Ask NT Wright Anything – Christian Sexual Ethics, Homosexuality, and Transgender

Gen 1:27  So God created humans to be like himself; he made men and women. 

But in the beginning God made a man and a woman. That’s why a man leaves his father and mother and gets married. He becomes like one person with his wife. Then they are no longer two people, but one. And no one should separate a couple that God has joined together.”
(Mar 10:6-9 CEV)

Human sexuality and human flourishing is one of the most personal, explosive, and divisive topics in the Western World today. Like most people who are connected to social media and listens to podcasts, I am aware how explosive this issue is. At lunch today, I was listening to NT Wright (one of the most prominent theologians in the twenty-first century from the United Kingdom. I respect him a lot because he looks at biblical Christianity first as an ancient historian putting himself in the bootstraps of those that would have been part of the first church planted by the apostles. As an ancient historian, he puts you in the synagogue or house church of those that were followers of Jesus during the first century. He explains how a Jewish Christian like Paul would live in the Greco-Roman Culture of the first century. He explains the customs of both ancient Palestine, and the greater Roman world. Thus, when it comes to human flourishing and human sexuality, his answers to the polarizing issues of LGBQT rights and cohabitation was from that perspective.

NT Wright’s background is as a Anglican priest, so when it comes to cohabitation of any romantic couple he always takes it on a case by case basis. One of the questions of the podcast was how would he counsel someone who becomes a Christian even though they are living together with their significant other. He answered from a pastoral perspective. He said that the couple from their sexual union has already created a physical, spiritual, relational, and sexual bond. He would be hesitant to split the couple up without interviewing them or getting to know them. As he would get to know them, he would suggest (if the couple loves each other) to marry since marriage is part of God’s design. He would also advise that both parties would see marriage and the benefits of marriage from God’s perspective, and pray that the couple would seek God’s design for the relationship. He said that the late John Stott influenced his pastoring of couples who co-habitated together prior to marriage, and would use persuasion that monogamy especially in Biblical marriage was the best and highest good in romantic relationships.

Concerning same-sex issues, NT Wright being a traditionalist looked at this issue from the perspective of an ancient historian. He said in the Greco-Roman world from literature outside of the bible, homosexuality and homosexual behavior and homosexual relationships were common during the first century. He also mentioned that our word for same-sex behaviors and relationships has only been around for a short period of time (the past 100 years). The ancients would of had another word for it. He also made a distinction between the holiness code found in Leviticus 18 and what Paul wrote about in Romans and 1 Corinthians. They were written centuries apart and had different meanings. Yet for Paul being a Jew, homosexuality was still unnatural. CS Lewis was also a huge influence on NT Wright when it comes to romantic relationships. He sees the worship of Eros and what he called “Aphrodite Worship” as being one of the false religions that plague our world.

When it comes to transgender, NT Wright said that the gender dysporia that many people face is that they are seeking their identity based upon their feelings and not from their faith and biology. Even though Paul says in Galatians 3:28 that there is no male or female in the Kingdom of God, we still are created either as male or female, not something else. Our primary identity as Christians is always a child of God created in his image, and then as male or female being a close second. When our feelings dictate our identity, we reject who God made us to be. Our identity is both spiritual as a child of God, and physical as either male or female. Gnostics denied the body and only identified as with the Spirit or their spiritual identity. Again, NT Wright sees this from an ancient perspective.

Conclusion

I really liked how NT Wright answered these questions about such polarizing topics. I liked his pastoral approach when it comes to heterosexual couples who cohabit and persuade them through wise counseling towards marriage. He did come to the same conclusion as the Heretics on the Heretic Happy Hour that monogamy is the safest place to experience healthy human sexuality. He barely scratched the surface of the LGBQT issue, and did not raise the question of identity and sexual desire. I was disappointed he did not discuss how our warped sexual desires can be distorted by our sin and brokenness caused by the fall. Mark Yarmouth does a good job as a psychologist pointing this out by validating someone who considers themselves gay as their feelings and attraction for the opposite sex is valid, yet distorted and twisted because of the fall. I did like that NT Wright what he called “Aphrodite Worship” when it comes to sexual desire run amok. He said in an indirect way that God’s desire for us is greater than our sexual desires. Lastly, and I have read before, that he believes transgender issues is a symptom of modern gnosticism that denies the body as something holy and spiritual.

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