But Jesus never taught against it

Over the past two weeks, an overwhelming amount of words have been blogged, tweeted, and spoken on the issue of same-sex relationships. There are many (both inside and outside of the Church) who have appealed to Scripture to challenge the Church's traditional teaching on this topic. One of the most common of these arguments is that Christians have interpreted the Bible inconsistently by "picking and choosing which Old Testament commands to obey." Tim Keller has already addressed this argument far better than I ever could. A second of the most common arguments is stated like this: "But Jesus never taught against same-sex intercourse." This statement packs a powerful rhetorical effect because it appears to honor Jesus and his teachings as most trustworthy, a sentiment that Christians wholeheartedly embrace.

In reality, however, it does the exact opposite.

Arguing that something the Bible teaches elsewhere is not binding on us today because “Jesus never taught on it” does not honor Jesus or his teachings. On the contrary, it rebels against Jesus and his teachings. While that should be sufficient reason for people to abandon the argument, there is another reason to do so. In addition to rejecting Jesus’ words the “but Jesus never taught against it” argument is also illogical.

In this post my concern is not to speak specifically to a biblical position on same-sex intercourse, but to simply evaluate one common argument in the debate. Below are four reasons that “but Jesus never taught on it” fails to honor both Jesus and basic logic.

#1 Jesus is Silent on Many Things

It is illogical to claim that the absence of evidence for something is evidence of its opposite. This is called “the argument from silence” and it is a logical fallacy. For example, I did not tweet about what I ate for lunch today. But that doesn’t mean you can conclude that I did not eat lunch. In the same way, the fact that Jesus does not explicitly speak against same-sex intercourse does not mean that Jesus is for same-sex intercourse anymore than Jesus’ silence on rape and pedophilia imply that Jesus is pro-rape and pro-pedophilia.

To say “but Jesus never taught against it” is to commit a logical fallacy.

@@To say “but Jesus never taught against it” is to commit a logical fallacy.@@

#2 Jesus Gives Same Authority to the Words of Other Authors in the Old Testament as He Does to His Own

During his public ministry Jesus frequently quotes, alludes to, and interprets Old Testament texts. As he does so he both acknowledges their human authorship (as in Matthew 13:14) and their divine authority (as in Matthew 15:3). In short, though Jesus did not repeat every Old Testament teaching, he nonetheless accepted all Old Testament teaching as authoritative teaching from God. In fact, he so trusts in the authority of the Old Testament that when he is tempted by Satan in the wilderness his sole (and successful) defense is to remind Satan what other men wrote as inspired by God (Luke 4:1-13).

To say “but Jesus never taught against it” is to dishonor Jesus who accepts the authority and truthfulness of things written by others appointed by God.

@@To say "but Jesus never taught against it" is to dishonor Jesus@@ 

#3 Jesus Appointed Paul and Other Apostles to Speak with His Authority

Those who say “but Jesus never taught against it” like to pit Jesus’ words against the words of his Apostles, especially Paul, who addressed same-sex intercourse multiple times. But Jesus does not want his words pitted against the words of his Apostles. He sees the words of his Apostles as his own. It was Jesus who said of Paul, “This man is my chosen instrument to proclaim my name to the Gentiles and their kings and to the people of Israel” (Acts 9:15). It was Jesus who promised that each of his Apostles would speak his words, in his authority, as led by the Holy Spirit (John 16:12-15). The Apostles are not in contradiction to Jesus’ ministry, they are the continuation of his ministry and were appointed by him for this very purpose.

@@The Apostles are not in contradiction to Jesus' ministry, they are the continuation of his ministry@@ 

To say “but Jesus never taught against it” is to dishonor Jesus who teaches that Paul and the other Apostles speak with his authority as led by his Spirit.

#4 If You Can’t Trust the Authority of Those Appointed by Jesus You Can’t Trust their Quotes of Jesus

It is illogical to claim that Jesus’ teaching in Scripture is more trustworthy than the teaching of his Apostles. Not only for the reason above, but also because when people quote Jesus they are actually quoting the Apostles’ quotes of Jesus. Whatever we know about what Jesus taught, we know because his Apostles taught us what he taught. Thus, if the Apostles cannot be trusted to accurately represent Jesus in their own teaching, why would we trust them when they quote Jesus’ teaching directly?

To say “but Jesus never taught it” is to illogically place confidence in the Apostles when they quote Jesus and no confidence in the Apostles when they speak as his appointed representatives.

In conclusion, we are free to accept or reject the testimony of the Scripture on same-sex intercourse or any other topic. But we are not free to set Jesus' words over against the words of other biblical authors. He simply does not give us that option.

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Cole Brown is a Humble Beast author and speaker. He is the founding pastor of Emmaus Church, a multi-ethnic church in Portland, and now serves as a missionary helping plant churches in Mexico City, Mexico. Connect with him on twitter or facebook