Manifesto Of The Strong-in-Faith
by Philip McPherson Rudisill
11/19/04 as modified 11/22/04
See expanded essay on the Liberty of the Gentile Christian.
I am a gentile Christian, implicitly called strong-in-faith in the New Testament, and have certain rights and duties under an edict issued by the disciples of Jesus meeting as the Council of Jerusalem. I wish to justify this claim in terms of the New Testament and especially in terms of the writings of Paul.
I premise for interpretation: a greater, more universal principle is always preferred over limited principles. For example the Golden Rule encompasses all the principles of the torah and the prophets and thus is preferred over all of them for that reason.
The logic in the texts is simple, plain and compelling:
1. Jesus has all authority on earth and in heaven.
2. Jesus establishes the church with his disciples, and he conveys to the disciples all authority, binding on earth and in heaven, to establish membership in that church. This church (the first one, in Jerusalem) is thoroughly Jewish.
3. Jesus calls his erstwhile enemy, Paul, to represent him to the gentiles, and the disciples confirm the transformation of Paul and authenticate and confirm his authority to speak to the gentiles.
4. All the disciples together, in apparent unanimity and with the concurrence of the Holy Spirit, establish a gentile congregation of the church (and thus effectively reduce the Jewish church in Jerusalem to a Jewish congregation) and decree that nothing further is required for membership in the gentile congregation than four necessary things.
5. Paul, acting in his authority as called and confirmed apostle to the gentiles, interprets the necessary things as symbolizing an expansion of the two great loves. In addition to loving God beyond compare, and loving neighbor as self, it is also part and parcel of the Christian life to love fellow Christian more than self. And so these necessary things are not laws at all.
6. Essentially then Paul has described the gentile Christian as one for whom all things are lawful and the only actual question deals with expediency namely how best to achieve a beneficial goal, with the supreme goal always being the three loves.
The justification for this demotion of the necessary things to sheer expediency is given by Paul in a case involving a prohibition of the consumption of idol food, one of the four necessary things.
Since A. all things are lawful, and so the only question has to do with expediency,
and since B. the disciples have imposed a prohibition on idol food,
it follows, obviously,
that C. the disciples consider this prohibition of idol food to be expedient.
Now while the expediency could have been the intention of the Jerusalem congregation to evangelize among the Jews outside of Israel, Paul chooses to explain this expediency that he is ascribing to the disciples in this wise: some Christians, the so-called weak-in-faith (the Jewish Christian of Pauls day) consider some things, like eating idol food, as sinful. And so
since 1. the idol food is lawful to the strong-in-faith and to be thoroughly enjoyed by him, and nevertheless
since 2. the weak-in-faith shies away from people who consume idol food or also may even be tempted to eat it himself, and thereby bringing himself into sin,
it follows that
if 3. a strong-in-faith Christian is enjoying his idol meat at a banquet and is told by a weak-in-faith Christian that it is idol meat (which is to be shunned out of respect for God according to the weak-in-faith), then even though the strong-in-faith Christian has every right to eat the meat, he has a Christian duty not to do so at the expense of the conscience of his weak-in-faith brother, i.e., it is inexpedient
A. according to the third law of love, i.e., fellow Christian more than self, and
B. given the presence of one who is weak-in-faith.
The conclusion of this logic is very clear: all of the necessary things are lawful and the only question for all things in all times is simply expediency, especially with regard to exemplifying the three loves of Christ.
Speculation on the Logic of the Expediency of Certain Instructions
Now since we know that Paul never considered anything as unlawful, and since he also prohibited some things, we must conclude that he did so out of expediency, for we are assuming the man is coherent in his speech. Given this we now speculate on the expediency of several of his prohibitions.
1. Submission of slaves. It is expedient for society that we marshal ourselves to work productively and cooperatively. Someone has to lead and some have to follow. Therefore, Christian slaves, accept your position in society and do your jobs well, and dont be discouraged even when abused by your masters, but resolve to aid in all good things, producing for our common good. This general principle will be found in more than one of the remaining examples.
2. Submission of wives. It is expedient that there be rationality and unity in any cooperative society. And so it is expedient that the male rule the roost. He is the better educated, more intelligent, more rational, more acceptable by other men, etc., etc., and it only makes sense that the wive, in their effort to make their marriage and family happy and productive, is to present her views and then follow the lead of the fittest to rule. The reasoning is quite compelling.
3. Submission of citizens. Someone has to lead. It is necessary for our society. Even if we were all good people, still we would need rules, so that we dont run over each other on the roads, etc. The governor provides this rule to the citizen just as the man does to the family and the master to the slave. It is simply the way things are. We need direction and coordination. And so obviously it is expedient for the Christian to obey the governor and to be a model citizen for the unbelievers. This is highly expedient.
4. Homosexuality. Here the specific justification changes but it still has to do with an efficiently functioning society and nature. Since the world is so terribly threaten by a high infant mortality rate, it is expedient for the species that people expend their sexual energies in ways that would be fruitful in children. Homosexual activity is not expedient. It is counter productive to the needs of the species, and its practice, in the face of this fact, constitutes a depraved indifference to the plight of society. A man may choose to avoid sex for the sake of the gospel, Paul would admit, but if sex is engaged in it must tend toward children. For that is a need of society.
What is Expedient Today?
Now I want to turn from this speculation of Pauls thinking on expedience in his time and use Pauls great principle to treat these same topics today.
1. Submission of slaves. While slave societies are no longer expedient, nevertheless it is expedient for all workers to be diligent and cheerful in their work. It is also expedient for the masters to be good to the workers, for it furthers the law of love, even if it is not as profitable.
2. Submission of wives. It is no longer expedient for wives to be submissive but now to be coequal with or, in some cases, even superior to the husband. Now it is expedient for the most capable to lead the family, regardless of gender.
3. Submission of citizens. It remains expedient for citizens to be obedient, but revolt is not unlawful, and it might happen that it will sometime be expedient to resist ones own government (as Bonhoeffer did Hitler), depending on how best to promote the personality and dignity of all people in any time and situation.
4. Homosexuality. Given the overcrowding that is taking place in the world, it is now expedient to have such a person as a homosexual who can find a natural and uninhibited sexual expression (the hope of every intimate union) and at the same time not add to the woes of an overcrowded world of rapidly vanishing resources. It is exceptionally expedient, for in this way it negates the need for war, famine, pestilence, abortion, infanticide, contraceptive (which is highly unnatural) and even human will power (the most unreliable of all).
Paul is perfectly coherent and consistent with himself. And when he proclaims that all things are lawful for the gentile and the only question is expediency (especially with regard to the law of love), he means exactly that. It is self evident now to those who respect the scriptures as coherent. There are hundreds and hundreds of rules and laws and regulations in the scripture. But then there is this clear and relentless logic that concludes: I am a gentile and I am exempted from compliance with all that. My guide is my conscience in Christ.
I am reminded of what Luther declared before the emperor at Worms: "Unless I am convinced by proofs from Scriptures or by plain and clear reasons and arguments, I cannot and I will not recant, for it is neither safe nor wise to do anything against conscience. Here I stand. I can do no other. God help me. Amen."
Chastity. With regard to chastity, by the way, the disciples will surely have considered chastity to be expedient as a severe discipline, sort of a circumcision for the species, as it were, which renders the body more under control regarding all passions and more available to the Holy Spirit. And a dedication to chastity (apart from a legal union) would also be expedient for proving that a given human being has strength of will and thus can be relied upon if making a vow of marriage.
If chastity cannot be maintained by the unmarried, then marriage or some equivalent legal union becomes necessary, for the weak in flesh are not to burn with passion--its not functional and thus not expedient.
Citizenship. The liberation makes the gentile Christian an outstanding citizen of any community for he freely submits in conscience to any law which promotes good order in justice and fairness and compassion. There also can be no question regarding the gentile Christians moral code and capacity. They make outstanding juries and judges, for as Paul himself said: they shall judge the angels.
Condition. Lets consider this case as we apply more of Pauls teachings. A young homosexual is called by Christ and he answers that call. He answers in his condition, and while he may change his condition if he should happen to want to, it is better to remain in the condition as called. His condition is that of a confirmed homosexual who for whatever reason knows that he is prisoner to the whims of his sexual make up, and will never be free of those desires. This is his condition; this is his understanding. This is his perceived nature per his own experience with himself.
Now there are two extreme and relevant categories that we can deal with. Either we are talking about something like the handedness of people, which is morally innocuous, or else we are talking about a selfish spirit, e.g., the thief that Paul admonished. It is not really a question yet of whether a choice is involved, as it may be with both the left hander and the homosexual, as rather to show where the homosexual belongs, with the left handers or with the thieves, even given that it is choice. Both groups can change and acquiesce under duress, but it is clear that only the change of the thief is required by the three loves. The homosexual and the left hander cannot be dismissed by virtue of the three loves.
Assuming now conviction on the part of the reader of the authenticity of the self-understood condition of the homosexual, I go on to note that the youth are admonished by Paul to get married in order to avoid the dysfunction of burning with passion. But if a homosexual were put into a heterosexual union, then his burning would not cease, which is of course absurd. Therefore and quite clearly a homosexual union must be provided by society and blessed by the church as a union in Christ. It is expedient to do so. And thats what Paul was all about.
In the extreme case, perhaps fostered by some horrible, nuclear conflagration, if there were a chance that the species would die out and children be in short supply, then all young people, including homosexuals, would be drafted into family producing marriages as a civic duty. But there would be one proviso for the sake of equality with respect to burning with passion: given the difficulty of the homosexual in the heterosexual environment (like the left hander in the right glove), during those periods when his wife cannot be impregnated, e.g., during pregnancy, the homosexual may find a playmate in another married homosexual in the same situation, if desired. All things are lawful, and the only question ever is expediency, what promotes the peace and joy that comes from serving Christ. And what makes the Christian fully functional in all his or her tasks.
[It would seem expedient presently to reserve the term marriage for heterosexual unions, and use civil unions for homosexual unions which then further could be called something like monasteries in the Gentile Congregation. Marriages would only have preference in adoption lines, due to the social desirability that children be exposed to both sexes, if possible without causing trauma to children.]
I claim now my right as a gentile Christian, for though circumcised, it was not with my permission. I make this declaration in accordance with my rights as conveyed by the Edict of Jerusalem in accordance with the interpretation by the father of the gentile Christians, all of which is given in the New Testament. I declare that although I am perfectly happy in every respect with my marriage of 18 years, that if anything were to happen (like the death of my wife) such that I were able to marry someone else, I would not hesitate to do so if it promised me even a fraction of the marvelous happiness that I have with my Christian, Japanese wife. Furthermore I would do this, i.e., marry such a person, even if that person of mutual attraction were a man. I make this declaration in faith and declare myself in that way a homosexual in my heart, indicating my acceptance of two active homosexuals in the same way as my acceptance of practicing left handers. As a homosexual in my heart I am known as a homosexual by Christ, my savior and friend. And I witness to Christs love that wells up within me more and more.
All this may be interpreted as follows: I am willing to be homosexual, and thus to be counted among the homosexuals and to do so in Christ. Indeed Paul became Christ for all people.
The reason that I want to encourage homosexuality, is because it is extremely conducive to a better world through less people engaged in disadvantageous sex where children could ensue. By means of the development of a homosexual orientation a man can have the most uninhibited sex imaginable without the least danger of a child ensuing. Or to use a Pauline expression: homosexuality today is extremely rational and thus extremely expedient, for we really could get along with less children anyway. Perhaps if now we had less children, we could love the ones we have the way they should be loved, where they are happy and grow in love.