An Evangelical Support for Same-Sex Marriage

I have been asked by several of my evangelical friends to both explain my position and help them to approach this conversation in a way that does not require them to disregard the Bible that they so value. I will do this as directly and effectively as I can without being dismissive. If I am too brief in some aspect, please let me know which element you would like to have elaborated. This is an emotionally charged issue for folks on both sides and I am trying to be as irenic as possible.

 Preface: As Evangelicals we hold that the Bible as the inspired written word of God. It points us to the Incarnate Word of God (Jesus) and becomes living and active when it is read or proclaimed as the ‘declared’ word of God when preached under the influence of Holy Spirit power. (Some specialized groups will want to say ‘inerrant’ or ‘infallible’ instead of inspired but I stick with inspired since it has the greatest level of agreement.)

 The thought process for a new approach to same-sex unions centers around three things: 

 The Old Testament: Christians are not bound to the ‘law’ and follow almost none of the rules found in the Hebrew testament. Romans 10:4 says that Christ is the end of the law  for all who believe and the Christian scriptures say that Christ abolished the law (Ephesians 2:15), fulfilled the law (Romans 10:4 & Matthew 5:17) and made it obsolete (Hebrews 8:13).  We can’t quote any of the Old Testament ‘clobber’ passages on this issue. While the Old Testament is an inspired record containing the word of God, Christians have been set free and no longer live by that law (see the book of Acts 10-15).

The New Testament: Paul did not write in a vacuum. He wrote in the context of the Roman empire – both in reaction to and correction of. Central to the Roman code was something called the Pater familias. The ‘dad’ (land owner) in a Roman family basically ‘owned’ everyone else (including wife and kids) and could do whatever they wanted (including sexually) with them. There was also a practice of men going to war taking a young ‘armor bearer’ (or companion) who they could use sexually. What verses like Romans 1 are against is something that everyone – no matter where they are on our current issue – would still be against.

Homosexuality: Homosexuality was a medical term invented in the 19th century. It was in contrast to heterosexuality (notice the binary).  The Bible (the inspired written word of God) is not talking about homosexuality. It didn’t exist. The Bible is not talking about the same thing we are debating. It can no more be addressing homosexuality than it can be talking about Television. There was no such thing. Our contemporary talk about sexual identity and sexual orientation is not on the Bible’s radar.

We don’t live by the Old Testament. The New Testament is talking about something we would all still be against. The Bible is not talking about the same thing that we are debating, it didn’t exist. To drag our ‘homosexuality’ into the pages of the Bible is anachronistic (out of time sequence).

 Sexual identity/orientation is something we have to talk about in light of scripture’s teaching, but we can’t simply import our English words and concepts into the original text and assume that it is addressing the same things we are wrestling with.*

 So let’s be clear – here is what we are saying and what we are not saying:

  •  We are not talking about permissive promiscuity and a ‘do what ever you want’ morality.
  •  We are talking about committed disciples of Christ finding a healthy expression of their sexuality in a committed long term relationship.
  •  We are not talking about anything goes licentiousness.
  •  We are talking about equality for those with orientations that are admittedly not the majority expressions but who, none the less, have a sexual identity that is valid and legitimate.

So there it is -as simply as I can state it. I have found this three-pronged approach to be a good first entry into the conversation. From there I would talk about the trajectory of liberation found in the New Testament, or the hermeneutical approach that allows us to navigate the sayings in the Bible about divorce in our contemporary churches (we clearly have the ability to navigate that sort of challenge.)

I hope this will be helpful or at least informative of one approach to addressing support for same-sex unions.

 

* I know that some who are more progressive are going to say “even if it was – so what? The Bible was wrong on slavery and it is wrong on this too!”. Can I just kindly say that this post is not intended for you and that it is great that you already have your conviction and if you could just let us slow-pokes have this little conversation in our own terms, that would be really helpful. 

_____ post script

So Lynette came on and answered the question that so many had been asking for 2 days and I had only attempted to answer:

The term “arsenokoites” in Paul’s writing and the term “homosexual” today don’t really map to each other very well.

Arsenokoites was even used in reference to married, opposite-sex relationships in the early church (See John the Faster’s “Many men commit the sin of arsenokoitia with their wives.”). Arsenokoites would appear to mean “A man who takes sexual advantage of those under his authority, including male slaves (his own and those belonging to pagan temples), sons, pupils, and prisoners of war”.
Whereas homosexual means a person, male or female, who is romantically, relationally, and sexual attracted primarily to those of his or her own sex or gender, and therefore is likely to seek romantic partnerships and sexual relationships with his or her own sex or gender (though one can be celibate and still be homosexual).
They don’t map very well together. In Paul’s world, sex was largely a matter of power relationships– a man acquired a wife, a slave, a prostitute, a child, etc. and could, as part of his authority gratify sexual desires with those under him.
Today’s relationships are largely based on love, partnership, companionship, not property and authority. Therefore, what Paul writes has to be understood through the lens of his own time and not through our own lens.

_______ pt. 2

The amazing amount of comments has exceeded the program’s ability to display them all on the same page.  So I am moving some very helpful comments up into the original post so that we can all find them as the conversation progresses.

 From JDS: For an extended discussion of the word “arsenokoitai,” please see: http://www.religioustolerance.org/homarsen.htm. (This site is excellent for presenting multiple interpretations of the Bible’s references to homosexuality). The word has been translated various ways over the years, but the translation as homosexual does not appear until the last couple hundred years.
Again: the term “homosexuality” has no record before about 1800 (and is very rare until later in the 19th century). “Arsenokoitai” also (as far as we can tell) does not refer to lesbianism, fwiw, but only some kind of male sexual practice (Martin Luther thought it meant self-abuse, apparently).

The upshot is that Paul does NOT use the very common Greek term “paiderasste,” which was what the Greeks used to refer to male-male sex. Instead, he uses this other term of more obscure origin.

 

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185 comments
tonymyles
tonymyles

For anyone who's reading these comments, it's important that you know what the original author of this article meant when he wrote this.  I'm not that author, but I know what he meant.

You may think this is an article about homosexuality, marriage and more -- but it isn't. That's merely a common misunderstanding.

The word "misunderstanding," by the way, was invented in the 15th Century. No one ever had misunderstandings before then.

This article is about the TV show Knight Rider. Not the new version that was only on for one season, but the original series. In fact, it's specifically about episode 2 from season 2, named "Goliath - Pt 2." You don't need to worry about what happened in "Goliath - Pt 1," though. We're no longer bound to that episode.

I hope this clears it up. And if you disagree with me, then you have an awful hermeneutic... and gyros... and some other Greek words.

Now, let's go watch some Knight Rider and make sure the Supreme Court lets us.

cikamarko
cikamarko

I'm sorry if my comments are a repeat of some others. By the time of this reply, many were already moved to another site.

 

Your flat dismissal of the idea that Christians should honor the OT law is not consistent with the teachings of the New Testament or the ethics of Jesus or the understanding of the church throughout the ages.

 

I agree with that concept when the NT clearly sets aside the OT code, like in the case of kosher laws where the teachings of Jesus and the other apostles set them aside. I disagree that we can set aside OT prohibitions when the NT specifically upholds them.The NT upholds certain OT codes, particularly the sexual codes. And where the teachings of Jesus and the NT affirm the OT, who are we to ignore them? Furthermore the teaching of Jesus actually tightens or further restricts the OT teaching about sex and marriage.Paul coined the word "arsenokoitai." I believe it is based upon the verses found in Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13. The Greek translation of these verses, which Paul knew, use the very words that Paul joined together: "arsen," man and "koitai" to lay with. The verses forbid men laying with other men as they might lay with a woman.

 

The OT verses make no mention of power or oppression or prostitution. They just forbid a certain behavior regardless of the intent of the participants. So it would be a stretch to assume that Paul's use of the words somehow include this idea.

 

 

 

BenjaminRMarsh
BenjaminRMarsh

I've written a response to this article, Bo, on my own blog - no intent to redirect traffic, but I do not want to crowd the comments page either.

 

http://ethicspeak.blogspot.com/

 

Thanks,

 

Ben Marsh

AnthonyAustin
AnthonyAustin

I’ve grown up in the Church of the Nazarene and have been greatly influenced by the Wesleyan perspective.  While the denomination’s official position has been against the act of homosexuality in any form, it is my roots within the denomination that has led me to be a vocal supporter of same-sex rights.  While many in the denomination see this issue differently than I do, I am nevertheless a product of this tradition and its emphasis on relational holiness. 

 

I believe the Christian church is being led in the direction of greater acceptance and support for homosexuality.  I believe God is at work and is blessing these same-sex couples’ lives.  I have experienced the grace, kindness, and dignity of many people who are gay and I owe it them, and to my own theological heritage, to witness to the love of God wherever it might be found.   

 

I do not believe this is an argument that can be won by quoting scripture.  Both sides seem fairly entrenched and both make valid points within their own particular theological/biblical framework.  But you end up just talking past one another.   

 

One thing I try to emphasis when speaking to others about this issue is that people who think like me do take sin seriously.   We do not fight for gay rights because we are soft on sin.  This isn’t an “anything goes” Christianity.  And this isn’t a “bowing to the culture” type of Christianity either.   It is the type of Christianity that will stand up against the sin of hatred, bigotry, and injustice at the expense of one’s own ability to work within a denomination.   It begins with God’s love for us, and with our awesome responsibility to love one another.  If sharing that love includes intimacy between two men or two women, and the depth of their relationship is strengthened by it, then so be it.   

 

JeffStraka
JeffStraka

Judaism divides the mitzot into two categories: those between human and God (ben adam l’makom) and those between human and human (ben adam l’havero). Jesus was freeing us from the former and binding us to the later when he quoted Amos by saying, "But go and learn what this means: 'I desire mercy [justice, love, compassion] not sacrifice [rituals, purity codes]'" Jesus clarifies this when he does his 2=1 commandment: you are loving God when you love your neighbor as yourself. Jesus also shows that we are no longer bound to the ritual/purity codes in his conversation with the rich young ruler: "You know the commandments, ‘ Do not murder, Do not commit adultery, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Do not defraud, Honor your father and mother.’” All of these are human-to-human mitzot.

C_Lambeth
C_Lambeth

Thanks for the thoughtful and articulate entry on this topic, Bo. I especially appreciate your brief exploration of how Jesus altered the situation originally described in the Old Covenant/ Old Testament. Even though I would disagree with them, some people might be able to convince themselves that discriminating against and persecuting gay people is appropriate when they follow the Hebrew Scripture, but I don't see how anyone could go there if they follow Jesus. Does not compute. 

 

I took a slightly different approach to the issue on my blog, mainly addressing the inappropriateness of mixing religiously held convictions with the Constitution. Of course I almost instantly attracted a commenter who wants to force Jesus to advocate his own anti-gay agenda, but I'd love other voices on the conversation too (if they are interested). 

http://is.gd/vw7Y9G

 

-C Lambeth

 

BoSanders
BoSanders moderator

WHOA. I had to get ready for a funeral (and other things)  today and I come back to a vibrant conversation!  I obviously wont be able to respond to everyone like I did the first two days but ....

 

I just wanted to thank everyone for their contribution and for their (general) civility on what can be a very energized issue. May God give us grace, strength and wisdom as we proceed as a Christian community. 

 

-Bo 

JasonDavidsScott
JasonDavidsScott

For an extended discussion of the word "arsenokoitai," please see:  http://www.religioustolerance.org/homarsen.htm.  (This site is excellent for presenting multiple interpretations of the Bible's references to homosexuality).  The word has been translated various ways over the years, but the translation as homosexual does not appear until the last couple hundred years.  Again:  the term "homosexuality" has no record before about 1800 (and is very rare until later in the 19th century).  "Arsenokoitai" also (as far as we can tell) does not refer to lesbianism, fwiw, but only some kind of male sexual practice (Martin Luther thought it meant self-abuse, apparently).

 

The upshot is that Paul does NOT use the very common Greek term "paiderasste," which was what the Greeks used to refer to male-male sex.  Instead, he uses this other term of more obscure origin. 

 

danrenton
danrenton

K, I really like this to be true, and it's a good attempt but to be honest, this way of looking at makes the issue all the more confusing. I guess the the bottom line question is this is why having sex of someone of the same sex the only acceptable sexual practice that was once outlawed. You see this argument really doesn't  really define why we still uphold certain sexual practices as wrong. In the same chapter when it is forbids men to have sex with other men I also found that you are not to have sex with parents,lawParentStepparentParent-in-lawUncle/AuntParent's siblingUncle's/Aunt's SpouseFather's sibling's spouseMother's sibling's spouseParent's childHalf-Sibling (mother's side)Father's childSiblingHalf-Sibling (father's side)Step siblingSibling-in-law (if the spouse was still alive)Nephew/NieceSibling's childNephew/Niece-in-lawSpouse's Brother's ChildSpouse's Sister's ChildSpouse's childChildStepchildChild-in-lawSpouse's grandchild (including grandchild). In addition to that - we are told not to rape, and not to have sex with animals - all of which are  sexual practices that at least at culture we still think are wrong and in most of these are in fact illegal.  It seems to me that we as culture would like at things like incest, bestiality and polygamy negatively regardless in it was  done is some lustful way or it was between two people or animals that who love each other. So I guess what I am asking is What makes two men romantically loving each other and having sex with each other the one execption to the rule. If we are saying that the Bible isn't talking about homosexuality the same way we are - is that true for incest? and Beastiality? and Pologamay? If we are not under the Law should  why are trying to justify something everyone outside evangelical Christianity all ready approves. If you believe this you should be advocating for Mormons, and everyone who marries their sister. But we probably not - which tells me that our way of reading what the BIble says has more to do with what people think of us then whether or not it means a behavior is wrong or right.  You see I really would like this to be true I really would. I would be willing put weight on this argument if you could answer me one question, "Assuming the Bible allows for same sex marriage, would you adhere to it if taught differently? 

Richard68
Richard68

Mr. Sanders:  I greatly appreciate the effort you are making to try and bring about a positive, constructive rhetoric to the conversation.  I've written articles aimed at clarifying why these 'conversations' talk past each other.  First, they do not begin from shared assumptions (note your comment on 'inspired' vs 'inerrant' or 'infallible') about how to read and interpret Scripture.  This is a burden we bear from the origins and history of the Protestant/Reform tradition.  There has never been widespread agreement on this - and in order to have a useful conversation we have to know and be willing to confront our own tradition.  Second, there is no clearly shared agreement as to what the end of such a conversation should (or might) be.  Are we trying to welcome brothers and sisters into the Body of Christ or are we trying to lay down rules for membership?  Is the conversation to be open, or closed?  I think for many the end purpose is closed before it begins.  How do we break that kind of bondage?  Third, many people quote Scripture without having any idea how a text came to be or what it reallys says as a whole.  I wonder how we can begin to re-think Christian education in such a way as to open Scripture to interpretation rather than close it by imposing a particular hermeneutic.

 

Despite a seminary education and a lifetime of study I still don't understand why Paul, or Timothy, or Leviticus (taken in highly selective wafers) should, as a practical matter, outrank the Gospels.  For me - and this is entirely personal - this kind of selective reduction of Scripture reveals a sinful tendency of humans to think they are speaking for God rather than letting God speak to them.  The result is to impose a particular cultural context on texts that were written in a different context without understanding or acknowledging either.

 

I hope you will continue your efforts, and that others will join with you.

 

Richard Harrison

Lally597
Lally597

I'd like to know where Lynette got her information about "arsenokoites."  After checking the lexicons that I have on my shelf, they all have "homosexual" as the only possible translation.  It's a combination of "Arsen" and "koites", more literally "lying with men."  Koites comes into English as coitus (sex).   

BoSanders
BoSanders moderator

@tonymyles nice try :) in social circles 'flattery will get you everywhere" and in the blogo-shpere 'sarcasm will get you everywhere' !  But in reality snarky and cynical gets you no where. 

You can deal with the issues or you can make jokes about greek cuisine. Sorry bud :( you have focused on the wrong things  -Bo 

BoSanders
BoSanders moderator

 @cikamarko  ya we covered all of this.  We also debriefed it on the most recent TNT "the return of Crawdaddy".  You are doing the thing where you focus on acts and miss the thing about construction of identity-orientation that simply did not exist in ancient times.  

Listen to the TNT and let me know what you think.  -Bo 

theBoSanders
theBoSanders

@corbinlambeth thanks for affirmation. This has been a wild week ;) it went better than I thought it might!

BoSanders
BoSanders moderator

 @JasonDavidsScott This is very a very helpful contribution and I appreciate your notes of participation. I'm glad that you stubbled over here ;)  -Bo 

butlerds
butlerds

 @danrenton (After much head-shaking) There are two key differences between homosexual relations and the other types of sex you've mentioned.  One is genetic.  People shouldn't practice sex that may lead to children that are too closely related.  That's why brother-sister or (in some cultures) even cousin-cousin is not allowed.  Don't want "inbreds".  The other, more important, reason is power.  No one should be having sex with anyone (or anything) that's not in a position to refuse.  There's no victim with relationships between loving homosexual couples.  All the other relationships you mentioned betray trust.  Therefore, no father/daughter, stepfather/daughter, man/friend's wife, boss/subordinate, king/subject, or farmer/cow.  But black/white, man/man, woman/woman, adult human/adult martian are all fine.

BoSanders
BoSanders moderator

 @danrenton boy ... I wish I could follow you here :( I actually think that you are working into some good stuff ... but your comment was long and winding ... so I am a little lost as to your final question.  Would it be possible for you to reframe that last sentence more succinctly?  I'm actually interested in where you were going ... but I need some help with that final part.  -Bo

butlerds
butlerds

 @Richard68 The problem is that this issue is fundamental, and has no actual relationship with the Bible.  Many (most?) people in their hearts like to discriminate and they'll find whatever excuse they can to feel better than others, and they'll get upset when people break their rules.  Discrimnation against homosexuality is not specific to Christians, and won't be solved by interpreting words in the bible differently.  Time will fix it.  In 50 years, we won't be having this conversation.  Same-sex marriage will be as accepted as black/white marriage is today.  Why?  Because at its core, it's just not a big deal.  While the thought of two guys getting married sends some people in a tizzy, the next generation just won't care.

 

A quick example:  In the 60's and 70's, during the "sexual revolution", premarital sex was "horrible", "sinful", the "death of society".  Fornication!!  It's bad!!  The Bible says so!!  (Which it does, explicitly.)  When people were reaching puberty at 16 and getting married at 18 vs. now puberty at 12 and getting married at 26 (I'm exaggerating a bit.) who's going to stop premarital sex?  Now the big deal is "Don't get pregnant" and "Don't get AIDS".  Almost everyone has premarital sex.

 

Just in the US, Roman Catholics, Jews, the Irish, Italians, Chinese, blacks, women, and now Hispanics and Muslims have all been discriminated against.  It's like people need a "subclass de jour" to make themselves look better.  For how many hundreds of years were left-handed people thought of as sinful and (at times) put to death?  Sounds stupid today.  So will this debate in the 2nd half of the century.

 

But given all that, Bo, soldier on!  If nothing else, it gives right-thinking people a reason to hold on to.

BoSanders
BoSanders moderator

 @Richard68 Thank you so much. I really appreciate your note. And I receive your affirmation ;) you sound like an amazing person to share a pot of coffee with - we may not agree on everything but I am SURE it would be intersting.   Gob bless you today :) -Bo 

PaxZion
PaxZion

 @Lally597 if you really want to reconstruct the original meaning you would have to translate koitos as "bed".

but in the end we can only guess what paul exactly meant with this word. he is the first greek author we can find using this word.

 

what we can say with a little more confidence is that in his times the common situation was that of a man living in a partnership with a woman (owning her). then there were men who also had sex with their students (we find references to that in what plato writes - e.g. that the boys without pubic hair were the most interesting) or other mostly younger men that were slaves or in some state of being offered for sex.

so 1.cor 6,9 refers (as I can find it in most of our german translations) to the active (owning) men and the ones who are offering themselves, the passive men.

tonymyles
tonymyles

@BoSanders @tonymyles One thing that I do enjoy about Jesus is that He had a way of calling a spade a spade, even when the spades didn't like it. Many of his exchanges with the Pharisees, for example, were full of irony - and some would argue sarcasm.

I know you're attempting to make a serious point - but it's seriously offensive to me both as an "evangelical" and a Christ-foloower. Everything I jabbed at wasn't to attack you personally, but to reveal the pattern in your essay. Namely, just because we can deconstruct something doesn't mean we can reconstruct it.

Seriously... that's a real point in itself. Think about how many genuine things we can break apart in order to use its pieces to make something we want to call genuine. Using pieces from something legitimate doesn't legitimize what we make. Otherwise, I could take Bill Gates' tax return, erase his name, write my name on it instead and call it legitimate.

I often hear talk about such things as you suggest here - that it's actually possible to endorse homosexuality through the Bible, as though God affirms it. I have yet to actually see that case credibly presented, though. Even after reading this article through several times today, I'm puzzled at how this represents an evangelical view of this matter... let alone a historical one. 

For example, the statement "The Bible (the inspired written word of God) is not talking about homosexuality. It didn’t exist." seems somewhat confusing, even if we only focused on the Roman era of indulgences of the First Century. Are you suggesting that homosexuality didn't exist in this era... simply because they may have called it something else?

This is along the lines of your attempt to make a point about television - in one sense, it didn't exist; and yet in another, it did - as plays/theater. Are you suggesting that simply because the presentation was different that there weren't actors and actresses who presented drama, comedy, tragedy and more to a mass audience? Are you really going to argue that because a word didn't exist that means the concept didn't exist?

We might as well be talking about Knight Rider after all, eh?

I'll leave my comments at that. While I know this isn't the forum for real discussion, at the end of a long day I found myself frustrated enough with the confusion and myths in this article that I needed to say something.


Meanwhile, I'm going to try to focus on Jesus this week. It's His week, after all.

JasonDStewart
JasonDStewart

@BoSanders @cikamarko How much of that is our desire to read history in that light though is my question.   I'm not a historian but I can think of several examples of ancient cultures that had "divisions" based on sexual roles and desires ("homo" or "hetero").  Greeks were all about who performed what act for instance, you could have sex with a man, that was fine, but if you were the man in the pair who played the "female role" in the intercourse, that made you less of a man and they treated you accordingly. Just one  example.  

The ancient identities aren't in one for one agreement with our current definition of "gay", I'll agree with that.  But to say that they simply didn't have identity orientation, or that theirs didn't line up at least a little with our own, seems to me wishful thinking.  


To clarify my own stance, I'm for equality, I'm just skeptical of this particular line of thought.  I think perhaps we want this to be the case and so therefore we're more likely to believe it.  

danrenton
danrenton

 @butlerds 

K those are good reasons, but again it doesn't explain why having sex with men is something is okay and others are not because  a brother and sister in thier 20's can have sex and marry and being in a loving relationship, that has nothing to do with abuse. You can't make that argument if an animal  is willing thats an abuse of power and you can't make the argument that its genetic because there is no reason to say the attracation to an animanal is not genetic and furthermore its kinda a huge overlook to think that men didn't have romantic feelings for other men during the time Moses commanded the Israelities not to have sex with the same sex so again what makes it okay FROM the Bible to allow sex with other men and not the others because for every reason you give to allow sam sex sex there are people within incest that do love each other the same as two loving gay men do so. So what happens when a brother and sister fall in love and want to marry and they actually do love each other or the same with a dog and human-  if a dog presents himself for matting with coherserion and no druging should this be allowed? every reason you give for same sex sex can be applied to the other sexual oreniations that you don't approve of and you have to remember the reasons you gave as to why beastility and incest are wrong are the same reasons Christians two genereations ago gave for why homosexuality is wrong - w

DannySmith
DannySmith

 @butlerds  @danrenton But as Ive said before. Gay relationships increasingly involve raising children. Most children would prefer having a mum and a dad. The real world isnt perfect and children cant always have what they want, but to some degree, isnt not giving them a natural set of parents still creating a victim?

Richard68
Richard68

 @butlerds

 I don't disagree with your general point that social mores evolve over time, often in a more liberal direction.  I think you miss the point of this blog  - if you look up at the top, Bo is addressing the problem of understanding homosexuality within a Christian Evangelical tradition.  Certainly civil rights issues are quite different now than they were in 1965 when I was working on them in Alabama.  Certainly women's roles have evolved,  And so on.

The question I'm interested in is the one Bo poses to his fellow Evangelicals - how can Scripture be read and interpreted in a way that affirms believers regardless of sexual orientation (Bo - I hope I've stated that correctly).  This isn't about discrimination.  It's about interpretation and theological reflection.  Though most Christians don't do it this way, Christian tradition seeks to interpret moral behavior from a theological perspective rather than interpret theology from a social (or any other) perspective.

Do you have anything to say to that point?

danrenton
danrenton

 @butlerds  @Richard68 

I don't really know if time will make it go away. If you consider that the gay rights movement started in the 70s its been over 40 years since that happened and the same with abortion those are things that people decades ago said would be accepted and here we are still debating it today

Richard68
Richard68

 @BoSanders

 Bo - Thanks for your response.  I picked up on this through Facebook, and the topic is a particular interest of mine - not so much because of homosexuality itself but because that issue brings into focus the greater problem for those in the Protestant/Reform tradition - the need for each individual to develop a more useful way of reading and interpreting Scripture, and the ability to converse with each other about it.  From a social justice perspective it concerns me because I did civil rights in Alabama in the 60's.  From a theological perspective it concerns me because I encounter people with whom I ought to be able to converse about what Christianity is and should be but I can't.  I'm not much interested in liberal/conservative differences - good folks do good things; they do the gospel.  But many folks do harm - or fail to do anything at all - out of murky thinking.  There is a book, now probably forgotten: Modern Dogma and the Rhetoric of Assent, by Wayne Booth, which is extremely helpful at untangling the rhetorical knots that plague contemporary conversation.  I strongly recommend it to you if you can find a copy - it's not about theology or religion but about how we can discuss any important issue.  There are certainly knotty problems within Scriptural texts, but we must be able to clear up our own problems with how we think and talk together before we can begin to share our thoughts about Scripture.  I like what Jesus does in the Gospels - he puts questions to people and he tells parables.  It seems to me that his technique is aimed at opening people's minds and hearts to the presence of the Kingdom.  I note from many of the comments here that a lot of folks can't see the forest for the lexicology.  Having done Greek and Hebrew in seminary I am familiar with that confusion.  Others are simply uncomfortable in this kind of forest and want to clear it with a sweeping theological scythe.  This is, I suppose, necessary conversation, but not necessarily constructive toward an end - what end I'm not certain.

 

My email is rick.t.harrison@gmail.com if you would care to reply outside this forum.  I would be happy via that to send you a copy of an essay I wrote on this a few years ago.  I think we could certainly, with the help of good coffee (a necessary theological aid for Scandinavian Lutherans), have some great conversations.  I'd like to know where you  are - I'm retired and maybe could find my way there sometime.  By the way, I am not gay, and much more interested in reforming Christian education than in haggling about social issues.

 

Thanks to all who have contributed to this forum - I  read all your comments and questions with interest. 

DannySmith
DannySmith

 @PaxZion But just because men at that time more commonly had sex with those under their authority than they do now, why does that rule out 1 Cor 6:9 also referring to men back then also having sex with those who were not under their authority? IE how do you know that 1 Cor 6:9 doesnt include reference to any guy who has sex with another random guy?

tonymyles
tonymyles

@BoSanders  Unfortunately, I cannot comply on talking about theater vs TV because it feels like we're getting caught up in side issues that are smoke and mirrors to the main question (which I'll again propose below). Meanwhile, a metaphor is just a metaphor - and as such there will be common ground with what it's referencing, but also a distinct difference in that it isn't the same thing. Hence - TV and theater are quite similar, and yet also quite different. I could fault your argument here with a few "Oh yeahs," such as how you can leave one playhouse and enter another if you don't like what you're watching, and I'm confident you could swing back, "Oh yeah, but only one uses electricity," and I could swing back, "What about the lights?" and you could say, "But lights didn't exist until the 19th Century." How about we cut through all of that?

Speaking of electricity, though, I'm fairly confident that electricity existed before we named it. Likewise, I'm still not sure how the origin of the word homosexual matters here. It feels like a point that isn't a point. I could talk about many things existed before they were named - so again, let's move onto the core issue.

What I will offer you is a reiteration of a direct question I did propose - where in the Bible is homosexuality endorsed and encouraged by God? Where does He express a desire for it to happen, giving us metanarrative context for any of the attempts to argue for it?


BoSanders
BoSanders moderator

@tonymyles @BoSanders  You seem really sincere in your faith so I will sincerely honor that and give you sincere responses. 

- The word homosexual did not ever exist until the 19th century. Paul didn't use it and was not talking about what we are talking about. Our conception involves both orientation and identity - not simply sexual acts. That is an important distinction. 

- TV is indeed different than theatre. One can sit alone in a house and watch TV, absence of the social connection and crowd interaction. One can also change the channel when it gets boring. You can not do that at the theatre. Plays also so do not have commercials which deeply influence us.   

In those three ways I would say that one can not simply say "TV and theatre are the same" as you have. You are comfortable mashing modern categories onto the ancient & calling them the same. This willingness to mash is why you are frustrated that the Bible isn't talking about what we are talking about :(  TV is a different medium than theatre - can you see that? 

- The post was an evangelical response because I am evangelical and it was my response. I was not speaking for all evangelicals. There is no need to get offended or get your hackles up. I was raised and ordained evangelical and went to evangelical seminary. This was my defense of of Same Sex Marriage. Does that help explain the title?  

- Lastly, Jesus was straightforward sometimes and very elusive at others answering a question with a question.  What he did not do was say ridiculous thing about 'storm troopers' or something unrelated. your whole knight-rider schtick was jerky and now you are hiding behind Jesus being masterful in his whit. Again - not the same thing. 

What I would MOST like to hear back from you on is the TV-Theatre thing. Can you see the massive difference between the two?  Can you acknowledge a gap between the modern and ancient experience? 

Hope so - let's start there since it is not such a hot button issue :)  

 -in Christ  

Bo 

BoSanders
BoSanders moderator

  @JasonDStewart Thank you for being respectful in how you asked the question! I really appreciate that. 

There is no doubt that ancient cultures had divisions. I am not arguing that. 

What I am saying is that our term/understanding did not exist until the 19th century. THat is not wishful thinking - that is history. Our modern conception involves both orientation and identity. This is can not be stressed too often!  What we are not talking about is who was giving or taking what or in what position. 

That is a really significant difference. Paul was simply not addressing what we are: orientation and identity.  Does that help?  I hope so. -Bo 

butlerds
butlerds

 @danrenton  @BoSanders Virtually all societies have condemned incestuous relatiionships because it corrupts the gene pool.  That's why we have jokes about "inbreds".  Even primitive societies make the older boys (usually boys, not always) go to other tribes to find women to marry.  There are also studies that have shown that even adopted children are rarely attracted to their non-biological siblings.  In other words, it's in our nature, and there's a scientific reason, not to have brother/sister coupling.  (Though it does make a good story line in Game of Thrones.)  Many societies (and close to half of our states) do allow cousin/cousin marriages.  Maine probably has the best law (IMHO).  You can marry your cousin only if you submit to genetic tests that show you are likely to have normal children.

thisisamanda
thisisamanda

@BoSanders @danrenton I'm with you, Bo, in that: Dan, I think you've had your say. Maybe you and Bo just will not have a meeting of the minds on this one.

danrenton
danrenton

 @BoSanders Bo I think that is a misconception.  Something like Incest could infact be a done in a mutal loving way.  Lets say that a cousins fall in love with each other in their 30s and fall in love and there is no cohesion. thats a mutual loving relationship- should this be allowed?  I mean what difference is there between two people of the same sex who love each other and respect each other and two consenting adults who are related? Do you see what I mean  if someone came up to you who two were two concent adults and they loved each other in the same way two people did in a commited homosexual relationship we would have no reason to say that incest is immoral. All I am trying to say is there is this huge hole in your argument that we are under grace and not under the law because ti doesn't explain what the defining line is between why we practiceslots of OT rules as NT Christians. All I am saying is based upon the way you have argued it - you would have to allow everything that we still consider wrong because it is the "law" and not grace. What you need to develop this - is A WHY certian Laws are still followed under grace and why others are not and thats not present in your original post

BoSanders
BoSanders moderator

 @danrenton   Dan, that is strike 2. I would pull the plug on you now but I have this huge heart of grace and suspicion that you might want to  actually engage in the conversation ...  but you are making me nervous that you are not really listening or engaged in the conversation. 

 

It has been explained in this comment post that neither bestiality or incest are the A) type of consensual relationship or B) the orientation/identity that we are addressing. 

So let me say 2 things: 1) if it would be helpful to you for us to explain the orientation/identity thing further just let us know.  2) the coercive v. mutual component is key and you act as if you have not ever considered what has been presented. Now, if you want engage is this ACTAUL conversation, then let me know. If you would like to continue posting as if you would in any other conversation of the topic regardless of content ... then so be it. 

 

I am all about conversation. But I will be damned if I am going to let you just get off posting degrading and hurtful comments.  If you are serious about the conversation - shape up.  If you just want to vicariously get off posting that kind of stuff - then google some other type of website and have it ;) 

 

sincerely  -Bo 

danrenton
danrenton

 @BoSanders Thanks Bo.

 

I think how I would go about talking why certain OT Laws are now acceptable and why others without going on for pages is that OT was actually divided up into three sets of laws, Religious, Governmental or Civil Laws. Civil Laws NT don't follow because we aren't the Israelites wondering around in the desert and therefore makes it obsolete to obey such commands as "Poop outside the Camp and cover it up found in Levitcus. Relgious Laws had to do with how the Israelites worshiped God in their services and Moral laws are morals built on ethics and right and wrong - things like Idolarty, lying, rape etc. 

I would actually make the case that when it says we are not under the law but under grace its reffer to how we worship and approach God. When Jesus died, the veil was torn in two symbolizing that the old way of relating to God. Also The practice of circumiztion was now rendered obsolete. Notice how this was a relgious practice of relating to God and not an issue of mortality as seen through the story of Cornelious in Acts and considered a righteous man - yet was not a practicing Jew or a Christian when he was first introduced.  I think these Laws, the temple sacfrices circumzition the grain offerings, the holy of Holy are all rendered old because we under grace and not the law. But if you notice anthing relating to morality in the OT was still practiced by NT Christians.  I think thats why it says, But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control.Against such things there is no law. but I think its also why it says he acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; 20 idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions21 and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God. Those are all things that are outlawed in OT Law and I think its why in Romans Paul says 

is is why God delivered them over to degrading passions.For even their females exchanged natural sexual relations[a] for unnatural ones. 27 The males in the same way also left natural relations[b] with females and were inflamed in their lust for one another. Males committed shameless acts with males and received in their own persons[c] the appropriate penalty of their error.

28 And because they did not think it worthwhile to acknowledge God, God delivered them over to a worthless mind to do what is morally wrong. 29 They are filled with all unrighteousness,[d] evil, greed, and wickedness. They are full of envy, murder, quarrels, deceit, and malice. They are gossips, 30 slanderers, God-haters, arrogant, proud, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents,. 

its interesting to note that Paul mentions same sex relations with the rest of the old Moral code that we are still to follow. I would therefore submit that same sex sexual relations is still considered sexual immortality in the Bible and should be followed just the same as we would adrere to outlawing incest,. I suppose you could make the argument that Homosexual relationships are okay because they are romantic but like I said before you could make the case for any kind of sexual relationship we currently find unhealthy. I don't think The OT makes allowance for two people who love each otehr to have a homosexual relationship because it doesn't allow any other kind sexual  or romantic relationship based on feelings and consent and respect. and since all are list in the NT as behaviors that not acceptable I think it would stand to reason that homosexuality as defined as two people in same sex romantic exclusive loving relationship is wrong the same way a relationship based on incest despite the fact they may be consenting and loving and faithful is wrong. 

 

BoSanders
BoSanders moderator

 @danrenton ok. you have had your say.  @butlerds did a great job at explaining. you don't want to go that way. fine. 

 

  On a positive note. I get what your saying about grace and admittedly inside my word limited there was not enough explanation of law & grace. I will work on that.  

I will also work on helping explain that conception of human sexuality (identity & orientation) that is not a reductive or limited to sexual acts (which seems to be the hang up).

-Bo 

danrenton
danrenton

 @butlerds  @DannySmith 

 I don't think thats a very fair argument to make. What I was trying to say is that there is certain sexual ornetations that still uphold as morally wrong and illegal. And the same passage that says that having sex with other men is wrong is the same passage that we uphold things like incest and Beastility are wrong. All I am saying is it seems like a double standard  for us as Christians to uphold the rest and not sex with men. I doubt very much if you'd be okay with a brother and sister marrying and having children esspecially consider that you think people shouldn't have children without a reasonable means of supporting them.  And I doubt very much if you would consent to  afriend marrying his Dog, having sex with it and leaving some of the parenting responsibilities to the Dog. I think you'd be calling social services.  My point it there is nothing in the orginal language to suggest that having sex with men is the one expection to this rule and if we can't artiulate why its okay to have sex with men because we are not under grace and at the same time artiucale why beastility, incest and pologamy are not okay because we are not under the law but under grace ; we are executing a double standard. And at that point it FEELS like our motivation for allowing sex with men to okay is based more on what people think of us than trying to find the true meaning. 

If you can't make a good argument why polgamy, incest, and beastily are allowable if its done in a mutal loving relationship, then homosexual sex doesn't get special treatment because our culture says so

butlerds
butlerds

 @DannySmith  @danrenton Sure, children would all probably love to have a nice mom and dad, living in a middle-class neighborhood with a dog and a white picket fence, and lots of children their own age close by, but welcome to reality.  Given the choice between bouncing between foster homes and having a stable relationship with two dads (or two moms) who love you?  Wouldn't two moms be better than one mom?  Or are you proposing to outlaw single parentsas well?  So, would you also eliminate parents without lots of money, parents with disabilities, parents with criminal records, and probably just about every other set of parents for one reason or another?

 

I believe that no one should purposefully have children without a reasonable means of supporting them, but limiting parents to the ideal situation is arrogant at best, playing God at worst.

butlerds
butlerds

 @Richard68 I understand perfectly what the point of the blog is.  While I do appreciate Bo's attempt to find a biblical interpretation in understanding homosexuals, my point is that over time, it just doesn't matter.  For better of worse, societal mores almost always define theological interpretation.  It's almost never the other-way-around.  As I mentioned, people have found biblical interpretations of discriminating against left-handed people, gays, blacks, muslims, women, whatever.  As societies perspective has changed, so have the parts of the bible that people focus on.

 

Let's face it, slavery is far more justifiable in the bible than condemnation of homosexuals.  It's riddled through the bible, not just in a few obscure verses.  But we're past that, so no one cares.  One of Jesus's main themes is that rich people are pretty much condemned to not getting into heaven.  He repeats it over and over again in many different forms.  However, that's antithetical to our societies view of capitalism.  Coveting is encouraged!  Getting rich corresponds to being successful.  No chance that they can be interpreted that way from what Jesus taught.  Unless you're prepared to give it all away to follow him.  So this great theme of Jesus is ignored in favor of one obscure verse in one of Paul's letters.

 

When life begins, circumcision, drinking, etc. etc. are all topics that while discussed in biblical conversations, are all based on societal mores of the time, and change over time.  If the bible drove morals, we would expect them to stay the same.  Not even close.

 

butlerds
butlerds

 @danrenton  @Richard68 Time absolutely will.  In the 70's Gays were asking "please don't beat the crap out of me if I come out of the closet".  Now it's "please let me get married".  Big jump.  In fact, a small majority of the population now approves of gay marriage, and a significant majority approves of civil unions for gays.  And if you focus on younger people, they wonder why you're even asking the question.  In 1963, A Virginia judge said the reason that a black can't marry a white is because God made five continents, and put one color on each continent.  It's only we sinful people that started mixing them up.  50 years later that comment is hilarious.  It wasn't then.

DannySmith
DannySmith

@PaxZion@BoSanders

Thanks Mik, yes I think I understand your point. 

 

So the question is, did the relevant Bible references mean a different thing to the people of that era, to what they mean to us today. Some people say yes, the people of that era did not understand sexual orientation like we do. But I say, why do you think they didnt understand it? I see evidence of some people of the Biblical era having a good grasp of understanding. We know from the Bible that pagans were having homosexual sex. And we know from sources such as Philo (in The Special Laws III) that there were some men back then were dedicating themselves to a gay lifestyle including not reproducing, feminising their presentation and even sometimes castrating themselves. And we know from the historian Flavious Josephus (in Against Apion, Book II, section 25) that the idea of a same-sex relationship analogous to hetero marriage was discussed and according to him rejected by Jewish society. What basis is there to believe that they didnt understand that some people are deeply same-sex attracted and prefer same-sex relationships?

PaxZion
PaxZion

 @DannySmith  @BoSanders stressing your metaphor I'll tryto construct it again with some differeces:

if the bible forbids flying (referring to jumping off somewhere fluttering with the arms trying to stay airborne) we can now use airplanes because the bible refers to a different concept of flying. I guess we could make endless comparisons for the different nuances of our hermeneutic standpoints.

 

although I'd even say we can contextualize the verses on gay sex (liberal as I became through my studies).

regards, Mik

PaxZion
PaxZion

 @BoSanders  it makes perfect sense to me. I think I am not able to articulate clearly with my English.

I wanted to enhance on the thought that the concept of Paul's vocabulary doesn't come close to our understanding of homosexuality nowadays.

DannySmith
DannySmith

 @BoSanders I see nothing wrong with disagreeing with me. Ongoing clarification, responses and differing points of view is healthy! 

 

Sorry my reference to eunuch's  was not well explained. The passage I was referring to from Clement includes a statement that in English states "Some men, from their birth, have a natural sense of repulsion from a woman", IE it indicates that they understood that not everybody is attracted to the opposite sex. Other 1st century writings, EG Philo in The Special Laws III, indicate knowledge that some prefer sexual relationships with the same gender. The word "homosexual" may be comparatively new, but the concept isnt.For better or worse Im not at peace with the ideas of your most recent post. Even if they didnt have airplanes in the Biblical era, if the Bible were to state that it's a sin to travel (which it doesnt, but Im just making an illustration), that would imply that it's a sin to fly. Do you agree with that?It seems to me that the Bible states that it's sinful for members of the same gender to have sex with each other.  It seems to me to imply that it's sinful as an act of idolatory, and it's sinful if the two people are attracted to each other, and it's sinful if the two people are not attracted to each other.  IE it's the sex with a member of the same gender that's sinful, irrespective of whether the two people have homosexual orientations. Does that make sense?

BoSanders
BoSanders moderator

 @DannySmith I'm not trying to only be argumentative ;) folks are free to disagree.   But what ? 

a) You are right. Paul was not talking about airplanes. They didn't exist.  We agree on this :)  Travel as a category did.  But Air-travel did not.  So Paul could NOT have been addressing this. 

b) in the same way - Homosexuality did not exist (not like was are talking about) until the 19th century.  Listen, I am not talking about simple same-sex attraction, nor am I talking about certain physical acts.  What I AM talking about it a conceptualization of sexual identity-orientation that was not around in Paul's time. 

c) we are not talking about eunuchs that don't like women.  Not what I am saying Paul was not addressing. This is much bigger.   

 

does that make sense (not that you need to agree but just want to make sure that it makes you hear me)  -Bo 

DannySmith
DannySmith

 @BoSanders  Kinda, Bo. But just because they didnt have airplanes back in the 1st century, doesnt mean they didnt travel. Likewise just because they didnt have Freud doesnt  mean they were not able to understand that some people are same-sex attracted and some arnt. Records indicate that in the 2nd century, at least some were interpreting the Biblical references to eunuchs as including men who are not attracted to women (ref. Clement of Alexandria; Stromata, Book III, chapter 1).

BoSanders
BoSanders moderator

 @DannySmith  @PaxZion Because that is not what is being discussed here!  We are talking about a sexual identity-orientation that is a conversation of the past 2 centuries and NOT at all what Paul would have been addressing in that passage.  It is apples and oranges (to use a cliche) and what was happening in the 1st century Middle East is not what is being addressed in our contemporary conversation.  

 

does that makes sense?  -Bo 

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  1. […] is why I don’t sweat the fact that Paul appears to by anti-gay (though I argue that he was not anti-gay in the same way that those who quote him today are). You have to read Paul on a trajectory. Within the fruit of the […]