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Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Study New Testament for Gay, Lesbian, Bi, and Transgender

It will understandably come as a shock to some of you that there could be such a thing as a Study New Testament for Gay, Lesbian, Bi, and Transgender. But, for better or for worse, one is now available, for paid download now and for print publication next month. This new Study New Testament is from Dr Ann Nyland, translator of The Source New Testament (downloadable free) and herself "straight". It apparently consists of the text of The Source with new study notes.

The "excerpt" offered at the site for this Bible is in fact the Introduction. Here are some extracts illustrating the exegesis followed:
The word arsenokoites in 1 Cor. 6:9 and 1 Tim. 1:10 has been assumed to mean “homosexual”. However, the word does not mean “homosexual”, and its range of meaning includes one who anally penetrates another (female or male), a rapist, a murderer, or an extortionist. When used in the meaning “anal penetrator”, it does not apply exclusively to males as the receptors, as it was also used for women receptors. The word does not appear in any Greek literary source until the poets of the Imperial period. This late occurrence is most significant as the Greeks wrote at length on male-male sexual relationships.
The notes to The Source at 1 Corinthians 6:9 take a similar line, giving more detail.
In another example, Romans 1 and Jude have been said to speak against homosexuality. However, the “flesh of different kind” was referring not to homosexuality but to “The Watchers” (angels) coming to earth and “whoring after” human women. This is well documented in the apocryphal literature.
For more information see the site.

Thanks to commenter seeker for the link.

43 Comments:

At Tue Jul 17, 04:40:00 AM, Blogger Jim Swindle said...

arsenokoites is a compound of the word for male and the word for going to bed. In 1 Corinthians it appears with malchoi, a word which indicates softness, as when Jesus said that those who are looking for someone in soft clothing look in kings' palaces. The most obvious translation would be to apply this to those [men] who bed males instead of females, and those [men] who are like females instead of males.

Have any of the commentators from earlier centuries said the passage did not refer to homosexual activity? I doubt it, but am not sure. If the commentators don't say that, and if homosexual activity is morally neutral, one would have to ask why the Lord allowed such a major mis-interpretation of his word for many centuries.

Before anyone jumps on me, please note that in this post I did not say anything defamatory toward those who disagree with me. I'm called to love my brothers/sisters, my neighbors and my enemies. Whether or not you agree with me, you surely fall into one of those categories.

 
At Tue Jul 17, 08:15:00 AM, Blogger Peter Kirk said...

Jim, I would tend to agree with you. I am simply reporting what Ann Nyland writes, not promoting it or agreeing with it. But in her notes on 1 Corinthians 6:9 in The Source, she writes:

"arsenokoites ... does not apply exclusively to males as the receptors, as it was used also for anal penetration of a woman, e.g. Migne Patrologia Graeca 82. See also Martial, 11.78."

Nyland's interpretation is not completely novel. Gordon Fee, in his 1987 NICNT commentary on 1 Corinthians, writes about the same word "What is not certain is whether "male" is subject (= "males who have intercourse"; thus a word for male prostitutes of all kinds) or object (= "intercourse with males"; therefore male homosexual). In the light of these ambiguities, Boswell[27] has argued that neither word can be certainly made to denote homosexuality." [27 Christianity, Social Tolerance and Homosexuality, Chicago, 1980, pp. 335-53.] Fee concludes, quite reasonably, that the context shows that both arsenokoites and malakos here refer to sexual offenders, but is only tentative in concluding that they refer specifically to homosexuality and not more widely to sexual sins.

 
At Tue Jul 17, 08:58:00 AM, Blogger daniel reed said...

FYI, I got an error when trying to click directly on the link for the "excerpt" - but it worked fine when I clicked the excerpt link from the main page.

Thanks for the link, Peter. This is a very interesting project. I'm pleased to see gays and lesbians (and their straight allies) begin to seriously engage theologically with the issues that are still hanging-points for much of the Church.

Although, I must say that I don't really see the need for gays and lesbians to have their own special-interest-targeted Bible...but then again, I don't see the need for a 'Golfer's Study Bible' or 'Soccer Mom edition' either. :)

 
At Tue Jul 17, 09:57:00 AM, Blogger Michael Kruse said...

A summary from “The Bible and Homosexual Practice: Texts and Hermeneutics” by Robert Gagnon out of Pittsburgh Theological Seminary:

Arsenokoites is almost certainly a combination two Greek words appearing in the Septuagint’s translation of Lev 18:22 and 20:13.

Arsenos ou koimethese koiten gymaikeian (18:22)

Hos an koimethe meta aresenos koiten gynaikos (20:13)

Arsen is the word for male. Koit is the word for “bed” or “lying.” Add the male suffix es to the end and you get arsenokoites, males who bed each other. It is drawn from the Leviticus prohibitions. (See page 315)

Malakia is discussed in two different places by first century Jew, Philo to describe those who are the receptive partner in a homosexual relationship and adopt feminine manner and appearance to enhance their role. There is no mention of temple prostitution or idolatry. Gagnon also notes that malakia can have a variety of meanings and context is important. Its placement in the 1 Cor 6:9 list between to acts that unmistakably involve sexual acts indicates that sexual activity is in mind here and not just acting in an effeminate manner. (308-309)

The historical understanding is almost certainly the correct one.

 
At Tue Jul 17, 10:22:00 AM, Blogger Jeremy Pierce said...

Romans 1? Seriously? I can see how someone might connect Jude with the Nephilim of Genesis 6, since there are references in Jude to the Enoch and Testament of Moses discussions of that passage. But Romans 1? How can they possibly take men with men and women with women as being about angels with women?

 
At Tue Jul 17, 11:13:00 AM, Blogger Glennsp said...

People will see what they want to Jeremy.
The prohibition against homosexuality, whether male or female, is very clear throughout the Bible and, as you rightly observed, "But Romans 1? How can they possibly take men with men and women with women as being about angels with women?"
This is just about people wanting to get something excepted which is clearly prohibited and they are using the same tactics that were used to get it excepted in the wider world.
Fortunately we have the unchanging word of God upon which we can (if we so choose) stand.

Peter, you may not agree with it, but by reporting it you are promoting it, because you report it even in your comment in such a way as to appear uncritical of this patently ridiculous work.

 
At Tue Jul 17, 12:01:00 PM, Blogger Peter Kirk said...

Daniel, thanks for pointing out the rather strange behaviour of this site. To read the "excerpt", go here and then click "Excerpt".

Jeremy, all I can suggest is that you read the excerpt, which links Romans 1 with passages in 2 Enoch and The Testament of Naphtali. It looks to me as if there is a case here for serious exegetes to answer. But I will not attempt this.

Glenn, by reporting this in a forum read by people with views like yours, I am challenging them to respond to this with good exegetical arguments, rather than ad hominem comments like "This is just about people wanting to get something excepted [sic] which is clearly prohibited" or quoting old commentaries as Michael does. I would like to promote not name-calling but dialogue on issues like this.

 
At Tue Jul 17, 01:25:00 PM, Blogger Jeremy Pierce said...

I didn't see the excerpt, but I don't see how it supports their case. They say:


"In similar language in Romans 1, Paul speaks of those who “exchanged God’s truth for the lie, the idol, and worshipped and served the creation other than the Creator.. the females exchanged natural sex for what is other than nature. And the same goes for males too. The males got rid of natural sex with the female and burned with their mutual yearning – males producing indecency with one another, and as a result got what was coming to them for their mistake."

It's hard for me to read even that as not involving homosexual sex, and it's hard to escape the implication that male-female sex is natural and any other earning God's wrath. Even if there are connections with these extra-canonical works, I don't see how you could conclude that there's no homosexual activity going on here or that the fact that it's homosexual is morally neutral. Even their translation doesn't allow for that.

 
At Tue Jul 17, 02:40:00 PM, Blogger daniel reed said...

Rats. I'm reading through this excerpt/intro, and it does seem to suffer from factual sloppiness. I think that hinders the cause, even when the sloppiness isn't directly a part of their argument.

Here's some inconsistencies I've found so far:
-The Geneva Bible has been out of print since 1644. Amazon says otherwise.

-[The King James Bible] heavily us[es] several other translations rather than translating from the original Greek. I'm pretty sure that the Preface to the KJV states that they used the TR and the Septuagint primarily, though they did consult other translations. I don't have time for a thorough fact-checking, but it strikes me as off.

There's definitely some sloppy theology here, but Peter, I applaud you for using this as an opportunity for real theological engagement here.

I've always liked the Wesleyan Quadrilateral - that the sources of authority for a Christian are Reason, Tradition, Experience and Scripture. I don't think that any of these has a free ride to trump the others.


@Glenn: "This is just about people wanting to get something excepted [sic] which is clearly prohibited"

Rubbish. The Bible is much less ambiguous on, and more prolific in its support of, slavery. Through wrestling with the issues, with some of those sources of authority above, Christians have come to unequivocally condemn slavery.


This is about people having an experience (that of observing gay and lesbian relationships, and making a determination that 'God is in this'), and being moved to rework theology and biblical interpretation.

There are certainly some things that I don't like about the rhetoric of some gay and lesbian Christians - sometimes it appears that they condone all sex, and are accepting of [gay or straight] promiscuity...but I view these as natural excesses as this movement begins to come into its own.

BTW, Peter, thanks for creating this space for open, courteous discussion. I think it's important.

If you're interested, a local (Seattle) pastor recently hosted a wonderful, tactful discussion of homosexuality and Christianity. He comes down on the "side" of not embracing homosexuality as OK, but the discussion in the comments (307 of them!) was very, very well done. People discussing the "issue" from all sides, with both gay and straight people chiming in.

I appreciate seeing that kind of dialogue.

 
At Tue Jul 17, 03:52:00 PM, Blogger Suzanne McCarthy said...

-[The King James Bible] heavily us[es] several other translations rather than translating from the original Greek. I'm pretty sure that the Preface to the KJV states that they used the TR and the Septuagint primarily, though they did consult other translations. I don't have time for a thorough fact-checking, but it strikes me as off.

I would have to support the opinion that the KJV was dependent on many previous versions. You just can't remove the influence of previous translations and interpretation.

I welcome this openness as well because either we already understand everything in the Bible, in which case, why participate in dialogue, or we don't.

 
At Tue Jul 17, 04:55:00 PM, Blogger Glennsp said...

Peter, I did not call anybody names and I dispute the accusation of "ad hominem".
It is a fact that this agenda is being pushed vociferously by those with a vested interest in challenging and denying what is clear in Scripture regarding homosexuality.
I have known as friends over the years several active homosexuals and bisexuals, but I could not in good conscience ever tell them that their lifestyle is not condemned outright by the Bible and I would be neglecting my duty as a Christian if I did not disavow the notion that they could count themselves as Christian whilst continuing in their chosen lifestyle.
You say you want dialogue, but on what? The Bible is clear in its stance in this matter, just as it is clear on how we are to deal with sin and sinners whether it be homosexuals, fornicators, adulterers, thieves, idolaters etc, etc
You also say you want "good exegetical arguments", regarding what? This isn't some esoteric, obscure subject which is open to debate because of its obscurity. The Bible is unambiguous in its stance.

 
At Tue Jul 17, 04:56:00 PM, Blogger daniel reed said...

Suzanne,

I would have to support the opinion that the KJV was dependent on many previous versions. You just can't remove the influence of previous translations and interpretation.

I agree. Sorry, I should have been more clear in my complaint. I was taking issue with their statement that the KJV "used several other translations rather than translating from the original Greek" (emphasis mine).

I was trying to say that I believe that the KJV translators did indeed consult the Greek (and Hebrew, too, IIRC!).

 
At Tue Jul 17, 05:19:00 PM, Blogger daniel reed said...

Glenn,

"The Bible is unambiguous in its stance" on a lot of things, including rebellious children, blended fabrics, shaving one's beard, women without head-coverings, etc.


...disavow the notion that they could count themselves as Christian whilst continuing in their chosen lifestyle...

1. What do you mean when you say "their chosen lifestyle"? What is it about those who self-identify as gay or lesbian that counts them out of the kingdom of God? Is it the identification? The physical traits, such as a woman being tomboyish or a man with limp wrists [which are stereotypes that sometimes are apparent]? What about straight people who exhibit some of those traits, like the recently coined 'metrosexual'? ...Or are you talking about the act of sex? Let's be clear what you're condemning, so that your homosexual and bisexual "friends" can know what hoops they have to jump through to become a Christian.

2. Can someone consider him/herself a Christian if they identify as homosexual and stay celibate?

3. Is a homosexual person ipso facto barred from Jesus via his/her gender identity or sexual preference? Is there a period of time after they convert where they're excused from your damnation?

I guess the essence of what I'm trying to say is, "Who are you to judge someone else's servant? To his own master he stands or falls." (Romans 14.4)

Aren't there more important things for you to be doing than declaring who is, and who is not, a servant of God?

--

I heard a story about someone who cut out all the verses about the poor from his Bible (maybe it was something like this). He then said 'I challenge you to remove all the verses that talk about homosexuality, and we'll compare Bibles'.

 
At Tue Jul 17, 05:20:00 PM, Blogger Suzanne McCarthy said...

Daniel,

You are quite right - I didn't focus on the "rather than". It would depend on what they meant.

How can a translator not be affected by the previous translations that he or she is already familiar with? This is just a rhetorical question, BTW. I don't want to sidetrack from the main issue here. I am following with interest.

 
At Tue Jul 17, 07:26:00 PM, Blogger Jeremy Pierce said...

There are places where the KJV translates from a translation instead of from the Greek, e.g. the Latin additions to I John with the explicit Trinitarian formula. There is no original Greek to translate that from. Its first appearance that we know of is, I believe, the Vulgate (although perhaps it's in an older Syriac text or something; I can't remember).

Daniel, it's not exactly a legitimate argument to point out verses that, if taken as applied to Christians the way they applied in their original context, would mean we'd have to trim beards a certain way (and so on). If the prohibition on homosexual sex is one of the OT laws continued as part of the law of Christ in the NT, then you can't simply say that this isn't continued just because OT laws are not all continued. It's a pretty ridiculous straw man, actually, one that assumed that no one who thinks gay sex is wrong has a theory about how the OT and NT relate to each other.

As for the judging issue, you need to distinguish between two things. One thing is to act as judge and declare which things are wrong, independent of scripture, which is what happens when someone emphasizes some wrong thing others do while ignoring the wrong things they do themselves. That's what Jesus opposes when he says not to judge. The other thing is to declare that the Bible says something is wrong when the Bible says it's wrong. That declares judgment, but it declares judgment by God, not by the speaker. That kind of judgment is consistent with believing and perhaps even saying that one is judged by God oneself but repentant. The view you're taking seems to disallow ever preaching against anything the Bible declares to be wrong, when the real thing to avoid isn't that but rather focusing on one's pet peeve sins while never preaching against the ones that one is tempted to oneself.

 
At Wed Jul 18, 03:31:00 AM, Blogger Peter Kirk said...

Glenn, to respond to a position not by arguing against it but by questioning the motives of those who put the position forward is the classic "ad hominem" argument. You do this when you write "This is just about people wanting to get something excepted [sic] which is clearly prohibited" and "this agenda is being pushed vociferously by those with a vested interest in challenging and denying what is clear in Scripture regarding homosexuality." More specifically, your arguments are "Ad hominem circumstantial" and perhaps "Bulverism". There is also an element of guilt by association, for Ann Nyland, who is "straight" and a Christian, does not personally have the vested interest you have in mind.

An ad hominem argument does not have to be about named individuals. And it is not a defence to claim that the statements you make are true, the argument is still ad hominem. In fact the argument may even be valid, but it is still ad hominem. Nevertheless I hope we can rise above such arguments here on BBB.

 
At Wed Jul 18, 03:47:00 AM, Blogger Peter Kirk said...

Seeker has published a three part review of The Source, the text behind this Gay and Lesbian edition. Unfortunately he (or she?) doesn't seem to have read the Study Notes on the verses he looks at in detail; if he had, he would be "wondering" less about Nyland's exgesis. He also consistently mis-spells "Nyland". But he does conclude "I don't think that the TSNT translation is particularly pro-gay."

 
At Wed Jul 18, 05:55:00 AM, Blogger Glennsp said...

Peter, I see that you ignore the questions I asked, as in;
"You say you want dialogue, but on what? The Bible is clear in its stance in this matter, just as it is clear on how we are to deal with sin and sinners whether it be homosexuals, fornicators, adulterers, thieves, idolaters etc, etc
You also say you want "good exegetical arguments", regarding what? This isn't some esoteric, obscure subject which is open to debate because of its obscurity. The Bible is unambiguous in its stance."

 
At Wed Jul 18, 07:57:00 AM, Blogger teknomom said...

I would like to respond to comments made by "daniel reed" to Glenn, as I see confusion over salvation itself in this.

1-- We all have the same "hoops" to jump through to become a Christian: faith in the risen Lord Jesus. This means understanding that Jesus is God in the flesh who died for (all) our sins, then rose again and will return. Yet we cannot ignore the consequences of such faith. We cannot go on ignoring that "other" side of God: holiness. To live in sin, as the apostle John wrote, is to dishonor Jesus and prove that we do not love him at all. So to live in any sin as a "lifestyle choice" is to hold Jesus' sacrifice in contempt.

2-- Yes, just as the alcoholic can be a Christian but must abstain from drunkenness, and the thief must abstain from stealing. This honors God because we subdue our flesh in favor of holiness. We all have weaknesses and must learn to control them instead of feeding them or trying to find ways to get society's approval of them.

3-- It is God, not any of us, who condemns the life of sin. Anyone with the attitude of continually opposing God's will is in serious trouble one way or another. To fail to "judge" whether one's lifestyle and attitude is godly or not is to fail in obeying the clear commands of scripture to "test the spirits", to "reprove, rebuke", to "contend earnestly for the faith".

I might ask you your own question: "Who are you to judge someone else's servant?" You are judging Glenn, are you not? But to point out God's views on a particular activity as condemning it is hardly anyone's personal hatred or improper judging, since the Bible is crystal clear against sexual sin, of which homosexuality is just as clearly a part.

If anyone has a problem with homosexuality being strongly condemned, it is God they must argue with.

 
At Wed Jul 18, 11:25:00 AM, Blogger Peter Kirk said...

Glenn, one exegetical issue which needs proper answers is exactly what is meant by arsenokoites and malakos in these passages, whether there is here a specific condemnation of homosexual practices or whether they also include heterosexual sex outside marriage - as clearly referred to by moichos in the same list in 1 Corinthians. Another issue is whether the sin mentioned in Romans and Jude can be related to "The Watchers" rather than to homosexuality. There are real issues here of understanding the original text, which cannot be dismissed off hand with comments like "The Bible is unambiguous in its stance." It is for reasons like this that it is important to know the original biblical languages, but also to recognise the limits of one's personal understanding.

As for dialogue, too many gay and lesbian people believe that Christians are fundamentally opposed to them as people, and that even their tendency is considered to be sin. Dialogue is necessary to let them know that God loves them and so do we, and that we expect of them no more than we expect of heterosexual people, which is to restrict certain sexual activity to marriage between man and woman. I hope that this Study Bible helps with that. It should at least get more of its target audience reading the Bible, in a form which does not affirm homosexual activity. We can hope and pray that God will use it to bring some of them to faith and repentance.

 
At Wed Jul 18, 02:40:00 PM, Blogger Glennsp said...

Peter, having followed the link you provided to the Wikipedia item on Ad Hominem I still dispute your assessment and refute that what I said was Ad Hominem.
As to "Bulverism" I will just politely leave it at, not even close.

 
At Wed Jul 18, 02:41:00 PM, Blogger daniel reed said...

Glenn:

The Bible is clear in its stance in this matter, just as it is clear on how we are to deal with sin and sinners whether it be homosexuals, fornicators, adulterers, thieves, idolaters etc

What is the Bible's stance "on how we are to deal with sin and sinners"? I'm curious what you think - correct me if I'm wrong, but it appears that you think that there's a unified "stance" from Genesis to Revelation. What is that stance? Jesus publicly ate with sinners, but Paul says not to. You probably know that eating together is an act of acceptance in Ancient Near Eastern cultures. Is there any difference between how a Christian should treat
1. a non-Christian "sinner" (with an obvious sin, such as homosexuality)?
2. a non-Christian who is not obviously a sinner, such as a Mormon?
3. a Christian with whom you are in relationship?
4. a Christian in another church, another denomination, another country?

 
At Wed Jul 18, 02:43:00 PM, Blogger daniel reed said...

I still dispute your assessment and refute that what I said was Ad Hominem

Saying that you refute something does not a refutation make...

 
At Wed Jul 18, 03:36:00 PM, Blogger daniel reed said...

Jeremy,

it's not exactly a legitimate argument to point out verses that, if taken as applied to Christians the way they applied in their original context, would mean we'd have to trim beards a certain way (and so on).

That's exactly my point. There are exegetical, interpretive decisions we make when determining whether to apply these guidelines to modern Christians. It's not fair to simply claim that it's an open and shut case - as you said, "you can't simply say that this isn't continued just because OT laws are not all continued".

It's not only OT laws that are interpreted like this - there are Paul's comments about women's head-coverings, male hair length, etc. - we make an interpretive decision when we choose to follow some requirements and not others.

It's a pretty ridiculous straw man, actually, one that assumed that no one who thinks gay sex is wrong has a theory about how the OT and NT relate to each other.

Yes, you're right, and I didn't intend to imply that - I'm sorry for any miscommunication. There are several opinions on the relationship between the two - here is a book with five views.

As for the judging issue, you need to distinguish between two things...The view you're taking seems to disallow ever preaching against anything the Bible declares to be wrong

Yes, you're right. I was imprecise in my previous comment. It is indeed helpful to distinguish between 1) "judging" - i.e., making value choices of what is right and wrong, 'taking a stand' against the wrong and for the right, even to the extent of legislation/enforcement in some cases - and 2) "judging" - i.e., an intolerant bias and holier-than-thou attitude, one that makes life easy for the judger and difficult for the judged. We could also add a third category of "judging", which you seem to imply - 3) something that is taken as acceptable in the wider culture but runs counter to Christian morality as gleaned from [interpretations of] the Bible, tradition, reason, and experience.

Into category 1) I would place such things as murder, rape, assault, theft, hostile language, cutting people off in traffic, etc. - things that are "wrong" because of their harm to someone else.
In category 2) are groups like "God Hates Fags" Fred Phelps, racism, mysogyny, etc.
In category 3) may be things like sexual promiscuity, drunkenness, envy/covetousness, gluttony...(These are probably also harming, and they're not completely accepted in the wider "secular" culture, but they're useful by example)

I take it that you would place mutual, consensual, [in theory] monogamous gay sex in category 3). I respect that, but I wonder how such a belief leads one to treat his/her fellow human? Peter's right that "too many gay and lesbian people believe that Christians are fundamentally opposed to them as people, and that even their tendency is considered to be sin" - if a person is hopelessly lost without giving up something that they consider fundamental to their identity, then why bother with Jesus, Church or Bible?

focusing on one's pet peeve sins while never preaching against the ones that one is tempted to oneself

That's a major sticking-point for me on the homosexuality "issue" - the amount of time, ink, and emotion proportional to other sins gives the lie to the claim that "homosexuality is just like any other sin". The fact is that the vast majority of people do not struggle with homoerotic tendencies - most straight people are not aroused by the same gender, just as most gay people are not aroused by the other. I've never heard a pastor, let alone a public 'Christian' figure, rail against gluttony, yet that is just as unambiguously condemned in scripture, and is clearly a major societal "evil", especially in America.

 
At Wed Jul 18, 04:52:00 PM, Blogger daniel reed said...

teknomom:
I see confusion over salvation itself

I'm not confused about salvation, I was using reductio ad absurdum to attempt to point out to Glenn that the matter might be worth some serious thought, rather than the naive claim that "The prohibition against homosexuality, whether male or female, is very clear throughout the Bible" - there are ambiguities, interpretations, and applications that are dealt with, often on a subconscious level.

1. We all have the same "hoops" to jump through to become a Christian: faith in the risen Lord Jesus. This means understanding that Jesus is God in the flesh who died for (all) our sins, then rose again and will return. Yet we cannot ignore the consequences of such faith. We cannot go on ignoring that "other" side of God: holiness.

I agree with that. I do not think (again, based on a complex matrix of Scripture, Tradition, Reason, and Experience) that a lifetime, monogamous, consensual same-sex relationship runs counter to that holiness or can be necessarily counted as "liv[ing] in sin".

to live in any sin as a "lifestyle choice"...

Again, what do you mean by "lifestyle choice" when you're referring to homosexuality?

2 Yes [In response to "Can a Christian be homosexual if he/she is celibate?], just as the alcoholic can be a Christian but must abstain from drunkenness, and the thief must abstain from stealing

OK - thanks for your input. You must know, however, that it's not the universal view of all Christians. Glenn said that the Bible "is clear on how we are to deal with sin and sinners whether it be homosexuals, fornicators...",which indicates that he believes that it is a person's gender identity/sexual preference itself which is sin. Some Roman Catholic bishops (and Pope Benedict has released a statement to this effect, IIRC) do not allow homosexuals to be priests (even though they are by definition celibate).

3 To fail to "judge" whether one's lifestyle and attitude is godly or not is to fail in obeying the clear commands of scripture to "test the spirits"

I don't dispute that. But, taking as given your premise that gay sex is sin, I repeat my question, "Is there a period of time after they convert..." in which the Church won't demonize a person for homosexual impulses? The church (sometimes at least) is pretty lenient on and patient with people who chronically overeat, alcoholics, pathological liars, drug addicts, and even [straight] people who engage in promiscuous sex. The Church has a history of being abusive and hostile to gay and lesbian people, again giving the lie to the lip service that "homosexuality is just like any other sin".

I might ask you your own question: "Who are you to judge someone else's servant?" You are judging Glenn, are you not?

No. See my comment to Jeremy (directly above) for my attempt to distinguish between types of "judging". I was trying to show Glenn that his naive, reductionist, ad hominem attack on these scholars and the very concept of rethinking the exegetical decisions of the relevant texts were not helpful. He was "judging someone else's servant". I'm all for making value judgments about a behavior, but with statements like "people will see what they want to", "this is just about people wanting to get something excepted [sic] which is clearly prohibited", "patently ridiculous work", "this agenda is being pushed vociferously by those with a vested interest in challenging and denying what is clear in Scripture" -- he's making assumptions about the motives of people; he's assuming bad faith; he's passing judgment without even engaging the issues.

the Bible is crystal clear against sexual sin, of which homosexuality is just as clearly a part.

Again, homosexuality or same-sex sex? Homosexuality as an orientation was not even defined until the 19th century. The term was coined in 1869 (Wikipedia), and more is being discovered about homosexuality and its origins all the time. It appears to be clear that the orientation is nearly irreversible (Exodus, the ex-gay recovery network, has been shown, quite simply, to not work); many gay and lesbian people report same-sex attraction from their earliest memories, before any sexual encounters.

If anyone has a problem with homosexuality being strongly condemned, it is God they must argue with.

For what it's worth, I tend to not put much stock in the pro-gay exegesis of the Biblical passages - they usually seem pretty forced, and go against the interpretation placed on them from the earliest Church Fathers - those who spoke Greek natively. I'm going to assume that those closer to Biblical times (in language, time, and culture) are best-suited to shed light on a text's meaning.

I simply have come to think that the Biblical authors did not have a concept of committed, monogamous same-sex love between equals, just as they could not conceive of a world without slavery (and hence the lack of any Biblical condemnation thereof). They wrote from within the culture in which they lived.

 
At Wed Jul 18, 05:44:00 PM, Blogger teknomom said...

daniel reed,

1-- I'm not disputing the existence of ambiguity in the Bible, rather whether there is any such ambiguity on homosexuality. **

** (Defining terms on the fly is not exactly a kosher logical practice. I use the term as the vast majority use it: same-sex sexual activity. I'm not referring at all to personality.) **

I have not seen any convincing arguments for any "wiggle room" on sexual perversions of any kind, nor any reason to avoid classifying homosexuality as a perversion. That being the case, it most certainly does impinge on the holiness of God, regardless of whether it's "consensual, monogamous" or anything else.

By "lifestyle choice" I mean choosing deliberately to live in practice of something which God has condemned as an abomination.

2-- I care not how many Christians view something, but what God says about it. Whether "the universal view of all Christians" (how did you determine this?) accepts it or not, the fact is that we're all sinners. But the key is to first admit this, then identify that which God has defined as sin, and finally to resolve not to practice such things.

The sticking point in this thread seems to be over identification, and some of us just don't see why it's so difficult to define homosexual practice as sin.

3-- I will try to clarify. Any new believer has to be carefully discipled. The failure of the church to do this consistently is a great sin in itself. Were we to practice the NT model for a healthy body of believers, such would be told what is clearly not permissible and kept under a strong Christian mentor until this primary lesson is learned. No believer is permitted to spread sinful teachings at any time, which Paul so often chided believers for tolerating.

And we cannot escape Paul's words to the Corinthians in 1 Cor. 6:

Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders 10nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. 11 And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.

So clearly there can be former homosexuals, former thieves, former drunkards, etc. Yet the Corinthians were falling back into these things. So in Paul's terminology, calling them "former" is not to say they no longer have tendencies to sin, but that they were "washed", and because of this they were to stop trying to go back to their wallowing in the mud. Today we would insist that they are never "formerly" this or that, but we're just arguing over semantics then. The fact is, people can be changed from these sinful conditions, yet still feel pulled back to them.

Seeing this Biblical view of sin, then, we can say that the important issue is the attitude of the sinner. Do we try to excuse our weakness, or do we repent and strive to be stronger? There is simply no excuse for giving up or for trying to redefine sin; we must identify it and turn from it.

So as for a "period of time", let me ask you this: How long should any church tolerate continued killing by a saved murderer? How long should we tolerate stealing? And if we cannot tolerate these things for any length of time, then we cannot make exceptions for other sins. Yes, we all have had our "secret" sins, but the church can hardly be held responsible for those. But when it is discovered, we have no excuse not to confront it and deal with it.

Yet there is a group of sins the Bible does put in a class of their own:

Run from sexual sin! No other sin so clearly affects the body as this one does. For sexual immorality is a sin against your own body. (1 Cor. 6:18)


So don't be too harsh on the church being "hostile to gay and lesbian people". Or on Glenn, who doesn't seem to be doing anything you're not. Calling his statements a "naive, reductionist, ad hominem attack" is your opinion, not an undisputed fact. I truly do not see why this is only a crime if committed by someone else. You too are making assumptions about his motivations, accusing him of "passing judgment without engaging the issues", simply on the basis of what appears in this thread. I realize that's all you have to go on, but if you realize this too, then perhaps you should reserve your own judgments until you have the full story.

As I already stated, what terminology is used for this topic is irrelevant. We're talking about same-sex intimacy, not personality traits. And per the scripture already quoted, Paul believed that such "orientation" is in fact reversible. It it the work of the Holy Spirit, whose power is limitless. Now if only we would all accept that fact.

So "the Biblical authors did not have a concept of committed, monogamous same-sex love between equals, just as they could not conceive of a world without slavery"? I'm sorry, but I find this utterly ridiculous. Was Paul supposed to address every social injustice? Here I think you are making an argument from silence, yet Paul was not completely silent after all. He did say, "Are you a slave? Don’t let that worry you—but if you get a chance to be free, take it." (1 Cor. 7:21) The NT writers were not primitive or naive or stupid. I cannot fathom how one can read their letters and come to the conclusion you did here.

 
At Wed Jul 18, 06:58:00 PM, Blogger Jeremy Pierce said...

Jesus ate with sinners who were looking into what Jesus was all about. Paul said not to eat with people who claimed to be Christians but who refused to repent of their sins. I see no inconsistency between the two.

Since we're getting pedantic about philosophical terminology, I might as well give a philosopher's view. Refuting means you have given an argument that shows why something is wrong. Simply saying that you disagree isn't refuting. It's denying. Refuting would involve explaining why what you did does not fit the Wikipedia definition of ad hominem. For the record, I've never seen the term used in philosophy in its negative sense for anything other than trying to undermine a view by pointing out negative character traits of the person who holds it. Glenn's statement didn't do that. I would say that it commits the genetic fallacy, which is undermining a view by pointing out that how people came to it is suspect. That doesn't in fact undermine the view itself, just their reasons for holding it. But I wouldn't call it ad hominem.

I take it that you would place mutual, consensual, [in theory] monogamous gay sex in category 3). I respect that, but I wonder how such a belief leads one to treat his/her fellow human? Peter's right that "too many gay and lesbian people believe that Christians are fundamentally opposed to them as people, and that even their tendency is considered to be sin" - if a person is hopelessly lost without giving up something that they consider fundamental to their identity, then why bother with Jesus, Church or Bible?

I've never asked any gay friends if they think I'm mistreating them. I'd suspect they don't, at least not any more than my Jewish friends think I'm mistreating them for thinking they're hopelessly lost unless they give up something they consider fundamental to their Jewish identity (i.e. not believing Jesus is the Messiah/God).


That's a major sticking-point for me on the homosexuality "issue" - the amount of time, ink, and emotion proportional to other sins gives the lie to the claim that "homosexuality is just like any other sin". The fact is that the vast majority of people do not struggle with homoerotic tendencies - most straight people are not aroused by the same gender, just as most gay people are not aroused by the other. I've never heard a pastor, let alone a public 'Christian' figure, rail against gluttony, yet that is just as unambiguously condemned in scripture, and is clearly a major societal "evil", especially in America.


Yes, I've made this sort of point lots of times. An example I've used is divorce, but gluttony is a good one.

 
At Wed Jul 18, 08:31:00 PM, Blogger JL said...

I'd suspect they don't, at least not any more than my Jewish friends think I'm mistreating them for thinking they're hopelessly lost unless they give up something they consider fundamental to their Jewish identity (i.e. not believing Jesus is the Messiah/God).

Assuming homosexual activity is a sin (I'm not sure that is--it's a grey area for me), surely gay friends aren't "hopelessly lost" unless they become straight (if that's possible). Believing that Jesus is the Messiah/God is central to salvation. Ceasing to sin is not.

Of course we shouldn't consistently embrace any sin, but Christians disagree on what behavior constitutes sin. I don't believe that I am under my husband's authority, for example. He doesn't try to lead me and I don't try to obey him. This "lifestyle choice" of ours is seen as destructive and sinful by many, but that doesn't revoke our salvation in their eyes (I hope). Homosexuals who believe their monogamous sex is acceptable before God are not acting "with the attitude of continually opposing God's will," to use teknomom's words. They may be wrong, but that doesn’t mean they’re thumbing their collective noses at the Bible or God, or that they are not saved.

I’m all too often proud and resentful, and I’ll gossip and lash out in anger. The Bible focuses more on sins like these, which show a hardness of my heart. It would be better for me be a lesbian living with another woman, if I were doing so based on prayer and my interpretation of the Bible. If the latter is a sin, at least I would be sinning without knowledge or intent!

That’s why Peter’s post is valuable. We can see that common interpretations are debated, and join in the discussion. At least discussion should demonstrate that people who disagree have motives other than rebelling against God…

 
At Thu Jul 19, 02:49:00 AM, Blogger daniel reed said...

teknomom:

Defining terms on the fly is not exactly a kosher logical practice. I use the term as the vast majority use it: same-sex sexual activity. I'm not referring at all to personality...As I already stated, what terminology is used for this topic is irrelevant. We're talking about same-sex intimacy, not personality traits.

I asked for your definition of homosexuality not to create "wiggle room", not to "defin[e] terms on the fly", but because using euphemistic phrases like "the gay lifestyle", "homosexual practice" and "lifestyle choice" is not the way the "vast majority" uses it. From Wikipedia: "Homosexuality can refer to both sexual behavior and sexual attraction between people of the same sex or to a sexual orientation. When describing a sexual orientation, it refers to enduring sexual and romantic attraction toward others of the same sex, but does not necessarily involve sexual behavior."

Because there is not a universally accepted understanding of what "homosexuality" is, I think it's important to be specific about what we're debating. Thanks, teknomom, for your definition - "same-sex sexual activity" - that puts us on the same starting page for the discussion. (I perceive that even on this thread, even among those who are arguing your same points, there is not unanimity in what practices make up "the lifestyle".)

The gay men and lesbians I have met take offense at what they perceive as a reduction of their personhood by a definition like yours. In reducing them to their sexual practices, you ignore the majority of that which constitutes their life, and invoke imagery of promiscuity. The "lifestyle" of the gays that I know is just like everyone else: they go to work, they go shopping, they eat, they drink, they walk their dogs, they spend time with their partner and/or kids. To borrow imagery from Dan Savage, there are many heterosexuals who have gayer "lifestyles" - never marry, sleep around, abuse drugs...

So we're talking about sex, allegedly. I asked Glenn earlier if there should be a difference between the way we relate to "sinners" who claim to be Christians and "sinners" who make no such claim?

...abomination...

Do you really want to go there? Divorcing and remarrying the same person. Dishonesty in the marketplace. Shellfish. Insects (?). Lying. Pride. Legal/Judicial injustice. Haughty eyes/lying tongue/hands that shed innocent blood/A heart that devises wicked plans/Feet that run rapidly to evil/false witness who utters lies/one who spreads strife among brothers.

I have never seen a Christian leader rail on any of the above with the vociferousness of the outcry against homosexuality. It's pretty convenient scapegoating, since it only applies to a small minority of people.

By "lifestyle choice" I mean choosing deliberately to live in practice of something which God has condemned

Do you know any gay people who have deliberately chosen to be attracted to the same gender? I know that people try - many struggle with guilt and shame over their "abominable" orientation for years. Many try desperately to change. Many think that marrying or having sex with a person of the opposite gender will cure them. In the past, pornography and electroshock were used to try to re-program them with "normal" sexual urges. Today, there's "conversion therapy".

Nothing - nothing - has been proven effective at changing one's sexual orientation. Many of these people come out of these failed attempts at change with broken marriages and families, with severe clinical depression, with intensified feelings of guilt and shame.

I care not how many Christians view something, but what God says about it

That sounds really nice. Unfortunately, none of us has full, individualized, unobscured access to God that is unquestionable, infallible and complete. I still hold that we need each other, that theology is best done in community, that another's perspective (even those with whom I will ultimately disagree) is a valid and valuable way to hear from God, and may help me solidify my beliefs (or maybe cause me to rethink them, or slightly alter them, or hold them just a little bit more "lightly" and humbly).

Whether "the universal view of all Christians" (how did you determine this?) accepts it or not

I'm not sure what you're asking me. I gave you two examples of other Christians who believe differently than you on the validity of celibate homosexuals.

...practice the NT model...No believer is permitted to spread sinful teachings...

I think that this picture of the early church that you paint is not at all feasible for the church today. It is exactly this idea that has caused schisms, wars and denominational rifts - the problem becomes, "Whose definition of 'sinful teachings'? Whose interpretation of the Bible? How do we determine if someone is teaching heresy? How do we 'permit' or 'not permit' something when there are dozens of congregations in a given city, when we don't have a relationship with the believer in question? What kind of authority do [for example] the Baptists have over the Methodists?"

as for a "period of time", let me ask you this: How long should any church tolerate continued killing by a saved murderer? How long should we tolerate stealing? And if we cannot tolerate these things for any length of time, then we cannot make exceptions for other sins.

Depending on what you mean here by "tolerate", I couldn't disagree more. For me, this boils down to things that cause harm to others, and things that don't. Clearly we shouldn't encourage/enable/allow a murderer, thief, rapist or pedophile immunity from the consequences of their actions with excuses that they are a young/immature believer. On the other hand, we obviously extend grace, forgiveness and understanding to the one who gets angry in traffic, or who habitually doesn't recycle ( ;) Can you tell I'm from the Northwest?), or who continues to overeat dispite his/her obesity. There is a recognition that sanctification doesn't happen overnight - we most certainly do "make exceptions for other sins".

don't be too harsh on the church being "hostile to gay and lesbian people"

I don't understand. You said yourself that "The failure of the church to [provide discipleship to new believers] consistently is a great sin" - what is wrong with me pointing out a grave, massive, systemic failure that I see in many churches today?

Or on Glenn, who doesn't seem to be doing anything you're not. Calling his statements a "naive, reductionist, ad hominem attack" is your opinion, not an undisputed fact

You're right. It's not undisputed, and it appears that he is in fact disputing it. The difference is that I have engaged the issues, the content of Glenn's argument, and not resorted to an attack on Glenn or on his motivations. (Doing that would look like "He only said that because he hates gay people" - ad hominem). I'd like to stop harping on Glenn, since he hasn't been around in a couple days, and there's no need to beat a dead horse. I still maintain that his arguments in his comments above were ad hominem, but that doesn't mean they were wrong necessarily - just that it's changing the subject (from the theology of homosexuality, to the motivations and desires of the creators of this Bible), which is why it's considered a logical fallacy.

So "the Biblical authors did not have a concept of committed, monogamous same-sex love between equals, just as they could not conceive of a world without slavery"? I'm sorry, but I find this utterly ridiculous. Was Paul supposed to address every social injustice? Here I think you are making an argument from silence, yet Paul was not completely silent after all. He did say, "Are you a slave? Don’t let that worry you—but if you get a chance to be free, take it." (1 Cor. 7:21) The NT writers were not primitive or naive or stupid. I cannot fathom how one can read their letters and come to the conclusion you did here.

Hm...I definitely did not mean to imply that the biblical writers were primitive, naive or stupid. However, I do think that when they condemned same-sex intimacy (as I grant that they did), they had in mind the homoeroticism of the ancient world - the fertility cults, the orgies, the pederasty. As far as I know, a same-sex relationship between equals was unheard of - therefore, I don't expect it to be addressed, and I think it's somewhat unfair to project 21st-century America back into the reading of 1st-century Judaism and Christianity.


It it the work of the Holy Spirit, whose power is limitless. Now if only we would all accept that fact.

I'd like to try a different direction here for a minute - bear with me. Let's take as given for a moment your position that gay sex itself is inherently sinful. (As I've said before, I do respect that position. I think that it's biblically and ethically tenable, and I think that it's possible [in theory] for a person or group to have a "welcoming, but not affirming" stance. This was the position I myself held a year or two ago.)

I'd like to explore the ramifications of this belief. My contention is that mainstream Christianity does not act as if they "loved the sinner, hated the sin".

For the sake of argument, let's say that the cause of homosexual orientation is contingent on personal experiences in a broken, confused world where people start believing lies at the earliest of ages and form identities around lies. In that case, same-sex sexual activity is a sin resulting from a wounded spirit that is believing in and acting on a fundamental lie.

If that's the case, if self-identification as a homosexual is a deep-seated lie, than how productive should we expect human efforts to be? It's not unreasonable to think that undoing an entire life built around lies would be an extremely time-consuming, soul-searching, massive work of union between the person's desire for change and healing, and the limitless power of the Holy Spirit.

With that in mind, I think it's irresponsible, indefensible, counter-productive and futile to try to strongarm people into renouncing homosexuality, or to create an environment in which homosexual thoughts and actions are treated with such a stigma as to drive people to depression and suicide on the one hand - and violence or acting out in risky, irresponsible behavior on the other. It's like requiring a sick person to get well before being allowed to see a doctor - pulling oneself up by one's bootstraps is a romantic idea, and seems to work in some cases, but it's not fair to require that of people. It sets up an impossible standard that can never be attained (by the vast majority of people).

In what ways have Christian "strongarmed people"? By opposing the repeal of anti-sodomy laws, by opposing hate crime legislation, by insinuating that homosexuality is something that should be kept a secret, by stigmatizing AIDS patients, by bad parenting advice (e.g., James Dobson has written on how to keep your boy from becoming homosexual - his advice is for fathers to play 'masculine'/aggressive games with them and to shower with them).

If the church tells these broken, wounded people who have built their life around a lie that their only experience of love, intimacy and affection is an abomination - how can we expect them to pay us any attention, let alone come to us for the great truth that can undo and address the lies they believe?

"Welcoming, but not affirming" - Can we just work on the "welcoming" part? (They already know that they're not affirmed, and therefore they think that they're not welcome.)

 
At Thu Jul 19, 03:42:00 AM, Blogger Peter Kirk said...

Jeremy wrote that ad hominem consists of "trying to undermine a view by pointing out negative character traits of the person who holds it". But surely that is just what Glenn's words "This is just about people wanting to get something excepted [sic] which is clearly prohibited" and "this agenda is being pushed vociferously by those with a vested interest in challenging and denying what is clear in Scripture regarding homosexuality" are: "pointing out negative character traits", within our shared assumption that denying Scripture and disobeying God's commandments are negative things. Glenn's only defence against my accusation of ad hominem is to point out that Ann Nyland herself does not have these negative character traits, that he is simply referring to them in order to attach to her guilt by association. But I don't think an argument fails to be ad hominem just because the "negative character traits" allegations are in fact untrue.

 
At Thu Jul 19, 04:08:00 AM, Blogger Peter Kirk said...

"Welcoming, but not affirming" - Can we just work on the "welcoming" part?

Indeed, Daniel. Let's all work on it.

But there are success stories of people who were gay and have changed their orientation. I can't personally vouch for any of them, and there may be far more failures for all I know. Here are two such stories from a source that I trust as being truthful - even though it is the same Anglican Mainstream which I have been negative about on my own blog. Peter Ould, one of the two ex-gays whose testimony is here and now an Anglican minister, has his own blog.

 
At Thu Jul 19, 06:26:00 AM, Blogger teknomom said...

daniel reed,

Wikipedia isn't exactly the most reputable thing to quote, but I don't personally know anyone who would hear the word "homosexual" and not immediately think in terms of sexual practice. You are assuming that I am adding more to that definition, just because Wiki does. My point is that whatever else you may add to the definition, the sexual practice part is the most basic and indispensible component.

You claim I have committed a "reduction of their personhood" in such definitions, but I strongly disagree. Am I to be accused of doing the same to drunks, killers, etc.? Here again you operate on a false assumption: that if we're discussing a particular topic that what I say pertaining to that topic must be the totality of all my opinions of it. I can accuse you of doing this same thing in your assessments of me.

Regarding the term "lifestyle", I thought I narrowed the scope of what I meant, but apparently not. I'm talking about approving and practicing anything that God has forbidden. And how did you get the idea that I called such a thing "promiscuity"? I clearly said otherwise.

Per you list of things you "have never seen a Christain leader rail on", I have seen and heard it all, thousands of times. Maybe I've been going to different churches than you. You seem to be painting all churches with a very broad brush.

Did I say anything about any gays "who have deliberately chosen to be attracted to the same gender"? No, I did not; in fact I said the opposite. What I did say is that they choose to practice something God has called sin.

The biggest obstacle to unity of understanding what God has said is most people's failure to consider ALL aspects of context, to think logically and to have a basic knowledge of the character of God. But when it comes to sexual practices, the Bible is very clear and unambiguous. This is not a gray area at all, and thus is not something we can all "dialog" about, any more than there can be "dialog" about salvation itself.

The "picture I painted" of the early church is, contrary to your assertion, not only feasable, it is what God intended. The "churchianity" that begain with the deaths of the apostles is the true cause of "schisms, wars and denomination rifts". It is God who defines sin, not us, as I stated before, and it is therefore our responsibility to carefully read his Word to find out what He said. And He clearly called sexual practice other than between one man and one woman sin. To obscure this fact by bringing in a host of other topics is hardly a case for accepting it.

I tried to point out with scripture that God does hold sexual sin in a class of its own, even though by your definition it "does no harm to others", a highly disputable claim in itself. Grace is extended to the repentant, to those who know what they have been doing is sin. But when it comes to same-sex practice (man, I hate politically-correct speech restrictions), you are promoting the idea that it isn't sin at all.

Regarding you misunderstanding of my statement about not being harsh on the church: I was pointing out that you were being every bit as judgmental and harsh as they. It is hypocritical to condemn them for being judgmental.

I'd like to stop harping on Glenn too, but I still don't see how you haven't done exactly what he has.

I can't see how it is possible to admit that the Biblical writers weren't stupid yet make assumptions about what they "had in mind". And can you discount the fact that they wrote under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit? He did not put any disclaimers or qualifying remarks about what He "had in mind", so you in fact assume that the Spirit could not imagine "a same-sex relationship between equals". And if you would object to being guilty of this, then you cannot defend your assertion that Paul could only write about things his culture could relate to. So it is you, not I, who is projecting cultural bias onto the Bible.

Again, per your "sake of argument" section, the fact still remains that the churches must identify what God has called sin and not let some be practiced and others not. But that is really beside the point, which is that we should be asking about GOD's standards, not how people "do church". It would be sinful for me not to speak up when I see a sin being excused as something people can't help for whatever reason. That's my motivation here. And I'm certainly not talking at all about "pulling oneself up by one's bootstraps", but about the work of the Holy Spirit and the responsibility of the church to disciple all believers.

You may recall in Paul's first letter to the Corinthians about the man having sex with his mother-in-law. He had the man excommunicated, not pampered or "understood". Ask yourself why Paul would take this action, when he did not also order such a thing for all the other bacslidden believers in that church. He was rebuking them all for not dealing harshly with this man! Yet in the second letter, he advises them to take the man back into their fellowship because he had completely repented. If nothing I have said makes any sense, at least consider this example of Paul-- without claiming the Holy Spirit couldn't advise Paul beyond his culture.

Love is not passive acceptance of sin, but confronts it because it is a slap in God's face. We cannot judge everything by whether or not it affects other people, but we must instead always consider how it affects God. We cannot "welcome" anyone who remains unrepentant about any sin. That's what the Bible teaches by doctrine and by example. I cannot see any escape clause for the fact that harboring sin causes us emotional pain; that pain is, in fact, the proof of our sinfulness. The way to soothe it is not to accept people who practice sin, but to tell them to repent. And if repentance is desired (** KEY POINT **), we must tell them that the power to change can only come from God, and only to those who are willing to give up anything He tells them to. In other words, if God is God, who are we to tell Him what should or should not be called sin?

Well, I can't think of any more ways to say this, so I'll leave you with this post. Please consider Paul's example and the many instances where God clearly displays his view of any sexual practice between other than one man and one woman.

 
At Thu Jul 19, 10:14:00 AM, Blogger Peter Kirk said...

Yes, Teknomom, I would accuse you of "reduction of their personhood" if you called someone a "drunk", at least in a context suggesting that this was their habitual behaviour. For labelling someone in this way suggests that their behaviour is somehow irreversible and they will never be fully accepted for who they were, even if they completely amend their ways. Yes, we are all guilty of doing this at times. But that does not justify this approach. And it does not justify using a similar approach with homosexual people, such as not believing that they can remain celibate - interestingly enough the issue over which the Bishop of Hereford here in England has just got into trouble.

 
At Thu Jul 19, 10:55:00 AM, Blogger Jeremy Pierce said...

Peter, an ad hominem focuses on the idea that anyone with a character trait must always have false views. It would be like pointing out that someone is a Nazi to discredit the view. This isn't like that, because it's an assumption about a particular view and the connection between that view and an assumed origin of that view. That's the genetic fallacy.

 
At Thu Jul 19, 11:05:00 AM, Blogger Jeremy Pierce said...

Or do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor practicing homosexuals nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God. [I Cor 6:9-11]

Leave aside the stuff about usually taken to be out homosexuality, and just focus on the other terms used here. Is that reduction of personhood?

 
At Thu Jul 19, 11:06:00 AM, Blogger Jeremy Pierce said...

Sorry, I should have cited the translation there. That's the TNIV rendering.

 
At Thu Jul 19, 11:22:00 AM, Blogger daniel reed said...

Peter,

Again, thanks for your willingness to have open discussion. Thanks for your desire for precision, accuracy and clarity, even in things that run counter to your currently held beliefs. I'm glad that you and Jeremy are able to see the inequity and disparity in the way much of the church has treated gay people.

At the end of the day, I don't expect to change anyone's mind, least of all about their theology. As I have repeatedly said, I do agree that the Bible has a consistent message against same-sex intimacy. (Again, however, there are something like 4-6 passages which deal with this. Compared to any other sin or deviation, it gets very little space - appropriate, considering it seems to be a minority action across cultures.)

But there are success stories of people who were gay and have changed their orientation

Thanks for the links, Peter. I'll check them out. I realize that this is really tricky, because most of the data we have on changed orientation appears to be anecdotal. (I'm not discounting the validity of anecdote, but it's not the same as scientifically-backed surety.)

Wikipedia has some interesting articles about Conversion Therapy in general and Exodus International in particular. Not that it should be taken as the final word, but it appears that the general scientific consensus is highly skeptical of the efficacy of changing a person's sexual orientation (Psychiatric News article).

I've read articles and reports on both sides, from ex-gays and ex-ex-gays. This one is particularly interesting, in which Jamie Arpin-Ricci, "author, speaker & inner city missionary" admits to having always struggled with same-sex attraction. After all the research and soul-searching, he decided that homosexuality was not the right path for him. He's married and committed to his wife.

Again, I highly recommend perusing Eugene Cho's post and the following comments for an excellent debate, from many angles, by people who are directly, intimately affected by this.

There was the exchange between Brian McLaren and Mark Driscoll on a pastoral response to the "homosexual question" (1,2,3,4).

Professor Richard Beck, from Abilene Christian Univ., has a great series on "Theology and Sexuality: What makes a sin a sin?" (1...you can find the other links from the main page).

I have much more I'd like to say, but I've run out of time for now. Actually, I probably won't have a chance to write any more until tomorrow. Thanks again for your thoughtful engagement.

 
At Thu Jul 19, 03:21:00 PM, Blogger Peter Kirk said...

an ad hominem focuses on the idea that anyone with a character trait must always have false views.

That definition sounds a bit narrow to me. But this is what Glenn is doing. He is saying that certain people have the character trait of "wanting to get something excepted [sic] which is clearly prohibited" and being "those with a vested interest in challenging and denying what is clear in Scripture regarding homosexuality", with a clear implication that they are themselves homosexual. And he is implying that such people must have false or at least unreliable views about the Bible, and so should not be listened to. That is classic ad hominem, equivalent to "What he says about the Bible must be wrong because he is gay".

 
At Thu Jul 19, 03:29:00 PM, Blogger Peter Kirk said...

[I Cor 6:9-11] ... Is that reduction of personhood?

Yes. Or at least a deliberate denial of it. Paul deliberately uses pejorative nouns for these people, rather than verbs describing their activities as he more often does, to make a point that these were people despised by the world, deprived of full personhood, but now in Christ that full personhood has been restored to them. I suspect that Paul was quoting a well known list of despised sinners, perhaps from the Corinthians' own letter (although I didn't list this as a possible quotation here) but Paul has turned it round in verse 11 with "And that is what some of you were", meaning "Don't look down on people like this any more, they too can be saved as you have been".

 
At Thu Jul 19, 03:32:00 PM, Blogger Peter Kirk said...

Daniel, thanks for the links. I don't have time to follow them up for now. Yes, scientists may be sceptical, but if we are talking about divine healing here, rather than psychological manipulation, then that is to be expected; God doesn't heal to order to convince sceptics.

 
At Thu Jul 19, 06:39:00 PM, Blogger Jeremy Pierce said...

Peter, there's a usual formula Paul uses when he quotes the Corinthians. I know there's a tendency of late to increase the quotations to a lot more than the clear cases, but since the clear cases all have a similar formula, I tend to question whether the other purported cases are real quotes.

In this case, I would have thought that Paul was more likely implicitly suggesting that our sins do define us to the point of what you're calling loss of personhood (which I wouldn't call that myself, because I don't think personhood has anything to do with it) and that Christ removes that by identifying us with him rather than our sin.

 
At Fri Jul 20, 12:31:00 PM, Blogger daniel reed said...

There's not really much more to say that hasn't been said already, or that hasn't been said elsewhere (such as the links I recommended above), and it seems like this conversation is coming to a close. As I've said before, I'm not expecting to change anyone's mind, and I hope I haven't been excessively argumentative or hostile.

Ten years ago, I would have argued that homosexuality (the orientation itself, the entire 'lifestyle' including but extending beyond the sexual practice) was evil and wrong and sinful.

Five years ago, I would have been arguing the exact same things that you are saying, teknomom. I grew up in a very conservative evangelical environment, where I felt like it was my responsibility to take a stand against homosexuality. It would be sinful for me not to speak up when I see a sin being excused, as you said, and homosexuality would be particularly identified as a sin especially threatening to the Church.

Three years ago, I began to try to honestly treat homosexual behavior as a sin "just like any other". Like Jeremy and Peter have been pointing out, I began to see the disparity between the vitriol directed at gays and the lack of outcry (certainly, at the very least, a lesser outcry) against other sins - even hetero sexual sins. Think, for instance, how Ted Haggard found it easier to admit that he had meth than that he had been with a male prostitute.

Two years ago, I began to see the way that the actions, public statements, legislation, etc. affected real people. Gays and lesbians feel unwelcome, alienated, unaccepted, despised by many churches. (Not that I think that it's necessarily the intent of Christians to convey those attitudes, but that is how their actions are perceived by the gay and lesbian community.) I was influenced, in part by Brian McLaren (see link above), to believe that such statements and public positions were unnecessary. I no longer thought that it was the responsibility of a given church to declare the morality or otherwise of people with whom there is not a direct personal relationship.

Note that at this point, I still believed that all gay sex was sinful; I just decided that I didn't need to "take a stand" for it unless I happened upon a pastoral/mentorship/intimate friendship relationship with someone who encountered Christ, wanted to follow him, and chose to 'be accountable' to me for moral guidance.

Around a year ago, I was led to research more - to read theological, philosophical and pastoral positions on both "sides" of the debate. One book I really liked was Straight & Narrow?: Compassion & Clarity in the Homosexuality Debate by Thomas E. Schmidt (another book that lands decisively against same-sex practice, but does provide "compassion and clarity" on how I can approach my relationships with gay and lesbian people.

I began to develop closer relationships with gay and lesbian friends, and getting to know them more began to remove my ability to think of myself as better than them, or even indeed to think of "them" as a separate category from "us" straight people. They're not the sex-obsessed, culturally deviant, murderously oppositional (to America, to Christianity, to God) maniacs that my church culture growing up made me believe. (Some of these factors may have an ounce of truth in them: they may talk about sex, but no more than their straight counterparts; they may be angry with their treatment by Christianity and by the government - and thus become bitter and lash out - but no more than Christians have tended to lash out against gays.) I stopped seeing them as the Other; I began to see them as people, as peers, as equals.

teknomom, you said I don't personally know anyone who would hear the word "homosexual" and not immediately think in terms of sexual practice. That is not my experience at all (at least not since getting more intimately involved with gays themselves) - I see my gay and lesbian friends as "regular" people with regular interests. Some of them have partners, and some of them do not. I do not think of them in terms of the sexual practice they do or do not engage in, any more than I do for my straight friends. If my straight friends have a significant other, it does not cause me to speculate on their sex lives, or lack thereof. Again, think of Roman Catholic priests - some of them identify as gay, even though they are celibate.

I began to trust the experience of my gay Christian friends more. The experiences they describe, the grace and healing and goodness that they identify in their relationships with their partner - I can no longer say that it's different from my ideal of a relationship with a woman.

Again, what I'm saying is that the experience I have with people has caused me to reimagine my theology.

--

teknomom,
I can't see how it is possible to admit that the Biblical writers weren't stupid yet make assumptions about what they "had in mind". And can you discount the fact that they wrote under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit? He did not put any disclaimers or qualifying remarks about what He "had in mind", so you in fact assume that the Spirit could not imagine "a same-sex relationship between equals". And if you would object to being guilty of this, then you cannot defend your assertion that Paul could only write about things his culture could relate to. So it is you, not I, who is projecting cultural bias onto the Bible.

It's clear that we disagree on how to approach the Bible, and what a study of culture, history, and worldview can provide us in our exegetical process. It's not that I don't believe that the Bible has things to say that transcend culture, but I think that the primary interpretation for any text should be the one which makes the most sense to the culture of the original audience. When I read about "the mark of the Beast", for example, I don't think that John was writing something that would not make any sense to his original audience, or to 19 centuries of readers, in order to tell 20th/21st century Christians to avoid microchip implants. In the same way, when I read Paul, I don't expect him to be omniscient about every way that his words would be interpreted through the rest of human history. When he talks about same-sex relations, I expect him to be referring to the way that homosexuality was conceived in the Greco-Roman world - the pederasty, domination and inequality. In my mind, it has nothing to do with whether "He [the Holy Spirit] could imagine" what homosexuality has come to be in the 21st century Western world.

I agree that in this reading, I am "projecting cultural bias onto the Bible". I think that you are, too. So is Peter and Jeremy and Glenn. We each come to the text already believing something; already having some conception of the way that we will interpret it; already with textual, literary, critical, and cultural ideas. I think that it's important to be up-front about the "cultural bias" that we bring with us when we approach and discuss the Bible.

A good place to start for a discussion on worldviews and presuppositions is the first two sections of NT Wright's The New Testament and the People of God.

--

Jeremy and Peter, I'm enjoying your discussion about "reduction of personhood" and defining a person by their sins.

 
At Fri Jul 20, 01:26:00 PM, Blogger Peter Kirk said...

Thank you, Daniel. I am probably more or less where you were two years ago, believing that all gay sexual activity is sinful but also realising the need to avoid being unnecessarily hostile. I too do not believe it is the responsibility of the church to pronounce on the morality of outsiders. That does not mean that I am moving in the same direction as you seem to be, when you imply that you no longer believe all gay sex is sinful.

 

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