A response to Robyn J. Whitaker, Trinity College
In a week of controversy after Margaret Court issued an open letter to Qantas and appeared on national television to take a stand for the biblical, and traditional view of marriage; Australian society has responded in a plethora of ways to the reactions by both celebrities and television personalities, most notably to the way Margaret Court was treated on Channel Ten’s show the Project.
Robyn J. Whitaker is a scholar and lecturer at Trinity College, University of Divinity. She has an impressive curriculum vitae having held a professorship in Princeton Seminary and has the educational background to support her work having attained a PhD from the University of Chicago.
I would like to point out that I am merely offering a respectful response to what Professor Whitaker has written in an opinion piece on the ABC’s The Conversation.
The primary concern I have for Whitaker’s response to Margaret Court is her approach to biblical interpretation; mainly her broad premise that the Bible is not meant to be taken literally. I believe this premise needs to be clarified for the sake of the wider audience as it does not consider the genres of literature found in the Bible.
There is a point of agreement that the Bible describes male-female relationships in arrangements that are not ideal for society (ie. Polygamy, harems, etc.), the presence of these examples of relationships serve to provide a moral lesson that humanity succumbs to sin, and even whilst we are sinful, God still works amongst us in any situation, be it ideal or not.
These examples do not serve as justification for suggesting that the family and marriage are fluid ideas with an evolutionary streak.
Polygamy and slavery were not taught nor formed any part of the Christian approach to society, these concepts were included in the Bible as it reflected the practices of the time, but the Scriptures and the Church has always taught that these were not ideal in the eyes of God. Slavery was abolished in the British Empire through the likes of William Wilberforce, as polygamy was reduced to the barbarity of the heathens by the ancient Church as it came into prominence in the Empires.
Granted, Whitaker rightly suggest that monasteries and nunneries helped people escape the two practices of the ancient world, but the Christian Church also promoted fidelity and heterosexual monogamy amongst its followers as St. Paul writes in 1 Corinthians chapter 7 verse 2 “But since sexual immorality is occurring, each man should have sexual relations with his own wife, and each woman with her own husband.”
Many other verses written by St. Paul also dispel her idea that the liberal interpretation that society cannot pinpoint traditional marriage in the Bible but also reminds us that the literal interpretation and the symbolic interpretation of the New Testament would lead the reader to an understanding that heterosexuality is the prevailing idea in most texts in Scripture.
Rev Dr Margaret Court's accreditation and ordination is through a South African Denomination (as are many other pastors with US church accreditation) her application of literalism to these Pauline texts is not a fault of her office, but comes from her fidelity to the teaching tradition of the faith.
If we apply Whitaker’s comment on 1 Timothy chapter 2 verse 12 which explicitly forbids women teaching or having authority over men; one should also question her professorship or lecturer’s position at her college as the same principle would apply considering that Trinity College is a Christian organisation.
Regardless of your interpretive framework, the biblical presentation of human relationships beginning with the account of Genesis, shows that our proto-ancestors Adam and Eve were male and female, and lends its weight to the natural law that procreation and the advancement of humanity were accomplished through a man and a woman.
Furthermore, the apocalyptic text of Revelation has multiple passages describing the heterosexual relationship of Christ and His Church; “Let us rejoice and exult and give him the glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and his Bride has made herself ready.”- Revelation chapter 19 verse 7.
The Lamb here is Christ, who is the sacrifice for the atonement of the sins of the world, and the Bride is the Church, whom Christ sacrificed His life for.
Modernist or liberal Christian ideas that marriage, sexuality, and gender, are fluid concepts fails to include the fact that the relationship between Christ and His Church have always been presented in the light of a heterosexual relationship.
This is not in any way saying that we should hate people identifying as LGBT as to bear anger with no reason is the sin of wroth. This is simply being honest enough to tell that community that Christianity has always taken a firm stand for tradition and for the family as it is enshrined in the relationship between Jesus Christ and his earthly parents, the Holy Family.
This exclusive definition that the Church has upheld and taught since its inception, cannot change on the whims of teaching or opinions from modern interpreters of her texts and her doctrines.
Robyn J Whitaker’s opinion piece can be read at: http://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-06-02/margaret-court-marriage-bible-isnt-meant-to-be-read-so-literally/8583412
Jack is studying Commerce and Arts at Macquarie University, he is part of a family of five, his hobbies include computer gaming, football, learning languages, and church history. Whilst he is theologically Anglican, he attends Gracepoint Presbyterian and serves the community through music.
Jack Liang's previous articles may be viewed at