Acts 8:26-40: Philip and the Sexual Deviant

I hope the title caught your attention and I hope that this brief post challenges the clean Victorianesque way in which many of us read Scripture and our clean Victorian lives and our clean Victorian churches. Have you ever heard a sermon giving more than a cursory explanation of what an eunuch is? I have not. I have heard the clean version of how eunuchs played a critical role in the government of many nations at that time; how they guarded concubines in the harems and protected the emperors of Rome. At later times they became important figures in the history of music as castrati were renowned for their vocal prowess. What I haven’t heard is a lengthy exposition of how such procedures, which were performed in the early stages of life, had profound physical, physiological, and psychological effects upon an individual due to hormone depravation.

Lest we let our American obsession with power and celebrity affect the way we read this text another reminder is necessary. Yes, the text does indeed note that he was the treasurer for an Ethiopian queen; however, he did not come to this position due to his wisdom or financial savvy. No, rather he has been genetically engineered, in a most primitive way, so that he can perform certain tasks within the government and as such he and those like him were expendable. Yes, he has authority and he has influence but he has been engineered for this role.

With such basic expositions of this text have we truly recognized its significance? Is this merely a cheap incantation to be read before the congregation at baptismal ceremonies? In Isaiah 56 we find that both the salvation of the eunuch and foreigner promised. Later in acts we read the story of Cornelius and see the Spirit is poured out upon this gentile and his household. I mean no disservice to the story of Cornelius but is it not equally profound that God would choose to save this transgender man? Even more amazing is that Irenaeus noted that this Ethiopian eunuch became a missionary among his people, which does much to explain the church history there dating back to the first century.

How do you think this text should challenge our understanding of mission and how are we to go about this mission? How would you respond if God called one of these children to Himself? How would you respond if after having irreversible surgery and hormone therapy God chooses to send one of these individuals out as a missionary? Would your church send the Ethiopian eunuch out as a missionary? Would your church call him as pastor? Aside from the likes of men like Brian McLaren and Rob Bell, whose answers are not answers at all, no one seems to be addressing these issues. I am not asking a question with regards to lifestyle here, Scripture both answers that clearly and demonstrates the power of the gospel to change lives. In the age of designer babies (see here) and transgender children (see here) we must wrestle with the fact that while lifestyle change through the gospel is possible undoing physical, physiological, and psychological change rooted in genetic manipulation is a different process entirely.

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7 thoughts on “Acts 8:26-40: Philip and the Sexual Deviant

  1. Wow, powerful. I’ve never thought about eunuchs like that before, and it’s a great question.

    The only question I’ve ever heard similar to it is:
    “Would your church call someone to be pastor who was saved out of homosexuality and was now living a celibate Christian life?”

    Yours is a tougher question. What should we do vs. what would we do.

  2. Interesting. Something I’ve never really thought about at all, but you bring up some REALLy interesting questions.
    Definately we should be willing to talk to all about Christ, not ignoring a certian person/peoples because of certian differences.
    I obviously know little about the questions you are posing here, but your questions are good ones, and definately relevant to this day and age.

  3. Tapp,
    Thanks for the comment. I really hoped that there would be more discussion. I read the “Transgender Children” article several months ago and it has weighed pretty heavily on my heart. For an ethics class at SBTS the essay on the final went something like “suppose a genetically engineered transgender test-tube baby visits your church on Sunday; how would you share the gospel with them?” I think most of us are not prepared to answer that question.

    For everyone who has not commented,
    Did you read the “Transgender Children” article? What happens when Beth, now Matt, or Brandon, now Bridget, visits your church? Or if they moved in next door how would you build a relationship and share the gospel with them?

  4. Years ago Dave Blake told me that he’d seen a lot of babies delivered where it wasn’t clear what the sex of the child was. In that situation, the doctor often chooses the sex by molding something in surgery. His opinion was that if you were made a boy even though you were probably closer to a girl, and later struggled with attraction to boys, then that was your “thorn in the flesh.” It didn’t give you permission to engage in homosexual behavior.

    I think I still hold to that same opinion, although I recognize it’s extremely challenging. It indeed DOES take a work of the Holy Spirit to transform someone so deeply that they desire to live in conformance with His will.

  5. Mohler received much criticism for this article; however, it is extremely helpful when considering the possibility of biological causes for such lifestyle choices.

  6. Pingback: Tidbits Tuesday – Links for Acts 8 « provPRESS

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