The early church and sexual ethics

I don’t care how bad you think our modern culture is, let me assure you: It’s nothing like first-century Rome. What we call “pornography,” people of Rome simply called “life.” For instance, it wasn’t uncommon to have pictures of men having sex with boys painted on water pitchers served at the dinner table. “And in Zeus’s name we pray, Amen…please pass the water, mom.” If I went into detail about the sexual practices of ancient Rome, and the frankness in which they talked about it, the parental block on your household internet would prevent you from reading this blog. What I’ve seen in the Roman world would make Miley look like a nun swinging from a wrecking ball and Lady Gaga a priest…or a nun (minus the wrecking ball).  However you slice it, our kids are much, much safer today than they would have been going to school in the first-century. I can only imagine how weird the early Church must have been viewed. Like an Amish community living in downtown Vegas.

Preston Sprinkle, “Homosexuality in Ancient Rome & Why it Matters.”

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The Gospels and the gospel

The Gospels clearly present Jesus’s life and teaching as focusing on the coming reign of God inaugurated and opened by his sin-forgiving sacrificial death and his death-defeating resurrection. As documents that present history as consummated in him, the Gospels help us see that to present the “good news” to people means providing an understanding of God’s whole in world in the world as completed in Jesus the Christ. “The gospel” is not just a message about the forgiveness of sins but rather a whole worldview. Thus, while it is certainly not wrong to think of the gospel in terms of God-man-Christ-response, it is better to conceptualize the present it in salvation-historical categories of creation-fall-redemption-consummation. The Gospels certainly help us see this broader perspective.

Reading the Gospels Wisely, JTP, p. 255. This seems to have implications for theodicy, too. Christians can’t really point to a “God-man-Christ-response” gospel to answer questions about the goodness of God in light of suffering and injustice in the world. It’s just too small. But a more robust gospel helps us understand that God is working through Jesus Christ to remake the world: proclaiming “liberty for the prisoners, and recovering of sight to the blind; to set the oppressed free, and to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor” (Luke 4:18-19). God is dealing with sin on a cosmic level, not just sins on a personal level. It certainly includes that guilt/righteousness dynamic, but it goes further than that. It has more expansive effects. Or, perhaps it’s better to say the reverse: his cosmic plan to showcase Jesus by fixing the world includes personal effects (cf. Eph 1:11-14).