Walter Brueggemann recently wrote, “The gospel is not to be confused with or identified with the Bible…. The full acceptance and embrace of LGBTQ persons follows as a clear mandate of the gospel in our time. Claims to the contrary are contradictions of the truth of the gospel….”
Walter Brueggemann (1933- ) is a well-known progressive OT Hebrew scholar. He has written voluminously (nearly 60 books and hundreds of articles). His theology is neo-orthodox (i.e., uses orthodox words with heterodox meanings). His hermeneutics are post-modern (i.e., truth is relative). At the root of his version of Christianity is the conviction that Scripture is “ragged, disjunctive, and incoherent” (his words). In his view, the Old Testament is incorrigibly self-contradictory, in part because it was written “by many committees” and “because the key character is illusive and irascible in freedom and in sovereignty and in hiddenness, and, I’m embarrassed to say [again, his words], in violence.”
As Brueggemann says in the article cited above, “The Bible contains all sorts of voices that are inimical to the good news of God’s love, mercy, and justice. Thus, ‘biblicism’ is a dangerous threat to the faith of the church, because it allows into our thinking claims that are contradictory to the news of the gospel. The gospel, unlike the Bible, is unambiguous about God’s deep love for all peoples. And where the Bible contradicts that news, as in the texts of rigor, these texts are to be seen as ‘beyond the pale’ of gospel attentiveness.”
Since Brueggemann believes there are competing and contradictory views in Scripture, he aligns himself with the parts that fit his understanding of God’s love, mercy, and justice. He dubs these parts “texts of welcome.” As he wrote, “It is impossible to harmonize the mandates to exclusion [of homosexuality] in Leviticus 18:22, 20:13 and Deuteronomy 23:1 with the welcome stance of Isaiah 56, Matthew 11:28-30, Galatians 3:28, and Acts 10.”
Brueggemann’s approach is standard, liberal ideology that’s been circulating in liberal seminaries and universities for the last 150 years. As Roger Olson wrote recently in Against Liberal Theology: Putting the Brakes on Progressive Christianity, or as J. Gresham Machen wrote in Christianity and Liberalism 100 years ago, liberal Christianity of the sort Brueggemann espouses is neither truly liberal nor Christian. It is another gospel (Gal. 1:6). As such, it falls under God’s curse (Gal. 1:8). The apostle Paul calls men like Brueggemann “savage wolves” (Acts 20:29), and Peter labels such teaching “destructive heresy” (2 Pet. 2:1).
The teaching that the gospel requires us to affirm LGBTQ practice is a destructive heresy.
Let me briefly respond to Brueggemann’s misrepresentation of Deuteronomy 23 and Isaiah 56. He correctly notes that whereas Deuteronomy 23:1 excludes eunuchs from the assembly of Yahweh, Isaiah 56:4-5 promises covenantally-faithful eunuchs a memorial in Yahweh’s house.
First, note that we don’t know whether the eunuchs in Deuteronomy 23:1 were involuntary or voluntary. If the text has in view the self-mutilation of pagan idolatry, then Isaiah 56 isn’t talking about the same thing. If involuntary eunuchs are included, it’s vital to note that being a eunuch isn’t immoral or prohibited by Yahweh. Limiting access to “the assembly of Yahweh” due to physical deformity in the old covenant (Deut. 23) and permitting it in the new covenant (Isa. 56) is no more contradictory than changes in food laws between the covenants.
Second, note that involuntary eunuchs, such as Daniel, had full access to Yahweh and His grace, regardless of whatever restrictions their physical condition may have entailed vis-à-vis “the assembly of Yahweh.” The limitation of Deuteronomy 23:1 had no bearing on their relationship with Yahweh. Isaiah 56 does not contradict Deuteronomy 23, and it certainly gives no welcome to homosexuality!
If you’re deeply troubled, as I am, by Brueggemann’s malign twisting of Scripture into a cloak for debauchery, you should be even more troubled by evangelicals who insist that we must embrace “critical biblical scholarship”—the very same view of Scripture that Brueggemann embraces. Followers of Jesus accept His authority. He says it is fools who fail to believe all that the prophets (from Moses to Malachi) have spoken (Luke 24:25). Let’s not be fools.
Followers of Jesus accept His authority.
The good news is that those who turn from folly and accept Jesus’ authority are indeed embraced by God. And is this not the story of each one of us—a sinner who would rightly be condemned to hell, yet receiving lavish mercy and a warm embrace from the Father who has been looking and longing for his prodigal son? I pray that God opens the eyes of Walter Brueggemann, just as he opened the eyes of Thomas Oden, to see that Scripture calls men to bow to its full authority as the basis by which we will all be judged in that final day (John 12:48).
Adapted from God’s Revivalist by Philip Brown. Used by permission.