In Part 1 we looked at a hermeneutic principle that is being used to argue both female ordination and homosexuality. In the Part 2 we investigated the kindred worldview between feminism (WO) and homosexuality, and their fundamental conflict with the biblical worldview. We looked at the work of John T. Pless and the writings of lesbian feminist theologian Virginia Mollenkott. In this part we will further review Mollenkott's hermeneutic, and conclude with implications for the Seventh-day Adventist Church.
Mollenkott criticizes the church: "There are so many ways that congregational ‘families’ could be more compassionate than we currently are! Do we show compassion for the struggles of those who have been so repelled by heteropatriarchal policies and language that they have been forced to organize their own witches’ covens or other alternative spirituality groups? . . . And for the sake of those previously mentioned people who either cannot or will not get legally married, couldn’t the churches offer ceremonies that would provide community support for such relationships"? (Mollenkott, p. 154).
Because Seventh-day Adventists seek to follow a Scripture-based kind of Christianity, are they guilty of forcing others to organize witch’s covens? And the church should validate immoral and illicit relationships by offering ceremonies and support of them? Many denominations have begun to conduct just such ceremonies and to legitimize same-sex relationships with “blessing” ceremonies. Groups including Quakers, American Episcopalians, the Metropolitan Community Church, the United Church of Christ, the United Church of Canada, major Lutheran bodies, and others have accepted the redefinition of marriage considering it to include “committed monogamous relationships” between persons of the same sex. Shall Adventists join in?
How are 1900 years of Christian biblical understanding and practice turned upside-down?
"Responsible morality requires that we learn to think in terms of degrees and situations rather than remaining at the comfortable level of sweeping moral absolutes" (Mollenkott, p. 156, context homosexual “unions” and abortion).
In other words, when a biblical standard for morality is abandoned, a replacement must be found. That standard is found in the exercise of human decision-making. Supposedly, an application of rationality or of feeling can be applied and the result can be a responsible morality. Good luck with that.
Both of the Feminist theologians from whom we quoted at length (Rosemary Radford Ruether, p. 233; Elizabeth Shussler-Fiorenza, p. 349) wrote in favor of lesbianism in those volumes.
Does Mollenkott believe that in the power of God the Christian can have any kind of ultimate victory over sexual desire?
"Hundreds of thousands of trans-les-bi-gay Christians have tried to sacrifice their sexuality to their spirituality, myself among them; but if we live long enough, the will to live more fully will assert itself, and sexual passion will triumph over abstract doctrines and promises" (Mollenkott, p. 108).
She does not. Her basis for this belief is her own experience. The reader will recall, having read the previous article, that in Feminist Theology, the final authority has been moved away from being God and Scripture, to being woman and her experience. Eventually it must be asked what—and who—is the problem? Mollenkott answers: "The behavior of the heterosexual and gender-normative majority is the problem, particularly their refusal to educate themselves concerning human sexual orientations and gender identities" (Ibid., p. 219).
There we have it. Heterosexual Christians, are the problem! Mollenkott holds that everyone has a right to benevolent self-definition and self-expression (p. 86), that sex and gender are only social constructs, arbitrary, varying from society to society (p. 87). She favors friendly, casual sexual encounters (p. 110, 111). She demands her “religious human rights”: "What we need is not theological approval so much as equal access to ordination, marriage, ritual, and so forth—in other words, our religious human rights" (p. 212, emphasis in original).
This is a very different belief system than conventional Christianity in virtually every department, but she is insistent that those who believe as she does should be placed in positions of leadership, have their immoral relationships celebrated by the church, and be free to have casual sexual relationships with persons to whom they are not married.
Mollenkott’s Stated Hermeneutic
We are now brought to the question of Mollenkott’s hermeneutic. In her own words:
"Why I switched from the traditional hermeneutics I believed for the first thirty-five years of my life to the pluralistic hermeneutics I have outlined here . . . I was desperate for authenticity, for the healing of my own self-esteem, and for the use of my gifts. . . . the second reason. . . in response to the normative love ethic that you should love your neighbor as yourself. . . . Third and finally, I chose the pluralistic hermeneutic because I discovered that it is more honest, contextual, and scholarly than the traditionalist method" (Ibid., pp. 65, 66).
Mollenkott’s explanation: first, she was experiencing a personal desperation to be valued; second, her claim to embrace a vague love ethic; and thirdly, in her judgment, the idea that there are a zoo full of conflicting stories in the Bible seemed more correct to her than the idea that the Bible was fundamentally a unit. In Feminist thought there is movement away from specificity to generality, away from God over all so that the unity of Scripture is dissolved into a cacophony of disagreeing voices. There is also the siren call, the glittering potential, to take control of the Scriptures and become their master. But for now, more specifically, how did Mollenkott’s reassessment take place?
"Although I had read Genesis dozens of times and held a Ph.D. in English literature, my fundamentalist belief in inerrancy had kept me from noticing the apparent contradictions between Genesis 1 and 2 until I was about thirty-five years old, when my armor was pierced by a feminist book. After that, I began to apply to the Bible the precise literary techniques that I had learned during my doctoral studies. At first my realization that there were indeed two creation plots made me exceedingly upset, but perseverance yielded rich insight and rewards. So I am glad now that my protective filter was stripped away, although I certainly was not glad when my fundamentalist confidence first was shaken" (Ibid., p. 202).
It never crossed Mollenkott’s mind that Genesis chapters one and two could conflict with each other—at least not until she read someone’s feminist book. Afterwards, she “began to apply to the Bible the precise literary techniques that she had learned during her doctoral studies.” Although at first upset, she persisted in believing the new idea and applying her literary principles until her “protective filter was stripped away.”
Mollenkott is wrong here; there is no contradiction between Genesis one and two. She is also wrong in her approach to the Bible. She began to use the same methods, the precise literary techniques she had before employed with uninspired materials. This was her undoing. Seventh-day Adventists urge a different approach:
"We should exert all the powers of the mind in the study of the Scriptures and should task the understanding to comprehend, as far as mortals can, the deep things of God; yet we must not forget that the docility and submission of a child is the true spirit of the learner. Scriptural difficulties can never be mastered by the same methods that are employed in grappling with philosophical problems" (Ellen G. White, The Great Controversy, p. 599).
When the creature approaches the Creator, there is a submission involved. Adventists believe that the Scriptures cannot fail, but do not claim inerrancy. Mollenkott was raised in the Plymouth Brethren, an inerrancy-teaching church. She flipped completely. Eta Linnemann, in contrast, recovered her submission to the Word and left behind her former allegiance to the historical-critical method. Here, Linnemann describes what Mollenkott described, but from a different angle:
"Every sentence is suspected of containing Luke’s theology rather than a reliable report of what actually happened, and that theology is presented as practically obverse of good theology. Using grotesque literary methods which would lead immediately to absurd results if they were ever applied to the work of a poet or a theologian—say a Goethe, or Barth—claims of inauthenticity are established for the pastoral letters (1 and 2 Timothy and Titus), Ephesians, and Colossians. . . Differences between individual books of Holy Scripture are blown out of proportion and played up as inconsistencies. . . . one finds in the Bible only a handful of unrelated literary creations. . . they are not considered to be revelation. They are regarded merely as literary and theological creations. . . . Since the content of biblical writings is seen as merely the creations of theological writers, any given verse is nothing more than a non-binding, human theological utterance (Eta Linnemann, Historical Criticism of the Bible: Methodology or Ideology?, pp. 85, 86).
Because one has decided that the thought content of the Bible should actually be recognized independently [its materials as atomized, disparate, contradictory stories], the unity of the Bible is dissolved and God’s Word can no longer serve as its own interpreter (Ibid., p. 121).
No wonder Linnemann famously added, “One can no more be a little historical-critical than a little pregnant” (Ibid, p. 123).
Here are the following principles from Edgar Krentz. He outlines the basic principles of historical criticism:
(1) the principle of criticism or methodological doubt, which implies that history only achieves probability. . .
(2) The principle of analogy makes criticism possible. Present experience and occurrence become the criteria of probability in the past. This ‘almighty power’ of analogy implies that all events are in principle similar. . .
(3) The principle of correlation (or mutual interdependence) implies that all historical phenomena are so interrelated. . . The third principle rules out miracles and salvation history. . . .
But it is inescapable. Admitted at one point, it [historical-criticism] is a leaven that ‘changes everything and finally destroys the dogmatic form of method that has been used for so long in theology’ (Edgar Krentz, The Historical-Critical Method, p. 55).
"As the ancient dogmatic formula put it, the scriptures are panta anthropina, completely human. This basic recognition about the nature of the Bible entails the axiom that one interprets the Bible by the same methods and procedures used on any other book. No serious Bible student denies this evaluation" (Ibid., p. 62).
If the Scriptures are “completely human,” we can understand Krentz’ observation that the same methods and procedures are to be used as with any other book. Thankfully, the Scriptures are not completely human, but God-breathed—breathed into being for those upon whom the ends of the world have come.
A Word Concerning “Ordination Without Regard to Gender”
It is of special interest that the language used in the current phase of the Women’s Ordination debate within the Seventh-day Adventist Church has largely shifted. The current terminology preferred by the pro-Women’s Ordination lobby, is for the church to engage in “ordination without regard to gender.” On the surface, this may appear to most church members as merely another way of saying that the church would ordain males and females to pastoral ministry. Most members are likely thinking in straightforward terms of biological sex.
However, recent decades have seen quite important shifts in the English language, so that the word “gender” has changed meaning. Today the word “gender” can mean “male” or “female.” However, “gender” today can also mean homosexual, bi-sexual, transgender, or just about any other devient sexual variation. “Gender” has reference not merely to biological sex but to alleged sexual orientation. Since “gender” can carry either the biological or the “orientation” meaning, the term itself is ambiguous. Considering the close connection between Feminist and Queer theologies—and their goals—such a wiggle-term is extraordinarily dangerous!
Any unit of the church which has voted to approve “ordination without regard to gender,” has already voted to ordain homosexuals. The terminology is an end-run, the killing of two birds with one stone, a subterfuge—or a remarkably convenient coincidence.
This article has considered the close linkage between Women’s Ordination and the homosexual agenda. The same methods are employed in Queer Theology as in Socialist Liberation, and Feminist Theology. We can commend the Queer theologians on one point—they seek to be consistent. Unfortunately, consistent use of a wrong method is no virtue, and must lead to consistently wrong conclusions. The verdict is in from the horse’s own mouth as well: there are theological entailments which attend Feminist Theology and which lead to the same results for a different allegedly oppressed group: homosexuals.
That is, as these matters have historically developed, it is undeniable that the same baseline assumptions about approaching the inspiration of Scripture and the interpretational methodologies used there, is shown to be essentially the same in both cases. Another source of interest for the world of the Anglican and Episcopal Churches, is the division of that religious communion, especially precipitated by the appointment of Gene Robinson as a practicing homosexual Bishop as recently.
The Evangelical Lutheran Church of America recently chose The Rev. Dr. R. Guy Erwin as bishop, and he became the first openly gay man to be so chosen by that communion. It goes without saying that preceding the foray into pro-homosexuality involvement, all of these churches advanced through a process in which they accepted key tenets of Theological Feminism.
This is no mystery. Only the intentionally blind miss the connection!
James Beldin attended Enterprise Academy and studied History/English/Education at Union College. He taught elementary school at Carolina Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, and is currently retired and living in Cohutta, Georgia.