Jen Hatmaker: Hermeneutics, Hurt, and Human Affection (Part I)

Popular author and speaker Jen Hatmaker’s declaration that she now condones same-sex marriage is another cog in an expanding wheel of leaders who are changing their views on sexuality. It’s becoming routine: renowned Christian has an epiphany, says the church is getting it all wrong, and therefore comes out of the closet as gay or, as a heterosexual, comes out in support of the LGBT movement and goals.

You’ll lose count if you try keeping track of all the musicians, pastors, and authors who are sure to chime in soon and very soon with similar announcements. Call it an awakening or call it a deterioration (I know my choice) but you should also call it growing,

That it is, marking one of the biggest moral and doctrinal changes in modern Christianity. So another public figure saying “gay’s OK” may not seem important enough to comment on other than to shrug, yawn, and say, “It’s the trends; it’s the times; what’s new?”

Someone You Love is Next

Problem is, we all know a Jen Hatmaker. All of us will be confronted by a sincere believer who starts questioning – quite rightly – how well we’ve responded to homosexual people. That friend or loved one will consider her or his gay neighbor, co-worker, or family member, and start asking some hard questions:

-Would this gay man feel welcome if I invited him to church?

-Does this lesbian friend believe Christians hate her, and does she have reason to think that?

-What if he asks me what God thinks of gays?

-What if she invites me to her same sex wedding?

While asking these questions, our Christian friend may also wonder if the niceness, sincerity, or general likeableness of the gay person he knows warrants a change in his own position on homosexuality. After all, doesn’t God love gays? Don’t they, in turn, love each other? Isn’t love good? Haven’t Christians been wrong in the past about issues like slavery? Couldn’t we therefore be wrong about this one?

That’s where you come in. You probably have no direct influence with Jen Hatmaker, but you do impact the believing friends and loved ones in your life who’ll start down the same path she’s now walking. For that reason alone, you should look carefully at what she’s saying, because someone’s going to soon be saying the same thing to you.

So in this two-part post, let’s look first at Hatmaker’s approach to scripture (hermeneutics) and then tomorrow, in Part II, we’ll look at the hurt she refers to, and the human affection she celebrates which we all, at some point,
are affected by.

Hermeneutics 

Jen’s husband Brandon recently explained the Hatmaker’s change from a traditional view to what’s often called an “affirming” (pro-gay) view. In a Facebook post from November 1, describing his new take on the Bible and homosexuality, he said:

“Every verse in the Bible that is used to condemn a ‘homosexual’ act is written in the context of rape, prostitution, idolatry, pederasty, military dominance, an affair, or adultery. It was always a destructive act. It was always a sin committed against a person. But not one of these scriptures was written in the context of marriage or civil union (which simply did not exist at this time).”

Brandon doesn’t seem to have made this conclusion lightly, since he recounts the number of books on the topic that he read, along with people on both sides of the issue who he and Jen consulted with. So it looks like his new position was reached with deliberation, and is now held with sincerity.

But is it right?

Hermeneutics is “the branch of knowledge that deals with interpretation, especially of the Bible or literary texts.”  A primary concern of hermeneutics is exegesis versus eisegesis. Exegesis means “to lead out of. That means that the interpreter is led to his conclusions by following the text.” Eisegesis is “the opposite approach to Scripture” meaning “to lead into, which means the interpreter injects his own ideas into the text, making it mean whatever he wants.”

“The simplest explanation is always the most likely.” – Agatha Christie

We can read the Bible for what it says, taking it at face value and deriving our meaning from the text itself, or we can impose a meaning onto it.

With that in mind, please take some time to read Chapter 18 of Leviticus, Chapter 20 of Leviticus, Chapter One of Romans, Chapter Six of I Corinthians, and Chapter 1 of I Timothy.

Each of these chapters contains a verse condemning homosexuality. As you read, look for the rape, pederasty (sex with minors), or military dominance Hatmaker referred to, and you’ll be looking in vain. No mention of these is made in any of these chapters.

They do mention adultery, idolatry, and prostitution (as Hatmaker says) but only as specifically wrong acts, not as the context in which the homosexual acts were practiced. Hatmaker’s biggest error is in presuming the same-sex behavior in these chapters in committed as a part of rape or idolatry, when in fact, it is mentioned alongside rape and idolatry, not as a part of them.

And truthfully, could you really read these chapters without bias and come to Hatmaker’s conclusion? Or would you need someone to tell you, “You see, these verses don’t really mean what they say, they mean something else in
a different context?”

If you take a high view of scripture, presuming it’s God inspired, (II Timothy 3:16) then you must also take the view that He intended it to be understood and interpreted to mean what it says.

Notwithstanding some difficult passages like those found in the Revelation, most of the Bible’s commendations and condemnations aren’t coy. They’re obvious, intended to be taken as they are. That’s probably why Harmon Okinyo noted:

“The Bible is so simple you have to have someone else help you misunderstand it.”

A Thundering Silence

Jen said, in her recent interview with Religion News:

“From a spiritual perspective, since gay marriage is legal in all 50 states, our communities have plenty of gay couples who, just like the rest of us, need marriage support and parenting help and Christian community. They are either going to find those resources in the church or they are not.”

Fair enough. If gay marriage is legal and increasingly common, and if God is concerned that same-sex married couples get the care and guidance they need from the church, then we can assume that He has provided such guidance in His inspired word.

After all, He always has known about homosexuality, homosexual people have always existed, and even if same-sex marriage was not culturally sanctioned in times past, if He condones it, He would hardly have been bound
by cultural limitations.

In short, if He approves of same-sex unions, He would surely have not neglected same-sex couples in His Word. He’d have seen to it that they, like heterosexual couples, would have specific guidelines instructing them. He’d also most likely have seen to it that some openly homosexual couples were described in scripture, plainly gay and deeply committed to each other.

And surely Jesus would have had something affirmative to say about such couples, especially since He knew homosexuality was largely frowned upon by His Jewish hearers. Surely He would have corrected their misconceptions by assuring them that, “You have heard it said ‘Thou shalt not lie with a man as with a woman.’ But I say unto you, two men or two women can indeed be married and blessed by God.’”

Yet the Bible’s affirmative silence on the topic is deafening. We’re left wondering why, if God takes the view the Hatmakers say He does, was He so negligent of lesbians and gays as to include only condemnations of homosexuality in His Word, and no positive examples or instructions for them?

The reason is self-evident: He never intended the Church to encourage sin of any sort, hetero or homo in nature, so He never intended us to sanction
same-sex relationships.

All Wrong, All the Time?

Nobody’s always wrong and, as the saying goes, even a broken clock gets it right twice a day. So while strongly disagreeing with the Hatmakers, we can and should appreciate their desire to see Christians more lovingly relate
to homosexual people.

They’re right when they say the issue is fraught with pain; even more so when they say we could all do a better job relating to people we disagree with, without compromising grace or truth. On these points the Hatmakers got it right.

Their pro-gay conclusions are another matter, and here we have to agree, with tears, that LifeWay books and resources made the right decision in pulling Jen’s materials from their resource list. Because this is hardly a minor doctrinal difference we’re talking about. The fundamental definition and purpose of the first human institution God ordained is at stake in this discussion, and that’s anything but a trifle we can “agree to disagree on.”

Tomorrow, let’s look at the Hatmakers claims about the hurt lesbian and gay people have endured, and how we can better – and Biblically – respond.

If this subject is of interest to you, then you might consider ordering a copy of my latest book Speaking of Homosexuality: Discussing the Issues with Kindness and Clarity.
You can get your copy through amazon.com here.

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