy” that needs to be adhered to without “interpretation” based on cultural norms and limited understandings of the authors, then that is your privilege. However, I believe that is a misapplication of this particular scripture, which seems to have a clear rhetorical purpose in its own context and is inappropriately generalized outside of Peter’s claims here regarding Jesus’ divinity and authority over the life of faith. The “clearly devised myths” to which he makes reference seem to be accusations made by Jewish opponents of Peter and the other apostles, who were claiming that Jesus was God’s Son and the one who properly laid claim to being the Jewish Messiah.

      • xnlover, The verses quoted are a generalization about all prophecy, not just about prophecy concerning the Son of God. The subject of the object clause of verse 20 is, in the Greek, “all prophecy.” The subject of verse 21 is “prophecy.” A prophet was a spokesman for God, according to the definition of what the function of a prophet would be, as spoken by Moses in Deuteronomy 18:

        15 “The LORD your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your brothers– it is to him you shall listen– 16 just as you desired of the LORD your God at Horeb on the day of the assembly, when you said, ‘Let me not hear again the voice of the LORD my God or see this great fire any more, lest I die.’ 17 And the LORD said to me, ‘They are right in what they have spoken. 18 I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their brothers. And I will put my words in his mouth, and he shall speak to them all that I command him. 19 And whoever will not listen to my words that he shall speak in my name, I myself will require it of him. 20 But the prophet who presumes to speak a word in my name that I have not commanded him to speak, or who speaks in the name of other gods, that same prophet shall die.’ 21 And if you say in your heart, ‘How may we know the word that the LORD has not spoken?’– 22 when a prophet speaks in the name of the LORD, if the word does not come to pass or come true, that is a word that the LORD has not spoken; the prophet has spoken it presumptuously. You need not be afraid of him.

        The prophet was someone who spoke the words of God. The normal and appropriate response to such words was, according to verse 22, fear (reverence). Why? It is because the words came from God through his spokesman. They had the authority and power of God behind them.

        Scripture was written by prophets, by spokesmen for God. Many of the OT books open by declaring that they are a prophecy,vision, or word from God. 1 Corinthians 14 indicates that a prophecy is a word from God, whether about the present or the future. The people did not want to hear words directly from God. it was too fearful. So he gave them prophets, who relayed his words. Moses was his prophet, and much of what he spoke was not about the future but about the present.

      • First, you fail to acknowledge the rhetorical function of Peter’s claim in support of his limited argument. Then, the quotation to take from Deuteronomy contradicts the argument you’re trying to make, because Moses’ comments about identifying a true prophet have to do, obviously, with an alleged prophet’s predictive ability, not the authority of the prophet’s general teachings (cf., vs. 22: “when a prophet speaks in the name of the LORD, if the word does not come to pass or come true, that is a word that the LORD has not spoken; the prophet has spoken it presumptuously. You need not be afraid of him.” Therefore, it seems the Bible itself is making a narrower definition of “prophet” than you would like, but you go on ahead and claim that anyone who speaks a word from God is, by definition, a “prophet.” With that I cannot agree, and I doubt that you would find much support for that position in the community of biblical scholars, either. Face it – you are trying to assert that your interpretation of scripture needs to have more authority than mine, and I am claiming the same things in regard to my own interpretation. Even though each of us can convince himself that his is right and the other is wrong, we will not know for sure until we face God on the throne of judgment, and then all partial knowledge will come to an end, and we will see the fullness of truth without hindrance. That is what I have argued Paul was asserting in 1 Cor. 13, and I stand by that assertion. The result is that we must each do the best we can in following what we believe to be the dictates of God, following, as our Quaker sisters and brothers say, our “best lights,” and trust that the Holy Spirit will keep us teachable and always moving to become more faithful to the God we have come and are more and more coming to know in Jesus Christ. I trust that you have been and are on that path and that I, with all my failings, am on the same path as you. So, God be with you, and with me as well.

      • Dear brother in Christ, Peter is talking about his experience of the transfiguration. From it he points to the prophetic word as a light in a dark place until Christ returns. This word is not a just prophecies about the future but the entire word of God. That is the light in the dark place to which we do well to pay attention. “Thy word is a light unto my path.”

        The word in Deuteronomy does not contradict my argument because God promised a prophet like Moses, and it is Moses who spoke God’s word in Deuteronomy 20 about homosexuality that I quoted. He is the prophet who addressed the subject first. The test of a prophet was whether his word had validity, as the word of Moses did. Moses spoke all sorts of words, and they all had validity. When God spoke audibly and the people did not want to hear him any longer, he was speaking the Ten Commandments. He was not giving words about the future. Yet because they did not to hear him directly, God gave them prophets instead, to speak whatever God wanted said.

        Young’s Literal Translation is useful to show what the Hebrew actually says, rather than a smooth English translation. It shows that Deuteronomy 18:22 is making a broad statement about the word of the prophet and need not focus only on statements about the future:

        YLT Deuteronomy 18:22 that which the prophet speaketh in the name of Jehovah, and the thing is not, and cometh not — it is the word which Jehovah hath not spoken; in presumption hath the prophet spoken it; — thou art not afraid of him.

        In Hebrew the word “and” can also be treated as “or,” and I believe that is the sense in Deuteronomy 18:22. Young is just trying to be as literal as possible. The NRSV translates that way:

        NRSV Deuteronomy 18:22 If a prophet speaks in the name of the LORD but the thing does not take place or prove true, it is a word that the LORD has not spoken. The prophet has spoken it presumptuously; do not be frightened by it.

        Something can prove untrue whether it is spoken about the present or the future.

        The definition of prophet I gave is not mine. I got in from three different schools in three different states (two different seminaries). It is also a common understanding of the word prophet as found in dictionaries:

        the Free Dictionary: A person who speaks by divine inspiration or as the interpreter through whom the will of a god is expressed.

        Merriam-Webster: : one who utters divinely inspired revelations: as
        a often capitalized : the writer of one of the prophetic books of the Bible
        b capitalized : one regarded by a group of followers as the final authoritative revealer of God’s will

        My Greek lexicon (BDAG) defines the Greek word for prophet as meaning: “a proclaimer or expounder of divine matters or concerns that could not ordinarily be known except by special revelation .” It adds: “to proclaim an inspired revelation, prophesy abs.” One Hebrew lexicon (HALOT) says that the word translated prophet means “may have an active sense ‘speaker, herald, preacher’ or (more probably) a passive sense ‘one who has been called.’” Another Hebrew lexicon (BDB) gives as the first two meanings: “spokesman, speaker.” It mentions that Aaron is called a prophet as a “mouthpiece” for Moses (Exod 7:1).

        Brother, to declare a divine revelation is to prophesy.

      • And so, how many foreign slaves do you hold, since Moses wrote, “As for the male and female slaves whom you may have, it is from the nations around you that you may acquire male and female slaves. You may also acquire them from among the aliens residing with you, and from their families that are with you, who have been born in your land; and they may be your property. You may keep them as a possession for your children after you, for them to inherit as property. These you may treat as slaves, but as for your fellow Israelites, no one shall rule over the other with harshness” (Lev. 25.44-46)? Or what would you say to someone who held slaves who were from a country that was foreign to his own, especially if he points out that God indicates through Moses that doing so is fine with God?

        And how many burnings at the stake have you witnessed of the daughters of clergy who have prostituted themselves, done in accordance with Lev. 21.9: “When the daughter of a priest profanes herself through prostitution, she profanes her father; she shall be burned to death”?

        Or since Lev. 20.13 commands that two men who have sex together should be killed, would you advocate for the passage of laws in America for the killing not only of non-celibate gay men but also of straight men who sodomize other men, whether gay or straight? After all, God’s prophet Moses commanded it. If we don’t follow God’s law to the letter, then we are no better than the sinners themselves, are we? As James wrote, “For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become accountable for all of it” (2.10). But then, we’d also need to start killing a child who hits a parent (Ex. 21.15), or even one who curses a parent (Ex. 21.17, Lev. 20.9), or one who fails to observe the sabbath by working on it (Ex. 31.14, 15), everyone who commits adultery (Lev. 20.10), a man who has sex with his daughter-in-law (Lev. 20.12), anyone who blasphemes God (Lev, 24,16 – and how should blasphemy be defined?) – I could go on, but you get the idea. There would be many fewer people in the world, because some toddlers hit their parents, and the passage cited above doesn’t give an age restriction on when children should be held accountable for hitting their parents.

        You see, I feel compelled to interpret scripture with a recognition that, though I am bound to do the best I can to live according to scripture’s commands, with God’s help, I also know that my mind is limited by my genetics, my family and cultural upbringing, my personal experience, my understanding of the meanings of words, and many other elements; so I can do only the best I can do, trusting that the blood of Christ will cover over any faults and misunderstandings I may have. Because of that, while I am constrained to tell others how I believe the scriptures instruct both me and them, there is so much I don’t know about them – including how God might be speaking to them, even through scripture, in ways that are different from those in which God is speaking to me – that I can only share with them what light I have to offer and consign them to God – and others – for the rest. The minute I say something such as “all of those people are damned to hell for eternity,” I am claiming to possess the totality of God’s mind and heart, and there is only one human being who ever lived who did that, and it isn’t I. So, scripture is valuable, and I rely on it for direction, but there is too much in scripture that simply doesn’t comport with God as I understand God, and that clearly sounds like a believer who is relating personal concepts in the context of his experience (like the psalm in which the writer pens the words, “Happy shall they be who take your little ones and dash them against the rock!” Ps. 137.9), for me to believe that every passage of scripture is unquestionably a representation of God’s mind and heart. Thus, to discern which passages to take as straightforward and foundational to a life in Christ, which to see as instructive for certain people in certain circumstances, and which to see as appropriate within the context of the original audience but of little relevance for us today takes both study and discernment that relies upon the guidance of the same Holy Spirit that inspired the writers, editors, and counsels that provided the scriptures to us.

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