Updated with Joe’s Confession: A Response to George Wieland’s Presentation at Carey Conversations, Same-Sex Marriage

18 Oct

18 October 2012:

Over the past couple of weeks I have been blessed to have two brothers-in-Christ come along side me and loving admonish me to reconsider the tone use in this blog post along with my conclusions.

I am deeply blessed to have men like this in my life (one doesn’t even live in NZ).

After hearing their concerns and prayerfully reading what I have written here I believe it is my responsibility to:

  1. Seek forgiveness for my harsh tone. I have contacted both George Wieland and Charles Hewlett seeking their forgiveness, but believe I must state this here for all those who have read or will read this post. I ask that they and any readers would forgive me for the harshness of my tone.
  2. I also acknowledge that I drew conclusions which are unjustifiable from this one presentation. To state that someone does not take the “authority of Scripture” seriously or practices as one who does not believe in the “authority of Scripture” is a serious conclusion and accusation. Please forgive me for this unjustified and unnecessary statement.

In the blog post below, rather than delete what I said previously, I will strike though those portions which I now believe were unjustified, unhelpful, and harsh. I am doing this with a desire to take full responsibility for my words and not just cover them up by deleting them.

I pray the Lord will continue to use His Word and faithful friends through His Spirit to convict me of sin and change me more into the image of His Son.

– Joe Fleener

25 September 2012

Carey Baptist College has now posted the entire video of the presentations give on Same-Sex Marriage.

I have emailed my concerns with George Wieland’s presentation directly to him and the principal of Carey College. Thus far, I have only received a reply from Wieland saying, “thank you, but I don’t have time to discuss this further.”

As I stated in my reply to him. His exegesis, interpretation, and application of Matthew 19 and what I propose here cannot both be correct. I could be misunderstanding his view (for which I am open to hearing that correction), I could be completely wrong (for which I am open to hearing that correction), or he could be wrong. We cannot both be right.

Thus far, I have not received any further communication from Carey. On this I would state, silence does not communicate institutional tolerance of varying views which have existed within the broader Evangelical church for centuries. Silence communicates approval of a publicly stated dissenting doctrinal view.

On Thursday, the 13th of September, I attended Carey Baptist College’s Carey Conversations: Same Sex Marriage.

The following morning I emailed lecturers Sarah Harris & Laurie Guy thanking them for their clarity and commitment to the authority of Scripture.

In the same event George Wieland gave a talk where he dealt with Matthew 19:3-12.

From this passage Wieland made three observations:

  1. Jesus affirms the male/female union created by God.
  2. Jesus recognises the role of law in a less than ideal society.
  3. Jesus validates people who live outside the male/female union.

Firstly, I will address how Wieland came to his #3 point and particularly his handling of the text of Scripture, specifically the word “eunuch” or εὐνοῦχος.

Wieland asserted “eunuch” includes those “who are same-sex orientated” and gays. (It was extremely difficult to determine what Wieland meant by the word “gay.” Did he mean those who struggled with “same-sex attraction” though were not involved in homosexual behaviour? Sometimes it seemed this is what he meant. However, in describing those he believed fell under the meaning of the word “eunuch” he specifically stated both “same-sex oriented” and gay therefore including both.)

Wieland gave no evidence for this assertion.

I would like to suggest here that the language does not allow for this meaning at all.

The Greek word εὐνοῦχος only occurs eight times in the New Testament; three in Matthew 19:12 & five in Acts 8:27-39.

This same word occurs 38 times in the LXX (Greek translation of the Hebrew Scriptures, four of which occur in the Apocrypha). In each case this Greek word is translating the Hebrew word סָרִיס

What do these words mean?

According to A GREEK-ENGLISH LEXICON OF THE NEW TESTAMENT AND OTHER EARLY CHRISTIAN LITERATURE, Third Edition Copyright © 2000 by The University of Chicago Press εὐνοῦχος means:

1.     a castrated male person, eunuch. Mt. 19:12b

2.     a human male who, without a physical operation, is by nature incapable of begetting children, impotent male. Mt. 19:12a

3.     a human male who abstains. Mt. 19:12c

According to THE HEBREW & ARAMAIC LEXICON OF THE OLD TESTAMENT, CD-ROM EDITION © 1994-2000 Koninklijke Brill NV, Leiden, The Netherlands. סָרִיס

  1. high official. Gen. 39:1 – Potiphar is referred to with this term, clearly a married man.
  2. Eunuch. This use is most common in Esther.

In addition when searching other Greek literature, including Josephus, Philo, Greek Apostolic Fathers, Greek Early Church Fathers, Eusebius, & Greek Pseudepigrapha, the Greek word εὐνοῦχος is only used by Josephus and Philo – three times each – and always referring to a “castrated male” or “a human male who abstains.”

Charles Hewlett, Principal of Carey College, opened the evening with the following question:

“How might Evangelical Christians, who believe in the authority of the Bible, speak to this issue that is facing our country?”

I assumed, based on that introductory question, what we were going to hear were presentations that would demonstrate a commitment to the “authority of the Bible.”

Wieland’s talk did not handle Scripture as though it is authoritative. He asserted a meaning to a word which cannot be substantiated in the context of Matthew 19, the entire NT, the entire OT-LXX, any other source of Greek literature, or Greek lexicography. He then went on to build a significant portion of his argument on this mishandling of the text.

In developing point #2 Wieland stated:

Jesus recognises the role of law in a less than ideal society. Moses’ allowing for divorce wasn’t ideal, but due to a hardness of heart. You cannot legislate the ideal. Law can and should protect those who are most vulnerable in a society.

On hearing that statement or reading this, one would be hard pressed to disagree. What Wieland says up to this point echoes what many others have said throughout the ages. Take J. C. Ryle for instance:

The expression throws light on the position of God’s people in this world of sin. It shows us that there may be things tolerated and permitted by God, both in churches and states, not because they are the best things but because they are the things best suited to the church or state in which they are found. It is vain to expect perfection in any government, or in any church. If we have the essentials of justice in the one, and of truth in the other, we may be content. God tolerated many things in the government of Israel, until the time of reformation. Surely we may tolerate many things too. To spend our lives in searching after an imaginary state of perfection, either civil or ecclesiastical, is at best a waste of time. If God was pleased to allow some things in Israel “because their hearts were hard,” we may well endure some things in churches and states which we do not entirely like. There is a balance of evil in every position in the world. There are imperfections everywhere. The state of perfection is yet to come. {J. C. Ryle, Mark (, Crossway Classic Commentaries Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 1993), 142-47.}

However, as I stated, my concern wasn’t with the statement of his point. My concern is with where he took that point and how he applied it to homosexuals and the legalising of same-sex marriage.

Wieland clearly and accurately explained the context for the original provision for divorce given by Moses.

Of course in this context Jesus was responding to a question posed by the Pharisees for the purpose of testing him. The question was quite specific. “Is it lawful to divorce one’s wife for any cause?” This was a direct question related to what had become a practice sanctioned by the Pharisees where a man could put his wife away – divorce her – for virtually any reason. Jesus essentially says “no, it is not lawful to divorce one’s wife for any cause.”

The Pharisees then follow with, “why then did Moses give provision for divorce?”

Again, Wieland accurately explained the original context of Deuteronomy 24:1-4. Here Moses is addressing a problem where husbands where putting their wives away for non-biblically justifiable reasons and in so doing leaving these women with no social care. These women were not guilty of sin, they had done nothing justifying being put away, but without a certificate of divorce they were destined to remain unmarried (being unlawful to remarry without such a certificate) and as a result would be in an extremely difficult and vulnerable state socially, economically, etc. So because of the “hardness of their hearts” this provision for divorce was established. Not ideal, to be sure, but provided for the care and protection of these women.

Who had the “hard hearts?” Not the women… the men who were putting them away and seeking the divorce.

I think Wieland would agree with this explanation thus far.

However, Wieland then equates the status of women in the OT as vulnerable, disenfranchised and in need of legal protection to homosexuals today.

This is a “False Analogy”.

The wives who were being protected and cared for by the provision given by Moses in Deuteronomy 24:14 were not living in sin, practising sinful behaviour, nor themselves at fault for the divorce initiated by their husbands.

Therefore, though not ideal, it was good to have laws in place then as it is today to project individuals in such situations.

An accurate “Argument from Analogy” would be to equate this with the unjustified discrimination of someone due to their race, gender, religion, etc. It is good to have laws in place which project people from such mistreatment.

However, it is false to equate someone who is living in open sin and practising sinful behaviour – an actively gay individual – with an innocent wife who is being put away by her husband.

To have such laws in place to protect the wife is good as it protects her from the hard-hearted, unjustified, evil treatment of her husband.

To have a law in place that validates and legalises the sinful practice of homosexual behaviour even to the extent of publicly honouring their lifestyle by equating it to God-ordained, heterosexual marriage is far from the intention given in Deuteronomy 24 or Matthew 19.

The conclusion Wieland drew from his point is illogical, unbiblical, and historically unjustifiable.

If we are going to argue for the authority and validity of Scripture for all of life and all generations, we must handle the Word of God carefully and accurately. When we do not, not only do we jeopardise the strength of the very argument we are seeking to make, but also demonstrate that we, in fact, do not believe the Bible is authoritative.


3 responses to “Updated with Joe’s Confession: A Response to George Wieland’s Presentation at Carey Conversations, Same-Sex Marriage

  1. ali1

    02/10/2012 at 10:18 am

    Very disappointing response from George, but at least he responded. When I attended Carey from 200-2002, positions more conservative than what was held by lecturers were engaged with little respect, but positions more liberal than those held by lecturers were engaged with respect.
    I wonder if this attitude is in evidence here? Perhaps if you write in appreciation and suggest George push further towards a pro-gay stance you’d get a fuller response. I don’t know, but my experience to this day suggests you may.

  2. Alistair Robertson

    29/10/2012 at 12:19 am

    G’day Joe. Ironically, I posted the above comment from my phone and thought it hadn’t got through. I was glad it hadn’t got through because while it truly expresses (very unclearly) some of my own frustrations, I didn’t think it appropriate to post a comment here. However, now I see it did get through (and I’d have preferred it didn’t)!

    What to do? My comment is actually so unclear that when I re-read it myself it looked as though I was suggesting things of George that I wouldn’t dream of doing even in my most skeptical moods!

    So let me clarify: my personal experience of Carey Baptist lecturers and students is that a conservative position is engaged with far less willingness – and from some, less respect – than positions more liberal than their own. This has been my experience. Where I went too far in the above comment was to suggest that this attitude that I have encountered was in play in George’s response (or lack of) to your email. How could I know that?


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