Back in my original post about a debate over on Pontifications regarding homosexuality, the poster "1,000 times" actually found my little blog and left some comments on my reflections. Since this is a very important issue for Christians today, I though it best to reply to those comments on the main page. 1,000 times posted a section from this article referencing Romans 1:26, which I have not had time to fully review yet. The article is quoted below in italics, and 1,000's comments in plain text. (I would encourage any readers to go back to the original posts to read the comments in their entirety, since I will only be replying to specific sections here.)
Well, according to this article, in re Romans I:
"Well, all I’d like to say at this point is that we have several commentaries on these words dating from the centuries between the writing of this text and the preaching of St John Chrysostom at the end of the fourth century. None of them read the passage as referring to lesbianism. Both St Augustine and Clement of Alexandria interpreted it straightforwardly as meaning women having anal intercourse with members of the other sex."
In and of itself, this does not mean that the verse only refers to deviant heterosexual activity. Clearly "that which is unnatural" or "that which is against nature" leaves open the distinct possibility that lesbianism is included in this verse, regardless of whether specific author saw it or not. Given the fact that the following verse clearly refers to male homosexual activity and that Paul uses the formulation "abandoned the natural function", which parallels "exchanged the natural function" in verse 26, we have to be open to this verse referring to female homosexual activity and not just "unnatural" heterosexual intercourse.
"It has been perfectly normal for long stretches of time to read this passage in the Catholic Church without seeing St Paul as saying anything to do with lesbianism. This means that no Catholic is under any obligation to read this passage as having something to do with lesbianism."
I'm not Catholic, but even I can see this is a non-starter. If the Pope says this verse refers to lesbianism, then a Catholic is indeed obligated to read this verse in that fashion. He/she may choose to disobey the Pope on this matter, but in so doing, they have separated themselves from the Roman Catholic understanding of this verse.
"Furthermore, it is a perfectly respectable position for a Catholic to take that there is no reference to lesbianism in Holy Scripture, given that the only candidate for a reference is one whose ‘obvious meaning’ was taken, for several hundred years, to be something quite else.So if there have been a variety of interpretations of this passage, even among the most respected Bible scholars (and now saints!), doesn't that say that this verse doesn't necessarily condemn sexual behavior between women?"
Yes, it may be possible that St Paul was not referring to lesbianism here. I think it unlikely, but it is possible. However, that does not mean that Scripture is silent on the issue. The New Testament clearly defines marriage as being between a man and a woman (1 Cor 7:2, 1 Tim 3:2) and teaches that sexual love can only be expressed within its confines. Marriage is strictly defined and is not a category of relationships, thus, any sexual expression outside of marriage is wrong. Since, by definition, 2 men and 2 women cannot be married, sexual activity between them can only be construed as sinful. Let me illustrate in a different sphere. To my knowledge, Scripture is silent on the issue of oral sex, and yet, this silence is not taken to mean that oral sex between a spouse and a non-spouse is anything but adultery. Even if there is no verse that explicitly references lesbianism, their is still a system in place from which to reason on these topics.
"And if that's true, then nowhere in the Bible is sexual behavior between women condemned. So why do women have to obey a non-existant command, one that basically eviscerates their entire lives? Nobody else is required to be celibate for life, except gay people."
Are you honestly arguing that the Bible affirms female homosexual relationships, but condemns male homosexuality? This is another problem with your argument - why would God be inconsistent in this manner? If male gay sex is wrong, why would female gay sex be right? What is the ontological difference between them?
"We think that it's not "homosexuality" that is condemned by the Bible, but the exploitative homosexual relationships...The Timothy and Corinthians verses use a word that was never translated as 'homosexuality' until 1946...Nobody knows the actual meaning of the word, because it doesn't exist before the author's use of it in these passages. An obscure word whose exact meaning is unknown is a very bad basis for condemnation of anything, wouldn't you agree?"
I agree that this word should be translated "homosexual" since the idea (life-long sexual/romantic attraction to members of the same sex) and the term, were not developed until the 19th century. There cannot be a direct translation like that. However, the meaning is not as obscure as you think. Paul uses the formulation "arsenokoites", which is actually a combination of words from the Septuagint version of Leviticus 18:22. "Arseno" refers to mankind (if I remember corectly) and "koites" means laying together, hence the word may be better translated as "engagers in homosexual acts" rather than just "homosexual." Given that Paul uses language directly from Leviticus, I think we can safely assume there is some continuity of teaching on this matter and thus cannot simply reject the Levitical Law on this specific topic based on Christians not adhering to other parts. Additionally, I think the meaning of the word is relatively clear when seen in this context, and so we can safely make moral judgments based upon it.
"I agree about the teaching on marriage, though: the Bible gives instructions based on heterosexual unions. But these can't be used to say anything about homosexual unions, can they?"
I'm not sure why you would make that assumption. As I pointed out above, marriage is not a category of relationships, but is itself a strictly defined relationship. There may be many different types of friendships, business contracts, etc, that all fall under those general categories, but marriage is not such a general category. It is singularly defined, just as father, son, brother, uncle, etc, each has a singular definition. So yes, instructions about heterosexual unions say much about homosexual ones; they preclude them.
"Anyway, polygamy was certainly permitted all throughout the Old Testament, and some of the Bible's greatest heros from that period had numerous wives. Adultery had a differnt meaning, also. I'm trying to point out that the institution of 'marriage' has indeed been quite fluid over the centuries."
You are correct. But can you show me one instance where the Bible mentions any marriage between people of the same sex? I don't think you can. Even in cases of polygamy, the women were married to the man and not to each other. I think it would be a stretch, especially in light of NT teaching, to assume that the instituation of marriage is so fluid as to include homosexual unions.
"And my main point here is to wonder why God would punish homosexuality so severely, when the condemnations are few and far between, the basis for condemnation unclear and weak in my opinion, and almost everybody agrees at this point that homoesexual orientation is unchosen. It just doesn't make any sense - and the information above about Romans confirms that, IMO."
What punishment are you referring to? Is it the temporal "punishment" of singleness & celibacy, or the eternal punishment talked about by Paul?
"The issue is that human beings have a deep desire for partnership, and that desire expresses itself in marriage. 95% of Americans marry at some point in their lives; I think that demonstrates that it's a basic sort of instinct. I know hetersexual couples who don't plan to have children, yet still got married. You just can't deny this basic urge to people for their entire lives; imagine this for yourself, if you can."
I agree that people have a deep desire for partnership - it is a part of being human. I have never denied the humanity of homosexuals in this regard and would oppose anyone who did. However, I think we are talking about 2 separate issues that, in my mind, can't necessarily be combined. There is the legal issue of whether or not the state should recognize gay marriage and the spiritual issue, which actually breaks down into the individual and the corporate. How should the individual homosexual live his life based on biblical teaching, conscience, prayer, etc? And should the chuch recognize or bless homosexual unions?
Legally, there is nothing preventing homosexuals from finding a partner, committing themselves to each other and spending the rest of their lives together. Yes, there are some additional legal hoops to jump through regarding wills, visitation rights, etc, but those are all surmountable. No one is denying any gay person the right to find a life-partner and fulfill that profound desire for partnership & love. Things are indeed different on the spiritual front, but I think we should decide how to proceed first - do we focuse on the legal or the spiritual? I would prefer the spiritual, but am willing to tackle both, so I leave it up to you to decide where we go from here.