Thursday, February 07, 2008

Jesus and the apostles on homosexuality

I was asked: do you really believe that Jesus and the apostles considered homosexual activity to be acceptable?

The gospels do not depict Jesus making any explicit statements on this topic. Nor is there much reason to think that his part of the world was familiar with concepts of sexual orientation or committed homosexual relationships as we would know them today. So to answer this question we have to speculate about Jesus’ reaction might have been to concepts he didn’t know about… so let the rampant speculation begin…

Jews in general at the time were against homosexual practices as they knew and understood them. Therefore we might think that Jesus, being a Jew, would have also held such a view. Alternatively we could consider that Jesus' ministry was focused on supporting, helping, and endorsing the oppressed minorities that the Jewish culture of his time was against. That in turn might lend us to speculate that Jesus would have opposed the Jewish view on this issue and supported homosexuals. I think however that if we apply the principles Jesus' stood for to the modern issues of homosexuality there is only one answer: By the principles Jesus taught, stood for and depicted in his ministry, the challenges he mounted against traditional Jewish moral and social viewpoints, lead me to believe that were he to speak on today’s issues he would uphold the rights of homosexuals. (Liberation theology has, I think, in general correctly grounded itself in Jesus' biblical ministry.)

Would the apostles have considered homosexuality acceptable? Well that is a very interesting question. The apostles struggled for years with understanding the implications of Jesus' ministry and values when applied to circumstances Jesus hadn't explicitly dealt with - most notably its application to the question of circumcision of Gentiles. I see us today as being like the apostles and having to struggle with the question of how Jesus' teachings play out in a new area that was not addressed by him. It took them years and more than one argument to reach a consensus (if indeed they ever did?) about circumcision of Gentiles, so we're in good company. I can only speculate that most/all of the apostles were, by default, against homosexuality because the Jews were (and time and again the Jewish apostles show they default to Jewish values unless some situation causes them to think deeply about how the teachings and values of Jesus might change these). Like them, we are being faced with an issue today in a way that has caused us to reflect deeply on it to a degree never done before when we took our assumed tradition for granted.

Paul is the only apostle to mention homosexuality in his writings and only does so once IMO (ie 1 Cor 6:9, I believe for exegetical reasons that Romans 1:26-27 is part of a speech by Paul's opponents). Paul is somewhat infamous in scholarship for the tensions that lie within his own ethical framework. He argues that Christians are bound by the spirit of the law not its letter, and that the entire law is summarized in the love of ones neighbour as themselves. This suggests a virtue-ethic moral framework where a good action is defined as one characterized by benevolence. (Which IMO as a moral philosopher is a really powerful and logical framework, and I myself would endorse it) Yet at other times, Paul defaults back to a Jewish rule-based ethic that is founded on a list of "do"s and "don't"s based on the Jewish Law. For example Paul gets upset when his Corinthian converts with whom he lived for years had so imbibed his spirit-of-the-law ethic and "freedom from the law" claims that their actions which logically flowed from these shocked his Jewish sensibilities. Many scholars have commented on the uneasy tension that thus exists within Paul's own ethics as his framework of "freedom" and "spirit-of-the-law based on love" battle the list of "do"s and "don't"s that have been ingrained into him from his life as a Jew. His love-framework leads him to make great statements of equality in line with Jesus' teachings, like "There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus." Yet the ramifications of this truly revolutionary egalitarian statement are not carried out fully in Paul's program. His biases creep back in - eg he doesn't allow woman to talk in churches, they should have long hair etc where he capitulates to cultural views rather than allow his ethical theory full reign. The fact that he buys into societies gender-roles battles with the egalitarianism that he'd learned from Christ. One major ethical conflict that shaped Paul’s life and ministry was the fact that as a Jew he had bought into Jewish racial/cultural roles of "Jew vs Greek" and this battled with the egalitarian principle that he saw in Christ's teachings. Paul's egalitarian won out on the race/culture issue and he made that his life focus, but it seems that he never fully let Jesus' egalitarian teachings flower with regard to the gender roles, or slavery issues.

Gender roles were of huge importance in the society of their day - a hundred or a thousand times more so than anything we in the West today can perhaps understand. Rejection of homosexuality in their culture was founded on an emphasis on gender roles. For example, Philo (a first century Jew) argues that homosexual acts lead one partner to act like a woman which is so bad that it deserves the death penalty (because in his eyes manliness is the ultimate virtue), and that the other partner is equally deserving of death for causing the other man to act like a woman. The speech Paul quotes in Romans 1 also ties homosexuality to gender roles. Modern societies with firm gender roles (eg Arab ones) are also firm in rejecting homosexual acts on the grounds that it causes a man to act like a woman. However in our Western society which has let biblical egalitarianism shape our view of gender roles, where we truly put into practice Paul's statement of "there is no longer male and female" we find that homosexuality seems to most people to be acceptable. For if no distinction is to be made between men and women in the social roles they are permitted to take, then it follows there should be no social rules about when genders take part in sexual acts.

Hence, I would argue that though Paul rejected homosexual activity it was due to him failing to fully work through on the subject of gender roles the egalitarian teachings of Christ that he preached. The moral advances he achieved and advocated in the area of Jew-Gentile relations were never accompanied by a corresponding thorough-going challenge to his society's view of gender-roles or slavery, and this is depicted by many of his writings. In today's society we have put into practice the principles that he preached on the subject of gender roles and slavery, and have come to see that it thus supersedes what he said about woman having long hair, covering their heads, not speaking in Church, and having slaves obey their masters. Time and again on these issues we have determined that the clear ethical spirit of the New Testament needs to be worked out fully in practice in a way that the New Testament Christians themselves were not able to do, and that the ethical spirit of the biblical witness needs to trump the letter of the law when the views they express consistent with their culture are not justified in light of the underlying principles of Christian ethics they are espousing. The next logical step in our egalitarian abolition of gender roles is an acceptance of homosexuality.

I see there as being two basic biblical ethical principles advocated in the New Testament: (1) A love ethic, (2) Egalitarianism. (The second one is really a subset of the first, and so the first is essentially the overarching biblical principle) The love ethic expounded first by Jesus and subsequently by his apostles is that an action has a morally good intent if and only if it is done out of love, and morally good consequences if and only if it is beneficial to those who are affected by it. In other words, morality is solely about benevolence, and the good or harm that our actions bring to others. This principle is used ruthlessly by Jesus and the apostles against Jewish rituals and practices that the Jews saw as commanded by God. Early Christianity was insistent that such rituals had no moral value because they were not motivated by benevolence/love toward others. Today’s Western society due to its historically Christian origins has learned well the lesson of this love ethic and as a result it pervades public thinking and laws in a way that it has ironically actually failed to pervade the thinking of conservative Christians (who usually endorse a divine-command ethic). Since the general view is that homosexuality is neither malevolent nor brings harm to others, it is generally deemed a morally permissible act under a love ethic. Furthermore those who are anti-homosexual and/or want to forbid homosexuals expressing and living the love they feel for others are acting in a way that is contrary to such an ethic (hence why I would deem such opposition unchristian).

26 Comments:

Blogger Peter Kirk said...

Andrew, thank you for your helpful post in reply to my question. I'm not entirely happy about your picture of Paul, but I don't want to argue that one now. But I would like to address what you say about Jesus.

Indeed Jesus said nothing explicit about homosexuality. But he did talk about sexual ethics in general, and in ways which show him upholding traditional Jewish teaching in these areas, for example in condemning adultery even while forgiving the woman caught in it. OK, a textually doubtful passage, but the textually certain ones just have the condemnation. So there is really no grounds for your speculation that Jesus might have had a different attitude from his peers. And if he did, why didn't he teach it?

But I am glad that you avoid the kind of appeal which Bishop James Jones has just made to the alleged relationship between Jesus and John, a bit of bogus exegesis if I have ever seen one.

I would personally think that Jesus' attitude to active homosexuals would be the same as to the woman caught in adultery: "neither do I condemn you ... Go now and leave your life of sin" (John 8:11 TNIV).

7/2/08  
Blogger Bryan L said...

Andrew,

I think Peter basically summed up much of what I was thinking. Being that Jesus seemed to uphold an even higher and stricter sexual ethic than the Jews of his day I don't know how you could assume that he would go against them on this issue nor why he would consider homosexuals an oppressed minority instead of just a people living a sinful lifestyle

And like Peter I don't think I'm gonna even attempt to touch your picture/reading of Paul right now.

Thanks for laying out your thoughts though.

Blessings,
Bryan L

7/2/08  
Blogger Andrew said...

Jesus and Paul condemned adultery, yes, and their doing so is fully consistent with their ethical theories.

So there is really no grounds for your speculation that Jesus might have had a different attitude from his peers.
What?!?
Most of Jesus' ministry has him expressing different attitudes to those held by his Jewish peers. You can't call that "no grounds".

Saying "Jesus was against adultery, therefore he was against homosexuality", as you effectively seem to be, is not good logic. Lots of people are against adultery on the grounds that its a betrayal of trust and commitment that causes division and hurt, and are pro-homosexuality on the grounds that it does not cause harm. I'm saying that would have been Jesus' attitude. Responding with "well he was against adultery" just isn't an argument.

if he did, why didn't he teach it?
He probably never encountered a homosexual in his life, and likely had no reason to ever consider the issue.

But I am glad that you avoid the kind of appeal which Bishop James Jones has just made to the alleged relationship between Jesus and John
I wonder if he's giving away copies of "The Secret Gospel of Mark"? ;) (which for the record, I think is a forgery)
It may upset you that I'm inclined to believe that the balance of probability favors the hypothesis that the writer of the stories of David and Jonathan probably intended the reader to understand it as a homosexual relationship. (yet I would also say that this is more likely to be creative license on the part of the author than based on historical truth)

Jesus seemed to uphold an even higher and stricter sexual ethic than the Jews of his day I don't know how you could assume that he would go against them on this issue
I don't think there's any evidence of Jesus having a stricter sexual ethic. (The only thing he could really be said to be 'stricter' on is divorce and even there his position is well within the range of views of the Jewish rabbis, and that is an issue about the commitment of marriage and the treatment of women - I see his stance on this issue as flowing from his well-attested concern for the treatment of woman who had no rights in the first century and who were extremely disadvantaged by divorce.)

7/2/08  
Blogger Drew said...

Just stumbled upon your blog here!

I tend to follow William Stacy Johnson's argument that the focus on the non-affirming position seems to focus the attention on the physical sexual act as a decontexualized event. I agree with Andrew that the argument that since Jews in general must have been opposed to homosexual sex, therefore the same must go for Paul and Jesus does not seem to work well with the clear and often radical re-interpretation of Jewish practice regarding the Law. There is no reason to believe therefore that proposibition B must follow from proposition A in that case since there is equal or more evidence to refute it.

The question is this: if it is a condemnation, is it a general pronouncement against same sex relations in total - especially with regard to intercourse? Or, is it a specific injunction against a type of homosexual relation? That is not sufficiently addressed in many arguments and seems to me to be quite necessary in especially Paul's clear injunctions against several Gentile practices in which he includes the Levitical pronouncement.

And the passage in John 8 can't be trusted to base one's view on the issue since it is a highly suspect passage in the canon. Don't ignore it, but it does one better to find more stable biblical ground on which to assert a theological position of this significance. Moreover, it assumes that adultery and even a committed and monogamous homosexual relationship are on par and the other evidence regarding relationships does not help that argument much.

One last question: What if I have a completely committed and loving relationship with a man - just as a heterosexual man would with a woman, but we do not engage in intercourse? Is it intercourse that is the problem here, any physical contact, etc.? Or is the relationship itself the problem? I mean can we sleep in the same bed as long as we do not touch? Where does the line get drawn here?

8/2/08  
Blogger Bryan L said...

What's interesting is that these same arguments that you presented from the Bible, theology and philosophy in favor of homosexual relationships (and for trying to guess how Jesus would approach the issue of homosexuality) could also be used for other sexual relationships that people today don't look on so acceptingly, like say incest, adult-child relationships, even bestiality.

Seriously just try inserting one of those in the appropriate place instead of homosexuality or just assume them for the argument as a whole.

"Surely Jesus or Paul would have said something different than the Jews of their day had they met a brother and sister in a committed monogamous relationship."

"What if a man just sleeps with his sheep (which he loves) but doesn't actually do anything with it? Is that over the line?"

"Of course Jesus would have treated the pedophile differently, after all they were oppressed minorities. He would have welcomed them and accepted them into the Kingdom and fought for their rights."

What the difference between those statements and what was just said in favor of homosexuality? In fact the Bible probably has even less negative things to say about them than it does homosexuality.

I'm not trying to argue for a slippery slope I'm just showing the weakness of these arguments in that they have no real foundation to rest on as they are intent on dismissing clear statements in the Bible (or explaining them away) and assuming just because Jesus didn't say anything specifically about them, that he would have then gone against the traditional Jewish view of those sexual issues because he departed from the traditional Jewish views on other issues.

What you are in effect doing is trying to use the Bible to support a view on homosexuality but dismiss everything it actually says on the issue and then make arguments from silence and speculation. Once you do that then you leave the door open all other types of things to sneak in as well and then you no longer have any basis for rejecting them because you already undermined whatever argument from the Bible you would have used against them.

Listen, I'm not saying homosexuality is on the same level as those other issues but the point is that the Bible doesn't look at it any different and if you try to use the Bible to support one you do the same for the others.

Just my opinion. Hopefully you don't take this in the wrong way.

Blessings,
Bryan L

8/2/08  
Blogger Nathan said...

Just to jump in on the pedophilia, incest and bestiality discussion;

It's fairly simple to establish that pedophilia isn't appropriate using a love ethic. The reason why we have a prohibition on relationships with people under age is because they are generally at an age where they aren't going to fully understand the implications the actions, and don't have as much power to say no. So pedophilia invariably becomes exploitation and oppression, which Jesus would have strongly disagreed with.

Incest is slightly trickier, but looking at it from a genetic standpoint, incest leads to an increased risk of genetic abnormalities. Given that birth control is not usually 100% effective, it's playing with fire.

I'm not sure what to do with bestiality though. I'll leave that one for Andrew :P


But the real question is, if you didn't have a bible, would you consider incest, pedophilia, and bestiality to be wrong? From your comment '...all other types of things to sneak in...', it implies that you already have a reason to reject these things. You're basically saying 'these are wrong, how do you show it without the bible?'

You have two options:

a) You have nothing against them, except that the bible says they're wrong. Thus if the bible doesn't say anything about them, then you have nothing against them. In which case, your objection doesn't make sense, you should be prepared to happily accept them.

b) You already think they're wrong, but use the bible to demonstrate it. In such a case, you've worked out why they're wrong, without the bible. Fill me in on why bestiality is wrong! :)

8/2/08  
Blogger Andrew said...

Bryan,
I think pedophilia and incest are wrong and my argument demonstrated why. You seem to have missed the point, so I'll recap in brief:

The fundamental ethical principle encapsulated in Jesus' ministry and endorsed by the apostles was that the morality of an action is directly dependent upon the benevolence of the intent and the benefit of it effects. (This is the fundamental principle that seems to have behind Jesus' ministry and lead to him taking the stances he did on issues, and is stated repeatedly by Paul and other NT writers). Homosexual practice lacks malevolent intentions and harmful effects, so it is not immoral. Incest results in serious life-quality destroying genetic defects for the offspring, and lends itself to causing internal family strife, and so is immoral. Pedophilia has all sorts of negative effects for the children involved, and children do not understand the emotional affects of entering into such relationships, and so is immoral. Bestiality I would say largely depends on what view people take on animal rights.

The parts of my argument you quoted were focused on demonstrating that "Jesus was a Jew and therefore would have endorsed the Jewish position on homosexuality" is a bad argument. In the parts you reference I was arguing that we cannot say for certain that Jesus would have regarded homosexual behavior as sinful. You seem to have mistaken this for an argument that Jesus took a permissive attitude to homosexuality, which is not what was being argued.

8/2/08  
Blogger Bryan L said...

Nathan,

I’ll grant your position on pedophilia according to a love ethic. It wasn’t a good example on my part (or at least not well thought through).

You didn’t really address the incest issue though. Appealing to potential genetic issues as a reason to oppose incest is kind of a tricky thing to do. After all would you make the same argument against a man and woman who are blind by genetics (or maybe have some other genetic deformity) that they also should not have children because of the potential genetic effects it might have on their children and the fact that they would probably pass it on? They would equally be playing with fire.

The bestiality issue is also a bit trickier and I noticed Andrew didn’t bother trying to touch it either ; )

Lastly “the other types of things that sneak in” that I was speaking about are issues like incest and bestiality and other issues which are mentioned in the Bible and spoken against. My reason for rejecting them was because of what the Bible says as they are not issues that the bible is silent on.

Also the last issue/questions you raise are more complicated than coming to the conclusion that if the Bible doesn’t say anything about them then I should just accept them. For one if I didn’t have the Bible (either it didn’t exist or I was not a Christian) then I don’t have any room to say something like homosexuality is wrong and I wouldn’t try nor want to. I also wouldn’t think things like adultery, polygamy, lying, drug use, murder, fighting, war, revenge, profanity, pride, greed, injustice, etc. were wrong if it weren’t for the Bible (and the message of the Gospel which is reflected in the Bible).
If I were not a Christian I probably wouldn’t think any of those things were wrong at all (assuming I’m not another similar religion focused on morality). I do get my moral compass from the Bible and the witness of the Spirit to the church which is dependent on the Bible.

Now just because the Bible doesn’t specifically address every issue doesn’t mean we can’t look to it for guidance on those silent issues. We as the church can discern the spirit of the text and the particular direction or trajectory it was headed. This is often done by examining what it said on other similar issue and the Bible’s witness on those issues across the board and whether there is any sort of movement we can discern. This helps us know what the Spirit is saying to the church on issues that the Bible doesn’t directly speak to. So for example, although the Bible doesn’t say anything against abortion or exposing babies (both practices were around during the time of the Bible and even somewhat common), the church has discerned based on what the Bible says elsewhere concerning humanity, being created in the image of God, justice, the wrongness of murder, the impact of the Gospel, etc. that those two things are wrong and should not be practiced by Christians. And in fact that is what the church has believed, being guided by the Bible even though it doesn’t specifically address those issues. The same can be said for the issue of slavery even though the Bible does say plenty about it. The church was able to discern a trajectory within the Bible and over time begin to see that the Gospel is opposed to slavery and owning another human being as property.

Thanks for the thought. I appreciate the interaction and challenging questions. : )

Blessings,
Bryan L

8/2/08  
Blogger Drew said...

pedophilia, incest and bestiality

None of these offer examples of properly directed love that is an action that supports the welfare and self-actualization of the partner in the process. The partner in this case cannot give and receive on the same level. I would say this would also be true for someone who is a low functioning adult be it schizophrenia, autism, etc. So they do not fit the model of a mutually giving love in the context of the relationship.

Where we do find problems is in polygamy where it would appear that there is nothing directly forbidding about this either as it was and still is a practice in many non-Western cultures including Christian cultures.

Now along these lines it is clear that incest between two consenting adults would also problematize the position. This was also a more widely practiced phenomemon in other cultures and at different times.

So polygamy and bestiality clearly don't hold much water at all for clearly obvious reasons. I do think that what the affirm but welcome position does need to clarify is the factoring of incest between two consenting adults and polygamy among consenting adults. The test is the quality of the mutual self-giving of the partners in the love relationship.

But with this in mind if we say that polygamy and/or incest as described are wrong for whatever reason, it does not logically follow that homosexuality is therefore wrong. That is a strawman at best so don't even waste your energy going in that direction.

Cheers.

8/2/08  
Blogger Bryan L said...

Andrew,

You said, “I think pedophilia and incest are wrong”

What about bestiality?

I think your appeal to the underlying principals of the ethics of Jesus and Paul are overly simplistic and do not take into account that they often said things were wrong just because they were without needing particular reasons. They did view certain things as just being a given that they were morally wrong, regardless of whether it could be shown that they had malevolent intentions or harmful effects. In fact those particular criteria fail to take into account particular sins related to pride and idolatry (like greed) which have nothing to do with either malevolent intentions or harmful effects (unless you argue that they are spiritually harmful but then you could make the same argument against homosexuality). For instance who does premarital sex or visiting a prostitute or viewing pornography or lusting hurt? Where are the malevolent intentions in those things? What about smoking weed or being a moderate cocaine user (or maybe shrooms)? What about living a consumerist lifestyle (Some might say it helps the economy and creates more jobs)? All of those things pass the criteria you set forth but we would (or at least should) easily say they were morally wrong.

Either way even if we were to use the criteria of harmful effect (potential) then we would have to stop doing all sorts of things in life (there goes sports and the fast food industry). In fact so much of our life and relationships are bound up with the potential harm we might cause others even if were weren’t intending to. Potential harm is inevitable in life.

You said “Incest results in serious life-quality destroying genetic defects for the offspring, and lends itself to causing internal family strife, and so is immoral.” Your reason for opposing incest according to your criteria ends up being weak because the potential harmful effects can be greatly lowered and even avoided (also see my comments to Nathan concerning people pro-creating who have genetic defects). The potential family strife is easy to get by if you have a family that doesn’t view it as wrong or that is no longer around. And as far as potential harmful effects, as Nathan pointed out they can use birth control or one of the partners can be impotent or past the age of bearing children so that that they don’t even have to worry about having kids. In fact the safest method of all with the least potential of resulting in harmful genetic defects ironically that you probably didn’t consider is that the siblings involved in the incestuous relationship could be the same sex (homosexual). How would you argue against it then? In the end if you wanted to argue that incest were wrong you would need to just say it is because it is, and the Bible is a witness to that.

Lastly you seem to be saying in your previous arguments that because Jesus was welcoming towards sinners or took different viewpoints on certain issues than the traditional Jewish views of his day then we can assume it’s possible that he might take your view on homosexuality. As it is, being that what Jesus actually does say concerning sexual issues tends to stay among the conservative viewpoint and even ends up being more conservative than certain Jewish parties of his day, and he never seems to go towards the lefts on sexual issues (if you know of a case I’d be happy to see it) then I see no reason to believe he would have gone more left on this issue of homosexuality and I think the onus is on you to show more convincingly why he might.

Maybe I am misunderstanding what you are arguing for in regards to Jesus and if so please clarify because up to this point I have been expecting you to make an exegetical case in favor of homosexuality and if you aren’t even looking to Jesus for support on this issue (much less Paul) then I don’t know how much your arguments could be considered exegetical instead of just pure speculation and in outright conflict with what the Bible does say.

Thanks for taking the time to respond.

Blessings,
Bryan L

8/2/08  
Blogger Andrew said...

Also the last issue/questions you raise are more complicated than coming to the conclusion that if the Bible doesn’t say anything about them then I should just accept them.

Once again, I wish to clarify to all here that I did not argue that and never would. ;) Just being clear.

if I didn’t have the Bible... [then I] wouldn’t think things like adultery, polygamy, lying, drug use, murder, fighting, war, revenge, profanity, pride, greed, injustice, etc. were wrong

Really? Billions of non-Christians worldwide seem convinced these things are wrong. The fact that the things listed above are generally non-benevolent and harmful is obvious to everyone and they don't need the bible to realize it. If you weren't a Christian, you'd still see these things as harmful, yes? As a result you would think it a beneficial thing for yourself and those you loved that society prevent, prohibit, and condemn such behaviors, yes? In other words, without the bible you'd think such behaviors were wrong because you'd default back to a love ethic out of common-sense.

8/2/08  
Blogger Bryan L said...

Drew,

"None of these offer examples of properly directed love that is an action that supports the welfare and self-actualization of the partner in the process. The partner in this case cannot give and receive on the same level. I would say this would also be true for someone who is a low functioning adult be it schizophrenia, autism, etc. So they do not fit the model of a mutually giving love in the context of the relationship."

That sounds nice and all Drew but where did you come up with this criteria?

"So polygamy and bestiality clearly don't hold much water at all for clearly obvious reasons. "

Maybe I missed the obvious reasons Drew as your sentences seemed somewhat convoluted. Please restate them.

"The test is the quality of the mutual self-giving of the partners in the love relationship."

Again that sounds nice Drew but where did you get that criteria and how is it that you ignore other things the Bible clearly says on the issue of homosexuality and then elevate this principle that isn't clearly stated above those things that are clearly stated? It doesn't follow that just because homosexuality could be a "mutual self-giving of the partners in the love relationship" that it some how makes homosexuality ok in the Bible's eyes. Or else we could say the same about premarital sex, polygamy, or adultery.

"But with this in mind if we say that polygamy and/or incest as described are wrong for whatever reason, it does not logically follow that homosexuality is therefore wrong."

You missing the point Drew and just to state that something is a straw man does not make it so. The things is that the Bible’s witness on these things is across the board the same as its witness on homosexuality yet you want to put it in a different category and hold it up to different standards (which you have imposed on the Bible from the outside) based on what? Why? The only reason you can really appeal to is because of modern culture and the fact that our modern day culture doesn't see homosexuality as that wrong. In fact if it saw the other issues as ok (and not just in a small circle here or there) you would probably be arguing that they are ok too according to the Bible.

I don't think it helps to employ the particular hermeneutic on the Bible that you are attempting to.

Sorry Drew but I don't think we are going to see eye to eye on this and

Thanks for the conversation.

Blessings,
Bryan L

8/2/08  
Blogger Bryan L said...

Now you're just reaching Andrew.
; )

Thanks for your time.

Blessings,
Bryan L

8/2/08  
Blogger Andrew said...

Bryan,

You claimed that pride, greed, premarital sex, visiting prostitutes, viewing pornography, consumerist lifestyles, and lusting contain neither non-benevolent intent nor harmful effects. I do not accept that at all. eg Greed is about being concerned for your own gain at the expense of others, Pride also about putting yourself ahead of others, marriages are destroyed through a betrayal of trust and commitment exhibited by visiting prostitutes, people exploited by the pornography industry, lusting can lead to hurting others through adultery, and consumerist lifestyles are so often founded on a self-interest that seeks only its own pleasure and not the good of others and is willing to exploit the environment or others for its own gain... to name but a few of the most obvious problems to the things you list.

I do not accept things are ever wrong "just because". The New Testament writers shows great interest in which things are right/wrong and exploring why.

what Jesus actually does say concerning sexual issues tends to stay among the conservative viewpoint

I still don't accept this as an argument... the evidence just isn't there is support your statement - Jesus virtually never says anything concerning sexual issues and not remotely enough to label his position conservative or liberal.

8/2/08  
Blogger Nathan said...

Dang! Just refreshed, and Andrew had taken the point I was just writing, about non-Christians managing morality ok without the bible!

But I want to go a bit further - my guess is that you would still think pedophilia, incest, and bestiality are wrong even if you thought homosexuality was acceptable. Why? Because you already believe pedophilia et al. is wrong, and from the way you're arguing, it looks like that belief isn't based on the way you interpret scripture. You asked whether Andrew's interpretation would condemn pedophilia et al. - this implies that you're using your own moral compass to decide which interpretation of scripture is correct.

Does that make sense? If you're using your own ideas of morality to judge which interpretations of scripture you take, that means you have a sense of morality outside the bible!

8/2/08  
Blogger Drew said...

"That sounds nice and all Drew but where did you come up with this criteria?"

See agape and eros in Scripture. Mutually self-giving love is clearly at stake. Scratch self-actualization even though it is a function in the hierarchy of needs which is an outcome of such love in a relationship so conceived. Or, you could reject the idea that a loving relationship as Jesus speaks so vividly is one that is not mutually self-giving. Either way your comment does little to advance the argument.

"Maybe I missed the obvious reasons Drew as your sentences seemed somewhat convoluted. Please restate them."

Sorry I meant paedophilia and bestiality. If you think either of these relationships can promote mutually self-giving love then substantiate that, but it would be a stretch.

"It doesn't follow that just because homosexuality could be a "mutual self-giving of the partners in the love relationship" that it some how makes homosexuality ok in the Bible's eyes. Or else we could say the same about premarital sex, polygamy, or adultery."

I offered the argument that the affirming position does not adequately address polygamy. Adultery is offered a rather unambigious and extended statement and clarification in the Sermon on the Mount. Premarital sex might also be problematized. Any way you cut it if these examples are seen as wrong, it simply does not logically follow that homosexuality conceived as a mutually self-giving relationship in love should be outright forbidden. Regarding premarital sex solve that by allowing same gender marriage. I know it's an icky thought to you, but it's the rational outcome of the position if we are going to hold homosexuals to committed and accountable partnering as we ought to do with heterosexual relationships.

"You missing the point Drew and just to state that something is a straw man does not make it so."

This is sooo not missing the point Bryan. To say that polygamy is wrong does not therefore mean that homosexuality is wrong. To say that bestiality is wrong does not mean that homosexuality is therefore wrong. To say that homosexuality is something we should affirm in committed and mutually self-giving relationships does not therefore mean that polygamy and bestiality are therefore right. If you do not see why this is so I am not sure how well I can demonstrate it in this forum. But it is basic logic and you might want to check up the definition of strawman to see why these arguments are called strawmen or red herrings if you will. So I'll give it one shot.

Here is an example:

I have a dog.
I have a cat.
I love my dog.
Therefore I must love my cat.

See why this does not make sense? You are basically using the same fallacious structure and that is what I am referring to. BTW - my wife will be the first to tell you that I do not love either of my cats.

"The things is that the Bible’s witness on these things is across the board the same as its witness on homosexuality yet you want to put it in a different category and hold it up to different standards."

Hermeneutics change over time. You clearly do not read scripture like Origen, Augustine, Calvin, or even BB Warfield. We also know more now about the time in which the scriptures were written so our understandings have also changed in the past 50 years. So what is the standard for clarity then? Not testing these different possibilities based on narrative, historical criticism, etc. and relying on our own intuition? In other words, what makes you think you have it solved? You have asserted your interpretation of the matter without offering any substantiation as to why you are so beholden to these assertions. Your sense of clarity and my sense of clarity are not the same, clearly enough ;-)

"Sorry Drew but I don't think we are going to see eye to eye on this"

Don't need to apologize to me about that. Besides an apology like that sounds so condescending at this juncture anyway. Probably not. But I will tell you that your line of asserting is one of the big factors that changed my view a few years back. It is simply not convincing when I read these six passages used to exclude people from Christian communions in context.

So if I am wrong, let me be wrong by erring on the side of grace rather than err on the side of causing harm to a brother or sister who knows more about mutual self-giving and committed love than many heterosexual people ever will. But I don't think it's a gamble, I think it's justified well enough. If it is a gamble, it's a damn good one.

Peace.

8/2/08  
Blogger Drew said...

Nathan,

"If you're using your own ideas of morality to judge which interpretations of scripture you take, that means you have a sense of morality outside the bible!"

My guess is that Bryan has already stated that he would basically not be a moral person without the bible so unless you can break the circularity he presents, it's kind of a moot point :-(

8/2/08  
Blogger Andrew said...

Bryan,
It seems you believe things can be moral or immoral "just because" and also (I presume) that God arbitrarily decides which actions are what. I can accept that holding such a view you are interested only in exegeting directly what the bible literally says on the issue. I will deal with that explicitly in a future post, and argue that there is no passage in the bible that clearly and definitively condemns homosexuality. I can also see why, given your starting assumptions, you are not finding the arguments in this thread regarding moral theories persuasive.

From a philosophical and biblical standpoint I have a lot of issues with that view of morality that you appear to hold, and I would want to argue that it is neither logical nor biblical. I think that by adopting an implausible moral framework you are blinding yourself in advance to seeing how the bible should lead Christians to affirm homosexuality, and thus ultimately not doing justice to homosexuals. But perhaps that is best left for another day.

I would also like to add that I agree with and affirm the concepts expressed by Drew in this paragraph:
"None of these offer examples of properly directed love that is an action that supports the welfare and self-actualization of the partner in the process. The partner in this case cannot give and receive on the same level... So they do not fit the model of a mutually giving love in the context of the relationship."
This lengthy description he gives is the result of people thinking carefully about and fleshing out what "love" means.

8/2/08  
Blogger Bob MacDonald said...

>>...we have to speculate about Jesus’ reaction might have been to concepts he didn’t know about… <<

The assumption that Jesus then or God now does not know is an assumption I cannot work with.

>>were he to speak on today’s issues he would uphold the rights of homosexuals.<<

I think you have a reasonable focus here.

>>It took them years and more than one argument to reach a consensus (if indeed they ever did?) about circumcision of Gentiles,<<

This too seems like a reasonable background to the same-sex issue

>>I believe for exegetical reasons that Romans 1:26-27 is part of a speech by Paul's opponents<<

What 'exegetical' reasons? There are certainly rhetorical reasons why this passage is not a condemnation of homosexuality.

>>...he doesn't allow woman to talk in churches, they should have long hair etc<<

At least one of these statements of Paul can be attributed to the Corinthian letter brought to him by Fortunatus etc (I.e. it should not be read as Paul's opinion).

>>... rejecting homosexual acts on the grounds that it causes a man to act like a woman...<<

It may be that same-sex couples are completely celibate in Christ but we would not know it since we judge them in advance as to what we imagine them doing. We are too quick to assume we know the private actions of others who are as different from us as man is from woman. What we should consider and reason from is a statement like this: the body is for the Lord and the Lord for the body. (1 Cor 6:13)

>>Did Jesus ever encounter a homosexual?<<

What about the Centurion and his batman? And as to Jesus and the Beloved Disciple (not necessarily someone called John) - if the BD is a frame into which we are to put ourselves, each one of us singularly - surely it would be better to say with the Jewish believer at Pentecost, the time of the celebration of the giving of Torah: let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth - for your love is better than wine. R. Akiva says that if the Torah had not been given, the Song would have been sufficient to guide us.

8/2/08  
Blogger Bryan L said...

I appreciate the thoughtful responses.

As my last few comments had indicated I was pretty much finished going back and forth here as I don't think this is an effective forum for discussing this issue (although it is so tempting to want to respond to everything : )

I did however want to clarify myself based on something Drew said.

"It is simply not convincing when I read these six passages used to exclude people from Christian communions in context."

I never argued nor do I believe that practicing homosexuals should be excluded from Christian communion and I don't think they are necessarily going to hell (I'm actually an annihilationist so I don't really believe in hell anyway) or are not saved (as I don't think heterosexuals are safe just because they are heterosexuals). In fact I recently discussed this on my blog on January 10.
http://bryanl-mind.blogspot.com/2008/01/opinions-on-controversial-topics.html

I just don't think you can use the Bible to come to the conclusion that it is not considered sin. I think any attempt to is just trying to conform it into whatever you want instead of letting it conform you (I know that sounds pious. yeck! : ) and I would respect someone more who just comes out and says the Bible was wrong - they thought it was sin but it's not - instead of trying to come up with some special principal from scripture to show why although it is seen as sin in the Bible, really the Bible tells us it's not.

Thanks again for the conversation. I enjoyed it.

Blessings,
Bryan L

9/2/08  
Blogger Drew said...

Well enough Bryan. And I appreciate your honesty as well.

Blessings.

9/2/08  
Blogger Andrew said...

It frustrates me slightly Bryan that you are claiming the biblical high-ground and yet point blank refusing to let the bible challenge and inform your moral framework. You're focusing on some of what the bible says and refusing to admit that the rest of its message might also be relevant to the situation.

9/2/08  
Blogger Bryan L said...

Give me a break Andrew. You're not even paying attention to what the Bible does say and are in fact ignoring it or trying to explain it away (refusing to let it challenge and inform your moral framework). Lets be serious here. Even if it's just a few places it's still there and it's still consistent and you are trying to say it doesn't matter and instead we should focus not on what it actually does say but some underlying "message" that you've picked up on (which isn't even spelt out). I mean if you could even give me a verse, one verse, in support of your view I would appreciate it. As it is you want to focus on the "message" which I'll be honest seems like it reflects more of you than what scripture actually says (much like many of the modern Jesus biographies). Sorry, but that's just how it appears to me.

It's clear that we're not gonna see eye to eye on this or that we're not operating from the same presuppositions or understanding of scripture. Why bother trying. If you want, go ahead and recommend a book to me or something and I'll check it out but as it is I don't see you convincing me in this particular forum or moving me any bit towards your view (nor I you).

Thanks,
Bryan

9/2/08  
Blogger Bob MacDonald said...

butting in to the usual head banging that goes on with these conversations - I recommend Rabbi Stephen Greenberg's 'Wrestling with G-d and Men' for an understanding of reading and re-reading scripture in this context.

9/2/08  
Blogger Jim said...

If I were to base my sense of morality on taking passages of the bible at face value, without re-evaluating them in the light of the central themes of Jesus' teachings, it would lead me to conclude that homosexuality is wrong...

However it would also lead me to conclude that war, killing babies, polygamy, and incest (not with a full brother or sister, but other close family members such has half siblings and cousins) and slavery were mostly ok.

I don't think they are.

9/2/08  
Blogger Drew said...

Bryan,

It would help to explain what "biblical clarity" means to you and how you establish that clarity without some appeal to extra-biblical grounds. You continue to say "the bible says" this or that. No one here has argued something different. But how we apprehend what ti is the bible says has been made clear by others, but you have not explained that. How do you know what clarity is when you read the text? Is this an arbitrary conclusion that you reach?

9/2/08  

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