Master or Marionette?
Over at the Pacific Standard, writer and self-identifying gay Christian Brandon Ambrosino posted an article entitled, “The Best Christian Argument for Marriage Equality Is That the Bible Got it Wrong.” Although I vehemently disagree with him, to Brandon Ambrosino’s credit, he avoids trying to make Scripture say something it clearly does not say. He goes one step further by stating that, “it’s safe to conclude, then, that Christ would have agreed with the Levitical assessment of homosexuality as a sin. Any confusion about this seems motivated by contemporary politics, no ancient history.” I appreciate this aspect of Brandon's approach and the honesty included in it.
Ambrosino’s argument, which you can read here, is predicated on the theory that during His life Jesus, being as fully-human as He was fully-God, would not have had the full omniscience of God and therefore would have made mistakes and been in error on certain points. Ambrosino points to Jesus’ reference to the Torah as the “Moses’ writings” and also, via a C.S. Lewis quotation, at Jesus’ ignorance of the end times as proof that Jesus was limited in his knowledge. He was, Ambrosino says, “limited by the first century.”
This line of thinking, gives the 21st-century reader “orthodoxical” room-to-wriggle in the area of homosexuality and other topics. Ambrosino writes:
“We can’t read the bible expecting to find a robust 21st-century cosmology any more than we can read the bible hoping to find an evolved anthropology or a position on the Confederate flag or the Pythagorean theorem. Or, for that matter, an elaborate position on human sexuality that takes into account all the advances the social sciences have made in the past few decades”
The conclusion here is that Bible is too outdated to speak to complex 21st century life outside of some guiding principles that he outlines later on; things like, love your neighbor, forgive your enemies, and care for the downtrodden.
I think there are a multitude of problems with Ambrosino’s approach, but I’ll highlight two of them. First, admitting Jesus’ humanity, even the limitations that could have accompanied His humanity, does not necessarily lead to the idea that He could have been mistaken when speaking on the things of God. In fact, not only does it not necessarily lead there, it cannot lead there.
Over, and over, and over again, to the point of seemingly needless repetition, Jesus utters variations of the same refrain. “For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent me.” In fact, Jesus’ constant reference to his oneness with God the Father was one of the things that most irked his adversaries. Jesus didn’t merely claim to know about God, He claimed to know God the way a son might know his father. This means that, human though He was, Jesus shared an intimate bond with the Father in a way that no other person would or could.
Also compromising to Amborsino’s tact on this is that Jesus routinely knew things that a standard-issue human could not have known. Think of His exchange with Nathanael in John 1, in which Jesus’ intimate, supernatural knowledge of Nathanael brought the man to belief. Think also of the Samaritan woman’s amazement at Jesus exact knowledge of her failed relationships, or the sending of Peter to catch that one fish that had money its mouth. Jesus may not have known everything, but His limits were self-imposed by the Godhead, not a constraint of His time. He knew not the hour of His return because the Father kept it from the Son, not because the Son was a human. Ambrosino claims that Jesus’ asking of questions indicated His incomplete knowledge, and couldn’t possibly have been a teaching device, despite the fact that in instances such as the story of Job, God the Father asked questions as a means of showing a point. And no one is calling Him incomplete.
The second problem with Ambrosino’s view is that, rather unintentionally I should think, boils the Bible down to a handful of “life principles” anchored to nothing more than man’s contemporary idea of social justice. Without a definite, transcendent person of God to illustrate and embody ideas such as love, grace, and justice, those ideas lose their power and become completely malleable. They conform to us, rather than transform us to the likeness of Jesus Christ.
To disallow Jesus’ example of a life lived in perfect, yes, Perfect, submission and harmony with the perfect, yes, Perfect, Will of God is to strip Christianity of its power. We no longer have Christ, the Son of God who lived and died for us according to the Father’s will. That is removed from the center of the Gospel and we receive, in its place, the decaying corpse of a dead 1st-century rabbi, dressed to the nines in the finest, most trendy social garb that the 21st-century can provide.
Christ ceases being the Master and instead becomes a marionette dangling from the hands of His “followers."