Jesus and Homosexuality: The End

Let me suggest at this point that there are five elements in moral decisions, and each interacts with one another rather than being a simplistic conveyor belt series of elements. Some will give more emphasis to one than another; some will seek to reduce it all to “what the Bible says” but we are learning more and more that it is not quite that simple. So, what do we learn from each?
1. Biblical statement (and interpretation): here’s where I have landed. I believe Gen 19 and Judg is about sexual violence, though I think an “out of order” argument can be inferred; I think Leviticus is about an “out of order” argument, though there is clearly an idolatry and separate-from-the-pagans argument involved. Romans 1 is about the argument from “nature” or “order.” The other two Pauline texts are about same-sex acts, but it is not entirely clear what that context might be. Running through these, however, is the creational argument that God made humans into male and female, and that is God’s order. Fundamental, though not entirely, to this “order” is procreative intent.
The Bible nowhere, in my opinion, shows awareness of same-sex orientation vs. same-sex acts; it shows no awareness of faithful love between those of the same sex; these are not categories found in the Bible (again, as I read it). So, even though many traditionalists today are not keen to admit it, it can be argued that the Bible does not directly address what for some is the pressing issue today: fidelity to another of the same sex. (Please read that carefully: the Bible does not “directly” address same-sex oriented people who are committed to fidelity.
2. Church tradition (shaped by denomination or “brand of Christian”) and resolution. The vast majority of Christian traditions have seen same-sex actions as an order issue, and have always seen such acts as contrary to God’s intent. I think the Windsor Report is a good example of what I am talking about here. The low-church tendency for each local church to render its own judgment on all issues leads to the conclusion that Christians should live within the moral judgments of their church. The higher one’s view of the church, the easier it is to relinquish judgment to the church and its leaders.
3. Cultural context. This is where I think a major conclusion has been reached, and it is one to which I think we need to give serious respect. It is fair to divide same-sex acts into those who are same-sex in orientation and those who (for tragic reasons) are simply sexually out of control. Same-sex orientation is developmental and not a choice. Because it is developmental, we are in need of serious need of understanding and sensitivity. This is why I think it is unfair to use analogies to same-sex orientation: it is not a choice and it is not like sins that are simple bad moral decisions. The developmental issue is incredibly complex, and to lump all homosexuals into one bag of sinful reprobates strains what we have learned. I do not (personally) think this means same-sex acts are therefore justifiable; for I remain committed to what the Bible says about “order.” And I do think same-sex acts are a choice. But, I do think same-sex orientation is in a category that needs to be handled with sensitivity and reason.
Where does this lead us? Pastoral sensitivity. Pastoral care. Pastoral tact. As the pastor and parishioners pray and work for the healing that is needed.
4. Experience and individual conscience. Much of what I would say about experience is found in #3, and I have said what I think about individual conscience in previous posts. I do not believe individual conscience is the final guide for Christian morality, but instead that final guide is God — Holy Spirit, the teachings of the Bible, the wisdom of the Church. Experience reveals to me that many of us need more sensitivity, and a great deal more listening.
Experience teaches us that Christians who believe in biblical morality need to be more committed to the fullness of that teaching. Credibility for the gospel is gained when Christians live by the moral codes of the Bible. Anyone who is not stunned by the charge that many Christians fail to live faithfully with their spouses but sit in strong judgment on same-sex acts is not morally sensitive. The gospel is not served well by Christian inconsistency.
5. Reason: penetrating, at some level, everything above. In all of this, we should maintain to the degree we are capable, but always with charity, reasonable discourse. We need to avoid the strident, the accusatory, the sweeping damnatory comments, and the like. We need to listen; we need to learn; and we need to remain committed to the way of Jesus.
I want to thank all my readers for how you have handled yourselves in this discussion. I postponed writing about this for a long, long time simply because I was afraid that some might start tossing insults. So, thanks.

About Scot McKnight

Scot McKnight is a recognized authority on the New Testament, early Christianity, and the historical Jesus. McKnight, author of more than fifty books, is the Professor of New Testament at Northern Seminary in Lombard, IL.

  • Becky

    I think I hear you, and this is what I’ve thought for years. One of the men in our house church I’ve known 28 yrs is a psychologist. Years ago, in one of those tibdits of information that are passed in a blurb in a conversation, he said something about how he counsels those who have a same sex orientation and want to not act on it, the way he counsels those who will live with chronic depression. That is, the goal is not to get rid of the depression, but tools of how to self help the depression. I experience it with me – the part of me that can find women sexually attractive is in me. So far, I don’t look to root it out and get rid of it. But, rather, what I do when it rises up in my mind and goes – yoo hoo. And now I know I need not go there. And partly I don’t go there because I want to do what God wants me to do.
    One little nuance I’d make in this line of yours : “It is fair to divide same-sex acts into those who are same-sex in orientation and those who (for tragic reasons) are simply sexually out of control.” I would say, rather than “those who are same sex in orientation,” to “those who have same sex orientation.” One makes it who they are, the other, one more aspect of their life. I see the difference with my brother, and purposefully try to watch how I say it – my brother has schizophrenia. Sometimes I don’t catch myself and I say “my brother is a schizophrenic.” It isn’t _what_ he is, it’s a disease he has.
    It would be good to find discussion on how we are in relationship with all sinners. That being, though, I was impressed that this discussion didn’t sink low. I would have liked to hear more of what we do, rather than wrangling on are they sinners or not ? All in all, I liked the tone you brought through this series. I will be hanging around and seeing what else comes up here on this blog.
    in his bosom,

  • http://julieunplugged.blogspot.com/ Julie

    Becky, are you saying that same sex orientation, then, is on par with clinical depression or schizophrenia – a mental disorder?
    If so, would you advocate anti-homosexuality drugs if they could be found, similar to anti-depressants or anti-psychotics?
    I mean this as a sincere question, not a snarky one (just read it to myself and saw that it could be taken that way).
    I find it difficult to imagine that someone would see his or her orientation as a mental disorders; whereas I could see that someone who believed homosexuality was a disorder would be more likely to see it as something to get over.
    The term “orientation” is an attempt to neturalize the damaging language used in the past to define homosexuals (when seen as sinful choice, depravity, being queer and so on). I don’t know if that word will stand up/hold up in churches where the goal is to learn to live with the “orientation” as one learns to live with depression or the after effects of alcoholism or whatever. Seems that it would take on the veiled nuance of “disorder” instead… and perhaps that would be the more honest term for churches who see homosexuality that way.

  • Stephan

    Scot, you have brought me back to exactly where I started on this issue. I believe that homosexual orientation is not a choice, but I would add a twist here. I also do not believe it is an “on/off” switch, but a matter of degrees. Some people are solidly at the heterosexual end of the scale, and some are solidly at the homosexual end of the scale, but most people are probably closer to the middle. My concern with “normalizing” homosexuality (and I know you are not advocating this, but some churches are) is that those close to the middle will decide to try it out to see if it is for them. This puts the church in a difficult position between accepting sinners and accepting sin. I am not saying I have an answer for this, only a concern.
    I had a wonderful experience last year when starting a new job. I am not an “in your face” Christian, but the way I live my life makes it obvious what I believe. One of my coworkers, who happens to be homosexual, pulled me aside one day and asked me what kind of church I went to. I explained a little about it and asked him why he wanted to know. He told me that most Christians he had knows (he grew up Southern Baptist) we very judgemental, but I did not seem to be, and he wondered why that was. It gave me a great opportunity to talk to him about sin, Grace and God’s love for everyone. We continue to have a good relationship, we know where the other stands and we can still be friends. I think we were both able to learn a great deal from each other.

  • http://julieunplugged.blogspot.com/ Julie

    Stephan, if I may ask, what did you feel you learned from him? I like hearing that he feels at ease with you. :)
    Julie

  • Stephan

    Julie, I certainly learned how much he hurts, and it cemented my previous perception that he did not decide to be gay. He is also somewhat “unequally yoked”, in that his partner is a chaplain in the county health system and is very active in his church, but my friend has quit attending church because of the hypocrisy he has seen. He also appears to be quite comfortable with his sexual identity, and it does not define him, but it is part of who he is, like Becky was describing. I could see how much it hurt him that his family and his partner’s family struggled with their situation. I did not try to offer him any answers, other than that God’s Grace is for everyone. I could see that rejection had been a major issue in his life, from family, friends and the church. I wanted to make sure I did not heap any more onto that pile.
    I was also struck by how unfair his situation is. While I believe that homosexual relationships are sinful, I don’t have an option outside of celibacy for someone in his situation, and I can’t say that I would be willing to accept that for myself. I think that’s where many in the church have decided that they will condone homosexuality, because it appears to be the most fair option. If we can’t expect them to try to live in heterosexual relationship, and we can’t force celibacy on them, we should allow them to live in a monogamous homosexual relationship. I don’t believe that decision stands up against Scripture, but I can see why some decide to go that way.

  • Derek

    “Jesus and Homosexuality: The End”?? I would say that we are right back where we started! No doubt all are grateful to Scot’s guidance and comments through this series; he is indeed the model of Christian charity and civility. But have we really clarified or said anything? Have we really advanced our understanding of homosexuality, the Christian life, and the Church? The articulations of the five elements in moral decisions are so full of qualifications that our response/position to the issue is left without any real authority/persuasiveness. Or maybe the multitude of qualifications indicates that the present issue of homosexuality (persons of same-sex in a loving, committed, monogamous relationship) is an issue of another “order”? Do the qualifications somehow stand as a witness against us that we lack the spiritual courage or intellectual integrity to deal with this issue in a different way? In the end, we still want to say that same-sex acts are contrary to God’s order, but for me that conclusion simply rings hollow.

  • http://transformingseminarian.blogspot.com/ B-W

    Derek in #6
    Was that all this discussion was about for you? (Are same-sex acts contrary to God’s order or not?) If so, I’m afraid you were always doomed to be disappointed.
    However, if (as I believe was the intention) we’ve allowed people to learn how to understand how we think through these issues, and how to act toward other human beings in ways that bring glory to God, whereever they happen to find themselves on this issue, then I wouldn’t say that “we are right back where we started.”

  • Bruce Smith

    Scott, would it be possible to develop your out of “order” or “nature” argument. From my perspective, Paul’s teaching on Homosexuality in Romans one looks fairly clear and resultantly, explicit rather than inferred. Many NT scholars seem to agree that the first three chapters of Romans may be basically summarized this way (feel free to correct me, as you are a NT scholar of the first rank): Romans one- Paul is dealing the question of why gentiles without Christ do not have salvation and in chapter two, he is saying why Jews without Christ cannot have salvation and in chapter three he shows us that everyone, Jew and Gentile, without Christ cannot have salvation. In Chapter one, he is describing why all gentiles without Christ are lost and without excuse. Paul seems to be using Homosexuality (from my non-scholarly viewpoint), as an example of gentile sin. Certainly this is not the only one, as we can see from Gal. 5, but a definite sin. Why do you believe that it is inferred here — rather than explicit?
    Thanks for the excellent conversation. I am very appreciative as this discussion is something that I can apply directly to my ministry.

  • Becky

    Bruce, I see Romans 2 as saying : and you are them, and the “them” is all of us.
    Becky

  • Derek

    B-H in #7,
    I guess my comments could come across as naïve as to what the series was to accomplish, so I appreciate your post to me.
    Let’s start, then, with your assessment of what the series was about: we’ve allowed people to learn how to understand how we think through these issues and how to act toward other human beings in ways that bring glory to God.
    But what have we allowed people to learn? I have learned that some of the instructions from the Bible are at best “inferences,” and where the Bible explicitly addresses same-sex acts the various contexts assumed by these passages may actually deal with something quite different than the modern homosexual issue. I have learned that we need to distinguish between orientation and choices (bad moral decisions). But none of these qualifications (and there are more) have seemed to shape significantly our conclusion: same-sex acts are outside God’s order. If we what people to learn how we think through these issues, have we provided an appropriate model? No matter what the number or weight of the qualifications, our position is essentially the same as where it began. Now, perhaps we have modeled for people how to act toward other human beings in ways that bring glory to God (showing pastoral sensitivity, care, and tact, and “pray for the healing that is needed”). But in terms of how we think through the issue of homosexuality, perhaps what people have learned is that our position/conclusion dies the death of a thousand qualifications.
    Confession time. If someone were to ask me how a “think through” the issue of homosexuality, my answer would be very similar to Scot’s. But this position/thinking is becoming very difficult for me to maintain, and I am feeling very hypocritical about it. The references to “spiritual courage” and “intellectual integrity” in my previous post are directed at me: how long can I keep up the facade of saying one thing but deep down sensing it is not true?

  • Becky

    Julie, same gender attraction – I’d put it in the pot along with depression. I don’t know about schizophrenia, that is farther along the scale of bonkers. But as depression, yes, in that there are aspects to same gender attraction with roots that can be identified, and cognitive rethinking done on them. I know about the DSM, have a copy of one, and don’t know I’d advocate same gender attraction being a category in DSM, that is, a person walks into counseling and gets dx’d with that as the disorder. I think it can be something that springs out of another dx that would be made.
    When you say ; “I find it difficult to imagine that someone would see his or her orientation as a mental disorder; whereas I could see that someone who believed homosexuality was a disorder would be more likely to see it as something to get over.” If I hear you correctly, I think we agree. I think when it gets to being an issue in a person, then they look for help. If a person has no issue with same gender sexual orientation, I don’t expect them to consider needing help. I’ve stated it before, though, it is my opinion in the experience I’ve had in 30 yrs, that those that pursue same gender sexual relationships, do so to self-medicate. I do believe if anyone was willing to undergo counseling, eventually the link would be made to childhood lacks trying to be soothed in the present day relationship choices.
    At this time, I don’t expect a counsel of expecting the orientation will go away – I think it will always be available to use, and sometimes seems to spring up out of nowhere. We burn paths in our brain, and all that. But I would expect counsel on what to do when it springs up.

  • http://bgenis.blogspot.com Bob

    When we speak of orientation and choices can we accurately substitute the terms “sin nature” and “sins”. If homosexuals are “made that way” (developmental) rather than by choice, is that any different than saying they were born with a sin nature which manifests itself as a certain sin? (Of course, if you do not think homosexuality is a sin, this question is moot.)
    That said, what implications are there to sitting around saying we are all cracked Eikons in need of grace? It sounds righteous to say “you are in sin, we will expel you” (1 Cor 5). It sounds empathetic and self-deprecating to say “we’re all sinners, no one worse than the next and we patiently work out our salvation together”.
    But don’t both of these positions empty the Cross of it’s power? It isn’t enough to say a Way has been provided and now it’s up to us to follow. A Way has not only been made, a new nature has been imparted, transformational power has been given, we have risen to new life. We’re focusing on the sins and “what to do about it” rather than the sin nature that has been conquered. (I think Scot said something about a tree and fruit–focusing on fruit and forgetting the tree.)
    The more I read, the more I begin to sense that in the unseen world (the one that truly is real 2 Cor 4:8) there are no points of reference from the seen world. That’s why Jesus had such a hard time explaining this new life to His followers (“It’s like a fishing net” “It’s like a field” “It’s like a pearl” “It’s like a banquet” …).
    I haven’t seen much hope in the discussion here. Either judgement or sympathy (or empathy). No talk of “Behold I make all things new”.

  • http://highargument.blogspot.com Grey Owl

    Bob – “But don’t both of these positions empty the Cross of it’s power? It isn’t enough to say a Way has been provided and now it’s up to us to follow. A Way has not only been made, a new nature has been imparted, transformational power has been given, we have risen to new life. We’re focusing on the sins and “what to do about it” rather than the sin nature that has been conquered.”
    So, Bob, what would you say to someone who comes to you and says, “I’m a Christian, and I pray for God to take away my homosexual urges, but nothing happens.”? How do you treat someone who seems unable to overcome this sin – or that God has not changed?

  • http://www.JesusCreed.org Scot McKnight

    Well, Bob, I respectfully disagree, as I have spoken of grace plenty of times — and I believe in God’s restoring gracious power. The focus of this series, however, has been on the moral logic of Jesus and how that would work out in the case of homosexuality — and I have tried to come to a conclusion on that basis. The series did not focus on how to heal homosexuality. But, I’m all for Chad Thompson’s proposals — if you have seen them.
    My position cannot be reduced to “empathy.” But that homosexuality is a developmental situation, and acting on that is contrary to God’s order. Which, if I read the Bible aright, is a significant conclusion. It has to do with creation order, not just levitical law.

  • http://bgenis.blogspot.com Bob

    Gut reaction? I’d ask them what God has done in them. Maybe His work doesn’t start where we think it should. This person may be changing in other ways first. In recognizing His hand (where ever it is), I’d hope to build their faith in the work that has begun and their ability to rest in His timing.
    If they cannot find an area of their life, maybe it’s time for them to (for now) stop focusing on what they want changed and start being open to what He wants.
    Of course, the conviction to conquer the homosexual feelings is good and should not be dismissed–they shouldn’t harden their heart to it. It just isn’t for today.

  • http://bgenis.blogspot.com Bob

    Scot,
    Can you substitute “a manifestation of the sin nature” for developmental situation and “sinning” for acting on it?

  • http://www.JesusCreed.org Scot McKnight

    Bob,
    You’re now back to the cracked Eikon idea. I think the developmental issue is part of the crackedness in the human condition, yes, and I do think same-sex acts are sinful because they are contrary to God’s order.

  • Becky

    Bob, maybe I misread you, but to be able to identify psychological contributors, I think, doesn’t detract from the issue of sin. Healing comes on 3 levels – physical, spiritual, emotional.
    In one of my comments in this series, when I came onboard, I specified that because of Sin in me, I used my mother wound as an excuse to use women to self medicate. In my work through this, for 30 yrs, it just happened that spiritual guidance I was seeking on this issue coincided with psych guidance I was seeking. For me, dying with Christ was learning to say “no” when attraction raises it’s head. But it wouldn’t be enough just to say no. I needed to understand why attraction was there in the first place, and there, exploration on using people to self medicate a mommy wound, helped. I could then look at how to better address that wound as the now adult.
    The “yes” I turn to when I say “no,” is toward the heart of God. I think when I turn to others to medicate, the sin is turning from the heart of God. When I say “no,” it is available for me to turn to the heart of God. Because God can seem distant, it can seem to soothe faster to turn to what’s in front of my face, and I make those my golden calf. When I refuse the golden calf, I think I orient myself to experience myself more in the heart of God. I turn from God, or I turn to God. And that, I think, is the commonality to all sin, that we all do.

  • Bryan

    Scot,
    Thanks for clearing some things up for me and also, thanks for leaving some things open. If there’s one thing I believe Christians need, it is the “open ended question”. I like your distinction between “act” and “orientation”. I used to broad-brush all gays into one group until I got to know a few and found that things are not as easy as they appear.
    I think the “gay issue” is not really about the true question. I think the real test is to see if we can hold a civil conversation on this topic and not rip each others’ heads off. Jesus never said, “By this the world will know you are my disciples, that you [don't] allow gays into the church.” But Jesus did say, “By this the world will know that you’re my disciples, that you love one another.”
    For those of us who believe homosexuality is not sin, may we accept our brothers and sisters who disagree, understanding that they are not ignorant homophobes or folks blindly following Dobson and Falwell (most of them, anyway). They are trying to be faithful to the Bible according to their understanding. For those of us who do believe it is a sin, may we understand that those who disagree are not trying to destroy the Bible or let sin in the camp because they’re weak and blinded by the present culture (most of them, anyway). They, too, are trying to be faithful to the Bible according to their understanding. Please accept your brothers and sisters with love.
    In other words, most of us are trying to be faithful to the Bible and the intent of Jesus. What Bill Moyers once said about the political spectrum last year I think is true in the church. He said (to paraphrase) an eagle needs both the left wing and the right wing in order to fly. In this country, during this present time, I believe we’re losing (if not lost) the capability to agree to disagree, accept our differences, and move on. Only the church can lead the way back to civil discourse through our example.
    May YHWH bless,
    Bryan

  • http://bgenis.blogspot.com Bob

    Scot,
    Yes back to the cracked Eikon. But what has the Cross made of those cracked Eikons? Are we still cracked or have we been restored? When is say “restored”, I mean do we have fully justified lives hidden in Christ? Is it any less real right now?

  • http://www.JesusCreed.org Scot McKnight

    Bryan,
    Thanks for your comments.
    Bob,
    Restoration to the degree possible, and restoration that takes time, but genuine Holy Spirit healing.

  • http://bgenis.blogspot.com Bob

    Becky in #18,
    I think from reading your other comments I see where you’re coming from. I think it’s always helpful to understand why we do what we do but we cannot put our intellect and our future self-will up as the solution.
    (I’m not saying you’re doing that. More preaching to myself…)

  • http://bgenis.blogspot.com Bob

    Scot,
    “to the degree possible”????? With God, all things are possible, right?

  • http://www.JesusCreed.org Scot McKnight

    Bob,
    Well, yes, all things are possible, but the one thing God doesn’t seem to do in this world is make humans sinless and perfectly loving. So, “to the degree possible” reflects my eschatology: we can achieve kingdom ethics to the degree the kingdom has been realized.

  • Scott Morizot

    Thanks Scot. Also thanks to Bryan, Greg, and others who really challenged me to try to express my thoughts more clearly. By pushing me to compose my admittedly lengthy comments, you also greatly helped me clarify my own thoughts for myself. The process of writing helps me order my ideas.
    I suppose I’m encouraged to see that a theologian who approached this question originally from (I’m guessing from what you’ve said about your history) the opposite position of origin than me arrived at a very similar destination. I’ve said a little about it, but for anyone to appreciate the difficulty I had finally reaching the conclusions I did, you really have to understand where I was when I my journey of conversion led me all the way back(?) to Christ. At that point, it would be hard to find much in the consensual sexual world with which I had a problem. Same gender relationships? No problem. Living together? Been there, done that. Plural marriages (and not the male-dominated model, but either matriarchal or thoroughly mixed)? No problem. Committed threesomes (any mix of gender)? Cool. I knew people (and sometimes was part of some situations) in all of the above. And none of it bothered me at all.
    You have to understand that starting point before you can truly grasp the enormity of the conclusion I eventually reached. And you stated it very well, Scot. It’s a creation issue, not a levitical or legal one. That’s what finally got me. This is what God intended in creation. So anything else must be the result of the damage of sin or “cracks” to use your very appropriate terminology. (However, I think my perspective of the way sin has damaged creation, though not dissimilar to the thoughts of people like CS Lewis, is different than that of most American evangelical Christians.)
    And at the end of the day, there is no simple blanket response to this crack or many others. Rather, we must see the Eikon of God in people, affirm their faith, offer the truth of our community and the lengthy tradition of the Church, but do so only at the time and in a manner that conforms to the work of the Holy Spirit. Don’t lie about what we believe to be truth. But make sure it’s not a club with which we are beating hurting people.
    I can live with that.

  • http://bgenis.blogspot.com Bob

    Scot,
    Exactly! Now why do you think that is? Because He is unable? (I think we agree this isn’t the case.) Or because of our little faith?
    If it is because of our small faith, then why? Why don’t we believe in an all-powerful God’s promises?
    I think it’s wrapped up in the idea of still thinking of ourselves as cracked Eikons. That and a “with vs in” thinking.

  • Becky

    Bob, whether it’s little faith or some other, are you saying you think it’s possible to be perfect in this life ?

  • http://bgenis.blogspot.com Bob

    Becky,
    I think if you look up “loaded question” in the dictionary, you’d see this one. ;-)
    I’ll answer with a qualified yes. But “perfect” would need to be defined. Without sin? No. Correct in every decision? No. Holy as He is holy? No. At peace in Him? Yes.
    I can think of nothing more perfect than living in communion in Him. Do I do this? Technically, I can’t.
    Our problem is in how we view “perfect”. When I reflect on my walk in Him, I see areas that constantly plague me. Things that from the outset I thought a “good” Christian does. Those areas are still there much to my chagrin. But then I look at what He has done in my heart and the other lives He has placed me in. The differences He has made in those lives through me.
    I didn’t try to do any of those things. I didn’t even know they were there to do. He did them (“so it can be plainly seen that what [I have] done has been done by God”). Only recently have I laid down my ideas of what a “good” Christian does and taken up an awareness of what He does.
    This whole series has revolved around sin, its effects, and how it is to be dealt with. Never once did we discuss what Christ has already done with it. We’re pitful, imperfect, cracked Eikons muddling along awaiting a Savior. Does that sound like Good News to you?

  • Becky

    Sorry Bob, I didn’t mean it to be a loaded question or to trap you with it, but an honest question that came up in me when I read what you had posted. You answered it.
    I am not good at writing (having a dad who was a technical writer, I am all too aware of it) and there certainly is lots that could be written on it, but the – what Christ has done, is what I mean that the heart of God is there for me to turn to. There is much that is contained in that short sentence. When I choose to run my life, or when I submit to live through the Spirit. There is a lot more to be said of that.

  • http://www.JesusCreed.org Scot McKnight

    Bob,
    This whole series, in fact, has been on moral logic, how Jesus used moral logic, and how that moral logic applies to homosexuality. I’m a little annoyed when folks hijack a conversation and move into something they want to talk about, and so I’m pushing this button once again with you.
    One of the central features of reviewing arguments is to review what was argued rather than what was not argued. So, when I review a book, I do not ask what the author did not talk about and say, “had she talked about this, she would have had a different and better book” but “this is what was said, and this is how I think of it.”
    So, this series is about moral logic, and not about redemption — about which I’ve said more than my share in Embracing Grace.

  • http://www.JesusCreed.org Scot McKnight

    Bob,
    This whole series, in fact, has been on moral logic, how Jesus used moral logic, and how that moral logic applies to homosexuality. I’m a little annoyed when folks hijack a conversation and move into something they want to talk about, and so I’m pushing this button once again with you.
    One of the central features of reviewing arguments is to review what was argued rather than what was not argued. So, when I review a book, I do not ask what the author did not talk about and say, “had she talked about this, she would have had a different and better book” but “this is what was said, and this is how I think of it.”
    So, this series is about moral logic, and not about redemption — about which I’ve said more than my share in Embracing Grace.

  • Don in Phoenix

    Bob (RE #26):
    I think God has other priorities. We are all being transformed into the image of Christ. None of us will totally achieve that transformation before the end of time as we know it, regardless of our eschatology. Personally, changing character from “works of the flesh” to “fruit of the spirit” is far more significant than repairing one’s sexual orientation.
    If Scot’s moral reasoning is correct (and I cannot disagree with it), then same-sex orientation is a developmental disorder – a distortion of God’s created order – and we should not hesitate to acknowledge it as an imperfection. However, the pseudo-science of psychology has no treatment, and the more legitimate science of psychiatry claims that attempts to change someone’s sexual orientation are damaging. Therefore, only God can deal with this issue, and while we are waiting for Him to change us, we have to deal with the realities of life.
    God has not granted very many people (straight or otherwise) with the gift of celibacy. Human sexuality is not just or even primarily about procreation – it is God’s answer to the problem of loneliness. Companionship of this nature is a basic human need, and denying anyone any meaningful hope for fulfillment of that need cannot be described as “loving my neighbor”. When we say that we cannot approve of same-sex relationships because they are “out of order” (i.e., less than perfect), our demand for perfection has forced a “not good”. I’d much rather live with “not perfect” than with “not good”.
    While God has been apparently ignoring the “not perfect” in my life, He has been actively working on seeking justice, loving mercy, and walking humbly with my God. Amazingly, when I finally accepted my sexual orientation and stopped living in denial, I made amazing progress on the “works of the flesh” front. I’m a work in progress – but I know in whom I have believed, and am persuaded that He is able to keep that which I have committed unto Him against that day!
    (P.S. – I heartily recommend Justice Anthony Kennedy’s opinion in Lawrence v. Texas for anyone who is interested in serious moral reasoning on this issue. If you read it with Scot’s conclusions in mind as to what would be Jesus’ view of the matter, you may find yourself quite moved.)

  • Don in Phoenix

    Bob (RE #26):
    I think God has other priorities. We are all being transformed into the image of Christ. None of us will totally achieve that transformation before the end of time as we know it, regardless of our eschatology. Personally, changing character from “works of the flesh” to “fruit of the spirit” is far more significant than repairing one’s sexual orientation.
    If Scot’s moral reasoning is correct (and I cannot disagree with it), then same-sex orientation is a developmental disorder – a distortion of God’s created order – and we should not hesitate to acknowledge it as an imperfection. However, the pseudo-science of psychology has no treatment, and the more legitimate science of psychiatry claims that attempts to change someone’s sexual orientation are damaging. Therefore, only God can deal with this issue, and while we are waiting for Him to change us, we have to deal with the realities of life.
    God has not granted very many people (straight or otherwise) with the gift of celibacy. Human sexuality is not just or even primarily about procreation – it is God’s answer to the problem of loneliness. Companionship of this nature is a basic human need, and denying anyone any meaningful hope for fulfillment of that need cannot be described as “loving my neighbor”. When we say that we cannot approve of same-sex relationships because they are “out of order” (i.e., less than perfect), our demand for perfection has forced a “not good”. I’d much rather live with “not perfect” than with “not good”.
    While God has been apparently ignoring the “not perfect” in my life, He has been actively working on seeking justice, loving mercy, and walking humbly with my God. Amazingly, when I finally accepted my sexual orientation and stopped living in denial, I made amazing progress on the “works of the flesh” front. I’m a work in progress – but I know in whom I have believed, and am persuaded that He is able to keep that which I have committed unto Him against that day!
    (P.S. – I heartily recommend Justice Anthony Kennedy’s opinion in Lawrence v. Texas for anyone who is interested in serious moral reasoning on this issue. If you read it with Scot’s conclusions in mind as to what would be Jesus’ view of the matter, you may find yourself quite moved.)

  • Bryan Hodge

    Bob, the NT mentions sexual immorality 54 times as something that a “good christian” needs to cease partaking in. I don’t think it’s just a sin issue that “we” think is about redemption. For instance, 1 Thes 4
    3 “For this is the will of God, your sanctification; [that is], that you abstain from sexual immorality ; 4 that each of you know how to possess his own vessel in sanctification and honor, 5 not in lustful passion, like the Gentiles who do not know God; 6 [and] that no man transgress and defraud his brother in the matter because the Lord is [the] avenger in all these things, just as we also told you before and solemnly warned [you]. 7 For God has not called us for the purpose of impurity, but in sanctification. 8 So, he who rejects [this] is not rejecting man but the God who gives His Holy Spirit to you.”
    I’m not sure if I’ve misunderstood you here, but I don’t see inner peace as a sign of redemption. People will continue to struggle with this issue because God commands us to rely on Him for the power to DAILY overcome sin. It’s not a one time deal, nor is sanctification absent of having to do with this issue. Have I misunderstood something here?

  • Bryan Hodge

    Don, “Human sexuality is not just or even primarily about procreation – it is God’s answer to the problem of loneliness.”
    I think this was already contradicted. “Pseudo-psychology” is what has us misread Gen 2 and take it out of context (the context is procreation) and read “alone” and in need of a “helper” as “lonely” and in need of a “companion,” so we do need to deal with this in the here and now (I think it doubtful we’ll be procreating on the new earth).

  • Bryan Hodge

    Another thing, Don. When we interpret this as loneliness, are we saying that God is not enough for the man? That man is empty somehow because another human needs to fill that void that God cannot? I think the Bible teaches us otherwise.

  • http://bgenis.blogspot.com Bob

    Dr. McKnight,
    You highlight the difference between the studied, disciplined mind of a scholar and the hap-hazard mind of a “hack”.
    Thank you for the series and your keen ability to educate well beyond the subject at hand.

  • Becky

    BryanH, I thought one of the foundations are that the Trinity had relationship before Creation, and in their image, we are relational. Interesting that relationship with others would be pitted oppositional to God being enough. I think it’s a matter of perspective, balance, not one or the other. If we look to people to provide what only God can provide, we put a burden on others that isn’t theirs to bear, and we will be disappointed because other people can not fill that place. But if we turn to God first, then to people, we get what we were meant to have in relationship. I think it’s a matter of balance, not necessarily either/or.

  • Becky

    BryanH, I thought one of the foundations are that the Trinity had relationship before Creation, and in their image, we are relational. Interesting that relationship with others would be pitted oppositional to God being enough. I think it’s a matter of perspective, balance, not one or the other. If we look to people to provide what only God can provide, we put a burden on others that isn’t theirs to bear, and we will be disappointed because other people can not fill that place. But if we turn to God first, then to people, we get what we were meant to have in relationship. I think it’s a matter of balance, not necessarily either/or.

  • Don in Phoenix

    Bryan,
    Re #34: I’m not saying God wasn’t enough for the man – God did. Are you saying that God is enough for you – you don’t need a companion, friends, social interaction, your local church?
    I think I may have figured out why you’re not getting what I’m trying to say, and it may be partially because I’m approaching from the wrong angle and with overly complex sentences. How about this argument?
    God is love.
    God made man in His image.
    Man therefore is made to love.
    Man needs someone to love. (not good to be alone)
    God created human sexuality as an expression of love – for humans to show love to each other, and for God to show love by creating such pleasure.
    The love (union) between two humans is a metaphor of the love of Christ for the Church (wherein gender is not an issue).
    Procreation is one of many functional aspects of human sexuality.
    BTW – Procreation is mentioned in the summary of creation in Ch 1, but Ch 2 is a detailed account of the creation of man (summarized in 1:26-27), which actually chronologically happens before the “be fruitful and multiply” mandate of 1:28. Ch. 2:18-25 explains God’s reason for creating human sexuality. He could not have blessed them and commanded them before there was a “them”. The way I read 1:26-27, “be fruitful and multiply” is the blessing. Is the concept of sex without procreation uncomfortable for you for some reason? Do you look for a procreative context in Song of Solomon?
    (Sincerely, Bryan – I’m not trying to insult your intelligence. Thanks for testing my not-quite-fully-cooked reasoning.)

  • Don in Phoenix

    Bryan,
    Re #34: I’m not saying God wasn’t enough for the man – God did. Are you saying that God is enough for you – you don’t need a companion, friends, social interaction, your local church?
    I think I may have figured out why you’re not getting what I’m trying to say, and it may be partially because I’m approaching from the wrong angle and with overly complex sentences. How about this argument?
    God is love.
    God made man in His image.
    Man therefore is made to love.
    Man needs someone to love. (not good to be alone)
    God created human sexuality as an expression of love – for humans to show love to each other, and for God to show love by creating such pleasure.
    The love (union) between two humans is a metaphor of the love of Christ for the Church (wherein gender is not an issue).
    Procreation is one of many functional aspects of human sexuality.
    BTW – Procreation is mentioned in the summary of creation in Ch 1, but Ch 2 is a detailed account of the creation of man (summarized in 1:26-27), which actually chronologically happens before the “be fruitful and multiply” mandate of 1:28. Ch. 2:18-25 explains God’s reason for creating human sexuality. He could not have blessed them and commanded them before there was a “them”. The way I read 1:26-27, “be fruitful and multiply” is the blessing. Is the concept of sex without procreation uncomfortable for you for some reason? Do you look for a procreative context in Song of Solomon?
    (Sincerely, Bryan – I’m not trying to insult your intelligence. Thanks for testing my not-quite-fully-cooked reasoning.)

  • http://www.xanga.com/spamdawunderdog Gary Davis

    I wish I were one of your students. I feel like I really missed something of Jesus in the experience of my college days. Very Biblically, very gracefully, and very pastorally said.

  • http://www.xanga.com/spamdawunderdog Gary Davis

    I wish I were one of your students. I feel like I really missed something of Jesus in the experience of my college days. Very Biblically, very gracefully, and very pastorally said.

  • Bryan Hodge

    Hi Becky, I’m not saying that we don’t have the relational aspect and that that is not a part of sex. I am saying that that is not what Gen 1-2 is teaching about why they are made male and female.
    Here’s a breakdown, Don. I think you basically made my argument for me, but may not have picked it up.
    Gen 1:26-27 is a summary of God making man, male and female. The purpose of this is seen in the command (it’s an imperative) “You are to be fruitful and multiply and fill up the earth.”
    Gen 2 speaks to why the female is made (as opposed to Adam just being by himself, one human, “alone”).
    God states that this is not good (the man was not made to just be one, but to be many—he cannot do this on his own).
    The animals are made and brought to the man, but cannot fulfill the function of bearing other humans (obviously).
    ” but for Adam there was not found a helper suitable for him.”
    Suitable for what? To fulfill an emotional need? That is nowhere to be found in the context. It is our overly sentimental and romantic culture that binds us to that reading, but it is nowhere in the text. They are not suitable for procreation. They cannot help the man to become more than one.
    Then God makes the woman that is “like or according to his side,” i.e., similar to him.
    The two then are to become one flesh in the sexual union.
    This does not occur right away because there is the interuption of the Fall in Chapt 3.
    The union takes place in 4:1 and the result is Eve giving birth to a man “together with Yahweh”—i.e., procreation.
    This text has always been read this way by Jews and the Church. It is our modern culture that has distorted it. I’m not saying love is not a part of the relationship between a man and a woman, nor that it is not a beautiful picture of Christ and His Church, or that it is not pleasurable to us (as in the SoS) and everything else you want to say about it. All I am saying is that its PRIMARY purpose is procreation and that’s why they were made male and female to begin with. It is gained from Gen 1 and Gen 2 (and frankly could be gained from either independantly of the other). Sexually immorality in the Bible is any sex act therefore that does not obey this first command to be fruitful and multiply and fill up the earth and therefore have the potential for God to naturally choose to make more humans through the sexual union (the two–male and female– becoming one flesh).
    So Adam is not depressed because he’s lonely and needs a date. He has God as we will in eternity and not need other humans to fill us (loving others isn’t about filling ourselves—that’s a bit co-dependent and self centered to me). We need each other for tons of reasons, but not because God isn’t enough for us. That reading is just out of whack to me.
    Don, you said,
    PREMISE 1: God is love.
    PREMISE 2: God made man in His image.
    PREMISE 3: Man therefore is made to love.
    PREMISE 4: Man needs someone to love. (not good to be alone)”
    CONCLUSION: God created human sexuality as an expression of love – for humans to show love to each other, and for God to show love by creating such pleasure.
    Premise 1: God is love does not mean God needs to be loved and is therefore lonely.
    Premise 2: Man in God’s image in Gen 1 is talking about a representative status of the man over creation, not that he’s like God. I will grant that man is made like God in a lot of ways however and to love is one of them. However, if premise one is false and God does not need to be loved or is lonely, then our being made in His image doesn’t make us needful to be loved or lonely either.
    Premise 3: I think I would say man is made to love God and therefore other humans who represent Him (loving God through others then), but not that man is made needful to be loved by other humans because he is lonely and God is not enough. Man definitely needs to be loved by God and therefore may long to be loved by other humans who represent God in the absence of His presence (or frankly just us not being able to see Him—but Adam doesn’t have this problem).
    Premise 4: Man needs to love God. He really doesn’t NEED some other human to love (unless once again when he does not have God in front of him so to speak).
    Conclusion: The creation of sex has nothing to do with a NEED to express love to another human, but to express love to God by seeking relationship with Him through obedience to His desires (for us to be fruitful and multiply and fill up the earth). God joins with us as we become one flesh. Our love for each other is our love for Him.
    I find it interesting that our culture thanks God for pleasure so much as though God just makes pleasure for pleasure’s sake rather than to fulfill His will. God’s love is shown toward us by making us and making us multiply as we seek to obey Him as our expression of love toward Him.
    So I think premise 1 is especially off. Premise 2 then if off because it is built off of premise 1. Premise 3 has man’s NEED to love pointed at another human rather than through another human toward God. The same can be said of Premise 4. The conclusion therefore is not valid from the argument given and simply restates an already held presupp about sex.
    The two other things mentioned: the picture of Christ and the Church (of course I agree with but has nothing to do with sex not being about procreation—isn’t the metaphor even better when one sees Christ in union with His Church as bringing forth life in children?); and the statement about procreation being merely one of many uses for sex (which I obviously disagree with and still have not been given a solid Biblical argument as to why it’s only an occasional use) have little to do with the premises stated (but I’m not sure if you were intending them to be linked or not?).
    Once again, I’m not saying that sex cannot be used for all of the things you mentioned (pleasure, intimacy, expressions of love, etc.). I’m only saying that if the sexual act is done in disregard to its PRIMARLY function—procreation–then it is an abuse of it, which the Bible calls sexual immorality/distortion/inappropriateness.

  • Bryan Hodge

    Hi Becky, I’m not saying that we don’t have the relational aspect and that that is not a part of sex. I am saying that that is not what Gen 1-2 is teaching about why they are made male and female.
    Here’s a breakdown, Don. I think you basically made my argument for me, but may not have picked it up.
    Gen 1:26-27 is a summary of God making man, male and female. The purpose of this is seen in the command (it’s an imperative) “You are to be fruitful and multiply and fill up the earth.”
    Gen 2 speaks to why the female is made (as opposed to Adam just being by himself, one human, “alone”).
    God states that this is not good (the man was not made to just be one, but to be many—he cannot do this on his own).
    The animals are made and brought to the man, but cannot fulfill the function of bearing other humans (obviously).
    ” but for Adam there was not found a helper suitable for him.”
    Suitable for what? To fulfill an emotional need? That is nowhere to be found in the context. It is our overly sentimental and romantic culture that binds us to that reading, but it is nowhere in the text. They are not suitable for procreation. They cannot help the man to become more than one.
    Then God makes the woman that is “like or according to his side,” i.e., similar to him.
    The two then are to become one flesh in the sexual union.
    This does not occur right away because there is the interuption of the Fall in Chapt 3.
    The union takes place in 4:1 and the result is Eve giving birth to a man “together with Yahweh”—i.e., procreation.
    This text has always been read this way by Jews and the Church. It is our modern culture that has distorted it. I’m not saying love is not a part of the relationship between a man and a woman, nor that it is not a beautiful picture of Christ and His Church, or that it is not pleasurable to us (as in the SoS) and everything else you want to say about it. All I am saying is that its PRIMARY purpose is procreation and that’s why they were made male and female to begin with. It is gained from Gen 1 and Gen 2 (and frankly could be gained from either independantly of the other). Sexually immorality in the Bible is any sex act therefore that does not obey this first command to be fruitful and multiply and fill up the earth and therefore have the potential for God to naturally choose to make more humans through the sexual union (the two–male and female– becoming one flesh).
    So Adam is not depressed because he’s lonely and needs a date. He has God as we will in eternity and not need other humans to fill us (loving others isn’t about filling ourselves—that’s a bit co-dependent and self centered to me). We need each other for tons of reasons, but not because God isn’t enough for us. That reading is just out of whack to me.
    Don, you said,
    PREMISE 1: God is love.
    PREMISE 2: God made man in His image.
    PREMISE 3: Man therefore is made to love.
    PREMISE 4: Man needs someone to love. (not good to be alone)”
    CONCLUSION: God created human sexuality as an expression of love – for humans to show love to each other, and for God to show love by creating such pleasure.
    Premise 1: God is love does not mean God needs to be loved and is therefore lonely.
    Premise 2: Man in God’s image in Gen 1 is talking about a representative status of the man over creation, not that he’s like God. I will grant that man is made like God in a lot of ways however and to love is one of them. However, if premise one is false and God does not need to be loved or is lonely, then our being made in His image doesn’t make us needful to be loved or lonely either.
    Premise 3: I think I would say man is made to love God and therefore other humans who represent Him (loving God through others then), but not that man is made needful to be loved by other humans because he is lonely and God is not enough. Man definitely needs to be loved by God and therefore may long to be loved by other humans who represent God in the absence of His presence (or frankly just us not being able to see Him—but Adam doesn’t have this problem).
    Premise 4: Man needs to love God. He really doesn’t NEED some other human to love (unless once again when he does not have God in front of him so to speak).
    Conclusion: The creation of sex has nothing to do with a NEED to express love to another human, but to express love to God by seeking relationship with Him through obedience to His desires (for us to be fruitful and multiply and fill up the earth). God joins with us as we become one flesh. Our love for each other is our love for Him.
    I find it interesting that our culture thanks God for pleasure so much as though God just makes pleasure for pleasure’s sake rather than to fulfill His will. God’s love is shown toward us by making us and making us multiply as we seek to obey Him as our expression of love toward Him.
    So I think premise 1 is especially off. Premise 2 then if off because it is built off of premise 1. Premise 3 has man’s NEED to love pointed at another human rather than through another human toward God. The same can be said of Premise 4. The conclusion therefore is not valid from the argument given and simply restates an already held presupp about sex.
    The two other things mentioned: the picture of Christ and the Church (of course I agree with but has nothing to do with sex not being about procreation—isn’t the metaphor even better when one sees Christ in union with His Church as bringing forth life in children?); and the statement about procreation being merely one of many uses for sex (which I obviously disagree with and still have not been given a solid Biblical argument as to why it’s only an occasional use) have little to do with the premises stated (but I’m not sure if you were intending them to be linked or not?).
    Once again, I’m not saying that sex cannot be used for all of the things you mentioned (pleasure, intimacy, expressions of love, etc.). I’m only saying that if the sexual act is done in disregard to its PRIMARLY function—procreation–then it is an abuse of it, which the Bible calls sexual immorality/distortion/inappropriateness.

  • http://communityofjesus.blogspot.com/ Ted Gossard,

    Bryan, I can’t agree with you that expressing love has to take a back seat to procreation, in husbands and wives “making love”, or having sex. There is nothing at all about procreation in Song of Songs, which is all about the female and male coming together in a celebratory way, naked and unashamed. This statement does not mean procreation is unimportant. (If you reply, I don’t have access to “Jesus Creed” until much later).

  • http://communityofjesus.blogspot.com/ Ted Gossard,

    Bryan, I can’t agree with you that expressing love has to take a back seat to procreation, in husbands and wives “making love”, or having sex. There is nothing at all about procreation in Song of Songs, which is all about the female and male coming together in a celebratory way, naked and unashamed. This statement does not mean procreation is unimportant. (If you reply, I don’t have access to “Jesus Creed” until much later).

  • http://communityofjesus.blogspot.com/ Ted Gossard,

    Scot, Thanks for this series. I appreciate your take on it, and the way you worked through it. And thanks to those commenting. It is a lightening rod issue, and the conversation between all sides, I think, was most encouraging. And informative.

  • http://communityofjesus.blogspot.com/ Ted Gossard,

    Scot, Thanks for this series. I appreciate your take on it, and the way you worked through it. And thanks to those commenting. It is a lightening rod issue, and the conversation between all sides, I think, was most encouraging. And informative.

  • Becky

    Bryan Hodge
    > Hi Becky, I’m not saying that we don’t have the relational aspect and that
    > that is not a part of sex. I am saying that that is not what Gen 1-2 is
    > teaching about why they are made male and female.
    >
    > Here’s a breakdown, Don. I think you basically made my argument for me,
    > but may not have picked it up.
    >
    > Gen 1:26-27 is a summary of God making man, male and female.
    Genesis is laying a groundwork of what it means to be God’s imagebearers.
    What is glossed over is adam and eve made in God’s image. Pause with that a
    bit, and what you get is people predisposed to relationship. God said be
    fruitful and multiply, but what lies behind that is the premise of being in
    God’s image is being relational people. I don’t know that I can say the
    Trinity needs relationship among themselves, but they have it. Being in
    their image, it is in our framework to need relationships, like we need
    food. Consider in that, though, that one of the relationships is with God.
    Then with that underlying the context, it says be fruitful…….
    >The purpose of this is seen in the command (it’s an >imperative) “You are to
    >be fruitful and multiply and fill up the earth.”
    > Gen 2 speaks to why the female is made (as opposed to >Adam just being by
    > himself, one human, “alone”).
    > God states that this is not good (the man was not made to just be one, but
    > to be many—he cannot do this on his own).
    > The animals are made and brought to the man, but cannot fulfill the
    > function of bearing other humans (obviously).
    Not only unable to bear children, but unable to meet Adam, created as a
    human, distinct from the animals, in the whole of how he relates. If
    relationship existed in the Trinity before Creation and we are in the Image
    of, we are made to be relational, and animals don’t fulfill that.
    > ” but for Adam there was not found a helper suitable for him.”
    > Suitable for what? To fulfill an emotional need? That is nowhere to be
    > found in the context.
    Unless you consider the attributes of what it means to be created in the
    Image of God. Love is one of them. Relationship as I said.
    Bryan:It is our overly sentimental and romantic culture that binds us to that
    reading, but it is nowhere in the text.
    It’s overly sentimental and romantic to need people ? To take your case at
    face value, it would mean relationships are to be only about procreation.
    And that leaves no room for friends, family, unless we’re precreating with
    them too. But, if we put down the under layer of created in God’s image,
    what we have running through Gen 1 and 2 is being made to be in
    relationship.
    Bryan:They are not suitable for procreation. They cannot help the man to become
    more than one.
    Yeh, that’s pretty clear.
    > Then God makes the woman that is “like or according to his side,” i.e.,
    > similar to him.
    > The two then are to become one flesh in the sexual union.
    > This does not occur right away because there is the interuption of the
    > Fall in Chapt 3.
    > The union takes place in 4:1 and the result is Eve giving birth to a man
    > “together with Yahweh”—i.e.,
    procreation.
    But, it seems, to read it that way, we take it to how to live my life, and
    it would mean relationship with anyone must be only for procreation.
    Where’s friends ? Where’s family ? All the richness in relationships,
    platonic and erotic, is overly sentimental and romantic needs.
    >
    > This text has always been read this way by Jews and the Church. It is our
    > modern culture that has distorted it. I’m not saying love is not a part of
    > the relationship between a man and a woman, nor that it is not a beautiful
    > picture of Christ and His Church, or that it is not pleasurable to us (as
    > in the SoS) and everything else you want to say about it. All I am saying
    > is that its PRIMARY purpose is procreation and that’s why they were made
    > male and female to begin with.
    I don’t know primary, but it certainly is there. Again, if we are image
    bearers, then aspects of relationship have a part in there too. If you take
    away the implications of what it means to be image bearers, then yes, it
    could come down to male and female are only to be about making babies.
    Where in Genesis is there value for the varied richnesses in relationship?
    Bryan:It is gained from Gen 1 and Gen 2 (and frankly could be gained from either
    independantly of the other). Sexually immorality in the Bible is any sex act
    therefore that does not obey this first command to be fruitful and multiply
    and fill up the earth and therefore have the potential for God to naturally
    choose to make more humans through the sexual union (the two–male and
    female– becoming one flesh).
    This reminds me of when hubby and I were in early 20′s. He went to this
    church that I didn’t. After that day’s sermon on birth control, the pastor
    announced next weeks sermon would be on oral sex. Under your premise, that
    would be a no no. Just intercourse, nothing else, and only when the female
    is ovulating. Otherwise sex is about other than procreating.
    > So Adam is not depressed because he’s lonely and needs a date.
    You deride the argument by presenting it as that. Adam was created for
    relationship and the animals were animals, humans, humans and because of
    that, the animals could not supply the relational needs Adam, a human, not
    an animal, was created to have.
    Bryan:He has God as we will in eternity and not need other humans to fill us
    (loving others isn’t about filling ourselves—that’s a bit co-dependent and
    self centered to me). We need each other for tons of reasons, but not
    because God isn’t enough for us. That reading is just out of whack to me.
    I expect relationships after this life will be rich. There really aren’t
    enough scriptures that address whether there will be relational aspects with
    other people, so to say it won’t be there is not biblical. The trinity will
    still be in relationship, what will we be as still creations of them ?
    >
    > Don, you said,
    > PREMISE 1: God is love.
    >
    > PREMISE 2: God made man in His image.
    >
    > PREMISE 3: Man therefore is made to love.
    >
    > PREMISE 4: Man needs someone to love. (not good to be alone)”
    >
    > CONCLUSION: God created human sexuality as an expression of love – for
    > humans to show love to each other, and for God to show love by creating
    > such pleasure.
    >
    >
    >
    > Premise 1: God is love does not mean God needs to be loved and is
    > therefore lonely.
    >
    > Premise 2: Man in God’s image in Gen 1 is talking about a representative
    > status of the man over creation, not that he’s like God. I will grant that
    > man is made like God in a lot of ways however and to love is one of them.
    > However, if premise one is false and God does not need to be loved or is
    > lonely, then our being made in His image doesn’t make us needful to be
    > loved or lonely either.
    I don’t know about “need”, but God has been relational in the Trinity since
    before the beginning of time. God exists in relationship. And if God is
    love, then that is probably something expressed in the relations between the
    members of the trinity.
    > Premise 3: I think I would say man is made to love God and therefore other
    > humans who represent Him (loving God through others then), but not that
    > man is made needful to be loved by other humans because he is lonely and
    > God is not enough. Man definitely needs to be loved by God and therefore
    > may long to be loved by other humans who represent God in the absence of
    > His presence (or frankly just us not being able to see Him—but Adam
    > doesn’t have this problem).
    I’m curious, BryanH, what’s going on in you that you seem to play down the
    humanness richness of relationship with others. As being in his image, we
    were made to be in relationship, and not with only God. It sounds like
    you’re saying that if we can have God fill us enough, we don’t need other
    people. What is there about needing other people that makes it scary for
    you ?
    > Premise 4: Man needs to love God. He really doesn’t NEED some other human
    > to love (unless once again when he does not have God in front of him so to
    > speak).
    Unless, again, you go back to what image bearers mean, and as the Trinity is
    in relationship, we are made to be in relationship with others. Does it
    feel safer to you to not need other people in a deep way? To not experience
    love of others in a deep way ?
    > Conclusion: The creation of sex has nothing to do with a NEED to express
    > love to another human, but to express love to God by seeking relationship
    > with Him through obedience to His desires (for us to be fruitful and
    > multiply and fill up the earth). God joins with us as we become one flesh.
    > Our love for each other is our love for Him.
    There are 3 when I have sex : my partner/lover and me and God. I am in it
    with my partner, I am in it with God too. Some of the purest worship I
    know.
    > I find it interesting that our culture thanks God for pleasure so much as
    > though God just makes pleasure for pleasure’s sake rather than to fulfill
    > His will.
    Apparently he did make us for pleasure and I think it’s not just so we’d
    want to have sex and make babies then. It’s for pleasure, it’s for
    procreation. Sometimes within a month, it’s mostly one, mostly the other,
    sometimes both.
    Bryan:God’s love is shown toward us by making us and making us multiply as we seek
    to obey Him as our expression of love toward Him.
    >
    > So I think premise 1 is especially off. Premise 2 then if off because it
    > is built off of premise 1. Premise 3 has man’s NEED to love pointed at
    > another human rather than through another human toward God. The same can
    > be said of Premise 4. The conclusion therefore is not valid from the
    > argument given and simply restates an already held presupp about sex.
    >
    > The two other things mentioned: the picture of Christ and the Church (of
    > course I agree with but has nothing to do with sex not being about
    > procreation—isn’t the metaphor even better when one sees Christ in union
    > with His Church as bringing forth life in children?); and the statement
    > about procreation being merely one of many uses for sex (which I obviously
    > disagree with and still have not been given a solid Biblical argument as
    > to why it’s only an occasional use) have little to do with the premises
    > stated (but I’m not sure if you were intending them to be linked or not?).
    >
    > Once again, I’m not saying that sex cannot be used for all of the things
    > you mentioned (pleasure, intimacy, expressions of love, etc.). I’m only
    > saying that if the sexual act is done in disregard to its PRIMARLY
    > function—procreation–then it is an abuse of it, which the Bible calls
    > sexual immorality/distortion/inappropriateness.

  • Stephan

    Don and Bryan, two brothers with whom I can’t disagree more.
    Don, I really wish I could agree with you. Your reasoning that a homosexual relation (not perfect) is better than being along (not good) is compelling, but I cannot buy into an argument that makes one sin better than another. Sin is sin. I am sure there are sins in my life that I gloss over with the same type of logic, so I am not saying I am better than you, but I can’t agree with your conclusion.
    Bryan, since any sexual act that cannot end in procreation is a sin, I am in a constant state of sin. You see, I’ve been “fixed”, so procreation is no longer a possibility. By your logic any sexual act using birth control, or any sexual act during the wrong time of the month, is sinful. I think there are enough sins defined in the law that we do not need to create more where they do not exist.
    Stephan

  • Stephan

    Don and Bryan, two brothers with whom I can’t disagree more.
    Don, I really wish I could agree with you. Your reasoning that a homosexual relation (not perfect) is better than being along (not good) is compelling, but I cannot buy into an argument that makes one sin better than another. Sin is sin. I am sure there are sins in my life that I gloss over with the same type of logic, so I am not saying I am better than you, but I can’t agree with your conclusion.
    Bryan, since any sexual act that cannot end in procreation is a sin, I am in a constant state of sin. You see, I’ve been “fixed”, so procreation is no longer a possibility. By your logic any sexual act using birth control, or any sexual act during the wrong time of the month, is sinful. I think there are enough sins defined in the law that we do not need to create more where they do not exist.
    Stephan

  • http://julieunplugged.blogspot.com/ Julie

    Thanks all for an engaging discussion.
    Scot, thanks for taking the time to write ten blog posts that are thoughtful treatments of this topic. I especially appreciated the Scriptural discussions that offered fresh readings of familiar passages.
    Ironically, the results of all this dialog are nearly identical to what the Vineyard has been doing/believing for over 20 years (are any of you familiar with their ministry to homosexuals?) – namely that homosexuality is a sin against the order of nature (Genesis argument) and that the best way to address it is welcoming homosexuals into the community (they really do welcome them) and offering them prayer, love and support to leave the lifestyle/behavior behind. Andy Comisky travels and speaks on this topic and leads the ministry in Anaheim.
    I no longer hold that position, myself (and am no longer in the Vineyard). I have seen too many homosexuals struggle for years and years and years with what appears to me to be who they are rather than how they sin. It just doesn’t add up to me.
    What I found interesting about Scot’s list above (in this blog) is that I would work the list backwards to how he posted it – starting with reason, moving to experience/conscience, then cultural context, church tradition and finally Scripture. I know that is backwards to how most here would do things.
    Let me just expose why I see it necessary to work this way. Then you can rip it to shreds, if you like. :)
    I want to underscore that I believe the Scripture must be addressed and understood, not ignored, and it’s why I joined this discussion over others I could have joined. However, I think when we start with the ancient texts written in an ancient context, we sometimes end up with theology that doesn’t adequately address what is true about our time and culture. That’s how slavery was justified, why interracial marriage was condemned, why segregation was supported by the church, how women have been mistreated, why they were refused pain killers for child birth, why they were seen as not fit to vote, preach in church and so on.
    It took a cultural shake down to rethink what about Scripture could be understood newly to support what God revealed about blacks and women, through blacks and women.
    I think this is what is happening with homosexuality. We are being challenged at the level of our collective cultural experience to face that what we have been told is true about gays doesn’t match their lived reality as they tell it to us. When experience and Scripture don’t square, we are thrust into a conundrum that begs to be resolved.
    I don’t give up so easily in that debate. I don’t think we forfeit Scripture… but we do need to be open to setting aside those traditional explanations while we wait for God to speak new ones, or fresh ones.
    Even this conversation is a testimony to that transformation… the unwillingness to just declare homosexuality wrong but to try to address it meaningfully and with compassion.
    The issue of homosexuality is pressing on us in ways previous generations of Christians have not encountered because for the first time in history, we have scientific and psychological evidence/support for the idea that homosexuality is not necessarily tied to deviance or cruelty or violence and it is not threatening the reproductive capacities of a tiny nation, and we have evidence that it is not merely a choice among choices, or the result of psychological damage (though I know some people still maintain that perspective). For many, it is an inborn orientation every bit as critical to identity as my heterosexuality is to mine.
    Derek puts it well, I think (at least, he speaks for me in this): Or maybe the multitude of qualifications indicates that the present issue of homosexuality (persons of same-sex in a loving, committed, monogamous relationship) is an issue of another “order”? Do the qualifications somehow stand as a witness against us that we lack the spiritual courage or intellectual integrity to deal with this issue in a different way? In the end, we still want to say that same-sex acts are contrary to God’s order, but for me that conclusion simply rings hollow.
    For me too.
    Teens in any public school know gay teens. They are not repulsed the way we were when we were teens. Sexual orientation is a topic of chat, not private secretive converse. They will not address this issue the way we are here. They already see it differently. That will change how they read Scripture.
    I don’t think we (older than 35) properly grasp just how “out of the closet” homosexuality really is… and just how much most of them want what we heterosexuals want – a close, loving (and sexual) relationship that goes for the long haul.
    And it is this that I think we mistake when we put our inherited understanding of Scripture ahead of what the witness of culture and reason and experience are teaching us. “Against nature” doesn’t explain how homosexuality is damaging to a relationship with God, with a partner or how it is experienced as sin. That troubles me.
    I can show a theif how what he does is damaging to both. I can show an adulterer or child molestor. I can’t show a homosexual monogamous adult… anything.
    Can we answer the questions that they will ask if we present the “against natural order” question?
    How does my loving relationship not bring glory to God? How does my living as though I am clinically depressed bring glory to God?
    Why would God orient me to same-sex partners?
    A few questions we might ask ourselves instead are: are there principles of Scripture that transcend private sexuality=morality? Is God’s morality all about sexual acts, after all? Or is this “higher order” one of community, personal commitment, love, relational fidelity and compassion for others?
    In our desire to honor and love God, are we actually walking by that Samaritan after all? We might be nice to the Samaritan, but it still seems that what is being said here is that unless that Samritan admits it’s wrong to be from Samaria, he is still on the outside looking in.
    Thanks for reading my posts. I’ve enjoyed reading yours.
    Peace,
    Julie

  • http://julieunplugged.blogspot.com/ Julie

    Thanks all for an engaging discussion.
    Scot, thanks for taking the time to write ten blog posts that are thoughtful treatments of this topic. I especially appreciated the Scriptural discussions that offered fresh readings of familiar passages.
    Ironically, the results of all this dialog are nearly identical to what the Vineyard has been doing/believing for over 20 years (are any of you familiar with their ministry to homosexuals?) – namely that homosexuality is a sin against the order of nature (Genesis argument) and that the best way to address it is welcoming homosexuals into the community (they really do welcome them) and offering them prayer, love and support to leave the lifestyle/behavior behind. Andy Comisky travels and speaks on this topic and leads the ministry in Anaheim.
    I no longer hold that position, myself (and am no longer in the Vineyard). I have seen too many homosexuals struggle for years and years and years with what appears to me to be who they are rather than how they sin. It just doesn’t add up to me.
    What I found interesting about Scot’s list above (in this blog) is that I would work the list backwards to how he posted it – starting with reason, moving to experience/conscience, then cultural context, church tradition and finally Scripture. I know that is backwards to how most here would do things.
    Let me just expose why I see it necessary to work this way. Then you can rip it to shreds, if you like. :)
    I want to underscore that I believe the Scripture must be addressed and understood, not ignored, and it’s why I joined this discussion over others I could have joined. However, I think when we start with the ancient texts written in an ancient context, we sometimes end up with theology that doesn’t adequately address what is true about our time and culture. That’s how slavery was justified, why interracial marriage was condemned, why segregation was supported by the church, how women have been mistreated, why they were refused pain killers for child birth, why they were seen as not fit to vote, preach in church and so on.
    It took a cultural shake down to rethink what about Scripture could be understood newly to support what God revealed about blacks and women, through blacks and women.
    I think this is what is happening with homosexuality. We are being challenged at the level of our collective cultural experience to face that what we have been told is true about gays doesn’t match their lived reality as they tell it to us. When experience and Scripture don’t square, we are thrust into a conundrum that begs to be resolved.
    I don’t give up so easily in that debate. I don’t think we forfeit Scripture… but we do need to be open to setting aside those traditional explanations while we wait for God to speak new ones, or fresh ones.
    Even this conversation is a testimony to that transformation… the unwillingness to just declare homosexuality wrong but to try to address it meaningfully and with compassion.
    The issue of homosexuality is pressing on us in ways previous generations of Christians have not encountered because for the first time in history, we have scientific and psychological evidence/support for the idea that homosexuality is not necessarily tied to deviance or cruelty or violence and it is not threatening the reproductive capacities of a tiny nation, and we have evidence that it is not merely a choice among choices, or the result of psychological damage (though I know some people still maintain that perspective). For many, it is an inborn orientation every bit as critical to identity as my heterosexuality is to mine.
    Derek puts it well, I think (at least, he speaks for me in this): Or maybe the multitude of qualifications indicates that the present issue of homosexuality (persons of same-sex in a loving, committed, monogamous relationship) is an issue of another “order”? Do the qualifications somehow stand as a witness against us that we lack the spiritual courage or intellectual integrity to deal with this issue in a different way? In the end, we still want to say that same-sex acts are contrary to God’s order, but for me that conclusion simply rings hollow.
    For me too.
    Teens in any public school know gay teens. They are not repulsed the way we were when we were teens. Sexual orientation is a topic of chat, not private secretive converse. They will not address this issue the way we are here. They already see it differently. That will change how they read Scripture.
    I don’t think we (older than 35) properly grasp just how “out of the closet” homosexuality really is… and just how much most of them want what we heterosexuals want – a close, loving (and sexual) relationship that goes for the long haul.
    And it is this that I think we mistake when we put our inherited understanding of Scripture ahead of what the witness of culture and reason and experience are teaching us. “Against nature” doesn’t explain how homosexuality is damaging to a relationship with God, with a partner or how it is experienced as sin. That troubles me.
    I can show a theif how what he does is damaging to both. I can show an adulterer or child molestor. I can’t show a homosexual monogamous adult… anything.
    Can we answer the questions that they will ask if we present the “against natural order” question?
    How does my loving relationship not bring glory to God? How does my living as though I am clinically depressed bring glory to God?
    Why would God orient me to same-sex partners?
    A few questions we might ask ourselves instead are: are there principles of Scripture that transcend private sexuality=morality? Is God’s morality all about sexual acts, after all? Or is this “higher order” one of community, personal commitment, love, relational fidelity and compassion for others?
    In our desire to honor and love God, are we actually walking by that Samaritan after all? We might be nice to the Samaritan, but it still seems that what is being said here is that unless that Samritan admits it’s wrong to be from Samaria, he is still on the outside looking in.
    Thanks for reading my posts. I’ve enjoyed reading yours.
    Peace,
    Julie

  • Don in Phoenix

    Stephan,
    I hope you can find a middle ground between Bryan H’s position (I wouldn’t call it Puritan, for fear of sinning against the Puritans), and mine (which, although I’m quite fond of it, may seem quite radical to many).
    There are many groups within the “traditional church” that are struggling with this issue – not because they are departing from the faith handed down by the Apostles, but because they are trying to carry out Jesus’ command to love our neighbors as ourselves.
    And, Bryan H. – Paul didn’t say “it’s better to marry so you can procreate.” Marriage (relationship) is an outlet to a basic human need. With your apparent views on sexuality, I wouldn’t want to be married to you.

  • Don in Phoenix

    Stephan,
    I hope you can find a middle ground between Bryan H’s position (I wouldn’t call it Puritan, for fear of sinning against the Puritans), and mine (which, although I’m quite fond of it, may seem quite radical to many).
    There are many groups within the “traditional church” that are struggling with this issue – not because they are departing from the faith handed down by the Apostles, but because they are trying to carry out Jesus’ command to love our neighbors as ourselves.
    And, Bryan H. – Paul didn’t say “it’s better to marry so you can procreate.” Marriage (relationship) is an outlet to a basic human need. With your apparent views on sexuality, I wouldn’t want to be married to you.

  • Stephan

    Julie, I realize analogies can be misleading, but I would like to work with yours a bit. We are not asking that the Samaritan admit it’s wrong to be from Samaria. But if the customs is Samaria are sinful, we would ask them to stop practicing those customs. You cannot change who you are, but you can change how you behave.
    Saying God made them that way does not do it for me. I have personally known both a child molestor and an exhibitionist. Both have been in jail for their behavior. I don’t believe either of them would say they “chose” to have those desires, but they certainly both chose to act on them.
    While many things have changed since the creation of the world, human sexuality has not. Our understanding of it may have changed, God’s understanding of it has not. To say that scripture could not have foreseen our current understanding is to either say that God could not have foreseen our current understanding, or to discount God’s inspiration of scripture. While I agree that our experiences must be taken into account when developing our personal ethic, those experiences must be weighed against scripture, and I can find nothing in scripture that would condone or allow same-sex relationships.
    I honestly wish I could agree with you. It would make this whole issue so much easier if we could just make it go away, but I do not believe that can be backed up with an honest reading of the Bible.
    Stephan

  • Stephan

    Julie, I realize analogies can be misleading, but I would like to work with yours a bit. We are not asking that the Samaritan admit it’s wrong to be from Samaria. But if the customs is Samaria are sinful, we would ask them to stop practicing those customs. You cannot change who you are, but you can change how you behave.
    Saying God made them that way does not do it for me. I have personally known both a child molestor and an exhibitionist. Both have been in jail for their behavior. I don’t believe either of them would say they “chose” to have those desires, but they certainly both chose to act on them.
    While many things have changed since the creation of the world, human sexuality has not. Our understanding of it may have changed, God’s understanding of it has not. To say that scripture could not have foreseen our current understanding is to either say that God could not have foreseen our current understanding, or to discount God’s inspiration of scripture. While I agree that our experiences must be taken into account when developing our personal ethic, those experiences must be weighed against scripture, and I can find nothing in scripture that would condone or allow same-sex relationships.
    I honestly wish I could agree with you. It would make this whole issue so much easier if we could just make it go away, but I do not believe that can be backed up with an honest reading of the Bible.
    Stephan

  • http://www.JesusCreed.org Scot McKnight

    Julie,
    And thanks for stopping by and staying so long for this discussion.
    Well, I begin with this: I begin with the Bible because it is epistemic for me. As a Protestant, as a classically-orthodox Christian, I begin all theologizing and ethical discussions with “what does the Bible say?” And, yes, I agree with you: that can in fact prejudge the discussion, but it need not.
    Culture shapes my own views in this way: I think we have learned lots about same-sex orientation. It is, to use an old cliche, no longer what it once was. So what do we do with this learning? It shows me that the “order” argument is still there but our need to be sympathetic and pastoral with those who develop into a same-sex orientation is clear, too.
    It is, to me, unfair to prejudge the issue by asking the bold-faced question you ask: How do we know “God” would orient us? The only way we draw such a conclusion is from our experience, and I believe the argument from experience is always secondary to other arguments in the Bible. So, I do not think we can say “God made me this way” because the only “God” we are talking about is the biblical God, and that God spoke in the Bible, and that God speaks of “order” as male and female. So, in fact, we can’t argue that “God made me this way” because we don’t know that. We know that about 3% have a same-sex orientation. We know that in most cases this is something they “know” to be true about themselves. We cannot argue from what we know to be true about ourselves to “God made me like this.” For, we also know that development and conditioning shape what we know to be true about ourselves.
    Now, let me add this to the end: I agree 100% with you on the need to be sensitive, to be understanding, to know the pain such realizations bring. So, I want to maintain love and fidelity to the biblical texts as I understand them.

  • http://www.JesusCreed.org Scot McKnight

    Julie,
    And thanks for stopping by and staying so long for this discussion.
    Well, I begin with this: I begin with the Bible because it is epistemic for me. As a Protestant, as a classically-orthodox Christian, I begin all theologizing and ethical discussions with “what does the Bible say?” And, yes, I agree with you: that can in fact prejudge the discussion, but it need not.
    Culture shapes my own views in this way: I think we have learned lots about same-sex orientation. It is, to use an old cliche, no longer what it once was. So what do we do with this learning? It shows me that the “order” argument is still there but our need to be sympathetic and pastoral with those who develop into a same-sex orientation is clear, too.
    It is, to me, unfair to prejudge the issue by asking the bold-faced question you ask: How do we know “God” would orient us? The only way we draw such a conclusion is from our experience, and I believe the argument from experience is always secondary to other arguments in the Bible. So, I do not think we can say “God made me this way” because the only “God” we are talking about is the biblical God, and that God spoke in the Bible, and that God speaks of “order” as male and female. So, in fact, we can’t argue that “God made me this way” because we don’t know that. We know that about 3% have a same-sex orientation. We know that in most cases this is something they “know” to be true about themselves. We cannot argue from what we know to be true about ourselves to “God made me like this.” For, we also know that development and conditioning shape what we know to be true about ourselves.
    Now, let me add this to the end: I agree 100% with you on the need to be sensitive, to be understanding, to know the pain such realizations bring. So, I want to maintain love and fidelity to the biblical texts as I understand them.

  • Bruce Smith

    Scot, your argument (Biblically speaking) was built on the idea that homosexuality is wrong, not because it is explicitly taught but because it is out of “order” or out of “nature”. I feel that it is necessary to quote the passage Romans one here (not because I want to be “heavy” but because it is a key passage in this discussion):
    “Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural ones. In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed indecent acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their perversion. Furthermore, since they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, he gave them over to . . .” (here Paul goes on to give another list of sins). He then summarizes his point with the following, “Although they know God’s righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them.” (Romans 1:26-32).
    From all that I have been taught about exegesis, Romans one must be an explicit example of homosexuality as a sin . Obviously, Paul spends the first three chapters in Romans showing that all people are in sin and in four he begins to outline how all men may find grace and how that grace will effect the way we live.
    Second, if we base our position on the creation account only, it presents an argument from silence. Homosexuality is out of order, according to this position, because the first two people God created were male and female. One may argue conversely, just because God created them male and female – this wasn’t his final word on the subject(yet, I agree with you that you may infer the “out of order/nature” argument from this passage). To build a theology of relationship and sexuality around this foundation (an argument from silence) alone is impossible (in my opinion) to sustain.
    Also, I don’t agree that the Bible never distinguishes between same-sex orientation and same-sex acts. Both the explicit and inferential positions argue, in their own way, that the homosexual act is a sin. As a sin, we must distinguish between homosexuality as a temptation, homosexuality as a inward lust and homosexuality as an act. Clearly, the Bible teaches that if one is tempted to sin, this is not a sin (I Cor. 10:13, et.al.,). If one is in a state of lust, it is sin (Mt. 5:21-30) and if one carries out an act of sin, it is a sin (Ez. 18, et.al.,). If homosexuality is a sin, as has been argued (whether explicitly or inferentially), then these categories out to be applied to this particular issue as it is applied to any other sin. What I am saying is this: the Scripture does make a distinction between orientation and actual acts of sin. I am interested in your comments.

  • Bruce Smith

    Scot, your argument (Biblically speaking) was built on the idea that homosexuality is wrong, not because it is explicitly taught but because it is out of “order” or out of “nature”. I feel that it is necessary to quote the passage Romans one here (not because I want to be “heavy” but because it is a key passage in this discussion):
    “Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural ones. In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed indecent acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their perversion. Furthermore, since they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, he gave them over to . . .” (here Paul goes on to give another list of sins). He then summarizes his point with the following, “Although they know God’s righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them.” (Romans 1:26-32).
    From all that I have been taught about exegesis, Romans one must be an explicit example of homosexuality as a sin . Obviously, Paul spends the first three chapters in Romans showing that all people are in sin and in four he begins to outline how all men may find grace and how that grace will effect the way we live.
    Second, if we base our position on the creation account only, it presents an argument from silence. Homosexuality is out of order, according to this position, because the first two people God created were male and female. One may argue conversely, just because God created them male and female – this wasn’t his final word on the subject(yet, I agree with you that you may infer the “out of order/nature” argument from this passage). To build a theology of relationship and sexuality around this foundation (an argument from silence) alone is impossible (in my opinion) to sustain.
    Also, I don’t agree that the Bible never distinguishes between same-sex orientation and same-sex acts. Both the explicit and inferential positions argue, in their own way, that the homosexual act is a sin. As a sin, we must distinguish between homosexuality as a temptation, homosexuality as a inward lust and homosexuality as an act. Clearly, the Bible teaches that if one is tempted to sin, this is not a sin (I Cor. 10:13, et.al.,). If one is in a state of lust, it is sin (Mt. 5:21-30) and if one carries out an act of sin, it is a sin (Ez. 18, et.al.,). If homosexuality is a sin, as has been argued (whether explicitly or inferentially), then these categories out to be applied to this particular issue as it is applied to any other sin. What I am saying is this: the Scripture does make a distinction between orientation and actual acts of sin. I am interested in your comments.

  • http://www.JesusCreed.org Scot McKnight

    Bruce,
    Thanks for this.
    In fact, I agree with you on Romans 1. And the reason same-sex acts are sinful in Romans 1 is because they are out of order. That is what the “unnatural” argument is all about. So, I think we agree.
    I don’t base my argument on Genesis 1 only; I think Romans 1 is the most explicit passage, and that passage is derived from Genesis 1.
    To be sure, the Bible distinguishes between temptation and action, but same-sex orientation (which is a condition, not just a temptation) vs. same-sex act is not quite the same. Though I admit there is something inherent in the latter to the former. I think we need to be careful to say that same-sex orientation is not in and of itself sinful. You and I may be tempted to something, but if we resist it we have not sinned. The same applies.
    We should avoid using “homosexuality” as an umbrella term for both orientation, lust, and act.
    And I’m interested in your comments.

  • Don in Phoenix

    I agree with Julie.

  • Don in Phoenix

    I agree with Julie.

  • http://highargument.blogspot.com Grey Owl

    Scott – good point in # 49 re: homosexuality as an umbrella term.
    Wow, 36 comments since yesterday – I got totally lost!
    I think this has been a good series, one that I’ve benefitted from. I do have a question: Do any of us here who believe homosexual acts to be sin wish they weren’t? That is, do any of us wish that the Bible (and God) explicitly approved of it, not for ourselves but for others?
    I’ve often thought about this. While I would not wish this for any other sin (except sometimes when I get cut off on the higway; then I wish that muder was condoned and blessed) I find myself at times wishing this did not have to be an issue. Anyone else?

  • http://highargument.blogspot.com Grey Owl

    Scott – good point in # 49 re: homosexuality as an umbrella term.
    Wow, 36 comments since yesterday – I got totally lost!
    I think this has been a good series, one that I’ve benefitted from. I do have a question: Do any of us here who believe homosexual acts to be sin wish they weren’t? That is, do any of us wish that the Bible (and God) explicitly approved of it, not for ourselves but for others?
    I’ve often thought about this. While I would not wish this for any other sin (except sometimes when I get cut off on the higway; then I wish that muder was condoned and blessed) I find myself at times wishing this did not have to be an issue. Anyone else?

  • Bruce Smith

    You have made some critical distinctions which really clear this up for me. I can really see your point, in that Genesis 1 serves as the critical reference point for Romans 1, as Paul clearly frames his point with an “out of order/ nature” polemic. I have never really thought about this issue under this framework, so your point has been very enlightening. Again, thanks for your great work!

  • Bruce Smith

    You have made some critical distinctions which really clear this up for me. I can really see your point, in that Genesis 1 serves as the critical reference point for Romans 1, as Paul clearly frames his point with an “out of order/ nature” polemic. I have never really thought about this issue under this framework, so your point has been very enlightening. Again, thanks for your great work!

  • Bryan Hodge

    Becky, you are pouring ideas stemming from our psychological grid onto the text. Imagine you had to prove to me that the making of male and female was about needing someone for a relationship. How would you prove that to me from the context (the context says nothing about the Trinity, image is an ancient Near Eastern term that has the man represent God in His temple in Gen 1—it doesn’t have anything to do in the context with man being like the Triune God in relationship). Please limit yourself to Gen 1-2. That is what I am talking about, not larger theological and ethical ideas that we can speculate about. Once again, I never said that procreation was the only aspect of sexuality, but the PRIMARY one.
    Don, Actually Paul says that it’s better to get married because of the possibility of “sexual immorality,” so it is for the purpose of the sex act being directed in the right area that one can fulfill the first commandment.
    Stephen, if you read Lev 18, it is a sin to sleep with a woman in her menstrual period, and I said long ago that this would condemn those who use birth control also (not so great when it condemns us as well as the homosexual, eh?). We are products of our time. The Church has always condemned birth control and seen the sex act as PRIMARILY for the purpose of procreation. So you’re disagreeing with the Fathers, Medieval theologians, Reformers, All denoms after them until 1930 when the Anglican Church allowed it for women who were at a health risk. The rest of the church spring boarded off of that and didn’t survive the the coming decades (since the world bombarded everyone with overpopulation scares and sexual “education” which told everyone to use it). By the late 60′s hardly anyone remembered (with the exception of the RC Church which also changed its position as well) that the Church condemned it.
    So I find evangelicals in a moral dilemma. If a sexual act can be performed for purely pleasure with no hope of God naturally turning the situation into a life producing event, then homosexuality should be OK because it can be performed for only pleasure. If it is for intimacy or an expression of love, homosexuality can do this as well. You really don’t have an argument if you maintain that a sexual act can be performed for a purpose that does not have at its core the ability to procreate.
    However, if the evangelical states that the opportunity for procreation (to obey God’s first command) is an essential part to every sex act, then he condemns himself for modern practices that take sex as purely for pleasure and intimacy (hence the use of birthcontrol— because we want to have our fill, but don’t want God giving us any of those unwanted babies).
    So which is it? I’m sure in the modern evangelical mind most will conclude with the contradiction (because our culture seems to be dim when it comes to logical inconsistencies to which they cling.
    I’m sure I’ve opened up myself to scorn now, since that is what I got before for saying it, but that has always been the Church’s position in a world that didn’t think the same way (the rest of the world throughout history has used some sort of birthcontrol so the Church was never imitating its culture until today).

  • Bryan Hodge

    Becky, you are pouring ideas stemming from our psychological grid onto the text. Imagine you had to prove to me that the making of male and female was about needing someone for a relationship. How would you prove that to me from the context (the context says nothing about the Trinity, image is an ancient Near Eastern term that has the man represent God in His temple in Gen 1—it doesn’t have anything to do in the context with man being like the Triune God in relationship). Please limit yourself to Gen 1-2. That is what I am talking about, not larger theological and ethical ideas that we can speculate about. Once again, I never said that procreation was the only aspect of sexuality, but the PRIMARY one.
    Don, Actually Paul says that it’s better to get married because of the possibility of “sexual immorality,” so it is for the purpose of the sex act being directed in the right area that one can fulfill the first commandment.
    Stephen, if you read Lev 18, it is a sin to sleep with a woman in her menstrual period, and I said long ago that this would condemn those who use birth control also (not so great when it condemns us as well as the homosexual, eh?). We are products of our time. The Church has always condemned birth control and seen the sex act as PRIMARILY for the purpose of procreation. So you’re disagreeing with the Fathers, Medieval theologians, Reformers, All denoms after them until 1930 when the Anglican Church allowed it for women who were at a health risk. The rest of the church spring boarded off of that and didn’t survive the the coming decades (since the world bombarded everyone with overpopulation scares and sexual “education” which told everyone to use it). By the late 60′s hardly anyone remembered (with the exception of the RC Church which also changed its position as well) that the Church condemned it.
    So I find evangelicals in a moral dilemma. If a sexual act can be performed for purely pleasure with no hope of God naturally turning the situation into a life producing event, then homosexuality should be OK because it can be performed for only pleasure. If it is for intimacy or an expression of love, homosexuality can do this as well. You really don’t have an argument if you maintain that a sexual act can be performed for a purpose that does not have at its core the ability to procreate.
    However, if the evangelical states that the opportunity for procreation (to obey God’s first command) is an essential part to every sex act, then he condemns himself for modern practices that take sex as purely for pleasure and intimacy (hence the use of birthcontrol— because we want to have our fill, but don’t want God giving us any of those unwanted babies).
    So which is it? I’m sure in the modern evangelical mind most will conclude with the contradiction (because our culture seems to be dim when it comes to logical inconsistencies to which they cling.
    I’m sure I’ve opened up myself to scorn now, since that is what I got before for saying it, but that has always been the Church’s position in a world that didn’t think the same way (the rest of the world throughout history has used some sort of birthcontrol so the Church was never imitating its culture until today).

  • Stephan

    Bryan, I believe you are reading something into the text that isn’t there. They are told not to sleep with a woman during her period, but it does not say why. To assume it has something to do with reproduction goes beyond what the verse says. Other acts that are condemned here could result in procreation, so there must be other reasons these acts are condemned. To say that this then allows same sex acts ignores other verses that condemn same sex acts. I believe your conclusion is flawed because your premise is wrong and your reasoning is faulty.
    Stephan

  • Stephan

    Bryan, I believe you are reading something into the text that isn’t there. They are told not to sleep with a woman during her period, but it does not say why. To assume it has something to do with reproduction goes beyond what the verse says. Other acts that are condemned here could result in procreation, so there must be other reasons these acts are condemned. To say that this then allows same sex acts ignores other verses that condemn same sex acts. I believe your conclusion is flawed because your premise is wrong and your reasoning is faulty.
    Stephan

  • Bryan Hodge

    Actually, Stephen, if you look at all the acts there they negate procreation (procreation is multiplying fully functioning and healthy individuals to fill the earth). All of them go against that and are unable to fulfill the command in creation.
    So your condemnation of homosexuality is “because the Bible says so?” Why does it say so? Why are these not just speaking about promiscuous acts? or idolatrous ones? Your position gives no defense because it does not seek to understand the WHY and therefore cannot explain the WHAT. What is the link between all the acts in Lev 18? If you deny the Church’s conclusion, then what are you offering in its place?

  • Bryan Hodge

    BTW, Stephen, my premise stems from Gen 1-2 combined with Lev 18. Where is your premise about what consitutes an appropriate sexual act stemming from?

  • Bryan Hodge

    Sorry, Stephan, I just realized I keep mispelling your name.

  • http://www.backwoodspresbyterian.blogspot.com Benjamin

    #37 Don in Phoenix
    God did not create Sexuality as you said, “God created human sexuality as an expression of love – for humans to show love to each other, and for God to show love by creating such pleasure.”
    God created human sexuality so there would be more of us running around. Animals do not copulate for pleasure but for procreation. God did however create a female so that the male would not be lonely. So that they would be one flesh and live together forever.

  • Scott Morizot

    Hi Julie,
    I want to start by affirming the point you made about those growing up today. I’ve tried to point out the deep shift in culture and its implications in this discussion, but haven’t found much traction for the discussion. However you’re off by about five years in the leading age of those on the other side of the divide. Some of us had fairly young parents who were at the leading edge (and definitely involved in) the rebellion/exploration/”casting off” that characterized the young generation of the time. So the leading edge of those removed by at least one generation from the older American culture is about 40. While we’re small in number, the shift grows increasingly large as time progresses. From my experience and observation and to the extent that statistics are able to paint a picture, it appears that those enculturated in the older American/Western culture are a shrinking minority.
    Further, I’m one of those you describe as having no problem with homosexuality. Since my culture did not convey that understanding and I had little real involvement with the church during my formative years, I had no opportunity to acquire the enculturated gut reaction of so many. And in that regard, I’m definitely more like my kids than my wife. So in that regard, my own struggles with the question may share some insight.
    With that said, I want to mention that I don’t understand your placement of “reason” as a separate category. Though he numbers it, if you read Scot’s description I don’t think he really does. Reason is not some separate activity that is performed in a vaccum. (Well, I guess you might be able to do that, but it seems like a pretty pointless and silly exercise.) Rather, our reason is the mechanism by which we consider, weigh, analyze, and process anything. It’s how we interpret scripture. Whether we are direct reading scripture, reading a commentary, or listening to something someone says about scripture, it’s all filtered by interpretation through our reason. Similarly, we can only explore the tradition and history of the church through our reason. We have to ask questions like, why did they do that? Does it apply today? If not, why? If so, how? And so on. Even our understanding of both culture and experience is processed through our reason. It can be no other way.
    So I would not call reason a category for decision-making, but rather the process and mechanism by which we weigh alternatives, make interpretations, examine assumptions, and everything else that is involved in making any decision.
    With that said, I’m not sure how either you or Scot is able to assign a hierarchy to the list of influences and factors. Maybe I’m just less organized mentally, but it looks more like the interplay of a jumble of forces than any clean division. Our culture and experience colors everything we examine and consider. We look to tradition to try to understand scripture. We examine traditions against scripture. We seek to relate both contextually to the world in which we live. It’s all a constant process.
    I also need to clarify something about my understanding that appears to be different than yours. I fully embrace the declarations in scripture that God is the source of everything and all creation is sustained by him alone AND his repeated declarations that evil has no part in him, the darkness cannot abide the light, that he is GOOD. I reject both the poles of monoism (everything, good and bad, comes from one source) and dualism (good and evil spring from separate, roughly equal and competing sources). It seems to me that we find God in the center of that contradiction and we cannot release our hold on that mystery. In some manner (and we see scriptural hints about it in Romans and other places) God sustains his creation while allowing it to exist with an interplay that produces that which is other than God. The cause of that damage has been given the label “sin”. In essence that appears to be any freely made choice that is other than God’s design. However, while sometimes there is a direct correlation between act and consequences, we also get a sense from scripture that the effects span far beyond the immediate causal relationship. There appears to be something non-causal about its effects. Paul says that our sin has damaged all creation. (And since I take a non-causal perspective, that also means I’m not wedded to the idea of temporal progression. The idea that a “first sin” occurring sometime in the course of creation could have damaged it in a way that extends back to its inception doesn’t bother me in the least. There are also hints about this non-causal chaos interwoven into the fabric of our universe from quantum physics and similar fields.)
    Why is this important? Because I would never make the statement that God made the cracks I observe in any Eikon. (I really like Scot’s imagery.) That is an unfair attribution. It doesn’t matter what the cracks are, God didn’t make them. In the same way, God did not decide to have hurricane Katrina wipe out structures and kill many people any more than he decided to have a tsunami wipe out thousands of people, many of them innocent children. In a more personal sense, God is not responsible for children being abused, sometimes horrifically, for disease (unless he specifically states that he sent/allowed it for some reason) or even death. Such a God might be powerful, but would not be good. In the same that Eikons are cracked, all creation is cracked. And God appears to be in the process of redeeming it all.
    With that, I’ll revisit my own progression and where I stand (more or less) today. I see some similarity in my own efforts to untangle a Christian morality with that of the early churches embedded in and springing from pagan churche in the first (and later) centuries. I really empathize with some of the problems that are discussed by Paul at times. Since I started from a place that would have characterized little in the sexual arena that did not harm another as “wrong”, modern Christian sexual morality has been a struggle for me to process in all its sense. For instance, I’ve always had an overwhelming understanding that adultery is wrong, but my reasons were different. I saw adultery as a betrayal of your commitment to another and hurtful as little else can be. It damages both your own integrity and that of the person you hurt. Since that was the foundation of my moral logic, though, I had no issue with couples who were OK with a more open sexual relationship, as long as whatever guidelines and expectations the two had were met. Something like that wasn’t “adultery”. (And yes, I did have some friends in such relationships, though it never fit my personality and needs very well.) I share that to give one example of the expanse between my enculturated moral logic (and the manner in which it developed) and anything that can be considered Christian moral logic (and to take the focus off homosexuality for a moment).
    Obviously, in that perspective, some sexual behaviors are clearly destructive and harmful, either personally or to others. If you have a friend mired (or hurt) by one such outworking, then you have a responsibility (if they really are your friend) to try to help them. But you stay their friend even if they reject your help. They might take it later. And under this umbrella, promiscuous sex was almost always an indication of a deeper problem and was pretty harmful and destructive. I had some friends who had some serious problems flowing both ways from this dynamic. Whatever your problem or issue, the interplay with your sexual expression will almost always make them worse and probably hurt other people in the process. But in this moral logic, there’s nothing wrong with a huge array of sexual behaviors that are loving, controlled, and which do not work themselves out destructively. Same-gender sex obviously falls in that category.
    I want to explain this so people can perhaps see that this moral logic can, in places, appear very similar to Christian moral logic, even as it is wildly different. Just because someone has arrived at a similar conclusion to you, do not assume that the foundation of that understanding is even vaguely similar. I also want it to be clear how much my underlying moral logic had to change to get to the point where I am now.
    With that said, I certainly don’t reject all aspects of my enculturated moral logic. (I don’t actually believe that’s possible, but that’s another discussion.) There is great value in my sensitivity to the effects and impact of choices, behaviors, and actions. There is value in my ability to intuitively discern and weigh the destructiveness or harmfulness of a choice. (Which does not mean I’m always right. But I am right more often than not.) There is value in truly considering different perspectives and maintaining a more fluid understanding of most things while investing trust in a few. All of those things and more have value. And I’ve found that Christian moral logic has not simply replaced my old moral logic. Rather it has (and still is, I presume) gradually invested each aspect and transformed it while retaining its character and strengths.
    So in that regard, the Vineyard practice does not seem to be the same as mine. I do see same-gender orientation as a crack in creation. It took me a long time to get there from where I was, but that does seem to be the sense of God’s statements about his design. However, perhaps because of the lengthy and extensive process of transformation I’ve already undergone, I’m keenly aware of cracks in all Eikons, especially myself. Further, my awareness of the ones with which I’ve struggled to date has come over time. In God’s time. He’s the one changing me, though he uses others, Scripture, and personal experience/revelation (and more) to do it. And if it puzzles me that so many people seem to be blind to the cracks everywhere, of which people are often both unrepentant and unaware. It’s not yet time to deal with that crack. It may not be time, either before they die.
    And so I’m not friends with those who are gay in order to get them to change. They are just my friends, same as any other. If they aren’t Christian, I want them to get to know the God who loves me so much. He loves them too. But in the end, it’s not up to me to force change in a person. As we talk, we’ll probably discuss my understanding of God’s design. But since I don’t approach the discussion with anything other than my understanding and allow their understanding to be their understanding, it’s not a source of conflict. If God takes them to the point of change, I’ll help them. If he never does, I’ll still be right there with them. I have ongoing cracks that I’m not going to change either (e.g. continuing my marriage, even though I’m twice-divorced). And I do distinguish between self-destructive behavior or behavior that causes immediate harm to others and that which is not. As such, I see situations where someone leaving a long-term monogamous same-gender relationship could be more harmful to others than remaining in it, especially when children are involved. In those situations, I don’t necessarily expect God to end the relationship. He might. Or he might not. I trust my Abba’s judgement. Deeply and implicitly.
    I simply have no internal conflict over the idea that homosexuality is not part of God’s design, thus not of God (and by definition then sin), and at the same time not be something God necessarily requires to change in any given person at any particular point. After all, we have a God who specializes in bringing good out of evil, redeeming his creation, and transforming cracks and those or that which is cracked into something or someone healed.
    This was another long one, but maybe it’s helpful. And maybe gives some perspective into the way my cultural perspective evolves into a Christian moral logic.

  • Stephan

    Bryan, I do not see anything in vss. 14-18 of Leviticus 18 that would preclude healthy procreation. The reason given for these is that it would “dishonor” someone involved.
    I actually find “because the Bible says so” to be a rather compelling argument. Often the Bible tells us why a certain commandment is given, but not always. When I tell one of my children to do something I do not always give them a reason, because they may not always understand the reason. Does that mean they should disobey?
    Does this mean I follow every commandment given to Israel? No, of course not. But there are verses condemning same sex acts in both the old and new testatments. The reasoning Scot set out here makes sense to me, without needing to add extra sins to the list.
    Stephan

  • http://www.jesustheradicalpastor.blogspot.com John

    Scot,
    Thank you for your patient and scholarly and pastoral posts on quite a volatile issue. I have learned much from your posts even as I have pushed back occasionally for the sake of really understanding. One final question: in your opinion what would a gay Christian relationship look like that is redeemed? That is, a gay Christian relationship living in the order that you believe is biblical?
    To all who commented during this series, thanks for your honesty and gracce, even when responding to those that you disgreed with.

  • http://www.JesusCreed.org Scot McKnight

    John,
    Since I think a “gay relationship” (do you mean same-sex oriented folk who are involved in same-sex acts? — I assume so) is out of God’s order, I think it would involve restoration to celibacy or even to a traditional marriage.

  • Don in Phoenix

    Bryan H -
    I find your interpretation of the nature and purpose of human sexuality positively medieval. The historic (particularly RC) Church is in no position to be the definitive interpreter of scripture. They have been quite selective, if not downright ingnorant, in some of their doctrinal positions. Priestly celibacy is one particularly abominable doctrine that the RC’s adopted IN TOTAL CONTRAVENTION to scripture (both priesthood and celibacy). Such an organization is likely to be wrong more often than right, especially when it regards an issue wherein it has already disregarded the full counsel of God. In their particular case, bad doctrine has led to a lot of very bad behavior. There are those in church history that believed (and some still do) that the monolithic capital-C church is more whore than bride, so I’d be quite careful before I took anything coming from their tradition at face value.
    The prohibition of sex during a woman’s menstrual period is commonly understood as hygienic, not moral. Leviticus declares a woman on her period unclean, and anything she sits on is unclean. A man is unclean anytime he has a discharge of semen, and must wash himself. Like prohibiting certain foods and prescribing certain preparation methods, there are significant health risks that are avoided by compliance.
    I think your’re focusing too narrowly on one historic (mis)interpretation of one verse in Genesis as the lens through which you interpret everything else related to sexuality (particularly any Levitical restrictions) rather than on the entire revelation of God’s nature and will through scripture including Song of Songs. Kind of like the Pharisees did in Jesus’ day – taking one verse and taking it to its logical conclusion, making an entire code of behavior out of it which cannot be adhered to in all circumstances, and condemning those who fail to meet the standard, because they failed to appreciate the historical context and the full revelation of the character of God.
    When you limit the purpose of sex to procreation, or even try to make that the primary purpose, you detract from the grand complexity of God’s design (i.e., things have more than one purpose and sheer beauty can be a purpose in and of itself), and take away the special nature of human sexuality that distinguishes us from the rest of God’s creation – the two become one flesh. This spiritual and emotional bonding is not necessary for procreation; it exists because, unlike the rest of creation, man was not originally created male and female, but separated some time later. Adam was created in the image of God, and I don’t believe God has a penis. From the Genesis 2 account, there could have been quite some time between God forming Adam and breathing the breath of life into him and putting him to sleep to create Eve. He was aware of life before gender – and immediately on waking up from his surgery, recognized Eve as the missing part of himself and joined together with her. The union of souls is the goal; sex (joining flesh) is the means; procreation is a blessed byproduct.
    Now, fast forward to the New Testament. In Christ, race, economic status and even gender are irrelevant. We have ended discrimination against interracial marriage because of this propositional truth. Many churches allow ordination of women in ministry because of this propositional truth, although some continue to treat women as second-class Christians because of Paul’s culturally-influenced instructions – all because they mistakenly believe that God stopped speaking, and Paul’s writing was the universally applicable, final and comprehensive word on the subject.
    To Grey Owl re #51 – I think it’s up to each of us whether or not we make anything an issue. You and I can say, “There are sincere believers on both sides of this issue, and my preferred method of interpreting scripture leads me to this conclusion, others have reached a different conclusion. It’s not an essential matter of creed, but a non-essential matter of doctrine. Therefore, I can and will tolerate diversity of opinion on this issue, and treat those with different views as my brothers and sisters in Christ.” I think we’re getting there.

  • http://www.michaelh.com/ Michael Hamblin

    Scot,
    If you are familar with the kind of work that Chad Thompson has been doing, why is it that you chose not to discuss in this series? FWIW, Chad and I rather independently came to very similar conclusions on how Christians should respond and take the lead in reaching out to people who are struggling with homosexuality, and have put that into action. Shouldn’t we encourage other believers to do the same?
    Thanks,

  • http://www.JesusCreed.org Scot McKnight

    Michael,
    That one sentence is incomplete. I’m assuming you wrote “him” or “his work”. Well, I have mentioned him; I think I mentioned him early, too, and I have endorsed his book. This series was not a survey, though, of what others are saying. Gets us lost in a mass of discussions.
    I’m glad you are working on this, and am happy to hear your responses.

  • Don in Phoenix

    Scott M in #59 – great!
    Scot in #62 – consistent with your reasoning and its conclusions. I don’t think it’s necessary, though. The orientation is out of order; the behavior follows naturally from the orientation. An attempt at celibacy without the specific grace to enable it is an invitation to disaster. Traditional marriage with a dis-ordered sexual orientation is a guaranteed disaster (been there, done that, got the child support order to prove it). The loving relationship between two hypothetical partners is important, and insisting they separate would damage them (or jeopardize your relationship with them and their relationship with the church and its Lord).
    I say, make clear that same-sex orientation is (in your view and that of the majority of the church) outside God’s design for creation, trust God to change the orientation as He sees fit, and allow them to modify their practices within their relationship (two are better than one). The goal would be chastity rather than celibacy, and missing the goal would be “less evil” than going on a promiscuous binge.

  • http://www.michaelh.com/ Michael Hamblin

    Scot,
    I appreciate that you were aware of Loving Homosexuals as Jesus Would, but why is it in a ten part series on Jesus and Homosexuality that this doesn’t rise to the level of even a nod?
    Thanks again,

  • http://www.JesusCreed.org Scot McKnight

    Michael, I do mention it somewhere.
    Don, what do you mean by “chastity rather than celibacy”?

  • http://www.JesusCreed.org Scot McKnight
  • Don in Phoenix

    I mean “abstention from sexual relations” vs. “the condition of being unmarried”. It’s better to maintain and sanctify the intimate relationship as God gives them the grace to do so than to impose a “breakup”, with all the emotional pain.

  • Bryan Hodge

    Stephan, just so you know, birthcontrol can be condemned form a variety of angles, not just this one. So if you’re trying eagerly to justify it, it’s really a lost cause anyway. This is just one of the many arguments against it (not the best even–we should talk about philosophic naturalism sometime and how it relates to this issue in our culture).
    1. To interpret the Holiness Code as to how it dishonors someone is to interpret sin in regards to its effects on humans, rather than in regard to its rebellion against what God commands. We dealt with this a while back. I reject the view of sin that defines it merely as that which harms another human. Sin is rebellion against God in the Bible. It includes harming other humans in its effects, but the sin is primarily against God.
    2. In what way are the acts here in Lev 18 an “abomination” (i.e., toebah-”a misuse,” or “out of appropriate place/use of something”)? The very word beckons us to look at the context (it is about doing an act which either does not allow for, or in some way threatens, children to be conceived-”fruitful,” born-”multiply,” or grow up-”fill the earth”). What then is the appropriate use? That which is not toebah? The answer is Gen 1-2 which is already in the Israelite mindset. Why God made sex to begin with.
    3. I’m taking by your response that you don’t have a good why and if someone were to counter you with the idea that the Bible is talking about homosexuality that is promiscuous or idolatrous, you wouldn’t have a solid response to it other than, “I disagree.” That’s why I really think it is important to get the WHY down, but this is going to condemn us as well (and most don’t want to go there).
    Don, I mentioned the RC as one voice that still remains from the entire Church. The EO and Prot Churches all had the same position throughout history (I think the EO may still, but I’m not sure). My argument was simply that the ENTIRE CHURCH had thought this way before the 20th Cent, which romanticized sex in both a hedonistic and psychological way. The church let it subtlely creep in and the theology of sex was lost to many.
    The woman in her menstrual period is a symbol (as are all bodily fluids) in Lev for holiness and profanity. In the Holiness Code however it is not used that way here. Now we are talking about the context of Lev 18 which are the morals, which make up Israel’s holiness from the surrounding nations, to which the symbols point.
    Secondly, your charge of me being Pharisaical is a bit absurd. I’ve been giving you numerous things (Gen 1-2, Lev 18, their interpretations in the DSS and Pseudepigraphic literature as background for the NT’s interpretation, the 54 occurences of “sexual immorality” and what that means in the background, etc.). You’ve given me only a modern day interpretation of why God made us (i.e., to be in a loving relationship with each other). And that would be where in the Bible? If I’m the one creating a huge idea off of a single text, where is even the one which you are taking yours from? SoS? Does SoS say that the male and female were made to have sex for pleasure or intimacy? Or does it teach that sex has pleasure and intimacy in it? I think love poems are great too, and have never said that pleasure and intimacy are not a part of sex, but the reason why God CREATED them male and female is going to be found in Gen 1-2, not SoS. When Jesus argues against divorce, He doesn’t go to the SoS and say, “Well, relationships are really about loving one another and having pleasure, so if you divorce for that reason, OK.” He goes back to Gen and states that the two become one flesh. They are joined for the purpose for which God made them. If you want to find out what that purpose is, you have to go back to Gen 1-2 and try not read modern day presupps into it.
    Once again, I only ask people to look at the text of Lev 18 and ask how they all are linked together. What unites them as a group? And can this be done by defining sin appropriately as that which is against the commands of God (and what command would it be that these rebel against)? At the end of the day, I realize people will conclude what they presupposed, but I thought that I would at least offer up something that comes from outside the box in which we all live.

  • Bryan Hodge

    Don, you said,
    “Now, fast forward to the New Testament. In Christ, race, economic status and even gender are irrelevant. We have ended discrimination against interracial marriage because of this propositional truth. Many churches allow ordination of women in ministry because of this propositional truth, although some continue to treat women as second-class Christians because of Paul’s culturally-influenced instructions – all because they mistakenly believe that God stopped speaking, and Paul’s writing was the universally applicable, final and comprehensive word on the subject.”
    I think this may also be where are Bibliologies and Ecclesiologies conflict; and maybe that is a large part of our disagreeance. I see the Spirit leading the Church in the direction of the Apostles, not counter to them. So I look for what the Bible says and how the Holy Spirit has lead His Church into the truth of what it says. I reject a Deistic approach to God and His Church, so we may be at an impasse on those points.

  • http://julieunplugged.blogspot.com/ Julie

    Hi Bryan.
    You might be surprised by my reaction to your post. I was in the camp of fundigelicals who believed that procreation was the primary role of sexuality and that evangelicals had missed the boat if they permitted use of contraceptives or engaged in any kind of sexual act that did not offer the potential of conception. I have five kids and twelve years of that lifestyle to vouch for my commitment to that belief.
    Changes in our thinking (my husband’s and mine) came as we examined the cultural context of an agrarian culture versus a post industrial one. Birth mortality rates have dropped considerably and the ability to live a lifestyle that included homeschooling (on one income) with a spouse gone all day seemed anything but mandated by Scripture. Yet here we were marching lock step with an ideology, without grace, without nuance, without addressing the huge disparities between the ancient world and our modern one.
    You said: My argument was simply that the ENTIRE CHURCH had thought this way before the 20th Cent, which romanticized sex in both a hedonistic and psychological way. The church let it subtlely creep in and the theology of sex was lost to many.
    This is certainly your judgment, interpretation. I would say it differently. the twentieth century saw such dramatic changes in the role of women (freedoms for women) combined with less need for large families (moving off the farm and into the city), combined with lower infant mortality rates, longer lives and increased fertility, that birth control became important… the RCC allows for NFP (Natural Family Planning, unlike the hardcore fundamentalist position which does not).
    Taking in all of these positions and evaluating Scripture in light of them, I can find no explicit command to *not* limit one’s family. I also don’t see any place that prohibits marriage is one isn’t intent on having children or can’t have them.
    I have ended up where Don is. I think we err when we super impose time bound principles onto our era. We run into the danger of legalism and chasing after God’s approval through rigid adherence to a “new law” and forget the spirit of Jesus and grace.
    Scot, thanks for clarifying your take on how you arrive at your theology. I get it. We may differ in th eprocess, but I respect yours as honest and thorough and kind.
    Scott Mo, I agree about the role of reason in the process of developing theology. I was using shorthand to explain my process. Your post unpacks that process more thoroughly. I appreciate all that you said about your relationship to this topic and think you speak for many in your ambivalence and desire to honor both God and be respectful to homosexuals.
    Don, I empathize the most with you and your posts and am frankly amazed at your honesty and gentleness. Do you have a blog? Would love to read it.
    Julie

  • Bryan Hodge

    Hi Julie, you might be surprised that I actually grew up in the complete opposite spectrum of the church (everyone without exception that I knew practiced birthcontrol and saw sex as something of pleasure and intimacy with the occasional “perk” of children when they wanted it.
    1. My theology just cannot come from sociology though, and I believe that if I seek God’s rule over me and to please Him, that “all the things” (even in an industrial world) will be added to me. So cultural pragmatics is just the wrong way to go I think. For instance, what if it gets so expensive to live that we need multiple partners to survive? Should we abandon the Biblical teaching on something because it’s hard to do now? Should I say that those who believe we should stick to the Bible in that situation are graceless? That Jesus wouldn’t care about following Scripture because He understands? Understands what? That it is difficult to obey Him in a world that does not? His answer seems to be to send us the Holy Spirit and words that teach us to follow Him even if it requires great sacrifice on our part.
    2. Remember also that the Bible doesn’t specifically condemn a lot of things that we would see as evil. We have to make inferences and look beyond the explicit statements in the text to see the spirit of the law (there is no law against raping children, but I would still argue against it based on the very argument I’ve been giving, not based on culture or psychology of a child’s mind, etc.).
    Ultimately it goes back to the question, “Who gives children to begin with?” If we answer, “We do,” we are far more likely to ignore the teaching concerning these issues and “limit” children ourselves. If we answer, “God does,” that’s going to have different implications on whether or not WE should “limit” them. But this would be another question for another day.

  • Don in Phoenix

    Julie – I’m working on it.
    Thanks for the encouragement.

  • Bryan Hodge

    BTW, fundamentalism and evangelicalism are two camps that I don’t really find myself in. I intersect on many things with some of them, but I would classify myself more as an orthodox Christian or traditionalist.

  • Stephan

    One more post and I’m turning in my soapbox, I promise.
    Bryan, you say I would have no response other than “I disagree” if someone believes all Biblical texts regarding homosexuality were irrelavent to our time. I disagree. Looking at all of those texts together, as Scot has done here, I can’t see that you can totally disregard them as cultural. I believe there is enough information, in enough different contexts, to make a clear argument that same sex relationships are sinful. I believe they are just as guilty of using context to invalidate the text as you are at using the context to read things into the text.
    I find myself somewhere between Don and Julie on the one hand and Bryan on the other, although I would probably put myself closer to Don and Julie. We certainly need to extend grace, and, as Scot has said, use sensitivity, care and tact. But I don’t believe we should redefine sin to fit our personal circumstances. I wish I could believe that same sex relationships were approved by God, but I don’t see a model for that anywhere in scripture.
    With all of that said, I’m sure there is sin in my life that I have rationalized. I’m sure there are things I am clinging to that God views in the same light as homosexuality. Sin is sin, and I am guilty of it, without a doubt, and I tolerate it in others unequally. Up to this point my church has not (to my knowledge) had to deal with this issue other than rhetorically. When that day comes I would like to believe I will be welcoming my brothers and sisters to the table and extending all of the undeserved grace that has been given to me.
    Stephan

  • Don in Phoenix

    Bryan H.
    There is as much of a Biblical basis for multiple partners as there is for prohibiting same-sex relations. Abraham, Jacob, David, Solomon – all had multiple partners. The Hebrew law is totally silent on consensual sex outside of marriage EXCEPT that (a) if you have sex with another man’s wife, both you and the unfaithful wife are to be executed (treating the wife as the property of the husband); and (b) if you have sex with a virgin, she’s your wife and you owe her father the appropriate price (daughter is the property of the father, who can sell her into sexual slavery at his discretion).
    Somewhere along the line, it became immoral to have sex with anyone outside one single partner of the opposite gender to whom you were contractually obligated in a formal, public ceremony with a license from the state. When did multiple partners become illegal? It was never originally intended, but doesn’t that show that God allows what He doesn’t intend?

  • Bryan Hodge

    Stephan, thanks for your time and thoughts. I appreciate your input. take care.
    Don, I agree with you that in the issue of ownership, God did allow what He did not always intend; but only because the allowance of polygamy and prostitution dealt with ideas of ownership, not sexual immorality. Sexual immorality was never permitted. When ownership was extended to the woman in the NT, the others were no longer permitted (because with the new priviledge of ownership given to the woman, adultery would take place if these other two were to occur now). So if anything, Don, God narrows the sphere of sexuality, rather than widening it (because we have all power to live out God’s intentions now with the giving of His Spirit to us).

  • Bryan Hodge

    Stephan, before you sign off, I just wanted to add to your comment that the arguments are not that it is cultural, but that it is talking about specific sins dealing with idolatrous sex, pedophilia, violent sex, or promiscuous sex depending on what text you’re talking about. All would say this applies to our day. It’s just that they would also say that that is not what the modern day homosexual partnership is about. The modern one is about love and commitment, etc. So just to clarify.

  • Curt

    Scot,
    Thank you for all you have been willing to post and dialogue on here.
    I am wondering, if, given your response in #62 above, would you consider a “gay relationship” that is caring and loving, but celibate, acceptable, i.e. not “out of order”?

  • http://fevertree.blogspot.com RickY

    Since I think a “gay relationship” (do you mean same-sex oriented folk who are involved in same-sex acts? — I assume so) is out of God’s order, I think it would involve restoration to celibacy or even to a traditional marriage.
    Would we then say that divorce w/o biblical grounds (whatever they are) and remarriage is out of God’s order, too? Would we counsel the OOGO couple towards celibacy or even restoration of the original marriage?
    I doubt it. I think we love our divorced and remarried siblings in the faith too much to lay that on them. Unless we think we love God more, which is highly unlikely. Not to mention suspect.
    Which raises a point – even if we say Scripture preceeds Love as the source of whatever moral logic we’re trying to get down to, Scripture’s clearest and pre-eminant command is exactly that: Thou shalt love.
    The question is, What does love “do”? Love “how”? To answer that we can go to Jesus, we can go to Holy Scripture – and what does it say? “As yourself” and “As I have loved you.”
    Jesus didn’t live his life under the Law. He lived it out. Because he really loved. He didn’t have to think about it all that much, didn’t have to remember, didn’t have to reason his way through to the right thing to do, did he? Seems to me if we really love we’d know what to do. And if we don’t really love, but want to, we can act “as if” best we know how and best we can. If we’re short on love we can always go long on law. But please, if we’re playing “make believe” then let’s say so from the get go. For the love of God, let’s not say we really love if we don’t know what we’re talking about. It’d be more honest to say we’re trying to be faithful, trying to do the right thing. Even trying to do the loving thing. Which is pretty much what all of us are trying to do, anyway.

  • http://www.JesusCreed.org Scot McKnight

    RickY,
    No I don’t think “divorce” et al is “out of order.” It is the breaking of a word, a promise, and constitutes infidelity at least at one level.
    Part of what is going on here is a difference in what “love” means, but for me it is not unloving to see something as “out of order” and embrace that person.
    And I’m sorry but I’ve now read the rest of your post three times and I’m just not sure what you are getting at. If you think “love” and saying something is “out of order” are incompatible, then I’d differ — but I’m not sure what you are saying.
    Love and law are not incompatible: the Torah is preliminary revelation of God’s will, and love of God and love of others are elements of Torah — Deut 6 and Lev 19.

  • Don in Phoenix

    Stephan,
    Our positions are more closely aligned than you think. Mine has always been, “I’m broken in this area”, not “God made me this way, and I don’t need to change.”
    Of course, God being sovreign, and there being every evidence that He intends to have a personal relationship with me, I have to believe that He knew about “it” from the beginning. I’ve tried the “ex-gay” support group thing, which from my experience is counterproductive.
    I’ve finally reached the conclusion that God has accepted me in my cracked condition, and has taken on Himself the responsibility for restoring me to wholeness. For me, marriage (to a woman, anyway) is not an option. Neither is there any evidence that He has given me the gift of celibacy. So, I’m asking Him for an acceptable (not perfect) solution. My church has several same-sex couples in committed relationships; we do not condition full participation in the Kingdom of God on pretending perfection, abandoning intimacy or enforcing the unkind state of celibacy. What goes on in their bedrooms is between them and God.
    God has other children who are similarly situated, and we’re all a part of His body, the Church. The Church has a mission, which is the same as Christ’s mission: to proclaim good news to the poor; to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind; to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor. As long as He was in the world, He was the light of the world – and He left that mission to us. Some of us have chosen, despite rejection by the mainstream church, to continue to work on that mission together – particularly to reach those who have felt rejected by the church with the message of the Good News. Many of us feel (myself included) that such a ministry of reconciliation is best undertaken in partnership with a like-minded individual, with complimentary giftings. But, unless and until He provides that person, I’m going to attempt (knowing He will overlook occasional lapses) to wait for His answer.

  • http://fevertree.blogspot.com RickY

    Hi Scot.
    This is a large thread already so I’ll try to be brief.
    No I don’t think “divorce” et al is “out of order.” It is the breaking of a word, a promise, and constitutes infidelity at least at one level.
    I hear a Natural Law/Moral Law distinction being made here. Is that a fair assessment?
    Part of what is going on here is a difference in what “love” means, but for me it is not unloving to see something as “out of order” and embrace that person.
    I agree. I do it all the time with some of my sibling rivals in the faith.
    And I’m sorry but I’ve now read the rest of your post three times and I’m just not sure what you are getting at. If you think “love” and saying something is “out of order” are incompatible, then I’d differ — but I’m not sure what you are saying.
    I’m sorry too – yeah, it was packed pretty tight.
    Love and law are not incompatible: the Torah is preliminary revelation of God’s will, and love of God and love of others are elements of Torah — Deut 6 and Lev 19.
    No, they’re not incompatible. But they’re obviously not the same, either. One is written in the Book and the other is written on the heart. One is the letter of the Law, the other Spirit. No one can say, “I keep the Law, therefore I love.” But one can say “he that loveth another hath fulfilled the law.” You can say Love is the Law, but the Law is Love. Love transcends the law. Love makes laws superfluous. I think.
    Thanks for being here.

  • http://fevertree.blogspot.com RickY

    s/b You can say Love is the Law, but not the Law is Love.

  • Becky

    Stephan, ScottMo, RickY, I was touched by contributions you put in today.
    Stephan, for saying : “I honestly wish I could agree with you. It would make this whole issue so much easier if we could just make it go away, but I do not believe that can be backed up with an honest reading of the Bible.” and, “With all of that said, I’m sure there is sin in my life that I have rationalized. I’m sure there are things I am clinging to that God views in the same light as homosexuality. Sin is sin, and I am guilty of it, without a doubt, and I tolerate it in others unequally. Up to this point my church has not (to my knowledge) had to deal with this issue other than rhetorically. When that day comes I would like to believe I will be welcoming my brothers and sisters to the table and extending all of the undeserved grace that has been given to me.”
    ScottMo, for : “And so I’m not friends with those who are gay in order to get them to change. They are just my friends, same as any other. If they aren’t Christian, I want them to get to know the God who loves me so much. He loves them too. But in the end, it’s not up to me to force change in a person. As we talk, we’ll probably discuss my understanding of God’s design. But since I don’t approach the discussion with anything other than my understanding and allow their understanding to be their understanding, it’s not a source of conflict. If God takes them to the point of change, I’ll help them. If he never does, I’ll still be right there with them. I have ongoing cracks that I’m not going to change either……”
    And RickY : “For the love of God, let’s not say we really love if we don’t know what we’re talking about. It’d be more honest to say we’re trying to be faithful, trying to do the right thing. Even trying to do the loving thing. Which is pretty much what all of us are trying to do, anyway.”
    Through this series, I’ve thought of C.S. Lewis’ As the Ruin Falls : What is all this flashy rhetoric about loving you I haven’t loved a single thing since I’ve been born I am mercenary and self seeking through and through I want God, you, all things, merely to serve my terms. Peace, reassurance, pleasure are the goals I seek I can not crawl one inch outside my proper skin, I talk of love a scholar’s parrot may talk Greek but self-imprisoned always ends where it begins. Only but now you have taught me, but how late, my lack, I see the chasm. And everything you are was making my heart into a bridge by which I might get back from exile and grown man, but now the bridge is breaking. For this I bless you as the ruin falls, the pains you give me are more precious than all other gains.
    Apologies to Lewis for the lack of punctuation.
    I am a bit unnerved whenever there is great fervor over sin that seems to be “over there.” Now that we have gone over this again, I think it would be balance if we could speak of sins we have, perhaps ones we would expect reaction would other’s know. Not that I expect it to happen.

  • Becky

    BryanH, I don’t like to scripture sword fight. I know your opinion, you know mine. I’ll leave it at that.

  • Don in Phoenix

    RickY – Right…..I think.
    Julie – I did it. blog.myspace.com/livnlearnphx (just posted my first entry and linked to this post).

  • Don in Phoenix

    Becky – amen to #88.

  • Scott Morizot

    Thanks Becky. I’ve tried to share honestly and expose some of my own flaws and failings as well. Yours were right on target for this discussion and I appreciate your vulnerability. Mine were more tangential, but I think still pertinent.
    Blessings,

  • RedAnt

    I’ve never posted here before, but I’ve been following Scot’s writings on homosexuality and reading most of the comments. I’ve found a lot of things intriguing at the very least. What I’m going to say is not in specific relation to the majority of the comments I’ve read above.
    It is undeniable to most Christians that God is love. It’s the essence of his being; it is who he is. If you’ve read Scot’s book Embracing Grace, you’re aware of the concept that we were not meant to be alone, to experience life alone. Individualism is a killer, right?
    Where I am going is that I believe we experience God through love, because love is who he is. When we feel love for another human, I believe it to be an experience of God. If two men love each other, in the romantic sense, I find it undeniable that said love is a similar experience of God. How can we begin to suggest to people where this experience of God should be experienced and where it should not.
    Clearly, I’m aware that the Bible expresses some negative light on homosexuality. I’m also aware that the Bible says many, many things that most Evangelicals pay no attention to.
    It’s your responsibility, you who believe in Jesus, to welcome homosexuals to the table, to promote their right to marry, and their right to have children. The table of Jesus is a feast and everyone is invited. Everyone. Marriage is a civil liberty and it’s not 1892 anymore… we shouldn’t be denying civil liberties to anyone.
    God is love. Don’t deny people the right to experience that love.

  • Becky

    When did this series start, what date, Jesus and the Homosexual ?

  • http://www.JesusCreed.org Scot McKnight

    Becky, January 18. You can click on the calendar.

  • http://www.backwoodspresbyterian.blogspot.com Benjamin

    RedAnt has shone the light on what the real problem is-a I have stated before-is the word of God the word of God or just a helpful book? Most of the pro-homosex community do not hold scripture in a very high place. RedAnt also said, “I’m also aware that the Bible says many, many things that most Evangelicals pay no attention to.” Here we also have the “you sin too so I can sin” argument;poor argumentation shows how weak the pro-homosex argument is for those who hold it. You have to discount the biblical prohibitions first and to discount the veracity of scripture to promote this agenda.

  • http://bgenis.blogspot.com Bob

    Sorry to chime back in but it’s been bothering me for a few days. I have been following the discussion from the beginning and presented my counter-point in commment #4 of the very first post. Scot requested that we hold off on drawing conclusions until he was done–to which I complied.
    We are still talking about laws and keeping it or breaking it and what to do when we break it. Scot talks about moral decision making using the Bible, tradition, culture, experience and reason. Human constructs (stick with me) of marriage, procreation, pleasure, etc.
    In all that, Scot places Jesus handling of these things. His call for us to follow, his example of loving God and loving others, his table, his hand which guides and helps us up.
    And we have hours of discussion that have not brought us anywhere. Maybe there’s a flaw? (see my original comment).
    The flaw is that Jesus transcends
    the Bible
    tradition
    culture
    experience
    reason
    morality
    logic
    decision-making
    marriage
    sexuality
    the law
    sin
    death
    life
    man
    god (small ‘g’)
    So to place Him in this context limits Him and projects a new Jesus–one defined by a human framework. Not the One revealed in Scripture.
    This goes beyond command-keeping or -breaking to command-fulfilling. Fulfilling doesn’t mean only “keeping in every way” but also completing, satisfying. Jesus fulfilled the Law. Not just “kept it perfectly” though He did do that.
    It is only in Him that the Law can be fulfilled in us. Bryan thought I was talking about “inner peace” (way back in #32) but instead I was talking about freedom from bondage to the Law. Not freedom from the Law, but it’s bondage.
    There are two results to following the Law. Keeping laws results in self-righteousness–from this point we elevate ourselves and compare/judge/condemn others, overtly, secretly or subconsciously. Breaking laws results in self-hatred–either mild “conviction” or “godly sorrow” or, at its worst total humiliation and a loss of self-worth. (I think this is what homosexuals experience (Don referred to it) that causes them to trade “best” for “good”).
    So we need to step beyond keeping and breaking to fulfilling. For some, this means we need to give up our sense of “good” and “evil”. For others, it means we need to give up our need for intimate human contact. And rely solely on Christ.
    I could never ask someone to do this. Jesus doesn’t ask us to do this. But the Good News is Jesus is make-ing us do this. Not with force but as a new creation. He doesn’t just love us–he makes all things new!
    Scot, you can delete this lengthy post if you like. I feel better now.

  • Bryan Hodge

    Bob, if the way you interpret freedom from bondage (which in the context of Rom has to do with freedom from sin) is true, then there should be no commandments in the NT, and instead only statements of what we’re becoming. How do you interpret the fact that we have numerous commands given to us (and many in this area) that tell us what to do, not just inform us what we will become? You seem to advocate an antinomian position in which Christ just makes me like Himself apart from the means of what I do in obedient response to His commands.
    Phil 2:12 “So then, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your salvation with fear and trembling; 13 for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for [His] good pleasure.”
    It is through the obedience to commands, by the power of the Spirit, that we are transformed into the image of Christ, not apart from them.

  • Don in Phoenix

    Bob -
    Spoken like a true believer in the Gospel!

  • http://bgenis.blogspot.com Bob

    Bryan,
    Look at the end of the quote you referenced: for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for [His] good pleasure.
    Fulfill doesn’t mean exempt. Transcend doesn’t mean apart. I’m speaking of something that has to be beyond our limited framework. Because in trying to keep commands (Scot says part of the life of a disciple is failure) there is no hope.
    Certainly, to remain in Him, I need to follow His commands but my goal is not obedience, it is to remain in Him. Remaining in Him encompasses obedience but extends to much more.
    My point is not to set up a false dichotomy between obedience and Christ-following–they are inseparable but by no means equivalent. I’m trying to offer a hope beyond “do this; don’t do that” or “this is wrong; that is right”. You can look to any spiritual leader for this (Ghandi, the Dalai Lama, etc.) but Christianity is different precisely because of the Cross.

  • Don in Phoenix

    Bryan -
    Spoken like a true legalist. So, having begun in grace, are we to be made perfect through works? Did Romans 7 and 8 disappear from the Bible? Why must you be so argumentative? Contentiousness is not a fruit of the spirit.

  • Bryan Hodge

    Bob, I think I understand what you are saying now. I agree, but I think all of us have said throughout that transformation takes place in relationship with Christ (not just refraining from sin, but becoming like Him, loving what He loves and hating what He hates). But the do’s and do not’s have to do with the acknowledgement of sin and the knowledge therefore of what we need to disfavor and seek to abandon in order to enter or remain in a relationship with Christ. I quoted the last part of the verse because it is always God who is doing the work within us, but that work takes place for those who are in Him (those who in the first part of the verse are working out their own deliverance from sin through an obedient relationship with Him). So I’m not clear what you are saying that is different than what we’ve said? Are you specifically addressing Scot because he stated that redemption is a process and therefore would suggest celibacy or a turn to an appropriate marriage relationship? I thought that you had agreed with the fact that redemption is a process as well? Doesn’t one need to cease from sin even before they, in process, learn to do/become what is good?

  • Bryan Hodge

    Don, faith and obedience go together. True faith always produces true works. I’m not talking about living out laws apart from a loving relationship with Christ. I’m talking about expressing love (which is commitment of the will, not feeling) through acts of obedience. I only quoted you the verse, Don, and expressed the Biblical teaching that God works in us as we seek to obey Him. This is contrary to what you want to believe because you seem to have adopted the “change through spiritual osmosis” paradigm that the Bible rejects. Are you saying that you reject Phil 2:12? Are you being contentious on this point? :)

  • Bryan Hodge

    BTW, it’s having begun in “Spirit,” not grace. Grace is given through the faith relationship in which we receive the Spirit. So the question becomes, “What kind of faith relationship?” The Bible answers this as one of obedience that produces works/actions of change. So we are completed by faith as we begin in faith, but you and I seem to have different ideas of what kind of actions faith should produce in our lives. I believe faith produces an active working against sin in our lives toward good and you seem to indicate that you believe in a passive reception of Christlikeness as God works without the means of your actions. I think that is where we are differing.

  • http://bgenis.blogspot.com Bob

    I agree that it is a process. But not a process of putting down putting down one behavior and adopting another. (I think we’ve all tried that and met with varied success.) It is a process of putting down our agenda (this includes a list of the things we see wrong with ourselves or even our self-identity; “this is just who I am”) and picking up His.
    Now the mystic in me comes out–we cannot know how this process works or what its steps will be. The process involves a daily dying to self–not in dying to the things I do, but to all that I am. Unfortunately, too many of us define what we are by what we do. The Cross changed that. Jesus saw people as they were/are/will be.
    (Don, That was inflamatory language.)

  • http://www.JesusCreed.org Scot McKnight

    Don and Bryan,
    You are getting too severe with one another, and I’m asking that you resume charitable conversation.

  • Bryan Hodge

    Sorry, Scot, I was unaware that I was getting severe with Don. I tried to put the happy face to let him know that I was just giving him a light tug on what he said to me. If I came off as uncharitable, I’m sorry. I tend to use sarcasm in communication and that may come off as anger or “meanness,” but I assure you, it is not intended to be. Don, please don’t take my comments as hostile. I am merely conversing with you as I would anyone.

  • Don in Phoenix

    Bryan H:
    Nope. I, like Bob, would like to point out the context of Phil. 2:12. Since it begins with “therefore”, we must look backward to see what it is that Paul is talking about. The context is loving one another – looking out for each other’s interests, as Christ was obedient to the point of death (in looking out for our interests). We are to be obedient to His command to “love one another as I have loved you” (like it or not, this is the context). You cannot divorce this passage from the rest of Paul’s writings, which make it plain that obedience to the Law is neither possible nor always desirable.
    Jesus said to make disciples and teach them to observe “all that I have commanded you”. Therefore, it is only logical that any reference to obedience to commandments in the New Testament should be interpreted as flowing from the Great Commission. We have a better covenant with better promises, and much more important things to do than dissect doctrines and come up with theological systems that divide the truth out of the Word. Yes, we are to obtain from sexual immorality. What is morality? It is conformance to a standard of conduct.
    I’m assuming the standard in your case is God’s Law. By His words and through His actions, Jesus’ showed us that the Law must bend in favor of love for one’s neighbor. He healed on the Sabbath, and allowed His disciples to pick grain rather than go hungry. More importantly, the Law never applied to gentiles, and the Apostolic Council in Jerusalem that sent Paul to the Gentiles clearly declined to make it applicable. What is our standard of conduct? The commandment of Christ to love the Lord with all our heart, soul, mind and strength, and love our neighbor as ourselves. THAT IS EXACTLY THE CONTEXT OF PHILLIPIANS 2:12.

  • Don in Phoenix

    And, Bryan H. and Scot -
    I was using “contentious” in a sarcastic/humorous way as well. And please forgive the omission of the end italics tag in my last post. (as well as the SHOUTING at the end)
    Bryan, Yes, faith without works is dead. “What works” is a completely different subject, and a very large can of
    worms. I’m planning a very long series on this subject for my own blog on Myspace, because it’s the key to where I believe the “traditional church” including mainstream evangelicals have lost touch with the mission of the Church.
    “Works of the law” is not the works to which James is referring. We can begin with “in as much as you did it for the least of these”, and end with “he that believeth in me, the works that I do shall he do also, and greater works than these.” Show me your faith by doing what Jesus would do (good works are God’s works).

  • http://bgenis.blogspot.com Bob

    Don,
    We can begin at the Cross, where are burdens fall from our shoulders and end at the Cross where our glory is made complete. Nothing else matters.

  • Bryan Hodge

    Don, I don’t think I mentioned law there, but wouldn’t pit it against love as you have here either. Love is explained by law. Otherwise I can murder you and then say I love you. I don’t pit the two against each other, so saying I loved in that instance is false. Likewise, the Jerusalem council understood that love takes its expression through abstaining from evil, like sexual immorality (which it mentions BTW). So what I said stands because love, faith, works, obedience, etc. are in unity in Christ. Those who divide them are lost to define and express each element according to experience, culture, etc. rather than letting the Bible in context define them. I agree with Bob that this is about a transformation of our person, but also that whether or not our person is transformed is evidenced in our actions. I would like to know in your view how you would take Paul’s words that no one practices sexual immorality will enter the Kingdom of Heaven? How does that fly with your view?

  • Don in Phoenix

    Bryan, gotta love ya!
    Murder me, then say you love me? A little bit “over the top” in the ill-logic department.
    The point is, with the law (Mosaic) not applicable (the Mosaic law has been replaced/superseded by the new and better covenant), the ethical standard (by which the morality of one’s actions is to be judged) is not the Law, but Love. Therefore, the term “sexual immorality” does not refer to “sex that violates the Mosaic law” but rather “sexual practices that are inconsistent with love for God and my neighbor”. This places the responsibility for moral decision making squarely on the shoulders of the individual actor. It is both liberating and constraining at the same time (as in Paul’s discourse on eating meat sacrificed to idols – apparently he thought the Jerusalem Council too restrictive). It requires me to think not about the legality of an action (is it permissible), but the wider context of how it will affect others.
    Of course, in dealing with you, I have to maintain an even higher standard. I cannot get away with merely loving you as I love myself, because you’re not my neighbor. As a brother in Christ, I have to love you as He does. That’s tough. I need to think about that one for awhile.

  • Bryan Hodge

    Don, I think our problem is that you keep defining love generically and then pouring your own definition into it. My point to you before was that law tells me how to love a person when my mind is warped and recovering from my life lived within my sinful nature. I do not know what love is and how to love. The Bible then does not allow me just to do ANYTHING I THINK is love, but informs me if my love is misdirected. Therefore, my example of murder (of course it’s over the top, but not illogical) is that if one were to not understand that love’s expression is not murder, the law tells me that I am mistaken. The same for sexual immorality (that’s our English term, Don, so I would not be going to far with the term—it has its meaning from the Bible itself–just like the term idolatry has its meaning from the Bible). What I find most people do is move into the generic and say things like “Well it’s really all about love” and ignore the specific ways the Bible tells us love looks like in the day to day. Love for God does not rebel against His desires in creation. Love for my neighbor teaches them to love God through both word and demonstration of the appropriate relationships that exalt His wishes. It does not cause another brother to sin. So sexual immorality doesn’t need me to speculate as to how it is unloving toward God and man. The “law” tells me how it is unloving. The same for idolatry, stealing, lying, murder, etc. The people who are unloving toward God and man in such a way will not enter the Kingdom of God.
    So the Bible doesn’t allow us to use the word love and then define it by our own cultural and experiential definitions. Love is commitment to doing good, and the direction of what is good is pointed out to us by law in the Bible. It can only be accomplished in a love relationship with Christ via faith and it is surpassed in that (once in that direction) we go even further in that direction than what would be “required” by the mere letter. So we do more than the law in love, but if we do less, we have deceived ourselves into thinking we love when what we are doing is naive evil toward God and man.

  • Scott Morizot

    Scot,
    I’ve been mulling a comment you made yesterday in post number 83 trying to look at it from various angles and directions. I’m simply unable to reconcile it in any meaningful way. You said this:


    No I don’t think “divorce” et al is “out of order.” It is the breaking of a word, a promise, and constitutes infidelity at least at one level.

    That just sounds far too much like my decidedly non-Christian moral logic I described earlier. If it in no way involves breaking a promise or betrayal, then it cannot be considered “infidelity”. Nor can I reconcile that perspective with Jesus’ own words. This was a key part of my illumination of homosexuality as a “sin”. In Matthew, Jesus clearly (to me at least) describes the union of one man and one woman in marriage as God’s order and the two become not two, but one. Jesus himself ties it to God’s order of creation, and then states that God “allowed” deviations because of our stubborness or “hardness of heart”.
    So if the created order or design is one man and one woman united in a permanent union, I’m not sure any deviation from that can be considered anything but “out of order”. Further, if there are deviations from God’s design that are not considered “out of order”, the foundation for any determination that homosexuality is “out of order” looks pretty shaky to me.
    Obviously my perspective and internalization of Christian moral logic has followed different paths than others, but that seems like a pretty central point to me.

  • http://www.JesusCreed.org Scot McKnight

    Scott,
    Good point — and marriage is tied to a creation ordinance. “Order” has to do with the “way things are made for one another” and divorce breaks a union of male and female. In that sense it is out of order, but it is more a breaking of the union than being out of order. It is not a union that is out of order but a breaking of the union.

  • Scott Morizot

    Scot, I sense you are attempting to draw some sort of distinction, but I’m not grasping it. I’m certainly not trying to be dense, but if the end result is existence in a state that is outside God’s creation order for a union of two Eikons, I’m not sure I see how the particular path to that “out of order” state matters. The sense I get from Jesus’ statements in Matthew and Luke is a clear link to creation order and a statement that one who is divorced and marries another is now in an adulterous relationship not another union reflecting creation order.
    This is, for me at least, the key. Jesus is asked to weigh in on a particular debate of his day and instead of picking an interpretation of the law or even adding his own, I read what he says as more along these lines. “Look guys. None of these are right. Forget the interpretations. Heck, let’s even forget Moses for a moment. This is the way it was from the beginning. This is God’s created order for a union of Eikons, creating one from what was two. It’s this and nothing else.” I’ve spent a lot of time in this spot. I’ll branch out and look at others things, meander down different paths, but I keep coming back to this point. When we want to talk about God’s design for bonding two into one, Jesus says we have to look at creation order. And he makes it clear that anything less God may have “allowed” (an interesting statement in and of itself), but it is not within God’s order.
    It was only as I was able to understand that point, understand that I was myself existing outside God’s design or order and had no path back to that order that myself that I truly came to realize how much I relied on his grace to enfold me, on his love to bathe and cover me. And as I understood that, I was able to begin to grasp some sense, some common element in the confusing muddle that marriage and sexuality appear to be in the story of scripture (if you look at all of it rather than the bits that are comfortable to you). We have continually been broken and out of order in this arena. But God has been in the business of redeeming those Eikons anyway. It has looked different in different times, contexts, and circumstances because it had to, but the goal and process has always been the same.
    Jesus provided the key to make some sense out of it. Without that, it looks like nothing but a muddled, confusing mess to me. So help me understand the distinction you are trying to draw. Yes, I agree it is the breaking of the union that places you outside God’s order with divorce. Subsequent unions just compound the problem. Whereas with homosexual couples (or plural marriages or promiscuity or …) it is the union itself that places you outside God’s order. But the end result looks the same to me. You are now in an “out of order” state of existence, sometimes with no way on your own to return to an ordered state.
    And with that said, in today’s context there is no way, for instance, that I would never counsel a gay believer with a family (partner and child(ren)) to abandon their family as a result of their faith. The damage that would do to the others and to the name of Jesus in their eyes is incalculable. Further, God has again and again accepted out of order relationships when the alternatives were, frankly, worse. The fact is that this particular form of “out of order” relationship (gay couple with children) is historically unique to our context. In the same way I would never consider abandoning my family, and would reject forcefully any such counsel, I would expect that response from them. And since I can clearly and easily find one circumstance in which I would not recommend celibacy or a standard heterosexual relationship, I’m hesitant to make that a blanket condition for their faith.
    None of which should be taken to mean that I think God is “OK” with any of it, my situation or their’s. Nor am I proposing this as the “right” solution. It’s simply the only one I can reconcile with my own situation, friends I’ve had, and scripture. We need to let God be God. If He leads that person out of the relationship, then I can trust him to do it in a way that offers an opportunity for healing and faith to all. If He does not, then it isn’t time yet. And I don’t even see that it has to be “time” in this life.

  • Scott Morizot

    Whoops! I meant:
    there is no way, for instance, that I would EVER counsel a gay believer with a family … to abandon their family as a result of their faith
    There are, of course, other reasons (abuse, etc.) where I might counsel it, but never just because they are now a believer. And one letter does make a difference. Obviously, I mentally flipped the way I was structuring the sentence as I was in the process of writing it.

  • http://www.JesusCreed.org Scot McKnight

    Scott,
    My point is a fine one, and maybe not substantial.
    Male and female, as male and female, is the order.
    Marriage is the union of the two.
    The “order” argument applies to the first; a “moral” argument (breaking promise, love) applies the second.
    That’s the whole point in sum.

  • Scott Morizot

    Hi Scot,
    I think everyone else has abandoned this conversation. Don’t feel any obligation to respond. But I think I catch a glimmer of your distinction, though I find it hard to wrap my head around. If I understand correctly, it seems like you are drawing a distinction between the physical nature of God’s creation and the manner in which he designed the union of the two. You are calling the first “order” and placing the second in a category called “moral”.
    I don’t think I’m able to draw that distinctive. I have been able to internalize what I have of Christian morality by finding God’s intended design or order for his creation. Where I am able to do that, I find those things that don’t conform to that order to be “out of order” and thus immoral. That’s the only path I’ve been able to find. If I attempted to say that male/female union was one of “order”, but male/female violations of God’s statements about that union were in a different category labeled “moral” that involved broken promises, love, etc., I know where I would end up. In that circumstance, expressions of sexuality between men and women that did not involve the violation of trust or betrayal in any way would thus not be “immoral”. The only way I am able to find some form of moral anchor in my highly fluid and relativistic perspective is to see God’s “order of creation” encompassing everything he says about it. Thus it’s not just the physical design of man/woman, it’s God’s statements (which Jesus points back to) about the union of the two into a permanent and exclusive bond as one as God’s intended “order” of creation. And thus a variance from that “order” is immoral simply because it varies.
    That nails a lot of us, myself included. If anything, it should make us appreciate God’s grace even more. But I sense here that we are speaking from two sides of a cultural divide. Because so many have talked about him (including you), I’m now reading an N.T. Wright book (The Last Word). Early in the book he discusses the “postmodern” perspective. His words and attempts to capture it are good. But I’m not sure if anything can truly explain what it means to live within a perspective that so aggressively attacks any assertion, any claim, and any attempt to believe anything at all. It’s not that it’s entirely bad. It does seem to leave us more flexible and adaptable to constant changes and shifting circumstances. But that same flexibility makes it very easy to conform beliefs to ourselves rather than the other way around. And so I’m not sure I’m able to step inside this particular distinction you appear to be making.
    I’m not sure that makes a whole lot of sense, but I find it difficult to translate this into words. Thanks for taking the time to step through potentially contentious issues.

  • Rissa

    God loves everyone, that includes the homosexual. He just doesn’t love the homosexual’s lifestyle. The first chapter of Romans cannot make it any clearer..what God thinks of homosexuality. He calls it vile…unseemly and against nature….


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