Join this Chariot: A Biblical, Exegetical, Theological, Historical Response

On 14 June 2021 InsideOut released a 72 page PDF document titled Join this Chariot: Christian Schools Supporting Rainbow Students’ Wellbeing.

(A link to this PDF will not be provided here. It is found quite easily with a simple Google search!)

This is a biblical, exegetical, theological, historical response.

Let’s start with some definitions.

  • Biblical: This response will aim to ground everything in the Word of God, the Bible, the Christian Scriptures. Our conviction is that the 66 books of the Protestant Scriptures are the inspired Word of God, authoritative and sufficient for all matters of faith and life. We will address specific passages of Scripture but will aim to look at each passage within its context as well as within the larger framework of the Bible as a whole.
  • Exegetical: Exegesis essentially means using the words of the text in Scripture, through the lens of their original context, to determine their intent. As opposed to eisegesis which is reading into the text with a preconceived notion. This can often mean coming to the Scripture with a biased cultural lens that didn’t exist during the time the Bible was written. Our commitment is exegetical in that we will seek to let the Scriptures speak for themselves and understand the original, author’s intent which remains the timeless intent of the Author – the Holy Spirit.
  • Theological: Where needful we will make connections to other passages of Scripture and matters of Orthodox Christian Doctrine. We will aim to avoid allowing preconceived theological commitments to cloud or exegesis. Yet we will not avoid the healthy practice of drawing larger theological conclusions and implications as we see all of Scripture speaking with one voice – God’s voice.
  • Historical: By this we mainly mean the orthodox history of biblical interpretation. We humbly recognise that many have gone before us faithfully interpreting and applying the timeless truth of God’s Word to all of life. We will seek to learn from them and follow them as they followed Christ, while also considering specific matters which may be new to our generation. On occasion we will also make reference to other matters of history and the application of God’s Word in various historical contexts including New Zealand.

The Ethiopian Eunuch: Acts 8:26-40

On page 6, prior to the Table of Contents the authors of Join this Chariot quote and address the account of the Ethiopian Eunuch in Acts 8. This seems to serve as an overall kind of framework for the entire document. It is apparent the title to the document was drawn from this account as they state, “but God told Philip to join his chariot….”

The opening sentence after the Scriptures quote from Acts 8 reads, “The Ethiopian Eunuch was a gender minority person.”

This is a perfect example of eisegeses defined above. This reads into the text a modern (actually post-modern) understanding of gender as distinct from sex as well as the concept of “gender minority” which is a historically recent social concept heavily loaded with meaning derived from the philosophical presuppositions of Critical Theory.

The authors then assert based on Leviticus 21:16-23 and Deuteronomy 23:1 that Philip should have “considered this man unclean and unworthy of worshiping God.”

Firstly, this is not what the passages in Leviticus and Deuteronomy say. The passage in Leviticus is clearly addressing sons of Aaron who cannot serve as priests in the Tabernacle (and later Temple) due to their physical blemish. This passage is not speaking to the subject of who, as part of the general population of Israel, were permitted to approach God in worship. The Deuteronomy passage is broader in its application – in other words beyond the sons of Aaron. Yet even here Moses is providing guidelines for who is permitted to join in and participate in the Assembly of God’s people. This is not a statement on who is allowed to worship God full stop.

Yet, even if it were what those Old Testament passages were saying this completely misses the point of life in the New Covenant as Acts is so powerfully portraying. The real distinguishing mark for this man in the flow of Acts is not that he is a eunuch but that he is Ethiopian. Jesus told His disciples back in chapter one that they were to be His witness in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and to the ends of the earth. Already by chapter 8 we have seen the gospel go out to peoples of different nations and languages. Gentiles are being brought into the New Covenant through the power of the gospel. Here we are amazed to see a man from Ethiopia reading the book of Isaiah and God sending His servant Philip to guide this man’s understanding of His revealed Word so that He becomes a trophy of God’s redeeming grace as He turns to Jesus Christ in faith.

We will now give some attention to the section of the document titled “Looking at the Bible” on pages 51-56. We do not have space to address every verse mentioned. However, those we do address, and the patterns shown for how the Scriptures are poorly interpreted will apply even to the verses we do not address directly.

In this section they provide a heading “Sexual violence is bad, not being gay.” It is indeed true that sexual violence is evil and condemned by Scripture. Christians should be very concerned for any who may be the victims of sexual violence of any kind, speak out in their defence and be active in serving those who are harmed.

However, it is not true that the passage of Scripture mentioned (Genesis 18 & 19; Romans 1:26-27; 1 Corinthians 6:9; 1 Timothy 1:10) are more about sexual violence than sinful, sexual behaviour. The words and phrases used both in the Hebrew Old Testament and Greek New Testament are not difficult to understand and have been almost universally understood by Christians for thousands of years to mean sexual behaviour between same-sex individuals. As for the New Testament these words are found outside the Biblical texts and when found carry this meaning. This is another clear example of reading into the text cultural preconceived conclusions rather than allowing the text to speak for itself.

The next section is titled, “Life-long connections between people of the same gender”. This section focuses on Ruth & Naomi, David & Jonathan and the Roman Centurion & his servant (Luke 7:1-10).

The authors readily admit Ruth and Naomi did not have in intimate relationship. Indeed! Yet one would beg to know why they were even mentioned in this context. No Christian who loves Christ and is faithful to God’s Word would even suggest that people of the same sex cannot (even ought not) to enjoy deep, meaningful relationships.

David & Jonathan is a notorious passage frequented by those who want to assert the Bible condones and even supports same-sex, sexual relationships. 1 Samuel 18:3 certainly speaks of a close, personal love between these two men. Something the Scriptures certainly do commend, and many men fail to practice to their loss spiritually. Yet the real point of referring to David & Jonathan comes from the quote of 1 Samuel 20:41 and the claim that the final word in the verse usually translated as “exceeded” (KJV) or “the most” (ESV) or “more” (CSB) or “the most” (NIV) really means “become large” and therefore is to be interpreted as David having an erection and therefore asserting “many modern have hidden this…” (Actually, all translations in like forever have…). This is a sad example of someone misusing a Hebrew dictionary/lexicon. Words do not mean what the first entry in a dictionary gives as the basic meaning. Words mean what they mean in context. Even more for a Hebrew word (in this case a verb) the meaning is not only dependent on the root word but also on the particular verb form. The verb form here is a Hiphilnot only is the form of the verb critical for interpreting meaning but also other grammatical elements in the verse. In this case the Hiphil verb is conjoined to an infinitive. When this verd is found in the Hiphil form with an infinitive, according to the Enhanced Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon this verb is to be interpreted as “exceedingly” or “greatly” in reference to the preceding infinitive – “wept”. In other words, this is a grammatical expression used to communicate excessive weeping.

The Roman Centurion and his servant in Luke 7:1-10. Within these 10 verses in the ESV the English word “servant” occurs 5 times (verses: 2, 3, 7, 8, 10). In verses 2, 3, 7 & 10 the Greek word used is the common Greek word for “servant” or “slave” doulos. Only in verse 8 does the less common word pais occur. Firstly, it is arguable as to whether the Centurion is even speaking of his sick servant at this time or just speaking in general about his authority to give commands/instructions to his servants and expect them to be obeyed. Secondly, according the A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Greek Literature, 3rd Edition the word pais carries meaning varying from “young prepubescent boy or youth” to “one’s male offspring” to “male servant or slave”. There is nothing in the lexicon to indicate this word communicates any kind of sexual relationship either in the New Testament or extra-Biblical Greek.

Beginning of page 54 in this portion of the document we are introduced to another section titled, “Today’s rainbow identities and relationships”, with several subsections: “God loves diversity”, “God works with us”, “Jesus-centred theology”. “Arc of justice” and “The most important thing is love”. Within these sections the authors make a series of theological claims which they assert are derived from Scripture and confirmed through church history. However, their claims are equally as dubious as those already shown above.

No one familiar with the Bible, the history of Christianity or the church today would suggest that God does not love diversity. The glorious reality of the power of the Gospel is that God is able to transform people from sinners into wonderful displays of His grace and that He does this in the lives of people who collectively display His creative and recreative power.

In a serious misuse of particular texts of Scripture as well as rules of grammar the authors, under the heading “God loves diversity” attempt to argue that the three persons of the Triune God of the Bible can be understood as male and/or female due to the grammatical gender of nouns and pronouns. It is simply not the function of grammatical gender to communicate anything related to sex or the post-modern concept of gender as distinct from sex. Furthermore, the claim that God’s poetic response to Job shows some kind of wildness and variety of God’s world is grasping for theological significance in nothing more than literary genre.

In “God works with us” we find a fundamental misunderstanding of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Certainly, God does not “force things on people”, yet God most certainly does change people. Indeed, God is more committed to changing us than any other being in all of the Universe. A central truth to the message of the Gospel is God’s relentless mercy and grace towards undeserving sinners transforming us into “a new creation”.

Under the heading of “Jesus-centred theology” we find agreement that indeed Jesus spent much time with those who were marginalised in His time. Yet, Jesus did not spend time with them so as to leave them as they were but so that by coming to know Him rightly, they might be forever changed to live radically altered lives through faith in Him as their Lord and Saviour.

Further we are introduced to the concept of “Arc of Justice”. Again, there is agreement that God is passionate with regards to justice and all of history is following such an arc, so to speak. Yet this arc is bending to a day when Jesus will justly punish all those who reject Him and His Word and those who will escape such justice will be those who have fled to Him in Christ for forgiveness of sin (as He defines), fully entrusting themselves to Him for mercy and grace.

The final subsection in this portion, “The most important thing is love”, sates an undeniable reality. God is love; the greatest of “faith, hope and love” is love; everything we are to do as God’s people in this world can be summed up under the headings to “love God” and “love others”.

Yet it is God, Who is love, Who must define love, not us. God is also Truth. Love is rooted and grounded in Truth. True love is transforming.

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16 ESV)

The love of God is active. Active in sending. The love of God is sacrificial. Sacrificial in sending His one and only Son. The love of God demands a response. A response of belief. To believe in the given Son, given in love transforms a person from one who is perishing to one who has eternal life. To not believe is to remain as one who is perishing and under God’s wrath (John 3:36).

God’s love, true love is transforming on all those who believe in the Son! You cannot turn to Jesus Christ and faith, wooed by the love of the Father and remain the same. This is the glory of the gospel.

This is why Paul can say the following in 1 Corinthians 6:9-11

(9) Or do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor men who have sex with men (10) nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. (11) And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God. (ESV)

Paul expands on the words from John’s Gospel and elsewhere in the New Testament. Those who are living in sin (as defined by God in His Word) will not inherit the Kingdom of God. This is bad news for all of us as none of us are born sinless. We are all, each one of us, in ourselves disqualified from admission into God’s family.

This bad news is what makes the good news of verse 11 so amazing. Paul says to the Corinthian Christians, “that is what some of you were…” Not that is what some of you “are”. In Christ we are no longer what we once were. In Christ we are made new (2 Corinthians 5:17).

How does this happen? It happens through the washing and sanctifying that God works in our lives by the power of justification in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ by the Spirit of our God. God saves us through faith in His Son, He declares us righteous (justification) and then by the power of His Spirit He sets to work changing and transforming us!

The “gospel” presented in this document is a “gospel” that leaves us as we are. The Biblical Gospel utterly transforms us. Not into something other than human but into who we were created to be truly. Such that we grow in joy-filled satisfaction in who we are to the praise of His glorious grace.

This is not only true on a personal level but as the Biblical Gospel penetrates a culture, that culture is transformed. This is the primary flaw in the “Historical background” section found on pages 12-17.

There is no question that many cultures around the world were and are characterised by customs and practices which reflect diverse sexualities, sexual practices, etc. This was true of ancient Greece and Rome as much as Aotearoa as well as all other cultures. Indeed, the Bible was originally written to people who lived in cultures widely characterised by such customs and practices. In many ways that is the whole point…

God spoke to His people then as He does today, who live in cultures virtually defined by diverse sexualities and sexual practices and He calls His people to live transformed lives by the power of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Therefore, it is not true to assert, “Colonisation imposed British norms on Aotearoa, including the suppression of takatāpui identities and histories.” The call of God on His people was and is a call to submit to His Word and His good purposes for all of His creation. The timeless and life changing truth of God’s Word has powerfully effected cultures all over the globe not as the result of “colonisation” but through genuine Evangelisation.

This is the wonder, glory and power of Jesus Christ as He is preached in the true Biblical Gospel and His Spirit works to utterly transform a people from every tribe and nation into His beautified bride to the praise of His glorious grace.

This response, in fewer than 3,000 words, has attempted to address a 72 page PDF. We have only scratched the surface on our concerns. We pray what we have shown here is sufficient to demonstrate that this document does not represent Historic, Orthodox, Christian interpretation of Scripture. Even more, it fails to offer the wonderous and glorious Good News of Jesus Christ, crucified and risen again for sinners!