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What the Bible says about homosexuality
Posted by: Graeme
The issue of a Christian response to homosexuality threatens to split churches and denominations. It seems nearly impossible to have reasonable and constructive discussions on this issue - emotion and rancour seem to be acceptable. Yet, as evangelical Christians, we should be able to find common ground in our acceptance of some basic principles, especially our belief in the inerrancy of the Bible, and its authority in, and over, our lives today.
One of the problems in the current debates is that those who view any and all forms of homosexuality as a sin seem prepared to ignore accepted exegetical approaches, and skew the Biblical record to fit in with their own preconceived ideas. If we are ever going to be able to respond appropriately to this issue, and engage in fruitful dialogue, we must begin with an honest look and what the Bible does – and doesn’t – say, without allowing personal preference to get in the way.
We all know the traditional approach to interpreting the verses that deal with homosexuality. Unfortunately, we have inherited bad interpretations from our prejudiced past. This would not be the only issue which Christians have had to rethink in recent times. We’ve had to confront our mistaken interpretations on issues such as anti-Semitism, slavery, racism, apartheid, the gifts of the Spirit and the role of women.
The only basis on which we can hope to retain truth is if we are honest and diligent in our interpretations and applications of Scripture. I’d like to suggest that we have some rethinking to do when we look at the Biblical injunctions about homosexuality.
The Old Testament
There are typically four passages in the Old Testament (OT) that are used when discussing homosexuality. Two are narrative accounts, and two come from the legal code in Leviticus. Both genre have well accepted interpretation approaches.
Let’s consider the narratives first. One of the most important rules of Biblical interpretation is that when the Bible interprets itself, that interpretation is authoritative. So, for example, when Jesus tells a parable and then also explains this parable to his disciples, Jesus’s own interpretation must be accepted as the authoritative explanation.
In relation to the story of Sodom and Gomorrah (Genesis 19), and the strangely similar story of Gibeah (Judges 19-21), the Bible does interpret itself. There are numerous references to these stories throughout the rest of Scripture, and in many of these cases, the sins of Sodom and Gomorrah are actually listed. In none of these instances is homosexuality mentioned. For example, Ezekial 16:49-50 refers to the sins of Sodom being arrogance and a lack of concern for the poor. Note that only those who have prejudged the stories can confidently claim that the “detestable things” referred to in Ezekial are references to homosexuality, since the Bible itself does not say this.
Interestingly, Jesus Himself never addresses homosexuality, but when He does talk about Sodom, he refers only to their inhospitability as the issue behind God’s wrath (Luke 10:10-12). Jude 1:7 specifically mentions sexual sin in relation to Sodom and Gomorrah, but even this verse does not talk of homosexuality. The reference to “perversion” (NIV) is not a technical term for homosexuality, but rather a term used for various forms of sexual abuse. If this verse is used to show that homosexuality is sinful then hermeneutical consistency would require us to say that heterosexuality is sinful too, since this verse talks of immorality (i.e. being unfaithful to your partner) and abuse. It can further be noted that the “perversion” in the verses in Peter 2:6 & 10 and in Jude 1:7 seems to be linked to some kind of sexual interaction between humans and angels (“a transgression of the orders”), and not homosexuality (see the context in Jude 1:6).
There can be little doubt, of course, that the intent of the townsmen in both stories was to sexually abuse the visitors. The sins were inhospitability, violence and sexual abuse. God is always against all forms of sexual abuse, whether heterosexual or homosexual. But, on the basis of accepted exegetical and hermeneutical principles, we cannot use these stories to bolster a belief that God is against loving, lifelong, monogamous homosexual relationships. To use these stories in a discussion of homosexuality is an abuse of Scripture.
Similarly, those who use the references to homosexual behaviour found in Leviticus most often impose completely non-biblical categories onto the legal code found in the OT. Typically, they distinguish between the “moral” laws, the “civil” laws (for running the nation of Israel), and “ceremonial” laws (dealing with worship). The argument goes that the ceremonial laws have been replaced by Christ’s sacrifice, the civil laws no longer apply, but the moral laws do. Confusingly, though, the Biblical punishments no longer apply. And there are many laws that don’t fit into any of these categories. There are obviously many detailed arguments for and against this view which I cannot fully reference here. My main concern is simply that these categories are not Biblical categories, and they are impossible to apply consistently.
Just in the verses surrounding Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13, for example, there are commands that we ignore today for no apparent reason. These include wearing of clothes of different materials, paying wages on a daily basis, harvesting fields right to the edges and planting different crops in one field, animal husbandry, cutting men’s sideburns, wearing tattoos or eating “kosher” food, to name just a few.
We also ignore most of the Bible’s sexual laws, including allowing intercourse during menstruation, exogamy (marriage with non-Israelites), not regarding semen and menstrual blood as unclean, levirate marriages (if a married man died childless his brother is required to marry the wife and/or simply have intercourse with her to produce an heir), circumcision, very early marriage (age 13 for a girl) and arranged marriages (this is still a cultural practice in some places). Lesbianism is also not mentioned in the OT. Some OT sexual practices were changed in the NT, including polygamy, concubinage and treating women as property.
For these reasons, it would seem impossible to take OT laws and simply apply them directly today. The accepted hermeneutical principle is that only those laws specifically reiterated in the NT are still applicable to us today.
Before we then turn to the NT, a final point must be made. Throughout the chapters that talk of homosexuality in Leviticus there are constant references to the cultic practices of the surrounding nations (see especially Lev 18:3, 24 and 20:23). In fact, most Biblical scholars highlight that many of the laws given to Israel were designed to separate them from the surrounding nations and demonstrate that Yahweh demanded a different type of worship. Temple prostitution was a key feature of the surrounding nations’ cultic practices, including homosexual shrine prostitution. This was an ongoing concern throughout Israel’s history (see 1 Kings 14:24; 15:12; 22:46). It cannot be ruled out that the laws against “men lying with men” in the OT law were restrictions on cultic prostitution rather than a blanket restriction on sexual relations within a monogamous, lifelong relationship.
The New Testament
Jesus never mentioned homosexuality, even though he had a wonderful opportunity to do so in Mark 7:14-23 (repeated in Matt 15), and elsewhere. Nor was the issue dealt with in Acts. At very least, this indicates that homosexuality is not in a special category of “really bad sins”, especially abhorrent to God.
In fact, there are only three NT passages that refer to homosexuality directly. Two of these passages have very interesting translation options when we consider the underlying Greek words. The words are arsenokoitēs and malakos. Both are used in 1 Corinthians 6, and the former is used in 1 Timothy 1. They have been translated variously as “homosexual offenders” (NIV), “perverts” (NIV), “sexual perverts” (Revised RSV), “effeminate” (KJV), “abusers of themselves” (KJV), “them that defile themselves with mankind” (KJV), “sodomites” (NKJV) and “homosexuals” (NKJV, NLT and RSV). The variation in translations is due to the fact that these are not well known terms, and are certainly not the standard terms one would use in Greek to refer to homosexuals, same-sex relationships or to homosexual sexual acts.
Why did Paul not use the accepted and unambiguous words available to him? The best solution to this question seems to be that Paul had specific issues in mind, namely pederasty (the pervasive custom of the day in which adult men employed young boys to serve them and offer them sex), effeminate call-boys and those who traded in sex slaves. Similarly to the OT Law, Paul is also concerned about cultic prostitution (note that the list of offenses in 1 Cor 6 puts temple prostitutes and homosexual offenders together). All forms of abusive relationships that were culturally acceptable in Greco-Roman times are seen as reprehensible to God – the perpetrators are warned in dire terms that they will “not inherit the Kingdom of God” (1 Cor 6:9, 10).
- If you want more on this, I have posted some more detail on these two words - read it here.
However, this can in no way be taken as a blanket condemnation of all homosexual activity, and especially has no relevance to lifelong, loving homosexual relationships. I am absolutely convinced, on the basis of intense Biblical study, that none of the above verses can be used to support (or oppose) classifying homosexuality as a sin. One cannot allow any feelings of disgust that one might have towards certain life choices to cloud one’s approach to understanding God’s Word.
I believe the only verses that are applicable to the homosexual debate are found in Romans 1. But, there are at least four viable options for interpreting and applying Romans 1 for the church today:
- 1. God, through Paul, was and is against any and all forms of homosexuality, deeming all homosexual activity as sinful. This was true when Paul was writing, and remains true to this day. Homosexual activity is sinful. Note that since we all have a sinful nature with the image of God distorted in us, discussions of homosexual orientation are irrelevant. If homosexuality is a sin, the acceptable response is repentance and ceasing all homosexual activity.
- 2. God, through Paul, was against homosexuality at that time, but now things have changed. Interpreting Scripture in the light of current day culture is an ongoing task that all Christians of all time must do, with the power of the Spirit guiding us. We are happy to do this with other issues – we have seen OT examples earlier, but there are NT examples too. Paul, in the same books that he talks of homosexual offenders also instructs women to wear head coverings (1 Cor 11:6, 10), be silent in church (1 Cor 14:25, 1 Tim 2:12), and not to wear any jewellery (1 Tim 2:9), while men “clearly” (“according to nature”) would need to have short hair (1 Cor 11:14). We’ve also had to change our “Biblical” view of slavery (Eph 6:5). So, Romans 1 does not apply today.
- 3. God, through Paul, was only writing against the types of homosexuality prevalent in Graeco-Roman times (pedastry, sexual slavery, etc), and did not have modern lifelong, monogamous relationships in mind.
- 4. God, through Paul, was concerned with sexual abuse and with aberrant behaviour, and only referred to homosexual abuse and excess by way of example. In Romans 1, the sins mentioned are sexual experimentation, out of control lust and promiscuity. Paul may also only have in mind those who betray the sexual orientation they were born with, and give up their “natural” (even “God given”) desires for something else. In other words, a homosexual who tried to become heterosexual would be sinning according to this interpretation. Lifelong, monogamous homosexual relationships between people born with a homosexual orientation are not being referenced in this passage at all.
It should be obvious that any decision about which interpretation is correct must deal with the issue of what Paul means by his phrase para phusin (“against nature” – the same phrase used when instructing men to have short hair in 1 Cor). Most often, this is linked back to the so-called “creation order” of Genesis. The catchy short hand for this argument is that “God created Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve”. Because God created human beings “male and female” in His image, the argument goes, only marriage between a man and a woman is acceptable to God.
Once again, we must first acknowledge that “creation order” is not a Biblical phrase. Then, there are also some serious flaws with this approach. Simply put, if the “creation order” argument is consistently applied, then being single would be an aberration of God’s image, since God created His image in two genders. But we know this is not true – in fact, Paul himself extols singleness. Would we also have to ensure that all Christian men married women younger than themselves, since in the “creation order” Adam was older than Eve? I think not. At first sight, this might feel like a good argument, but with very little effort, it can be shown to be highly selective, completely subjective, non-biblical, and therefore not authoritative at all.
God’s decrees and laws all make sense and form a coherent whole. So an important question to answer is why God would be against homosexuality. God is not opposed to men loving each other. Nor would God be opposed to any number of people, of any gender, agreeing to share their possessions and living space. There are only two things God could then be opposed to: (1) sexual intercourse between people of the same sex, and (2) marriage that does not involve one man and one woman.
On the first issue, if it is the method by which homosexuals have sex that is abhorrent to God then we must alert all heterosexual married couples to refrain from anal or oral sex as well. Yet, nowhere does the Bible give this instruction, and therefore this cannot be God’s issue. This leaves only the issue of marriage. The Bible provides confusing evidence on the issue of monogamous, heterosexual marriage. The Bible is comfortable with polygamy. It commands levirate marriages. It commends being single. There is an argument that homosexual partnerships cannot produce children, and this is God’s concern with them. But, this argument cannot be consistently applied to heterosexual couples who choose to remain childless (are they abhorrent to God?).
When this line of argument is pursued, it seems that the only real reason that God might be against lifelong, monogamous homosexual partnerships is that somehow the image of God in people would be tainted (see Gen 1:27, although note that it is only in Gen 2:24 that marriage is mentioned). This is an extension of the creation order argument dealt with above. This is presumably why God hates divorce so much (Mal 2:16, although this verse is about Israel’s faithfulness to God). But, if the image of God is only evident in heterosexual marriage, what do we make of those who choose to remain single (and how do we interpret Paul in 1 Cor 7)? And why do more and more churches take a lenient view on divorce? It seems that we are very selective about how we deal with Biblical sexual ethics and the various associated punishments. We realise that we often interpret the Bible through cultural lenses, rather than spiritually. God's Word is dynamic, and with the help of His Spirit, we must sometimes admit that what has been believed and practiced in the past is not a command for our time. So, we feel free to leave levirate marriage in the Bible, and are opposed to polygamy and arranged marriage for pre-teen girls. Why? Whatever interpretitive principles are used to come to those decisions should also be applied to homosexuality.
It is fairly clear that every single text dealing with homosexual activity in the Bible also refers to aggravating circumstances such as inhospitability, idolatry, shrine prostitution, adultery, promiscuity, lust, violence and rape. Not one of the Biblical verses has a monogamous relationship in mind. Not one! Condemning someone to eternal damnation on such tenuous evidence would therefore seem a very dangerous thing to do, especially in the light of Romans 2:1-5, that instruct us to be careful of judging the severity of other people’s sins.
I am sure that this very short outline of alternative interpretations will not convince those who have already made up their minds, and who no need to test their understanding of God’s Word on an ongoing basis. I have also not attempted to deal with any pastoral issues that will arise in our treatment of homosexuals. But I hope that I have done enough to provide a start for those who wish to further explore God’s Word on this issue.
One of the biggest dangers we face when reading the Bible is to decide beforehand what we think God’s Word says, and then read the Bible with that pre-judgement firmly in place. This can so easily result in us imposing our cultural, gender and personality biases onto God’s Word, and mask God’s intended meaning for us. Church history is littered with generations who incorrectly resisted updating their interpretations of God’s Word. On the issue of homosexuality, we cannot afford to do so any longer.
Dr Graeme Codrington is a theologically, sociologically and commercially trained consultant and people strategist. He can be contacted on firstname.lastname@example.org.
Since first posting this post, a lot of discussion has ensued. To follow the thread, you may want to go to a brief overview I recently posted here. Your considered and helpful contributions are most welcome as we journey towards truth on this important issue.
Thanks for your wonderful insights. I find myself in a similar position to you... I am committed to the Gospel of Christ, and committed to love those whom Christ loves. Yet, in this position I find that there are so many persons who would wish to curb both of those joys, the joy of the gospel and the joy of loving those who are loved by the Lord of the Gospel.
I have written quite a lot on this very subject - it all started when a group of 22 Methodist ministers (of which I was one) objected to our denomination's decision to deny us the right to care for ALL of our members (straight and gay) http://www.spirituality.org.za/2007/05/objectionable-thanks-for-prayers-keep.html...
You can read much of what I've written on the subject here: http://www.spirituality.org.za/labels/same%20sex.html...
Know that I shall be praying for you as you take your bold stand!reply to this comment
Graeme, it's clear that you put a lot of thought in this subject. I too have a problem with people using and often misusing a single verse to try and prove a point. I would much rather want to use another approach, to look at the Bible as a whole, hoe God considers relationships and specifically marriage relationships throughout the Bible. And when I look at this (eg the comparison made between the church and Christ in Ephesians 5 and later in Revelation 21 as well) then I don't think it is irresponsible to say that the normal relationship that God has in mind is a relationship between a man and a woman. I agree with you that I do not have the right to condemn a homosexual. I think God has personally convinced me about this. But at the same time I would, on the grounds of what I have said, be reluctant to say that the Bible considers a same-sex relationship or marriage in exactly the same light as a heterosexual relationship.reply to this comment
Hi Graeme. I found this very helpful and interesting. Thanks. I'm not a Greek nor a biblical scholar and so have to trust your interpretation of Original Greek texts and scripture. Can you perhaps please comment a little more on the scriptures relating to sodomy/anal sex? I not sure your argument was very clear there.
Thanksreply to this comment
Thanks for your encouraging reply. When I get a chance, I'll check out your entries.
I spent quite some time working through the Methodist position paper on homosexuality a few years ago. I thought it was well written, and did a good job of moving people towards good conversations.
My only sadness was the fact that it had to be published anonymously, because the very act of contributing to a position paper which was aimed at merely starting a conversation about the issue would have severely negatively branded the contributors. What a shame that we have churches that cannot even entertain conversation. That does not sound like Jesus to me...reply to this comment
I assume you are referring to the Scriptures in 1 Cor 6 and 1 Tim 1. I am going to post some detail now...
See it here.
http://www.futurechurch.co.za/item/more-detail-on-1-cor-6-and-1-tim-1-new-testament-greek-words-for-homosexualityreply to this comment
A thorough answer to "show me where I am wrong" is obviously not possible in a blog, but maybe I can make a couple of points.
(1) Your statement "Jesus Himself never addresses homosexuality" denies that Jesus is God (not to mention falsely assumes the NT gives a record of everything he ever said); Jesus did address the issue of homosexuality before his incarnation, in Lev 18:22 and 20:13 where he outlawed it and prescribed capital punishment for it in Israel; the chapters lists abominations practiced by the Canaanites, because of which the land was going to vomit out its inhabitants, and give no hint that Christ's "problem" with homosexual relations was only its use in idolatrous rites. Paul's word for homosexual in 1 Cor 6:9 seems to be derived from the expression used here in Leviticus (it's not a complicated issue).
(2) Your hermeneutical method could be used just as well (in fact better) to prove that "the Bible no where condemns loving, monogamous, life-long sexual relationships between people and animals." You can get rid of Lev 18:23 the same way you got rid of the previous verse and of course the NT does not condemn bestiality (or if you say that's covered under "immorality" I would hasten to point out, so is homosexuality).
Thanks for your response. I accept your comments about what I said about Jesus in the NT. Obviously, I was referring to the NT record of Jesus' ministry. So, no more to be said on that issue.
Let me also once and for all answer the bestiality issue, as this is one that is continually brought up (as a kind of "slippery slope" argument). The Bible is consistently opposed to any forms of relationship that are manipulative, coersive, one-sided in power, or harmful in any way. Obviously, relationships (whether sexual or not) that abuse one (or more of the parties) would be intolerable to God. This includes rape, forced marriages, slavery, and many any other abusive relationships, including bestiality. All of these prohibitions come from NT teachings on love, relationships and an understanding of God's character, and do not rely on OT law as a basis.
Of course, slavery is an interesting inclusion in my indicative list above, since the Bible nowhere condemns it - and, actually, references it and gives instructions about how slavery must be handled. Yet, we do not require slavery today (if we took the Bible literally, without understanding the hermeneutical task of application and enculturation, we would require Christians to call for slavery's revival so we can live in "biblical times" with slaves and masters correctly reflecting God's well ordered society).
The Bible, I believe, is also very clear about the context in which sexual relations can take place: Lifelong, monogamous relationships. This excludes rape, bestiality, using sex within a marriage for power plays between partners, withholding sex (Paul actually talks about this), and sex with other family members (this may seem a strange thing to say, but we completely ignore the Biblical commands about levirate marriages today. If the OT says homosexuality is out, then that same logic must be applied to say that fertilising your brother's bereaved wife is in!! And I don't think anyone will be splitting a church to make that point).
So, let's leave beastiality out of the conversation. It is an emotive red herring and not helpful in the debate.reply to this comment
Graeme I wonder if you might take a crack at discussing John Ronning's contention that Paul, in the 1 Cor 6:9 passage, is deliberately evoking Leviticus langauge to make a point here. Paul does this with OT 'echoes' on numerous other occasions in his writings (as do the authors of the Gospels). Whilst, in and of itself, its not a water-tight argument it is highly suggestive and therefore, along with Romans 1, possibly quite compelling. When I last gave the passage some attention I remember reading the same argument (for the life of me I can't remember where I read it).reply to this comment
Does the Bible mention anything about the act of smoking or taking drugs. Does the Bible mention anything about watching movies or playing video games? If the Bible does not mention this then it means that to participate in these acts in any form is then condoned by the Bible? Is it not?
You see man has become so clever that he can find any argument to disprove God's Word. He can find any argument to prove what God's Word has to say was not intended in the first place. Can you perhaps find any instance in the Bible where it is explained that a husband must love his husband and be faithful to his husband? If you can I would like to see it.
The Bible teaches explicitly about the marriage between a Man and a Woman. God's plan was for the Family. Why is there this teaching? Don't you perhaps think that God has got it wrong. Why did He forget to explain to us how a wife should love her wife or a husband how he is to love his wife.
Please show me how it is possible that a Man plus a Man can be a healthy family where they openly kiss each other in public. Where they openly share a bed together. If God intended a Man to be with a Man then he would have not made a woman in the first place. Look at all the creatures God created - Male and Female please show me an animal where the male will copulate with a male or the female with the female because they are "homosexual" or have suddenly become homosexual.
I sincerely pray that the Almighty Father will open your eyes so that you may see the error in what you are propagating.
Romans 1:21-32 (ESV) For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles.
Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.
For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error. And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done.
They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless.
Though they know God's decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them.reply to this comment
While I myself, like Graeme, have not made up my mind, I appreciate the time and attention given to the exploration of a subject that effects millions of people every day. Regarding the animal kingdom, I thought it may be interesting to take a look at the following articles (to be fair I have given a for and against argument):reply to this comment
Graeme, I can understand why you would like to leave bestiality out of the discussion. The fact remains, your hermeneutical method of disposing of Lev 18:22 can be used just as well (or better) with the next verse. The Bible does not condemn loving, monogamous sexual relationships between people and animals. You impose something from outside the Bible when you insist there can be no such thing. How hypocritical of you!reply to this comment
Graeme, I must commend you for being so clear. Thank you for setting forth the focus of your paper in the beginning, i.e. interpretation and application of Scripture. I would like to ask for further clarification on some issues. First, what exactly is your principle of exegesis in light of changing culture? Specifically, in light of the post-modern denial of objective truth how do we interpret the Scriptures confidently? Second, Do you know for sure that your interpretation is true/correct? I suspect you will say that you wish to alert us all to the inability to know truly what the Scriptures are saying. Would you wish to alert us confidently to the same?reply to this comment
I did not read the whole article...something that really bothers me is the fact that everybody has got their own interpretation of what the Word of God (Bible) actually means...some say you can't focus too much on the Old Testament (it's not that applicable in today's time) etc. My personal opinion...IT"S ALL ABOUT JESUS! And i'm not saying that that is not your view too. All i'm saying is that the word is the word. Man and woman is suppose to be together. This world isn't meant to be a "same-sex-world" i do not question the Bible...what it says is what it says. You cannot be hammering on theological-word-differences, etc etc. What it means is what it means. There's no bending it or compromise. The Word cannot be changed by man...it's either black or white. you are for it or against it...and on basis of that you will be held acountable one day. there is no gray area with Jesus.reply to this comment
"Jesus never mentioned homosexuality, even though he had a wonderful opportunity to do so"
You as human question the Word of God in this sentence...and you are implying to telling people what "Jesus should/could have done"
not onreply to this comment
Thanks for your comments. You say that the word is the word, and cannot be changed by man. Are you then suggesting that we should only read and interpret it in the original Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek? If not, then, my friend, it has already been changed.
So, as nice as your sentiment would be, it is impossible if you accept that you should be able to read the word in your own language.
As to your comments about Jesus, I did not question Him or put words in His mouth. I simply made a statement of fact. If God is so concerned about homosexuality, I would have expected Jesus to say something about it. He didn't. That's just a fact.reply to this comment
No not exactly a fact. This is an incomplete thruth. The whole fact is that we have no record of Jesus saying anything directly about homosexuality, or bestiality or paedophilia or a whole host of other sexual things. Do you suppose He had a view on these things? What do you suppose He would have based His view on? The Scriptures of the O.T.? What do you think, given that base, His view was? Or are you trying to tell us that Scripture's silence on Jesus saying anything or nothing about homosexuality indicates silent consent on His part for future generations to just ignore the Scriptures of the O.T. and shape their own view according to own preference?
What do you make of that silence, (of the N.T. record on whether Jesus did or did not say anything about homosexuality?).
P.S. We are getting a whole lot of comments not directly replied to. Anything in that? Anyway, gotta go off to B.U. Assembly now.
As an aside: that argument that translation "changes" God's Word-reply to this comment
If you want to know why I think Jesus didn't comment on homosexuality, it is precisely BECAUSE his views were informed by both the Old Testament and the New Covenant.
As I have adequately shown in the past, the OT statements about homosexuality have been grossly misinterpreted over the years. See:
As to the New Covenant, Jesus was clear and plain: Love God and love your neighbour and love yourself. Love is the basis of the whole of God's law.
All loving relationships in some way represent the relationship between God and His people. The love of a good king for his subjects, the love of a mother for her child, the love of husband and wife, the love of two friends - and many more - all reflect God's love for His creation.
Any and all of these relationships can also represent the destruction brought by sin, and the alienation brought by separation from God. Where any of these types of relationships becomes abusive, one-sided, forced, imposed or physically, emotionally or psychologically damaging, then they are wrong and sinful in God's eyes.
This applies to kings, to parents, to lovers...
I would argue that homosexual love can represent God's love if it obeys the laws laid down for partnerships in the Bible - lifelong, sexually monogamous, mutual.
Others would argue that this is possible, as long as there is no sex involved.
Finally, Willem, you say there are a lot of comments not being answered. I doubt it. I try and answer everything almost immediately. There have been a few good questions asked that require further research, and I have indicated that I am doing that.
The point of this blog site is not for me to defend a particular position, but rather to engage in discussion and learning. That takes time. This isn't my job, so I do it as I can. I don't feel a rush to handle such important issues in a short time scale. So, thanks for engaging in conversation, and apologies for any delays you may feel in the interactions.reply to this comment
Thank you for this very informative discussion. It certainly makes a lot more sense in relation to what we know about the personality of God than the traditional interpretation.reply to this comment
Didn't mean to sound impatient. Awaitng the outstandng replies at your convenience. It's just that we seem to find and abandon one good entry point into the discussion after the other.reply to this comment
I have had three friends say to me, "Jane, I know I love Jesus. And I know I'm attracted to people of my gender. And I'm done pretending those two statements are not true."
I very well may be wrong in accepting and loving these friends as they are. But I'd rather be wrong being too inclusive than being too exclusive. "You shut the door to the kingdom of heaven in people's faces" are words I never want to hear from Jesus.reply to this comment
<P>Hey Jane, if you need verses to quote, then why not try this one out:
<BR>If you declare with your mouth that Jesus is Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.
<P>1 Cor 12:3, "No-one can say Jesus is Lord except by the Holy Spirit".
<P>Who are we to put further requirements on these statements. I don't understand people who say they take Scripture seriously, but don't seem to hold to these two verses.
<P>And, if you want something from Jesus, then talk about the parable of the weeds and the wheat, where Jesus says that if WE try and pull out the weeds, then we could pull out some wheat. Jesus instructed us to just let the wheat and weeds grow up together, and let Him, the divine harvester, sort the weeds from wheat at the end of time. I am sure He will use the above two verses as a basis of His winnowing. Oh, and He may also look at what we actually did for Him (see Matt 25).reply to this comment
You cannot take bestiality out of the picture. It, as well as homosexuality as well as prostitution as well rape, is a sexual sin. The words "creation order" don't have to be actually in the Bible for one to say that it is against God's plan for anything sexually immoral to be done. And you cannot discredit Jesus being God. The Trinity is a fundamental doctrine of the Christian faith. Finally, you cannot argue things like a covered head when talking about the homosexuality verses in Romans 1. They specifically mention that these sins have happened over time - not just in the "Grecco-Roman time." God detests this sin as much as any other sin, and we cannot turn a blind eye to our brothers (and sisters) in Christ who struggle with any sin. We rebuke them with love to maintain our covenant of unity with each other. I will not stand by and let the church be washed into a lukewarm existence of "let's not upset anyone." I'll admit I have sins I struggle with too, but no one would turn a blind eye to them.reply to this comment
I'm not a Bible scholar. But old as this sounds, I believe that when God made male and female it was His declaration of proper sexing. Any kind of crossover, wether it be bi or transgender isn't part of His plan. BUT He understands all conflicts and though He doesn't change His perfect will to accommadate our confusion (and I do believe that homosexuality is gender confusion) He, being Lord of All, is obligated to show us the path that leads to truth and peace. Audacious as this sounds--I hold that to Him, for He claims to be the way, truth and life. This homosexuality thing is a bear of a struggle for many straight-seekers. I conclude that as with other struggles, we need discernment to shun ear-tickling counsel that does not lead to the upward call.
J. Nicolosi's books are a tremendous help on this topic.reply to this comment
I forgot to mention that I think too many Christians simplify conflicts by treating the Bible as a magic wand (If I read and claim scripture, then I shall be fixed. If I'm not fixed, then God is not True...) I'm not trying to minimize the struggle and angst of straight-seekers, but too often--well-meaning Christian counsel is dismissive and shallow.
The reason I like J. Nicolosi's approach is because he looks at the whole picture of the homosexuals past and present. He doesn't make promises, but offers enlightenment. He acknowledges that like all therapies, his is not 100% successful. Some of his clients were disappointed with his reperative therapy; others came away with profound insight, compassion and gratitude for their new lives.
It's extremely humbling to try and comprehend the complications of gender identity confusion. And when Christians speak of love, they must understand that God's love is so supernatural that yes, it's possible to love people and despise their sin. "Hate the sin, love the sinner" has become a very trite phrase. But in trying to follow the Triune God I've learned that my own sins keep me on a redemptive path that leads to the cross. I, too, desire patience and love--but I do NOT expect anyone to condone decisions which displease my Lord. Fellow Christians, by refusing to compromse--you are my light and salt of the earth. You give me hope.reply to this comment
With all due respect, I have trouble seeing Nicolosi's writings as "helpful." Based on his own experiences, he makes a bunch of declarative, generalizing statements about the psyches of gays, but offers little empirical evidence. In fact, I think what he writes could be just as easily be applied to heterosexuals who are frequenting bars in attempts at frivolous sexual encounters. Thanks for your thoughts
Nicolas Fenner, you say that God created male and female and this is his model for sexuality.
How then, do you explain Paul's affirmation (in fact, his strong desire and instruction) for us to be single and celibate?
How then, do you explain people born with both sets of genitals? Is this what you mean by transgender? BTW, this is not a freak and random event. By some estimates, more than 1 in 30,000 children are born with both sets of genitals. This means that there are about 200,000 such people in the world. How do we deal with them?
How, too, would you deal with Jesus' affirmation of the levirate marriage rules?reply to this comment
Point taken. Nicolosi's not for everyone, but he's been helpful for my family members which is empirical enough for me. For those who question Nicolosi's research or therapy--that's understandable as it reflects my pessemism towards those who purport to give voice to the "unspoken gay issue" of the Bible. Thanks for the dialogue.reply to this comment
Instead of my own thoughts, you may be interested in this ...reply to this comment
Your respect for good Biblical hermeneutics is commendable, yet your application of it falls short. Your treatment of Genesis and God's institution of male and female there runs into faulty interpretation. To be short, if we use the Scriptures to interpret themselves, a process you uphold, then Ephesians 5 seems to clear up for us what God meant when He created them male and female in Genesis. God's image was not in male and female together, God's image was in them individually. Man was just as much God's image as woman was. The marriage relationship of man and woman together is rather equated to Christ's relationship with the church. If the Scriptures were in any way to be in agreement with the practice of homosexuality then they would simultaneously contradict Ephesians 5 which upholds the marriage of man and woman as parallel to the union of Christ and the church.reply to this comment
<P>Your argument is well made, except for one fault in the logic. The Bible does not say that the marriage relationship is the ONLY analogy for the relationship of Christ and the church. In other words, it is not an exclusive picture. The Bible also uses the parent-child relationship as a picture of this relationship. We do not say that everyone MUST have children or they are going against God's will. Another analogy is the King and his people. Again, we do not claim that every nation MUST have a king, or else they will feel God's wrath.
<P>So, I agree with you entirely that the marriage of a man and a woman is a beautiful picture of Christ and the church. That does not mean, though, that other relationships are not able to equally demonstrate the beauty of Christ's relationship with His church.
<P>I still come back to a question I have asked a few times: WHY? Why would a loving, lifelong homosexual relationship not be able to be a picture of Christ's relationship with His church?reply to this comment
You're right, the marriage relationship is not the only analogy for Christ and the church. And further, you're right in bringing up the Parent/Child relationship as example. But then you miss the point. Does the Bible describe a Parent/Parent relationship as parallel to Christ/Church? Child/Child relationship? Or to use another of your examples, can a kingdom have two kings? Ironically, a Kingdom can have a King and a Queen but that doesn't really help your position.
The homosexual relationship in fact contradicts the Christ/Church relationship in Ephesians 5, unless your argument is that there are two Christs, or that there are two Churches and no Christ. What the Bible does tell us is that these special relationships, begun with Adam and Eve, were given because there are specific roles to be filled. Adam was alone and nothing in the animal kingdom could solve that, so God creates woman. A "suitable helper", a "counterpart" to him as man. Man fills the role as "head" of the wife, he fills the role of husband, he fills the role of wife, he parallels Christ. Likewise woman fills the role of wife, of body to her husband as head, of mother, of parallel to the Church. This is all simply what Ephesians 5 tells us (see Eph. 5:23 especially).
Again, if we're simply letting the words of Holy Scripture speak to us without bringing our modern presuppositions to the table, then it is simply impossible to argue that the relationship of man with man is in anyway a parallel to Christ and the church. Likewise then, the Scriptures don't allow for a man to marry a man, or a woman to marry a woman as these unions contradict God's order in marriage. Likewise then, sexual activity is forbidden as God has confined this alone to the context of marriage. And so on......reply to this comment
Graeme, I think it would be great if you would take up Willem's challenge and provide affirmative Scriptural evidence that God approves of same sex marriage. Since you are the one trying to overturn roughly 2000 years of church tradition, I think Willem is correct that the burden is on you to demonstrate God's approval of same sex marriage. A good starting place would be a single approving statement of homosexuality in Scripture.reply to this comment
I agree with Chris E. Like I said, I'm not a Bible scholar, but I believe His Truth isn't closed to non-seminary students like myself. The Bible clearly condones man-woman marriages. Show me scripture that clearly condones homosexual marriages. And I mean scripture that doesn't require a stack of reference books and theological degrees to interpret. Just good ol' scripture that the common man can read and understand.reply to this comment
Chris E, KC and others,
If only the Bible worked that way... The modern world would be such fun!
Show where in the Bible God tells us to keep the speed limit? Oh, He doesn't, so as a Christian, I am free to drive at any speed.
Show me where in the Bible God says that it's OK to use a piano, electric guitar or saxophone in worship? He commands us to use lutes, flutes, harps and lyres. Why do we disobey His Word every weekend? By your logic, unless God specifically condones something, it is not allowed.
Show where in the Bible God allows us to use contraception (to my Catholic readers, I apologise for this example - it's not really going to work for you). Show me in the Bible where God condones the use of antibiotics.
Maybe more significantly, show me in the Bible where God says that we have to accept Jesus Christ into our hearts as personal Lord and Saviour. I'm serious about this last one. Show me the verses. Show me just one verse. It's not there...
So, what do we do?
The Bible is not a textbook where we dip into the index, and if we can't find a reference then we make up our own rules. But that is precisely what I think has been done for most of church history.
As Christians we often bang on about "the sanctity of marriage". What does that mean?
The Bible condones (although never instructs) polygamy. The Bible instructs and condones the levirate marriage (if your brother dies without an heir, you have to service his wife until she gives birth to a son - this is an OT and NT requirement). The Bible condones concubinage. Many heroes of our faith had very dubious marriage arrangements. God chose an unmarried young girl to bear His Son, and then forced her into an embarrassing and early marriage. Paul actively promotes singleness, seemingly saying that "burning with lust" is an appropriate reason for marrying. Both OT and NT cultures presumed that marriages were arranged - so much so that there was not even a thought amongst Biblical writers that marriage may be predicated on love - rather, they encourage prearranged marriage partners to learn to love each other (in fact, sociology now proves that arranged marriages are more likely to be longer lasting, and arguably more loving - so why don't we insist on them these days?). Finally, the normal marriage age for women throughout the Bible was about 13 years old. Why have more than doubled that these days?
Where is the "consistent witness of the Bible"? Where is the "sanctity of marriage" in this list?
So, no, I can't show you an example of a gay marriage in the Bible. But that is not the powerful argument you might think it is.
If only the Bible worked that way... But it doesn't!reply to this comment
Thank you for your thoughtful and well explained post! I am going to link it to my blog as it is very detailed without being overwhelming. You are correct that those who already have their minds made up won't be changed or moved by this, at least in a positive way.
BTW, where do evangelicals come to say the Bible is inerrant? Nowhere have i read in the Bible does it state it is inerrant. i believe the people who authored the books in the Bible were followers of God and inspired by God. BUT, they were human beings like the rest of us. Also, scribes who copied things down often dropped letters so we may not have all the accurate information.reply to this comment
I know this is slightly off-topic, but existential Punk seems to understand Graeme's post to refute the inerrancy of Scripture and seems quite gleeful about it? Does Graeme agree?
BTW: My challenge was to indicate anything in Scripture (not "quote" a verse or in 2000 years of Church history that indicates that homosexuality was ever an accepted practice in Judeo-Christian tradition. My challenge stands. I really don't have the time to point out all the red herrings in Graeme's last post. They should be clear enough to anyone who cares to look out for them.reply to this comment
You jumped in just before I did... glad to see you're still watching the blog. I don't think Existential Punk was saying anything about what I believe about inerrancy - it was just his opinion.
I believe everything the Bible claims for itself. On the issue of inerrancy, I believe that every word in the Bible is precisely the word God intended to be there. But that does NOT mean that the Bible is "without error" in a modern scientific way. At this point, I need you to listen carefully - I have not said that there are errors in the Bible. What I have said is that we can read the Bible incorrectly.
The easiest example is that when the Psalmist says the sun rises in the morning, he is actually incorrect. The sun does not rise - the world rotates. So, from a scientific perspective, the Bible is wrong. Luckily, the Bible is not a politician trying to get elected and thus needing to guard every single word carefully. The Bible includes multiple genres, some of which are poetic, some prophetic, and some parts are even mythic (in the technical, literary use of that word!!).
Finally, I believe that every word in the Bible is precisely the word God intended *in the original documents*. We do not have these originals. There have been mistakes in transcription (copying) and in translation. Modern historical studies and linguistic analysis are helping us to better understand what was originally written and what was originally intended.
I hope that mini manifesto makes my position clear.reply to this comment
I have decided not to comment on the question of inerrancy further in this thread, except to say thank you for the clarification of your position (with which I differ in central aspects). Thank you also for clarifying the fact that Existential Punk was not saying anything about what you believe about inerrancy. I know that. It just seems to me he used what you said about how the Bible does not work to drive something he wanted to say against the evangelical belief in the inerrancy of Scripture. I just did not know "where he comes" to do that.reply to this comment
Hmmm. I went back and looked at my post and Willem's many previous posts to confirm my recollections. Neither of us, not even once, asked you about pianos, contraception, accepting Jesus into our hearts, polygamy, concubinage, marital age of consent, antibiotics, or the many other things you just dumped on us. Of course "things have changed" and doing theology in 2008 requires us to develop a hermeneutic that makes sense of the many passages in the scriptures that mention sex, sexuality, and marriage.
>>>those who already have their minds made up won't be changed or moved by this>>>
So true. I am unmoved, Graeme, as are you. Willem has made many fine arguments about the unconvincing points of your theology and you rarely bother to even respond to them, much less refute them. Shalom, brother.reply to this comment
You may want to check out the following posts at this blog. I have answered many issues, but normally started a new discussion thread to do so. I have also posted some details on some of the areas I merely summarised in this post. Finally, I have conceded that some of the points made have been excellent, and require some additional thought and research. I am in the process of doing that. But I do it in my spare time, in between trying to earn a living as a consultant in the worst economic downturn in 80 years!! So, please excuse me for not being as quick on the replies as I might normally be. My family's dinner comes before this discussion, I am afraid.
So, here are the links:
* Here is where I said I was taking a break from the discussion: http://www.futurechurch.co.za/item/where-to-from-here
* Here is a post that got some interesting interactions - in my opinion, way more powerful than most of the comments made to this post: http://www.futurechurch.co.za/item/show-me-where-i-am-wrong
* More detail on malekoi and arsenokoitos, the two Greek words in the NT: http://www.futurechurch.co.za/item/more-detail-on-1-cor-6-and-1-tim-1-new-testament-greek-words-for-homosexuality
* An older (and slightly more detailed) version of this post on the NT can be found here: http://www.futurechurch.co.za/item/homosexuality-3-the-new-testament-1-corinthians-6-9-10-and-1-timothy-1-9-11
And, then, quite a while ago now, here are the details on the OT sections:
* The Narratives: http://www.futurechurch.co.za/item/homosexuality-1-the-old-testament-stories
* The Law: http://www.futurechurch.co.za/item/homosexuality-2-the-old-testament-law
None of the posts above is perfect. That's why I am doing a blog, not a book. Thanks to everyone who is helping to shape the conversation and sharpen the points. I think everyone - whether for or against - is learning truth through this discussion, even if it is just learning how to define and defend the truth we believe. Even that in itself is surely worth the effort.reply to this comment
And Chris E,
I have just reread this whole thread. I think it is unfair to say that I am leaving lots of issues uncommented on. Once or twice I have conceded that a very good point has been made, and I need to do some more thinking and research. I am doing that.
But I have replied to almost every point that has been made.
If you disagree, please make my life easier, and give me a list of the issues you think I have ducked.
Graemereply to this comment
I think, Graeme, Chris E may be referring to quite a number of unanswered arguments (or, at least, I do not feel particularly answered) in the other threads that deal with this topic, especially here: http://www.futurechurch.co.za/item/homosexuality-in-church-history... where you "drew a line" right at the point when I saw your arguments taking serious strain, if you will pardon me for saying so. Anyhow, I do now that you are busy and can only attend to this discussion n-between more important things (as is true with all of us).
Had a great chat with your dad the other day. He is doing great!
Willemreply to this comment
If indeed God intended for a man to be with a woman and have children...(having children must be the purpose of being married if a man's brother must impregnant his widow upon his death)...then I would think that any marriage without children should be ended...as it would be sinful. In addition any man or woman who is uncapable of producing a child should not be allowed to marry. I truly do not understand why christians have such a huge issue with this subject. If indeed you honestly believe that homosexuallity is a sin...fine. God ahead and believe that. But why do you insist on forcing your beliefs on others? God wants you to respect, and love homosexuals...not hate them...and certainly not judge them. If you do believe what they do is sinful...then let God deal with that...it isn't your place to do it. I personally cannot for the life of me believe that God would have any problem with two adults...of any sex or sexual persuasion, involved in a loving relationship. I do think he has a problem with people who look upon homosexuallity as an arena to spew their venom and hate at other people.reply to this comment
You're making the mistake of thinking that when someone says that something is sin they are condemning, judging, and belittling the other person. That is not so. The issue here is one of love - if someone is destroying their life because of sin (like, for instance, homosexual behaviour) would anyone be loving towards them for not telling them what it is that's destroying their life? How can I love my brother if I'm not prepared to highlight the thing in his life that's destroying him? This isn't a matter of forcing my 'beliefs' this is a matter of loving my brother.
Likewise, God's "issue" with this thing has to do with what is BEST for us. He hi-lights his best in the Bible, and tells us how He has come to give us LIFE. If we don't want his life, that's fine, but let's not claim that something is His life when it isn't (ie. Let's not claim that something is not sin when it is). After all, woe to those who call good evil and evil good! His burden is light, not heavy!reply to this comment
Ryan Peter 2,
Nice comment. Thanks for that.
Your comment does highlight one of my questions. I'd be interested in some discussion on this: WHY has God called homosexuality a sin?
God's laws are for our best, and they make sense. We keep sex for marriage because God designed sex as the joining of souls - and that is what happens. We obey our "masters" because society needs structure - that's how God designed us. And so on...
But why is homosexuality sinful? What is it about homosexuality that is not good in God's eyes?reply to this comment
In response to:
"But why is homosexuality sinful? What is it about homosexuality that is not good in God's eyes?"
I'm assuming you are asking this question based upon logic. So from a logical stand point, and that of biology, a homosexual relationship is not truly fulfilling or natural. Meaning no offspring and or genetic fitness can result from this kind of relationship. Reproduction is the primary vehicle of genetic fitness.
Without tapping the conflicting region of creationism and evolution, Why would God intend us to take part in a relationship that is limiting rather than perpetuating? Homosexuality is a biological death sentence; it is clearly not a product of biological design. Those examples that are present today are a product of perversion and an indication of the massive psychological corruption present within a sinful world and society.
With this being said, I'm sure that a homosexual relationship may provide some level of satisfying connection between two individuals. however, does not a compromise involve mixing something that is ideal with something that is not? The presence of some good does not justify the existence of some wrong. Evil seeks to provide a counterfeit for every thing that God has made.
In echoing what has been previously stated, God loves us, but does not love our sin or ramifications of it.reply to this comment
A Catholic answer would be that, for one thing, homosexuality is wrong in God's eyes because of the effects and potential effects that it has on family (and therefore on society), as God intended family (and society) to be, and of the missing of the mark with regard to God's principle purpose with sex . As is the case with contraceptive sex, homosexual sex is not sincerely and resolutely open to the possibility of family, and, as Chesterton eloquently argued:
"Sex is an instinct that produces an institution; and it (sex) is positive and not negative, noble and not base, creative and not destructive, because it produces that institution. That institution is the family; a small state or commonwealth which has hundreds of aspects, when it is once started, that are not sexual at all. It includes worship, justice, festivity, decoration, instruction, comradeship, repose. Sex is the gate of that house; and romantic and imaginative people naturally like looking through a gateway. But the house is very much larger than the gate. There are indeed a certain number of people who like to hang about in the gate and never get any further.
It seems to me (and I speak now with sincere compassion towards homosexuals for what they miss) that homosexual sex does not even hang about in the gate- it stares at the blank wall into which the gate is fixed. It does so, I'm sure homosexuals would say, with some fleeting pleasure, of course, but it stares at the blank wall all the same. This, to my mind, is sad.
Homosexual sex sets people whom God loves on a detour around the gateway to the very throb of the heart of the triune God: family. In this way they miss (if they don't shun) what God wanted to bless them with through sex. That is missing the mark, and missing the mark is sin. And this sin, as all sin, has a devastating effect on society as God intended society to be.
P.S. I hope I have been successful in my strong effort to avoid a judgemental or insolent tone.reply to this comment
Willem and Concerned08,
Thanks for your well considered and sensitive answers. If only everyone opposed to homosexual behaviour would have attitudes like yours, this issue would not be quite as rancorous.
Having said that, I'd like to ask other people whether they agree with you that the divine purpose of sex is for reproduction. This has been the majority view throughout church history, but I don't think it is the majority view today, is it?
Either way, using the same logic and hermeneutics you used above, would you call all childless marriages cursed (this is what the Bible says)? And would you say that couples who choose to not have children (as opposed to those who cannot have children, even though they try) are sinning or an abomination? And how do you explain Paul's recommendation that he wishes everyone would be single (surely that would destroy the family faster than a minority of homosexuals would?). And, finally, if God's instruction for procreation was "to fill the earth", what happens to this instruction when it's outcome is fulfilled? What I mean by that is that the world's poorest and direst locations coincide precisely with the parts of the world that still have the highest birth rates. Having children in the 21st century is actually part of the problem of sustainable living - we have overfilled the earth! (By the way, there are a significant number of species that turn homosexual when overpopulation occurs - is this because of the Fall, or just part of the design?).
OK, lots of questions.
The basic statement is that I don't think your argument is convincing. There are too many exceptions and contradictions.
Can you help me understand how you deal with this.
Thanksreply to this comment
Lots of questions, indeed! In one post you touch upon homosexual sex; contraception; over-population and celibacy! You will understand. I’m sure if I don’t respond to all of that now, but let me see how far I get in a few moments:
No, I do not see procreation as the only, or even main divine purpose for sex. I think this is where the Church has stated (though not understood) things clumsily in the past. It is not so much the procreation as such (the mere making of babies, to put it bluntly) that is the divine purpose for sex, but what I call the open-to-new-life expression, in sex, of family, community and society. That “open-to-new-life” element is vital. I believe that this order of things is at the same time a most natural and a profoundly spiritual thing- from two lovingly intertwined lives comes new life. Spiritually and theologically we may see an analogy with the lovingly intertwined and interactive LIFE (deliberately singular) of the divine Persons of the Trinity, through whom, in and through that familial interaction, comes new life in creation, procreation and redemption. In short, then, the divine purpose of sex, as I see it, is the open-to-new-life expression of family, community and society. It is the very expression of the Life of the Trinity. As an aside: These are the realities that made it impossible for me to laugh along with my colleagues when a hip (Dominican!) professor, during a recent post-grad seminar said that “sex does not come from heaven; it comes from earth”. A couple of my colleagues displayed some embarrassment when I explained later why I did not laugh along.
This openness to new life remains present in not-by-choice childless couples, perhaps even more so than in many fertile couples. In fact, it is always for me, as a father and (young) grandfather a deeply humbling thing to see the yearning for children in couples who long to have children, but, for physiological reasons, cannot have children. That longing and yearning in such couples is an authentic open-to-new-life expression of family, which renders them families as much as anyone else and perhaps even more so than many. That open-to-new-life yearning gives as much (perhaps more) spiritual authenticity to the sexual union of such dear ones as there may be in that of any fertile couple.
As for by-choice childless couples: now we are getting into the whole topic of contraception- the least talked-about topic in all of Protestantism! I would not speak to such childless couples in terms of “curses and abominations” (horror!). I prefer to speak to them in terms of the sanctity of life and of all the God-ordered means of its creation and procreation.
This openness to new life is (sadly) the missing element in homosexual sex. This absence of the possibility to new life is what turns homosexual (and, to be consistent, in the Catholic view, contraceptive heterosexual sex) into a less than sanctified act.
If you don’t mind, I am not going to talk about Paul’s “wish that all should remain single” now, except to say that I believe Paul made that statement with the (always) imminent second-coming and the implications of that imminence in mind.reply to this comment
Continued: As for the problems of over-population: I am not convinced, in my mind, that over-population is the real problem, even where it seems to be the case. Besides, the argument that there is a surplus of people on the earth is an old one and one which I have never found myself able to state, simply because…. I’m around. To explain and close with the help of Chesterton again: Chesterton once asked a person who was sounding the over-population alarm loudly and persistently: “so you say that there is a surplus of people on the planet?” The person answered, “yes”, to which Chesterton replied: “Do you see yourself as part of that surplus, and if not, why not?”reply to this comment
Thanks for the excellent response. I really like this concept of marriage and the "open to new life" approach. It makes sense.
But it's the inconsistency around how to treat those who choose childlessness and who use contraception. Surely both of these should be as much a sin as homosexual sex. (I understand that Roman Catholics do argue this - at least in the Vatican and in formal communications, if not in practice).
How do we deal with this inconsistency? And why are we comfortable with it? If we are not comfortable with it, are those who oppose homosexual sex also prepared to oppose contraception and preach that marriages must - as far as it is within the power of the couple involved - produce children?reply to this comment
Graeme, now you've put me on the spot! I agree that there are serious implications in my argument for the Protestant view of contraception. I am quite (and increasingly) uneasy with the inconsistencies in the position of contracepting Protestants who (rightly) condemn abortion and proclaim the sinfulness of homosexual sex. I am increasingly uneasy with the Protestant approach to contraception, precisely because of my openness to life stance. I am not too sure that it would be wise for us to open that can of worms here, though. Let me just say that I absolutely agree with you, that if I locate the sinful element in homosexual sex in its closedness to the possibility of new life, then consistency would require of me to condemn contraception in equally strong terms. Having said that, some important dissimilarities do existing the two situations (contraception and homosexual sex). For one thing, as many an "unplanned" child proves, contraception is, even at its best (or worst, as devout Catholics would put it) never as closed to the possibility of new life as homosexual sex is by its very nature. I am sure that, proceeding from that reality, you could draw out some further implications that set contraception apart from homosexual sex as far as that important closedness-to-new-life sinful element goes.reply to this comment
Bad sentence in previous comment: "Having said that, some important dissimilarities do existing the two situations (contraception and homosexual sex)". It should read:
"Having said that, some important dissimilarities do exist in the two situations (contraception and homosexual sex)".reply to this comment
Thanks again for your honest and considered response.
It strikes me that where "traditional evangelicals" and "emerging evangelicals" diverge is on these types of issues.
I have much more respect for churches that are completely cessasionist (i.e. don't believe that any of the 'charismatic' gifts are available today) than those that say, "the charismatic gifts are still available today, but not in our church" (this is the position of most Baptist churches).
I have more respect for churches that don't believe in women leaders, and don't allow women in any position, than those churches that don't believe in women leading and teaching, but have them teach Sunday School and going as missionaries all over the world.
As you will know, I have real difficulties with how churches are prepared to have all sorts of inconsistencies in how they apply the Bible's sexual instructions - except when it comes to homosexuality. Where do we draw the consistency line?reply to this comment
I agree that there are consistency problems with regard to many issues in evangelical churches. What I find worse than the inconsistencies themselves, is the lack of awareness that they are there, and, worse, still, the often almost dishonest attempts at explaining or rationalising them away. Where do we draw the consistency line? We don't, I believe. Scripture does. We get to toe the line obediently, and consistently so. If a discussion of homosexuality can reveal inconsistencies in principles and practices in evangelicalism with regard to sexuality, then let them be noted and rectified. But I do not think that merely pointing out the inconsistencies absolves homosexuality of culpability. Perhaps this is what true Reformation is all about- seeking and establishing greater consistency in the way we apply the rightly divided Word of God.
By the way- (and I know that is another topic) I do not think that it is the case in most Baptist churches that they have a view of "the charismatic gifts are still available today but not in our church". The situation is far more complex. Some Baptist churches may be guilty of such an inconsistency. But, in my observation, most are not. Most distinguish between the miraculous charismatic gifts (e.g. healing) and the marks of the apostles (e.g. miracle handkerchiefs). They believe the former still for today and the latter not. As for such gifts as tongues and prophecy, they define these differently to (and to my mind more accurately) than Charismatics. Anyway- that topic for another day, perhaps.
P.S. I am (D.V.) going to Scotland in the early part of 2009. I hope to stop by in London. Perhaps we can have coffee? I'll keep you posted.reply to this comment
I would like to address two points,
First, in regards to your question/point "And how do you explain Paul's recommendation that he wishes everyone would be single (surely that would destroy the family faster than a minority of homosexuals would?)"
In this instance I do not believe you are considering the actual context of this text, as during the time when Paul was writing this Christians were highly persecuted and his statement about remaining single was directed as a concern for persecuted individuals leading towards the persecution of their whole family (i.e. - "perpetuating hardship") I think it is a bit hasty to assume that this text is a timeless, universal statement about Paul's opinion or God-inspired writing on marriage and the family.
You asked/stated "(By the way, there are a significant number of species that turn homosexual when overpopulation occurs - is this because of the Fall, or just part of the design?)"
This reasoning is demonstrative of some faulty logic. First of all, from the standpoint of population biology, such a homosexual transition in said species due to "overpopulation" would be a result foremost from increased competition for mating. In other words, the individuals least capable of competing, or "genetically un-fit" in theory, would be the individuals transitioning to homosexuality, which would be naturally prevented from passing on their genes *(certainly you would not argue this to be a positive thing for the individuals involved). Following this founded biological principle, it would seem that the logic in question would have quite offensive implications for homosexuals if applied to humanity.
In avoiding this, what I believe to be, unfair conclusion about homosexuals, the only viable alternative is to conclude something LIKE homosexuality is not a natural product or mechanism and, further, a environmentally inspired change rooted in sociological and psychological triggers (or at least, to some degree).
Regardless, I cannot understand that you would, in consideration of these principals, conclude that homosexuality is in any way normal or healthy. Either it is indicative of inferior genetic fitness or it is a reactive product to negative sociological cues within an individual's environment.
This is a part of a comment I posted elesewhere in response to someone linking to this thread. Please forgive any awkwardnes resulting from that source, or any perceived disrespect from the breezy style on that forum.
The Jewish Bible is exceptionally clear on the the issue of homosexuality. Codrington attributes various motives to the readings which are unwarrented and make no sense. Without doing a comprehensive search, I'll accept Codrington's OT sources.
For the 'naarative' examples, in the cases of both Sodom and Gibeah, the Hebrew term used for the intentions of the mob to the visitors is the term 'to know [them]'; used as euphemism for sexual relations, something immediately identified not only as an abusive act but as more abhorrent than male-female relations, even forcible rape. In Hebrew, it is unmistakable. The term 'know' is used in the conventional sense, but not in relation to other people as in 'hey, glad to know you'. One does not have to travel to Ezekiel to be told that the Sodomites did all kinds of other detestable things. This is especially interesting in the case of Lot because he lived before Sinai, but it does reveal that the common knowledge of this was as an evil act, especially for someone with history with Abraham. It is also interesting that this persisted identically and consistently centuries later.
For the 'Law' sources, the prohibition is not simply “men lying with men” but [u]"as with womankind"[/u]. It is quibbling to assert that in those days humans did not experience the enlightened loving emotions, the committments etc. of later times. This is a blanket statement. Forcible or exploitative relations are handled in law elsewhere. Note also regarding the issue of bestiality that it is not simply a slippery slope argument, but these prohibitions are embedded within a long list of specific prohibitions against adultery, incest and bestiality. To digress briefly, I heard not long ago that all sexual immorality, even heterosexual adultery, is more or less 'gay' and anamalistic behavior. It was not obvious to me at the time, but to the extent that such behavior is a product of the human capacity for abstraction and fantasy as opposed to coming to terms of reality, it works, with homosexulity and bestiality being the most extreme examples of a conscious effort to deny reality (reality being a prime attribute of a relationship with God).
Codrington has a section called 'Why?' in which he explores as follows: "There are only two things God could then be opposed to: (1) sexual intercourse between people of the same sex, and (2) marriage that does not involve one man and one woman." After wasting a bit of time on technicalities, he correctly concludes that "When this line of argument is pursued, it seems that the only real reason that God might be against lifelong, monogamous homosexual partnerships is that somehow the image of God in people would be tainted". He goes on to try to disprove it, but is not successful as I will explain. That's it right there. And that applies to all of the associated sexual prohibitions in the Law. Not only sexual, actually. In Jewish thought, an unmarried person is not a fully actualized human being (in the spiritual sense), and a couple with no children is not fully actualized, and even a couple with offspring of only one sex is not. With all the jokes about aggressive Jewish dating and matchmaking, its source is in Jewish thought.
If a couple has only boys, it's not like they have to repent, but someone who stays single or chooses not to have childen is not righteous. Jewish thought, remember. Here, from Wikipedia "The Talmudic account states that Isaiah went to tell Hezekiah that he was going to die because he deliberately did not have children. This was on account of the fact that Hezekiah had seen prophetically that his child would be an idolator and therefore he preferred not to have children. Isaiah told him he was required to fulfil the biblical commandment of "be fruitful and multiply" and not outguess God about what the future would bring."
We could go on quibbling, but the alpha and omega of all this, excuse the expression, is the will of God, yesterday, today and tomorrow. And I would add that we are all in this not just to feel better, but to [i]be[/i] better.reply to this comment
"For the 'Law' sources, the prohibition is not simply “men lying with men” but [u]"as with womankind"[/u]". This "as with a woman" (i.e. in a marital relationship, which is the only legitimate scenario in which a man was alowwed to "lie with a woman" at all), is devastating for the gay-inclusive position. Thank you for pointing it out again.reply to this comment
Thanks for your comments. I am battling to see where we would disagree (except, possibly, in our conclusions).
I happily stipulate that the men of Sodom and Gibeah intended to have homosexual sex with he visitors. That is not in dispute. What is disputed is one or both of (1) is this THE reason God destroyed the cities (remembering that God had intended to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah long before this incident), and/or (2) was the issue that angered God the rape, violence, lust and/or disrespect of visitors? I don't think Scripture provides a clear enough answer to either of these questions, and therefore am convinced we build a flimsy case on these narrative foundations.
As to the Law, again, I don't see where we disagree. I am happy to stipulate that the Law prohibited homosexual sexual relations, as practiced by the surrounding nations (and Israel), and especially (possibly) as evidenced in idolatrous temples of the heathen nations. My point is not about what was in the Law, but what ELSE was in those Laws. In the same list which includes homosexuality, sex with mothers-in-law and bestiality, are instructions about harvesting fields to their edges, wearing long sideburns and making clothes with two types of cloth. By what interpretative process do we choose to not apply those today? That's the issue.
I am not sure what point you are trying to make when you talk of the Jewish traditions about childless marriages and single men. Your points seem to strongly support mine, in that the OT prohibitions have more to do with a Jewish cultural milieu than with God's eternal plan. Paul makes it very clear that the Jewish mindset towards singles and the childless is wrong and not God's intention, and that although marriage is a strong representation of God's image in humanity, it is not the ONLY representation available to us.
So, I would see this as supporting the view of a progressive (as in unfolding, or "changing over time") view of human sexuality. But that means I have probably misunderstood you.
Please let us have the link to other posts - would love to check out the other forum.reply to this comment
Please see the interesting article written by Robert A. J. Gagnon, Associate Professor of New Testament at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary, in response to Lisa Miller's article "Mutual Joy" in Newsweek. It really makes you think. http://robgagnon.net/articles/homosexNewsweekMillerResp.pdf...reply to this comment
After reading through this entire thread, I wanted to first say thank you for an intelligent discussion from all participants. It is refreshing to read such words, that do not incite hateful mean comments, which so many sites/blogs often do.
I am a Christian female in my late 30's. I believe in God, I go to church, I work full time and I live a healthy and happy life...and I am also gay. I struggle on a daily basis with many of the issues being addressed. That being said I am looking for an answer to what should be a simple question. What does the bible suggest that homosexuals do to remain one of his children?
Should they stay single? Should they stay celibate? This is a serious question for me since I can no more choose to be heterosexual and marry a man that a heterosexual person could choose to be homosexual.
I have been in a loving monogamous relationship with my partner for 8 years. We are raising a 1 year old daughter, that I gave birth to and that she has adopted. She is the light of our lives, an absolute joy, and she has truly made us a family. My partner and I both come from a strict Catholic background. We want our daughter to have a christian upbringing.
OK, I know most of that was unnecessary information, but I'm just trying to set up the whole picture here.
To those of you who argue that homosexuality is a sin, I simply ask: What must I do?
Is it not at all possible to be gay and be a christian?
In any case, I thank you for you comments. God Bless.reply to this comment
Thanks for your comment. This blog is for people like yourself - trying to find God's way to live a life worthy of His calling.
For the record, if it makes any difference... I am heterosexual man, married for 17 years (as of last week) with three daughters, one of whom is adopted. I did not choose to be a man, nor did I choose to be heterosexual. The reason I am interested in the issue of how Christians should respond to homosexuality is because there are people like yourself all over the world who just want to do the right thing.
Here is my answer to your question. I hope Willem comes in on this conversation, too, since I think we might be more aligned than some suspect.
Regardless of your theological position (either opposed to homosexuality or not), I think there would be strong agreement on the following statements:
* choosing to spend your life with one other person, regardless of gender, is no problem.
* choosing to raise a child and provide a solid and supportive family for that child is a spiritual endeavour which you should do with confidence. It is ideal for children to have both male and female role models in their lives, and I am sure you are doing your best to ensure this happens. Your situation of two women raising a child is no issue to God.
* if the Bible has any issues with homosexuals (I use the term to encompass lesbians as well), it is the sexual relationship. If you haven't been convinced by some of the arguments in the debate, you could be "safe" and be celibate. Loving your partner, sharing your lives, sharing a home and incomes - none of these are contrary to Scripture. The only issue is sexual relations.
I am still on a journey of discovery on this issue, and have not yet made up my mind. But so far the journey has helped me to define the issue clearly as a sexuality issue. I hope that helps you, and gives you confidence to be great parents to your child.reply to this comment
"To those of you who argue that homosexuality is a sin, I simply ask: What must I do?"
My approach is not to "argue that homosexuality is a sin". Knowing what is in my own heart and nature I could never look someone in the eye who finds herself in the dilemma that you find yourself in and "argue that homosexuality is sin". Nor could I bluntly "tell them what to do". Rather, I ask myself: WHAT SHOULD I DO? As I understand the Lord, my duty is to love God, and in an expression of my love for God, to, first of all, love all people regardless of what (in my perspective, which I hope to be a Biblical perspective) their virtues and vices may be, and, secondly, in an expression of my love for people to tell them about God, His works, His will, and His ways. I have tried, in this discussion, to state what I believe to be God's will and ways with regard to homosexuality, yet to do so with all the love and respect for other people that I can muster, by the grace of God. As you will, no doubt, have seen, I believe that a homosexual lifestyle (celibate or not) is not compatible with Christianity. Whilst I share Graeme’s deep concern for you, and whilst I do appreciate the many ways in which he challenges Evangelicals to consider some of their bad attitudes towards homosexuals, I differ with him on some of his conclusions. I am comfortable, with reserve, with Graeme’s definition of the issue “clearly as a sexuality issue” and that “the only issue is sexual relations”. However, I do not see “sexual relations” as being merely a physical thing, and, for this reason, I do not think that the suggestion of celibacy is so neat a solution. I say this with all the respect and love and compassion that I can muster, and even then I feel like I am the last one on earth who can speak into the lives of other human beings in so straightforward a way. Please know that I think you very courageous to invite answers to a question that impacts so deeply and widely on everything you hold dear. Be assured that I, for one (I am sure you can count Graeme in too) will stand alongside you against all insensitive or pontificating responses, should such come).
My heart goes out to you when I hear your question: "What should I do?" I have the same question with regard to many things in my own nature. I have had to give up big chunks of myself- chunks, so I have had to confess, that were just not compatible with the clearly revealed will of God. In many such a season, I have longed to be more open with other Christians with regard to what I was struggling with (and am often still struggling with). But, for fear of rejection, I have not been able to do so.
Tracy, I sense that you are ready to do anything to be in the will of God, regardless of what sacrifices that may require of you? My sincere prayer is that you will find a place among God's people where you can ask your heart-rending question ("What should I do") openly, without a single Christian even frowning upon you. My prayer is that you will ask your question of the Lord Himself and not of people. I pray that in that place the people of God will stand beside you and, as you hear God's answer, they will not just say "now do it", but rather "how can we help you and love you more?" I hope that they will make it easy for you and your loved ones to come to the foot of the cross, as you are, and let God lead you on, in a loving community, one step at a time, to where God wants you to be.
So, I would like to borrow your question and put it to all of us who, too often, merely "argue that homosexuality is sin": "For Tracy, her dear ones, and others like them, what WE do?"
From today, Tracy, you and your dear ones are in my prayer diary.reply to this comment
That is correct. You cannot explain away verse by verse.
The general thrust of the Bible is clearly in the other direction.
Google "Peter Ould" on this topic.reply to this comment
I have only seen these posts now and hope that it is not too late and that you will see this post. You know Tracy, you ask whether you can be gay and be a Christian, and my honest answer is "Probably not". With that said though, I would like to point out that I am of the view that there is a vast difference in being a christian and being a child of God. The probability that you will be accepted as a christian in the church as a gay person is very slim, but what you really need to know is whether you are a child of God and only you can answer that. God's greatest laws all speak of love, so the questions that you need to ask are "Do you love God and do you not worship any other God?", "Do you accept that Jesus is the way, the truth and the life and that He is the only way to God?". If your answer to these questions are yes, then you are a child of God, regardless of what any church says. If the answer is yes on both questions, then you don't need anyone else to affirm that you are a child of God.
Secondly, do you love your partner and your child with all your heart? If so, then don't allow people to cause doubt. How can there be anything wrong with love that is so strong and true? Just as easily as people who are against being gay can make you doubt, there are people out there who are willing and able to help you to strengthen your faith and build on what you have right now, which from the sound of it, is a lovely and loving family.
If you'd like to have a view from a God serving gay perspective visit http://www.gaychurch.co.za . The pastor there is Andre Muller, a wonderful, compasionate child of God that can truly help you with the questions that you are struggling with.
Badly need your help. To have a right to do a thing is not at all the same as to be right in doing it.
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:D Thanks in advance. Tamara.reply to this comment
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There are mow so many films about homosexuals and their life! Try to input "homosexuality" into some search engine, e.x. http://www.rapidsharemix.com and you will see what our children are being taughtreply to this comment
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