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Theologian Grudem responds to Dan Savage rant

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP) — Theologian and author Wayne Grudem has issued a public response to Dan Savage’s attack on Christianity in light of the gay activist’s charge that Christians often ignore the Bible’s teachings.

Savage — an advocate for gay “marriage” — criticized the way Christians interpret the Bible during an April speech at a journalism conference sponsored by the National Scholastic Press Association and the Journalism Education Association. Savage’s expletive-laced criticism, which has been viewed 600,000 times on YouTube, led to Christians in the audience walking out.

“We can learn to ignore the [expletive] in the Bible about gay people — the same way we have learned to ignore the [expletive] in the Bible about shellfish, about slavery, about dinner, about farming, about menstruation, about virginity,” Savage told the students. “… We ignore [expletive] in the Bible about all sorts of things.”

Grudem’s response was posted May 7 on the website of the Family Policy Institute of Washington, which is in the process of gathering signatures to try and overturn a gay “marriage” law in that state. Grudem, whose “Systematic Theology” textbook is used in many colleges and seminaries, said Savage wrongly mixes what was required of the Hebrews under the Old Covenant and what is required of Christians under the New Covenant.

“The OT laws for the nation of Israel were given for the people of Israel at that particular time,” wrote Grudem, who is a research professor of theology and biblical studies at Phoenix Seminary. “No responsible Christian leader today says Christians or anybody else should obey all the laws of an old covenant that was discontinued when Christ died and rose again (2 Cor 3:6, 14; Heb. 8:6-7, 13, 9.15). We don’t follow the laws about animal sacrifices, dietary laws, clothing laws, etc.”

Grudem added, “Should we believe Savage’s interpretation of the Bible or the interpretation of all the recognized Christian Bible teachers in the whole world who say that the old covenant rules aren’t required for people in this age? (This includes the laws about shellfish, menstruation, and stonings for adultery, for example, as well as laws about how to plant certain crops.)”

The New Testament teaching on homosexuality, Grudem said, is clear.

“The New Testament moral standards for all people, Jews and non-Jews alike, view homosexual conduct as morally wrong. (Rom. 1:26-27; 1 Cor. 6:9; 1 Tim. 1:10),” Grudem wrote. “These are not laws given only to ancient Israel before the time of Christ.”

Savage also criticized the Bible’s teachings on slavery, charging, “The Bible is a radically pro-slavery document. Slave owners waved Bibles over their heads during the Civil War and justified it.”

Grudem, though, said the Bible “doesn’t approve of slavery.”

“The verses translated ‘slave/slavery’ are better translated ‘bondservant’ and refer to a different institution than American slavery,” Grudem wrote, pointing readers to a lengthier treatment on the matter in a book he wrote that is available free online (http://bit.ly/JcD7jZ).

“The New Testament never commanded slavery, but gave principles that regulated it and ultimately led to its abolition,” Grudem wrote in the online book. “Paul says to slaves, ‘If you can gain your freedom, avail yourself of the opportunity’ (1 Corinthians 7:21). And he tells Philemon that he should welcome his slave Onesimus back ‘no longer as a slave but more than a slave, as a beloved brother’ (Philemon 16) and that he should ‘receive him as you would receive me’ (v. 17). Paul tells Philemon that if Onesimus owes him anything, Paul would pay it himself (vv. 18-19). Finally, he says, ‘Confident of your obedience, I write to you, knowing that you will do even more than I say’ (v. 21). This is a strong and not very subtle hint that Philemon should grant freedom to Onesimus. Paul’s condemnation of ‘elslavers’ (1 Timothy 1:10) also showed the moral wrong of forcibly putting anyone into slavery.

“When we couple those verses with the realization that every human being is created in the image of God (see Genesis 1:27; 9:6; James 3:9), we see that the Bible … contains powerful principles that would lead to an abolition of slavery.”

The abolitionist movement, Grudem wrote in his response on the institute’s website, was led by Christians.

“About 2/3 of the leaders of the abolition movement in the US in the 1830s were Christian pastors preaching from the Bible that slavery was immoral and should be abolished,” Grudem wrote, pointing to a longer discussion on that issue in his book, “Politics According to the Bible.” “There were some pastors in the South that argued that slavery was supported by the Bible but they lost the argument and no recognized Christian leader advocates that today.”

In his online book, Grudem asserted, “The fact that some Christians used the Bible to defend slavery in the past does not mean the Bible supports slavery.”
Michael Foust is associate editor of Baptist Press. Grudem’s full response can be read online at http://www.fpiw.org/about/family-policy-blog/grudem-responds-to-savage.html. Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter (@BaptistPress), Facebook (Facebook.com/BaptistPress) and in your email (baptistpress.com/SubscribeBP.asp).

    About the Author

  • Michael Foust