John Shepley is worried by the liberal denial of those who brought us the faith
‘If God, as they say, is homophobic I wouldn’t worship that God,’ exclaimed Desmond Tutu, in one of those outbursts to which, as a Nobel Laureate, he feels entitled. It is a strange formulation which raises serious problems for the believing Christian.
Christians worship the God and Father of Our Lord Jesus Christ. He is one God in Three Persons who has revealed himself pre-eminently in the holy Scriptures. The perfect image of the Father is his only-begotten Son, who is the model of obedience to the Father, and who came to fulfil the Law. Though many ritual laws of the Old Testament have been done away in the New Covenant in the blood of Jesus Christ, a distinction has always been made in the Church between the ritual and the moral law.
Attempts have been made, in modern times, to include the Old Testament prohibitions of homosexual genital activity as part of that ritual law. (It has been argued, for example, that the location of such strictures in the Book of Leviticus indicates that they are to be regarded as no more binding on Christians than the probations on the eating of shellfish, and of the same moral seriousness.)
This has never previously been the view of moral theologians, and for the good reason that Paul (pre-eminently at Romans 1.18-32) links the prohibition to the imago del in man, renewed in Christ but marred or defaced by the actions and attitudes which the Apostle lists.
The Sovereign Creator
God is not ‘homophobic’; as the Sovereign Creator of all things he can fear nothing. But in Scripture he reveals, in part at least, his divine plan for his creatures. One aspect of that divine plan is his intention with regard to human sexuality, which itself is closely related to the human ability to image and imagine the divine nature.
In the light of all this, what are we to make of the statement ‘If God, as they say, is homophobic I wouldn’t worship that God’?
It cannot, I think, be that Desmond Tutu is now a polytheist. He is not saying that there are many gods, some of whom are homophobic, and that he can take his pick among them. Surely he is saying that the God and Father of Our Lord Jesus Christ is, and has always been, one who makes no distinction among people according to sexual orientation or practice.
But whence this revelation, which, as we have seen, is contrary to the trajectory of Scripture and the consistent practice of the Christian centuries? True Jesus says not a word about homosexual orientation or practice; but we have his word for it that he did not come to overthrow the Law but to fulfill it.
Worship of a God other than the Father of Our Lord Jesus Christ is for Christians a most serious offence. It is idolatry. Desmond Tutu says that he cannot worship a God who is not open and welcoming to homosexual persons. But since such a God is unknown to the whole tradition of Christian moral theology two questions remain: Were all previous Christians idolaters? And if not, where does that leave Desmond?