MacCulloch on the Reformation and Homosexuality

At the very end of Diarmaid MacCulloch’s magisterial (what other word is there for such a book?) The Reformation: A History, he offers some brief assessments of where the various Christian churches are today. This is one comment he makes about the movement that arose out of the subject of his book:

Protestantism is faced with [a] momentous challenge to its assumptions of authority: the increasing acceptance in western societies of homosexual practice and identity as one valid and unremarkable choice among the many open to human beings. This is an issue of biblical authority. Despite much well-intentioned theological fancy footwork to the contrary, it is difficult to see the Bible as expressing anything else but disapproval of homosexual activity, let alone having any conception of a homosexual identity. The only alternatives are either to try to cleave to patterns of life and assumptions set out in the Bible, or to say that in this, as in much else, the Bible is simply wrong. (681)

MacCulloch is himself homosexual and has lived out his convictions. Born to an Anglican priest and a long-time active participant in the Church of England, this is what he wrote:

I was ordained Deacon. But, being a gay man, it was just impossible to proceed further, within the conditions of the Anglican set-up, because I was determined that I would make no bones about who I was; I was brought up to be truthful, and truth has always mattered to me. The Church couldn’t cope and so we parted company. It was a miserable experience.

MacCulloch is—and clearly writes as—a “candid friend” of Christianity:

I have a strong appreciation of the importance of it all…. [But] I’ve struggled with statements of belief. I think it’s hugely important. It’s still very important to me. I play the organ and sing in a church choir and I can’t imagine life without Christianity. But I cannot sign up to doctrinal statements.

MacCulloch’s history of the Reformation was evenhanded and very knowledgeable. I recommend it.

 

Author: Mark Ward

PhD in NT; theological writer for Faithlife; former high school Bible textbook author for BJU Press; husband; father; ultimate frisbee player; member of the body of Christ.

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