Elsewhere, David McKie offers comments on civil partnerships. He observes something of a south & east, north & west divide in application numbers. He posits this simply as grounds for enquiry. Tony Blair meanwhile evidently things that the south & east are more progressive.
Next, McKie turns his eye to the Christian protests in Belfast. People exercising a write to freedom of speech and religion. He finds fault in their argument as they quote parts of Exouds and Leviticus whilst overlooking other parts. I have sympathy with him. What we have in Exodus and Leviticus are laws given to another people in another time, which never seem to be universally applied. They have much to reveal to us of God's unchanging character, and human need of rescue by a saviour...
The second appeal is based on 1 Corinthians 6v9, a text from a letter to a very troubled church community. This community is rife with sin and believers taking one another to court for their troubles. They are reminded that they were all once sinners, but that now God is their judge. This church includes those who were formerly, immoral, idolatrous, thieves, drunks and homosexuals. This is no prim and proper church - everyone has dirt in their past, and no one is pretending otherwise. Their sin was a former way of life. They are a community of forgiven sinners. Likewise, one hopes the Belfast protestors.
Such a text seems somewhat inappropriate with which to chide non-Christians entering into civil partnership, its concern is discipline within the Christian community. All non-Christians are sinners - showing up particular sins is hardly revelatory! All non-Christians will sin (as will Christians). Its "natural". (One has to wonder though if homosexuality is natural, and most people espouse evolution - as another guardian article yesterday did - how does one justify homosexuality as progressive when under the principles of survival of the fittest a gay couple will not reproduce... a "gay gene" is surely recessive....[Credit to Rick Warren for that line of thought, HT Louie Marsh])
According to Romans 1v26, everyone has been turned over to their sin by God in a first act of judgement, to be followed by a final judgement. Everyone a sinner, homosexuals and gossips together. Everyone is tarnished and corrupted by sin. God's wrath is being personally revealed, how we need a savior! And what a salvation is also revealed in Jesus Christ! Not a self-righteousness, but a righteousness that can be given to the worst of sinners for free. A right standing with God not for the good, but for anyone. This motivates Paul to speak of the grace of God in Jesus Christ, to speak of the opportunity to be reconciled to God.
Polly Toynbee recently declared the idea of a saviour dying in the place of sinners to be the most repugnant thing about Christianity. The Bible disagrees, it is the glory of the gospel. It is the pinacle of the story. Too much for Toynbee to swallow, perhaps also for McKie and Armstrong. O, that they could see. McKie allows some careless christians to exuse himself, Armstrong explains Jesus away as a myth.
Jesus himself speaks about the value of studying scripture. He says that the effort is fruitless and valueless if it does not bring one to believe in him. True understanding of scripture produces a well-founded belief in Jesus. Without that no-one has suceeded in understanding it. So, in a last word to the Christmas Exegetes at The Guardian, read again and again. Come and humbly hear Jesus once more. Come and examine the evidence on its own terms with great care. Come and see what is offered. Recieve this free gift this Christmas. And then, perhaps, turn again to teach these scriptures.