Same-Sex Relationships and Steve Chalke

From Tony Campolo:

What a federal government determines to be law is one thing; what the church blesses it endorses; what it endorses must be demonstrated from Scripture. It appears to me Steve Chalke thinks a local church is a right for all. Tony Campolo’s view remains conservative (as is mine) and he urges evangelicals to a renewed thinking about how to love others well.

If you haven’t already picked up the news via the internet, let me tell you that Steve Chalke, one of the most prominent preachers in the United Kingdom, and an icon among Evangelicals in, has published a definitive statement in support of committed, faithful, same-sex relationships.  It is published in the United Kingdom in next month’s edition of the magazine, Christianity.  The British version of the U.S. magazine, Christianity TodayChristianity is a conservative, Evangelical publication.  Steve’s statement has also received significant attention from the UK’s mainstream press and media.

Steve called close to midnight, his time, to tell me of his decision to stand up publically in favor of faithful, same-sex relationships. .  He wanted me to know what he was doing prior to the news breaking in the popular media.  Steve and I are old friends and he didn’t want me to be blindsided by the news.  He was well aware that his announcement would be a bombshell, not only on the British scene, but would have ramifications for Evangelicals around the world.  For somebody with Steve’s high profile to stand up in favor of lesbian and gay partnerships is indeed shocking news.  While it will be welcomed by a significant proportion of the Evangelical community, there will be extensive negative repercussions from others who are adamantly opposed to Civil Partnerships or the idea of gay marriage.

The significance of what Steve – a Baptist Minister – has done cannot be overstated.  Last fall he conducted a dedication and blessing service following the Civil Partnership of two gay members of his church. (Under present UK law gay marriage is not possible, although the UK Government is currently exploring the possibility of new legislation to change that. Therefore, at the moment, same-sex couples seek a ‘Civil Partnership’, which until now no churches have recognized).

“I did this” Steve explains, “to extend to these people what I would do to others – the love and support of our local church. Too oftenthose who seek to enter an exclusive, same-sex relationship have found themselves stigmatised and excluded by the Church. I have come to believe this is an injustice and out of step with God’s character as seen through Christ.”

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  • phil_style

    “It appears to me Steve Chalke thinks a local church is a right for all. ”

    Under what use is the term “right” being applied here?

  • Jerry S

    Scot, I ask the same question as Phil: what do you mean by “a local church is a right for all”?

  • scotmcknight

    Phil and Jerry,

    The paragraph at the end is what I’m pointing to…

  • Scott, You refer to your and Tony’s positions. Would it be possible to provide a link to those positions? I am struggling and frustrated right now and could use some direction. I want to be faithful to Scripture (the blue parakeet type rather than the Scofield type) on this but feel my past understanding of the issue being challenged daily. Perhaps I am weak or not that bright but would love to hear anything you have to say. I want to balance grace and truth but am finding that more and more, even in the church, that option being taken off the table with a demand to pick sides.

  • Ben Thorp

    It seems that Chalke is using a trajectory hermeneutic for his defence, which seems a little risky – but then for many he had already stepped outside evangelicalism with his piece on PSA a few years ago.

  • scotmcknight

    Tony’s is at the post… at the end. Mine has been posted over the years here.

  • Joe Canner

    “Too often, those who seek to enter an exclusive, same-sex relationship have found themselves stigmatised and excluded by the Church.”

    This, to me, is the issue in a nutshell. Any discussion of same-sex relationships and the church needs to address two issues: (1) what, if anything, does Scripture say about exclusive, same-gender relationships? and (2) is discouraging same-gender sexual relationships the church’s only priority, or does the church have a role to play in encouraging monogamy?

    Tony Campolo himself has said that the church’s priorities on this issue are out of balance, given, for example, that Jesus said more about divorce and remarriage (and adultry) than he did about same-gender relationships. Accordingly, maybe our focus should be on monogamy (opposite-gender and same-gender) and we should be content to play second fiddle to the Holy Spirit when it comes to working with those who are trying to decide between marriage (again, opposite-gender or same-gender) and celibacy. I believe the church is missing a big opportunity here, both in terms of sharing the Gospel and in terms of spiritual formation.

  • John Mark

    I just don’t get it. To me, the whole message of scripture on homosexuality is one of negation. I don’t deny the reality of homosexual tendencies or desires, but I see nowhere this should be affirmed by allowing for ‘marriages’ to take place. Does this seem unloving, unkind, not like Jesus? And have we failed to teach our people the full gospel about monogamy, fidelity and truthfulness in marriage? Well, yes.
    I’m sure this issue is not going to go away, and in my view we will be forced to take sides in some way. Conservatives will be labeled as bigots, or something to that effect. But I just can’t imagine the day when I think that Christianity is compatible with homosexual practices, even if they are monogamous.
    Do I lack compassion or understanding? It is possible I do, though I hope and pray not. To me, though, this is just another sign of how we have fallen away in our understanding of God’s plan for marriage, and yes, we have brought it on ourselves as we have failed to keep heterosexual marriages together, or holy.

  • CGC

    Hi Everyone,
    I find committed, faithful monogamous relationships to be problematic in our society and the church whether that be different genders or same genders. Life-long committed faithful marriages is something that we see less and less today and the destruction of many families continues to do untold great harm to the body of Christ. Whether people are straight or gay, churches typically are just giving lip service to words like committed, faithful, etc. when it comes to marriage when there is no substance behind these words much less reality!

  • Rob Grayson

    For the record, as a Brit and a UK resident, I’m not sure I’d agree that Steve Chalke is one of the “most prominent preachers” in the UK today. Sure, he is moderately well-known and is prominent in a certain section of the evangelical community, but I’m not sure this news will be quite as earth-shattering as some suggest.

  • Glenn

    I find it strange that people say Jesus did not say anything on same-gender relationships. As far as I know – there were zero issues regarding the understanding of same gender relationships in Judaism in the 1st century. Divorce and remarriage were issues. So I find the argument of silence from Jesus a mute point. The 2,000 year Christian tradition is clear on this (celibacy or sex in traditional marriage) and I do believe the church must have strong and almost airtight arguments to undo a 2,000 year tradition. I heard a Buddhist claim Buddhism holds to the same tradition and it is almost impossible to undo Buddhist tradition on this as well.

  • I have nothing more to say than what Glenn expresses above. Ditto.

  • TriciaM

    Darian #4 said, “I want to balance grace and truth but am finding that more and more, even in the church, that option being taken off the table with a demand to pick sides.”

    Amen. I find the dismissiveness of Christians almost unbearable. As a middle-aged heterosexual woman who takes the bible very seriously, I just want people to listen with grace and love. We’re talking about whole lives here – not just theology.

    Darian – if you want to follow an interesting series on this topic, have a look at Rachel Held Evan’s first post on Thorn. It’s worth reading through the comments and noting the grace with which people of varying theologies are coming to the discusson.

  • metanoia

    Ditto to Glenn above.

  • TriciaM

    Why oh why….. I meant Torn. (thinking thorn in side, I guess)

  • Jimmy Stewart

    Unbelievable. There is NO way you can read the Bible and make a decision like this. Sounds like the fear of man or the temptation to compromise is so strong but how could one a true believer in Christ endorse sin? Imagine what Jesus would say to those who give hearty approval to those who blatantly sin! You ask how can I know this? Isn’t that prideful? NO! Just read your Bibles and it’s self-evident. Take a stand believers–trust in God in spite of the current pressures to cave. God will not be mocked.

  • Joe Canner

    Glenn #11 (& Steve #12 & metanoia #14): “there were zero issues regarding the understanding of same gender relationships in Judaism in the 1st century”

    This argument cuts both ways. Yes, it is quite possible that Jesus didn’t say anything about it because it wasn’t an issue. But to me that puts the burden even more on those who hold the traditional position to prove that what *is* said in Scripture is relevant to monogamous, committed, same-gender relationships (rather than promiscious, pedophillic, and/or non-consensual ones).

    Moreover, if Jesus’ silence on the matter is because it wasn’t an issue, then we must presume that the few references made by Paul must have been in regards to very specific local circumstances. For better or for worse, it is very difficult to know whether his comments are relevant to the monogamous, same-gender relationships of today.

    I would also argue that the 2000 year tradition of the church does not address this issue. It was not until the last few decades that one could openly have a discussion about what such relationships might look like, see actual examples, and see that they are not as problematic as whatever Paul was talking about.

  • Rick

    Joe #7 and TriciaM #13-

    I think the priority, and tone, that Christians reflect regarding this issue has changed somewhat. Louie Giglio’s comment in the last week about the issue not being a priority for his ministry in the past decade is just one such example.

    However, I don’t think it means most of Christianity is going to change its traditional opinion about the issue. Rather, when (how often) and the way it is handled is shifting (at least by some).

  • LexCro

    With Glenn (#11), I am by the “Jesus never said anything about this” argument. Jesus didn’t have to address homosexuality of any stripe (promiscuous, serial monogamous, or life-long monogamous kinds) simply because this wasn’t something that Jews in his day were wrestling with. He didn’t have to denounce same-sex sexual unions any more than he would have had to address bestiality. In fact, prior to Christ, Jews were clear about their absolute stance against homosexuality. For Jews, homosexual sex-acts (note, I’m not speaking to orientation here) were categorically forbidden due to the Old Testament witness. If Jesus actually differed from the unilateral Jewish position that preceded Him, wouldn’t He have challenged them on it? I mean, if Jesus was either ambivalent on same-sex sexual relations or if He fully endorsed them, shouldn’t we expect to find Him saying so in the Gospels. It’s not like He never diverged from the views of His religious contemporaries! It seems far more wise to assume that Jesus was right in line with the Jewish outlook on this issue and to take His silence on the issue as agreement (rather than disagreement) with His Jewish predecessors and contemporaries. Furthermore, wouldn’t it be bizarre for Jesus to be ambivalent towards or affirming of homosexual sexual unions and then to produce disciples who–as far as we can tell–viewed homosexual sexual unions as sin? How do we explain this, not only among his first apostles but then down through the centuries? Lastly, Jesus’ ambivalence towards or acceptance of homosexual sexual unions would fly in the face of Jesus’ own tendency to intensify (not water down) the Torah commands. For Christ, adulterous sex and adulterous thoughts are same. Murderous acts and murderous thoughts are the same. These are intensifications of the Torah. Why wouldn’t He do this with respect to homosexual sexual unions? I’m sorry, Mr. Chalke is out-of-bounds here. I realize that the Church does not have a stellar record with the gay community (yes, understatement of the century). But that doesn’t excuse playing games with Jesus Christ and the lives He calls His disciples to.

  • Cheryl

    I am sorry that Steve decided to publicially bless what is spiritually unsound. I am a member of a mainstream (liberal) church that recently decided to go pro-gay marriage. I was very upset by that decision and am trying to find a place to fit in. I am certainly not a bibilical scholar but I think the message of scripture is clear: homosexual acts are a sin. Does Jesus mention specifics? No- unless you confuse the talk about eunuchs.
    I think Chrisitanity gives two stroong messages: Love and Redemption. We are called upon to love all. We are also instructed to reject sin and seek redempption.
    Our current western culture is pushing us in the wrong direction, It is not about human desires but about God’s plan. That said, there is nothing in the bible condeminng chaste same-sex friendships.

  • Rick

    Joe #16-

    “But to me that puts the burden even more on those who hold the traditional position to prove that what *is* said in Scripture is relevant to monogamous, committed, same-gender relationships (rather than promiscious, pedophillic, and/or non-consensual ones).”

    I disagree. The burden is on those who are not interpreting it in the traditional way.

  • Jimmy Stewart

    Joe Canner,

    Christ is the one that commissioned Paul! What Paul stated about homosexuality is Christ’s message. Christ chose Paul for a reason. Besides Jesus clearly stated that marriage was between a man and woman Matt. 19:3-6 normal deduction tells you that “from the beginning He made them male and female” for a reason! Jesus also cursed Bethsaida, Capernaum and Chorazin and refers to Sodom and Gomorrah would have repented if they had seen the same works as these cities. My point is Jesus recognized the judgment of Sodom & Gomorrah approving of their judgment. Any sexual activity outside of marriage is considered sexual immorality and is a deviation of God’s intent based upon God’s original creation. It’s not complicated. But sin stains our vision when we don’t listen to His word.

  • Oh sweet, I’m finally gonna see the debate on scripture and homosexuality ended in this blog thread!

    Also, how is this shocking about Chalke? He’s like the UK Brian McLaren. Look at where McLaren is. This is the natural trajectory of things.

  • Joe Canner

    Jimmy #22: This is getting a bit far afield from the point of this post, but since you mentioned it….Sodom and Gomorroh were not destroyed because of consensual, monogamous same-gender relationships. The issues there were rape and inhospitality. In fact, Ezekiel 16:49-50 suggests that the issues were related to totally different sins.

  • Jimmy Stewart

    #23 Derek

    No matter what we say in this thread–God has already finished the debate! It’s clear and it’s self-evident in creation. God doesn’t leave issues for sinful man to decide He already decided and told us in His Word.

  • Jimmy Stewart

    #24 Joe: Sodom and Gomorrah destroyed because of rape and inhospitality? Hah, then why had the outcry of sin come to God’s ears BEFORE the angels showed up? You are imposing a scenario “monogamous same gender relationship” onto a passage that says nothing and does not even refer to such a scenario. As a matter of fact why doesn’t the Bible mention one “same sex monogamous” example for us?? The requirements of an elder are to be one-womaned man. Why not a one man-ed man???? God’s unusual significant destruction of Sodom & Gomorrah was because of their extreme sin (homosexuality is a rebellion against the created order). Rape and an inhospitality happened in many different texts of Scripture but God didn’t rain down fire and brimstone in those instances. Rape is serious and God did punish but my point is God’s punishment at S&G was unusual and severe for a reason.

  • Joe Canner

    Derek #23: While I am glad that Scot is raising this issue, I, as one of the few non-traditional voices here, do not plan on fighting this to the death. In fact, I’m kind of sorry I brought it up the way I did. I would much rather focus on how (or if) the Church can love and serve the LGBT community *without* going against the traditional view. However, the way Scot worded his post (“what the church blesses it endorses; what it endorses must be demonstrated from Scripture”) and the focus on churches that *perform* same-gender marriages (rather than focusing on whether such marriages should be legal), sort of begs for a discussion of what Scripture actually says about homosexuality.

  • I’m with LexCro (#18) on this difficult subject in our day, but I part with him at the end of his comment. Adulterous acts and thoughts, and murderous acts and thoughts, are clearly not the same in Scripture or in legal jurisprudence. In Matt. 5.28, it is significant that Jesus added “in his heart” about committing adultery. And in the prior v. 22, he clearly explains different degrees of guilt regarding angry thoughts and varying expressions of it, all of which will result in ever increasing punishment due to the severity of the episode.

  • LexCro

    @ Joe Canner (#24),

    Just because Ezekiel happens to zero in on Sodom’s neglect of the poor, it doesn’t mean that said neglect was the ONLY sin for which Sodom was destroyed. Also, when speaking of Sodom and Gomorrah, Jude actually does cite their sexual immorality as a reason for God’s wrath. Jude writes:

    “In a similar way, Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding towns gave themselves up to sexual immorality and perversion. They serve as an example of those who suffer the punishment of eternal fire.” (Jude 7, NIV)

    The word Jude uses for “gave themselves up to sexual immorality” is “ekporneusasai”, which specifically points to “whoring” or “giving oneself over to fornication”. I’m not pitting Ezekiel against Jude here. It just seems that from Scripture Sodom and Gomorrah were practicing a multitude of sins which incurred God’s judgment.

  • Joe Canner

    Jimmy #26: The men of Sodom were no more homosexuals than are the average prisoner who rapes a fellow-prisoner. Note that Lot assumed that the men would be satisfied with his daughters. In the similar story in Judges 19, the men clearly had a need to be violent and a women sufficed just as well as a man for that purpose (and the men of the town were judged for it).

  • Joe Canner

    LexCro #28: Clearly sexual sin was part of their problem. I just question whether the story of S&G has anything to say about homosexuality, in particular of the monogamous relationship sort.

  • Jimmy Stewart

    #29 Joe Canner,

    Did you notice the men came for the men? Not Lot’s daughters! News flash they preferred the men. Violence can accompany other kinds of sin. I don’t see your point. Was it a combination of sexual and violent sins? Yes. But they were out of control and homosexuality is a result of other sins. Were those same men raping women and men? Maybe but that doesn’t change the point of God destroying them for gross sin. Peter mentions Sodom & Gomorrah 2 Pet. 2:7 and that Lot was tormented by their “sensual” conduct and Jude vs.7-8 mentions that Sodom & Gomorrah “indulged in gross immorality and strange flesh.” Sounds just like inhospitality? I don’t think so.

  • scotmcknight

    Jimmy, calm down and converse with Joe. One question mark is plenty, esp when it is rhetorical. Better yet, make your points …

  • Jimmy Stewart

    Joe Canner,

    Why do you think Lot offered his daughters to the men? I think that was stupid but why would he think to do such a thing?

  • Joe Canner

    Jimmy #31: Genesis 19:4 says that “all the men from every part of the city of Sodom—both young and old” participated. Does that sound like homosexuality to you? If they were all gay, why didn’t they have sex with each other? If they just wanted to rape someone, why did they wait until Lot had visitors? There are only two scenarios that make sense here: (1) they wanted “fresh meat” and a man would do as well as a woman (my guess is that they didn’t get many female visitors); or (2) they wanted to humiliate the visitors.

  • Dana Ames

    Steve Chalke was right about PSA. He is wrong about this, but I understand where he is coming from. Lots of Christians who hold to the teaching that has been handed down through the church for 20 centuries have treated gay people with observable lack of love.

    I think “Conservative Christians” lost “the marriage debate” +20 years ago, when gay folk were pressing for equal civil rights by means of civil union; that should have been granted to those who wanted it. Furthermore, I think the best option is that churches stop altogether being the arm of the state for the certification of civil unions of any type. I favor what has been the practice in most of Europe: every couple who wants their civil rights as a couple is recognized by the state for social service and statistical purposes and must have a civil union. If you want the marriage blessing of your religious community, that’s fine, you’re free to get it- but that’s not what counts when it comes to a couple’s civil rights. I think adoption of children should be approached on a case-by-case basis (not every heterosexual couple is fit to adopt simply because the parents are of both sexes, and I say this as an adopted child who had great parents), with rights of religious groups (i.e. Catholic Charities) preserved. I don’t expect this to happen, though.

    The earliest Christians were not in any way lobbying against same-sex relationships and demanding that the state recognize only hetero couples as married. That is not the issue for which they were being persecuted. For Christians, the only options are either celibacy or genital sexual expression in marriage between a man and a woman. We are not commanded to impose our sexual ethic on others – only to live it ourselves. And Christians lived it well enough in those early years that it was extremely remarkable and noteworthy in their social situation. I think we need to pull our focus back to trying to address the sins that are evident in our own marriages, and be more caring toward one another in our own marriages and toward those around us, so that our ethic again becomes remarkable and noteworthy for something positive rather than something negative.


  • LexCro

    @ Joe Canner (#30): Okay, I can see why you might say that there’s ambiguity in the Sodom narrative–an ambiguity stemming from the fact there are so many offenses involved (the antithesis of hospitality, attempted rape, attempted rape of angels). I still think that the prohibition on same-sex sex-acts of any kind is in play in the narrative, but I can see why some say it’s ambiguous. But to the issue of monogamous same-sex unions and Scripture in general, it seems that the biblical prohibitions against same-sex sexual unions are categorical in nature. Lev. 18:22 and Lev. 20:13 are unqualified and categorical in nature as are Rom. 1:26-27, 1 Cor. 6:9, and 1 Tim. 1:10. None of these passages betray a circumstance that would legitimize/consecrate same-sex unions in God’s eyes.

  • Joe Canner

    Jimmy #34: It certainly does sound stupid, but perhaps Lot was between a rock and a hard place. He preferred to dishonor his daughters (and himself) rather than let the men dishonor God’s messengers. Was it because he thought heterosexual rape was preferable to homosexual rape? Perhaps. But more likely he couldn’t bear the thought of allowing harm to come to his guests, which would have been a worse outcome than giving up his daughters.

  • Joe Canner

    LexCro #37: I am aware of all of these passages and people much more qualified than I on both sides have argued about these passages. I do not have the time or ability to lay out the arguments in this context. (Perhaps if Scot were to focus on one passage at a time…) Suffice to say, I think there are sufficient reasons to doubt whether any of them refer to modern monogamous, same-gender relationships between Christians. I am genuinely agnostic on this question, however, which leads me to the pragmatic question raised above: what can we do to love and serve the LGBT community, and might not it be in the Church’s best interest to encourage monogamy rather than reject same-gender relationships?

  • LexCro

    @ Joe C. (#37):

    Joe, you say, “…What can we do to love and serve the LGBT community, and might not it be in the Church’s best interest to encourage monogamy rather than reject same-gender relationships?”

    Without question you are correct that the Church has a responsibility before Christ Himself to love the LGBTQ community. However, jettisoning the consistent testimony of Scripture and Judeo-Christian tradition on same-sex sexual unions is not a biblical or Christ-like way to wholly love the LGBTQ community. I ministered in college campus ministry for nine years, and I my students and I were able to love the LGBTQ community and speak truth simultaneously. In fact, we had gay and bi-sexual Christian students in our fellowship who seemed to have no problem understanding that we adhered to both the biblical prohibitions against same-sex sexual unions WHILE displaying Christ-like love to folks who experience same-sex attraction. Did we do this perfectly? Nope. Did some folks (especially non-Christians) react negatively to our stance at times? Yep. I saw some students who had same-sex attraction ultimately choose to succumb to these desires and either walk away from Jesus or attempt to be “gay Christians”. However, I also saw some students ultimately become opposite-sex attracted (to this day), while others chose celibacy. To avoid embellishment, let me say that the vast majority of my students were heterosexual. But we tried to be Christ-like in loving everybody. I don’t believe there’s a dichotomy between practicing love and speaking truth. In fact, Christ-followers have dual responsibilities here. We’ve got to do both. If inheriting the Kingdom of God is at stake (as Paul says in 1 Cor. 6:9-10), then we have a responsibility to Christ to both ardently love the LGBTQ community AND to speak truth in love to them. Many conservative/traditional Christians have done this and are doing this. But the only thing that makes headlines in Newsweek (or the Daily Show or Huffington Post or or whatever) is Westboro Baptist Church.

  • LexCro

    And along with Joe C. let me say that I’d be game if Scot wanted to do a series looking at all of the OT and NT passages that speak to homosexual sexual unions.

  • Joe Canner

    LexCro #40: Thanks for sharing your experience. I am very interested to hear testimonies like this but I get the impression that there aren’t a lot of success stories in this regard (maybe I need to get out more). While I obviously have my own thoughts on the “is it sin” question (which are very much influenced by my personal journey), I am much more interested in the “how to love” question.

    Some in my (conservative) church have told me that the two questions cannot be separated. I agree that at some point the two questions collide (e.g., whether to perform same-gender marriages, whether to allow gays in church leadership, etc.), but in 90% of circumstances they don’t have to. This, however, can only be true if we follow Biblical mandates regading confronting sin (Matt 18, I Cor. 6, Gal 6) rather than using the pulpit to bash small groups of “sinners” (see Adrian Warnock’s post today with a sampling). I also believe, as I mentioned before, that we usurp the work of the Holy Spirit too often in this instance. God works with different people in different ways and on different timetables, and this particular issue should not be any different.

  • EricW

    Hey, y’all:

    The sin of Sodom and Gomorrah that Jude had on his mind could be attempted sex with angelic beings. Jude quotes from 1 Enoch, after all. See pp. 70-74 JUDE and 2 PETER by GENE L. GREEN, Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament.

  • Dan Ortiz

    I don’t understand the fascination with Steve Chalke. He is no theologian, has no official title, he only founded a Christian organization and that makes him someone? I don’t get it.
    Having said that, I don’t get why sexuality is such a thorny issue. Everyone does it and it has to recognized that the bible doesn’t teach anything else that wasn’t already good cultural practice at the time. I think that the gospel should be free of add-ons and homosexuality is an add-on… Why is it ok for african christians to have more that one wife for example? why is it ok for western christians to divorce? are they suported by scripture? or are they cultural?

  • metanoia

    Joe #39: “what can we do to love and serve the LGBT community…?”

    Treat them like everybody else. Lovingly call them to repentance and faith in Jesus Christ and then go about the business of discipling them, allowing the Holy Spirit and the Word of God to change their behavior as they come to the understanding of the Truth. In 35+ years of ministry as a pastor, I have seen behavioral change in all areas, including homosexual practice. I can’t say I’ve seen change in same sex attraction cause I’m not able to see into the heart and mind of a person.

  • bobson

    Much of what is written about homosexuality in the Bible seems to be tied to other ‘non-christian’ behaviors. Dan #44 has pointed out that many of these ‘non-christian’ behaviors have been given a pass. But we currently are stuck on this one.
    Sexual immorality has many faces; divorce, relations outside of one’s marriage, pre-marriage relations … Which it seems all participants agree are to one extent or another un-biblical (sins). The question becomes how does the church deal with the individuals. Seems our role is best exemplified by Jesus and the woman at the well; she had a proven track record and she was currently on that same track. We cannot say anything about the woman after the story, it seems that while Jesus was quite aware of the womans life it made little difference to him and his treatment of her.

  • When the church is not doing its job, thinking and actions from human origin and desire will fill the void. Light casts out darkness, but when the light fades, darkness takes over. Rather than condemning the darkness, turn on the light.

    I suggest that whether it same-gender marriages or political acrimony, humanism has invaded the church rather than the church being the light on the hill. If the church were demonstrating the truth by living in obedience and submission to God, it would be obvious that God’s plan works the best because the church demonstrates it. God has given us relationships in which people of different gifts, stations in life, jobs, and gender are to be in unity of the Spirit, and as we love and serve one another in Christ we grow as a corporate body, and as individuals, more to be like God, in whose image we were created. We cannot do this alone. Love, forgiveness, peace, unity — are all relational to be actively lived out by choice of the participants. Heterosexual marriage is a union between different genders in which both partners grow more to be like Christ together than apart. Eph. 5:22-32. When this demonstration of unity in the Spirit is lived in the church and in marriage, the world sees that Christians display the relationship of the Son and the Father (John 17:21-23). If the church were living in unity in the corporate body and if the marriages in the church were demonstrating the unity of love in Jesus Christ, there wouldn’t be the same issues of division and divorce and same-gender unions because God’s way would be obviously better.

    Jesus (and Paul) said to overcome evil with good. He didn’t say “condemn the evil and those doing it while doing the same thing.” He didn’t say “go back and find ways to reinterpret the scripture to justify your compromising actions.” When the church is not on track toward God, people spend time arguing about the intentions of the bozos in S&G. If the church were living God’s plan in both the corporate body and in marriage, we wouldn’t have time for such matters. It’s like two guys arguing over whose watch is one minute off when they have both already missed the train, anyway.

    What has the church in all its argumentation between groups shown the world about unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace? What has the church shown the world about how marriage is a laboratory from God so both partners can grow to be like God — so the relation between Christ and the church can be seen? When the divorce rate or anything else in the church is no different from the world, who is showing whom? The church began to fail when it mandated celibacy in its leaders. It has continued to fail in demonstrating God’s plan in marriage.

    Same-gender marriage is just the next natural (yes, “natural”) step to fill the void created by the church as it followed the world in divorce and failed marriages. Why are their failed marriages? Don’t get into … “well, you’re saying she has to stay with a maniac wife-beater” or whatever. Demonstrate what marriage is supposed to be about, then ask about the exceptions. Otherwise, it smacks of self-justification. There are bad choices in marriages because the church hasn’t taught or demonstrated what the marriage bond is supposed to be about in the first place.

    We now have discussion about accepting someone, or loving someone, or what to do with people who want same-gender marriages just like when divorce began to be more prominent 50 years ago. We Christians didn’t know how to act in love then and we still don’t. It wouldn’t be necessary to do some much correction if we all lived the truth and showed how much better that turns out. Perhaps that is what is meant by “speaking the truth in love.” It isn’t how to correct somebody as much as it is speak love by how you live the truth in the kingdom of God. Live the truth and you are speaking in love. And men will know we are Jesus’ disciples. We’d rather argue with each other, thank you very much.

    The church has failed and is failing to do its job. That’s us. That’s me and that’s every person who waxes eloquent on this blog and these comments. That includes everybody — every person who wears the name of Jesus Christ bears responsibility. We are failing even as we express our wonderful opinions about why we are right. Yes, even this comment.

    So, what are we going to do about it?

    What happens when the church fails? The natural takes over. The result of the natural course — the outcome — the consequence — is called the wrath of God. The church vacates its place and allows a void to enter, the world fills the vacuum, the natural outcome is the wrath of God.

    Look at the problem from a global perspective, look at the solution from the individual perspective. That’s where change starts. Individuals make decisions.

  • Jorge

    For those who support same-sex marriage/practice in the church, I have a question or two to ask.

    Would you also be supportive of a bi-sexual man wanting to marry his girlfriend and boyfriend, if they all claim to be in a loving and committed relationship? Is the ultimate criteria for the acceptance of someone’s sexual preferences in the church of God ultimately dependent now on the notion of being in a “committed, loving, relationship?”

  • John I.

    One cannot build a strong or convincing argument from silence, and should not try to. Jesus did not speak about homosexual issues because it was simply a non-starter, so nothing needed to be said. Furthermore, it was not common in palestine and so was not a sin he had to deal with. On the other hand, virtually all Jews were married and so there was a large group with lots of sin that did need to be addressed. In addition, heterosexual marriage was a source of common metaphors and stories, and also a picture of God’s relationship with Israel. Consequently, it’s not surprising that Jesus spoke a lot about heterosexual marriage and not at all (in his few recorded words) about homosexuality.

  • Merv Olsen

    I have nothing more to say than what John Mark (8) expresses above.

    As a retired Australian Baptist pastor I am appalled at what’s happening at such high levels as evidenced by Steve Chalke.

    Understanding and showing Compassion to homosexuals is one thing … but the traditional view of Scripture should remain our norm!

  • Stephen W

    The “traditional” view of scripture is nothing of the sort.

    Well done to Steve Chalke for finally taking a public stand on this. The tide has been turning for a while and I’m hopeful that this will be a dead issue within a few years. Certainly it will be within a generation.

    For those saying “you can’t make an argument from silence” I agree. The bible doesn’t address this issue at all, so why choose to classify it as a sin? That’s simply placing unnecessary barriers between people and Christ.

  • Stephen W,

    Do you really think the Bible is silent on the subject of sexual purity? And do you think it necessary that the Bible explicitly identify every possible deviation from sexual purity before we consider such deviation a sin?

  • Jon Bartlett

    I am disappointed with Steve Chalke’s move, but I do hope that he isn’t immediately destroyed by ‘friendly fire’. He still has good things to contribute to the UK church, even though I believe he is wrong here.

    And what is “the natural trajectory of things”? Perhaps the real “slippery slope” (and I hate this straw man term) starts with an over-emphasis on PSA and wrath. It then leads to a reaction and an over-emphasis on love at all costs, leading to the paths that Chalke and McLaren have taken.

  • JD

    A large part of Steve Chalke’s argument centres around the ‘inclusivity’ of Jesus, an argument I hear a lot from the more liberal wings of the church. If your name is Giles Fraser then you pretty much think that ‘inclusion’ sums up the entire Gospel in one word. At the risk of being shunned can I propose a temporary moratorium on the word. In my view it is a word which is used, ironically, as a weapon to exclude! The more liberal wing of the church has, I think, redefined the word and has something of a monopoly upon it. Traditionalists believe that homosexual practice is a sin, and not in accordance with what God has created us for. That may or may not be right, and it is worth having a debate about it. We need to listen to each other, and listen together to the Word of God speaking for us today (an approach Rowan Williams advocated, and was dereided by some for). But it is unfair to say that traditionalists are not being inclusive. In my experience no traditionalist congreagtion has ever exluded someone for their homosexual orientation. And the belief that we are to accept anyone who comes, but seek to change their sinful behaviour (nb. not necessarily saying at this point homosexual behaviour IS a sin) with the power of the Gospel, is in my opinion, entirely consistent with the message of Jesus, with the Gospel itself, and with the belief and practice of Christians for 2000 years. So far as traditionalists do think homosexual practice is a sin, it is unfair to accuse them of not expressing the inclusive love of Jesus. Am I wrong in that???

  • Jag

    When the United Methodists once again voted to keep the GLBT community as somehow inferior to the rest of us, I noticed that my 16-year-old daughter, once an acolyte and a dedicated youth group member, removed “Methodist” from her Religious Views on facebook.

    In my civil war studies, I have read far too many sermons from the pre-civil-war south defending slavery that were airtight as far as their bibilical foundation. You don’t even have to argue from silence to defend the practice of slavery. Paul clearly was OK with it.

    I think we are far too ready to adopt first-century Hebrew morality as the Word of God. Mankind will debate but history will reflect God’s trajectory. Perhaps our children have a better grasp of truth than us old scholars.

  • Mark E. Smith

    Why is traditional marriage continually being offered as a sacrifice on the altar of equality? Who set up the idol of Justice in the temple of God?

    I’m extremely disappointed to hear of another so-called Evangelical abandoning what is arguably the best thing for society and a the biblical understanding of marriage. Rev. Chalke and others of his view can argue until their blue in the face, but the marriage between one man and one woman for life is the best thing for children and for communities. Strong traditional marriages make strong families. Strong families make strong communities. We are talking about our societies very foundation. Our society will continue to errod as we continue to make changes to marriage, from no-fault divorce to common law marriage to same-sex marriage.

  • EricW

    Spelling and grammar skills are also eroding.

  • JD

    Jag said ‘history will reflect God’s trajectory’. Would you care, Jag, to expand upon this? I may have misunderstood but I happen to think this is an exceptionally dangerous thing to say. Indeed it is something I notice a lot in the secular world. People think we are becoming more moral beings simply by virtue of the passing of time. I hear a lot of gumpf about how we have advanced or ‘progressed’ technologically and how this must mean we have ‘progressed’ morally. How convenient- we don’t even have to work at being good-it just happens! There certainly are things I think are more just and morally good about our society now, but also a very many things I think are not. The 20th century, lest we forget, was arguably the most violent, bloody and unjust in human history. So as well as calling for a temporary moratorium on ‘inclusive’ can I propose we do away all together with phrases like ‘It’s 21st century Britain/America!’ or ‘It’s 2013 not 1913’ or ‘we need to progress’ or ‘we need to catch up with (such and such a country) because they’ve introduced x and we haven’t.’ None of these constitute a good argument, let alone a good theological argument.

  • Craig Wright

    To those discussing the Jude 6-7 passage, I think Jude was clear that the sin was when angels didn’t keep their place (probably referring to the pre-flood situation, see 2 Pet. 2: 4-5). Verse 7 says “in the same way” referring to Sodom and Gomorrah. It is ironic that Jude says they pursued “different flesh”, in Greek sarkos heteros, not homo.

  • Marshall

    Darien Burns #4: “I want to balance grace and truth but … ”

    When grace and truth are found at the opposite ends of the beam, I have to figure that things are not yet rightly divided.

  • EricW

    Steve Chalke’s full statement with footnotes:

  • Steve

    For those confident that the Bible does not view same-sex intercourse as sin I would recommend engaging Robert Gagon’s book, The Bible and Homosexual Practice. It is the most thorough analysis to date of the biblical texts relating to homosexuality. He presents an extremely strong case for affirming that the Bible contains a unanimous witness defining same-sex intercorse as sin. He does so while rigorously engaging biblical scholars and historians who have written both for and against this understanding of same-sex intercourse. In addition, he demonstrates why attempts to classify as irrelevant for our contemporary context the Bible’s rejection of same-sex intercourse fail to do justice to the biblical text. The book contains nearly 500 pages of merticuluous biblical scholarship. No Christian should ignore this book when it comes to determining what the Bible actually has to say on this issue.

    If you don’t want to plow through The Bible and Homosexual Practice, then I suggest that you at least pick up the book, Homosexuality and the Bible, Two Views. Robert Gagnon writes 52 pages for his position and Dan Via writes 39 pages for his position. They both write 6-7 pages responses. Gagnon offers an additional rejoiner to Via’s response at his website.

    Gagnon’s website is filled with tons of excellent articles and interesting e-mail exchanges he has had with others over the years. I believe Gagnon is a sane, sound, and compassionate voice on this issue.

  • Robert

    It seems like I keep hearing the justification of “monogamous relationships”. Are premarital heterosexual monogamous relationships now considered by many as a justification of premarital sex?

  • Tom F.

    The issue is going to keep coming back because conservative/evangelical theology simply can not reasonably or ably systematize its ethical teaching on homosexuality.

    What I mean is this: conservative/evangelical types are at their strongest when it comes to showing that the plainest meaning of scripture on this issue is that homosexual relations are prohibited. In my opinion, they do this much better than more liberal or affirming types do when appealing to scripture for their position.

    They are pitifully weak when it comes to connecting that ethical prohibition to any broader ethical vision. In other words, they can’t tell you why God would prohibit it, only that God did prohibit it. Most justifications offered are circular (Why would God prohibit it?-Because it doesn’t reflect God’s intention. Well, why doesn’t it reflect God’s intention? -Don’t question God.) No one does Christian moral discourse around say, stealing, or violence, or whatever this way; scripture is interpreted in a broader framework that makes cohesive sense.

    That’s my sense of it, at least. Cultural trends mean this will be an issue for awhile, but the basic theoretical problem I’m pointing out here definitely exasperates this.

  • RDH

    I wish a famous preacher would come out in favor of Old Testament marriage. I’d like to have a couple more wives. There’s plenty of work for them to do around the old home place. My wife won’t let me go out and find some more women to bring home. She says it’s in the Bible that it is against God’s will for me to have more than one wife. I read the Bible differently from her, and i want a high-powered, world-renowned preacher to come to my defense and show her that I am right. God didn’t care that those men of old had multiple wives. Why would he care if I have more than one woman?

  • Tom F (64),

    I’m surprised you wouldn’t see any deviance from sexual purity as a departure from humanity’s primary fleshly purpose in the earth which is to be fruitful and multiply. You can’t get more holistic and cohesive in outlook than that.

  • Robert

    It seems to me that the aspect of what “porneia” is should be considered. Traditionally we have heard that premarital sex, whether monogamous or not, is “porneia”. Has anyone here dealt with that issue? Or is it being ignored? It seems to me that if we are accepting of homosexual monogamous sex outside of marriage we would have to be accepting of heterosexual monogamous sex outside of marriage. If so, then marriage isn’t really all that relevant to whether an act is accepted or not……

  • Tom F.

    Mike- Of course that is an option. It would actually be a really good option. I think if you just look at the OT, you might even be able to say that this is why it is prohibited.

    However, this position seems to me to be totally untenable in the light of four other facts.
    1.) Single people are not held to be in sin because they are not contributing to being fruitful.
    2.) Marriage is not incompatible with the complete impossibility of having children. We allow infertile people to marry.

    For Protestants:
    3.) A married couple is not held to be in sin if they knowingly decide not to have children and use birth control accordingly.

    So; to be consistent in the position that homosexuality is wrong because of the fruitfulness issue, you have to say:

    1.) That singleness misses God’s intention for humanity (in clear contradiction of other scripture). Single people should get married.
    2.) A person who is unable to have children should never marry someone who can. (This would mean that the person who can have children would be intentionally choosing to not fulfill their purpose.)
    3.) That birth control is wrong. (And some do say this, but do the polling, and you’ll see that vast majorities of Christians have discerned that birth control is not a spiritual problem.)

    Now, it may be possible to design exceptions in your ethic of fruitfulness to address these issues, but that simply begs the question, why no exception for same-sex couples? Why are infertile couples worthy of our sympathy and an exception, where as same-sex couples should not be? (It could be that the implicit moral reasoning is still that homosexuality is a choice; whereas fertility is not.)

    Robert: Your insistence on defining “porneia” is actually exactly what I’m talking about. You are referring back to scriptural definitions to find out which particular relationships are licit and illicit. Do you really mean to imply that the ONLY thing that holds you back from affirming promiscuous heterosexual relationships is that your understanding of “porneia” defines sin as what happens outside marriage?

    What is the purpose of marriage? What is the purpose of sex? What is damaging about uncommitted sex? What is damaged when same-sex couples are committed to each other?

    What I am saying is that evangelicals desperately need to start answering these questions in non-circular ways (i.e., you can’t simply refer back to “God’s intention”- the point is understanding how God’s intentions are located within God’s broader framework of his intention for humanity). Honestly, I think evangelicals do pretty well when answering why these first few questions are wrong and hurtful; as I have been suggesting, they still can’t answer the final one with any decent consistency.

    As it is, God’s commands on sexuality (in this limited area) seem to be arbitrary and punitive; and arbitrary commands against a marginalized class of people (homosexual) are to be read with particular scrutiny and care. I don’t think that the marginalization and oppression of homosexual people should settle the moral issue; but the dual combination of an increasingly ethically-stranded prohibition against homosexuality and a history of marginalization should be particularly worrisome for the traditional interpretation.

  • Tom F (68),

    The problems you pose stem not from the “Be fruitful and multiply” command but from your inferring things that it is not implying. Jesus Himself suggested that there were reasons for celibacy, and he himself did not marry.

    I don’t have an interest in laying out a comprehensive view of why sexual deviance (of which homosexuality is merely one example) is contrary to God’s wishes and mankind’s well-being. I merely wanted to show that one was possible. The greatest value of your original suggestion is that following it would rightly change the discussion from being anti-homosexual to be pro-purity. This more than just the semantics of going from, say, anti-abortion to pro-life. It is the recognition that we should not have to explicitly discuss every disgusting deviation from purity – nor should the Bible have to do so – in order to understand that it is sin.

  • Tom F.

    Mike, you say you wished to show that such a comprehensive ethic is possible; and yet you don’t specifically address any of my objections to the one you suggested, that is, an ethic based around being fruitful and multiplying. Yep, Jesus suggested there are reasons for celibacy. That would seem to suggest that single human beings don’t fail in living up to God’s intention for sexuality by not having children. Same-sex couples also don’t have children, therefore, same-sex relationships can’t be wrong simply because they don’t result in children. Or perhaps you are saying that only sexual activity needs to aim for children, so humans who refrain from sexual activity are off the hook from needing to have children. That point is still defeated by letting infertile people marry fertile people. To be consistent, you will either have to prohibit singleness or prohibit infertile marriages. In all likelihood, I may have missed something in my reasoning here, but please point out specifics rather than suggesting vaguely that I “inferred” something illegitimate.

    I don’t mean to sound like I’m spoiling for a fight, so I guess I would just like to register my ongoing frustration that your answer is like most of the answers I have received; “I can’t tell you why its wrong, it just is (but the Bible backs me up, so if you disagree, you’re basically attacking God and God’s word)”.

    You say: “we should not have to explicitly discuss every disgusting deviation from purity – nor should the Bible have to do so – in order to understand that it is sin”. I humbly beg to differ: when the stakes are as high as you say they are, that God’s wishes and mankind’s well-being is at stake, I would hope that these times would be the MOST important times to explicitly discuss and understand to the fullest possible extent what is required for human flourishing within God’s gracious rule.

    Peace to you in the midst of a difficult conversation for us all.

  • Tom F. (70),

    You said,

    “To be consistent, you will either have to prohibit singleness or prohibit infertile marriages.”

    We do not need to prohibit anything. We merely need to be supportive of God’s wishes.

    Therefore, we as a society need to recognize and support marriage. We do not need to prohibit (i.e. criminalize) deviations from this.

    Fertility is God’s to grant and God’s to withhold. I see no basis for giving people fertility tests before they marry. Even if they were infertile before they married, that’s not to say God might not grant them fertility afterward (as we see Him do in the Bible).

    A heterosexual union may not produce a child, but a homosexual union cannot produce one. That is the essential distinction.

    There is more at issue than fruitfulness, however; there is faithfulness as well. Thus while adultery might produce children, it is not for that reason righteous activity. The responsibility of all adults in society is to be good examples to the children in society. Faithlessness is a bad example, as children of divorced parents – and other family and friends as well – will testify.

    Pleasure is a part of the reproductive process; it is not the purpose of the reproductive process. The distinction between seeking pleasure and seeking God’s will is fundamental to anyone who loves Christ. Thus there is a fundamental and overarching reason to reject homosexual marriage – the perversion (sadly, but one among many) of a process that God Himself created and attends.

    Society today cries out for the recognition and support of same-sex marriage. This is just another way of saying that society today is crying out for rejection of God’s process for God’s purpose. Society is saying that pleasure and pride are human rights to be granted by human societies. We live in a democracy, so if they out-vote us then their way becomes law. But if we succumb to the social pressure and grant our blessing to such sexual deviance – irrespective of whether it’s voted into law – then we have forsaken our responsibility to be faithful witnesses of truth to our fellow human beings.

  • Tom F.

    Mike, by prohibit, I mean that your ethical teaching within the church would need to prohibit it to be consistent. The legal issue is different.

    The basis of fertility tests would be that fruitfulness is the point of marriage, as you are suggesting. I thought you were offering an objective criteria (“fruitfulness”) by which we can non-arbitrarily say that same-sex marriage is wrong. Non-arbitrary means that we need to look at all human relationships and apply the same criteria. So the reason I suggested the issues around infertility was because I was trying to take the principle out for a spin (i.e., we need to (religiously) prohibit all relationships that can not be fruitful). Where did I misinterpret?

    If we are going to be allowing miraculous conception into the discussion, than why is not possible that a woman in a same-sex marriage could conceive miraculously as well? That only seems ridiculous if you have already assumed that same-sex relationships are wrong; which is what we are trying to establish here, and therefore not something we can assume.

    Your distinction between heterosexual couples that “may not” produce children and homosexual couples that “can not” produce children simply will not hold up. When it comes down to it; there are some heterosexual couples that “can not” produce children in the same way. For example, a woman who has various kinds of cancer sometimes has to have all of her reproductive organs removed. This woman “can not” have kids the same way that a woman in a same-sex relationship “can not” have kids. So why allow the woman who had cancer to marry but not the same-sex couple? Your “essential distinction” only seems to work in the abstract, when it comes to real life, your distinction doesn’t seem to work.

    Perhaps you can fill in your section on “faithfulness” here, I’m not sure how it applies to the discussion. What about same-sex, committed relationships is “unfaithful”, precisely? The “good examples” argument only applies if we have already determined that same-sex relationships are bad. But that’s what we are discussing and trying to establish here, no?

    “Pleasure is not the purpose of reproductive activity”- granted. Am to imply from this section that you think that I have been arguing that increasing pleasure would be enough grounds to legitimate same-sex marriage?

    “Society is crying out for rejection of God’s purpose”- I don’t have anything to say against this; I affirm that the church should not make any changes simply because of what “society” wants. I would hope that the church might make changes if it considers (internally) all the different aspect of a particular moral situation and finds that a different way is most faithful to the broad understanding of God’s intention for human flourishing. I would think that the best answer to a society that you say is crying out to reject God’s purposes would be careful, deliberate, clear, and explicit teaching about specifically why the church teaches that God has prohibited same-sex relationships. Sadly, this is extremely rare, and I am beginning to fear that it is because no clear and explicit teaching like this is possible.

    Again, it seems that there is simply no non-arbitrary, non-circular reasoning that can connect the prohibition of same-sex relationships to any meaningful, broad ethic. Perhaps the closest I have seen is how Catholic teaching tries to do it. But consistency in their ethic exacts a heavy toll; so much is ethically concentrated on the act of physical union that they have to prohibit birth control, in-vitro fertilization, and even marriages that can not be physically consummated.

  • Tom F (72),

    “Again, it seems that there is simply no non-arbitrary, non-circular reasoning that can connect the prohibition of same-sex relationships to any meaningful, broad ethic.”

    You seem to think that an exception to a rule disallows the rule. Thus you have identified exceptions to the “meaningful, broad ethic” established in Genesis – and then reinforced in the rest of the Bible, most significantly by Jesus – which you think disallow it. I see exceptions to a rule as nothing more than that. And, of course, one could say, “exceptions prove the rule.”

    Given your stipulations, I think you’d have an equally hard time coming up with a “meaningful, broad ethic” against stealing – given that there are exceptions, including notable ones like David (with the showbread) and Jean Valjean.

  • Tom F.

    Mike, great. Exceptions prove the rule. I don’t even necessarily want to get rid of the rule. I like the idea that for the most part, fruitfulness should be a guiding principle to sexual ethics. One could even use this principle to shape the contours of an accepted same-sex relationship paradigm (for example, by strongly encouraging adoption).

    I would be just great if you said “I’m sticking to the rule, but I suppose an exception could be made for same-sex relationships, who aren’t technically fruitful, but who can be fruitful other ways”.

    So in reference to the stealing, I think I will grant your point, that no moral ethic can be so consistent as to have no exceptions within it. But I would be just fine with an exception for same-sex couples.

    But my deep sadness is this: given that same-sex attraction is not chosen, and given the great good that marriage brings with its insistence on monogamy and fidelity in shaping character, why not make an exception for same-sex couples?

  • Tom F (74),

    Fair question. Perhaps the Lord can grant an exception, but I can’t and here’s why:

    1. My conscience (that is, my own sense of right and wrong) can just not get comfortable with the idea that this practice is good.

    2. My understanding of the Scriptures’ position on this subject is that homosexuality is sinful. Even if you rule out all the Old Testament passages on the grounds that they’re anachronistic for our time, there are still sufficient New Testament condemnations of the practice to maintain the view. As for those who’ve attempted to explain the New Testament “condemnations” as something else, I have not found them persuasive.

    3. As adults we should remember that we are always modeling behavior for children. We should therefore not practice, bless, or sanction any adult activity that we think would be harmful to them when they are adults. In the 1970’s two men lived next door to my wife and me. Everyone understood their relationship and left them alone. However, advocates today are not content with this. They want that relationship to be endowed with all the rights and honors associated with marriage. I have a problem with what that communicates to my children (and now grandchildren). Given the current trajectory of moral values in the U.S. it looks like my view will lose. And I will have to accept that reality and deal with it. But even if that happens, it won’t make me think that children growing up to homosexual adults (whether in “permanent union” or not) will be just as good an outcome for them as growing up and getting married.

  • Tom F.

    Mike, I understand the conscience piece. I respect that, and I think it is worthwhile to pursue this discussion to where it comes out that a big part of what drives this conversation is a gut feeling or feeling in one’s conscience, on both sides. A sense of basic fairness on the side of those who are affirming, and a sense of basic disgust on the side of those who are prohibitive. I don’t think conscience is nothing. It’s just that a whole lot of people are affected by what each of our consciences decide on this one. That’s what give me the urgency at least.

    And I started the conversation in agreement on the scriptures; straightforwardly, they do prohibit it. But I think this conversation between us shows why evangelicals have lost this battle otherwise; the scriptures are a sort of last stand at this point, and there is no real ethical framework that goes beyond them that could logically account for the scripture’s prohibition (or perhaps to grant your point, there is such a framework, but there is no consistent way to account for which exceptions to that ethic are granted and which exceptions are denied). People can’t just walk through life with a laundry list of things that are prohibited in the Bible; they need to have a more basic sense of how these things all fit together.

    Mike, I appreciate your honesty and engagement here. I think you should challenge the people you know who share your conviction at the conscience level to not settle for prohibiting this simply based on the flat prohibition in the Bible, but to develop a real and engaging way of thinking about Christian ethical teaching on sexuality. I promise to do the same amongst those I know who tend to be more affirming of same-sex relationships, and to try and wrestle a bit harder with scripture, and God-willing, maybe we will be able to come back together on some position different than either of ours in at some later point.


  • Tom F (76),

    Please allow me to engage you on the issue of “fairness.” Forty years ago in the U.S. if someone had put forth the notion that homosexual unions, if permanent, ought to be granted the same societal respect and legal status as marriage he would have been considered absurd. Whether or not he made his argument on the basis of “fairness,” would not have changed that reaction – other than to maybe intensify it. Yet today the argument for “same-sex marriage” is routinely made, an it is routinely made based on the principle of “fairness.”

    What then has happened in the last forty years to cause this dramatic shift in societal thinking? Is the U.S. dramatically more fair-minded now than it was a generation ago? Since fairness must be considered an fundamental aspect of morality, are we simply that much more moral than we used to be? And, if so, what is the cause of this dramatic turn from immorality to morality? And what are we being immoral or unfair about today that, forty years from now, we will come to regret?

  • Tom F (76),

    On a separate line of inquiry, please let me ask this: Of what practical use is the Bible if, when it speaks clearly on a subject, it cannot be use to arbitrate between two human consciences that differ?