December 12, 2017

11 Years of Same-Sex Marriage: A Canadian Perspective

canada-gay-marriageIn yesterday’s post Chaplain Mike asked “How do you envision your pastor, church, denomination, tradition responding to this new reality?”

I have a slightly different perspective on this, as being in Canada I can look backwards to see has transpired.  In my home province of Ontario, same sex marriage has been legal for over eleven years.  In Canada, the whole country has had umbrella legislation for over nine years.

In late 2004 the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that:

1.  The potential marriage of same-sex couples did not violate the constitution;

2.  That it only the Federal Government had the right to define marriage, and

3.  That religious institutions had the right to refuse to marry same-sex couples.

The Government introduced legislation legalizing same-sex marriage the following year, and it became the law of the land in July of 2005.

Many denominations introduced their own legislation, either in the years leading up to the Supreme Court ruling, or in the years following. Their stand on same-sex marriage became enshrined in their church constitutions or statements of faith.  There was a stated fear that unless a church’s stand was spelled out specifically that Pastors could be forced to officiate at same-sex marriages.  There was also the intention to draw a line in the sand concerning what Pastors could or could not do within a given denomination.

I felt it unfortunate when language was added to statements of faith.  I really don’t like it when these statements change for any reason.  Consider those who have been long time members of a church who signed on the dotted line saying that they were in agreement with the statement of faith of a church.  What are those who are not in agreement supposed to do?  Resign a membership that they held for 30 years?

I also didn’t like that fact that while these statements were generally couched in positive terms, they were essentially communicating “Gays not welcome.”

Finally, I felt that statements of faith are intended to convey what we believe about God and the Church:  Definitions of valid marriage seemed to be in a whole different category.

The other thing that I saw my denomination do was have a “Renew your Vows Sunday” in support of traditional marriage.  In what appeared to me to be a very manipulative event, we were all encouraged to renew our vows to our spouses on one particular Sunday.  It seemed to me to be a veneer for saying “We are anti-Gay.”

There have been surprisingly few court cases related to same sex marriage over the past ten years.  The Saskatchewan Court of Appeal ruled in 2011 that Marriage commissioners in the province who performed civil ceremonies, could not opt out on religious grounds.  A conflict had arisen when “commissioner Orville Nichols, a devout Baptist, refused to marry a gay couple in 2005.”  In a verdict that went the other way:

A British Columbia Board of Inquiry’s recent ruling that the Knights of Columbus[a Catholic organization] may refuse to rent their hall for a same-sex wedding reception because it violates their “core beliefs” as a religious organization is relevant to all churches that rent their facilities. While the tribunal ruled in the Knights of Columbus’s favour, they were still fined “for injury to the lesbian couple’s dignity, feelings and self-respect.” –Evangelical Fellowship of Canadad

Only a few other court cases have dealt with conflicts between religious rights and the rights of gays and lesbians.  While these conflicts have not been directly over same-sex marriage, they are relevant to the topic.

Similar to the Knights of Columbus case, a Christian camp in Manitoba is facing a human rights complaint because it would not rent its facilities to a gay and lesbian group.

One of the most significant legal decisions came in 2001.  The British Columbia College of Teachers determined that graduates from the education program at Trinity Western University could not teach in the province unless they had done an additional year at another University.  This was because Trinity Western required their students to sign a document in which they “agreed to refrain from homosexual behaviour while a student on campus.”  The Supreme Court ruled that there was no basis for the decision of the College of Teachers.  Furthermore, they stated that “the concern that graduates of TWU will act in a detrimental fashion in the classroom is not supported by any evidence.”

Trinity Western is back in the news because they have decided to start a law school, and a number of law societies in Canada have said that they won’t recognize their graduates. I believe that court cases are pending.

One other case of interest: An Ontario court ruled that a Christian printer “may not refuse work from an organization promoting the gay and lesbian lifestyle unless the material itself is offensive to his religious beliefs.” (EFC)

So, in the past number of years, there have not been the expected legal challenges and fights that you might have expected. As litigation seems occur much more in the United States as compared to Canada it is likely that the American experience might be quite different.

I wanted to conclude with a couple of personal thoughts. I had thought about tackling this subject with another “How I became a…” post but decided that I would not be able to do justice to the topic. Like my other topics I want to tell a story. In this case, three short ones.

My friend Steve was the President of his High School’s Christian Fellowship when he “came out.” He told me that he was faced with the choice of being a practicing Christian or a practicing homosexual. He chose the latter.

Bill was the worship leader at the college campus ministry I was involved with. He confided in one of the leaders and told them that he was struggling with homosexuality. He was removed from his position and told to pray about it. Bill later died from AIDS.

Geoff was a co-worker who recently got married to his long time partner. When I saw the notification on facebook I wondered for a minute what to say, and finally sent back a simple “congratulations.” He wrote back and told me that, other than his mother, I was the only Christian who had “ever had his back.”

Going back to the original question: “How do you envision your pastor, church, denomination, tradition responding to this new reality?”

It seems to me that no matter our view on same-sex marriage, in our response in Canada we seem to have done a lousy job of communicating Christ’s love. And that makes me incredibly sad.

As usual your thoughts and comments are welcome.

Comments

  1. Faulty O-Ring says:
  2. I’m a Canadian and in the denomination I belong to there are rumblings to accept gay marriage. If it comes to that, it won’t be so much as me leaving the church, but rather the church leaving me.

    • Richard Hershberger says:

      What is your denomination’s stance on divorce and remarriage?

    • My denomination acknowledges that because of sin, people can separate what God has joined together. The denomination doesn’t ban remarriage, individual cases are to be examined in light of Biblical teachings. It’s more detailed and nuanced than what I can get into here. I see where you are going with your question, and it’s more than valid and something I need to deeply consider.

      For me, this is about my core beliefs, the way I make sense of the world. There’s a unique bond between man and woman in which we take part of God’s creative act and bring forth children. Male and female define each other, when united, they make a whole. A profound mystery. This is marriage for me. It is the very foundation of society – families, communities and nations. This is how I make sense of the world. I believe the church has understood this for a very long time. Not sure what I’ll do if my denomination redefines marriage.

      • Richard Hershberger says:

        “For me, this is about my core beliefs, the way I make sense of the world. There’s a unique bond between man and woman in which we take part of God’s creative act and bring forth children.”

        OK, but this isn’t something that comes from Scripture, or has much to do with traditional marriage.

        • I hate proof texting and after Chaplain Mike’s series on the Bible, I’m hesitant to – but I’ll throw caution to the wind. My world and life view are shaped by how I understand Genesis 2, Ephesians 5 and others.

          • Whether someone agrees with you or not, I find your answers very respectful, thoughtful and graceful, Paul.

  3. Adam Tauno Williams says:

    “As litigation seems occur much more in the United States as compared to Canada ”

    We have a lot more people, and we have many more quasi-autonomous legal units [50 states + territories] each with their own constitutions and visions of subordinate sovereignty] so that this statement will be true to some degree is almost a given.

    But Americans also have a fear, almost paranoia, of legal-and-liability-lawsuit-armageddon. And America is a litigious place. But it is *not* so even to a fraction of the degree that many American’s *believe* that it is. Hysterical Fear is almost as American as baseball and expensive health insurance.

    I predict that America’s experience will be MUCH MUCH LOUDER – we like ***NOISE*** – than the Canadian one you describe. And it will be substantively very similar.

    What can really change? The Evangelical radio station is now doing a daily reading of the Left Behind series, from 8am – 9am. They already believe that POTUS is the antichrist [while at the same time believing POTUS is hopelessly incompetent….. huh]. The All Liberty All The Time contingent of the “Left” are already equating laws about abortion to forcing women to wear Burkhas. Maybe there is some hope that the Volume nob is already topped out… me crosses fingers.

    • Faulty O-Ring says:

      Also, the USA dominates world media. It doesn’t matter how loud Canada is, they won’t be heard from their igloos.

  4. What amazes me the most in everything are the comments about not accepting sin or making it acceptable. So many times those who are setting next to us are involved in that which I really don’t want to know about. I want to be able to exhibit the love of Christ. I have come into contact with people and asked what was that and if I get shown something it wasn’t so much for my judgement but how I might pray and have compassion.

    I had an experience where I went into a convenient store and this word star rang out in my ears just like it took over.I was hurting really bad for having to put a cat down the night before and was in no mood for anything in my sadness. I walked to the cashier whose first name was Sherry on the tag and I blurted out your last name is star isn’t it. She looked at me almost horrified and said how did you know. I said I think God just told me. In that moment I was shown about her meth addiction and all the horrible things that come with that. It wasn’t for me to judge her. It was so my heart would soften. I asked if I could pray with her she said go ahead He knows what about so I did. I just thank Him for loving us so much and healing us of what hurts us. Saw her a couple of months later and she asked why I did that. I said I think God told me to and she said she went home and cried all afternoon. I think they were patching things up.

    Sex for me is carnal in nature as this was the way I learned without the spiritual component of God being a part of it. I don’t know how it is for gay people ( I’m not going to use the letters ). God works with me on it and when I go down the carnal route it seems to me no better than masturbation. I don’t prefer to be graphic. If I use my wife in this way it falls so short of where He would have me be and I feel separated and like I am dirty. I have to ask for forgiveness. This is how he works with me and I pray for help I just haven’t been able to get over the hump. Sorry I couldn’t help that. The few times where my spirit entwined and I truly became one with my wife have been the most beautiful anything short of that is well, carnal.

    In short sin is sin and well we are all still engaging in it to some degree. All of us are still falling short or we would be there already. We all have to work on our thoughts and the way we behave towards others and learn how to love better. How did Jesus walk beside a man who was going to betray Him and still love him all that time. He really did it. The thing that bothers me is the exhibitionism of look at me and I’m so right by both sides of an issue when we are without doubt both so wrong. I love the Lord and would want for everyone to invite Him into their life and let Him deal with whatever needs dealt with. This I am sure is the right thing.

    • I really don’t think you should feel bad about enjoying sex with your wife. I understand why you do, no sexual relationship is perfect. But God is the creator of sex and pleasure, he has called these things good, and has given them to us for our enjoyment. I think God delights in us enjoying his gifts. It’s when we ignore his word and misuse them that trouble begins. So you may feel like you are just “using” your wife, but keep in mind, you didn’t choose those urges. God gave them to you, and he also gave you a spouse. If she is on board with it, you are free to enjoy.

      To a certain extent, all the pleasures we enjoy are sinful, yet through faith, to the pure all things are pure. Can we enjoy our pleasures in a way that is selfish and hurts others? Yes, but keep in mind that the marriage bed has the blessing and command of God. We don’t have to wait for the experience to be the most perfect intertwining of souls in order to feel good about it.

      • Thanks Miguel I will try and see these things you have stated and go to Him in prayer.

      • Patrick Kyle says:

        It was said of Moses in the OT that ‘ his eyes did not dim , and his strength did not fail’ in his old age. A Pastor told me that ‘his strength did not fail’ was a polite way of saying he didn’t need Viagra. I take comfort in the fact that God preserved Moses’ sexual prowess as a blessing into his old age. That and Song of Solomon pretty much indicate God has given sex as a gift.

      • “To a certain extent, all the pleasures we enjoy are sinful, yet through faith, to the pure all things are pure.”

        Really?

        I would say that we often bring an attitude to a thing like sex that is wrong, but the acts itself has no intrinsic sinfulness to it.

  5. As I wrote in yesterday’s post, I am trying to understand the justification for not taking Paul’s words in Romans and 1 Corinthians at face value. Are they culturally conditioned, and if so then how? I’m willing to listen to a reasonable argument. So far, and I realize I’m over simplifying, I’ve heard: (1) Paul had no idea that there could be loving same sex relationships. How do we know that? (2) Paul had no concept of genetic predisposition. I do not accept biology is destiny, although for personal reasons I’m very sympathetic to people who struggle mightily with their predispositions. (3) Paul was… Put anything about Paul you want to there; Paul was Jesus’ personal choice to be apostle to the Gentiles so it doesn’t matter how broken, faulted, fallible, f***ed up he was. Paul himself could have struggled with same sex attraction; I’ve had plenty of experience with people who are the most vehemently vocally anti-gay and turn out to be closeted themselves. It. Doesn’t. Matter.
    The only thing that matters is; does God view it as missing the mark. Can I allow another man to fondle me, arouse me, put his penis in my anus, and bring me to climax and Jesus is all good with that because we care deeply for each other? Because if not, then as much as I care about my gay friends and sympathize with their desires and struggles, and hate the hatred they receive at the hands of supposed Christians and the church—— I can not tell them it is alright to SIN. I’m not doing them any favors, I don’t have their back, I really don’t love them. I’m glad Imonk is dealing with this; this forum really is the best place to discuss this. And we Christians must discuss it, reasonably, lovingly, we have no choice, the issue is not going away. God help us all.

    • Mike, I’m generally with you on the subject, but point #2 needs some discussion. So far NO genetic markers have been discovered for “gayness”. People HOPE that one will be found, they say there MUST be one, and further say that one WILL be found. It is all hope and conjecture at this point.

      But my question is “Why does it really matter?”. Society is ALREADY accepting homosexuality on the basis of behavior or perceived feelings and emotions, no hard proof needed. Further, there has been a push to accept that sexual orientation AND gender are are just up to the individual without any hard markers. In other words, science is left out in the cold, so the pressure will be on SOME scientist/researcher to discover some genetic link in order to validate what society has already decided. And if nothing is found, well, big deal, its already established by practice.

      So, how does this affect the church when reading Paul? MY opinion is that it will be dealt with in the same manner as scientific research NOT confirming practice, that is, it will just be ignored, or given the pronouncement of “We cannot tell” that the Pharisees gave Jesus when He asked them about the baptism of John.

      Whatever is most convenient, in other words.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        In other words, science is left out in the cold, so the pressure will be on SOME scientist/researcher to discover some genetic link in order to validate what society has already decided.

        Paging Comrade Lysenko…

      • Oscar: the best research I’ve seen on genetic predisposition (notice the choice of word here; it disposes it does not determine)is that there are a set of personality/temperament traits that lend themselves to same sex attraction in combination with certain environmental factors. I really don’t want to get more specific as I don’t want that debate right now. The researcher I’m referring to was, himself, a gay man and was in favor of same sex marriage. However, he was clear that he did not believe the weight of evidence that same sex attraction was strictly a matter of genetics. He felt human sexuality was fluid, somewhat changeable and a continuum. Nevertheless, there are predisposing factors. He convinced me of the science at that point.

        • I believe that the science isn’t settled on this matter. I do however believe that when it is that like the Age of the Earth, Christians will find themselves on the wrong side of the equation.

          • +1

          • Michael, you seem to believe that science will find a genetic link despite the fact that nothing has been found to date. It appears that you have two faiths, one in Christ and one in science.

          • A member of my small group is a cancer geneticist. He tells me that the science is in its infancy, and what we know now is only a tiny fraction of what we will eventually know. We are for example only starting to scratch the surface on genetics and autism, and finding that for certain types of autism there is not one gene, but multiple genes playing a role. When if comes to sexual orientation, I think that twenty years from now we will be able to have a much more informed discussion on the matter from a scientific perspective. How we treat others over the next twenty years is my bigger concern.

            As for faith and trust, I trust in many things. Christ, Science, my wife, my parents, my good friends. My ultimate hope however, is in Christ.

      • Faulty O-Ring says:

        I don’t understand what difference this is supposed to make. Do anti-gay voices fear homosexuality would be considered more excusable if it were genetic rather than, say, arising from early childhood (as in Freud)? Religion is widely (if inaccurately) considered to be a matter of choice, does that make it okay to try to force people to change their religion?

    • I’m with Robert here, Mike, and a comment he made yesterday:

      I don’t find the efforts to re-interpret certain passages of scriptures in a more inclusive way with regard to this issue, for the most part, convincing. Those of us who take this progressive position do not have the warrant of the passage mentioned above, and others, or of most of tradition, to do so, and I think we should just accept that. We are working on the basis of natural theology, not revealed theology, to get where we think it is right to go, just as anti-slavery Christians did in pre-Civil war times.

      I don’t think appealing to the Bible by either side will convince the other. That either leaves us in an absolute impasse or we must consider other ways for the discussion to go forward.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        Problem is, the default (and sometimes the only) argument Evangelicals have is “but… BIBLE!”

        • “but… BIBLE!”

          For any Christian what else is there? The difference is in the hermeneutic used. Is it personal experiance, emotional feeling, cultural bias, faith tradition, biblical exegesis? Even the natural theology referenced by CM has its validation in its endorsement by revealed theology (if I’m properly understanding the term “natural theology”).

          • Another aspect of the “natural” part of this is to note that in a large number of animal species, there is a small percentage which practice homosexual behavior, for a variety of reasons. Of course, if one believes human beings are to be distinguished in an absolute sense from all other creatures, this means little. And while it may not resolve the ethical question of the rightness or wrongness of such behavior among people, it at least makes me more understanding of those who deviate from the norm sexually.

            On a natural level as well, and fellow Lutherans may chime in on how two kingdoms teaching may apply here, what is better for civil society — to condemn such behavior and marginalize it, or to encourage that those who practice same-sex relations do so within the bounds of committed and recognized relationships?

            I don’t have answers for these questions. I’m just thinking aloud here.

          • TPD, Natural theology is that theology which it is the result of the natural capacities given to humanity aside from special revelation. When the Bible in some texts claims that no human being has an excuse for denying the existence of God because the evidence for God is writ large in the cosmos, it’s appealing to natural, not specially revealed, theology.

            There are two aspects to natural theology: On the one hand, evidence exists for making theological claims apart from special revelation; on the other, HUMAN BEINGS HAVE THE ABILITY TO RECOGNIZE THIS EVIDENCE. This also means that human beings have the ability to make real and true theological claims based on their observation and experience of the nature of humanity, both their own and others.

            This latter aspect of natural theology is where the question of the rightness or wrongness of full inclusion of GLBTI people in both Church and society lay, and it’s also the basis for the historic ethical development decision made by human consensus that slavery is wrong.

          • CM – My only comment would be that just because something is a certain way in nature, that doesn’t necessarily mean that it should be that way. I’m pretty sure that when biblical writers talked of people as “dogs” and as “living for their stomachs” they were referring to those who made no effort to rise above their animal instincts.

            Robert- Yes, ,that is my understanding of natural theology as well and I think it is the broadly recognized definition (a variation would be some who include a priori reasoning in there). And as you mentioned, natural theology is endorsed by revealed theology (Bible) every time it is used by OT writers or by Paul himself. So it definitely has a place at the table. However, natural theology has limitations, one being that it is based on consensus. That raises the problem of WHOSE consensus. Where is your sample of opinions taken from, how large is that sample, and even if it is everyone does that guarantee it is correct??? So, although natural theology is useful for filling out and interpreting revealed theology, natural theology should never TRUMP something that is clear in revealed theology. And that is a very important thing to keep in mind.

          • I think that Paul is claiming that quite apart from specially revealed theology those outside the community of Israel and the Church have direct experience of theological truth. I don’t think he is “endorsing” that view, but recognizing it.

            Where moral insights recur across time again and again, and gradually gather a wider and wider hearing until they become self-evident, and where they expand the franchise, so to speak, for already existing ethical imperatives in the human community, they become more and more binding, for instance, the right to freely practice one’s religion, which hardly anyone endorsed up until the last couple hundred years.

            No doubt, there is risk involved in this development, and universal consensus is rare in the beginning, at the least, but there is risk involved in the position you take as well.

            Let me ask you, TPD, are Paul’s observations about the length of women’s hair not the result of an erroneous natural theology, rooting them as he did in the act of creation, or do you thing he was correct (no, I don’t know the chapter and verse, but I’m sure you do…)?

            One more question, if you don’t mind answering: are you Roman Catholic, or conservative Protestant? I suspect Roman Catholic, because of you readiness to engage natural theology in a positive way…Just curious.

          • I meant that the multiple appeals to it was equivalent to the endorsement of Scripture.

            When you say “self-evident” I hear “a priori” but these things are not such. Even though we have tried to elevate certain things to this level in our culture (“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal…”) they are really just modern consensus. They are consensus opinions that I agree with, but they don’t rise to the level of a priori knowledge. They were seen differently in the past and they may be seen differently in the future. When I look at history I see cycles not some Gene Roddenberry Linear Progress To A Glorious Future.

            I see Paul’s statements of women’s hair being her glory much the way I see Proverb’s statement about gray hear being a crown to the old. I think they are valid observations but there is no indication in either place that cutting hair or using hair dye is a sin. If so, I’ve got more to repent of.

            As far as my denominational pedigree; Started out Anabaptist, then Charismatic/Pentecostal, now denominational Evangelical.

      • CM, I expanded on this below.

        One thing I want to add: If humanity is constituted in such a way that certain ethical truths are intuitively discovered/seen and re-discovered/recognized over time, and developed from seed-form to more mature and inclusive expressions and dimensions, however haltingly, then it is possible to say that certain ethically-grounded theological truths are revealed by the very constitution and nature of humanity, which shouldn’t surprise us, since we believe that we are made in God’s image.

        This does not mean that natural theology would always ultimately over-ride biblical witness, because there is one absolutely essential facet of theological truth that natural theology cannot reveal to us: Jesus Christ himself. It does, however, mean that we cannot, and have never, consistently grounded the development of our ethical life in the biblical witness alone, because that is frankly impossible, given the ethical perceptions that inevitably roll out from human nature and its capacity to discern and experience ethical truths within the common life of the human community (None of this means that there are not major setbacks to the development of true ethical consensus on the basis of natural theology; regressions and distortions are possible, but the overall thrust, when moved by a truly consensual and conciliar experience, will be forward into ethical truth rather than backward into ethical error [I recognize that for those who adhere to a traditional, less sanguine view of human nature, this will seem completely wrong, but I ask them: Would you really want our common ethical life together to be solely based on scriptural warrant, and would you be willing to rollback the communal ethical gains that have come from the decisive influence of natural theology, and all that implies? Besides, there is a way of understanding the human intuitions of natural theology as a brake against the radical evil that fallenness involves, because these intuitions and their developments do not thrive unless they are ultimately ratified and recognized by consensus in the wider human community, and in the Church.]).

      • If appealing to the Bible on this issue won’t help, then how will it help on any issue? If we can read the Scriptures and come to the conclusion that there is nothing wrong with homosexual activity, then how can anyone say there is anything wrong with me lusting or taking advantage of the poor or being a racist based on a reading of Scriptures?
        One source that might be helpful if this conversation is to continue would be Richard Hays’ chapter on Homosexuality in his book The Moral Vision of the New Testament.

      • Randy Thompson says:

        One possible way out of the impasse is to honor Romans 1 in the context of honoring the command (!) to love one’s neighbor as oneself. My gay neighbor is just that, my neighbor. I can love my neighbor but not agree with my neighbor. Love comes first, though, before the disagreeing.

    • Richard Hershberger says:

      In the early part of Romans, Paul is setting up a rhetorical trap. He is addressing the Christian community in Rome. This community was different from those in places like Corinth. Those were Hellenic congregations, with Paul having a direct role with them. The Christians in Rome were Jewish Christians, part of the larger Jewish community in Rome. The first part of Paul’s letter describes the appalling behavior, from the Jewish perspective, of the pagan Romans. This was not hard to do. The Romans engaged in all sorts of behaviors forbidden under Mosaic Law. So Paul runs down a list of such behaviors. We can imagine his reader nodding in agreement about how awful those people are. Then Paul springs the trap with a real zinger: you readers, faithful adherents to the Law as you are, are JUST AS BAD as the pagan Romans. This in turn leads to a discussion of Jesus and the cross and the forgiveness of sin.

      I fully expect that if you were to jump in your time machine and go back and ask Paul his opinion of homosexuality, he would be against it. He wasn’t all that thrilled with heterosexuality either. But this is beside the point he was making. This point merely required that his audience disapproved of it. This they undoubtedly did, but they also disapproved of lots of things we find unremarkable today.

      Modern readers manage to read that we, the readers, are just as bad as those pagan Romans, and take away from this that the stuff the pagan Romans were doing is bad, and we ought not do them or approve of others doing them. This is a truly monumental example of missing the point, made possible by the modern mode of reading Scripture as unconnected snippets of text. Show Paul more respect. Let him make his point, without ripping snippets from their context and using them like quotes in a political attack ad.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        The first part of Paul’s letter describes the appalling behavior, from the Jewish perspective, of the pagan Romans. This was not hard to do. The Romans engaged in all sorts of behaviors forbidden under Mosaic Law. So Paul runs down a list of such behaviors.

        “For these are the things which the goyim do…”

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        Modern readers manage to read that we, the readers, are just as bad as those pagan Romans, and take away from this that the stuff the pagan Romans were doing is bad, and we ought not do them or approve of others doing them.

        And that God will destroy us just as He did Rome, and all because of Homosexuality.

        At least after the Second Russian Revolution, the radio preachers don’t threaten us with the Nuclear Missile Silos of the Soviet Union as God’s Judgment Upon America.

      • Richard you so captured it. Thank you

    • I support the full inclusion of GLBTI people in every aspect of Church and society. I do not, however, find tenable or convincing the arguments used to re-interpret Paul in such a way that the texts in question are neutral with regard to the the “sin status” of homoerotic behavior. I believe that Paul considered homosexual activity to be sinful, and his words are written from that understanding.

      I also think Paul was wrong. But I believe that on the basis of natural theology as it has developed since Paul’s time, not revealed theological truth (except insofar as natural theology can be understood as revealed, and I believe it can be, in certain ways, but that’s a different subject). And I believe that other extensions and developments of moral truth throughout Christian history were also decisively grounded in natural theology, no matter how much selective Bible prooftexting was used to support them and no matter how unaware of the fact their advocates might have been, for instance in the position of abolitionists leading up to and through the American Civil War.

      If we were to rollback all the ethical gains in which developing and progressive natural theology was the decisive factor, we would lose much that is humane in our common life together, both as a society and as Church. The development of natural theology toward including GLBTI people is just such an area where the Church stands to lose much by lagging behind the growing ethical perceptions of the larger society. To turn our ears only to the few texts that speak of this matter in the scriptures, and to turn our ears away from the growing consensus of natural moral theology as it’s reflected in the developing mores of our society(ies), will make us half deaf.

      • Thank you Robert and you too, Chaplain Mike. As usual, you both are erudite and irenic. So you would say that Paul’s viewpoint was culturally conditioned; based on Torah and the rhetorical points he was making especially in Romans. I absolutely do not want to engage in Bible prooftexting and certainly see the process of natural theology at work especially in regard to slavery. You have given me much to think about. I hope the comments today expound on this some more. I’m interested in hearing the contra to your argument and am also interested in hearing some gay Christians weigh in as well; I hope they do NOT feel intimidated and know they are welcome here.

        • Randy Thompson says:

          I’m not so sure I agree with you about the process of natural theology in regard to slavery. Slaves were human beings in the early church, not merely slaves. The early church never attacked slavery, but the church’s very existence subverted it. I’m struck by this when I read Philemon, for example.

          And, it seems to me that there’s more to Paul’s view on sexuality than mere cultural conditioning. That seems to me to diminish the role of the Torah and the Covenant in which it is embedded.

          • Faulty O-Ring says:

            Christianity did not subvert slavery, which co-existed with it very comfortably for more than a thousand years. Philemon could be read either way, and in any case was largely inconsequential.

      • Asinus Spinas Masticans says:

        Put bluntly, my problem with Robert’s theory of moral development is that to me, at least, we are getting kinder, gentler, and more tolerant, but not holier.

        This is a real issue for me. Protestantism in general seems to be plagued with a kind of Nestorian view of holiness as propriety, of which political correctness is the unhappy heir.

        • jazziscoolithink says:

          ASM, how do you, then, define holiness?

          • Asinus Spinas Masticans says:

            Fair question.

            A lot of it has to do with manifesting the powers of the age to come in this epoch. One of the reasons I converted from Pentecostalism to Orthodoxy is that the Orthodox Church actually delivers on what the Pentecostals promise in the charismatic arena.

            I would refer you to a whole host of material on the gerontes and the startsi. A very recent such charismatic Elder, Elder Paisios of Mount Athos is one such.

            “I am afraid of saints…” one young enquirer admitted.

        • Holiness is a heart thing, not an outer thing. Holiness might just be showing the love God showed us (through Jesus) to those around us, regardless of their unholiness. Holiness might NOT be taking formal stances against particular sins.

          Note the word “might” so as to not suggest I have the answer.

          • Rick do you think Jesus saw the man Judas different from the one who blinded him and used him. How is it possible for a man to walk beside Jesus and not think Him capable of taking the throne and becoming Messiah the way a Jewish man would have thought. Why not profit from it and force the hand only Judas couldn’t see God’s love the way it was meant for us all. The problem is in this discussion is we are talking about a group of people who have decided they are a group of people and we start to try and judge them with what we know and how we would think. We must stop and look at it like Jesus and not Judas. The things of this world are carnal and not spiritual and one is against the other. If love and the spiritual become the greater than the carnal will have been dealt with. Let us keep to the high road and want the very best for all our fellows. What say you

          • OldProphet says:

            Mule. What is it that the Orthodox Church delivers on that Pentacostals promise in the Charismatic arena? Do Orthodox Christians believe in the sign gifts of the Holy Spirit?

          • Asinus Spinas Masticans says:

            This is a completely separate discussion, and almost as controversial.

            If the heat dies down around here on homosexuality, maybe we can have that discussion.

        • You want to call me Nestorian, feel free. I’m not bothered by such labels. Let me put it bluntly: Even if Paul, or any other Biblical figure, wrote clearly and unambiguously in the scriptures, “Slavery is good, do not resist it,” he would have been ethically wrong (the same goes for any such pronouncement on the basis of “Tradition”), and I make that claim on the basis of natural theology. I believe the issue of the inclusion of people of different sexual orientations is exactly parallel with this. Of course, I may be wrong (so may you), but I’m willing to risk it (as are you).

          • Regarding my last sentence: You know of course, Mule, that neither deference to the Bible nor “Tradition” mitigates the personal risk you run in making your theological/ethical judgements in the face of uncertainty…

          • Asinus Spinas Masticans says:

            Except to determine who you stand with.

            Thank God we don’t fry or fly alone.

          • OldProphet says:

            Thanks, Mule (3:44 post). I would love to discuss that here on Imonk

          • Natural theology…now, isn’t THAT an oxymoronic term? The natural man coming to an understanding of a spiritual God by natural reasoning…you lost me there.

          • Robert the Nestorian says:

            Ethical discoveries arising out of natural theology are not the result of of reasoning. The genesis of an ethical disclosure arising out of natural theology goes something like this: You see something, or hear of something, happening, and you say, “That should never happen! Never!,” and in that moment of dawning recognition, born of the image of God that exists in you because you are human, you determine to do what you can to prevent, or deter, that scenario from unfolding again.

      • I believe that Paul considered homosexual activity to be sinful, and his words are written from that understanding.

        I also think Paul was wrong.

        Paul and other NT writers seem to have been wrong with respect to their expectation (both explicit and implicit) that Jesus would return in their own or in their immediate readers’ lifetimes, or soon thereafter.

        So why couldn’t he be wrong about some other things, too?

        • And, as far as I can see, the Bible nowhere condemns slavery as an institution, though it is undoubtedly ethically unacceptable, AND ALWAYS HAS BEEN, no matter what the Bible may or may not say about it. I make that affirmation on the basis of the developed natural theology that is our common heritage, and I’M AS SURE OF IT AS I AM OF THE GOODNESS OF GOD REVEALED IN JESUS CHRIST.

          • For me I don’t think Paul ever affirmed slavery. I think he was saying if it is your lot to be a slave than do it unto God and do it out of love and exhibit the love of Christ in your circumstance. I think he was encouraging us all that in doing so this love has the power to change those around us and if not it becomes a testimony against the powers to be above us. Paul to me made the very best of all the circumstances he found himself in and some how Christ worked through this. Slavery wasn’t always captives of war and such but of debt being purchased and many stayed with their masters after being set free. Bond servants but you already knew that. Of course there is always those who are truly nasty and we always see these portrayed because what would a show be without that. I am sure that most who saw the love of Christ stopped being slave owners. I believe following such a course will be similar in all such things.

          • Robert the Nestorian says:

            But, w, the very idea that someone’s lot should in any way be thought of as slavery is appalling; I much prefer Spartacus’ way (we’re talking the historical Spartacus, now, not the television show) to Paul’s advice, and hope I would have been courageous enough to embrace the sword of revolt if I had been a slave along with him in those times.

          • At least for me Paul wasn’t living anymore in the finite plane of being a man. He was living to the infinite and eternal life and saw being a slave only a temporary thing and was speaking to things in this way. His purposes being higher than just living life here. He was encouraging us to lay ourselves down to other human beings who were and are just as loved at the cross as us. He wanted for the slave owners and all to be just as saved. He gave up his whole life to live it for Christ so others would know him. It is from this way that I interpret his commentary in his letters. As alway we only see on side of the letters. Our life here is small compared to eternity and the things that perish are not our wealth. The only thing we truly have to give is our time and our love.

      • Robert – As I said above, because natural theology is based on consensus (relative/less than firm) it may be useful for filling out and interpreting revealed theology, but it should never trump something that is clear in revealed theology.

        • TPD, please see my perhaps less the adequate responses, and my questions, above. Cannot expand now, have to run, unfortunately.

      • Richard Hershberger says:

        ” I do not, however, find tenable or convincing the arguments used to re-interpret Paul in such a way that the texts in question are neutral with regard to the the “sin status” of homoerotic behavior. I believe that Paul considered homosexual activity to be sinful, and his words are written from that understanding. ”

        I largely agree with what you have written on the subject. My one point to clarify is the idea that Paul was writing about the “sin status” of homoerotic behavior. In general, when one reads Paul, or the New Testament generally, as a discourse on sin status of any behavior, you are probably missing the point. This seems particularly the case with Paul, concerned as he was about grace. Sin, of course, is the flip side of grace. Without sin, we have no need of grace. But he wasn’t writing a treatise on what is and is not sinful. Quite the opposite, the discussions about how we are all sinful make such a treatise pointless. I fully expect that Paul, being a first century Jew, considered homoerotic behavior sinful. But this isn’t really relevant.

      • I also think Paul was wrong. But I believe that on the basis of natural theology as it has developed since Paul’s time, not revealed theological truth (except insofar as natural theology can be understood as revealed

        And that, my friends, is the essence of rationalism: “I believe the Bible so long as it agrees with me.”
        The Holy Spirit couldn’t inspire Paul to get that one right as much as he has ME to think my way out of the sinful constraints of these ignorant primitive savages who wrote the NT.

        the Church stands to lose much by lagging behind the growing ethical perceptions of the larger society.

        Actually, the true church is never concerned to “get with the times.” She speaks truth to power, and has outlasted several societies.

        This appeal to “natural theology” is just so laughably presumptuous, nobody would argue that to the Apostles if they were living today. “…but we have clearly taught, from the Holy Spirit.” “But my natural theology…” Puhleese. Is the Christian’s trust in their intellect, or in the revealed Word?

        And just because you can use the Bible as a proof-text to support nearly anything does not mean it doesn’t teach anything with clarity. There is such a thing as wrong interpretation, you know.

        • And that, my friends, is the essence of rationalism: “I believe the Bible so long as it agrees with me.”

          No, that is not “the essence of rationalism.” What is going on is simply your hermeneutical principles vs. Robert F’s hermeneutical principles.

          You approach and treat and regard “the Bible” (and we know from recent posts here and elsewhere, as well as many other things, that “the Bible” itself didn’t come with instructions on what it is or how it is to be used) one way, and Robert F approaches and treats and regards it another way.

          In fact, I’d argue that it might be your response that exhibits “the essence of rationalism.” 😉

          • You can call it “rationalism” when words have no meaning, but “the text uber alles” is far closer to fideism. One approach presupposes the text is correct and exegetes through faith seeking understanding, the other presupposes our reason is correct, and judges the text thereby. The former approach is hardly rational. 😉

        • Hello, Miguel.

          Mule can call it Nestorianism, you can call it rationalism, it doesn’t really matter. The fact is, on a subject like slavery, the Bible is completely neutral, at best, and implicitly condoning, at worst, and without the contribution of natural theology, there is no reason why the institution of slavery shouldn’t still be accepted by the worldwide Church as a legitimate position for Christians to advocate on the basis of scriptural warrant. This ethical development of the view of institutional slavery did not come from inside the scriptures or the Tradition(s), although strands of these were cherry-picked to support it (which is fine with me, just in no way conclusive), but from natural theology as it unfolded in historical developments and human experience.

          • I can also make a very good case from the Bible alone that polygamy is acceptable practice. We do not accept it today for reasons that are other than “biblical.”

          • I disagree strongly on both the slavery and polygamy points. Taken in historical context it is clear that the Bible elevates human dignity as well as one man, one woman, from the beginning. True, it makes allowances in both cases for the culture of the times, but to read those allowances as endorsements for slavery and polygamy is an anachronistic blunder of gigantic proportions. Both these cases are situations where natural theology helps us continue to move in the CLEAR direction that the Bible pointed us in and abolish both those institutions. But the language surrounding same-sex relationships and slavery/polygamy are quite different.

          • The Biblical record discusses multiple social systems and marriage patterns, usually without censure, but rather as though there is nothing surprising about the arrangement.

            You just don’t see one model for anything, especially not marriage, and the topic is almost never the writer’s main concern.

          • But there are common circumstances in all those cultural situations where polygamy was allowed. They center on the fact that an “independent woman” would have been victim to abuse and exposure. A woman had to be the member of someone’s household or her chances of survival were slim. Without police it was the husband’s sword or club that provided protection and because of war men were often in short supply. Later social structure and support systems changed this so dramatically that we have a hard time even imagining what life was like then.

          • Danielle, have you ever read Jesus’ words in Matthew 19? They’re not very ambiguous.

            Robert, I am tired sore of this slavery meme. It’s simply futile to argue that since SOME people have used the Bible to support slavery, then it follows that either the Bible does in fact support it, or we can never be sure what it meant to say on the subject, if anything. Words have meaning, and context matters.

            The teaching of Christ and the Apostles on human dignity was revolutionary at the time, and gave far greater dignity to both slaves and women than anyone else at the time. 1 Timothy 1:8-10 has some very clear, derogatory statements about those who enslave others. You could just as easily say that the Bible is ambiguous on the inquisition, but it is just as untrue. People justifying bad behavior with proof texts do not indict the text.

            • Miguel, here’s my question: Whether in Matthew 19 or elsewhere, how do the Scriptures testify that marriage involves only one man and only one woman? Yes, they do say that the two become one flesh. But Paul also used that in a much different way: “Do you not know that whoever is united to a prostitute becomes one body with her? For it is said, ‘The two shall be one flesh.’ (1 Cor 6:16). While I would agree that Genesis 1-2 affirm the unique bond between male and female, nowhere do I see that it limits the number of bonds that may take place. The practice of polygamy as seen in Scripture was the practice of the great heroes of the faith in OT times, and the very people God chose became the 12 tribes through polygamous relations. Scripture says “God gave David his wives.” (2Sam 12:8). Nowhere do I read that the practice is condemned, indeed, it seems in many cases to be the blessing of God upon a man and his family.

              I would be the last person to argue for polygamy — that is most certainly not my point. But what does this say about the way we use the Bible and its description of families, marital relationships, and sexuality in a variety of cultural settings to make moral and ethical judgments in our own day?

              I think Danielle pretty accurately describes the biblical narrative in this regard.

          • I can also make a very good case from the Bible alone that polygamy is acceptable practice

            That is meaningless. You can “make a very good case from the Bible alone” about nearly anything. You can not make a case at all from the New Testament.

            how do the Scriptures testify that marriage involves only one man and only one woman? Yes, they do say that the two become one flesh

            Here it is: Are you sitting down? One plus one equals two. 😛
            More seriously, it isn’t fair for us to approach the NT text demanding it spell out for us issues which were not relevant back then. The Jews of the time were not following David’s or Jacob’s example in that regard, for the most part.

            The practice of polygamy as seen in Scripture was the practice of the great heroes of the faith in OT times

            …which, without endorsement in the NT, means nothing. There is no limit to the kinds of heinous deeds you can justify with the OT.

            the very people God chose became the 12 tribes through polygamous relations

            Well then. Why don’t we all just follow the example of Rahab the prostitute as well?

            what does this say about the way we use the Bible

            That we lean to heavily on the OT at the expense of the NT, and are far to quick to make normative examples out of things that are expedient for our other causes.

            What if we made a case for the “Biblical” position on marriage and family only from the NT, pulling from the Old only when the NT text does? It really clears up a lot of ambiguity.

          • The bible has no concept of socialism or communism or capitalism either…

          • I know no one asked me but that never stopped me before.

            Even in the OT it is fairly clear that ideally it is one man one woman. One becomes two and then those two become one in the garden. How much clearer does it need to get??? Other misc indications: God commands that Israel’s kings NOT have many wives. When God personally talks about the institution of marriage he says wife (singular) not wives, including in the 10 Commandments. Then Jesus clarifies in the NT what the OT was pointing to.

          • Richard Hershberger says:

            “Even in the OT it is fairly clear that ideally it is one man one woman. One becomes two and then those two become one in the garden. How much clearer does it need to get??”

            I could use exactly the logical process with economic organization. The first Christians held property in common. Christians–especially Protestants–routinely hold up the early church as the ideal. Therefore if your church allows private property, it is both itself sinful and abets sin. QED.

            Any takers? No? No Hutterites around here?

          • Where did you pull that out of? I haven’t heard that argument in 20 years. Well if no one owned private property in the 1st century church then how did they sell their OWN property in order to meet the needs of others? It doesn’t say there was no private ownership, it says they didn’t consider what they owned as belonging to themselves but instead used their resources to met the needs of their brothers and sisters. And yes, that would be a good example for us to follow today.

          • “While I would agree that Genesis 1-2 affirm the unique bond between male and female, nowhere do I see that it limits the number of bonds that may take place. The practice of polygamy as seen in Scripture was the practice of the great heroes of the faith in OT times, and the very people God chose became the 12 tribes through polygamous relations. Scripture says “God gave David his wives.” (2Sam 12:8). Nowhere do I read that the practice is condemned, indeed, it seems in many cases to be the blessing of God upon a man and his family.”

            In fact, Martin Luther, the man himself, supported the bigamous marriage of Philip of Hesse, because he believed that it was better to be a bigamist than an adulterer, so apparently he thought it not impossible to enter into two such bonds, and I wouldn’t doubt he based his thinking on Old Testament marriage laws.

          • One can imagine what Martin Luther’s words, and actions, would have been if Philip of Hesse’s extramarital lover had been….a dude! No, we don’t have to guess, do we? Does burned at the stake ring a bell?

          • Robert, a fun historical example. You have to love Lutheran trivia. In Luther’s defense, I don’t think he really wanted to go along with it, and kind of got dragged into the matter. Philip did try to draw his justification from Luther’s commentary on Genesis.

            Miguel, nobody in the room is arguing for polygamy; each of us embraces a hermeneutic similar to yours, that results in the interpretation you are advancing.

            And you do have a method designed to manage the very real ambiguities the texts present, so they are not quite so definitive without some framework for managing them. In your words:

            “What if we made a case for the “Biblical” position on marriage and family only from the NT, pulling from the Old only when the NT text does? It really clears up a lot of ambiguity.”

            The point is that there are different voices within the texts of Scripture (mostly in the OT) situated in different contexts, such that an argument could be readily advanced for polygamy if someone wanted to do so, particularly if one were not reading the OT through the viewpoint of the NT and first century Judaism and through our own experience as a culture. That’s an interpretive decision we are making.

            The significance of the observation is, as you said somewhere in the comment thread, that context matters. Writers write within a context; the texts are for particular communities. When pointing this out, I don’t think many people (and probably no one in this discussion) is trying to invalidate the text and remove it from consideration. Speaking personally, I am trying to understand what the text was talking about, and its relationship to other texts, in order to understand what it can be said to mean for us now. That question – what does the text mean for us now? – presumes its relevance and importance. That is an assumption I make out of the gate. It’s just that I use all the information available to me to try to see how we should interpret and apply it. Even if you don’t like my method, I hope you understand what the intent is.

            If I didn’t care about the text, I wouldn’t even bother making these arguments. I’d just shrug.

          • Richard Hershberger says:

            “Where did you pull that out of? I haven’t heard that argument in 20 years.”

            I do so enjoy the push back I get whenever I bring this up. Where did I pull out the idea that the earliest Christians held property in common? Um… The Bible. Acts 2:44 “And all that believed were together, and had all things common” The selling off of personal property was part of the entry into the group. This is one of those passages that we are discouraged from reading, or at least from thinking about. If someone should slip up and think about it, he gets the explanation that the plain, literal reading of “had all things in common” is obviously something other than that they had all things in common. Only a hippie could somehow twist “held all things in common” into the notion that they, um…, had all things in common.

            My guess is that the earliest church maintained this system approximately from Pentecost to the Tuesday a week later. There is no sign of it in later New Testament churches. I trot it out not to suggest that it is mandatory, but to point out the flaw with argument from firsts: The first marriage, we are told, was between a man and a woman. Therefore it follows, we are assured, that this is the only truly legitimate form of marriage. OK, I respond: the first Christians were a bunch of communists. By the same reasoning, communism is the only truly legitimate church structure. Indignant sputtering inevitably ensues.

          • It wasn’t a matter of entrance into the group, but rather an ongoing, as needed, process within the group. Otherwise Barnabas (and others like Ananias and Sapphira) would not have had any property to sell later. Which is why I said “It doesn’t say there was no private ownership, it says they didn’t consider what they owned as belonging to themselves but instead used their resources to met the needs of their brothers and sisters.” And this is a valid example for us to follow today.

          • Danielle, I get that nobody is arguing for polygamy, but those arguing this with me do NOT embrace a similar hermeneutic, which is really what this is about. Nobody is arguing the authority of the text, but rather, in what way it should be properly understood. The ambiguities of the text are being disproportionately emphasized in order to shoehorn room for alternate views on homosexuality in to the understanding of the text. It simply isn’t fair to the text or the church’s traditional understanding of it.

            I get that you are a sincere and disciplined student of the text. I’m just saying that we’re demanding it answer the wrong questions. Mike asks me where it specifically spells out where marriage should be between ONLY one man and one woman. That is simply silly, as if “two shall become one flesh” were a hopelessly ambiguous statement, or as if the church had not been remarkably consistent in her understanding of it. Also, on the slavery issue, the gargantuan leap of logic is made that if Paul was wrong on slavery (he wasn’t) then he can also be wrong on homosexuality (once we agree whether he actually condemned it). This sort of evasive post-modern communication theory has only one objective: to indefinitely forestall any possible conclusions. It’s intellectually dishonest.

            We’re demanding the text be something it isn’t. We won’t allow it to condemn any practice unless it spells it out in specific detail like a legal brief. Good grief! Going back to slavery: To say that people used Paul to justify slaver, therefore slavery is valid, is intellectually lazy and irresponsible. We can’t simply refuse to take context into consideration and insist that Paul meant what we want him to mean, and for him to mean otherwise he would have to present it in our terms. Paul was writing to a pre “dignity of man” society, one in which making all men equal was a completely foreign concept. Patriarchy was the norm, and for him to say “everybody release your slaves now” would have made no sense whatsoever, anymore than “treat your wife as equal” would have. Men made the decisions, and men who owned property and had slaves were simply at a higher plane of societal authority. To abandon this would mean to adopt a new model of societal organization, and the likes of ours today had not even been conceived of yet. Instead, Paul fights for the dignity of each and every person within the societal framework, calling for the kind of treatment and conditions that removes the evil sting from patriarchy and slavery. Christianity may lead to social revolution, but it is not itself a social phenomenon: it remains distinct from it. It is this dignity of man that the NT clearly teaches and reinforces at every point that spurred the abolitionists in recent times, when they saw their fellow man having their dignity trampled. So to insist that Paul was pro or at least neutral on slavery just because he did not say “abandon imperialistic feudalism for a capitalist system” is anachronistic to a society where men were not entitled to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. We are dealing with a 2000 year old document, so we need to treat it thus, which involves working to see past our 2000 years of ideological baggage that has accumulated since then.

          • Danielle, I get that nobody is arguing for polygamy, but those arguing this with me do NOT embrace a similar hermeneutic, which is really what this is about. Nobody is arguing the authority of the text, but rather, in what way it should be properly understood. The ambiguities of the text are being disproportionately emphasized in order to shoehorn room for alternate views on homosexuality in to the understanding of the text. It simply isn’t fair to the text or the church’s traditional understanding of it.

            I get that you are a sincere and disciplined student of the text. I’m just saying that we’re demanding it answer the wrong questions. Mike asks me where it specifically spells out where marriage should be between ONLY one man and one woman. That is simply silly, as if “two shall become one flesh” were a hopelessly ambiguous statement, or as if the church had not been remarkably consistent in her understanding of it. Also, on the slavery issue, the gargantuan leap of logic is made that if Paul was wrong on slavery (he wasn’t) then he can also be wrong on homosexuality (once we agree whether he actually condemned it). This sort of evasive post-modern communication theory has only one objective: to indefinitely forestall any possible conclusions. It’s intellectually dishonest. . . .

          • …and further, this demands the text be something it isn’t. It doesn’t allow the text to condemn any practice unless it spells it out in specific detail like a legal brief. Good grief! Going back to slavery: To say that people used Paul to justify slaver, therefore slavery is valid, is intellectually lazy and irresponsible. We can’t simply refuse to take context into consideration and insist that Paul meant what we want to mean, and for him to mean otherwise he would have to present it in our terms. Paul was writing to a pre “dignity of man” society, one in which making all men equal was a completely foreign concept. Patriarchy was the norm, and for him to say “everybody release your slaves now” would have made no sense whatsoever, anymore than “treat your wife as equal” would have. Men made the decisions, and men who owned property and had slaves were simply at a higher plane of societal authority. To abandon this would mean to adopt a new model of societal organization, and the likes of ours today had not even been conceived of yet. Instead, Paul fights for the dignity of each and every person within the societal framework, calling for the kind of treatment and conditions that removes the evil sting from patriarchy and slavery. Christianity may lead to social revolution, but it is not itself a social phenomenon: it remains distinct from it. It is this dignity of man that the NT clearly teaches and reinforces at every point that spurred the abolitionists in recent times, when they saw their fellow man having their dignity trampled. So to insist that Paul was pro or at least neutral on slavery just because he did not say “abandon imperialistic feudalism for a capitalist system” is anachronistic in a society where men were not entitled to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. We are dealing with a 2000 year old document, so we need to treat it thus, which involves working to see past our 2000 years of ideological baggage that has accumulated since then.

          • Damn mod. Breaking up my comment to get through:
            …and further, this demands the text be something it isn’t. It doesn’t allow the text to condemn any practice unless it spells it out in specific detail like a legal brief. Good grief! Going back to slavery: To say that people used Paul to justify slaver, therefore slavery is valid, is intellectually lazy and irresponsible. We can’t simply refuse to take context into consideration and insist that Paul meant what we want to mean, and for him to mean otherwise he would have to present it in our terms. Paul was writing to a pre “dignity of man” society, one in which making all men equal was a completely foreign concept.

          • Patriarchy was the norm, and for him to say “everybody release your slaves now” would have made no sense whatsoever, anymore than “treat your wife as equal” would have. Men made the decisions, and men who owned property and had slaves were simply at a higher plane of societal authority. To abandon this would mean to adopt a new model of societal organization, and the likes of ours today had not even been conceived of yet. Instead, Paul fights for the dignity of each and every person within the societal framework, calling for the kind of treatment and conditions that removes the evil sting from patriarchy and slavery.

          • Christianity may lead to social revolution, but it is not itself a social phenomenon: it remains distinct from it. It is this dignity of man that the NT clearly teaches and reinforces at every point that spurred the abolitionists in recent times, when they saw their fellow man having their dignity trampled. So to insist that Paul was pro or at least neutral on slavery just because he did not say “abandon imperialistic feudalism for a capitalist system” is anachronistic in a society where men were not entitled to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. We are dealing with a 2000 year old document, so we need to treat it thus, which involves working to see past our 2000 years of ideological baggage that has accumulated since then.

          • Christianity may lead to social revolution, but it is not itself a social phenomenon: it remains distinct from it. It is this dignity of man that the NT clearly teaches and reinforces at every point that spurred the abolitionists in recent times, when they saw their fellow man having their dignity trampled.

          • So to insist that Paul was pro or at least neutral on slavery just because he did not say “abandon imperialistic feudalism for a capitalist system” is anachronistic in a society where men were not entitled to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. We are dealing with a 2000 year old document, so we need to treat it thus, which involves working to see past our 2000 years of ideological baggage that has accumulated since then.

          • So to insist that Paul was pro or at least neutral on slavery just because he did not say “abandon imperialistic feudalism for a capitalist system” is anachronistic in a society where men were not entitled to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

          • Miguel, I’m back online too late to give you a timely response. Nonetheless –

            There are several areas where we basically agree. For example, you write, “I’m just saying that we’re demanding it [Pauline texts] answer the wrong questions.” And you note that social revolution was not on Paul’s mind – rather he’s advancing a different a mission. I agree, I don’t think we see in Paul much, if any, intent to overturn the order of Roman society; most of what the Pauline epistles address, when social roles come up, is how to live according to the dictates of Christian love within one’s station. There may be subversive potential in the dignity Paul assigns to people, including people within various roles, and the way he reconceives leadership as service. But these are the kind of idealogical seeds one plants, that give fruit much later, in other hands and at other times. I agree that to expect Paul to address the question of overturning the social order and building a new one is unfair: he’s just not asking the question. We have to let him discuss what he decided to discuss. As we used to say when reviewing books in class – you judge the book based on its stated thesis, not its failure to address a topic it was never designed to address. “Yes, I am sorry, my book on the history of American tractors does not discuss white Austrian horses. NEXT COMMENT!”

            So, we agree on Paul. It is primarily after this point that our interpretations diverge – and I think the difference is in the fact that I tend to see subsequent interpretive acts of the Biblical text as more historically rooted than you do. I would argue that Paul addresses slavery in only a limited way. Paul addresses sex acts between people of the same sex in terms of the Jewish critique of gentile practices and the practice of same sex intimacy of the period. Paul’s subsequent interpretors do not see in Paul’s writing any particular reason to see an antislavery crusade as an essential outworking of the Christian witness; likewise, there is no reason, given the questions people are asking, to see his words on same sex intimacy as anything other than blanket prohibitions. But – sometimes new developments change the conversation a community is having. For a variety of reasons, moral concern over slavery went nuclear in the last three centuries. People started asking new questions, with great urgency. *That* unsettled the theological conversation: moderate antislavery voices and proslavery voices could easily draw support from Scripture and tradition, whereas abolitionists were pushing, pushing, pushing at the outer reaches of the established logic, as they tried to ask how an entire social system could be undone, and how society might be reconstituted along more explicitly Christian lines. (This is not the usual business of churches; it is notable that Quakerism and a certain brand nontraditional, crusading evangelicalism turned out to be best suited to the project.) Ultimately, the abolitionist minority won, and we’re all pretty comfortable saying this ‘revisionist’ reworking of mission was a good thing; if they’d been unsuccessful, we might today be discussing how heretical or radical they were, and using them as a cautionary tale. The lesson I take from this is: our observations, our changing circumstances, and other factors can change the questions we are asking. And when that happens, to understand and respect old texts and received traditions, we have to understand what (different) questions they were asking. Then we have to relate the old conversation to the new one.

            I don’t think anyone is assuming that our conclusion on slavery necessitates a particular conclusion about homosexuality. But it is a parallel example, insofar it involves the problem of new questions. The way we understand same sex intimacy now (in terms of “homosexuality” and an orientation) differs from the way it was discussed in the first century, and the contemporary marriage question is entirely unanticipated by anyone until just a few years ago. The modern conversation also asks a variety of new questions about power, gender, and sexuality. The open question is whether it is easy to see Paul’s opinions on “homosexuality” as he understood it as applying to “homosexuality” as we understand it; or whether there’s so much historical distance that we need to see it as a complicating factor. I would add—and I know you are probably not sympathetic to that maneuver—that I have a difficult time dismissing my concern that my interpretation may be wrong if I think I see very clear evidence that it harms people. It causes me to ask if we need a new question.

            So, we agree on Paul, so far as I can tell, at least broadly. Perhaps where we disagree is in the way we tell the history of interpretation, and what we think the significance of that history is to us as present-day interpreters. With that said, I say: touche! It’s been fun, as always.

        • I think you are being uncharitable towards Robert F here, Miguel. He does not strike me as someone who is just going to fall in with the zeitgeist. He makes a very strong point regarding slavery. I think it was Mark Noll that pointed out how the abolitionist position was theologically troublesome for many northern pastors. They had abolitionist sympathies but were hesitant to be seen as opposing scripture. I am hesitant to oppose scripture. I do not care to heap to myself teachers having itching ears. I do not want to be one of those who are given over to a deceiving spirit because I have no love for the truth. Consider what Tokah replied to me upthread. She is not giving herself over to the spirit of this age. There is no spirit of compromise with her. Jacob wrestled with the angel until daybreak; she has been wrestling for, what, 30 years or more. Good God she must be tired. Talk about living the crucified life. She has put the flesh to death so she may live in the Spirit moreso, I daresay, than you or I can even imagine. Nevertheless, if that is what is necessary then better to enter the kingdom with missing body parts; for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell. But… if it isn’t necessary then we ought to give the matter careful consideration so that we don’t cause our brothers and sisters to suffer without sure cause.

          • Perhaps you can articulate for me the distinction between the zeitgeist and “natural theology as it has developed.” If truth is something that develops over time, then it is relative, and ultimately nothing is objectively true. If the argument is that slavery was wrong the whole time and Paul was on the wrong side of truth, then that’s an argument that does not believe the text, because the text opposes the current view of morality.

            I’m sorry to hear that all those northern pastors had such a poor understanding of Jesus’s teaching in, for example, Matthew 7:12, but it was there the whole time. It’s not exactly brain surgery. Paul himself said at various times “slaves obey your masters” and “do not be enslaved.” You can either write him off as constantly changing his mind, or, through the “analogy of faith,” use due diligence to examine the context and ask the question “how are these both true?” The skeptic throws up his hands because to accept it at a surface-level read justifies his prior conclusion about the nature of the text. The faithful believer seeks to discern God’s truth in the text with fear and trembling.

            There IS a sense in which we should approach the text with humility, because we may be just as unaware of heinous misunderstandings we hold today, just like those northern pastors. But approaching the text as it’s judge, rather than interpreter, crosses the line, imo. I just have no tolerance for that. It’s cafeteria style Christianity that sets the self up as the ultimate authority and arbiter of truth. I’m not very interested in a God so incompetent he couldn’t get past Paul’s prejudice to speak a truth to us clearly enough that we wouldn’t have to second guess it for 2000 years.

        • Would the Holy Spirit inspire Paul or anyone to write anything that was opposite/against what every other believing member, Jew or not, in that culture at that time, would accept or believe in?

          To use a very crude example, since I’m suffering from it at the moment, lol, if there was a common understanding between all current believers on what the best treatment for gout is, would the Holy Spirit in anyway inspire Paul to write the “true” treatment of gout, even if it’s totally left field against all available sciences and knowledges and understandings?

          I wonder.

          • Many give lip service to verbal plenary inspiration. Within this is the idea that God would ONLY use the words and phrases (and knowledge to an extent) of the person writing scripture.

            So how the heck would Paul know better? Holy Spirit isn’t in the habit of giving winning lotto numbers. Or correcting geocentrism. Or a debate on the merits of the metric system.

            Let’s ask the big question: Can the Bible be wrong? Can the Biblical authors be wrong? And what does that mean when we then say the Bible is True?

      • +1 to Robert’s comments. It will not due to be “half blind.”

        The ultimate test of theology and of our lives is in whether they proclaim Christ and the expression of love in the actual world. So we have to be wise enough to see what is really around us, and what is harming people, and what is healing them. At different times – as Robert points out in his comments about slavery – we have become sensible to particular evils or goods in the world, by power of our own observation. Whether or not our received values and texts speak to them with the force our consciences seem to be speaking, we are duty-bound to act according to what we see. We have senses and minds and moral instincts for a reason. That doesn’t free us from our debts to the past – but neither does the past free us from our responsibilities to the present. But if we are going to bring the legacies entrusted to us into our present-day lives and the future we are building together, we have to play our part in interpreting and acting boldly. As Bonhoeffer might say on that theme, “Spread hilaritas!” One is forced to act on the historical stage, with uncertainty, yet finding some way to act with confidence and good humor. As B. put it, those with such a quality have “confidence in their own work, boldness and defiance of the world and of popular opinion, a steadfast certainty in their own work they are showing the world something good.” B. described Karl Barth’s writing as expressing hilaritas, and seems in prison to have been returning to the theme.

        By saying this, I am not advocating a theory of continuous upward moral development, where propriety as defined in the current moment must always be seen as good. I am saying that if we are to believe that there is some good we can do in the world, or way to live out the dictates of Christian love in some fractured way, then we have to act by the lights we have and hope that God will use what comes from it. God can, we must hope, be able to use our folly and our insight, as we’re always perpetuating them both.

        • To clarity’s sake, I should say that I am not suggesting we merely shrug off texts to which we are not agreement. I am saying that we must look at them clearly and seriously.

          To be all too brief on this point: I agree with Richard’s assessment – one must read the passage in terms of its actual argument and meaning, and I think he is exactly correct about the argumentation. I also think Paul was repeating, and probably agreed with, the common Jewish view of gentile sexual practices as wanton and connected to idolatry. I would add Paul comments on this topic very infrequently, and also that he can only have had in mind the particular practices and meanings assigned to same sex intimacy current at the time. (They were not acts between male equals, much less within the confines of any form of marriage.) Each of those sentences requires a long essay of explanation – and each can be argued and nuanced. My overall point is: one can afford Paul the liberty of being precisely what he was – one of the most important people in the first century, chosen by God to establish the first churches in the wider Mediterranean world, addressing the key theological questions of an emergent Christianity, and trying to provide practical direction to his network of churches – and these believers lived in a time and place. Speaking from that role, he makes sense and his messages, and why they matter to us, are clearest.

          All this is on the table when we turn and ask ourselves – what do current conditions, and our observations of them, suggest? Ultimately, I must set the bit of Pauline texts under discussion here alongside everything I can discern about sexuality based on current knowledge. And when there are actual people explaining their lives to me, and able to speak about their very real pain, and their very human (God-given) desire for companionship, which is identical to my own, I am compelled to also take notice. I must “do something” with all of this information.

          I chose to be a member of an affirming congregation. In part, that is because I recognize the importance of this issue to people, and the difficulties that attend this question. In my own struggles with more pedestrian issues, I too am left interpreting and doing my best to try love and live as I should. Ultimately all of us our dependent on God to hold us. From my perspective, LGBT persons, whether they are seeking relationships or not, have my respect and support as they make these decisions. I cannot speak for them, I can only listen. If there is not room at the table for them, there is not for me, either.

          You can label this what it is – I don’t think it is “rationalism.” It leaves a roll for interpretation, But so does the conservative position, whether or not you admit it.

    • Mike,

      We recently went through Romans in a Bible study. I noted to myself that according to Paul the homosexual behaviour started as a result of Idol worship. I asked mysef, “How does this fit my friends’ situations?”

    • Mike, rather than looking at is as “a justification to take Paul’s words at less than face value”, think about it as if the issue affected you personally. If you are heterosexual, imagine that the only New Testament mentions of heterosexual behavior are that passage in Romans and a few sin lists that all list the same greek word. The sin lists are context free, we have no idea what form of heterosexuality Paul had in mind, so the only passage with context is Romans 1 and you know it is rhetorical in style.

      So everything in you feels that the most natural thing in the world would be to bed a beautiful woman, but you are a sola scriptura kind of protestant. Sure, at first you look at the few mentions in the Bible of heterosexual sex always being negative and come to the conclusion that God seems to be against it. Maybe you manage to fight that fight for several years, even. As the years go by, you squint at your few verses harder and harder, but it is DIFFICULT to base a life long commitment to celibacy and loneliness on them. You end up with dueling greek language scholars on the sin list stuff, and then it comes down to Romans 1 as your main source. It isn’t so much justifying not taking it at face value as wondering can you really base such a difficult life conviction on one rhetorically written passage? Could you manage it?

      I certainly couldn’t.

      Yet, if you did go back and talk to St. Paul, I was certain he’d be against homsexual sex. I have never understood why, and probably never will in this life. Instead, I made the decision to personally stay in step with the christian tradition in this matter, whether that is truly required of me by God or not. I didn’t have the word for it then, but now I would label it an ascetical choice. No longer was I staring at verses, now I was just trying to be part of the same church St. Paul was.

      Is it any wonder that folks like me end up in large numbers converting Catholic and Orthodox?

      That said, having wrestled with scripture on this topic for so long, I cannot judge my brothers and sisters who didn’t go the way I have. If I had stayed an evangelical, I would have joined them eventually. I certainly don’t have an internal conviction that it is wrong, it is just something I choose not to do the same way I fast with the church.

      • Asinus Spinas Masticans says:

        Mt. Kallistos Ware made this comment in reference to women’s ordination, and given how similar the arguments for that are to those that are proffered to support the affirmation of sexual acts between members of the same sex, I think it applicable:

        “You have recently bought a cottage in a village somewhere, and there is an enormous beam in the main room right at head level, and you are constantly striking your head against it. It would be foolish to remove the beam without being certain that you know why it was put there in the first place. The whole edifice could come tumbling down about your ears if you remove it.

        “Of course, men and women have grown since Tudor times, and it could be that the beam was not a problem for them, but your head, being several inches higher than theirs was, finds it a considerable inconvenience. Nevertheless, the original admonishment still stands.”

      • Well put, Tokah. You’ve expressed my thoughts as well. I long ago learned that my desires and my view of what was fair or normal rarely coincided with God’s as expressed by scriptures, church, and tradition. I don’t really get worked up about same-sex marriage as an issue and personally would — and do — prefer it to promiscuity. But can I ask the preponderance of Christian wisdom and practice to change to agree with me? If so, I’d put in a bid to redefine things like sloth, selfishness, gluttony, and pride, too. But I’ve decided I have to accept what I am given and submit to God for the painful breaking and healing — of both my habits and my views — that is required before I start to resemble Christ.

      • Thanks, Tokah, that was helpful. I certainly understand the difficulty if it was me personally, hell, I can barely refrain from adultery as it is and I am not joking or being facetious. If I had to remain celibate my whole life, I’m pretty sure I couldn’t do it.

      • You are a beautiful person, Tokah. Thanks for sharing. FWIW, the vast majority of historical “sola scriptura” Protestantism is on the same side, it’s only recent developments of liberal theology that lead to Robert’s line of thinking, and though this isn’t a good theological argument, their numbers have quite frankly tanked in the last half a century. It seems that your sentiments, which were so eloquently put, have always carried more weight with the devout.

        BTW, my wife and I still frequent the diner you recommended to me two years ago (BLD’s). Such a great place!

      • That would be quite pleasant for me to imagine since I’ve lived something worse. Imagine being omnisexual to the point where if you were to give rein to your desires then you would become the “monster under the bed” and “the thing that goes bump in the night.” Desires that are impossible to justify even to the most progressive moralist. Then after a lifetime of battling (and largely winning) against these desires you find yourself in a society that proclaims that no one can change or influence their desires. People who scoff at and claim the slippery slope that you have battled with every day doesn’t even exist. Ignorant “happy elves” who debate the morality of their happy binary sexuality as though it didn’t have moral implications for the much darker things that you KNOW exist. Imagine living in a world trying to dismiss the very source of power that allows you to be an asset to the world instead of a monster. But wait… I’m not talking about me, of course not. Back to your polite regularly scheduled programming on the Happy Elf Network.

      • Interesting Tokah, I have a something new to ponder and I like your reference to fasting. I see fasting as drawing closer to God and I try to incorporate that into other urges that try to control me. Thank you I will need some time for reflecting on this.

    • Interpret Paul’s writing through the lens of Jesus’ words in Matthew 19:4-6.

    • Patrick Kyle says:

      +1

    • “I can not tell them it is alright to SIN. I’m not doing them any favors, I don’t have their back, I really don’t love them.”

      Why are they asking you what is “alright” for them to do? Are you some sort of spiritual guru because you possibly attend a church or something? Or are you just assuming they need to hear this from you?
      I will never understand the ego that says “how will they know how to live unless I guide them?” in the Xtian community. Astounding!

  6. It is interesting that this discussion takes place on the InternetMonk, which predicted the decline of evangelicalism.

    When you throw out tradition and past history all you are left with is the bible in our current context. And so we see endless arguments and discussions about how Paul was purely conditioned and did not know what we know now. And since we only have the Bible (TM) we are left with trying to figure it out in every generation rather than drawing on the collective wisdom of 4000 years. Add to that a touch of chronological snobbery and a hermeneutic of suspicion of anything that does not reflect current cultural currents and you get our contemporary situation.

    Tokah, maybe Paul had deeper reasons and his beliefs about homosexuality are part of a constellation of beliefs. I wonder if it has something to do with marriage being a reflection of Christ and the church.

    I read part of a book ‘What is marriage? Man & Woman a Defence’ and it sparked me to think that part of the problem is that we have a low view of marriage. It has become about sexual fulfilment and not something larger than ourselves.

    I do not understand why Christians go through gyrations because parts of the Christian message are offensive to the culture. I have been a Christian for 40 years and parts of it offend me. It reminds me of my selfishness and need for grace. It is almost like we feel the need to be accepted by our culture and pronounced okay.

    • On the issue of slavery, the historic traditions did not do much, if any (though maybe a little), better than those who defer to typically conservative Protestant scriptural interpretation; why should we think that they are doing better on this issue?

      What brought us out of the age of chattel slavery was natural theology, not Biblical interpretation or the two ancient apostolic traditions.

      • Correction: It was the change in ethical understanding that came out of the insights of natural theology that contributed most to the end of the age of chattel slavery, not adherence to the literal meaning of scriptures or the positions of the historic “Traditions.”

        • I think what you may be missing here (and I was not clear) is that those who value tradition (for example: Orthodox, Catholic, Anglican) may be more inclined to give the historic church and those who have come before us a seat at the table. We recognize that those who have gone before us may be of some help. In this sense tradition is a ballast when storms come.

          The attitude can be summed up as: we take the greatest care to hold that which has been believed everywhere, always and by all.

          In North America evangelicals have tended to reinvent the wheel and recreate the church from scratch so we are enthralled to ‘the new and improved Tide’ every time a new formulation of it comes out.

          I have become increasingly aware that I am travelling along a road in which I can see only about 1 block ahead, and 2 blocks behind me in the mirror. I have the opportunity to see more behind me if I am willing to listen.

          This conversation on homosexuality among evangelicals is really an attempt to reformulate Christian belief. I am inclined to think history will judge it as the heresy of the 21st century.

          • BTW, us Anglicans have failed the tradition in a colossal way because we embraced liberalism. I think Thomas Cranmer would say that we have nothing to do with him and the reformation.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        And my church (the RCC) was one of the late adopters when it came to ending slavery. Not the latest adopter, though; the Southern Baptists (originally organized around Defending Our Peculiar Institution) had to be dragged out kicking and screaming.

        • That’s what I meant when I said that maybe the “Traditionalists” did a LITTLE (I wish that I [techno-idiot] knew how to italicize in these comments rather than capitalize [I should probably be embarrassed to show my ignorance, but I’m not]) better than the sola scriptura-lists.

      • Asinus Spinas Masticans says:

        Could not economic conditions have had a great deal to do with the abolition of chattel slavery as well? Maybe more so than the whole human race (or the more enlightened part of it) taking an ethical antihistamine circa 1830?

        I’m curious about your arguments because I believe in something similar, but we have already seen several experiments based upon Historical Inevitability and the Dialectic of Progress go horribly awry in the past century.

        • Notice, I revised my comment, since obviously other significant factors fed into the change, and perhaps made new ethical discoveries possible. But I believe ethical development was a part of that, and ethical development specifically about the dignity of a common humanity.

          I don’t have more time right now to address your second paragraph; maybe later….or maybe someone else will in my stead, since I know that there are others at iMonk who agree with the substance of my argument.

        • “Could not economic conditions have had a great deal to do with the abolition of chattel slavery as well?” Indisputably.

          • Right. It is interesting how much “natural theology” seems often to be dragged around by the winds of pragmatism. “Natural theology” also once justified slavery, as those people with greater physical builds and diminished mental capacity seem clearly designed for hard labor. Slavery must be God’s purpose for them.

            There is a reason that Luther called reason “the Devil’s whore.”

          • One reason I’m not a Lutheran. At times Luther was bat**** crazy.

          • Eric, you’d fit right in!

          • That is why I am a Lutheran! The man was crazy!

        • “Correction: It was the change in ethical understanding that came out of the insights of natural theology that contributed most to the end of the age of chattel slavery, not adherence to the literal meaning of scriptures or the positions of the historic “Traditions.”” [Robert]

          “Could not economic conditions have had a great deal to do with the abolition of chattel slavery as well?” [Mule]

          Yes, and yes.

          There is a huge historiography on this question.

          • The two developments are not mutually exclusive, as you point out, Danielle; in fact, one may have helped the other to come into focus in a way it would not have otherwise.

            But I think it’s cynical for someone to say, as some here have suggested, that a vast moral shift in human behavior was solely due to widespread changes in economic conditions, thereby writing off the earnest moral struggle and insight and suffering borne of generations of men and women.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      I read part of a book ‘What is marriage? Man & Woman a Defence’ and it sparked me to think that part of the problem is that we have a low view of marriage. It has become about sexual fulfilment and not something larger than ourselves.

      I’ve always considered long-term companionship more important than sexual fulfillment.

      Unfortunately, these days it’s all about S*E*X, both inside and outside the Christianese Bubble. Just inside it’s a one-eighty flip from outside.

      It is almost like we feel the need to be accepted by our culture and pronounced okay.

      That also explains walling themselves off in Christianese Bubble Subculture. They create their own ersatz culture with Christianese imitations of the outside, which then accepts and pronounces not only okay but Righteous.

    • “I wonder if it has something to do with marriage being a reflection of Christ and the church.”

      Amen.

  7. Headless Unicorn Guy says:

    CM:
    See you closed down yesterday’s thread.
    How many comments did it rack up before you shut it down?

  8. Jerry Goodman says:

    Very interesting these past few days. I have a privilege of having a few moments with our Pastor weekly usually. What might I think of starting up conversations of what is important to look at to prepare and be ready ahead of time with the framework of our denomination? What helped you?

  9. Perhaps it should be noticed how SOME so called traditionalists, whether Protestant or Catholic/Orthodox, quickly fall to labeling as heterodox and/or heretical, such as calling a position “Nestorian” or “rationalist,” rather than dealing with the substance of an opposing viewpoint.

    • And now, a client of “the Devil’s whore”!!

      Oh, my!!

      • Welcome to the club. I’m a meshumed, an apostate, and a heretic, and probably a few other things as well, depending on who(m) you ask.

      • Ah well, the epitaphs do go a level lower. You’re only the client. :p

        As for the club, refreshments are on me.

        Of course, seeing as how we shady sorts are purportedly all fuzzy and inclusive, I don’t object to everyone else showing up.

    • Asinus Spinas Masticans says:

      Robert –

      I base my argument upon The Abolition of Man, by CS Lewis. Freedom, liberty, is part of the logos of Man. Ergo, the abolition of chattel slavery is what Lewis would call “development within the Tao”. The big question is – and this is a question for the ages – for those who are predisposed to commit them, are homosexual acts liberating or enslaving?

      The Christian tradition, until now, has responded that they are enslaving. Obviously, we need to hear from people with same sex attraction about their experiences with this, but we’ve had, since the invention of contraception, almost fifty years of sexual “liberation” and we find ourselves more enslaved to sex than any time in historical memory.

      There are certain acts my wife and I do not incorporate into our shared intimate life. We have discussed them, and fortunately, we are on the same page. We believe they are intrinsically evil and forbidden both by Orthodoxy and her tradition, Pentecostalism. Of course, we are not in a position to legislate for other couples. I cannot speak for my wife, but if it rested on my shoulders, I would have no problem in forbidding them. Enforcement of the ban would be troublesome, of course, but thus it has always been.

      Sexual congress is not going to part of the world to come. We have our Lord’s explicit word on that. Even heterosexual acts in our tradition are only permitted dia tau porneia, so as to mirror the Paradaisical state. Does a homosexual couple practicing sodomy or a lesbian couple practicing cunnilingus mirror the Paradaisical state? I’m sorry if some people really, really, really, really, REALLY want to do these things. I agree that the Closet is horrible place for any human being.

      I’m not stupid. I understand what Mike said that personal expression of whatever we find squirreled away in our sordid little selves is the highest good our culture currently understands, and that “as long as it doesn’t hurt anybody else” is the only grounds for prohibition. We lost this battle. You guys won. There is no victory for us in this, but as the Patriarch put it – “buen provecho, cabrones

      • Thanks for sharing that

      • “We find ourselves more enslaved to sex than any time in historical memory.”

        As a woman, I am not so sure. I am reasonably certain that I would be more enslaved to sex at almost any other moment in history, unless my theoretical past self had joined a monastery.

        In few other times, would I have been so easily free to marry, or not to marry (I had no economic need of it); to have sex at any given day in marriage, or not, and be listened to; or to have a partner as invested in mutuality, as I have; and to have some control over whether I will become pregnant.

        This has a lot to do with who I married – but it has a lot to do with the milieu in which we live, as well.

        • Klasie Kraalogies says:

          Well said. As a woman, you are more free from being at the mercy of any given man’s whims than at any stage of human history, or even many woman living now in other cultures on this planet. the sexual deviancy of the newest scourge of the Middle East is like nothing we have experienced in a long time here – and that is in an “ultraconservative”, traditionalist culture.

        • Excellent points.

    • Faulty O-Ring says:

      Do they even know what a “Nestorian” is?

      • Robert the Nestorian says:

        Hi, my name is Robert, and I’m a Nestorian…

        • Faulty O-Ring says:

          Hi, Robert! But I thought the Church of the East disliked the term. Is this like gays reclaiming the word “queer”?

          • Robert the Nestorian says:

            The Church of the East is a traitor to Nestorianism! I, otoh, am a real, bona fide, orthodox Nestorian!

    • Actually, we have, and nearly always do, engaged your substance quite thoroughly. The labels are more anecdotal than substitutes for substantive rhetoric. I’ve called you a Nestorian before, and not just as a slur, but took the time to explain in detail how I (and the rest of confessional Lutheran) see your (and the rest of Reformed leaning theology) views on things like the eucharist to be very analogous to Nestorianism.

      It’s not like our detractors have a shortage of less than flattering terms for our views. You really shouldn’t take them personally, you know we all love you as a brother. FWIW, if we were so certain of our own views, why would we bother with sparring in this way? Speaking for myself, I’m really inviting you to prove me wrong. This is how I’ve formed my views, and I appreciate that you always take the time to engage them meaningfully. And, to your credit, you are the most humble and willing to make concessions of anybody here. I may not mention it much, but some of us are learning from that as well.

      BTW, we are all clients of the Devil’s whore. The first step is admitting the problem.

      • “BTW, we are all clients of the Devil’s whore. The first step is admitting the problem.”

        Okay, if you insist: I admit that you’re a client of the Devil’ whore. Look at that, I feel better already (Insert smiley face HERE.) I’ll get around to including myself…..later…

      • +1 i appreciate the both of you

  10. Well, I said I wanted to hear both sides of this argument articulated as only it can be done at Imonk. Thank you Robert F, Tokah, and Danielle for the pro side and thank you Miguel and Mule for the contra. A lot to chew on; talk about chewing briars, sheesh.

    • One of the amazing things about this site is that, in getting the multiple perspectives you mentioned, you have representation from multiple traditions of Christendom. I do believe that, in your own list, you had Lutheran and Orthodox on both sides of the issue, and the Pentecostals, Presbyterians, Pietists, Papists, and Episcopalians are always a part of the of the verbal parley as well.

  11. Hi Monksters! So much to read, if I weren’t moving to Iowa in a month I think I would read every post., but am thinking of a pastor who killed himself shortly before celebrating his 25th anniversary in his Presbyterian church.
    Shocking to all, congregation, family and friends, he was so well loved. I discovered a set of papers he had presented to a national meeting of the presbytery in which he set forth “how the church should approach homosexuality. They were so moving’, “God has created our sexuality.” He conveyed the pain of how homosexuals might feel in our world of condemnation.

    • Hanni said:”“God has created our sexuality.” He conveyed the pain of how homosexuals might feel in our world of condemnation.”

      Personally…..I’m no longer one of those who thinks that God specified every single facet of our nature, our bodies, our identity. I believe that the Quantum variables come into play throughout our existence, and God can and does ‘intervene’ whenever He chooses.

      Otherwise, we’ll have the pedophiles claiming the very same thing…that God MADE them that way, and we should all accept it. What about those who engage in even more egregious sexual practices….sex with animals, for instance? Necrophilia?

      IF we’re so quick to credit ‘God’ with having ‘predetermined’ every aspect of our being, per se…..then what gives us the right to limit it to only OUR version of ‘sexuality’? What about the genetic predisposition that some scientists have found in our dna that tends to predict antisocial, violent, criminal behaviour? Perhaps we shouldn’t put THEM in prison for merely acting out on the facets of their personalities that ‘God made that way’?
      I think it’s much more complicated than some make it to be….hence we no longer just have ‘straight versus gays’…..we have lesbian, we have bisexual, we have transgendered….and we have those who merely cross-dress, and who knows what other peccadilloes future generations might come up with in terms of their ‘licence’ to act on every urge or ‘feeling’….or self-claimed ‘identity’?

      On the other hand, having had to rebuff numerous sexual ‘advances’ throughout my youth and early adulthood….I’ve had a long road to travel to develop compassion for those torn by urges I not only don’t share, but thus cannot truly understand.

      I can remember well the day I went to work, and wound up engaging a transexual inmate in conversation. I hadn’t been issued a ‘duty belt’, so wore my own, with a large brass buckly with the ‘fish’ symbol and greek lettering on it instead. He/she exclaimed…”Are you a Christian?” And when I answered in the affirmative, he cried out, ‘Praise the Lord, so am I”
      I nearly fell over. (You have to understand I was just past 30 or so yrs old….only a few years past my pinnacle (27 yrs) when I knew EVERYTHING…so I still ‘knew’ ALMOST everything…and this simply did NOT fit my paradigm. I observed this individual over the next few months…and sometimes he displayed an amazing intuition and spirituality…..and other times, a disgusting carnally debased attitude. I came to feel that he was tortured in ways I couldn’t understand….driven first one way, yet being drawn the other way. It was, for me, the beginning of the development of compassion for the subgroup of society I had only hated up to that point, due to my experiences with it.
      Blessings,

  12. Robert the Nestorian says:

    Miguel, what I’m about to say I mean as a compliment: You are a Lutheran pit bull! When I’m listing to my conservative/traditionalist theological side (as I’m not today), you nearly compel and convict me. Keep up the good work, I’m weak, and one day I may crack! Then again, maybe I never will….I’m quite resilient, despite being a bit of a soft about the middle.

  13. I can understand the position of the writer here having had friends in school who were gay. Though I don’t believe this is a lifestyle in which is glorifying to God. But, it is so much more than proclaiming homosexuality as a sin “because the Bible tells me so.” I believe the church has not fully grasped the mystery that is marriage. Paul touches upon in in Ephesians 5. However, it is beyond our current comprehension. This is why I believe this issue is so difficult. I believe marriage has been designed specifically for one man and one woman. It is written in our psyche, our history, our laws for thousands of year, our holy texts…ect. Is it any wonder there is opposition to homosexual marriage? It is not simply hate. The author said, “…I felt that statements of faith are intended to convey what we believe about God and the Church: Definitions of valid marriage seemed to be in a whole different category.” But the mystery of marriage is that it is a symbol of Christ and the church! I believe incorporating the mystery of marriage into our faith statements is a good step forward in spurring more study into this mystery.

    • It is not simply hate.

      Apparently so: It is bigoted and racist as well. If you oppose gay marriage, you probably have relatives in the Klan, and your ilk will doubtless perish from the earth as our modern notion of tolerance edges you out of society.

      • I feel so tolerated and accepted here. You’ve made known your belief in the superiority of your opinions and included insults towards my family and plan to rejoice in our demise. Your notion of tolerance obviously has limits and is not as inclusive as one would believe a tolerant person would be. Perhaps too, you need to look up the definition of “bigot” for you hold all the signs of one. How racism fits here I am clueless. It is only thrown in as a further insult meant only to silence one’s opinion when you do not have an valid argument of your own. Since you only provided insults I would assume you have nothing to say towards my views other than scream “bigot” and “racists”. These are strong accusations that would take more than just one paragraph from someone to determine if indeed they are bigoted and racists. Especially when nothing in my words were bigoted or racists. I am seeing I came to the wrong place for conversations that are charitable and thought provoking.

        • Andrew,

          Miguel has given us a wonderful example of why sarcasm does not work well on the written page. I think you will find that he shares your viewpoint, and was expressing what others who have had a contrary viewpoint have at times noted.

        • My sincerest apologies, Andrew. Mike is right, I meant that as extreme sarcasm, but posted in a rush without taking time to consider if it might come across otherwise, which apparently it did. Believe me, I am with your first comment 100%, and if my comment had been from somebody who sincerely meant it, then I would agree with your reply 100% as well.

          Even in it’s caricature, my sarcasm isn’t completely fair to the left fringe either, but I have had that kind of rhetoric given at me before, so I can understand why it bothered you so much. The intolerance of the tolerance crowd is indeed unsettling, to say the least. I’ll be careful to be more clear, promise!

          • Thank you Miguel for clarifying your comment. Maybe I am being too sensitive. I’ve been blasted like that before. It is the same rhetoric meant to disqualify you without actually engaging the conversation. Without knowing you I assumed you meant what you had said. Thank you for your apology. Please accept mine in assuming the worst in you.