Saturday, July 7, 2012

Craig Gross on "Will There Be Gays in Heaven? Will There Will Be Fat People?"

Over at CNN's Belief Blog Craig Gross has a discussion on homosexuality and the proper Christian response.  Gross is a pastor but his understanding of the principal text with which he is supposed to be acquainted (the Bible--in case he is reading!) is woefully lacking.  Gross attempts to compare the sinfulness of homosexuality to overeating.  Did I mention that Gross is a pastor?  Gross writes:

What would happen if we read the Bible and, instead of highlighting certain passages, we took it all for what it is truth.
In 1 Corinthians, the Bible says don't indulge your body with food or sex: “‘Food is meant for the stomach and the stomach for food,’ and God will destroy both one and the other. The body is meant not for fornication but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body.”
From this he goes on to argue:

If you indulge your body with sex via pornography, affairs, strippers or hookers, and your secrets are exposed, you will not be preaching on Sunday. Sexual sin is not tolerated in our churches. If clergy are caught in these things, they’re disqualified.
What if you indulge your body with food? Well, then you can pastor some of the largest churches on the planet and have the most successful broadcasts on the religious channels and sell a lot of books.
Same biblical passage, same sin. Why is one accepted and one rejected? Why is it that religious folks want to camp out on a few things rather then all things?
What are we to make of this?  Modern American culture is practically clueless about the Bible.  Does our good pastor help bring illumination to this situation by helpfully expositing God's word?  Short answer: No.

Gross quotes 1 Corinthians 6.13 and takes this to mean that "the Bible says don't indulge your body with food and sex."  But this passage says nothing about indulging the body with food--nothing.  Gross is trying to draw some sort of moral equivalence between overeating and illicit sex but he has misread the text in profound ways.  A few notes:

1.  Read the text.  It simply says, "Food is for the stomach and the stomach is for food, but God will do away with both  of them."  It's a statement of fact--not a command against indulging in overeating.  
2.  Read the context.  The main issue is sexual immorality as can be seen from the verses following verse 13 (see verses 13-20).  Also, Paul has just finished speaking about a number of sins that indicate that one will not "inherit the kingdom of God."  Homosexuality is specifically mentioned (1 Corinthians 6.9).  Overeating is not mentioned.
3.  The mention of the phrase "food for the stomach..." is probably a slogan being utilized by a portion of the Corinthian congregation.   Gordon Fee in his widely hailed commentary states the following:
[T]he two propositions are in obvious contrast to each other.  Both this arrangement and the rest of the argument make it plain that Paul's concern is with the second one [the one regarding sexual immorality--rjk].  The matter of food therefore is no issue here at all; rather, it is intended to set up the issue of the body and sexual immorality.  This suggests that, as in v. 12, Proposition I is best understood as a Corinthian slogan, which apparently they have carried over to the body and sexual relations with prostitutes.  Gordon Fee 1 Corinthians--NICNT, p. 254 (emphasis added).
Why is it that Craig Gross doesn't understand any of this?  Why does he try to create a moral equivalence between homosexuality and overeating?  He takes it upon himself to "educate" the public in a CNN blog forum in which believer and unbeliever are listening in to his discourse.  As a pastor he should be seeking to bring understanding regarding the Bible and not confusion.  Instead Gross completely mis-interpretes Scripture and leads people to confuse the immorality of homosexuality with overeating.  Will this goofy hermeneutic help people understand the Bible and respond appropriately?  Probably not.  Will his teaching reinforce biblical morality or will it tend to relativize the ethical directives of the Bible regarding homosexuality?  I'm betting it's the latter--and that's not a good thing for a pastor to do.
UPDATE (7/24/12):  Dr. Robert Gagnon has written a detailed and excellent response to Craig Gross available HERE.