In this session, Canadian Mennonite University professor Justin Neufeld offered an engagement of some philosophical understandings through three narratives of sexuality with a focus on reproduction.
There was a lot of high-level content in this workshop which, though valuable, was a lot to grasp in a short presentation. The statement Justin made up front was particularly important: constant dialogue on the topic of sexuality is needed in the church. I agree. This topic is too large and too important for us to only address occasionally.
The first narrative Justin looked at is the evolutionary adaptational approach. There are parts of male and female anatomy that don’t make sense from an evolutionary perspective, he said. This is interesting because it demonstrates how both male and female start out quite similar from conception and then as gender is formed, these various parts develop differently and provide gender uniqueness.
The second narrative that Justin discussed was that of Socrates in Plato’s Symposium. There was a lot to this section but what stood out to me, in a nutshell, was his mention of the human desire for immortality and how, in Socrates’ view, all of humanity is pregnant with thought which is birthed in speech and the erotic value of being invited to be part of conversation. Also noteworthy: in Symposium beauty is achieved by progressively “climbing up a ladder.” Plato contrasts this with the Christian view that in Christ beauty is brought to us.
There is a great attractiveness to the fact that we don’t have to strive after beauty because Christ has brought it to us through his redeeming work.
The last narrative came from Augustine’s City of God and was put up against Plato’s view which would have been the predominant view of the time. The gendered relationship of Christ and the church is foreshadowed in the gendered story of creation. There is certainly a richness to be understood in the way Christ relates to the church and how men and women have been created to relate. Not a lot of time was spent on this narrative, which is unfortunate, as I had hoped to hear more about this part.
Justin provided a set of four questions for us to consider, the first three were related to the three narratives. The last, long question, asked if “…grace is obligated to remove [homosexual desire] in order to draw the person to God and other” – with the premise that it does not. When Justin was questioned if desire included practice or action he struggled to answer but indicated that he leaned toward having grace for those who practice homosexuality. As a person who has a story that includes same-sex attraction it concerns and troubles me that we might be facing the possibility of compromising the biblical view of sexuality in our churches. While I agree the church needs to engage and love those in the gay community and bring Christ’s love I believe we still need to hold to the traditional biblical view of sexuality.
—Jon Mair, a graduate of MBBS, is Operations & Support Manager at South Abbotsford (B.C.) MB Church. He shared his testimony in the MB Herald here.