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The pro-LGBTQ faction is wrong to discard Leviticus 18:22 and Leviticus 20:13 from the Bible for the 21st Century.   As I can best ascertain, the pro-LGBTQ faction advances two fundamental arguments.  The first uses an unusual “three bucket” hermeneutical approach developed by Rev. Adam Hamilton who is the Pastor of the largest UMC congregation in America.  By using this “three buckets” approach, the pro-LGBTQ faction essentially excises Leviticus 18:22 and Leviticus 20:13 from the Bible.  The essence of the second fundamental argument is that the context of the Levitical Holiness Code shows it was peculiar to the times to separate the Jews from the surrounding pagan nations, and therefore, does not apply today. 

This article addresses the first argument.  Later articles will expand on what I see are four persuasive reasons that cut against the second fundamental argument.  These reasons are (1) the  account in Genesis of the creation of human beings, (2) the fact that Leviticus 18:22 and Leviticus 20:13 are within a grouping of prohibitions against incest and bestiality that are first tier sexual offenses, (3) the interpretation of the Sodom story in Jude 7 and 2 Peter 2:6-7, and (4) Paul’s use in Romans 1:24-27 of language from these verses in Leviticus.

Referring to the first fundamental argument, the “three buckets” approach categorizes Scripture into one of three “buckets.”  Bucket #1 contains Scriptures that express God’s heart, character and timeless will for human beings.  Bucket #2 contains Scriptures that expressed God’s will in a particular time, but are no longer binding.  Bucket #3 contains Scriptures that never fully expressed the heart, character or will of God.  In reference to Leviticus 20:13, Rev. Hamilton writes:

Whether you believe in two buckets or three, the question remains, Which bucket do the five passages of scripture that reference same-sex intimacy fall into?  Consider Leviticus 20:13 in which God is said to command: “If a man lies with a male as with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination; they shall be put to death; their blood is upon them.”  Anyone who has a child that is gay would rightly ask, “Did God ever really command that gay and lesbian children be put to death?”  They might also ask, “Does God really see my child, or the love they share for their partner, as an abomination?” 

Quite frankly, the three bucket approach does not deserve much attention.  Practically speaking, it seems to me that the first bucket comprises passages of the Bible with which the pro-LGBTQ faction agrees.  The second and third buckets comprise those passages with which the pro-LGBTQ faction disagrees.  Practically speaking, if a passage falls into the second or the third bucket it is cancelled from the Bible.  In other words, if the pro-LGBTQ faction does not like what a text teaches, the problem is solved by saying it is culturally restricted or never fully expressed God’s heart.  In essence, this approach displaces God as the author of Scripture and replaces Him with man.   

Other writers dismiss the “three buckets” approach as shown by the following articles. In a March 15, 2014 blog at patheos website entitled “Adam Hamilton’s Buckets Don’t Hold Water” by Dr. Bill T. Arnold, Dr. Arnold writes:

Adam asserts that the third bucket is disconcerting for some, but insists that either way, we have to put the hard-to-read bits into at least one of the first two buckets. He then asks this question. “Whether you believe in two buckets or three, the question remains, Which bucket do the five passages of scripture that reference same-sex intimacy fall into?”

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My response is simple. These buckets don’t hold water! None of us should take up this call to divide Scripture into three buckets. Please, let us not consider dividing Scripture into separate texts that belong in any of these buckets. I reject the idea that certain portions of Scripture about sexual ethics fit into one bucket while others fit into a different bucket.

Why is this a bad idea? For several reasons, beginning with the fact that Adam’s categories – the “buckets” – are extraneously imposed upon the canon of Scripture. The Bible’s self-claims rule it out of order (beginning with 2 Timothy 3:16-17). This is a foreign concept, imposed upon the flow of the canon and the whole tenor of Scripture.

Another article (September 15, 2016) entitled “Scripture, Me and the UMC,” W. T. McClendon [link: https://wtmcclendon.wordpress.com/2016/09/15/scripture-me-and-the-umc/ ] writes [in part]

Adam Hamilton, well-respected UM pastor and author, does not impress me with his attitude toward Scripture. I appreciate him, but his notion that there are “three buckets of Scripture” is past the point of orthodoxy in my opinion. His book Making Sense of Scripture contends that one bucket of Scripture contains “Scriptures that express God’s heart, character and timeless will for human beings.” Bucket two, he says, contains, “Scripture that expressed God’s will in a particular time, but are no longer binding.” He describes his last bucket as containing, “Scriptures that never fully expressed the heart, character or will of God.” That statement is beyond my personal ability to comprehend so I am not going to waste my words undoing his undermining of the Word.

In a blog called the Denison Forum, Jim Denison writes in a September 2, 2020 blog entitled “J.K. Rowling Gives Back Kennedy Award: A Biblical Response to Those Who Criticize Biblical Morality” (https://www.denisonforum.org/columns/daily-article/j-k-rowling-gives-back-kennedy-award-a-biblical-response-to-those-who-criticize-biblical-morality/) [in part]:

One option when we are confronted by those who reject biblical morality is to decide that the Bible is wrong or outdated on the issue. A way of doing this has been suggested by Adam Hamilton, pastor of the United Methodist Church of the Resurrection in Leawood, Kansas (the largest United Methodist congregation in the world). He sparked controversy a few years ago with his claim that biblical passages can be assigned to one of three “buckets”:

In his view, biblical passages that forbid same-sex sexual relationships fall into either bucket two or bucket three. (Of course, his approach begs the question as to who has the right and authority to determine what parts of God’s word are wrong or outdated.)

To conclude my comments about the first argument, one ought to just consider the plain reading of the following passages of Scripture:

2 Timothy 3:16–17 (ESV) – 16 All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.

2 Peter 1:19–21 (ESV) – 19 And we have the prophetic word more fully confirmed, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts, 20 knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation. 21 For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.

There is no way one can divide Scripture into multiple buckets, especially a bucket that contains Scriptures that never fully expressed the heart, character or will of God.  Such a concept contradicts Scripture.   The first fundamental argument advanced by the pro-LGBTQ faction does not hold water.

Please send me any comments to steve@stevebelsheim.com or use the comments feature of the blog.

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