Some Things to Consider When Discussing the So-Called Sin of Homosexuality

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The other day, my friend and colleague Keith Giles engaged in a lively debate with the folks from G220 Radio on the topic of homosexuality and the Bible. The three hosts took the stance that the Bible condemns all non-heterosexual romantic relationships, while Giles argued for full affirmation of the LGBTQ+ community. After listening to the show in its entirety, I wanted to offer some initial thoughts on the topic by providing 10 things for us to remember when confronting the issue of homosexuality and the Bible.

  1. The Bible is Not Simply a Set of Dos and Don’ts

Many folks approach the Bible as if it is univocal, written by a guy named “God,” and meant to be used as a rule book for life. This is not a good idea. In fact, it’s rather immature. But more than that, it is a dangerous notion. Why? Because the Bible, in all its ambiguity and obscurity, can pretty much be used to say whatever one wants it to say. For instance, if one wants to justify racism and slavery, I’m sure the Bible can be used in their favor (see Exodus 21:2–6; Leviticus 25:44–46). If one wants to justify patriarchy, again, it can, and has been, used for that. The same thing goes for justifying the ostracization and demonization of the LGBTQ+ community. The Bible has been wielded like a two-edged sword to do all these things, especially by those who use it as God’s rule book for life.

  1. The Bible Doesn’t ‘Clearly Say…’

The Bible is clear about some things. I’ll concede that. For the most part, however, it is not. How could it be? There are an unknown number of writers, editors, and redactors, and they are all spread out over a span of multiple centuries, millennia even. They have dissimilar cultural contexts and rarely share the same theologies. Hence, even if one writer makes something clear, another may just come along and muddy up the waters for us. Case in point, take a look at how two prophets, Elijah and Hosea, view Jehu’s slaughtering of the entire house of Ahab:

  • 2 Kings 9: The wicked house of Ahab, who was a member of the northern kingdom of Israel, is slaughtered by Jehu after Elijah anoints him for such a task.
  • Hosea 1: A handful of generations later, Hosea says that the house of Jehu will be punished for what they did to the house of Ahab.

To that end, the only thing that is clear about large portions of the Bible is that things aren’t so clear. We must remember that.

  1. Context, Context, Context

With everything, context is crucial. If we fail to acknowledge the cultural, political, and theological context with which the many writers of the Bible are speaking from, then we’ll always miss the point. Well, maybe not always: a broken clock is right twice a day, after all. But, you get the point: we simply should not be using our English Bibles to prooftext our way through an argument or debate without first addressing what is going on behind the scenes. This will be important come points 5 through 9.

  1. Everyone Cherry-Picks

A common charge against those who affirm the LGBTQ+ community is that we cherry-pick the Scriptures. But guess what? Everyone I’ve ever met cherry-picks the Bible. Even Conservatives. That’s okay, though, because even Jesus and Paul did it. The question, then, is how are we going to cherry-pick the Bible? Are we going to pick the cherries that command us to take up arms against our enemies or the ones that tell us how we should love and bless them? Are we going to pick the cherries that excludes others or includes them? The ones that drive a stake between people or the ones that bring unification and reconciliation?

My point, then, is simply that we need to admit this prior to having discussions on such important matters.

  1. Genesis 19? Let’s Not Even Go There

Now we are getting into the heart of the matter. The story of Sodom and Gomorrah, found in Genesis 19, is a favorite cherry some folks go to condemn homosexuality. It’s bizarre, but true. Why is it bizarre? Because it has nothing to do with homosexuality. Not only does the prophet Ezekiel not mention homosexuality in his list of the “sins of Sodom,” but if you actually read the story, you’ll notice the context has nothing to do with what we would call “homosexuality.” Plain and simple, what is going on here is an attempted gang rape by all the people of Sodom, down to the last man. And sure, that’s a no-no. But, again, it has nothing to do with homosexuality.

  1. Levitical Law and Its Application

Another favorite cherry some folks pick in order to condemn homosexuality is Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13. Respectively, they read:

  • Lev 18:22: You shall not lie with a male as with a woman; it is an abomination
  • Lev 20:13: If a man lies with a male as with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination; they shall be put to death; their blood is upon them.

Simple, right? It can’t get much clearer than that. Well, hold on now. In order to address this, I’ll quote something my good friend and Hebrew scholar, Mark Stone, wrote on my Facebook wall a while back:

“Even if one were to grant that Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13 were referencing ‘homosexuality’ in a sense comparable to our modern understanding (and that is a big ‘if’), the book’s own self-reported scope mitigates universal application. These purity laws only apply to nations inhabiting the ‘holy land,’ and are only applicable if you are physically present in the land. Otherwise they are not applicable.”

He continues:

“In both 18:22 and 20:13, the Hebrew idiom mishkeve ‘isha (‘lie with a woman’) is possibly a technical phrase used only for illicit heterosexual relations, not regular, healthy, non-incestuous and non-adulterous sex. Scholars have also argued that the strange Hebrew phrasing likely refers specifically to male-male anal intercourse, not any other male-male sexual contact. The concern would have been the mixing of two ‘unclean’ substances—viz., semen and excrement—and therefore represented more a ‘cleanliness’ taboo than a moral judgment. This is not unlike other cleanliness taboos, like mixing semen and menstrual blood. All that to say, the Hebrew syntax and vocabulary is bizarre and complicated and most clearly refers to something much more specific than generic, male-male sexual intimacy.”

And finally, regarding the specific sort of relationships actually being prohibited in Leviticus, Stone concludes:

“Leviticus 20:13 specifically forbids that a ‘male’ (‘ish) have sex with a ‘male’ (zachar). This is curious, as the two words both mean a generic male. Why use the different vocabulary? The best way to understand the curious shift in vocabulary is to read it in the broader context (this also applies to 18:22). Essentially, the use of zachar is to clarify that all the ‘male versions’ of sexual abominations enumerated in the previous (and likely forthcoming) verses are also proscribed. Ergo, the homosexual prohibition applies to sex with father, son, and brother and to grandfather-grandson, uncle-nephew, and stepfather-stepson, but—and this is the crucial bit—not to male-male sexual intercourse in general. To make such a claim is blatant eisegesis, not to mention grossly anachronistic. This applies mutatis mutandis to female-female as well.”

See what I mean? As I said, we need to always dig deeper into the broader context of what was going on at the time of these writings.

  1. WWJD

What would Jesus do? Well, I’m not 100% sure, but I do know he never talked about homosexuality. That said, he did talk about marriage, namely in Matthew 19. And the type of marriage he talked about was between a “male and female.” Guess what, though? There is a context. And that context is divorce, not a grand expose on proper sexual orientation.

What’s going on is that the Pharisees, like they were wont to do, are trying to trap Jesus by using their Scriptures against him. So, what does he do? He uses the Scriptures back against the Pharisees. Typical Jesus, am I right? However, to take Jesus’ response and then apply it to our post-Enlightenment understanding of “homosexuality” would be completely out of context, not to mention grossly anachronistic.

‘Nuff said.

  1. Maybe Romans Doesn’t Say What You Think It Says

Here’s where anti-LGBTQ+ folks think they’ve won the argument—with Romans. The passage du jour, of course, comes from 1:26–27, and reads:

“For this reason God gave them up to degrading passions. Their women exchanged natural intercourse with unnatural, and in the same way also the men, giving up natural intercourse with women, were consumed with passion for one another. Men committed shameless acts with men and received in their own persons the due penalty for their error.”

Uh oh! It’s clear, Paul is not down with homosexuality. The wrath of God is coming down against the gays.

Well, again, not so fast.

First off, if Pauline scholar Douglas Campbell is correct, then the passage that runs from Romans 1:18–32 is not even Paul; rather, it is Paul writing as the false teacher he is rebuking. In other words, Paul is being rhetorical. If that is the case, then, we can’t even use the list of vices mentioned in the text as proof for any sort of moral or immoral behavior.

However, even if we don’t go so far as Campbell does (I do, though), then what we must realize is that Paul isn’t even talking about what we would call “homosexuality.” Again, context. What’s really going on here has nothing to do with gay men or women joining together in a loving, non-coercive union. Instead, the context, as Steve Chalke points out, is “idolatry, promiscuity and shrine prostitution.”

  1. Corinthians Is More Complex Than You May Think

Now we get to what is probably the most difficult passage in all the New Testament—1 Corinthians 6:9–11. The NIV translation reads:

“Or do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor men who have sex with men nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And that is what some of you were.”

The problem with this translation is this: “men who have sex with men” is a poor and incomplete understanding of the Greek terms malakoi and arsenokoitai.

Malakos, on the one hand, can be translated as “soft” or “effeminate.” As New Testament scholar David Bentley-Hart points out in his recent New Testament translation:

“A man who is malakos is either ‘soft’—in any number of senses: self-indulgent, dainty, cowardly . . . physically weak—or ‘gentle’—in various largely benign senses: delicate, mild, etc. Some translators of the New Testament take it here to mean the passive partner in male homoerotic acts, but that is an unwarranted supposition.”

Arsenokoitai, on the other hand, is a bit more difficult to translate, given that Paul sort-of made up the word. Again, here’s Bentley-Hart on what the word may possibly mean:

“Precisely what an arsenokoites is has long been a matter of speculation and argument. Literally, it means a man who ‘beds’—that is, ‘couples with’—‘males.’ But, there is no evidence of its use before Paul’s text . . . It would not mean ‘homosexual’ in the modern sense of a person of a specific erotic disposition, for the simple reason that the ancient world possessed no comparable concept of a specifically homoerotic sexual identity; it would refer to a particular sexual behavior, but we cannot say exactly which one.

My guess at the proper connotation of the word is based simply upon the reality that in the first century the most common and readily available form of male homoerotic sexual activity was a master’s or patrons’ exploitation of young male slaves.”

Again, with that context in mind, it’s no wonder Paul denounced such coercive acts. But that’s just it; this is about coercion, not necessarily what we would today call “homosexual.”

  1. Without Love, We Are A Clanging Gong

All of this brings me to my last point. We as Christians should, above all else, love others. I know many will claim that denouncing homosexuality is the loving thing to do, but it isn’t. End. Of. Story. How can I so boldly say this? Well, simple: I know and love tons of LGBTQ+ folks who can pass the 1 Corinthians 13 love test:

They are patient, they are kind. They aren’t envious, they do not boast, and are not proud. They don’t dishonor others, are not self-seeking, are not easily angered, and keep no records of wrong. They do not delight in evil but rejoice with the truth. They always protect, always trust, always hope, and always persevere.

That’s how I see it, anyway. Perhaps you disagree. My former self would disagree with the current me, so I understand that it’s all a process.

Peace, and may we better learn how to love others as we want others to love us.

*To reach me, you can find me on Facebook. If you are digging what you are reading, please support me on Patreon so I can continue the work I’ve been called to do. Thanks!

About
Matthew J. Distefano is the author of 4 books and co-hosts the Heretic Happy Hour podcast. You can read more about the author here.
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  • A J MacDonald Jr

    The standard reference work, which I have on my bookshelf, is: A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament, Second Edition (Univ. of Chicago Press); also known as the Bauer, Arndt, Gingrich (or BAGD).

    According to the BAGD, the word ἀρσενοκοῖται (arsenokoitai) means: “a male who practices homosexuality, pederast, sodomite.” (p. 109)

    According to the BAGD, the word μαλακοὶ (malakoi) means: “men and boys who allow themselves to be misused homosexually.” (p. 488)

    Worth watching: My Train Wreck Conversion https://youtu.be/jVTTsD9o1IM

  • I’m going with Bentley Hart, thanks.

  • The problem with calling arsenokoitai “homosexual/pederasty” is that those 2 terms are vastly dissimilar.

  • The Mouse Avenger

    Thank you so much for explaining all these things! ^_^ May everyone learn from them, & take their lessons to heart, if they haven’t done so already!

  • Those who have ears…

  • Etranger

    Excellent article. It baffles me that anyone would continue, in this day and age, and with a modicum of reasonable, independent thinking, to rely on the Bible for any sort of meaningful guidance. At the end of the day, public discussions should not include any reference to or reliance on the Bible. The moment it is mentioned in public debate, the interlocutor should be ignore.d

  • ashpenaz

    What I like about Catholic moral theology is that something can be a sin, but the person might not be culpable. For instance, stealing is a sin, but if you’re stealing bread for your starving child, you are likely not culpable of a sin–there are mitigating factors. So, the Catholic Church can teach that homosexual acts are sinful, but that a person with an unchosen homosexual orientation might not be culpable of a sin. This is what Pope Francis meant when he said, “Who am I to judge?” He meant that although people were committing acts which were technically sinful, he was not able to judge the whole situation or what God was telling them through their conscience. I tend to think that God did not create homosexuality. I also think, along with progressive Catholic theologians, that gay people have to sort out the best possible choice they can make given their circumstances. Sometimes, as the German bishops argue, this can be a same-sex marriage which includes sexual acts. Not all Catholics would make this argument. However, I think the process that Catholic moral theology uses–determining culpability, listening to one’s conscience, etc.–makes more sense than simply trying to find the right verse in the Bible.

    A Protestant would say, “You went against Romans!” A Catholic would say, “I know that you are doing what the Church teaches is sinful, but why are you doing it? Are there mitigating factors which make that your best choice? In that case, I support you.”

  • Ron McPherson

    Terrific article!

  • Rudy Schellekens

    The above article is a fine example of cherry picking, but I will stick to the weakest of all: “Jesus never said anything about homosexuality…”
    How many more topics do you want to list Jesus never said anything about?
    Within the context of marriage…
    He never said anything about not beating your spouse…
    He never said anything about withholding sexual contact from your spouse
    He never said anything about providing for your spouse

    He DID say, however, about marriage – between one woman and one man (They shall become one flesh…)

    Within the context of parenting
    Within the context of treating your employees
    Within the context of drug/alcohol abuse
    Within the context of safe driving
    Within the context of the church
    Within the context of modern gadgets
    Within the context of pornography
    Within the context of pedophila
    Within the context of necrophilia
    Within the context of cannibalism
    Within the context of… And I can keep on going for a while

    And I am sure there are those who look at this, and will think I am crazy. That might be, but that does not solve the problem of the FACT that Jesus never spoke about any of these subjects.

    I would not know of my wife’s entitlement to her “due benevolence if it was not for Paul
    I would not of treating my children right if it was not for Paul
    I would not know to treat my employees right if it was not for Paul
    I would not know to provide for my spouse/children if it was not for Paul
    I would not know about the sin of homosexual behavior if it was not for Paul

    In short, just because Jesus did not say anything about a topic, is not an argument that carries a lot of weight.

    Now, we can infer a lot of the above from what jesus HAS said. And the idea that marriage, for example, is between a man and a woman is something Jesus clearly stated. He never said , “Someone will leave their parents’ house, and join with someone else, and they shall be one flesh…” It was not a generic statement. That either has value, or it does not.

    The second problem with the arguments in the article, is the minority point of view – and that sufficiently covered with terms like, “it might be…” could be… if…” etc. I am no Greek scholar, I will immediately grant that. But I have learned 4 languages, have done my fair bit of translating through the years – and realize that yes, SOMETIMES there may be a problematic meaning with a specific word. A choice has to be made which might seem subjective by others. I have to be able to defend my specific choice of translation. But that is minimal.

    And in the above article we see way too many “translation” problems. Too many suppositions about circumstances and background – such as, “However, even if we don’t go so far as Campbell does (I do, though), then what we must realize is that Paul isn’t even talking about what we would call “homosexuality.” Again, context. What’s really going on here has nothing to do with gay men or women joining together in a loving, non-coercive union. Instead, the context, as Steve Chalke points out, is “idolatry, promiscuity and shrine prostitution.”

    And, “My guess at the proper connotation of the word is based simply upon the reality that in the first century the most common and readily available form of male homoerotic sexual activity was a master’s or patrons’ exploitation of young male slaves.”

    So, I will tell you my guess: The text means exactly what Paul stated – same gender sexual relations (whatever the basis, be it abuse or consensual) are not part of Christian lifestyle.

    We now have two guesses. Of course, mine does not have to be supported by a number of “ifs” so I guess that my guess is more solid than the other guess.

    Unlike others who participate in discussions on such topics as this, I do not single out homosexual behavior as “THE” sin of sins. Sin is, well, sin. Big or little is a human approach. Such as, “Stealing is bad, unless you have no other way to feed your children…” I understand the sentiment behind that thought.. But it is not for me to say that such circumstances make it acceptable to steal. I do believe in a merciful God. And should HE decide that it was okay, I’m not about to argue with Him. What it tells me, is that I should be concerned about those who are hungry – because I know for a fact that I will be held accountable for NOT doing THAT.

    In my immediate surrounding are two sisters who have a same sex relationship. I love them, they love me. We differ strongly, but they recognize, as I do, that since they do not claim to be Christians, we live under different “rules.” And yes, folks, the Bible HAS a lot of rules, both in old and new testament. Remember Jesus? This is how people know you love me, by keeping my commandments???

  • Ellen Hammond

    Well said! For decades, I have believed that those who judge others, for their orientation, should close their mouths and open their eyes, hearts, and minds. I say this, because many of the LGBTQ+ folks, that I have been blessed to know, display the values found in 1 Corinthians 13 far more than many who are judging them. And in so doing, they reflect the Christ, in ways many judgmental ‘Christians’ only wish they could.

  • otrotierra

    Ron,
    Off topic, but FYI: a fraudulent Disqus account has again been created to impersonate and harass me across multiple comment sections beginning with Sojourners. This is the fifth fraudulent account to impersonate me.

    My own Disqus account, opened in 2011, has 4,618 comments with 13,627 upvotes. The fraud’s account, opened yesterday, June 7, 2018, is set to private and has 20 comments. While Disqus allows him to steal my name and avatar, he doesn’t have the technology to lift my comment history or upvote count. I mention this because the abuser is targeting users I interact with. Just wanted to give you a heads up in case you are targeted.

  • And what were his commandments? Love God and your neighbor as yourself. This includes your gay neighbor.

  • Exactly!

  • Denis Tate

    Me too, Matthew . I loved your article but listened to/ watched the train wreck testimony of Dr Rosario that AJ Mac Donald Jr recommended . I listened to “every jot and tittle” to quote the “ex lesbian”. Dr Rosario who virtually claimed her PhD gained while she “was a lesbian” wasn’t worth the paper it was written on has done things the other way around , compared to my own experience. She was exposed to four years of “Christian indoctrination “ (quotes mine) coming from a biblically illiterate Catholic background. I came out as gay and turned into a progressive liberal Christian and ex missionary from a background of 60 years of evangelical right wing Christianity! I believe Dr Rosario’s testimony is no more authentic or laudable than mine. I now believe we are a colourful kaleidoscope of sexual beings on a scale of 1-10 (Hetero- Homosexual) with a vast range of orientations or sexual expressions in between. I don’t believe one expression is more sinful or righteous than another. It is disappointing that Dr Rosario and AJ believe that any gay expression is sinful and requires repentance. She is entitled to her own opinion but I believe she has succumbed to 4 years of gentle, sweet and loving manipulation to come to her present beliefs from a biblically illiterate background.( I had exactly the same thing when I was younger but it never took away my gayness) You can find vast numbers of a variety of testimonies on line to support your own case. And so the “cherry picking” continues. As for me and my house we are happy to be progressive and to support LGBTQ with all the love we can muster and are happy to put Satan, eternal damnation and hell very much in the past tense as far as our beliefs are concerned.

  • Amen to that

  • Etranger

    It is interesting that progressive Christians condemn fundamentalists who harp of homosexuality but then they themselves follow a sexual morality of sorts that is also based on Biblical “instructions”. Most progressive christian blogs, and even the gay christian network – which is comprised of gay christians! – can’t talk about sex without referring to it in the context of a “committed, monogamous, christ-centered relationship”. Even progressive christians condemn much of sexual behaviors. I bet most would not think my week of sexual fun in gay bar back rooms with my partner is acceptable.

  • The Bible says, “Man looks on the outward appearance but God looks at the heart.” My grandson died after drinking too much at a party. He also used drugs. Some Christians would say he won’t be saved. That is by the letter of the law. But he believed in God. He wanted to be a better person. He was praying to God.

    We are not saved by being good and we are not lost by doing bad. We are saved by the death of Jesus and the grace of God. If our hearts are turned towards God, seeking to know and love him, it is enough.

    Many times God overlooks sins. He told men to have one wife. In ancient times, Godly men disobeyed this command. David had many wives, but when he committed adultery, he was punished.

    I have a sister who is a lesbian. She does not think it is a sin to get married and be faithful to her partner. Many people think this is not sin. I don’t think it is either. It may have been many years ago, but the homosexual community has become large and accepted. We know it is genetic to be attracted to the same sex. They hurt no one by living together or getting married. We should just love everyone, mind our own business and leave judgement to Go.

  • The reason for this is that people can be hurt through promiscuity. I’ve had family members who have had “oprn” marriages and wet to swinger parties. They told me no one gets hurt. But it turned out people did get hurt. They fell in love with people who were married. There was anger, jealousy and even physical harm done.
    In the Bible, when men had multiple wives, it caused a lot of heartache.

  • Etranger

    Sounds like some weak people you know! No reason to turn to the Bible for sexual moral guidance just because one cannot be a reasonable adult.

  • Nice! I had a couple of thoughts.

    The Bible is clear about some things. I’ll concede that. For the most part, however, it is not. How could it be?

    Uh, because it was inspired by God?

    I agree with you that the Bible is contradictory, and we can explain that by seeing the Bible as yet another book of mythology and legend written by ordinary people. No god necessary.

    A common charge against those who affirm the LGBTQ+ community is that we cherry-pick the Scriptures.

    A supporter of the Bible must show that the Bible’s message is consistent. Sure, you can find a Bible quote to support just about anything, but that (as you seem to be saying) isn’t good enough. Is the Bible consistent? And if it’s not, what does that say about its reliability?

    An outsider can point to a single verse (in context, of course). You can point out another verse that contradicts it, but then you’re arguing that the Bible is contradictory.

    Plain and simple, what is going on here is an attempted gang rape by all the people of Sodom, down to the last man. And sure, that’s a no-no. But, again, it has nothing to do with homosexuality.

    Nicely stated! Thank you.

    Lev. 18 and 20 give purity laws. Homosexuality is an abomination, but then eating shrimp is an abomination. Christians can’t dismiss kosher laws because Christianity has moved on without dismissing anything the OT says about homosexuality as an abomination.

    In addition, the larger context is that other tribes used male prostitutes for fertility rites (the male priest was a stand-in for a god, and the farmer plants his seed). The cult of Yahweh (for lack of a better word) wanted to differentiate its people—circumcision, no pork, don’t eat a goat cooked in milk (commandment #10), and so on. This fertility rite was another way of differentiating.

  • Inspired by God does not mean “clear.” Isn’t humanity “inspired by God?” And we are far from clear. 😉

  • Ron McPherson

    Thanks so much for the heads up. Very sorry that happened

  • I’m having a hard time imagining how God would tolerate his message being unclear.

  • Sandra Urgo

    The author is certainly creatively dissecting these verses, but in my opinion the verses are very clear about homosexuality being unclean, along with eating certain foods, or mixing meat and dairy, even speaking with a menstruating woman! So yes, I can imagine how shocking homosexual behavior was to people who were heterosexual. Of course they had to denounce it! And they forbade all kinds of things, because they were primitive and unschooled. Nowadays we understand human behavior and sexuality, and most of us have evolved to be more accepting of it. Jesus didnt mention it but I have a feeling he would care for the person as he cared for all people, especially those not included in his society (as I’m sure gay people were stigmatized). So I look at the verses as part of the culture and not something God would have commanded. Of course, Im not a bible literalist, how could one be in these times?

  • I’m pretty sure you won’t agree, but I think all humans are unreasonable. I don’t go to the Bible for moral guidence. I read it to know God. I want to really know who I am worshipping.

  • Peter said Paul’s writings are hard to understand. Soooo….

  • thx for letting us know, otrotierra! You are one of my favorite folks on Disqus. If you are being harassed to such an extent, congratulations, you must be doing something right. 🙂 Keep up the good work.

  • Etranger

    I get what you are saying. What I meant was that there is nothing inherently morally wrong with open relationships. Some folks can’t make them work because they don’t communicate. There is not moral reason to condemn them (unless on believes there is a God who cares about how adults have sex).

  • otrotierra

    Thank you for your kind words. The abusive troll now claims he is not an evangelical, yet his primary targets all just happen to be users who frequent Patheos Progressive Christian blogs. No coincidence.

    Anyway, I’m asking everyone: before responding to any posts with my name and avatar, please first click on my profile to confirm my public Disqus account, opened in 2011, which currently has 4,623 comments with 13,652 upvotes. The abuser’s account is set to private with a join date of June 2018.

  • Sorry, but “Peter said it” doesn’t really clear up the matter.

  • My thought exactly.

  • There is one snippet of wisdom in the bible that could be helpful to the question, and that is the golden rule: do unto others as you would have them do unto you. This is a useful ethic that can universally be found in numerous religious and philosophical traditions.

    Outside of that principle, I think humanity has improved morally the more we have moved away from cowtowing to biblically supported constructs such as slavery, sexual taboos, and patriarchal attitudes towards women.

  • What Peter said is in the Bible, hence what the Bible says is that it’s not always clear. That’s my point.

  • I don’t condemn people for their consensual sexual actions at all. When a person gives their life to God, he convicts their hearts on what is right or wrong for them. This is a life-long journey and what I think I have learned from God may be different than another person. This is why Christians disagree on many things.

    Example: I had a friend who sued the company he worked for. I thought at the time that suing people was wrong. I always asked myself if Jesus would do something, and decided he wouldn’t sue people. But it isn’t my business if someone does it.

    My daughters and granddaughters don’t think they need to get officially married. They all believe in God now and they don’t think he cares either. I pretty well agree, but even if I didn’t, I wouldn’t say anything. However, when my daughters were younger, I thought they should get married to the guy they were sleeping with. It took me awhile to learn to let go and quit trying to make them do what I thought was right.

  • Hmmm, that’s still not an answer to Bob’s observation. The Bible stating that it is unclear is no explanation for why it should be unclear.

  • I guess simply because humans wrote it.

  • Humans are capable of clarity, though they don’t always make the effort, and sometimes hide behind obfuscation.

  • JR

    Paul also identifies “thieves, the greedy, …drunkards…and some of you are”. We don’t hear too much about that. Our society seems to venerate thieves and the greedy currently, especially in the corporate and political world. Interesting how people cherry-pick which sins are the worst, overlooking the ones that are the most harmful to our society.

  • jekylldoc

    Well, your pointing out of things the Bible does not give instructions about is a good example of why we should not treat the Bible as an instruction book. If you didn’t know to provide for your family and be just with your employees without Paul, you have a bigger problem than the interpretation of scripture. If it was meant as an instruction book, it is sorely lacking and to assert such is to insult God.

    I think it is a good idea to be humble before the views of the apostles and gospel writers. On the other hand, we also need to understand the context to do that right. Some people regard updating views of sexuality as a weaselly attempt to get away with something. As if all God cared about was that we follow a set of rules (and if you think that, then check out the ones we are told matter: did we feed the hungry, clothe the one in rags, and visit the sick and imprisoned?) Updating views of sexuality is really an effort to be as caring as possible – to help people better connect to doing the will of God, which is that we pour our lives out for others.

  • Nica

    Yes, it’s a laundry-list of wrongdoings, in which sexual behavior is on a par with gossip or other social sins.

  • Rudy Schellekens

    My pointing out the fact that there are things JESUS does not speak about deals with the false argument: Jesus does not speak for/against, so it’s okay… Jesus’ words are not the only words with authority. Paul speaks about homosexual behavior – but that does not negate the value and impact of what he has to say! You can argue about the meaning of the words he uses, but that is secondary in this context.
    “Anyone who loves me, will obey my teaching…” There is a lot more to the teaching of Jesus than the two commands…

  • jekylldoc

    Oh, don’t worry, your point got made. But do you really think the Bible should be regarded as a book of rules? And is there a big problem with being as caring as possible?

  • Rudy Schellekens

    The Bible is the story of God and His creation. And yes, it INCLUDES rules. It starts (Don’t eat from this tree) and ends (don’t add to this book) with one.
    Of course there is no problem with being as caring as possible. But being as caring as possible does not mean that all behavior is to be accepted – which is obvious from the beginning: all this is for you. Just don’t eat from THAT tree.

  • d_hochberg

    Loving someone does not mean pretending their sins are not sins.

  • d_hochberg

    Any demographic group has good people and bad people; comparing the good people in one group against the bad ones in another is not valid.

  • Rudy Schellekens

    I believe that is part of the “Have your cake and eat it Theology”

  • d_hochberg

    The fact that Jesus did not say anything about homosexuality is not evidence that He supported it. It was assumed to be sin-if Jesus thought differently, you would think He would have said as much.

  • Of course it’s valid, it’s Ellen’s experience.

  • I don’t believe being gay is any more a sin than being straight. Nor do I believe that those who are romantically involved with others of the same gender are sinning. If you do, then that is your prerogative.

  • Yes, humans are capable of clarity. But getting hundreds, perhaps thousands, of humans together to write a book? We can’t expect clarity at that point. Hell, we can’t even agree on what books are supposed to be in that book. What makes us think the book (which we can’t all agree on) is then going to be clear?

  • Clarity from hundreds of writers over centuries? Why that would require, oh, I don’t know, some omnipotent deity inspiring the work.

  • ashpenaz

    Rather than a drive-by snarky comment, what’s your moral theology?

  • Inspiring writers to justify genocide, but then also inspiring them to “love their enemies.” Inspiring writers to justify slavery, but then also inspiring them out of slavery. Yeah, crystal clear. Oh, and God is a deity?

  • Rudy Schellekens

    “I killed my dad. Why? Do you have a good reason? Well, he did not want to let me use his car. And I had a hot date.”

    Who decides what the mitigating circumstance is? That is about as subjective a concept as you can get!

    Moral theology? Where there is sin, there is forgiveness based on a sincere repentance. God does not ask for mitigating circumstances… He forgives based on my heart. I do not have to argue my case before Him. It’s either sin or it is not. And sin results in either forgiveness or punishment.

    The difference between Catholic theology and Biblical theology? GOD knows my heart. The priest does not. GOD has the power to forgive my sin. The priest does not (unless my action was directed at the priest). But then, still, GOD is the more aggrieved party…

  • jekylldoc

    Well, the Bible is part of the story of God and God’s creation. And it includes lots of rules, including some that Jesus said should sometimes be broken. The Sabbath is made for Man, not Man for the Sabbath. Paul pretty much threw out the rule book of the time, at least for Gentiles. We have to humbly listen to the Holy Spirit, whose fruit is love, joy, peace, kindness and self-control. We have to look out for the beam in our own eye before we try to help our neighbor with that splinter.

  • jekylldoc

    So it leaves me baffled that some people want to pretend they know the hearts of others, as if they are God.

  • Rudy Schellekens

    The Old Law was tossed out for both Gentiles AND Jews. And yes, the fruit of the Spirit is all those things – and then some. And yes, we have to make sure we do not ignore the sin in our own life. But that does not negate the fact that we are called to “restore those who have sinned…” and that means recognizing sin for what it is.

    As far as humbly listening to the Spirit – you realize that what you are saying is that for centuries people have been ignoring the Spirit when they have condemned homosexual behavior, right? Or has the message of the Spirit changed???

  • jekylldoc

    I don’t think we are in any position to take the Bible as a single message from God. That view grew up around the Protestant pushback against church authority. They wanted a source of authority that individuals could turn to directly (thus translating the Bible into the vernacular) and a source of authority that had not suffered the corruption of worldly power. Scripture does pretty well on both counts. The problem is when we then turned it into some kind of absolute and obvious definition of spiritual truth. Sorry, but it just doesn’t work.

  • Rudy Schellekens

    “For my part, even though I am not physically present, I am with you in spirit. As one who is present with you in this way, I have already passed judgment in the name of our Lord Jesus on the one who has been doing this. 4 So when you are assembled and I am with you in spirit, and the power of our Lord Jesus is present, 5 hand this man over to Satan for the destruction of the flesh,[a][b] so that his spirit may be saved on the day of the Lord.”

    Was Paul wrong?

  • ashpenaz

    What is a sin? Was it a sin for Jesus to heal on the Sabbath–or were there mitigating circumstances? Was it a sin for Jesus to allow His feet to be washed by a prostitute–or were there mitigating circumstances? If I steal bread to feed my starving child, have I broken one of the Commandments? When Jesus steals someone’s pigs in order to get rid of demons, has He broken one of the Commandments? When Rahab lied, did she break a commandment? When Hosea married and adultress, did he commit a sin? When God asks us to beat the heads of babies against rocks, is He asking us to murder? Do you have any divorced friends? Have they broken Jesus’ command? Do you eat lobster?

  • Rudy Schellekens

    The Pharisaic explanation of the Sabbath was the problem, not the healing. As Jesus refers to the animal in need…

    As far as Hosea goes, he would have sinned had he NOT married here (Go, and marry…)

    Yes I have divorced friends. More than that, I have divorced relatives. I even have divorced parents. The only one I am sure about that was definitely sin was my father’s departure.

    As far as “mitigating circumstances” go, that’s between you and God whether or not He will agree with you…

    But we are talking about acts that are a) listed as sin, b) condemned as sin – and clearly so. Jesus speaks of divorce and remarriage, and He mentions ONE exception. And, unlike you and I, He had the right to list exceptions…

  • ashpenaz

    You do a good job of expressing evangelical moral theology. I think Catholic moral theology is closer to the meaning of Scripture. I’m not an evangelical.

  • That’s really anachronistic.

  • Rudy Schellekens

    I am not evangelical either. I use Scripture as we have it, not as it is interpreted by the Pope from time to time…

  • Exactly! Along with inspiring soldiers to dash babies against rocks, inspiring Sheol, inspiring Hades, inspiring golden rules, inspiring lakes of fire, …

    I’ve heard that some folks think God is a deity, but I imagine there are as many versions of God as there are people who imagine him/her/it. God could be a bit of stomach acid for all I know.

  • jekylldoc

    What has changed is our understanding of the science, and people’s awareness of who is gay. Some people think the Spirit is a pipeline to mysterious insight into the way the world works, but I don’t. When people burned witches, they honestly thought the Holy Spirit was in that, but no. Nothing about love, joy, peace, gentleness, kindness or self-control. Plenty about scapegoating their anxieties.

    So yeah, I do think that people condemning homosexuality in the past were ignoring the Spirit. I recognize that is not such a rare matter – Christians have also claimed to justify slavery, for example – but let’s face it, claiming to have a supernatural source of authority is not the same thing as making the effort to be kind.

    I think you are making a fundamental error when you conclude that sin is about obedience. (I know you didn’t say that, and I will apologize if I am wrong, but I am not wrong, am I?). Sin is about separation from God. I know some deeply spiritual gay people, leaders who have been vitally important to the spiritual walk of other people, and they worked out long ago that the opposition to homosexuality was about folks clinging to 1st century perspectives, not about their walk with God. I don’t know how to explain without introducing them to you, but I promise you that you can meet the same kind of people if you make any effort at all.

    So I say to you what Philip said to Nathanael – come and see.

  • jekylldoc

    Probably. I don’t really know, obviously. I seriously doubt that there is anyone who cannot be romantically fulfilled without getting involved with their father’s wife. But the chances that some kind of “destruction of the flesh” would result are tiny, and even less so that any salvation of the man’s spirit would result.

    There is a pretty good chance that the person involved was breaking taboos because of some psychological disorder. Therapy has a very good record with fetishes, sadism, masochism, exhibitionism, kleptomania and other “object” disorders. Its record on same sex attraction is close enough to zero to be taken as zero. Nobody gets “cured” by any method we know about. So Paul’s condemnation may have been a caring approach, and yet the same cannot be said about condemning same-sex involvement.

  • jekylldoc

    I don’t know about acceptable. I don’t think God wants me to be in the position of “accepting” or not other people based on whether they are, for example, sexually promiscuous. If someone asked me if I would recommend promiscuous sex, I have no trouble answering “no” but that’s a different question. Would I “accept” a proud porn performer, or a happy hooker? Well, only on the basis of thinking their sin is pretty much like my sin.

    I think committed monogamous relationships offer an opportunity to develop spiritually in a way that fooling around on a whim does not. I also agree with Belle Unruh that what seems to be harmless often ends up damaging people (or even starts out with consent that is less than real consent.) But a spiritual walk is just not about judging other people, and if a person has to be judgmental they should begin with hardness of heart and participation in violent systems of exploitation.

  • Rudy Schellekens

    In short: Paul did not have the right knowledge to make the decision he made, is what you are saying. It was a “mental disorder” (i.e. the man was not responsible for his behavior).

  • Etranger

    It is true that what appears harmless often hurts people. The first thing that comes to mind is traditional marriage. Most open relationships involve couples who discuss details about sexual desires that few committed couples could ever dream of. That is probably why half of committed couples cheat at some point. At that point, someone gets hurt.

    It is interesting that a happy hooker or proud porn performer is committing a sin in your book. It illustrates my point exactly.

  • jekylldoc

    Happy to illustrate your point. I am not, again, into accepting or not other sinners, but I do have my opinions.

    What you cite as “harm” from traditional marriage is resulting from people’s difficulties sorting out their own life, which is a spiritual problem. The cheating doesn’t result primarily from the expectations that go with traditional marriage, though if people in an open marriage find that it unkinks some of their difficulties, well, that’s their business not mine. The cheating so common in marriage results far more often from inability to work out differences and the anger and alienation and withdrawal that follows from it. I think if those couples would learn better communication skills and better life skills, most of them would be much happier without feeling sexually frustrated.

    The same thing applies to things parents do that create mental illness in their children. This is not a result of “being trapped” into parenthood. It’s a result of an inadequate skill set.

  • jekylldoc

    Well, what I thought I was saying was that Paul did not know what he was talking about with “destruction of the flesh” and some spiritual salvation from it. He may have been quite right about the man’s behavior and the strangeness of the Corinthians’ pride about it. I really am not informed on the case, and would not want to second guess him. But I did want to make the point that he is a lot more likely to be right about a curable disorder than about same-sex attraction, if he condemned that.

    Look, people then believed in demonic possession as an explanation of schizophrenia, epilepsy and a number of other problems. Why would anyone want to be invested in affirming these misconceptions? Next you’ll be proposing that witches be burned.

  • Well that’s just bad metaphysics

  • Most religion is bad metaphysics.

  • Agree.

  • Well put.

  • Kevin K

    Actually …. not so shocking back then. You’re imposing your modern filters on ancient culture.

    If you read histories of that era written by people of that era, pederasty was routine. In Greek culture, it was expected that a man would take a boy “under his wing”, so to speak, as a sort of a mentor. Sexual relations were part-and-parcel of this mentoring. Romans as well, except the exchange was much more one-sided and not necessarily mutually beneficial. Sex slaves were common. Every Roman emperor except one had a boy “lover”.

  • Tim

    A total side point, but most of the time, witches weren’t burned, but rather hanged.

    And I’m pretty sure it was never for turning anyone into a newt. 😉

  • Sandra Urgo

    Sorry, I meant shocking to Jewish people. I know all about the Greeks. It was the Romans who introduced sex to women, (ajoke)

  • jekylldoc

    I’m willing to take your word for it. Not sure Newt would.

  • Shocking to the Jews? I don’t think so. Ever heard of David and Jonathan?

  • Ivan T. Errible

    If you both make it up as you go along, why bother with the bible to begin with? Why bother with religion if it’s only an echo of your beliefs?

  • Who is “both?”

  • Mark Tyrrell

    People are overlooking the very simple fact that homosexuality is not a normal lifestyle. Indeed, it is a downright dangerous and unhealthy way of living.

    This, from the late Randy Shiltz, journalist, practicing homosexual, and author of the book, ‘And The Band Played On.’

    Published in the mid-to-late 1980’s, the book is a history of the AIDS plague in America. In it, author Shiltz does two things.

    1) He describes male homosexual practices, practices which boggle the mind, and which one normally would never think of in one’s wildest imagination. I invite people to explain exactly what the
    terms, ‘rimming,’ and, ‘fisting,’ mean.

    2) He describes the consequences of male homosexual practices from strictly a health-care point of view. In particular, he says that in the 1970’s, the medical profession spoke of the gay bowel
    syndrome, that is, those diseases, mostly of a gastrointestinal nature, which were directly related to said male homosexual practices.

    Author Shiltz says, too, that at that time, it was not uncommon for a male homosexual to have two doctors; his family doctor, and a doctor in the homosexual community to whom he turned for treatment of those conditions related to homosexual practices.

    From this, I conclude that if a man smokes cigarettes, he runs the risk, not only of lung cancer, but also of a whole range of other sicknesses. Likewise, if a man engages in homosexual activity, he runs the risk, not only of AIDS, but also of a wide variety of other ailments.

    In this regard, I have nothing but the deepest compassion for anyone unfortunate enough to be trapped in this lifestyle. It must be downright miserable.

    Finally, I must add that it is my strong conviction that those people with a truly visceral hatred of homosexuals, are themselves those who secretly struggle with homosexual feelings. Rather than confront the matter head on through counselling (and, dare I add, prayer) they find it much easier to cop out by blaming homosexuals for their problem.

  • Sorry, but this is idiotic.

  • Etranger

    Are you praying or getting counseling then?

  • I don’t think we are in any position to take the Bible as any sort of message from God.

  • jekylldoc

    Well, I generally think of God as the spirit of caring, these days. If that makes sense, then it also makes sense to think of the Hebrews’ thought about their covenant and laws as a message from the spirit of caring, and the New Testament theological revolution as a message from the spirit of caring. Neither is a carefully composed message, of course, with a guiding intelligence behind it, let alone a supernatural porthole to look through. But in a real sense, I do credit the Bible as a message.

  • If your first sentence is a metaphor in which the “spirit of caring” represents the concern that humans have for each other’s welfare, then I can see what you mean though I still wouldn’t agree given that biblical texts quite often portray the opposite: the destruction of humans for tribal or religious reasons.

    But then I’m not sure what you mean by “a real sense” in your last sentence. Sounds like a metaphorical sense to me.

    I’m assuming your first sentence is a not a reference to a spirit who is an actual intelligent entity, since you don’t see it as a “guiding intelligence.”

  • This is often a correction that has to be made for those who think that the Salem witches in America were burned – they were, indeed, hanged.

    However, huge numbers of Europeans were burned to death as witches during the Early Modern period, roughly dating from the enacting of the Constitutio Criminalis Carolina, in which burning was prescribed as the penalty for witchcraft throughout the Holy Roman Empire.

    https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/3e1b02d17df4ae4ae39c1bf9b1ac0cb00b7275a4c462c50dae71fd59463d3459.jpg

  • jekylldoc

    Metaphor is not the right word. The beliefs in Yahweh which gave rise to modern Judaism and Christianity were typical theism of the ancient world, seeing unseen entities as the forces responsible for natural disasters and even the rise and fall of nations. But these beliefs also gave rise to a mutual reliance which has a lot of the spirit of caring in it. The covenant theology of the ancient Hebrews is, as far as I know, unique.

    Buddhism, which arose around the same time, also embodies the spirit of caring, although in a different manner.

    I don’t think there is an “intelligent entity” involved, but a spirit which draws in so many people and so many societies certainly has some capacity to process information and change direction, even if we don’t get “decisions” and “actions” like the ones a person makes, and like the ones portrayed in the Bible.

    So the anthropomorphized deity “Yahweh” is also more than a metaphor for the spirit of caring. Yahweh represented that spirit to the Hebrews. And gradually over time, the emotionally chaotic actions of ancient deities gave way to an awareness of a sense of purpose and a nurturing presence.

    It is important not to lose track of the caring involved in the aggression by the ancient Hebrews against other peoples. It wasn’t innocent or just, from a universal perspective, but it was mutual and required them to help each other and to lean on each other. Out of that mutuality grew the prophetic calls for justice and the vision of Israel as a light to the nations.

    The process that is the spirit of caring inspires our actions to be more just, more empathetic, and more deliberate as well. To me it makes sense for that inspiration to leave a record, and to think of it as a message.

  • OK – so if metaphor is not the right word, what is? Literal?

    What do you mean by the word “spirit”? For that matter, what do you mean by a “sense of purpose” or a “nurturing presence”? To me, these seem like unnecessarily vague terms. Are you talking about something (an attitude, conviction, desire, whatever) that is shared by the writers and recipients of Hebrew scripture? Or are you talking about some sort of mystical “presence” or “spirit” that exists outside of humans but which influences them?

    “Covenant theology” is a disputed theological framework by which modern theologians view ancient Israel. Doubtless, there are covenants within Hebrew scripture, but they are not unique; scholars have noted that they are analogous to earlier Hittite treaties, and likely arose in cultures for which documentation is no longer extant.