How Should Christians Think About Gay Marriage?

Most days, I’m glad you can’t see the discussions that go on between Christ and Pop Culture‘s writers. They tend to consist of teasing, arguing, teasing, complaining about life and culture in general, teasing, countless inside jokes, and the occasional substantial conversation. It can be a little overwhelming. When I come home from work (where the ongoing conversation is unavailable to me), I often have to set aside over half an hour just to catch up on the flow of conversation from the day… and then I can start contributing.

But I do wish there was a good way to show you the time, care, thought, and flat-out work that we put into parsing difficult moral issues. Our writers have excellent minds and come from very different places spiritually, theologically, and geographically. Forging some sort of agreement — or at least a peaceful “agree to disagree” mentality — takes a lot of patience, humility, and willingness to see each other in a positive light despite our different perspectives.

Which brings us to President Obama’s recent statement in support of gay marriage. Gay marriage is a complex issue that has provoked all sorts of debate, and I think it’s good for you to know that it was no different for our writers. Our forum was jam-packed with discussion, disagreement, debate, and some frustration. But we did the work for the same reason that we always do the work: we want to walk in both the sacred and secular worlds without compromise and without compartmentalizing. We want to speak and think as Christ would have us speak and think, and we want to be proud of the efforts we make with the resources God has given us while He tarries.

So then, I’d like to recommend what I believe are the underlying qualities of a healthy Christian perspective on gay marriage.

1. We are all to be ambassadors of the Gospel.

Each life is different, and God’s desires for an individual vary from person to person. But every person redeemed by Christ’s blood is called to proclaim that redemption in their life. For some this means massive evangelistic crusades, and for others this means living quietly and working with their hands. But for all Christians it means presenting ourselves “as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.” (Rom. 12:1)

2. We are each personally responsible for how we practice secular citizenship, but in most things Scripture does not specifically tell us how to carry that out.

When new situations present themselves amid the complexity of modern life, our habit is to resort to whatever is convenient. The restaurant has too many options, so we get the same thing we got last time. Downtown parking is a madhouse on the night of the concert, so we find the first spot we can, fork over $15, and walk the rest of the way. We are against sinning, so when a political lobby defined by something we consider a sin wants something, we feel like we have to deny them everything they ask for.

Here’s the problem: though Scripture is very clear about describing sin and why God hates sin, the Bible does not encourage us to boil Scripture down to a few rules of thumb so that we don’t have to think hard about our choices. Instead it gives us this sort of instruction: “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” (Rom. 12:2)

In other words, we are neither to conform when the world tells us what morality is, nor are we to assume the answer is obvious in every circumstance. Instead, we are to practice discernment with an eye toward honoring God as best we can.

Secular citizenship is particularly difficult because life as a nation or community requires avoiding the natural desire to make everyone look like ourselves. And yet it also requires that we contribute to civic life to build our common health. For the Christian, the challenge is to constantly think, test, and exercise discernment about how that plays itself out in the way you vote or make other contributions to the public square.

3.  The practice of homosexuality is universally described in Scripture as antithetical to God’s intent, and as such is sin.

I have little patience for poor hermeneutics in any form. I don’t like it when Christians interpret the Koran wrongly. I don’t like it when people at work interpret my e-mails and presentations wrongly. I don’t like it when certain movie reviewers think every protagonist with a hangnail is a Christ figure. And I don’t like it when people say the Bible doesn’t have a perspective on homosexuality.

It does. It says that those who practice homosexuality are separated from the kingdom of God (1 Cor. 6:9-10). It says that it is a giving up of the natural relations God ordained, that it flows from a heart darkened by sin, and that it is a failure to acknowledge God (Rom. 1:21-28). It calls homosexuality an abomination comparable to adultery and idolatry (Lev. 18:22). There is no lack of clarity on this point.

Christians should communicate love, care, and acceptance at all times, but where we too often go off the rails is in declaring the practice of homosexuality a natural and morally neutral event in God’s eyes. It is not. Real Christian love doesn’t back down from this truth.

4. Our stance toward those separated from God by any sin must always have the loving goal of drawing their hearts toward reconciliation through Christ.

Certainty can be a heady thing; our arguments are ten times more vociferous and forceful when we just know we are right. So it’s no surprise that many Christians find comfort in thunderously proclaiming how they know that homosexuality is wrong.

The problem here is that Christians are not called to merely rail against sin. Instead, we are to use our role and station in life to help sinners see their need for Christ, and to introduce them to the Gospel’s saving nature. Yes, sometimes this does require clear and powerful statements of right and wrong, and certainly we should never sugarcoat or lie about those standards. But statements about the sinfulness of the world are meaningless if they do not also lovingly point the way toward the salvation God offers.

If you are the type who enjoys prophetic proclamation of the world’s sinfulness, take care that the justice you proclaim is also laced with love and humility. You may be right, but if the world hears the message that they suck and you have it all together, you’re doing it wrong.

If you are so “loving” that you can’t bear to tell anyone they are wrong, and you allow the world to go on living however it wants to, you may need to stiffen your backbone a bit. God will hold you accountable for your failure to act in the same way he will hold the prophets accountable for the times they failed to love.

Conclusion

In my own life, these four principles have played out in ways that can seem contradictory. I have established many close relationships with homosexual friends but I have never contributed money to a cause that advances the homosexual political agenda (besides buying cheeseburgers at McDonald’s). I voted for President Obama, even though I knew then that he is not a Christian in the way I would define the term, but I personally would not support governmental recognition of a homosexual civil union as a “marriage.” I treat homosexuals the way I would want to be treated but I have always been clear about my perspective that homosexuality is sin.

I encourage you to exercise discernment as you carry out these principles. Live your life well. Practice clarity regarding the truth. Practice love in all things. Proclaim the gospel.

Even a group as small as our team of writers disagrees on exactly how all of that should look. But despite whatever positions we come to in our practice of secular citizenship, we know that the clearest call God has made on our lives is to make His salvation known to the nations. All have sinned, all fall short of God’s glory, and all are in desperate need of His saving grace. We are the ambassadors of that message, and our prayer is that political stances will never detract from the only message that truly matters.

Illustration courtesy of Seth T. Hahne. Check out his graphic novel and comic review site, Good Ok Bad.

About Ben Bartlett

Ben Bartlett lives in Louisville, Ky., with his wife and two terrific kids. His degree is in Political Theory and Constitutional Democracy from Michigan State University, and he has a bunch of education from a bunch of other places with nothing official to show for it. He has taught high school speech and debate, worked for a congressman in Washington DC, and worked in the health and energy industries. He is interested in how pop culture, history, politics, and theology interact with the inner and community lives of individuals... which is weird because he now works as a business analyst. Few things make him happier than reading, discussing, and recommending books.

  • http://aborrowedflame.com Findo

    Question.. does not supporting a legislative change equal opposing it? Is there room to ‘not support’ but not actively oppose something?

  • http://www.diannaeanderson.net Dianna

    It does. It says that those who practice homosexuality are separated from the kingdom of God (1 Cor. 6:9-10). It says that it is a giving up of the natural relations God ordained, that it flows from a heart darkened by sin, and that it is a failure to acknowledge God (Rom. 1:21-28). It calls homosexuality an abomination comparable to adultery and idolatry (Lev. 18:22). There is no lack of clarity on this point.

    Christians should communicate love, care, and acceptance at all times, but where we too often go off the rails is in declaring the practice of homosexuality a natural and morally neutral event in God’s eyes. It is not. Real Christian love doesn’t back down from this truth.

    If it was clear, we wouldn’t be having an argument about whether it was. I appreciate this article, but I just cannot get behind this definitive shutting down of all debate and discussion on this part of the issue, especially considering the ignorance of the basic logical argument that homosexuality, as a category of identity as we understand it today did not exist in Paul’s time and therefore changes our hermeneutic. I feel this dismissal of a legitimate portion of discussion does short shrift to the engagement of culture that CaPC is usually so good at.

    It bothers me immensely when people shut down debate by citing a couple of verses, as though that answers all questions, when each of those verses has important qualifications, discussion and hermeneutics to it that deserve to be unpacked and discussed. I cannot tell you how many times I, as a woman, have been told to shut up and stop arguing by a person who thinks giving me a verse reference (usually from Timothy) is enough to end the debate. Fact is, citing a Bible verse is the beginning of debate, not the end of it. And I recognize you do not have the time, word space, research, etc, in order to parse this issue fully here…which is why it irks me even more that you brought it up as a definitive, end-of-discussion type statement.

    Disappointing, guys.

  • http://www.benbartlett.blogspot.com Ben Bartlett

    Findo,

    I you raise a good point, and yes, I think there is. The difficulty comes in the way Christians talk to each other about their response to certain issues… it’s difficult for us not to be judgemental.

    For instance, it’s fairly easy to get most Christians to agree that homosexuality, abortion, and adultery are sin. But those same people will quickly become frustrated with each other when one of them actively campaigns against gay marriage, one actively is comfortable with such a law, and one says, “whatever.” Further, one may be against gay marriage but also against a law prohibiting adultery… despite the fact that both are sinful. Though all three feel they are acting in the most God-honoring way they can, their wildly different positions make it difficult to relate to each other. Further, it becomes problematic to say that a Christian must always be campaigning against laws they feel are contrary to Scripture, because it doesn’t translate well to Christians, say, in countries with repressive governments and long-established laws that are contrary to our faith.

    That’s why I think it is important to recapture the notion that ALL Christians are ambassadors of certain truths about who God is (hence my dislike of fancy hermeneutics designed to ignore God’s clear description of sin), but that our places in advancing the gospel, especially in our role as citizens, may have some significant variation. The church should place more emphasis on HOW to be discerning about applying Scripture rather than telling people WHAT to do or to think about every circumstance.

  • http://www.benbartlett.blogspot.com Ben Bartlett

    Dianna,

    Nobody is attempting to shut you down. I have spent years working through precisely these issues, both in the area of theological study as well as in church leadership roles and in one-on-one relationships with friends who are both Christian and homosexual. I am fully aware of the challenges involved and have done more than due diligence on studying the Scripture involved.

    So far as I have seen, the only way to get around the homosexuality issue in Scripture is to directly challenge its infallibility, and/or to practice a hermeneutic that assumes Scripture to be less than what it has been throughout its history. Historically, when the church has let go of its high view of Scripture, it has over time drifted into a form of religion which loses the power of Christianity’s exclusivist claims and in essence becomes a different religion.

    The simple fact is that in multiple places, those whom God inspired to write the words of Scripture articulated an unwavering, clear view of how he views homosexuality and there’s no good way to get around it.

    As I say, I have very carefully examined the homosexuality question from multiple viewpoints over the years, and I feel quite confident in saying that for those with a high view of Scripture as God’s central revelation of himself to his Church, there is no wiggle room on this issue.

    I’m sure it will be an ongoing debate, and that’s fine. But part of a debate is also declaring where you stand on which items you cannot compromise, and this is one of those for me.

  • Tom

    well done!

  • Shane

    This article is incredibly disappointing and degrading, not only to the LGBT community but to those who err on the side of equality.
    You can not believe the things cited by #3 and truly love homosexuals – plain and simple. At least be honest if you’re going to politely espouse such oppressive ideas and prejudices. Very disappointing.

  • http://www.benbartlett.blogspot.com Ben Bartlett

    I’m sorry to hear you say that, Shane. I feel like degrading is probably poor word choice… I’m not making an assault on anyone’s dignity. The article is about what it means to state that you are a Christian and that you are committed to God’s revelation of Truth as revealed in Scripture.

    Loving someone while disagreeing with their actions (or the sinfulness thereof) is a pretty normal human event. I love my friends who have gone through divorces of convenience just as much as those who have done it according to biblical principles, even though one is sin and the other is not. I love family members who sleep around or are atheists or are adulterors even as I disagree with their actions. Maintaining that dual view in relationships is just part of life.

    Oppression is also a pretty poor choice of words. One of the things I am trying to allow for in the article is that some Christians, even ones with a very high view of Scripture, actually support allowing gay marriage as a function of their role as secular citizens. Though that isn’t my personal conclusion, I do think it is possible to hold that position with a clear conscience as a Christian. My point is not to repress homosexuality, it’s merely to lay out with clarity the Biblical understanding, a view that shouldn’t change no matter the governmental or regulatory environment.

  • http://www.benbartlett.blogspot.com Ben Bartlett

    As a side note, here is an article I wrote earlier for CAPC where hopefully you can see some more good discussion of how the Christian response to homosexuality ought to play out. http://www.christandpopculture.com/asides/watching-politics-from-the-pew-ugly-debate-crowds/

  • Alex Branning

    Excellent article Ben; thanks for posting

  • Peter S

    Interesting discussion so far. I think that with these discussions there are many times different understanding of what it means to be homosexual. To some people, homosexuals are those who engage in homosexual acts and to others, they are people who are merely attracted to the same sex. There is a great difference biblically and theologically between these two meanings.

    Homosexual acts (I agree with Ben on this) are an explicit sin. Besides the biblical fact that they are “a giving up of the natural relations God ordained” (Ben B), it is also contrary to the creation mandate to multiply and fill the earth because homosexual acts are non-procreative.

    That being said, same-sex attraction is not a sin in and of itself although it can quickly become a sin. One could compare it to any sexual temptation such as adultery or viewing pornography. Just because one has an urge to do these things does not mean that they should follow their urges. Being tempted is not sinful (Jesus was tempted yet without sin), but temptations can quickly become sin the longer they are entertained.

    Because of the deeply fallen state of humanity, our bodies are ambiguous in their desires, urges and givenness. As Christians, we are called to conform the actions of our bodies to the image and likeness of Christ and if this means abstaining from adultery or homosexual acts, then so be it. Of course, this is easier said than done, but thankfully God is a gracious and he does empower us to be faithful.

    @Shane: You said that Christians “can not believe the things cited by #3 and truly love homosexuals.” Your whole argument in this sentence hinges on what you mean by “truly love.” As Christians, our love, looks different than the polite, nice, permissive love of the world. Christian love is love that desires for people to be conformed to Christ’s image and nothing less. As C.S. Lewis notes in The Problem of Pain, God’s love for us is akin to the love of a father for a son or the love of a husband and wife. In these relationships, love is exacting and demanding and is filled with expectations. Love is full of passion and depth and yet is aware of the shortcomings of the other and is truly desirous that the other become strong in character and virtue. This, I believe, is what it means to “truly love,” and because of this, I think it possible to love people with flawed desires while at the same time challenging them to be conformed to the image of Christ. It is possible to love homosexuals in the same way that we can love anyone who has sinful desires.

  • Daniel

    Ben, excellent article as usual.

    One thing that I continually turn over in my mind concerning same-sex marriage is the analogy to other “sinful” behavior–that is, behavior that has no apparent secular “evil”, but is only “evil” in a religious (not necessarily Christian) context.

    For example: I would think that all Christians would agree that idol worship is 100% sinful, and behavior that no Christian can Scripturaly defend. Yet most Christians in this country support the idea of religious freedom, which includes the right to engage in idolatry. Is this inconsistent? Only if one believes that the role of the State is to punish or prevent sin as we understand.

    On the other side, I feel that arguments for same-sex marriage can be used for most any other marital relationship between competent and consenting adults. Though I don’t find myself often agreeing with Rick Santorum, several years ago he was roundly criticized for saying that it would be inconsistent to legalize same-sex marriage while maintaining a prohibition against polygamy. I have yet to hear a strong, rational argument that while same-sex marriage is ok, polygamy or incestuous marriages should not be ok. (Again, with the caveat that only consenting, competent adults are involved.) If same-sex marriage is ok, why not two sisters being married? Or two brothers?

    The reaction of many when I pose the second question is outrage–that Santorum or I would have the termidity to equate “loving, caring, committed” same-sex relationships with such perversions as polygamy or incest. (Not surprising, polygamists tend to have the same outrage–against homosexual relationships and incest…so one person’s “loving, caring, committed” relationship is another person’s perversion.)

    So…to the Christian, what is the role of the State? Prohibiting certain sins, but not others? On what basis do we prohibit same-sex marriage and polygamy, but allow for idolatry, drunkenness, blasphemy, fornication, etc? I don’t think there are easy answers, even if e Bible is clear on what Christians should do in our own lives.

  • Wendy

    Nice article. I have a question, though. What is it that stops you from considering President Obama a christian?

    A word of warning: if you say you think he’s muslim, I’ll lose all respect I have for you. Which at this point is a fair amount. :-)

  • http://www.benbartlett.blogspot.com Ben Bartlett

    Great points, all.

    Shane, I think you hit the nail on the head; there is plenty of room for a person to be “naturally or inherently” homosexual without practicing homosexual acts, in the same way that I can be “naturally and inherently adulterous,” without practicing adultery.

    Daniel, I think you are quite right. I do not understand those inconsistent positions. The idolatry one is especially helpful in challenging my position, which is why I think it is helpful to distinguish WHY a secular government might choose only to recognize monogamous, non-incestuous, heterosexual marriage. For that I lean heavliy on the work of Robert George over at Princeton.

    Wendy, that’s a great question. I am in fact a big admirer of President Obama, and I think he may be one of a surprisingly small group of highly moral Presidents. However, he has been clear in multiple instances of expressing his “many paths” perspective on faith… meaning that though he call himself a Christian, he does not accept the Bible’s claims to exclusivity in terms of salvation. Though I appreciate the man and think him more moral than many Christians, the way he has articulated his religious views suggests to me that he does not correctly understand the importance, centrality, and exclusivity of the gospel.

    Also, to be fair, I would for a different but equally valid theological reason say that I do not think Romney is a Christian either; Mormonism is not a branch of true Christianity.

  • Robin K

    What a great discussion. I truly appreciate that this conversation has different views being represented and yet it has not digressed into an ugly fight.

    I am a Christian and where I stand is that Christians living under the authority of God and his Kingdom, that is here but still yet to come, live under a different set of laws than our secular neighbor. We cannot depend on our government, which is secular, even if originally based on Christian principles (another huge debate), to uphold our moral precepts.

    I personally think that marriage should be between a man and a woman and that homosexuality is a sin. Yet, I can still have a friendship and choose to love a person who is a homosexual (which I believe is what God calls me to do first and foremost). On the other hand, I believe that same-sex marriage should be legal on the basis that the United States was founded on the idea that everyone has the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. These rights can be taken away under certain circumstances, namely when it hurts or impinges on another persons ability to life, liberty and their pursuit of happiness. Same-Sex marriage does not hurt anyone, it should not be against the law. I personally enjoy my freedom to worship, pray, read my bible and talk to people about God and I certainly wouldn’t want those freedoms taken away from me.

    I think within the context of our government we cannot, as Christians, expect our religious beliefs to dictate what the rest of the country should do. What is the difference between other citizens of this nation going to a different place of worship and worshipping their god, we tolerate their freedom to do that but still view the practice of their worship of other gods a sin (that is even against the first commandment, sometimes against the second one also!) . Yet, if a man chooses to marry a man that is not tolerable? This does not make sense to me.

    I hope that makes sense. I would love feedback :)

  • http://www.benbartlett.blogspot.com Ben Bartlett

    Hi Robin,

    I think what you articulate here is very thoughtful, and it is a perspective shared by many other thoughtful Christians as well.

    I think you’re right to recognize that our governmental system, however it was founded, is now primarily a secular one. The question is, what is the right way for a person who is a Christian but still a citizen to interact with that government?

    I personally think there are some very strong reasons that, as a secular citizen, I am comfortable taking a stance against homosexual unions being recognized as, “marriages.” But I think you make a good point and I’m glad you are enjoying the conversation. Thanks for the positive comments!

  • Mike

    Great article. This expresses everything I want to say when this topic comes up. I happen to agree with the sentiment and finality expressed in #3, by the way.

    An interesting thought I’ve read about elsewhere, by a Christian who supports the civil right of gay marriage, is that morality ought to be separated from American rights.
    His argument was simply that, though he was against gay marriage – because it is a sin and needs to be treated as one in church and Christian lives – he felt Americans deserve equal rights, whether it be about the right to vote or the right to get married. Giving homosexuals the right to get married isn’t Biblical, but it agrees with American ideals, which is what ought to be considered in passing laws and choosing political stances.

    I happen to disagree, though. As the inflammatory comparison goes, we might as well approve incest and polygamy. It seems exaggerated, but it’s true. If polygamists become as represented as homosexuals, Americans will find themselves growing on the idea. It’s not any more of a stretch – and that scares me. I don’t think America’s belief in freedom was ever meant to go this far…

    But in the end, it’s all about faith. I just relent to God’s plan. In the end, it will get worse before it gets better. Biblically, the world will eventually be accepting of all sin, and then comes judgment. So, hey, America can let homosexuality become commonplace. I’m of the Kingdom, not this country, so that’s what I’ll represent.

    Thanks for the great article! CAPC is growing on me. :)

  • Daniel

    Hi Ben,

    I googled Robert George, and his WSJ opinion piece was the first thing that came up at http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052970204619004574322084279548434.html

    I must confess that his reasoning to me seems tortured and not wholly rational. His first argument is essentially arguing that it would be wrong for the court to support same-sex marriage because it circumvents the democratic process. Maybe I’m old fashioned, but to me legal rights should not be subject to democratic processes, nor should judges frankly care one whit for majority opinion when it comes to legal rights. Keep in mind–there is law on the one hand, and legal rights on the other. Law can be legislated through a democratic process; but deciding to selectively say certain individuals should benefit from legal protect and others do not is the denial of the law being impartial.

    He compares this issue to Roe vs. Wade, but to me the issues are vastly different. For one, same-sex marriage is not killing innocent people, while abortion is.

    And in the end, Mr. George’s argument is that he doesn’t want to embroil this country in another culture war. Whatever became of “Fiat justitia ruat caelum”?

    Another point he attempts to make is that marriage is, at the heart, about procreation. Again, this is like those who argue that since this country was founded on Christian principals, we must enforce Christian moral norms through the law. Even if one accepts the premise that the founders wanted to create a Christian Republic (and I do not), as we exist today, we are a secular republic. Likewise, even if the original purpose of marriage was procreation, today’s society does not seem to think in those terms (we think of fulfilling romantic love–a 19th century concept that has been adopted by and large by Christians and non-Christians alike.)

    Mr. George also talks about the evils of the current state of divorce and out-of-wedlock child bearing and rearing. He argues that this harms vulnerable children. While I agree, how does preventing same-sex marriage affect this trend in any way? Indeed, one could have used the argument that children in interracial marriages will face discrimination and hardship and thus “society” has a legitimate reason to prevent these.

    Mr. George points out, as I did, that polygamy should be allowed if same-sex marriage was. I agreed with him that those who support one and not the other are not being consistent.

    I could go on, but I frankly don’t find Mr. George’s “secular” reasons against same-sex marriage valid. Though some of his reasons are different than the reasoning against interracial marriages, in the end his reasoning is that he offers some fairly weak (in my estimation) reasons why “society” has a compelling interest to prevent these marriages.

  • Daniel

    Just a quick note–after re-reading my post, I though it may sound a bit intemperate. Honestly, I do not mean for this discussion to get heated. I posted quickly without editing my post very well. I don’t mean to imply that Mr. George or those who agree with him are irrational, but that I merely disagree with them and do not follow their reasoning on this issue.

    Please forgive me for my haste!

  • Monica

    Great post. Which I guess is just a way of saying, ‘I agree.’ I have been thinking a lot about this since The Big Announcement and keep coming back to one thing: given the ubiquitous use (by same-sex marriage activists) of civil rights language to frame this debate, how do we lovingly discuss this issue? My own views are clear and as Biblically-grounded as I can make them, and I think I can explain them fairly when needed. But those who disagree not only argue, they shout BIGOT and cover their ears. In a sense I don’t care about that; I want to obey God rather than men. But I want to speak truth in love. I think the church has made many mistakes in this area by being noisy gongs and clanging cymbals. I guess I’m just finding it tough to sort out how to be an ambassador for the gospel in this climate.

  • http://www.StephenNewport.com Stephen Newport

    Ben, what an incredibly arrogant article.

    I wonder if you [and the others in agreement) would be such bigots without a bible (and proper hermeneutics!) to instruct you?

    What you don’t realize, by posting this, is that you are one of the greatest detriments to society. One of the greatest evils in this world. A “wolf in sheep’s clothing,” if you will. Violent fanatics are easily killed off and dismissed by public. People like you, who use kind words and bible-speak derived from a socially acceptable religion with enormous influence to sway otherwise kind and loving people into chauvinist diehards like yourself are one of the worst things a society can have. People will use your words to solidify their own opinions, and because you use words like “love” and “humility” and “patience” they’ll feel good about becoming a worse person.

    Good thing we have you to receive god’s whispers on what he really meant by his ambiguously conceived texts so we now know how to view and judge those around us.
    We can all stop discussing this now, guys, Ben has shown us the light. Homosexuals have dark hearts (born with them, apparently), and our goal should be to steer them towards god in hopes of being “cured.”

    Oh, and love them as well, err somethin…. whatever that means after all those judgments!

    And don’t even think about saying otherwise, because Ben has “little patience” for it.

    http://youtu.be/fjzQNnfs6G8

    Ben, if my forwardness or approach makes you uneasy or uncomfortable, before commenting on such feelings I would urge you to consider how a man or women with homosexual attractions might feel to be called a “dark hearted abomination.” I don’t know you, but there are worse things I would call you after reading this article that I have abstained from. I will consider that my attempt at being “respectful,” though I feel you deserve nothing of the sort.

    I hope a child of yours discovers themselves to be one of the dark hearts you reject here so that you may consider the “loving nature” of a god (and yourself) that proclaims them to be abominations. Then again, for the child’s sake, I hope they are not. I cannot imagine the fear that would swell inside them if they ever read this article of yours (that will be housed forever on the internets).

    I know people are more complex, and many times much more well-intentioned than they come across online, but maybe you would appreciate knowing how you are received and the effects it may have on innocent people.

    Bad form.

  • http://www.benbartlett.blogspot.com Ben Bartlett

    Daniel,

    No problem on tone, it’s easy to have that come off differently than you intend. I’m sorry to hear you didn’t like the Robert George article you found. I didn’t read that one in particular and I don’t wholeheartedly support everything he says… I don’t know his other work that well.

    George has written extensively on the question of what marriage “is” in relation to government. Is marriage just about sex? Then why aren’t polygamy and incest allowable? Is it just about living together and being legally connected? Then why can’t two people with no romantic involvement at all be “married” for convenience?

    To me, governmental recognition of marriage has no value if it’s merely about people living together. That’s a civil union. Marriage is given a special place because the heterosexual union is recognized as the basic building block of society… the place where procreation happens, the place where the greatest financial stability is created, etc. Of course it’s easy to find exceptions to this, millions of them even. But marriage is not about a blanket statement of how every relationship works, it’s more of a symbolic protection of the basic procreative unit. As a citizen, I have every right to prefer that government have a special, set-aside category for that unit.

    Anyways, that’s my conclusion on the issue. I’d urge you to be thoughtful and to open in studying George’s work… he’s actually quite careful as a scholar and has earned the respect he has received. But it’s no problem if you disagree, as I point out in my article I think Christians can disagree on this issue and still be ok. And history is probably on your side… despite the votes happening on homosexual marriage in many states going against their cause, history marches on and in the longer term looks to be in their favor.

    Here’s a good George article worth reading on this topic. http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=1722155

  • http://www.benbartlett.blogspot.com Ben Bartlett

    Stephen,

    I’m sorry to hear you say those things. You don’t know me and you don’t know my life. It’s certainly the case that in no way are your words encouraging me to align myself more to whatever position you would prefer that I take.

    You don’t make me uneasy or uncomfortable. It’s simply the case that I have chosen to live my life in submission to how I understand God to be revealing himself in the Bible, and you have chosen something else (or at least a different understanding of the Bible).

    I am a sinner too, of course, More than that, my heart is completely dark without Christ’s cleansing, and nothing about me is of value to God or anyone else without that cleansing. If a homosexual person were to point out that my actions are often sinful, they would be right. If they were to point out before I came to Christ that my actions were the product of a darkened heart and that they were an abomination in God’s eyes, they would be right. As it says in Romans, “There is no one righteous, no, not one.”

    If I am wrong about all these things, I am happy to apologize. But your argument against me basically boils down to being angry at me on the basis of disagreeing with your view of how the world should work, and I’m afraid that’s not very convincing.

    Hopefully those who do read this will also read other materials with a different view and will be guided toward whichever one really is the better reflection of God’s desires for mankind.

  • Daniel

    Hi Ben,

    I’ve downloaded the article and I look forward to reading it.

    I understand how the State might believe it has a compelling interest surrounding procreation. However, it seems as though protecting children is a separate issue from the other legal rights of marriage–inheritance, hospital visitation, medical care decision authority, income tax status, health insurance coverage, etc. And–other than income tax status (which does not recognize same-sex unions on the Federal level) most of these rights can be contractually negotiated and made legally binding by a lawyer…though this is an expensive and time-consuming process, by no means as easy as marriage. (Kind of like divorce..on that note, why is it so easy to get married, and so hard to get divorced? Another issue, but it shows that if the State believes it has a compelling interest in protecting children, it would tend to do more due diligence around issuing marriage licenses.)

    Perhaps it’s the distinction between “Civil Unions” and “Marriage”, though I don’t understand why the phraseology should be that vital (“a rose by any other name…”)

    But I completely concur that Christians can and do disagree on good faith on this issue, even while both of us are committed to a belief in the inerrant Word of God and a sound hermeneutical approach.

  • http://www.benbartlett.blogspot.com Ben Bartlett

    Daniel,

    You raise good points. The government is always full of inconsistencies, and I certainly do not speak for it or agree with all the ways it manages the relationship between itself and couples of various sorts. To me, I think civil unions as a legal agreement bearing certain rights and privileges are a much better idea, one that should be available to heterosexual, homosexual, or asexual couples.

    That said, I think the idea of marriage should mean something separate. You’re right that there’s a bit of hair-splitting there in terminology, but I think it’s valuable to recognize the difference between people who want to be linked together in a legal sense as compared to those committing to establishing a basic civil building block.

    Thanks for the interaction!

  • Link

    As a devout Christian, I disagree that homosexuality is a sin. An ultimate truth is that the Spirit can’t flourish without commitment. In a relationship, true commitment is marriage. So sexual sin does exist, not waiting until marriage is a sin, because if there’s no commitment, there is no Spirit, if there is no Spirit then it is a carnal act. It’s lust, hedonism. That’s sexual sin. If a man loves a man and he wants to commit through marriage then where is the sin? I, a man, am going to marry Jesus, a man. Jesus says this when he calls me His bride. That tells me he defines marriage by Spirit, just as he defines all morality by His Holy Spirit. As Christians we are no longer to tell what is right and wrong by laws, but by what is in accordance with His Holy Spirit. Jesus banished Pharisaical law based morality. That’s why we can eat lobster now, whereas in Old Testament times we couldn’t. Saying homosexuality is a sin is another type of saying something is “unclean” just like lobster. It isn’t a sin. There was a law against it once, because God was trying to condition the ancient Israelis to be prepared for Spirit based morality, as they were very much of the Beast in need of Law. But we’ve evolved beyond that, now we’re Law in need of Spirit, specifically the Holy Spirit of Jesus Christ. So if Dave wants to marry Bob and they wait until marriage to have sex, where is the sin? Sex isn’t going to exist in The Kingdom of God, we’ll be free of all sexual desire, so straight sex is just as much “unclean” as homosexual sex. The gay sex depicted in the Old Testament wasn’t born out of love or commitment. It was narcissism, or the closest one can ever get to making love to themselves is to make love to someone of their own gender. That’s why songs like Katy Perry’s I Kissed A Girl exist, it’s gender narcissism which causes people like that to resort to homosexual experimentation, but that doesn’t mean homosexuals themselves are like that. Katy Perry isn’t gay, she’s just a feminine narcissist, that’s the sin the Bible is referring to, not sincere human love between two people who want to commit through marriage. How can that be a sin, ever?

  • Ben

    Link,

    How would you respond to the New Testament scriptures where the apostles clearly take a stance against homosexuality? Of course, if you weaken Scripture so that it isn’t authoritative in our lives (in a post-crucifixion sort of way, of course), it’s easy to say that morality rules are somehow subject to our arguments. But if Scripture is that flexible, why put any trust in it at all? How can Scripture be a guide to Truth if parts of it aren’t true?

  • Link

    I haven’t “weakened” the scripture. And I never said “parts of it aren’t true”. Do forbid yourself from eating lobster? Do you force women who are having periods to go out into the wilderness until its over? Do you stone your children if they misbehave? The Bible suggest these things. Are you a sinner for not obeying this? Is the Bible made “weaker” or “not true” for rejecting these things? No. Not if you understand the true nature of the Word and stop interpreting it through a Pharisaical law-based morality. Even Jesus preached against people like you who force law over His people. You’re doing to the Apostles now what the Pharisees did to Abraham and Moses in their time. You’re locking their wisdom in law and commit a sin against both gay people and the Word. You know the Apostles weren’t infallible. Even Paul, a mass murderer, would preface things he wasn’t sure about by stating it was his opinion. Thomas was a doubter, Peter rejected Christ three times and cut off another man’s ear. The Apostles weren’t infallible, Jesus is. His Holy Spirit is. Jesus never said anything negative about homosexuality, and neither did the Apostles. Like I said, they’re talking about gender narcissism, even if they weren’t, they’re ignorant, just as all of us are ignorant, because they and we aren’t God. Only the Spirit knows what it means, not the Apostles, for us to know we must access the Holy Spirit. For if you gain a truth it’s not because of any follower of the Lord, it’s because of the Holy Spirit Himself has revealed it to you. People are born gay, people aren’t born murderers, or liars, or thieves, they choose those things. No one who’s truly gay chooses to be gay. And if you think people aren’t born gay then you are willfully blind to the facts in order to justify your sin. You commit a sin against them by placing the hard burden of law over their heads instead of the light burden of the Holy Spirit of Christ who only expects we follow what is right by His Holy Spirit, not by archaic rules and regulations which aren’t for our time, but were for a past time when men were to be ruled by Law because they weren’t yet ready for the coming of Christ. Stop convincing yourself you’re right or justified. You’re being rebuked, just as all Christians who are anti-gay need to be rebuked. Search the Holy Spirit of Jesus and just try to find one reason that it’s a sin that isn’t “because the Bible told me so” or some other law-based morality. You’re far from the Holy Spirit, bound by the cruel devices of law. You can’t prove homosexuality is wrong by the Holy Spirit. Not even one shred of evidence. It’s no more wrong than heterosexuality. And this is coming from a hetero virgin Christian who is filled with the Holy Spirit of Jesus Christ. I warn you, you need to adjust your message. You’ve been drinking the Kool-aid your ignorant pastors have given you instead of testing a thing by the Holy Spirit of Jesus, which is the true Word of God. How many gay people must be oppressed because they can’t marry whoever they love? How many turn their backs on the truth of Christ because you’ve convinced them He is an oppressor? How many lie to themselves and marry someone of the opposite gender creating an unhappy, unstable marriage? How many hide out in the clergy because they feel ashamed of the truth? How many are forced to live in sin or loneliness for your ignorance? They are oppressed. Christ is not an oppressor, He is a redeemer, a Savior. If I am wrong, may God have mercy on my soul, but I’m 100% convinced I am right. I tested it by the Holy Spirit. I used to think homosexuality was wrong, but it didn’t last very long because the Holy Spirit burnt it out of me. There is no justice in it, so I felt ashamed of myself and repented for this false doctrine. Now, you must do the same. Just suppose I’m right, just reach out to the Holy Spirit, instead of law, and pray and test it for yourself. If you’re truly denying yourself, you’ll reach the same conclusion I was brought to. Two consenting adult human beings, who aren’t related by blood, who love each other and wish to be married, and wait until marriage to have sex. This is never a sin. It is not spiritually preferable to a virginal existence, but it is not a sin, and under that category can fit a man and a man, or a woman and a woman, or a man and a woman. This is truth. Praise Jesus.

  • Ben

    Link,

    Well, that does clarify things. According to you, God has chosen to reveal things to you with greater clarity than he put into creating his Word, the Bible. And he has revealed to you that although millions of followers across two thousand years of church history have nearly uniform understanding of homosexual acts as sin, changes in the last few years (which have NOTHING to do with cultural shifts…) are correct and God is going back on what he and his apostles state in Scripture.

    Unfortunately I cannot agree with you on any of those things. God’s witness is clear, and all we can do is respond with humility and love as we carry the gospel to the world.

  • John

    Ben,
    These have been very trying times for people who are on one side or the other on this issue. I wont argue with you because you it won’t change your mind (just like your argument wont change mine.) I will say thank you for the civility. While I always feel so condescended when people talk about loving the sinner and hating the sin, I can at least compliment you on your tone and your willingness to really change the way that Christians talk about things that make us uncomfortable. I feel like the only way to change anything is to continue talking about it rationally and civilly which I wish would get more attention then the loud and terrible crushing hate that gets the most attention. I guess I would ask you this question, and I ask it because I know my father and brother struggle with how to treat me and my partner of 3 years [who just proposed to me last weekend :) ]. At what point do you allow yourself to trust that the Holy Spirit also is at work in the lives of Christian LGBT people in committed relationships? In other words, I can never convince you that scripture can be anything but the direct word of God, but is there a point where you see two loving gay people who are committed to Christ and who also might be covered by God’s Grace? Is there no gray area for you. I understand the argument of “if its ok for this then its ok for this other thing that is a sin” but when you talk about Polygamy, you are talking about some one with multiple partners. When you say you have adulterous thoughts that you want to resist, again you have a partner in this scenario as well. At what point do we start to imagine that forcing gay people to be alone forever is actually damaging to their spirit. Not all people are strong enough to do it. Is there grace for them? Just wanted to know your thoughts so I can better understand the people in my life who think similarly.

  • http://www.benbartlett.blogspot.com Ben Bartlett

    John,

    Thank you so much for your thoughtful and humble comment. You draw out precisely why this topic is so difficult- it cannot help but feel like lack of compassion toward people who have the best of intentions. Further, it’s especially difficult when that person claims the same faith as you do.

    My answer to you has a couple of parts.

    First, to be clear, the origin of my stance on homosexuality is rooted in my best understanding of Scripture. I realize it is possible that my understanding is incorrect, but I’ve worked really hard to understand it as well as possible. This is true of my church, as well, and so our life as a church is governed by that understanding. We try to live in submission to Scripture in all that we do.

    So then, as far as church life goes, a homosexual couple living together would be treated in the same way as an unmarried heterosexual couple living together (whether it involved adultery or merely not being married yet). That is to say, they would be approached by an elder of the church with both a request to change and an invitation to whatever help or counseling might be needed to effect that change. If the couple disagreed with characterization of their lifestyle as sinful, a process would be initiated whereby, eventually, they would be removed from membership of the church, because it is the responsibility of church leadership to hold the body accountable and to take a stand against unrepentant sin.

    Now, there are two fascinating questions that flow from your comment. First, can someone with my view on homosexuality trust that the Holy Spirit is at work in the lives of people who both claim Christ and practice a homosexual lifestyle? And once a person has committed to a homosexual lifestyle, how should they be viewed and treated in a spiritual sense?

    The truth, of course, is that every person’s fate is in God’s hands. But in a scenario like you describe, that becomes especially clear. As a brother in Christ, I will encourage and even plead with you to leave behind a lifestyle that I regard as sinful. As a church leader, I would be compelled to remove you from membership as is my Scriptural duty. But as a family member and friend, I would continue to love and appreciate you in the way I would any family member or friend. I would trust that God is more merciful and wise than I could ever be, and trust that he will do what is right with regard to your life and eternal fate.

    So no, I would not feel personally confident that the Holy Spirit is at work in your life. My perspective would be that you are holding on to a Christian lifestyle, but that your ultimate submission is to the things you desire other than God. However, I trust God to make the ultimate determination in that area, and I would not feel the need to “chase” you with condemnation any more than anyone else. And further, I would have no problem loving and enjoying a relationship with you… you’d just have to put up with knowing my perspective and hearing about it from time to time.

    I know a little bit about this. I have people very close to me who are living in adultery, living together outside of marriage, and living in homosexual relationships. I work hard to communicate my love and care to those people, but every one of them knows I disagree with their choices, regard their actions as sin, and do not feel their relationship with God is in the submissive place that it should be. And yet… I believe they feel loved, even so.

    I cannot know the difficulty of your personal burdens, and I hate that so often people like you face extremely disproportional anger and shunning. I wish the church were more loving in the way it proclaims the truth. But I also believe submission to God’s desires is always the best course for every human heart, and in love I would encourage your submission to Him in all things no matter what it may mean for your life.

  • http://kalliethelensflarehater.blogspot.com/ jesusisking

    Hi Ben!

    Nice to comment here on Christ and Pop Culture. Even though I don’t always agree with what is posted here, it still is pretty interesting to read perspectives on movies and such.

    I think you hit the nail on the head with the issue of homosexuality. At one point or another, you are gonna have to call sin sin. But even then, you should always preach in love.

    Although secular people might think down of us, the reason why we want them to come to Christ is because we love them. We don’t want to see them walk themselves into hell. We want to see them in heaven.

    Or at least that’s what I think. I assume you share the same perspective.

    Once again, I appreciate you coming forward and saying something very unpopular, but true. I thank you, and will keep following your blog posts.

    Blessings!

    Kyle.

  • http://www.StephenNewport.com Stephen Newport

    “…eventually, they would be removed from membership of the church…”

    Luckily, dissenting viewpoints against you are not nearly as effective as your own words in convincing reasonable people to stay away from you and your arrogant kind. How do churches like yours still exist?

    “And yet… I believe they feel loved…”

    haha, yes, as you chivalrously open the door for them on the way to their expulsion!

  • John

    I wish there was some way to agree but that is not always an option. I miss going to evangelical church but I can’t pretend that it doesn’t hurt that people who have absolutely no idea what it feels like to be gay tell me that I’m not Christian enough to have God in my soul. I feel him walking with me everyday. I feel his spirit fill my heart every time I praise his name or thank him for the new day. I think this is one of those situations where I will just have to stay faithful and hope that people will come around. In the mean time, I hope all of you will really continue to pray and not close the book on your understanding of this issue. I’m not asking you to be swayed by earthly emotions but that you allow yourself to humanize and empathize with the people you say are sinners. Put yourself in their shoes. And if you decide that you cannot be swayed, then I urge you to remember that gay people already know what most people think of them. We know you think that we are disgusting and don’t think for a second that we haven’t contemplated the questions of Heaven and Hell and where we fit in. But always remember if nothing else that you are privileged to never have to feel this way as heterosexuals. You will never have 50% of the country hoping that you would just go away and stop existing. You will never have to know what it feels like to have a parent or loved one weep with sadness because of how you feel inside. You will never know what it feels like to have someone say to you that “You must live a life a loneliness and sadness because of who you are inside, but take comfort in the fact that Jesus is love and when you are old and dying and have no one left you will be rewarded with heaven. And all of this you must do without question”. We are people, and we will no go away simply because we are paradoxical to the Christian experience. I guess for the Gay Christian, we want our fellow Christians to except us but the truth is we have may have to look to God and not our fellow man for the strength to carry on. Keep the dialog going and keep praying. God Bless.

  • http://www.benbartlett.blogspot.com Ben Bartlett

    John,

    I wish there were a simpler way too. You’re right that I can’t know exactly what it is like to be in your shoes, and I’m sorry about that. At the same time, please know that those who are honoring God rightly do work hard to empathize, and that we certainly do not wish you would “go away and stop existing.”

    It’s unfortunate that we do not have words for different levels of acceptance. I have no problem accepting homosexuals as friends, coworkers, neighbors, or family members. But churches, which form around a set of beliefs, have the right to protect those beliefs. There are churches in my town where I would not be accepted because of the seminary I went to. There are churches in town where I would not be accepted unless I went through their rituals or sacrements. It’s a pretty normal thing to say that choosing one thing also often means choosing against another, and I am just attempting to describe why it is that, based on Scripture, I take a certain stance on certain issues.

    Stephen, if what you are looking for is a church where there is no standard, and where all that is required to be a member is to show up and believe whatever you want to believe, I’m sure there are plenty of Unitarian or universalist churches that happily pursue that line of thought. If accepting the Scriptural definition of homosexual acts as sin is a show stopper for you, there are likely plenty of other reasons you wouldn’t want to attend my church anyways. I simply don’t accept the line of reasoning that says all churches should be required to give membership privileges to anyone who wants it, regardless of religious perspective or theological stance.

  • John

    Ben,
    Thanks again for the civil debate. I would be happy to call you friend even if we disagree. I apologize if any of my tone was disrespectful. I recently saw a bunch of very hateful videos of preachers calling for my death and sometimes I forget that its not the overall narrative of most Christians to want me to die. God bless.

  • http://www.StephenNewport.com Stephen Newport

    Ben,

    A philosophy whose purpose is defeated when applied by all men and women is a bad philosophy, IMO. You’re best suggestion for those who disagree with you, to “go join some other community,” seems to defeat the christian purpose, as I understand it. If you converted this whole world into your line of thinking (which is the goal, right?) save for that one person, where would he then go? Everyone with your philosophy would point them in the opposite direction, “Go be someone else’s problem.”

    This mindset tells the heathen “don’t take god’s word for what I am saying, take mine.” If you really wanted him to take god’s word, you would gladly accept him into your community and let god do his work through him, not through you. If you had confidence in your “interpretation” of the bible, you would invite any and all to come in, criticize, and be transformed by your superior understanding in god’s own time.

    Yours and your churches inability to do this is a very telling observation.

    Truthfully, I am very happy when I hear of communities such as yours maintaining a closed door policy, as it limits your influence and keeps my standard of living that much higher.

  • http://www.benbartlett.blogspot.com Ben Bartlett

    Stephen,

    You continue to misunderstand. The Christian purpose, “as you understand it,” is not to get everyone regardless of moral stance or personal belief to join our churches. The Christian purpose is to proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ, and to call the world to repentence and submission to Christ.

    EVERY person who accepts this call must seek to drive sin from their lives. Of course they will continue to struggle with sin on a consistent basis, but their ultimate goal should be elimination of what God has clearly called sin.

    I am currently reading a biography of Robert Kennedy, and it is amazing to see what an incredibly immoral lifestyle he and his brother, JFK, lived. If one or the other of those brothers was a member of my church, and refused correction and repentence, they would eventually be removed from membership. It is not a concept limited to homosexuality.

    The church is not designed to be a modern Athens, debating who has the best ideas. It is a place of worship.

    Now, I would be happy to have a homosexual person worship at my church, and would not kick him out. However, if he continued in that lifestyle without repentence, I would not accept an application for membership, just as I would not accept JFK’s. The church has the role of accurately communicating what God has said concerning unrepentant sin, and cannot simply overlook it because the culture of the time asks them to.

    Think if you attend a church that affirms homosexuality, and I came to the church. Would you accept me despite my beliefs? Probably. Would you give me membership, including voting rights? Would you allow me to be a deacon in your church, or an elder? Could I be the pastor? What would you do if I became the pastor and then declared homosexuality to be wrong? I have a hard time believing you would sit on your hands and say nothing.

    It’s the same scenario. A church has a right to protect its beliefs, and that means acceptance without necessarily confering the benefits of membership or compromising our understanding of Scripture.

  • Faith

    I think it’s very important here to note the difference between church attendance and church membership.

    Anyone is welcome to attend, and continue their attendance indefinitely, regardless of their beliefs or lifestyle, etc.

    Formal membership is a recognition of being in agreement about certain beliefs that particular church deems important. If you have a conflict with those beliefs, you are likely ineligible for membership unless that changes.

  • Joe

    It was once an abomination to wear clothes of mixed fabric, according to the Old Testament. Yet, today, we have no problem with this. The idea of two gay individuals living together, loving each other in a committed relationship as one, never existed in ancient times. When there were acts of sodomy it was usually older men with young boys, often within the military system. Christianity has found ways to reconcile many things that were “abominations” in the Bible. Christianity has also supplied the civil rights movement with a language of universal moral claims, and that black churches gave the movement its organizational power. Yet it was Southern clergymen that opposed civil rights demonstrations, Pope Pius IX expressed solidarity with Jefferson Davis during the Civil War. It looked as though Christian orthodoxy assumed segregation and then, confronted by the moral and political tidal wave of civil rights, revised its doctrines to embrace the new order and its heroes. Once orthodoxy is ready for a similar breakthrough on homosexuality, it will probably look, in retrospect, like the Catholic Church’s reconciliation with issues such as science or civil rights. The Christianity has a history of naturally framing their critiques of the present-day problems in light of its past … The Church’s own traditions, rather than the agenda of the secular world, were stated to provide the natural change for reform in many areas. I look forward to the day when Christian writers explain how they found, in their faith’s past, the resources to see more clearly God’s intentions for mankind on the question of homosexuality. When looking at the original texts the words that people say mean “homosexuals” are often misinterpreted. For example, Μαλακοι literally means “soft ones” and was used as a slang expression for young men or boys considered weak or effeminate. And it sometimes denotes young men and boys who were used sexually by adult males. This shows that the witness of scripture is not as clear as one might think. If you look at the Greek text, it condemns condemnations αρσενκοιται and µαλακοι in these texts may imply that generally speaking, men who have sex with other men are acting in a way that is not pleasing to God. The term used in 1 Timothy is άρσενοκοίταις which appears only here. It appears to have been a word that the author made up to describe a practice that he found repugnant but had no ready word for. It combines the terms for “male” and “bed.” The reference is clearly sexual, coming directly in the vice list after πόρνοις (“pornois”), “sexually immoral ones.” Yet, many scholars have argued that this probably refers to those men who used the male prostitutes’ services and/or to those male child abusers who effeminized and forced themselves on their young males. Most of the stories in the Old Testament that speak of sodomy speak of it violently or in which large groups of men were indiscriminately having sex with each other. I Corinthians 6:9-10 reads:

    “Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither the immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate [malakoi], nor homosexual offenders [arsenokoites], nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor robbers will inherit the kingdom of God.” The first one, malakoi (Μαλακοι), literally means ‘soft’ and is no technical term for a homosexual as I stated above. Aresenokoitai (άρσενοκοίταις) on the other hand, is clearly a sexual term. However, some sources in the early Church interpreted the phrase as referring to “temple prostitutes” – people who engaged in ritual sex in Pagan temples, others thought that it meant “masturbators”. There is a ton of Greek homosexual erotic literature that has survived to this day, and none of it contains the word aresenokoitai. You will see, in most modern translation, these two words combined to create “homosexual” in the translation.

    When we look at the texts of the Old Testament and New Testament, there is ZERO discussion on the idea of two men or two women living in a committed relationship with each other. All that was ever spoken about was people violently or promiscuously or for money, having sex with each other. Condemnation of a certain kind of homosexuality in a particular context does not imply a necessary rejection of every expression of homosexuality in every context—nor does a general repudiation of homosexual acts preclude the possibility of exceptions. The Bible speaks out against many different types of sexual sins. The Apostle Paul says that it is best that Christians not be married, however, he states, “It is good for a man not to touch a woman. Nevertheless, because of sexual immorality, let each man have his own wife, and let each woman have her own husband.” Why? So all the sexually immoral stuff can happen with only ONE person in a committed relationship. Considering that there so no idea in their culture of a homosexual marriage/committed relationship, there is no way that someone could definitely say “God is against homosexual committed relationships.”

  • Ben

    Joe, thanks for those thoughts.

    I disagree, of course. “Men consumed with passion for one another” is fairly clear. By your definition of what scripture does or does not cover, pornography is no big deal either, but our understanding of God’s view of lust drives our understanding of pornography as sinful. In the same way, the clarity around homosexuality as antithetical to God’s intent and as sin leads us to take a clear position on the issue within the church.

    And though you’re right to say the Church has shown many failings in the past, those are examples of humans doing the wrong thing rather than God’s word somehow being mistaken and therefore inadmissable as evidence for setting moral standards for Christians today.

    Your point on mixed fabrics isn’t really helpful, understanding why that issue is different than sin issues is pretty basic hermeneutics.

    Look, I’m not telling everyone to follow my moral system. I’m just saying that if you take Scripture as God’s word, it is clear. If you don’t, that’s fine, just be honest about viewing Scripture as outdated and not helpful for today. But I’m really not saying anything radical.

  • Joe

    You are completely misunderstanding what I stated. By my definition porn would be wrong, adultery would be wrong, etc. Lusting and having sex outside of marriage is wrong. The point I was making was that the scriptures at no time ever addresses committed homosexual relationships. It says nothing about sex between two married men in a relationship with each other. The references to sodomy in the Bible all are references to sex with temple prostitutes, rape, men having orgies with each other, and other sexual instances outside of a committed relationship. As I stated above, rejection of sex within a particular context does not necessarily mean rejection of it in every context. Just like the church is against heterosexuals having sex with prostitutes, or having orgies, or outside of a committed relationship, does not mean the church rejects sex within a heterosexual marriage. If you read the original Greek (I studied theology at a Baptist college) it speaks out against all sorts of sexual sins, but NEVER says anything about a committed relationship. You may have something against homosexuals for some reason, but if you are against homosexual marriage based upon modern Biblical translations you are mistaken. There was never any idea or examples of committed relationships, and that is what we are tweaking about here. Not sex outside of marriage which is wrong. Not orgies which are wrong. Not sex with prostitutes which is wrong. Not porn which is wrong. But between two individuals who love and are committed to each other.

  • Joe

    And I am not viewing scripture as outdated. In fact, your translations that you follow are in fact the translations that are using modern words for the scripture. I am reading the original Greek. You are reading it in Modern English which wasn’t developed until the 1500s. I’m reading Paul’s original words, you are reading what some people over 1000 years later thought what Paul said. And some of those translations are based upon some words that were never used elsewhere in Greek literature.

  • Daniel

    Joe, you wrote:

    “There was never any idea or examples of committed relationships, and that is what we are tweaking about here. Not sex outside of marriage which is wrong. Not orgies which are wrong. Not sex with prostitutes which is wrong. Not porn which is wrong. But between two individuals who love and are committed to each other.”

    From your posts, you seem to believe that Scripture was silent about committed, monagamous relationships, and that historically there were no such unions–the only examples of homosexual practice was in rape, orgies, temple prostitutes, etc.

    If I accept that, I have to ask: WHY are there no such examples? In the social ordering of things, why are such relationships so brand-new? Why in the history of humanity are such things so innovative?

    I of course don’t expect the Bible to talk about technological innovations, or representative democracy (though some principals can be applied by biblical example)…but it seems to me such a fundamental thing as the organization of the family would be given some voice. Inter-racial marriages are shown (Ruth and Boaz, Moses and his Cushite wife, etc); monogamy and polygamy are shown; even a committed marriage that would be called in the Mosaic code incest was blessed (Abraham and his half-sister Sarah). But why nothing about a committed homosexual relationship, either condemned or celebrated?

  • Adam E

    Hi Joe,

    Having also studied Greek at a Baptist college, (Australian Baptist) I must admit your comment about the fact made me uncomfortable.

    Learning Greek, looking at the various translations and their translators has taught me the depth of my need for community in translation. All translators read their theological persuasions into the text. I find translating Greek a humbling experience, heavy with responsibility and wonder not a chance to show superior knowledge.

    You are not alone in having studied Greek, and many others have come to different conclusions.

    Blessings

  • http://www.StephenNewport.com Stephen Newport

    “If I accept that, I have to ask: WHY are there no such examples?”

    Is it not obvious?

    “I of course don’t expect the Bible to talk about technological innovations, or representative democracy ”

    Of course you don’t, Daniel.

  • C. Ryan Knight

    Stephen, I think the focus and point of Daniel’s sentence is the part you didn’t quote (after the ellipses).

  • http://www.StephenNewport.com Stephen Newport

    C. Ryan,

    My point is you can’t pick and choose your logic. After “begging the question” he bluntly suggests this “logic” only applies to the things he feels is important. Either the exclusion of any information inside of the bible is relevant or it is irrelevant, it cannot be relevant for one thing and not for the next. As an “exclusion” means nothing is said about it, all things that are not spoken of are in an equal camp of value.

    His carefully chosen words, argument, and dismissal of compromising critiques veil his hidden agenda of making sure his readers accept his proposition without critical thinking.

  • St. Ralph

    Joe:

    | Aresenokoitai (άρσενοκοίταις) on the other hand, is clearly a sexual term. However, some
    | sources in the early Church interpreted the phrase as referring to “temple prostitutes” –
    | people who engaged in ritual sex in Pagan temples, others thought that it meant
    | “masturbators”.

    According to what I’ve read so far, I Cor. 6 is the earliest appearance of άρσενοκοίταις … suggesting that Paul coined the term. And yes, there have been several differing ideas about what it could mean. Consensus on the idea that it means “homosexuals” has been challenged in recent years, beginning with Boswell’s work in the 1970s. The point is, no one knows with absolute certainty what it means.

    | There is a ton of Greek homosexual erotic literature that has survived to this day, and none
    | of it contains the word aresenokoitai.

    Presumably the Apostle Paul wasn’t reading Greek homosexual erotic literature, or carrying on a lot of conversations with people who did. There’s an argument that goes, “If Paul meant to speak out against gays, he would have used Word X” … which presumes that Paul both knew Word X and preferred it to his own coinage. An argument based on what Paul didn’t say is always going to be weaker than an argument based on what he did say.

    | When we look at the texts of the Old Testament and New Testament, there is ZERO
    | discussion on the idea of two men or two women living in a committed relationship with each
    | other.

    Ah, but as we’ve already established, no one knows the precise meaning of άρσενοκοίταις … so we can’t logically exclude the possibility that it addresses precisely the idea you are talking about (at least with respect to men, since it’s a masculine term).

    | The Apostle Paul says that it is best that Christians not be married, however, he states, “It is
    | good for a man not to touch a woman. Nevertheless, because of sexual immorality, let each
    | man have his own wife, and let each woman have her own husband.” Why? So all the
    | sexually immoral stuff can happen with only ONE person in a committed relationship.

    Um. No. Rather, I think his point was that sex within marriage is not immoral.

    And anyway, the Christian definition of marriage is much more than “committed relationship.”

  • St. Ralph

    One further thought: If Paul coined άρσενοκοίταις, its absence from Greek erotic homosexual literature is hardly a surprise … its authors were no more likely to read Paul’s work than he was to read theirs.

  • St. Ralph

    And furthermore, Joe, your own argument above seems to indicate that άρσενοκοίταις refers to prostitutes in I Corinthians but to their customers in I Timothy. How remarkably convenient.

    ‘When I use a word,’ Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, ‘it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more nor less.’

    ‘The question is,’ said Alice, ‘whether you can make words mean so many different things.’

    ‘The question is,’ said Humpty Dumpty, ‘which is to be master — that’s all.’

  • Daniel

    Stephen wrote:

    ““If I accept that, I have to ask: WHY are there no such examples?”

    Is it not obvious?”

    Sorry, not to me. I’m a little slow sometimes.

    ““I of course don’t expect the Bible to talk about technological innovations, or representative democracy ”

    Of course you don’t, Daniel.”

    Do you mean that we should put the silence of the Bible on committed same-sex marriages in the same category as silence on technological innovations or representative democracy? That is, such things were not relevant to it’s message to the people of the time?

    My point is that if one of the important aspects of the Bible is relationships (between humans and God, and humans and other humans–summed up in the two greatest commandments), then I am surprised that it is not addressed, in either a positive or negative light. (I am just as surprised by the silence of the Bible on condemning slavery, too; but that is not the question at hand.)

    And really, my question is more to Joe than to you; but assuming you’re in agreement with Joe, I’d like your take on it.

  • http://www.thechristiannetwork.com Jack Jones

    A nice article.

    Are we Scripture or Culture? Alas more western christians than not turn to culture with only a veneer of Scripture. Their lack of foundation will be their undoing. God hates sin. How much? Enough to tear shreds off his son (with God in Him at the same time). Why? To show how deplorable sin actually is. When we stoop so low as to think two men adopting a young child and then possibly having male to male sex in the next room of that child’s exitance is God’s plan?

    Woe to them who call evil good and good evil. Isaiah
    Got it right
    An article on this topic – http://www.thechristiannetwork.com/woe-to-those-who-call-evil-good-and-good-evil-isaiah-520/

  • Michael

    I came back to read the continuing conversation here, and it’s interesting! :)

    I think the fact that “dedicated monogamous homosexual relationships” aren’t hinted to in the Bible shows that we do have to use discernment – we have to look for what the Bible does say about related ideas, just like we do for ” technological innovations or representative democracy”. One reason I feel I can believe so strongly that homosexual marriage is wrong is how the Bible treats heterosexual marriage. Scripture holds it in very high regard! From the start, man is made a female companion. By the end of the same book, God had made Himself man and called the Church His bride! Yes, as human males, it may sound strange for God to call us His bride, but to me that’s just a very good clue as to what dedicated monogamous relationships OUGHT to look like. If Jesus had made, like, 10 guys and 10 girls to start with (or maybe made Adam and Steve), and compared himself to the Church’s eternal “partner” without making reference to gender, maybe I could be swayed. But fact of the matter: ” a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one.” (Gen 2:24)

    The Bible has me convinced that God wants marriage to be between a man and a woman, and the only way to get around for a homosexual is to become a transexual – but even that seems to me to be an insult to God; He made us just the way we are. And for whoever it was that said any heterosexual marriage that includes a homosexual will be unfulfilling, I submit this to your consideration: http://www.joshweed.com/2012/06/club-unicorn-in-which-i-come-out-of.html

    God bless to all. Continue to have a great discussion.

  • Samantha Bartlett

    Hi Ben,

    I finally got to reading your article. I see that you have many heated debates going on here, sorry I have no time to read them all and participate in all the fun. My comment is that your article is fantastic. It is very true and honest. It saddens me that the only thing some people hear are judgement and condemnation; The message of Christ is always about reconciliation and restoration of people to himself, not condemnation. I think one thing people keep missing is that Christians are ambassadors of God’s word, we do not get to dictate what we want scripture to be. If people are honest about their pursuit of God’s word, scripture will become clear to them; most people debate about what scripture says yet they are barely student of the word. Even if they study all of scripture themselves yet their spirit opposes God, they will still not understand. We as Christians, are also accountable for all that God has relayed to us. We are on the same boat, therefore, we are in no way subjecting others to do what don’t do ourselves. With that said, obviously we are not perfect in the way we handle his WORD, that is why we live by God’s mercy everyday.

  • amanda

    I think this article is great. I googled how should christian act towards homosexuality and this is what came up.

  • Marco

    Same sex marriage will destroy the family! There’s no doubt about it. Christians have to stand up right now and with GOOD arguments, explain to people why same sex marriage can’t be approved in America. I think that approving same sex marriage will open the door to polygamy, group marriage and incest in America. I think most people would agree that this is disgusting!


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