...are the ones that make the biggest difference

11.16.2004

The Argument From Harm II

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.

29 comments:

Anonymous said...

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.This is circular; you're assuming the very thing (that lesbianism is "against nature") that you're trying to prove. Lesbianism is obviously not "against nature," considering that it occurs in nature; homosexuals seem to have existed in every time and place.

In any case, the Greek phrase Paul uses is "para physin" - and according to this site, in Romans 11:24, Paul uses the same words to "describe God's positive actions to bring Jews and Gentiles together." I suggest that, as in every verse that is read to condemn homosexuality, there is a built-in bias in the translation (or in the interpretation) of Romans 1.


If the Pope says this verse refers to lesbianism, then a Catholic is indeed obligated to read this verse in that fashion.Does the Pope say this? The author of the article is Catholic, and I assume he is correct about what he says; I don't think the Pope has ever been directly concerned with interpretation of individual Biblical passages.


Since, by definition, 2 men and 2 women cannot be married, sexual activity between them can only be construed as sinful.But 2 men and 2 women can indeed be married - in Massachusetts, in several Canadian provinces, and in the Netherlands. The church views civil marriage as perfectly legitimate, I believe. There is no requirement that a couple seek the church's blessing, specifically, in the Rite of Marriage.


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?Exactly. If the Bible is silent on female homosexual relationships, then we can assume that "homosexuality" itself is not at issue. Why, indeed, would God condemn the one and not the other?


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." "Arseno-" means male, not "mankind." Just as Leviticus refers to men specifically, not to women. Again: why? If "homosexuality" is the issue, why not say so plainly, including both men and women in the prohibition? IOW, why, in this one case, are we supposed to extrapolate, rather than accepting the "plain meaning of the text"?

And so why in the world would women need to devastate their entire lives to obey a commandment that is directed, specifically, towards men?


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 don't agree at all. There is quite a lot of debate about several of the words used in these passages. "Relatively," anyway, isn't good enough when you're discussing something that has such a major effect on a person's life.


So yes, instructions about heterosexual unions say much about homosexual ones; they preclude them.Sorry, no. There's no "definition of marriage" in either Corinthians or Timothy; the thrust of the Corinthians verse is "monogamy," apparently in order to avoid "fornication," and the Timothy verse only gives instructions about qualifications for becoming a Bishop.


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.But you are saying, essentially, that gay people can indeed be citizens in this respect, but cannot be Christians. But we already are Christians! And no church policy can change that fact; I've had my own encounter with the risen Christ, which no one and nothing in the world can take away from me.

So the issue is whether or not the Church is going to accept the fact of our existence, and the fact that like all human beings we desire partnership and love. ECUSA has said yes; the rest of the Communion has said no. Isn't it better to be wrong and more inclusive as a church, than right and less inclusive? Don't we want more Christians, rather than fewer? And why is such an innocuous issue claiming so much time and attention? I must point out that in several places in Scripture, the death penalty is given as a penalty for working on the Sabbath, but there's no movement to enforce this. The charging of interest is strictly forbidden in many passages, yet no one blinks an eye at the practices of today's financial institutions. There are 2,000+ admonitions, as I understand it, about our obligations to care for the poor, yet we hear far, far less about this than about the "gay Bishop."

So why are 5 ambiguous passages so big a deal for everybody? Why is the issue of homosexuality seemingly more important than any other? Don't you agree that this is completely out of whack?

Anonymous said...

Hmmm. Well, I hope that's readable; I quoted you in italics and answered in plain font, which mostly runs right into the italics and doesn't come out on the next line, although I typed it that way. For some reason, blogspot.com doesn't put line breaks in automatically after italics tags.

Sorry. I'll figure out some better way to deal with this next time.

Nathan said...

"This is circular; you're assuming the very thing (that lesbianism is 'against nature') that you're trying to prove. Lesbianism is obviously not 'against nature,' considering that it occurs in nature; homosexuals seem to have existed in every time and place."

The existence of homosexuality does not mean it is natural in the biblical sense of the word. Death & suffering are a part of all existence and yet we can see from Genesis 3:16-19 & Rev 21:4 that they are actually unnatural in the sense that they were not intended by God. I suppose before we go much further, we will need to define 'nature' so we are talking on the same point.

"In any case, the Greek phrase Paul uses is 'para physin' - and according to this site, in Romans 11:24, Paul uses the same words to 'describe God's positive actions to bring Jews and Gentiles together.' I suggest that, as in every verse that is read to condemn homosexuality, there is a built-in bias in the translation (or in the interpretation) of Romans 1."

Romans 11:24 - For if you were cut from what is by nature a wild olive tree, and were grafted contrary to nature into a cultivated olive tree, how much more will these who are the natural branches be grafted into their own olive tree?

While this is certainly a 'positive' action on God's part, we can still see that it is unnatural. A wild branch grafted onto a cultivated tree never happens in nature and only happens through artificial means. And, this verse is used to show the extremity of God's love, because he is doing something so unusual to bring Gentiles into his kingdrom. Perhaps the translations are biased, but I don't think that changes the meaning of the underlying Greek. Unnatural may be a loaded term, but so is "unconventional" (the word your link suggested). I'm not sure what words you would like in the English translation, but the Greek clearly shows this is something not according to nature.

"Does the Pope say this? The author of the article is Catholic, and I assume he is correct about what he says; I don't think the Pope has ever been directly concerned with interpretation of individual Biblical passages."

I don't know, actually. I was only pointing out the possibility that a Catholic would indeed be obligated to read that verse a certain way.

"But 2 men and 2 women can indeed be married - in Massachusetts, in several Canadian provinces, and in the Netherlands. The church views civil marriage as perfectly legitimate, I believe."

That 2 men and 2 women can enter into a civil contract with certain rights & considerations does not change the fact that according to the biblical formulation of marriage, they cannot be married. As for the latter, it depends on the church. The Protestant church by and large has no problem with civil unions, but Catholics & Orthodox believe marriage is a sacrament and thus, must be performed by a priest. They may not think civil unions are invalid, but they are certainly regarded at a lower status.

"Exactly. If the Bible is silent on female homosexual relationships, then we can assume that 'homosexuality' itself is not at issue. Why, indeed, would God condemn the one and not the other?"

Yes, we can assume "homosexuality" is not the issue since the very concept is an invention of much later times. What we can assume is that homosexual acts were the issue for the biblical authors. If 2 gay people want to live together in love & celibacy for the rest of their lives, I don't think the Bible would condemn that. However, the Bible clearly precludes homosexual acts, regardless of intent or emotion. It is quite clear that male homosexual acts are prohibited - that is firmly and clearly established by Lev 18:22 - so I ask again, what is the ontological difference that God would prohibit one and not the other?

"If 'homosexuality' is the issue, why not say so plainly, including both men and women in the prohibition? IOW, why, in this one case, are we supposed to extrapolate, rather than accepting the 'plain meaning of the text'?"

I'm not sure why admonitions about women would be left out of Lev 18:22, but then again, I'm not sure why women would be left out of Exodus 20:17, 21:26, or Leviticus 20:2 among many others. However, we have no problem understanding those prohibitions to include both sexes, do we? Given the prohibitions against sexual immorality and the obvious idea that sex is only acceptable between married men & women, I think we can say lesbianism is also prohibited.

"Sorry, no. There's no 'definition of marriage' in either Corinthians or Timothy; the thrust of the Corinthians verse is 'monogamy,' apparently in order to avoid 'fornication,' and the Timothy verse only gives instructions about qualifications for becoming a Bishop."

Taken by itself, 1 Cor 7:2 may not "define" marriage, but it still shows the pairing of man with woman and woman with man. And if it is only about "avoiding fornication," what sense would it make to have a gay man marry a woman, or a gay woman marry a man? And if Timothy is only about qualifications for a bishop (and the same requirement is present in 1 Tim 3:12 for deacons, the only other type of clergy mentioned in the NT) then I assume you agree a "married" gay person cannot be a pastor since they do not meet this clear requirement?

"But you are saying, essentially, that gay people can indeed be citizens in this respect, but cannot be Christians. But we already are Christians! And no church policy can change that fact; I've had my own encounter with the risen Christ, which no one and nothing in the world can take away from me."

I have never said a gay person, even one actively involved in a homosexual relationship, cannot be a Christian! I think such activity is a sin, but so too is deceit, lust, pride, envy and anger, and these are things I struggle with every day. I don't think my sins make me not Christian, so why would I think your sins make you not Christian? Besides, we all have unrecognized sin in our life, or sins we try to rationalize or justify away. I think it is possible to be both a faithful Christian and a gay person in a committed relationship, but I honestly don't know how.

"Isn't it better to be wrong and more inclusive as a church, than right and less inclusive? Don't we want more Christians, rather than fewer?"

I don't think the Christians of the 4th century would agree with the idea of accepting heresy over schism, and frankly, neither do I. If inclusivity means abandoning some key tenets of the faith, as has obviously happened in ECUSA, then no, I don't think more muddle-headed, wrongly taught and wrongly believing Christians are better than fewer clear-thinking, rightly taught and orthodox Christians. The world needs the Gospel, not inclusivity. Jesus clearly rejected some based on their behavior or beliefs - they had the option to come to Him, but that required them to abandon those old ways - so the Gospel makes demands of us. If we lose sight of this and try to make the Gospel something its not, well then, we've lost the Gospel entirely.

"So why are 5 ambiguous passages so big a deal for everybody? Why is the issue of homosexuality seemingly more important than any other? Don't you agree that this is completely out of whack?"

Jesus only talked about divorce once and yet we find those passages very compelling, so clearly the frequency of a passage has nothing to do with its merit. Besides, there are many, many passages on marriage, so the issue of homosexual marriage and ordaining a divorced, gay bishop are actually considerable issues to be concerned with. I don't think it outweighs the other points you raised, but we cannot downplay its actual significance. So no, I don't think this is completely ouf of whack. We may be failing to one degree or another in those areas you mentioned, but that doesn't mean we shouldn't start toeing the line somewhere.

Benedict Seraphim said...

There are a lot of assertions here (on the side of the argument that Scriptures do not condemn homosexual practice as it exists today, thus it's okay) that Robert Gagnon shows to be empty and specious in his book The Bible and Homosexual Practice. I suggest all parties take a look at it.

You can also take a look at his various lines of argument through his website: RobGagnon.net

Anonymous said...

"While this is certainly a 'positive' action on God's part, we can still see that it is unnatural. A wild branch grafted onto a cultivated tree never happens in nature and only happens through artificial means."


All right, then, here's another example of "para physin," quoted from the same source as above: In 1 Corinthians 11:14, Paul uses the phrase to refer to long hair on men as unusual and not ordinary."I don't know, actually. I was only pointing out the possibility that a Catholic would indeed be obligated to read that verse a certain way."


Actually, here's a quote from another page on that site, that suggests the Catholic author of the article was quite right in what he said:

Most versions of the Bible start Verse 27 with an expression like: "In the same way" (NIV, NRSV, NAS) or "in like manner" (Rhiems New Testament). or "The men also turned" (KJV). Since the men were engaging in homosexual activities, the "in the same way" phrase would imply that the women were engaging in lesbian sex. But the version that the Pope quoted omits the phrase. This gives a completely different slant to the entire passage. The men are still having homosexual relationships, but the women were merely engaging in some unspecified "unnatural practices". One can speculate whether these practices were simply non-traditional, non-procreative heterosexual activities such as heterosexual oral or anal sex, masturbation, sex with multiple men, etc. They might not have been involved in same-sex practices at all. Thus, one could argue that the entire Bible may be totally silent on lesbianism."That 2 men and 2 women can enter into a civil contract with certain rights & considerations does not change the fact that according to the biblical formulation of marriage, they cannot be married."

OK, once again: the "Biblical formulation of marriage" includes polygamy, and the concept that a wife was her husband's property. "Adultery" meant that a man could not have sexual relations with another man's wife; there was no prohibition on a married man having relations with a single woman, for instance. The Biblical formulation of marriage was very different from what we know today.


"The Protestant church by and large has no problem with civil unions, but Catholics & Orthodox believe marriage is a sacrament and thus, must be performed by a priest. They may not think civil unions are invalid, but they are certainly regarded at a lower status."

Well, no wonder we're having all these problems in the Episcopal Church, then, seeing as how we're half-and-half.

;-)


"What we can assume is that homosexual acts were the issue for the biblical authors. If 2 gay people want to live together in love & celibacy for the rest of their lives, I don't think the Bible would condemn that. However, the Bible clearly precludes homosexual acts, regardless of intent or emotion."


No, again: we can assume that some sort of male sexual behavior was the issue. There is nothing at all in the Bible about females in this regard - or, at most, one possible reference. If one ambiguous Bible verse is enough to force gay women into celibacy for an entire lifetime, then the Christian Church is simply completely irrational.

But you raise a very interesting point. Why doesn't the Church just let individuals work out their own solution here? Why not grant marriage (or civil union, either is fine with me) to gay couples and let the couples themselves worry about what Leviticus says? It's the destruction of partnership that is so devastating to gay lives, not the prohibition on sex per se.


"I don't think the Christians of the 4th century would agree with the idea of accepting heresy over schism, and frankly, neither do I."

Heresy? Where does one find anything about this issue in the Nicene Creed? That is the basis of our theology.


"Jesus only talked about divorce once and yet we find those passages very compelling, so clearly the frequency of a passage has nothing to do with its merit."

And Jesus never talked about homosexuality at all. Why don't we find that compelling, if this is such a crucial issue?

Benedict Seraphim said...

At the risk of getting sucked into yet another time-consuming but important discussion, I really must respond to the following:

Anonymous said: "And Jesus never talked about homosexuality at all. Why don't we find that compelling, if this is such a crucial issue?"

In point of fact, Jesus very much did address homosexuality. He did so by unequivocally defining and describing marriage as not only a lifelong but an eternal union between one man and one woman. By offering a positive and exclusive definition of the appropriate sexual and spiritual union operative in marriage he effectively negated any other form of marital union as acceptable to God, whether that union be a heterosexual union out of wedlock or a homosexual union, a polygamous union, or union of animal and man.

Anonymous said...

Here's an article on the Arsenokoit├ęs and Malakos issue, and the translations given of the words. The author talks about where the word Arsenokoit├ęs appears in "lists of sins," and is pretty convincing, IMO, that this word has something to do with "exploitation," not with sexual sin per se. And malakos, BTW, means, strictly, "effeminate." Sort of a poor basis on which to condemn a person, don't you think? Anywy, the article is pretty fascinating, at least to me, though quite long; I thought you might be interested, Nathan.

Here's a quote from the article's conclusion:

....I take my stand with a quotation from an impeccably traditional witness, Augustine, who wrote: "Whoever, therefore, thinks that he understands the divine Scriptures or any part of them so that it does not build the double love of God and of our neighbor does not understand it at all" (Christian Doctrine 1.35.40).

By this light, any interpretation of scripture that hurts people, oppresses people, or destroys people cannot be the right interpretation, no matter how traditional, historical, or exegetically respectable. There can be no de- bate about the fact that the church's stand on homosexuality has caused oppression, loneliness, self-hatred, violence, sickness, and suicide for millions of people. If the church wishes to continue with its traditional interpretation it must demonstrate, not just claim, that it is more loving to condemn homosexuality than to affirm homosexuals. Can the church show that same- sex loving relationships damage those involved in them? Can the church give compelling reasons to believe that it really would be better for all lesbian and gay Christians to live alone, without the joy of intimate touch, without hearing a lover's voice when they go to sleep or awake? Is it really better for lesbian and gay teenagers to despise themselves and endlessly pray that their very personalities be reconstructed so that they may experience romance like their straight friends? Is it really more loving for the church to continue its worship of "heterosexual fulfillment" (a "nonbiblical" concept, by the way) while consigning thousands of its members to a life of either celibacy or endless psychological manipulations that masquerade as "healing"?

The burden of proof in the last twenty years has shifted. There are too many of us who are not sick, or inverted, or perverted, or even "effeminate," but who just have a knack for falling in love with people of our own sex. When we have been damaged, it has not been due to our homosexuality but to your and our denial of it. The burden of proof now is not on us, to show that we are not sick, but rather on those who insist that we would be better off going back into the closet. What will "build the double love of God and of our neighbor?"

I have tried to illustrate how all appeals to "what the Bible says" are ideological and problematic. But in the end, all appeals, whether to the Bible or anything else, must submit to the test of love.

Anonymous said...

In point of fact, Jesus very much did address homosexuality. He did so by unequivocally defining and describing marriage as not only a lifelong but an eternal union between one man and one woman. In Matthew 19, Jesus is responding to a question from a Pharisee about divorce. He is obviously referring to heteroseuxal marriage, since there was no other type of marriage at that time, and the fact that marriage is meant to be monogamous and for life. I'm highly in favor of that.

He says nothing at all about homosexuals or homosexuality.


By offering a positive and exclusive definition of the appropriate sexual and spiritual union operative in marriage he effectively negated any other form of marital union as acceptable to God, whether that union be a heterosexual union out of wedlock or a homosexual union, a polygamous union, or union of animal and man."Union of animal and man"? How would the animal sign the marriage license, I wonder? And why do people continue to say these kinds of things, I also wonder? Is it just to try to be as insulting as possible?

Anonymous said...

Here, I'll try that again:

"In point of fact, Jesus very much did address homosexuality. He did so by unequivocally defining and describing marriage as not only a lifelong but an eternal union between one man and one woman."

In Matthew 19, Jesus is responding to a question from a Pharisee about divorce. He is obviously referring to heteroseuxal marriage, since there was no other type of marriage at that time, and the fact that marriage is meant to be monogamous and for life. I'm highly in favor of that.

He says nothing at all about homosexuals or homosexuality.


"By offering a positive and exclusive definition of the appropriate sexual and spiritual union operative in marriage he effectively negated any other form of marital union as acceptable to God, whether that union be a heterosexual union out of wedlock or a homosexual union, a polygamous union, or union of animal and man."

"Union of animal and man"? How would the animal sign the marriage license, I wonder? And why do people continue to say these kinds of things, I also wonder? Is it just to try to be as insulting as possible?

Anonymous said...

"Besides, there are many, many passages on marriage, so the issue of homosexual marriage and ordaining a divorced, gay bishop are actually considerable issues to be concerned with."

BTW, Nathan, I'm not really arguing, here, for the ordination of Gene Robinson; I didn't think that was the original purpose of the thread, was it? I'm arguing for the full acceptance and inclusion of gay people in the church.

Now, I admit that "the full inclusion of gay people in the church" sort of implies that Gene Robinson's ordination, which certainly unorthodox, might not be unlawful. I believe there have been other divorced Bishops, for instance. I think what you're talking about here is a matter of ecclesiastical policy, not of morality.

Benedict Seraphim said...

Anonymous:

You obviously fail to grasp the significance of the argument from what Jesus actually said. Let me see if I can put it to you as clearly as I can.

Jesus did not specifically refer to homosexual unions precisely because he did not need to. By defining and describing marriage as he did, he excluded any and all other types of unions. Homosexual unions/marriages didn't have to have been "invented" yet, because by definition marriage as Jesus taught excludes those relationships. To add on something like, "Oh, by the way, no homosexual marriages" would be nonsensical. It is evident that if marriage is an eternal union of one man and one woman, then it cannot be anything else.

Furthermore, in point of fact, homosexual relationships were known (Robert Gagnon gives extensive evidence in his book noted above) in the ancient world, as well as what today we call homosexual orientation. So this argument that Jesus didn't talk about them because he didn't know about them is both specious and ignorant.

More to the point, Jesus was an observant Jew, and homosexual activity was explicitly condemned and forbidden in Jewish faith and life.

Doug said...

This is going to be long. Forgive me. I’m trying to get this all out at once, since, like Clifton, I don’t really want to get pulled into a lengthy debate on such an intractable topic. But, let me say first of all, Anon (I assume you’re 10,000?), that I admire your willingness to discuss the topic with people who strongly disagree with you and whose positions may imply a condemnation of your personal way of life. You certainly have the courage of your convictions, and your willingness to talk and listen is, in itself, admirable.

I really don’t see the point of debating nuances of Scriptural interpretation here. I’m not a sola scriptura person anyway. The truth of the matter is that the Church (and before the Church, Israel) has always understood homosexual actions as wrong in God’s eyes. Personally, I believe that this is witnessed to in Scripture. Anon, you’re not the only one to disagree. But if it’s a misunderstanding on the part of the Church, then we have to admit that the Spirit has misled the Church for the past 2000 years or that the Church has been bereft of the Spirit’s guidance on this point. Any Christian should be hesitant to affirm either of these.

This said, Anon, I think that you’re operating under two false assumptions.

First, you seem to assume that if something is observable in nature, it is therefore natural. “Homosexuality” as a self-identifying concept, is not very old. But homosexual actions certainly have been around for a long time. Homosexual actions are observable in probably all cultures throughout history. But as Nathan points out this does not make them therefore natural (or hence, acceptable in God’s view). Properly, what we are by *nature* is what God created us to be. But the point of Christianity is that *we are not that anymore.* We are no longer what God created us to be. It is Christ who makes it possible for us to attain to our proper nature. But all manner of things which are observable in the world around us are not, according to the Gospel, natural. Murder is unnatural. Hate is unnatural. Covetousness is unnatural. Lust is unnatural. The witness of the Church and, I believe, of Scripture, also states that homosexual actions are not natural. I would say that homosexual orientation itself is not natural, but like all our misidrected passions, and even illness, injury, or infertility, a result of the fall.

Your second presumption is that if my desire for and love of Christ can coexist in me with a desire for X then X is not sinful and will not damage my life in Christ. Any Christian in history, from St Paul on down, can witness to the error here. I love Christ and hope to love Him more (pray for me, please), but I know that I am inclined to an awful array of sins nonetheless. I am perfectly capable of both loving Christ and yet falling constantly into sin, whether of the heart or of the body. Love of Christ does not sanctify our sins or our inclinations to sin, but it ought to teach us to call out to Him for strength and for healing. No one is saying that people who experience homosexual attraction are not welcome in Christ’s church. You are welcome, wanted, and invited by Christ Himself. But just as I am not welcome to be a part of the Church and to think that actions of violence or lust or anger are acceptable as part of my life in Christ, “gay” and “lesbian” Christians are not welcome to the illusion that homosexual actions are acceptable in the Church or compatible with life Christ.

A couple final thoughts:

Sexual union between a man and woman *is natural* because it is an icon of the intended ( i.e. natural) union of God and Israel (humanity) and of the union of Christ (Bridegroom) and the Church (Bride). The imagery of Scripture here is often explicitly sexual, but only in a heterosexual context. In addition, heterosexual union (I’m assuming marriage here) in its fruitfulness is also an icon of God’s fruitfulness in creation. And these two cannot really be separated, they are one icon, really, of union and fruitfulness, inseparable. Sexual action between two members of the same sex violates these images, images which provide the key to understanding the intended and natural wholeness that our sexuality witnesses to. And even apart from our inclinations, our biology still witnesses to this. The organs of fruitfulness and sexual union only promote and realize fertility and physical union in heterosexual actions. Biologically, male and female are made for each other in an explicitly sexual way that male and male, or female and female, are simply not. Who can deny this?

For good or ill, life (in this world and in Christ) is not democratic or egalitarian. We may all desire love, but we don’t all get it. We may all desire to express that love sexually, but God does not bless this desire in all of us. We may all desire children, or friends, or the capacity to give of our abundance to others, but we don’t all get to have these things. I may feel that because someone else has a certain freedom or capacity or blessing, I should also have that freedom, that capacity or that blessing, but I just don’t. I may feel that because So-and-so isn’t burdened with a temptation that I am burdened with, that I am therefore justified in indulging in my temptation, but I’m not. Person X may be tempted with homosexual attraction, but may not be tempted to fits of anger or rage. Person Y may be tempted with heterosexual lust, but not with homosexual attraction. Person Z may be tempted with a tendency to rage, but not tempted with lust. We all bear our own crosses, and it’s not always fair. But we don’t get to make this up as we go along. We don’t get to redesign God’s revelation or the witness of the Spirit in the Church. We’re allowed our crosses for God’s own good reasons but we are all called to see our crosses for what they are, and not imagine that they are something other than crosses. But no matter what burdens we bear or how we suffer differently than others, we’re all blessed in having a companion along this path of our life, a companion who knows our brokenness is real, and our crosses are real, and who helps us to carry them, Christ our God Himself.

Anonymous said...

You obviously fail to grasp the significance of the argument from what Jesus actually said. Let me see if I can put it to you as clearly as I can.

Jesus did not specifically refer to homosexual unions precisely because he did not need to.
Clifton, I think that you are the person not grasping significance here. Matthew 19 is Jesus' response to one particular, specific question: "Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any cause whatever?"

Period. There isn't anything in this verse about homosexuality; it's clearly about heterosexual marriage, and Jesus responded by talking about heterosexual marriage, and what he saw as God's will in relation to that topic. You are the one extrapolating to homosexuality, not Jesus. If he'd considered as crucially important as you seem to, I'm he'd have had something to say about it, directly.

Benedict Seraphim said...

Anonymous:

Once again, you fail to actually hear the text.

Let me come at it this way.

Let's consider all the things Jesus did say about marriage. Let's look especially at the Sermon on the Mount. In all Jesus comments about marriage, in all the Gospels, did he ever depart from the description of marriage given in the creation account? No. Did he ever depart from the understanding of marriage as a lifelong union of man and woman? No. Indeed, he made things tougher than we might otherwise allow. No divorce ever. Period. It's sin. In fact, not only is adultery sin, but lusting after a woman in one's heart is sin. Why? It violates the creation norm of one man and one woman forever.

Let's look at gay unions. Do they match the model Jesus consistently and explicitly upholds? No. Is there any way they can? No. Jesus understood the Torah. He knew homosexual acts were prohibited by God. They were sin.

Since Jesus went to so much trouble to clarify what the Law said about marriage, if he thought that gay unions were not sin, would it not make since that he would clarify that, just as he did about marriage? But he didn't. Because no human union that has as its basis any sexual union other than a man and a woman wed for life is a) a union conforming to the norm God set in creation and b)is therefore sin.

It's not hard. It's right there in front of your eyes.

Anonymous said...

"But if it’s a misunderstanding on the part of the Church, then we have to admit that the Spirit has misled the Church for the past 2000 years or that the Church has been bereft of the Spirit’s guidance on this point. Any Christian should be hesitant to affirm either of these."

The Church was wrong for 2000 years about the ministry of women also. It was wrong for 1500 years about the geocentric universe. It was wrong for 1800 years about evolution.

The Church is made up of fallible human beings. And once we learn something is wrong, we discard it, or else we compound the error.


"But all manner of things which are observable in the world around us are not, according to the Gospel, natural. Murder is unnatural. Hate is unnatural. Covetousness is unnatural. Lust is unnatural. The witness of the Church and, I believe, of Scripture, also states that homosexual actions are not natural. I would say that homosexual orientation itself is not natural, but like all our misidrected passions, and even illness, injury, or infertility, a result of the fall."

Homosexuality is not like murder, hate, covetousness, or lust. It is not illness or injury. Those things cause or describe harm (which is in fact the topic of this thread); homosexuality by itself is neutral. But it can be the conduit, just like heterosexuality, for good, in the form of a relationship between two people built on love, trust, and mutual support.

There have always been homosexual persons; many have contributed a great deal to society and in fact to the church itself.


"I love Christ and hope to love Him more (pray for me, please), but I know that I am inclined to an awful array of sins nonetheless."

As are we all. But homosexuality is not one of them.

"You are welcome, wanted, and invited by Christ Himself. But just as I am not welcome to be a part of the Church and to think that actions of violence or lust or anger are acceptable as part of my life in Christ, “gay” and “lesbian” Christians are not welcome to the illusion that homosexual actions are acceptable in the Church or compatible with life Christ."

This rests on your own interpretation of a few passages of Scripture - but I believe this interpretation is wrong. Again: homosexuality is not like violence, lust, or anger. It is a neutral characteristic, one that can be directed towards either good or evil. We should encourage it to be directed towards good: towards faithful and supportive relationship with another human being.


Homosexual persons exist in the world. We are people like all others; we don't negate heterosexuality - we complement it. We do important work that isn't bound up in reproduction: we write, we create art, we work for social change and for justice, we take care of sick parents, we adopt unwanted children, we work for the church, we work in medicine, etc. The computer that you're using right now was first conceived of by a gay man, Alan Turing - who also did important work in helping win World War II for the allies.

Gay people exist. We are human beings like all others. And one of the very first instructions from God is that He did not intend human beings to be solitary creatures - that's right there in Genesis: "It is not good for the man to be alone."

I always make the same offer to anyone who suggests that lifelong celibacy is a proper condition for gay people: the very instant you agree to it for yourself, unconditionally, I will sign the contract with you.

You're simply wrong about this issue. And I'm sorry, but of the two of us, I'm in a much better position to know that.

Anonymous said...

"Jesus understood the Torah. He knew homosexual acts were prohibited by God. They were sin."

So you're saying Jesus lifted all the Levitical laws but this one particular one? That's interesting.

Try this:

Matthew 15:10 And he called the multitude, and said unto them, Hear, and understand:
11 Not that which goeth into the mouth defileth a man; but that which cometh out of the mouth, this defileth a man.

Anonymous said...

"No divorce ever. Period. It's sin. In fact, not only is adultery sin, but lusting after a woman in one's heart is sin. Why? It violates the creation norm of one man and one woman forever."

I have to point out that the Anglican/Episcopal Church does not say "No divorce ever. Period." Neither do most other churches. (As a matter of fact, we even now have the "polygamy exception" in some African nations.)

Jesus also considered remarriage after divorce to be adultery; IOW, if you remarried, you would be in a state of sin every day for the rest of your life. Are you really going to hold heterosexuals to this standard from now on? Somehow I think not.

Doug said...

Thanks for your reply, Anon. I’ve pretty much said all that I want to say, but I’d like to add a couple clarifications.

While you’re right that we are fallible creatures even as we constitute the Church, there are points of faith and belief, of dogma, that are just not up for debate. I happen to think this is one of them. And I’m not simply basing my opinion on what I honestly believe Scripture plainly says, and on the historical witness of Israel and the Church through the ages.

You know, about ten years ago I was totally on your side of this issue. I even wondered if I might have a calling to work within the Church to enlighten people like myself. I guess my understanding of the Church and of the faith have changed a lot since then, and hence I’m no longer in ECUSA. I’m afraid that our debate is hopeless. Our basic understandings and frames of reference for revelation, faith and the Church are just miles and miles apart from one another now.

You’re right about one thing: homosexuality (experiencing sexual attraction for the same sex) is not a sin. We’re all given crosses to bear. Sexual attraction for members of the same sex is just one that some people bear. In the same way, having a tendency to unrighteous anger or an inclination to lust are not in themselves sin. It is what we do with these where sin comes into play.

It’s not for me to tell someone that they have a vocation to celibacy. But I have to call a sin a sin. As you wrote, we read in Genesis that it is not good for man to be alone. But we no longer live in the Garden of Eden. There are a lot of good things that are not available to us at present. And there are a lot of difficult or bad things which we are now called to bear. Celibacy is and has always been honored in the Church. As a husband and father, it’s a little difficult to take your invitation to a celibacy-pact seriously, but if all you require is for one person to take a vow of celibacy in order for you to do so yourself, there are thousands of monks and nuns out there who will call your bluff.

Benedict Seraphim said...

Anonymous:

I will make a few remarks on comments you've made.

With regard to your authority to comment on this topic, which I understand you to mean you experience yourself as a person of homosexual orientation: I would argue that this actually compromises any authority with which you may approach this topic. You have an invested interested in proving your understanding of gay behavior to be in conformity with the Gospel. I would suspect that if you ever accepted the demonstration that your argument has failed, you would find yourself in several painful and critical existential/sociopsychological dilemmas. The suffering that would come with the breakdown of these critical markers would be great indeed, and so it is reasonable to suppose that you may well not be able to be dispassionate and objective about this matter.

This of course does not prove that I myself would be more authoritative because less invested and less swayed by my own passions. I, myself, may very well have similar existential/sociopsychological markers--say some insecurity about my own sexuality--which would similarly compromise my "authority" on this matter. We humans are so liable to self-deception (or as one prophet put it: the heart itself is wicked above all things, who can know it?).

So in the end, we must rest on authority outside ourselves, and, being Christians, that authority must be the Church. For you this is the Episcopal Church, but even here this group is increasingly marginalizing itself by its actions, having lost significant relations among its own Communion provinces, as well as with its ecumenical partners, Rome and Constantinople not the least among them. You may well find some sort of comfort in that you view your Church's actions as "prophetic" and an actualization of "justice"--but once again the tendency to self-delusion is not limited to individuals, and the majority witness of history and the present worldwide churches are against such actions.

With regard to the Levitical holiness code:
You accuse me of "picking and choosing" among the commands listed there, but it is not difficult, on the basis of the New Testament, to discern what moral codes governing behavior are still operative for Christians and what ceremonial codes have been fulfilled in Christ.

Still, let it be the case that I am "selective." Your own hermeneutic of the passage forces you into the same selectivity. You want to claim, I'm sure, that many of the sacrifical and cultic elements have been abrogated, and most certainly you want to do the same with the proscriptions against homosexual acts. But on what basis do you make this selection? You are left trying to argue why homosexual activity is okay, but not incest or bestiality (or, do I wrongly assume that you also think incest and bestiality are now permitted sexual behaviors?). Without the coherent and consistent witness of ancient Jewish and Church teaching, you are left with an arbitrary hermeneutic, questionable on its face.

As to divorce and being in a "continual state of sin." You clearly misinterpret the Greek tense employed here. Divorce is a sin, but as with all sin, it can be repented. The Church, in its holy wisdom, did eventually allow remarriage after divorce, but in her ceremony of remarriage she testifies to the fact that this remarriage is not within God's perfect will, and the ceremony itself is structured on repentance.

Doug is correct in his estimate of this argument, and like him, I will make this my last comment in this thread.

Nathan said...

Anonymous -

"All right, then, here's another example of 'para physin,' quoted from the same source as above: In 1 Corinthians 11:14, Paul uses the phrase to refer to long hair on men as unusual and not ordinary."

And for a Jew it most certainly was. This may be a cultural issue, but Paul obviously saw something very significant in it as to how it impacts our relations to God. His argument, by the way, is very tied up in the heterosexual marriage relationship. In verse 3, he states very clearly "Christ is the head of every man, and the man is the head of a woman, and God is the head of Christ." For the unmarried woman, her father is her "head", but for the married, it is her husband. How would this work in lesbian marriage?

"OK, once again: the 'Biblical formulation of marriage' includes polygamy, and the concept that a wife was her husband's property."

Not in the New Testament. As Christians we realize that the NT has a special place in explaining, and defining our understanding of, the Old Testament. Eph 5:22-33 totally dismisses your argument. Whatever compromise or perception about marriage that existed in the OT has been replaced with the iconic (thanks for explaining it more fully than I could, Doug) nature of the marriage relationship. Eph 5:25-27 leaves no room for gay union of any kind. You may think the sexual language is incidental to the meaning of the passage, but I think you will be hard-pressed to prove it.

"No, again: we can assume that some sort of male sexual behavior was the issue. There is nothing at all in the Bible about females in this regard - or, at most, one possible reference."

So then you agree at least that the Bible condemns male homosexual acts?

"But you raise a very interesting point. Why doesn't the Church just let individuals work out their own solution here? Why not grant marriage (or civil union, either is fine with me) to gay couples and let the couples themselves worry about what Leviticus says? It's the destruction of partnership that is so devastating to gay lives, not the prohibition on sex per se."

Unfortunately, we can't speak monolithically about the Church. The traditional churches clearly take a harder line than most Protestant ones do, but no one is saying not to work out your own solution or salvation in your lives. What you do in your own home is your business, so long as it does not affect the ministry of the church. 1 Tim shows that we must be concerned about the lives & conduct of our pastors, and so once you step forward to try to fill a ministry position, you somewhat lose that right to privacy. I must point out, however, that stepping forward to demand the church recognize and bless a gay "marriage" is entirely outside the realm of "working things out on our own." It is a public, communal act that involves the entire church. Besides, marriage is a sexual union and so to attempt to use the same title for your union necessarily involves the sexual aspect of it. If the church considers that to be a sin, then you can't very well expect the church to bless a sinful activity, can you?

"Heresy? Where does one find anything about this issue in the Nicene Creed? That is the basis of our theology."

Heresy existed after the 4th century and involved many other issues than the ones decided in the Creed. For this, I point you back to Eph 5:22-33 and my discussion of it above. I also have to point out that, as Doug and Clifton stated, the traditional churches have alwasy believed in the sinfulness of homosexual activity. This understanding was carried forward by the churches of the Reformation. Departure from this understanding can be taken to be heresy.

I will have to beg off on commenting on the article you referenced until probably Monday. My wife and I are going out of town for a couple of days and I'm pressed on time today. I will get back to you on it, though.

"BTW, Nathan, I'm not really arguing, here, for the ordination of Gene Robinson; I didn't think that was the original purpose of the thread, was it? I'm arguing for the full acceptance and inclusion of gay people in the church."

No, this wasn't the original purpose of the thread, but you brought him up in one of your comments. Yes, "full acceptance and inclusion" would definitely mean they are able to hold pastoral orders at any level. As to other divorced bishops - possibly in the Episcopal church, but definitely not in the Catholic or Orthodox churches.

"Again: homosexuality is not like violence, lust, or anger. It is a neutral characteristic, one that can be directed towards either good or evil. We should encourage it to be directed towards good: towards faithful and supportive relationship with another human being."

I agree homosexuality is a neutral characteristic, just like my hetersexual orientation. But, in light of 1 Cor 7, what can we really say is the highest good? Humans can exist without romantic, sexual love.

"We do important work that isn't bound up in reproduction: we write, we create art, we work for social change and for justice, we take care of sick parents, we adopt unwanted children, we work for the church, we work in medicine, etc."

You are only obfuscating here. I'm sure there were a great many idolaters in the days of Paul who did a lot of good for society, but that didn't change the wrong-ness of their idolatry. A positive contribution to society does not negate the sinfulness of another area of a person's life.

"And one of the very first instructions from God is that He did not intend human beings to be solitary creatures - that's right there in Genesis: 'It is not good for the man to be alone.'"

Why do you extrapolate that this verse also applies to women? Taking the text at face value, as you have argued we should do elsewhere, means this verse says nothing at all about women. And thus cannot be used to support any argument about the alleged goodness of lesbian relationships. I think Clifton is right about the inconsistency in your hermeneutic. I must also point out that God then immediately made a woman for the man.

Anonymous said...

"Our basic understandings and frames of reference for revelation, faith and the Church are just miles and miles apart from one another now."


I really think you're contradicting yourself here. You've previously, twice, noted that you're not interested in "debating nuances of Scriptural interpretation." But where does "revelation," as you understand it, then, come from?

From your faith? My own experience says something quite different. From the Church itself? The Church has often been wrong. In fact, I'll go so far as to say the Church has been gravely, gravely in error at times in its history: it is responsible directly or indirectly for the deaths and the sufferings of great numbers of Jews and others (including, I have to say, gay people). The Pope has recently made a formal apology to our Jewish brothers and sisters, in fact, on the Church's behalf.

So from where does "revelation" come, then? If the Church is often in error, and if Scripture can be read to show almost anything (which in fact is true), then what's left? Our own experience of God, I'd say, and I ask you to recognize that there are and have been thousands if not millions of gay Christians, and many of us have been in fact central in the life of the church itself. I ask you to listen to our witness, and to believe what we say about our experience. I don't think we're "miles and miles apart" at all. I profess the very same faith you do, the one found in the Nicene and Apostle's Creeds; and even that is not really required, IMO. I say this instead: "For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified." For me, this is more than enough.

Edward Norman, canon of the Church of England, wrote a new CoE catechism in 2001. Here's a quote from it:

Homosexuality," says the catechism, "may well not be a condition to be regretted but to have divinely ordered and positive qualities." It continues: "Homosexual Christian believers should be encouraged to find in their sexual preferences such elements of moral beauty as may enhance their general understanding of Christ's calling.

Anonymous said...

"You have an invested interested in proving your understanding of gay behavior to be in conformity with the Gospel. I would suspect that if you ever accepted the demonstration that your argument has failed, you would find yourself in several painful and critical existential/sociopsychological dilemmas. The suffering that would come with the breakdown of these critical markers would be great indeed, and so it is reasonable to suppose that you may well not be able to be dispassionate and objective about this matter."


Clifton, you've said everything here that I would have said to you.

Anonymous said...

"In verse 3, he states very clearly "Christ is the head of every man, and the man is the head of a woman, and God is the head of Christ." For the unmarried woman, her father is her "head", but for the married, it is her husband. How would this work in lesbian marriage?"

Nathan, I don't think many people today take these verses at face value. Marriage is not based, currently, on the understanding that "the man is the head of a woman"; at least not in the Episcopal Church. I don't know what the Catholic catechism has to say about this, but only the Southern Baptists, AFIK, continue to argue that this verse is to be taken literally. Marriage is today seen as a partnership of equals, is it not?


"Not in the New Testament. As Christians we realize that the NT has a special place in explaining, and defining our understanding of, the Old Testament. Eph 5:22-33 totally dismisses your argument."

Yes, you're right here. But then it's not the 'Biblical formulation of marriage,' but the 'formulation found in Ephesians.' I wonder, though, why, in Timothy, is it explicitly written that a Bishop must have been married only once; why would this need stating, if polygamy was understood to be forbidden?


" Eph 5:25-27 leaves no room for gay union of any kind."

Again, you seem to argue that because something is said to be true for one sort of thing, that thing is by definition the only sort of thing that can exist. This logically doesn't hold.


"So then you agree at least that the Bible condemns male homosexual acts?"

No, again: I agree that Leviticus seems to condemn some sort of male sexual behavior. In any case, no Christian follows the Levitical Laws.


"Besides, marriage is a sexual union and so to attempt to use the same title for your union necessarily involves the sexual aspect of it."

No, it's not. Marriage (at least of the civil type) is the creation of a new legal entity, a family unrelated by blood. No one asks a couple if they will engage in sexual activity when they marry - not in civil marriage, and not in the church.

"I also have to point out that, as Doug and Clifton stated, the traditional churches have alwasy believed in the sinfulness of homosexual activity."

Actually, I'm not so sure this is true. Before the 13th Century, homosexuality was not anathema, as I understand it. In any case, the Church has always believed that women were to remain silent and could never be teachers or preachers. The Church has believed many things to its detriment, and to that of others.


"You are only obfuscating here. I'm sure there were a great many idolaters in the days of Paul who did a lot of good for society, but that didn't change the wrong-ness of their idolatry."

I am not, sorry. "By their fruits shall ye know them," goes the saying.


"Why do you extrapolate that this verse also applies to women? "

Because no woman yet existed; when one was created, she was described as a "helpmeet," not as a sexual partner.

But you're right about one thing: Scripture can be used to demonstrate almost anything. That goes, of course, for your argument as well. That's why I argue from logic far more often, and from my own experience and faith in a benevolent God.

Doug said...

Anon, you wrote: “But where does "revelation," as you understand it, then, come from? From your faith? My own experience says something quite different. From the Church itself? The Church has often been wrong….”

I’d like to answer your question frankly, because I think that perhaps you get at the root of it here. In the end, this really is an issue about authority. And this is exactly where our frames of reference are so completely different. You rely primarily on your personal experience as a guide to truth, and you’ve found a church group to confirm your experience, your inclinations and your preferences. As an Eastern Orthodox, I understand the Anglican church as a schismatic (if not frequently heretical) body that broke off from another schismatic body (Rome). So, quotes from an ECUSA catechism aren’t going to carry any weight with me. But where do I turn for authority? To myself and my own experience? God forbid! As distasteful as it might sound to you, I look to the Church and to Holy Tradition, which is the living Gospel itself, and of which Holy Scripture is an integral and definitive part. We as believers are fallible, but the Church (since it is the body and presence of Christ in this world, strengthened by Holy Tradition as the mind and presence of the Spirit in the Church) cannot be long in error thanks to God’s presence and guidance in it. God Himself has told us that the gates of hell shall not prevail against His Church. Thank God that He has not left us to our own understanding but has given us a guard against delusion. After all, as Scripture tells us, ‘the heart of man is deceitful above all things,’ and ‘there is a way which seems right to a man but which leads to death.’ Our own personal experiences in the life of faith are *only valid* inasmuch as they conform to what has been revealed in the objective realities of Christ, the Church as His Body, and Holy Tradition. Ours is a house founded on a Rock, after all.

I’m going to sign off here. Anon, it’s not for me to judge you as a person who desires to serve Christ. I can relate to your frustrations and convictions because I once shared them. I sincerely wish you well. For what my prayers are worth, you’re in them. May your love and desire for Christ only be strengthened. I know for certain that I am a sinner, so perhaps you’ll pray for me too.

Nathan said...

Anon -

"From the Church itself? The Church has often been wrong. In fact, I'll go so far as to say the Church has been gravely, gravely in error at times in its history: it is responsible directly or indirectly for the deaths and the sufferings of great numbers of Jews and others (including, I have to say, gay people)."

That the Church has erred only demonstrates how dangerous relying on personal experience can be! What do you think guided those who made these ill-fated decisions? I suspect that in many instances, these decisions were guided by personal opinion, preference & experience and not the Gospel or the Church's doctrines. Why should we believe that your personal experiences, or the personal experiences of those who agree with you (be the homosexual or not) are better than mine or those who agree with me? Especially since your position involves an explicit rejection of the historic teaching & understanding of the church.

"I ask you to listen to our witness, and to believe what we say about our experience."

I don't think there is disbelief of your experience, so much as disbelief that God would have let the church stay in error for 2,000 years until a smallish denomination that lacks a cohesive theology & ecclesiology and which has repeatedly failed to adhere to the Gospel once delivered to the Apostles decided that gay unions were perfectly fine. As far as listening to your experience, why should't we give equal weight to the experiences of Muslims, Buddhists and even atheists? If experience is our guide, then none of us has any particular claim to truth.

Unfortunately, I have to get going. I will reply to the rest of your posts when I get back into town. Have a good weekend and God bless.

Anonymous said...

To clear something up: When I said "My own experience says something quite different," I meant in terms of this particular argument, not in the general sense. And of course I am far more likely than people who aren't gay, to know the reality of this particular situation.

But in any case, my argument here has been precisely in terms of "authority." That argument goes like this: there is no logical reason for the proscription on homosexuality. It doesn't hurt those involved, and in fact can be directed to good purpose; it certainly doesn't hurt anybody else. This is the "argument from harm."

But you reject this argument in favor of Biblical authority. OK, I say, but then the only possible argument left, if there's no rational reason for the proscription, would be that "this is commanded by God." But I've said, many times, that there's no direct Scriptural condemnation of lesbianism. Remember that an appeal to Scripture as authority implies that the particular passage must be clear, precise, and incontrovertible. Remember that this is particularly important when you argue that something must be done "because God commands it"; you wouldn't want to get something like this wrong. This is how Jews view the dietary laws; they see no particular reason for them, and a reason is not necessary. These laws are simply followed to please God, because He wills it to be so. But in order to do something because God wills it, no "interpretation" of God's will can be allowed, since that weakens the alleged "authority." And God does not, it seems, forbid lesbianism.

The only possible conclusion to be drawn is that there is no condemnation of homosexuality per se.

I am appealing to Scriptural authority, not rejecting it.

Anonymous said...

"That the Church has erred only demonstrates how dangerous relying on personal experience can be! What do you think guided those who made these ill-fated decisions? I suspect that in many instances, these decisions were guided by personal opinion, preference & experience and not the Gospel or the Church's doctrines."

And how is acknowledging that some people are gay and allowing them some personal happiness at all comparable to those "ill-fated decisions"? It's the reverse of those "ill-fated decisions"!


" Why should we believe that your personal experiences, or the personal experiences of those who agree with you (be the homosexual or not) are better than mine or those who agree with me? Especially since your position involves an explicit rejection of the historic teaching & understanding of the church."

Well, once again: as I quoted above, Augustine (and others) said that "Whoever, therefore, thinks that he understands the divine Scriptures or any part of them so that it does not build the double love of God and of our neighbor does not understand it at all."

When these readings of Scripture do demonstrable harm to people - and they do, and they have - the readings are simply wrong. When the Church forces gay people to choose between God and love, the Church is doing harm. Why do you think there are so few gay people in most Christian churches? Why do you think gay people have in some cases gone so far as to form their own churches? If we were really idolatrous (as Romans I implies), why in the world would we do something like that?

I can't convince anyone of something they don't want to be convinced of - that is certain. But in arguing as I have here, I am actually trying to uphold the Bible, not to destroy its authority.

I hope you had a good weekend, Nathan, and God bless you, too. I'll try to get back and check the thread, but won't have a lot of time in the coming weeks. It's been nice to talk with you, though.

Anonymous said...

" If experience is our guide, then none of us has any particular claim to truth."

Just one last thing here. I think in trying to determine what's right, we need to call upon all of our accumulated and varied experience. This is how we determine "truth," in the secular world, at any rate.

But of course, as Christians, we believe Christ is Himself "truth," and all of us have a claim to that kind of truth, I believe. The great commandments are to Love God and to love other people, and my being gay does nothing to get in the way of either.

Nathan said...

Anon -

"Yes, you're right here. But then it's not the 'Biblical formulation of marriage,' but the 'formulation found in Ephesians.'"

Are you suggesting that there is a difference? Just because different views & forms or marriage exist in the Bible, particularly the OT, does not mean that the formula provided in the NT is not the one Christians should use. The existence of other forms does not dismiss the fact that the NT defines marriage very specifically as being between a man & a woman, and puts a different spin on its spiritual significance than the OT did.

"I wonder, though, why, in Timothy, is it explicitly written that a Bishop must have been married only once; why would this need stating, if polygamy was understood to be forbidden?"

Its not referring to polygamy, but successive wives. It means he can not have been divorced or get remarried if his wife dies.

"Again, you seem to argue that because something is said to be true for one sort of thing, that thing is by definition the only sort of thing that can exist. This logically doesn't hold."

Again, your argument only holds true if "marriage" is a category or relationships, like "family" or "friends." There are many types of relationships that fall under either family or friends, but marriage is not such a category. It is a specifically defined relationship between a man & a woman, and as such, cannot mean 2 opposing things at the same time. I cannot say the word "couch" actually refers to both couches and chairs since each is distinctly defined & identified, even though both perform a similar function. At absolute best, you have an argument from silence, which taken in context, is shown to be without merit.

"No, again: I agree that Leviticus seems to condemn some sort of male sexual behavior. In any case, no Christian follows the Levitical Laws."

But such injunctions were repeated by Paul. You have yet to convincingly demonstrate that Romans 1:27 refers to "exploitive" homosexual relationships rather than all homosexual relationships.

"No, it's not. Marriage (at least of the civil type) is the creation of a new legal entity, a family unrelated by blood. No one asks a couple if they will engage in sexual activity when they marry - not in civil marriage, and not in the church."

I refer you to Genesis 2:24 - what exactly does "become one flesh" mean to you? The church implicitly understands marriage to be a sexual union, and so no, it is not asked "you gonna do it?" And civil unions have no bearing on our discussion - we are talking about what the Bible & Christianity says about homosexuality, homosexual acts and homosexual unions, not what the state says.

"Actually, I'm not so sure this is true. Before the 13th Century, homosexuality was not anathema, as I understand it."

Do you have a source on this?

"I am not, sorry. 'By their fruits shall ye know them,' goes the saying."

The goodness of someone's actions does not negate the sin in their lives, which is one of the central messages of Jesus' life. "All are sinners..." goes the saying, so it does not matter whether gays do good things or not - other things they may do could very well be sinful. This is true of everyone, everywhere.


"Because no woman yet existed; when one was created, she was described as a 'helpmeet,' not as a sexual partner."

Again, Gen 2:24. But what does her lack of existence have to do with anything? If Adam was a man, then he was only a man and as such, God's words were directed solely towards men.


"To clear something up: When I said 'My own experience says something quite different,' I meant in terms of this particular argument, not in the general sense. And of course I am far more likely than people who aren't gay, to know the reality of this particular situation."

I realize thats what you meant, and I realize your unique experiences give you different insights into this argument. However, that insight does not mean you are in a better position to know the "reality" of this argument. We all have equal access to God and his Word.

"But in any case, my argument here has been precisely in terms of 'authority.' That argument goes like this: there is no logical reason for the proscription on homosexuality. It doesn't hurt those involved, and in fact can be directed to good purpose; it certainly doesn't hurt anybody else. This is the 'argument from harm.'"

This statement is full of so many assumptions, I'm afraid you will have to prove every single one of them to validate your argument. Why is there no logical reason for proscribing homosexuality? Homosexual unions cannot produce children and they do not reflect the iconic nature of marriage described in Ephesians; these are 2 very logical reasons. It doesn't hurt those involved? There are reems of statistics out there about the shortened life expetancy of gay men, the increased likelihood of disease and other health problems. Besides, there are other types of "hurt" beyond the physical, and being sexually active as a homosexual may cause spiritual harm. It does't hurt anyone else? For this, you will have to prove that it doesn't hurt anyone in particular and society as a whole. Until you can support & validate each of your points, you are unable to argue that the proscription is irrational, and therefore your other points are once again moot.

"And how is acknowledging that some people are gay and allowing them some personal happiness at all comparable to those 'ill-fated decisions'? It's the reverse of those 'ill-fated decisions'!"

Jesus did not come & die to allow us some personal happiness, but to show us His kingdom and provide victory over death & sin. If homosexuality is a sin (you have yet to convincingly disprove the Bible on this point), then calling it "not-sin" is the reverse of a decision based on the message of the Gospel and not "personal experience."

"Well, once again: as I quoted above, Augustine (and others) said that 'Whoever, therefore, thinks that he understands the divine Scriptures or any part of them so that it does not build the double love of God and of our neighbor does not understand it at all.'"

But Augstine elsehwere condemns homosexual acts, as do many, many other Church Fathers. Are we to believe that the condemation of a sin in any way violates God's love?

"When these readings of Scripture do demonstrable harm to people - and they do, and they have - the readings are simply wrong."

That people have assumed these verses gave them license to persecute homosexuals says nothing about the validity of the text; it speaks only to their actions. I do no harm to any gay by calling homosexual acts sinful.

"When the Church forces gay people to choose between God and love, the Church is doing harm."

If there is any coercion, it is from God. And you have set up a false dichotomy - God is love. In Matt 19:29, Jesus clearly does not hesitate to call people to sacrifice love & comfort for His kingdom.

"Why do you think there are so few gay people in most Christian churches?"

Because most churches take the Bible seriously in its condemnation of homosexual acts. Certainly there have been many that have crossed over the line into persecution in one form or another, but many have not. And I don't think for one moment there haven't been many, many gays who have left because they don't want to face the reality that what they're doing might be sinful. They'd rather - just like other Christians who face other temptations - hear that everything is fine.