Hays on Homosexuality (III): Hermeneutics (Responding to the NT’s Witness Against Homosexuality)

Hays in this section emphasizes the lack of rules prohibiting homosexuality in the NT. Instead what we have is principles, and these principles are not enough to ground an ethics in and by themselves, and therefore they require a deeper hermeneutic rigor.

For example, from Rom 1 we can infer the principle that humans should “acknowledge and honor God as creator.” But apart from a certain (moral) “order of creation” which specifies that, say, male-plus-female sexual relations are normative, this principle is not enough to prohibit homosexual activity for members of the Christian community.

Therefore, reasons Hays, we should look for neither rules nor principles in the NT to inform our ethics. Rather, we should appreciate and (assuming that the Bible is normative for the Christian life) submit to its symbolic construal of the world. In this symbolic world which Paul and others construe in the NT, homosexuality symbolizes man’s rebellion and ignorance which have resulted from Adam’s idolatry. “If we accept the authority of the NT, we will be taught to perceive homosexuality accordingly.” (396)

When we turn to tradition (which we should do in this hermeneutical quest, Hays apparently thinks), we find this perspective confirmed. If anything tradition probably has a more hardened disapproval for homosexuality than Scripture, since Scripture would lead us to view this vice as no worse than many others which are listed alongside it (1 Cor 6; 1 Tim 1).

After commenting on tradition, Hays turns to “reason,” which I will review in a subsequent post.

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