Professor Michael Eric Dyson made the remarks to substitute host Joy Reid on the Ed Show last week while attempting to recruit the LGBT community to join with “African-Americans” as common victims of the “right” on the heels of the remarks made by Phil Robertson of Duck Dynasty. We’d like to thank our friends at Newsbusters for being one of the few dozen that still watches MSNBC and brings us the few highlights worth considering.
From the video and transcripts:
Dyson: Jesus was a Jew who, around whom a religion was made. So the anti-Semitism of many of the Christians is ironic to begin with. And then secondly, the gay, lesbian, transgender, bisexual stuff - look through the Bible. There’s a lot of interesting things. The same men who will stand up in the church of all men, ‘I put my God, Jesus, overall women. I love him more than I love her.’Of course, Ms Reid agrees with Dyson throughout the interview, praises him for his Bible knowledge, and ends the segment by hoping the audience will consider Dyson’s words alongside those of Jesus. The article also points out that neither Reid nor Dyson (or apparently the executives at MSNBC) realize that “humans can love without sexual intimacy”, giving parents and children as an example.
Hmmm. Do you really? That sounds interestingly homoerotic to people who are outside your religious traditions. I’m not suggesting it is but I’m suggesting that there are some very interesting, subtle, narrative tensions within the Bible itself and within Christianity beyond that.
It is also obvious that neither the professor nor host has a clue as to how to interpret the Bible. We’ll just mention two basic aspects, context and original language. Beginning with the latter, the professor may not be aware that the New Testament was written in Greek, not in English. The Greek language contains four words for “love”, agape, phileo, eros and stergo.
In the Bible, human love for Jesus is always given as agape (Godly, selfless, sacrificial, unconditional love) or phileo (brotherly love). By his description, the professor attempts to substitute eros love (physical attraction or passionate desire) which can be used in a positive sense relating to husband and wife, or negatively for a number of forbidden acts, but is never used in the Bible with respect to loving Jesus.
Turning to the aspect of context, Ms Reid opened the segment by saying that anyone can manipulate the Bible to support any argument or position. It is somewhat ironic that, although the host was directing her comment to those she perceived to be intolerant of behavior that is condemned in Scripture, her guest then proceeded to make erroneous statements about the Bible in an attempt to prove his point. In reality however, Ms Reid's opening statement is only true to a point. In order to support a false argument, one must disregard the most important interpretation principle, that of regula fidei (rule of faith) or analogia fidei (analogy of faith). This rule basically means that we should interpret any portion of Scripture within the context of the whole because Scripture (when properly understood) will never contradict itself. The “tensions” spoke of by the professor are introduced by those who either don't understand the Scriptures or twist them for their own agenda (or both).
Thus, even though a person may not have a working knowledge of the original language, they can still understand the basic meaning by consulting related Scripture passages. In our case, we could look at the descriptions of love (agape) in Paul’s letter to the Corinthians.
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails (1Cor 13:4-8).Would a person without an ulterior motive equate these characteristics of love to physical or sexual attraction?
We find much more of “love” in the the second, third and fourth chapters of John’s first epistle. In addition, it also contrasts the professor’s version of worldly love with Godly love, “the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does--comes not from the Father but from the world” (1Jn 2:16). The letter (and John’s Gospel) also makes multiple ties between our love for Jesus and our obedience to Him.
Students of the Bible should not be surprised at the lack of ability by the professor and members of the media to properly understand Scripture. The Bible tells us
We have not received the spirit of the world but the Spirit who is from God, that we may understand what God has freely given us. This is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit, expressing spiritual truths in spiritual words. The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned (1Cor 2:12-14).Returning to the second chapter of John’s first epistle, immediately after contrasting worldly love with Godly love, John follows with a warning to us about the many antichrists that we'll encounter, describing them as “those who are trying to lead you astray” (1Jn 2:26). Therefore, we must regularly put on all our armor, particularly by studying and properly interpreting the Word of God.