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Theology Matters Jan/Feb to Nov/Dec 2012



Paul's Theology of Sexual Practice: A Study of 1 Corinthians 6:9-20 by Kenneth E. Bailey, retired professor of Middle Eastern and New Testament Studies. 

Some people have claimed that sexual relationships are a side issue, apart from the Gospel of Jesus Christ. They insist that Christians can affirm and practice a wide variety of sexual behaviors without compromising the Gospel. In the Nov/Dec issue of Theology Matters, Dr. Ken Bailey demonstrates, in his careful analysis of 1 Corinthians 6, that this assurance is false.  Right sexual conduct is an expression of fundamental truths of the Gospel.  Attempts to separate sexual behavior from the Gospel deny the Gospel!

By uncovering Paul’s use of the Hebrew technique of literary parallelism in which themes are repeated and compared and contrasted,  Dr. Bailey shows how biblical sexual ethics are interwoven with the doctrines of Creation, the Trinity, the Cross, the Resurrection, and the Church. Sexual immorality denies the truths of who Christ is, why he came, what he has done, and who we are in light of our redemption in him. The Gospel not only addresses our spiritual lives but it also involves our physical bodies. The two cannot be separated: spiritual and physical, Gospel and sexual behavior.

Dr. Bailey’s ground-breaking analysis of 1 Corinthians stems from his extensive Middle Eastern and New Testament studies.  Dr. Bailey completed degrees in Arabic Language and Literature, and Systematic Theology with a doctorate in New Testament. Ordained by the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.),   Dr. Bailey spent 40 years living and teaching in seminaries and institutes in Egypt, Lebanon, Jerusalem and Cyprus.  

Dr. Bailey’s most recent book is Paul Through Mediterranean Eyes: Cultural Studies in 1 Corinthians (2011) from which this article is adapted with permission from InterVarsity Press.  Dr. Bailey also presented a version of this article at the Presbyterians for Renewal breakfast at the July 2012 PC(USA) General Assembly.

The Women Prophets of Corinth: A Study of ASpects of 1 Corinthians 11:2-16 by Kenneth E. Bailey, retired professor of New Testament and Middle Eastern studies.  "Within the larger question of the place of women in the New Testament, this passage is of critical importance.  All across church history various voices have found 'regimental colors' or even 'battle cries' in these verses..."


The Relevance of J. Gresham Machen by Darryl G. Hart, Ph. D., visiting professor of history at Hillsdale College, MI.  Hart explains Princeton professor J. Gresham Machen's historic role in warning the Presbyterian church that the controversies that wracked the church were fundamentally between two different faiths: liberalism (progressivism) and historic Christian faith. 

Christianity and Liberalism: The Bible, by J. Gresham Machen.  In his book, Christianity and Liberalism, Machen details the conflicting doctrines between biblical Christianity and liberalism.  We have included his chapter on the Bible in which Machen contrasts the liberal and historic understanding of Scripture.  Even in the early twentieth century liberals sought to put human experience above the word of Scripture.  Liberals tried to argue that their authority was Christ but it was a Christ apart from Scripture and known only by their personal human experience.   Machen writes,

"the modern liberal does not hold fast even to the authority of Jesus. Certainly he does not accept the words of Jesus as they are recorded in the Gospels. For among the recorded words of Jesus are to be found just those things which are the most abhorrent to the modern liberal church, and in his recorded words Jesus also points forward to the fuller revelation which was afterwards to be given through His apostles. Evidently, therefore, those words of Jesus which are to be regarded as authoritative by modern liberalism must first be selected from the mass of the recorded words by a critical process. The critical process is certainly very difficult, and the suspicion often arises that the critic is retaining as genuine words of the historical Jesus only those words which conform to his own preconceived ideas."

Machen concludes,

"It is no wonder, then, that liberalism is totally different from Christianity, for the foundation is different. Christianity is founded upon the Bible.  It bases upon the Bible both its thinking and its life. Liberalism on the other hand is founded upon the shifting emotions of sinful men."

The Separateness of the Church by J. Gresham Machen.    The church is called to be salt and light in the world and that will never be an easy calling. Machen observes, "If the sharp distinction is ever broken down between the Church and the world, then the power of the church is gone." 

This pressure to compromise with the culture is the most serious threat to the church's calling and it comes from within the church.  Machen writes,  

"The really serious attack upon Christianity has not been the attack carried on by fire and sword, by the threat of bonds or death, but it has been the more subtle attack that has been masked by friendly words; it has been not the attack from without but the attack from within. The enemy has done his deadliest work when he has come with words of love and compromise and peace."



What is Marriage?  by Sherif Girgis, Robert P. George, Ryan T. Anderson.  Girgis is a Ph.D. candidate in Philosophy at Princeton University.  George is the McCormick Professor of Jurisprudence at Princeton University.  Anderson is a Ph.D. candidate in Political Science at the University of Notre Dame.  This article is adapted with permission from the Journal of Law and Public Policy, Vol 34, No. 1, Winter 2010, pp 247-287.

The authors posit two competing views of marriage: the conjugal view and the revisionist view.  In the conjugal view, "marriage is the union of a man and a woman who make a permanent and exclusive commitment to each other of the type that is naturally (inherently) fulfilled by bearing and rearing children together.  The spouses seal (consummate) and renew their union by conjugal acts--acts that constitute the behavioral part of the process of reproduction, thus uniting them as a reproductive unit. Marriage is valuable in itself, but its inherent orientation to the bearing and rearing of children contributes to its distinctive structure, including norms of monogamy and fidelity. This link to the welfare of children also helps explain why marriage is important to the common good and why the state should recognize and regulate it."

In the revisionist view, "Marriage is the union of two people (whether of the same sex or of opposite sexes) who commit to romantically loving and caring for each other and to sharing the burdens and benefits of domestic life.  It is essentially a union of hearts and minds, enhanced by whatever forms of sexual intimacy both partners find agreeable.  The state should recognize and regulate marriage because it has an interest in stable romantic partnerships and in the concrete needs of spouses and any children they may choose to rear."

The authors write their critique of the two positions from a secular perspective.  They don't appeal to biblical authority.   Instead they observe, "marriage is the type of social practice whose basic contours can be discerned by our common human reason, whatever our religious background."

With a lawyer's exacting arguments and clear thinking the authors address topics of:

  • Equality, Justice, and the Heart of the Debate;
  • Real Marriage Is--and Is Only--the Union of Husband and Wife;
  • How Would Gay Civil Marriage Affect You Or Your Marriage;
  • If Not Same-sex Couples, Why Infertile Ones?
  • Challenges for Revisionists
  • Why Not Spread Traditional Norms to the Gay Community?
  • What About A Partner's Concrete Needs?
  • Doesn't the Conjugal Conception of Marriage Sacrifice Some People's Fulfillment for Others?
  • Isn't It Only Natural?
  • Doesn't Traditional Marriage Law Impose Controversial Moral and Religious Views on Everyone?



“The church’s historic understanding of marriage may be the foremost doctrine under fire at the 220th General Assembly (2012) of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), writes Alan Wisdom, the author of “Two Views of Marriage” in the Mar/Apr 2012 issue of Theology Matters

Two Views of Marriage by Alan F. H. Wisdom is a study guide helping readers compare the Report of the Special Committee to Study Issues of Civil Union and Christian Marriage with the Minority Report of the Committee. Both reports were received by the 2010 General Assembly and sent to the presbyteries to study.  The committee report represents a liberal, progressive view of marriage while the Minority Report of the Committee presents a biblical view of marriage. 

The progressive committee report presents “biblical passages mainly as reflecting the opinions of the human authors or the prevailing practices of their cultures,” writes Wisdom.  The minority report rests on the foundation of Scripture saying, “In matters of faith and practice, the church turns to Scripture to hear the testimony of the Holy Spirit, so that we might follow the Word of God incarnate in our changing world.”    This article is an important guide to use in understanding the two positions that are being argued in the church.

Wisdom contrasts the two reports on:

  1. View of Scripture
  2. God’s Design in Creation?
  3. Does Marriage Have Anything to Do with Sex? 
  4. Is Marriage the Norm for Sexual Expression?
  5. What the Confessions Say About Marriage
  6. The Book of Order on Marriage
  7. Definition or Description?
  8. Authoritative Interpretations on Marriage
  9. Is Conscience Bound by Biblical and Confessional Teachings?
  10. Two Equal Positions?
  11. Local Option on Marriage?
  12. Mutual Forbearance or Mutual Accountability?
  13. Marriage As Pastoral Care?
  14. Is It Discrimination to Say Some Relationship Aren’t Marriage?
  15. Must the Church Conform Its Doctrine to State Law and Social trends?
  16. What Would It Take to Change the Church’s Definition of Marriage?

 Each section guides readers through a comparison of the two reports and then has discussion questions for further reflection.

Marriage on Trial by Glenn T. Stanton and Bill Maier.  The article is an excerpt from their book by the same name.  Presbyterians Stanton and Maier use question and answer format to respond to the most frequently heard arguments of same-sex marriage advocates. This quick reference format will help General Assembly commissioners and other church leaders respond biblically to these often-heard arguments of same-sex marriage advocates.


“Preaching The Gospel With The Great Preacher: Ten Convictions After 40 Years of Trying to Do It Well”  by Darrell W. Johnson, PCUSA pastor, honorably retired, and author of numerous books and articles including his major work, The Glory of Preaching, IVP, 2009.

"In the following pages, I want to develop …ten convictions about preaching that  The Great Preacher has built into me over the past four decades….

Conviction One: The preaching of the Word of God is a  primary means by which the Living God accomplishes His purposes in and for the world….

Conviction Two: The Preaching of the Word of God is the Word of God….

Conviction Three: The preaching of the Word of God participates in the preaching of the Word of God by the Word of God.…

Conviction Four:  Preaching is hard work….

Conviction Five: The word “deliver” is exactly the right word to use for preaching….

Conviction Six: The Church must set its preacher free to be engaged in all that faithful preaching of the Word demands….

Conviction Seven: The preaching of the Word takes place in many different modes….

Conviction Eight: Preaching that participates in the preaching of the Word of God by the Word of God, is rooted in, emerges from, and returns to a text, a Spirit-breathed Biblical text….

Conviction Nine: Preaching that participates in the preaching of the Word Himself, has the transforming power it does because of what the Word Himself designed texts to do....

Conviction Ten: The person most transformed by the preaching of the Word is the preacher!...




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