In June 2018, the RCA General Synod commended the “Great Lakes Catechism on Marriage and Sexuality” for consideration by the Commission on Theology (COT) and the wider RCA. In response, a diverse group of people from the LGBTQ community, parents, pastors, educators and others shared their thoughts with Room for All and the COT, offering alternative perspectives on a faithful ethic for living as sexual and gendered people of God. Room for All is grateful for the opportunity to share those responses in “Outsights” over the next several weeks.
The Works of God
Rev. Dr. Ursula Cargill – New Jersey
In Mark 10, Scripture says that some Pharisees came and tested Jesus by asking, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?” After responding to the questions from the Pharisees, Jesus makes his point: “Therefore what God has joined together let no one separate.” In using an analogy to emphasize this conclusion (Mk. 10:9 or Mt. 19:6), Jesus is teaching us that the works of God supersede all cultural, political or social contexts. Jesus, the Master Teacher, employed a conclusion related to the works of God. To focus on Jesus’ premise is to miss his point, which is that the work of God is greater than any human work.
Unfortunately, the Great Lakes Catechism misses this nuance in Jesus’ teachings when it uses a syllogistic approach to state that Jesus’ conclusion is related to a gender specific premise (footnote 21). Further, gender was introduced not by Jesus, but by the Pharisees. By aligning itself with gender, the Great Lakes Catechism could, by de facto, align itself with the Pharisees.
Question 15 of the Catechism is quite confusing. Scripture clearly shows that marriage is not a covenantal union between one man and one woman; there are many examples of sexual union in Scripture that are not limited to a husband and wife (Gen. 26:34, Ex. 2:21 and 21:10, Deut. 21:15-23, 2 Sam. 3:2-5, 1 Kings 11:3, among others). The patriarchs, including Abraham, clearly had multiple wives and/or sexual relationships during marriage. Therefore, the response to Question 15 is unequivocally ‘no.’
However, rather than respond unequivocally, the Great Lakes Catechism convolutes the distinction between the human body of Jesus and the body of Christ – an essential distinction in understanding Christology. According to the Catechism, we are saved by the body of Christ, broken for us, and his blood, shed for our sins. The Body of Christ is the church. The Catechism juxtaposes the homoousia nature of the body of Jesus with the human nature of one’s biological body. This juxtaposition validates a social and cultural context – rather than Biblical – to garner a favorable response to the question. Furthermore, by adding a reference to Gen. 2:24, the Catechism takes Scripture out of context. This verse is a reference to the creation of adamah, not a covenant of marriage. In fact, marriage is never mentioned.
Moreover, Gen. 2:24 is the second creation account; the first appearing in Gen. 1: 26-27 where God creates humankind. This first account of creation remains ignored in the Catechism. The Belgic Confession, Article 7 clearly warns us against adding to or taking away from Scripture. Had the Catechism focused on Matthew 5:17, it would have established a biblical premise to validate Question 15. However, this premise would also mean that Jesus the Christ came to fulfill all the laws of the Pentateuch, including the ones about homosexuality.
Question 16 of the Great Lakes Catechism fails to take into consideration the sovereignty of God (Isaiah 61, 50:4-9) and the wisdom of the heavens (James 3:17). There is nothing in Genesis 1-2 which states that male-female relationship are God’s design for marriage. There is nothing in Scripture which states that Jesus reaffirms the teaching of Genesis on marriage. By introducing the Torah selectively, Question 16 is employing a ‘grocery shopping’ approach of the Jewish sacred text. This approach is one where certain sentences are taken literally, others figuratively and others excluded based on the context of the selector. The Belgic Confession, Article 7 warns us against this approach too.
When the sovereign LORD acts in the world in ways that we may find objectionable, we are being challenged by God to see with the wisdom of the heavens rather than the wisdom of the world. As Christians who are continually transforming, we are committed to the position that God has chosen from eternity those whom God will bring to himself not based on foreseen virtue, merit, or faith on the part of those chosen ones; rather, God’s choice is unconditionally grounded in his mercy alone.