the ultra ultrasound

the ultra ultrasound cartoon by nakedpastor david hayward
“the ultra ultrasound” by nakedpastor David Hayward

Ya, I thought it was cute. And radical! As science and human studies advance there is more and more data gathering concerning sexuality. Profoundly interesting and awe-inspiring. We should all keep up on this issue because it involves human health, rights and happiness.

The ultra ultrasound says this baby could be gay, and everybody is happy about it. Good news! Especially for baby.

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  • Alvin Gongora

    Sure, you can be a heterosexual and a bigot, or a heterosexual and a life and joy giving fellow. Or, you can be a homosexual and a pro-nazi xenophobe or an inspiring and freedom loving homosexual. Choices, yes, there where character is implied, but some things are given and they are not for us to choose, like ethnicity, the place where you’re born, and sexual orientation.

  • I”ve changed the text Alvin. I want to be ultra careful about such an important and sensitive issue.

  • Carol

    True, being finite, our freedom is relative, not absolute; but it is not as limited as people who do not think about the influence of gender, ethnic, racial or theological/ideological conditioning would have us believe.

    Plato taught that knowing that we do not know is the beginning of wisdom. It is also the beginning of freedom; but freedom comes at a price that few are willing to pay.

    “There is no worse present than freedom. To view freedom as a privilege is to surrender to the absurd ideology that man is free by nature, that he is made for freedom, and that only minor obstacles like economic or political constraint prevent him from being fully free. This fails to take into account that whenever man has made a beginning of liberty he has taken fright, retreated, renounced his freedom, and sighed with relief at being able to put his destiny finally in the hands of someone else. Freedom is the most crushing burden that one can lay on man. In his vanity and boasting man pretends that he wants to be free. He also has a visceral fear of confinement, conditioning, and servitude. What he calls his love of freedom, however, is really his rejection of imprisonment. It is a revolt against slavery, which he cannot tolerate. Once a little freedom is offered him, however, he starts back at the sight of the void which he must now fill, the meaning he must now provide, and the responsibility he must now carry. He prefers the happy state of belonging to a group. He wants a mediocre happiness which brings no risks.”
    –Jacques Ellul, The Ethics of Freedom

    “You do not become a ‘dissident’ just because you decide one day to take up this most unusual career. You are thrown into it by your personal sense of responsibility, combined with a complex set of external circumstances. You are cast out of the existing structures and placed in a position of conflict with them. It begins as an attempt to do your work well, and ends with being branded an enemy of society.” — Vaclav Havel, Czech dramatist and statesman

    “The myth is the public domain and the dream is the private myth. If your private myth, your dream, happens to coincide with that of the society, you are in good accord with your
    group. If it isn’t, you’ve got a long adventure in the dark forest ahead of you.”
    –Joseph Campbell, Author (1904-1987)

  • Gary

    I am very eager to see where the science takes us on this issue. Those I know who still defend the narrow view that homosexuality is sinful by nature have maintained staunchly that no one has been “born” this way. They know that if they accept such a stance then it means God made a person with a condition they did not ask for and cannot change, and for which they will be punished. This presents a very difficult moral quandary concerning God’s nature for which there is no satisfactory answer. However, with their belief intact, the bigotry within much of the church in general has done irreparable harm to countless individuals.

    Bring on the science. This issue needs put to rest once and for all. Then we will finally be able to classify the prejudice against sexual orientation for what it is; bigotry. Every bit as ugly as racial bigotry, and just as harmful to those who are affected by it.

  • Carol, the more I read from you, the more respect I have for you.

    I think we sometimes can get just as romantic and idealist about freedom as we can get about nature. Freedom is not simple and it is not easy. Freedom goes hand in hand with responsability, with bearing the weight of the consequences of your actions. Freedom for one person almost always entails a restrictions for someone else. My freedom to breath clean unpolluted air entails a restriction on others to keep them from smoking in certain areas or unloading toxic fumes from their factories; likewise their freedom to smoke wherever they want to limits my ability to breath clean air. Again, I think we sometimes only think about the nice pleasant side of freedom. I want to be free so that I can do what I want and follow my dreams where they take me! But what if someone else’s dream is diametrically opposed to my own? In a truly free society, all are free. That means that just as I am free to do what I want; others must also be free to do what they want, even if they want to hurt me. That is why freedom and security are, to an extent, mutually exclusive ideas; why freedom and risk are always joined at the hip.

    Of course none of this has anything to do with David’s cartoon; but your post made me think of these things.

  • Gary

    The simple beauty of the law of love as taught by Jesus (and of course many others) really does provide a baseline principle to govern our actions. When our freedom genuinely causes another harm (not to be confused with simple offense) then it is outside the bounds of true freedom. Your smoking illustration is a clear example of this. If I work in an office where a heavy smoker is allowed to fill my work space with carcinogens then yes I potentially will be harmed. If however, a local bar owner chooses to provide a space where those who enjoy smoking can gather and exercise their freedom, and I can simply choose another establishment to patronize, then perhaps our right to clean air is not really infringed upon as many would suggest.

  • Frank

    If science does prove that homosexuality is genetic or that there strictly a biological cause and people are indeed born that way, it does not in any way suggest that it is not sinful or that God created them that way. People are born with many different genetic disorders because of the nature of our fallen world. Even our genes are distorted by sin.

    God does not make anyone gay.

  • Kris

    Neat cartoon! I agree with Gary…it will be interesting to learn more from a scientific perspective. I don’t think someone would be homosexual by choice. I think they come to a point where they choose to live their truth. Why would anyone choose a lifestyle that would put them at risk of being disowned by family and friends and discriminated against?

  • Gary

    Simple question Frank…How do you know?

    You seem so certain. I am curious where your certainty comes from.

  • Frank: Have you thought about how problematic your assertions are? First of all you equate homosexuality with “genetic disorders”, that it is a condition of “our fallen world”, and that they are “distorted by sin”. You lump in with homosexuals all those with any kind of disorder. Does that include, say, our Downs Syndrome brothers and sisters? Does that include fetal alcohol syndrome babies? Or blind people? Or… well… we could go on. Then to finally say that God does not make those…. Then, who does? Satan? The parents? I would like to see you explain your comment.

  • Frank

    I already did. Creation is fallen which includes our DNA and genetics. That’s why we have disease, birth defects, etc.

    God created humanity without those things until humanity rejected God and sin was woven into every fiber of creation.

    That’s why the new heaven and new earth will contain no death, no suffering, no disease etc… Bookends of God perfectly created order.

  • Gary

    And how do you propose we handle the issue of homosexuality since you seem to be implying that their condition is a sinful one? I am not addressing the issue of your literalist approach to scripture for the moment. I really would like you to explain how you think this one issue should be handled.

  • Frank

    Just like we deal with any other sin.

  • Gary

    So then birth defects are sinful as well?

  • Frank

    No of course not. They result because of our fallen world due to sin.

  • Gary

    So then if we prove that there is a genetic reason why people are born with same sex attraction, it would not be sinful…just the result of our fallen state?

  • Frank… I understand where you are coming from now. Thanks for clarifying. So… in other words… we are all in a fallen state. Every human being is on the same level… homosexuals and heterosexuals and all others… including those with syndromes or diseases or malformed… We’re all on equal footing in our fallen state.

  • Frank is right in some ways.

    I have a very high view of scripture, though I wouldn’t consider myself a biblical literalist. As of right now, I’m not sure where I come down on the issue of homosexuality, I see good arguments being made on both sides and, for the moment, I see bigger fish to fry when it comes to my intellectual and activist efforts.

    That said, Frank is right when he says that homosexuality being genetic or not doesn’t really affect its ethical status. If God exists, and He created the universe, then He is the fountain from which all value, meaning, and ethics comes from. In other words, if God exists, then He defines morality; if He does not exist, then neither does morality. Without God in the equation, all that is left is fact, no value; matter, no spirit; what is, not what should be. So, the only question that really needs to be answered when asking if a particular act is sinful is whether or not God says that it is sinful or not. It doesn’t really matter if it is natural or not. As an example of something that is genetic and natural but which we would all say is wrong: alcoholism (this isn’t an attempt to put homosexuality with alcoholism; it is simply an attempt to create a class of behavior which we would all easily agree is both natural, genetic, and wrong). That is all simply to say that even if homosexuality is proven to have absolutely nothing to do with choice, there will still be grounds for Christians to classify it as sinful.

    Then again, a lot of this discussion depends on how we look at sin and evil. God did not create evil or sin because evil exists only in a negative way. It belongs to the same class of nouns as darkness, cold, and void. Evil doesn’t exist in and of itself, it only exists as the absence of something else. That something else is God. When we push God away, there is a void of His presence left behind, this void should be labeled as evil. Evil is not malignant, it is factual. Sin, might be thought of in the same way as entropy. As God is the sustainer of creation, when He is pushed away, creation starts to break down; this process and the particular acts involved with it are called sin.

    David, you are correct in saying that we are all, regardless of race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, birth status etc. fallen and in need of grace. If homosexuality is a sin and evidence of brokenness, then it is no greater a sin and no deeper a brokenness than any other. We all need God’s grace.

    Is homosexuality a sin? I don’t know. The Bible cetainly seems to say so, but the Bible also says that women are not supposed to be ministers, and I’m not going to tell my female friends that they are mistaken in believing that God has called them. In the same way, hesitate to tell a homosexual Christian who loves God and clings to the creeds that they are going to Hell because of who they love; I just don’t know what to do with it all. At any rate, I hope that these ideas can help facilitate some common ground understandings in the discussion.

  • Frank

    David yes that’s it. We are ALL fallen. And that is incredibly freeing as it opens all of us to Gods grace.

    Gary I don’t think so. Much like the genetic causes of alcoholism does not mean its good or that the alcoholic is not responsible for their actions and choices, the same would be true for behavioral sinfulness. Its not a sin to have SSA but acting on it is a different matter.

  • Gary

    As always Johnathan I appreciate your comments, though in some respects I do question with the views expressed in your comment.

    You said “Frank is right when he says that homosexuality being genetic or not doesn’t really affect its ethical status.”

    There seems to me to be a difference between “ethical status” and “sin”. A person can engage in harmful activity towards others out of pure ignorance and I would say without knowledge there is no intent…no sin if you will. But Frank is using the term sin which would seem to imply a willful choice. This is why I have been attempting to get him to clarify his statements.

    Another comment of your which bears examination is; “If God exists, and He created the universe, then He is the fountain from which all value, meaning, and ethics comes from. In other words, if God exists, then He defines morality; if He does not exist, then neither does morality. ”

    It would seem that if God does not exist then morality would be defined by the standards of secular humanism as they apply to social morality. Social beings in a society develop their own standard of morality which is enforced by the group.

    If I accept the premise you have stated as – “So, the only question that really needs to be answered when asking if a particular act is sinful is whether or not God says that it is sinful or not.” – then we are still left with the gaping struggle of knowing “what God has stated is sinful”. Even within Christianity there is a huge divide as to what God has declared on this issue. Much doubt exists as to the accuracy of our modern translations on this and many other issues. In fact we are back at that very same struggle we have discussed already which is, what is the standard? Who gets to decide? Anyone who makes the assertion that scripture is clear is speaking either from ignorance or desired outcome rather than evidence.

    One of the reasons why I do not hold scripture as high as I used to is because it seems to place God in a clearly immoral state of being. Would a loving God keep a soul alive for all eternity for the express purpose of exacting vengeance upon them? I do not believe so. I see this as a clear perversion of the nature of God that must have been introduced by man. I was even taught that the majority of mankind would suffer this fate purely for their own ignorance. I have never met anyone who thought it would me a moral choice to subject their children to the most unimaginably horrific tortures because they made a mistake. Yet we are told that not only is this what God will do, but that it somehow represents morality just because God said so. I believe the term bullshit is not too strong a response to such teaching. If we are created in the image of God, as Christianity teaches, then it is not possible for us to be more moral than our creator.

    Of course even if we accept the premise that we are all in a sinful state in need of sacrificial grace, we still have Jesus declaration on the cross that it is finished. It would be a very weak sacrifice indeed if the cross failed to save the majority of all mankind. Jesus said He came to save all men…nut just 10%.

    So back to the issue of homosexuality. The notion that God would punish an individual for eternity for an a condition they did not choose and which they have no power over is one I reject outright. That is not my god.

  • Frank

    God does not punish, people choose to be punished. God does not send anyone to hell, people choose to go.

    Once we understand our sinful nature we have a choice. God does not reject us, we choose to reject God.

    And I reject your statement that we have no power over our actions. We do. To say otherwise is not only untrue but comes off as just an excuse. Seems to me you are just looking for an excuse to live the way you choose to. And understand we all try and do this. The wise recognize this. The faithful trust God and His ways even if its hard.

  • Frank: again thanks for your input. I totally recognize your position. It is a popular one. My theological background was baptist then pentecostal then presbyterian then vineyard, and your position would be pretty much at home in all those traditions. Could I humbly ask what your theological/denominational position is?

  • Frank

    I don’t ascribe to any denomination. I recognize my positions track with some but I came to the conclusions I did from my own study.

  • The human genome has been mapped. As far as I have heard a gay gene has not been found. And it would not be surprising if none were found, since a gay would not have a big advantage in the passing on of the gene. I don’t think people would suggest that it is a genetic accident like Down’s syndrome, or a regularly occurring mutation. So what has science said or what might one expect it to say? There are only so many options.

  • Frank

    And David thank you. Too often my position is met with hatred and name calling which only serves to stop the dialogue.

  • Gary

    “God does not punish, people choose to be punished. God does not send anyone to hell, people choose to go.”

    So…you believe that someone would actually CHOOSE an eternity of imaginable torture? It is a rather interesting play on words to state that “God does not punish”. If there is an eternal torment, it would have to be created by God for the express purpose of punishment, and only by His divine omnipotence would anyone ever be contained within. To say that God does not punish just sounds like so much christianeeze gobbledy gook to me. (Sorry for the technical terminology there) 😉

    I would like to challenge the following statement rather directly though. “Seems to me you are just looking for an excuse to live the way you choose to.”

    I assure you this has nothing to do with my views concerning sin, grace, and/or eternal damnation. However this is a common accusation thrown at those of us who reject the Dante’s Inferno notion of God’s love. Believe it or not, it is possible to have a healthy discussion on this without needing to ascribe such self serving motives.

    I did not say individuals have no power over their “actions”. I said they have no power over their condition. Huge difference there. I would be happy to debate the question as to whether homosexual activity is in itself inherently sinful, but this was not my statement as you suggest. When you say “The faithful trust God and His ways even if its hard” I would point out that “trusting God” does not require an understanding of grace that is the same as yours.

    BTW Frank, your position is also one which I used to hold fervently. These questions I ask you are all ones I have grappled with myself. This is not an attack.

  • Gary

    There is a vast difference between mapping the human genome, and understanding all that it contains. Surely you are not suggesting that we know everything there is to know about it already are you?

    BTW You might check out the book by the head of the human genome project from 1993-2008, Frances Collins, called “The Language of God”. It was an excellent read.

  • This is a very intelligent conversation on a very controversial topic. Nice. Human sexuality is very complex. So is sin. It seems the fire and brimstone crowd have dominated the discussion on sin. Sinning does not equal going to hell. Jesus doesn’t say that. Name on sinner that He condemns. The only people He condemns are the hypocrites who refuse to admit that they sin. We are all sinners, that doesn’t mean we will all go to hell. So even if homosexuality is a sin, that doesn’t mean all homosexuals automatically go to hell. I believe salvation is a side effect of your relationship with God. I know very religious, and by religious I mean they work very hard on their relationship with God, homosexuals who believe God is ok with their being homosexual, and I know some that believe God has moved them to not practice it. I support them all, because they are making their choices based on deep prayer. Let everyone work out their own salvation with fear and trembling. Don’t judge someone else’s choices because you don’t, and can’t, know all that has gone into making that choice. The simple fact is that we don’t know for sure what is sinful and not. The Bible says don’t kill, but you have prophets killing hundreds of people, sending bears to kill children, and God commanding genocide. So is killing always wrong? What if God tells you to kill? Again, I am only trying to point out that this a much more complicated than most people want to make it, and since none of us are God, we don’t really know. I know I’m sort of rambling, so I’ll wrap up. Get in touch with God and figure out what He wants you to do. That is all any of us can really do. Oh and if God is telling you to kill people, maybe you should get a second opinion.

  • Gary

    Pertaining to the question as to whether individuals are born gay…there are many exciting scientific developments taking place as David has suggested.

    The sources above merely touch on the discussions taking place presently. The jury is most definitely still out on this important issue.

  • Gary

    “Oh and if God is telling you to kill people, maybe you should get a second opinion.”

    Love it. A great piece of advice. 😉

  • Frank

    Thanks Gary!

    The bible tells us that hell was created for the angels not humanity so God never intended us to be separated from Him in that way.

    We all have our cross to bear, so to speak. And we also inherently look for a way out of it. I look at scripture and I look at the natural order of things and see that male-female sexuality is the design and anything outside of that is against that design. And so it is a rejection of God ultimately and therefore sinful. And so it really comes down to whether homosexual behavior is sinful. I see that it is. Others disagree although I have yet to see a cogent and compelling theological case for their assertions (and I have read them all).

    So its going to be hard for us to agree unless we can agree on the sinfulness or sinfulness of the action. That being said whether or not it is sinful should not determine how we treat people or whether we live life with people or not. Since we are all sinners we all are in the same place. But I cannot pretend that its ok or that it is the best choice for people.

  • shelly

    People are born with many different genetic disorders because of the nature of our fallen world. Even our genes are distorted by sin.

    God does not make anyone gay. (Frank)

    Hello, ableism. And heterosexism. There are plenty of disabled people who don’t see themselves as disabled. There are plenty of LGBTQ Christians who don’t believe they’re living in a state of perpetual sin, that they are exactly as God created them to be. And alcoholism is a DISEASE.

    Also: Your god is a weakling, IMO, and one I want nothing to do with. Seriously, if humans have free will (i.e., the ability to make choices without being influenced by anything or anyone) then that means they’re more powerful than the omnipotent God that Churchianity preaches. Not to mention every verse in the Bible that asserts that God is in control of the universe, that he is the one who is responsible for unbelief as well as belief, that he created both good AND EVIL, would be wrong, meaning the Bible would be fallible, meaning that the validity of everything else inside it would be called into question as well.

    One of the reasons why I do not hold scripture as high as I used to is because it seems to place God in a clearly immoral state of being. Would a loving God keep a soul alive for all eternity for the express purpose of exacting vengeance upon them? I do not believe so. I see this as a clear perversion of the nature of God that must have been introduced by man. (Gary)

    It was introduced by man. (See: Augustine and Tertullian, both of whom were heavily influenced by Plato.) There were others who correctly preached the reconciliation of all, like Origen. But by the 6th century, that teaching was deemed heresy.

  • shelly


  • Gary

    “There were others who correctly preached the reconciliation of all, like Origen. But by the 6th century, that teaching was deemed heresy.” Shelly

    Yes it became heresy after several centuries as I understand early church history. It is interesting to me that the notion of eternal damnation does not appear to have been accepted at all in the first 3 or 4 centuries and then as you say, by the 6th the damnation crowd had won the battle.

  • Frank

    Shelly I think you missed my point and didn’t read as carefully as you should have but that’s ok. You get to choose what you believe. But that doesn’t not make it true.

    Free will is a gift from an all powerful God so that power does not come from us.

  • Frank

    I agree with most of what you say except that we do not know what is a sin. We do. Its pretty clear.

  • oh come on frank… please tell me… i’m curious now… what church are you a part of or have been a part of??? no secrets here 🙂

  • Gary

    Actually Frank, I believe understanding what sin is, is one of the great difficulties present in most of organized religion. There is no consensus among the hundreds and hundreds of variations just within the Christian faith. I am curious as to why you think it is so clear.

  • Gary

    “You get to choose what you believe. But that doesn’t not make it true.” – Frank

    This statement is just as true when directed at your beliefs as when it is directed at Shelly’s.

  • Thanks for links, Gary.

  • Frank

    The difference is my position is scripturally supported hers is not.

  • Frank

    Aside from homosexual behavior what other sins are contested?

    The bible tells us quite clearly what is sinful.

  • Gary

    Really? Not trying to be insulting…but this statement seems very naive. Well let me ask you about a few questions.

    Is consuming alcohol sinful? Is it sinful to have sex prior to marriage? Is a marriage consisting of more than two individuals sinful? How about one with two of the same sex? Is it sinful to kill someone…ever? How about to lie? Is it sinful to eat shellfish or pork? How about to trim the corners of your beard or for a woman to cut her hair? Is it sinful for a woman to speak in church? How modest should one’s clothing be to avoid the charge of sinfulness? Is it sinful for a woman to wear a bikini? How about to be topless or nude in front of others?

    Of course I could carry on in this vein for a long time but I imagine you get my point. EACH of these questions is disputed within the Christian faith. As I said…determining what is sin is apparently very difficult indeed.

    My belief is that none of these things are sinful in and of themselves.

  • Gary

    Really now? sigh

    I expected more.

  • Gary, hope this answers your questions, I tried to be brief, but I fear that it’s not in my genetics ; )

    “ A person can engage in harmful activity towards others out of pure ignorance and I would say without knowledge there is no intent…no sin if you will.”
    -I think you’re referring to the different definitions of sin held by Wesleyans and Calvinists. The Wesleyan definition of sin is a willful transgression of a known law of God. The Calvinist definition is any transgression of a law of God. The Bible at different times seems to allow for each definition. In my own personal theology, I would say that Sin is like entropy, it is any action or process that breaks down the structure, and especially the relational structure of reality as God meant it to be. The other kind, sins, are those willful actions in which one is knowingly rebelling against God’s vision of reality; putting one’s own efforts behind the break down of reality.

    “It would seem that if God does not exist then morality would be defined by the standards of secular humanism as they apply to social morality. Social beings in a society develop their own standard of morality which is enforced by the group.”
    -what gives secular humanists the right to define morality for me, or for anybody other than themselves. Or, take the Nazis, a classic example in which an entire society decided that genocide was a good thing (e.g. their own standard of morality) but we wouldn’t accept that standard as correct or say that individual Nazis under such regime were doing the right thing when complying with the Nazi standard of morality. So appeal to a higher court; but which one? Humanity has never spoken with a unified voice on the topic of morality. God is the only personality which has the transcendence, the authority, and the unity of being and purpose to define morality.

    “ we are still left with the gaping struggle of knowing ‘what God has stated is sinful.’”
    You are correct that the Bible isn’t always as clear as we would like it to be. I think that may be by design for two reasons. If the Bible were clearer on exactly what we are and are not supposed to do, then the focus of Christianity would shift on to those instructions; much as Jewish focus zeroed in on the Torah. When legalists look to the Bible to give them a clear outline on what to do in every facet of their lives, they are engaging in idolatry by worshiping the book and the letter rather than the Spirit which produced the book. I think God may have been purposely less than clear to make sure that our focus would stay on Him and His grace rather than on the law. I also think that the Bible’s opacity forces us together to work through these issues, in discussions like these, to mull over His words, and wrestle with these ideas. It’s not about being right, or crossing all the t’s and dotting all the i’s; it’s about submitting and obeying God, as best we know how to do. It’s about praying, both with our hands and with our lips, that His Kingdom come and His will be done on earth as it is in Heaven as well as we can. We will mess up, we will hold incorrect beliefs, and we will not do everything perfectly, but it’s less about being perfect and more about trusting that God’s hands will always bear us up in our imperfections.

    “Would a loving God keep a soul alive for all eternity for the express purpose of exacting vengeance upon them? “
    -My concept of Heaven and Hell may need elucidating. Heaven is defined by communion with God, Hell is defined by His absence. I don’t believe that Hell necessarily looks like Dante’s inferno; I think that the Bible’s descriptions of Hell are metaphors to describe just how awful the absence of God can be. I’ve been toying with an idea about what happens when we die; I see Christ standing between two doors, He looks at you and simply says “I don’t care what you’ve done, I just want to be with you; these scars testify to that. If you would like to be with me then simply step through this door and it will be so eternally. If you don’t want to be with me, though, you can step through that door over there, and it will be so.”

    Why would someone choose the door to Hell? They don’t want to submit; they would rather be their own god; they are ashamed of what they’ve done; they have allowed their spirit to decay to the point that they can no longer stand the presence of God? There are probably others, but those come off the top of my head.

    Why would Hell be eternal? Because the ability to choose God is dependent on the grace of God; if you walk away from God, you are leaving that grace behind.

    Why would Hell exist in the first place? God does not force Himself upon us, He allows us to choose; how can we choose if there is nowhere we can go to get away from Him. Maybe that’s why this present life exists, to give us a chance to choose who we will be, to come to know God and get an idea of who we want to be in relationship to Him.

    What does Hell look like, if not fire, pitchforks, burning sulfer etc.? When I think of Hell, I think of something very close to David’s cartoon “I might be alone for now” except without the trees, and without the moon. Just a vast empty nothingness. Complete liberty and freedom, complete self-sovereignty.

    “Jesus said He came to save all men…not just 10%.”
    I’m not a Calvinist, I’m a Wesleyan (Nazarene to be specific) so I don’t believe that God chooses who will be saved and who will not be saved; I believe that Jesus’ death saved all of humanity on the cross. We are saved, by default, but we are still free to reject that salvation if we choose to.

  • Shelly:
    “Seriously, if humans have free will then that means they’re more powerful than the omnipotent God”
    – Not sure I follow your logic here.

    “every verse in the Bible that asserts that God is in control of the universe”
    -the Bible never asserts that God maintains control over every human thought and action. He certainly could if He chose to, but there is a difference between ability and execution; just because He can does not mean that He must. Quite the contrary, the Bible consistently displays people acting contrary to the will of God, suggesting that God is not controling them.

    “that he created both good AND EVIL”
    – the Bible never says that he created evil; it says that he created all things and that He declared such creation to be good; evil, however, never needed to be created, just like void doesn’t need to be created; they are both the absence of something.

  • Not critisizing here, honest question that I have wondered about. It seems that a genetic trait that actively caused individuals to avoid procreation would die out very quickly. Does this book you suggest deal with that question?

  • Since when have we subscribed to the belief that only that which is necessary or procreative survives? There’s tons of evidence to the contrary.

  • Gary is right when he says that there are many ambiguous actions which the Bible is less than clear on like pre-marital sex; or which the Bible is clear on but we have commonly come to disregard like whether or not a pastor should keep his office if his or her children leave the faith.

    I think that the ambiguity of sin helps to push us away from legalism. It’s hard to cling to the letter of the law when the law is ambiguous. It forces us to trust in the love of God when we don’t have all the answers and we have no reliable way to get them. It also forces us together into these discussions to wrestle with these questions. It allows us, even forces, us to be gracious to one another, and forces us to be humble.

    Or at least it should.

  • Gary

    I would strongly encourage you to read the book. I think you would find it fascinating.

    I am certainly no geneticist and won’t pretend to be one. But as I understand it, even mutations and non functioning genetic sequences can become part of the genetic code and be passed down. It is the fact that non-functional sequences of dna have been passed down from parent species prior to a split in sub species or classifications and exist on the exact same location within the strand of the other sub species, which was the final evidence convincing me that God did indeed use evolution as His means of creation. In the case of homosexuality we potentially are talking about randomly occurring variations of a a specific gene that would seem to occur with regularity. A common variation need not be passed down to continue to occur within expected norms.

  • My understanding of evolution is that those species which survive are those that can procreate the most efficiently and effectively, those individuals and species that are unable to procreate go extinct. No procreation = no passing down of the genes. I am unaware of evidence to the contrary but would be curious to find out about them.

    And I appreciate the explanations; I’ve studied theology enough to be conversent, but I’ve only dabbled in science enough to be dangerous.

  • got it, thanks gary; that helps.

  • Gary

    Agreed Johnathan…It should. Law of love defines sinfulness according to Jesus. It really is our guide.

  • Gary

    Indeed…if the regularity of a variation prohibiting procreation became 100% (or likely any percentage of enough significance) the species would in fact die out. But lesser variations not endangering a species as a whole happen all the time as I understand it.

  • by the way, Gary, it’s hidden in the comment stream above, but I attempted to answer your questions about my theology of sin and morality. I’d be really interested to know what you think of them.

  • Carol

    I’m 70 years old and beginning to realize what my mother meant when she said, “You know you are getting old when a good poop feels better than a good screw”, so I don’t really have a dog in this fight; but human sexuality is such an interesting subject that I can’t help having some opinions.

    Cultural anthropologists have discovered that homosexuality was probably not as much of an issue among Native Americans as it is among Europeans. They speculate that the reason may be because most tribes were not patriarchal so gender did not have the same relationship with power as it has had until recently in European societies.
    The Wikipedial article on Two-Spirit people can be an eye-opening and mind-expanding resource for those who can put unscientifc conditioning aside:

    Human sexuality is no different from that of other species when it comes to the reproductive [biological] function, but it differs greatly when it comes to the unitive [psychological/social]function. The fact that humans do not have a limited “mating season” tied to the fertility of the female should be a tip off that our species is somewhat unique in this department.

    Whether single or married, the creation of a child for whom there are insufficient socioeconomic resources is always experienced as more of a disaster than a blessing. That is why the procreative function of human sexuality has been the primary concern until recently. The development of effective birth control methods has made it possible for the unitive function of human sexuality to be expressed more freely, which admittedly given predisposition to selfish predatory behavior is a mixed blessing. However, it should be no surprise that traditional customs regarding human sexuality are being challenged now that the greatest long term risk–an “inconvenient pregnancy” can be avoided with a high degree of success.

    When the unitive function of human sexuality becomes the primary concern, there will begin to be a greater social acceptance of untraditional couplings. I am surprised that the debate over gender biases usually address only heterosexuality and homosexuality, while the increasing incidence of bi-sexuality is rarely mentioned. The androgenous principle is a scientific fact, although it is not completely understood. It could very well be that we are all capable of either hetero- or homo-sexuality from the psychological/unitive perspective regardless of the gender specific biological “equipment” that we sport with social conditioning rather than biology being the determining factor in how we express our sexuality.

    Anyhoo, as I stated at the beginning of this post, it certainly is an interesting subject about which to speculate as the scientific data continues to challenge our traditional understanding on this highly personal as well as socially important subject.

  • Carol

    Moral/ethical ambiguity is inevitable:

    No general principle can decide each concrete case; always secondary principles and special circumstances enter into consideration. –David Spitz, The New Conservatives

    However, we can be certain that God can handle our ignorant mistakes and willful sins since he turned mankind’s worst sin, homocide/deicide in the death of His Son into our greatest blessing, which is why St. Augustine could make the shocking reference to sin a “O Happy Fault.”

    “For the Almighty God, who, as even the heathen acknowledge, has supreme power over all things, being Himself supremely good, would never permit the existence of anything evil among His works, if He were not so omnipotent and good that He can bring good even out of evil. For what is that which we call evil but the absence of good?” – Augustine, Enchiridion (Marcus Dods translation, 1876)

    “God judged it better to bring good out of evil than to suffer no evil to exist.” ~Saint Augustine

    Those who become avenging angels, attempting to stamp out evil without any thought of loving-mercy have caused more harm than the willful sinners among us.

    “Man is neither angel nor beast; and the misfortune is that he who would act the angel acts the beast.” – Blaise Pascal (1623-1662), Pensées. 1670 – French scientist, mathematician, physicist, philosopher, moralist & writer.

  • Carol

    There is one teaching of Jesus on sin that is not ambiguous, that we should take the plank out of our own eye before trying to take the splinter out of another person’s eye.
    With the exception of predatory behaviors that take advantage of the vulnerable among us, we should concentrate on cleaning up our own act, rather than remaking others into our own image so that their presence is not challenge our narcissistic psychological comfort zones.

    Our consciences are not infallible; but they are the only inner compass that we have. If we believe something is sinful, we simply shouldn’t do it. Period. Attempting to force others to obey the dictates of our consciences on non-predatory behaviors is boundary invasion, an assault on the freedom and dignity of others and that is unconscionable.

    “Von Huegel, in one of his letters, writes of W.G. Ward (“Ideal Ward”) as an “eager, one-sided, great, unintentionally unjust soul” who on his deathbed saw the mischief of his life–he had consistently demanded that all others be like himself! This is the root of inhumanity!” ~Thomas Merton, Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander

  • Carol

    Origen was a universalist.

    There is a subtle difference between a universalist and an inclusivist.

    A universalist believes that all are predestined to salvation. An inclusivist believes that all are offered the gift of salvation, but are also given the right of refusal of the gift. Universalism is the dualistic positive determinism of predestination to *heaven* in opposition to the negative determinism of predestination to hell.

    I could never understand how traditional Calvinists could accept double predestination and still resonate to the painting of Christ standing and knocking at a door with the handle on the inside. But, of course, the belief that informed human reason is always logical is a fundamental heresy of the Enlightenment.
    BTW, there is a growing sense that “hell” is the spiritual state of alienation from God rather than a physical place. That makes sense since there is no space-time continuum in Eternity.
    Hell Is Getting A Makeover From Catholics; Jesuits Call It a Painful State But Not a Sulfurous Place
    Published: September 18, 1999

    In ”The Inferno,” Dante tells of his imagined journey into hell, his entry into a ”kingdom of eternal night” where he hears the voices of the damned rise ”in a bestial moan” and sees sinners stung by wasps, burnt by falling fire and frozen in a sheet of ice.
    For 700 years the poem has provided vivid inspiration to painters and preachers, who have kept alive a popular vision of perdition as a physical place of fire and brimstone, extraordinary torments and monsters. Many artists added their own ideas, such as Hieronymus Bosch, who in the 15th century painted a highly original vision of hell, a tableau of violence and excruciating tortures.
    But now the Catholic authorities in Rome have presented a strikingly different (and seemingly modern) picture of eternal damnation.
    By their account, hell is best understood as the condition of total alienation from all that is good, hopeful and loving in the world. What’s more, this condition is chosen by the damned themselves, the ultimate exercise of free will, not a punishment engineered by God.

    The Judeo-Christian concept of hell has not always been as consistent as some people believe:

    The greatest challenge to both universalism and inclusivism are the Hitlers, Stalins, Pol Pots, etc. But even they are not unambigouously evil from the rest of us. Their evil differs more in degree than in kind when we accept the judgment of Jesus that merely calling someone a “fool” is to be guilty of murder. Hitler is an especially complex case:

  • Carol

    Jonathan, based on what you have posted on the difference between Calvinism and Wesleyanism, I would guess that we are both more Weslyan than Calvinist.

    I, too, lean more toward freedom than determinism. I entertain the possibility that all will be saved only because I do not see how one can come face to face with Divine Love without being overcome by a desire to be embraced by it.

    “I used to believe we do not have free will. But then I realized that we do indeed have free will as far as the will to try to make things happen. However, of all the things we try to make happen, the ones that actually do happen, that is God’s will. So, ultimately, your free will is worthless.”
    ~Jessica Maxwell, quoting the *Mystic Golfer* in Roll Around Heaven

    The power of the Gospel is always suasive, never coercive or manipulative. However good our intentions, if we resort to the use of coercion or manipulation we have transgressed the Gospel ethic. Ends do not justify means, means produce ends. We cannot do the Lord’s work with the Devil’s weapons.

  • Gary

    I agree completely Carol.

  • Alvin Gongora

    Thanks Carol. Without your permission I’m taking the liberty of sharing your insightful comment with my group of friends.

  • Carol

    Feel free to share anything that I post. My mother also told me not to say or do anything I wouldn’t want known. Pretty good preparation for life in an Information Age. Mother always was a bit psychic.

  • Carol,

    I’d be curious to know which denominations and/or traditions the people who comment here come from. In my experience the reformed traditions (baptists, presbyterian, and many independent churches; the puritans and anabaptists also came from this branch) can tend toward legalism; the pentecostal traditions (Church of Christ, Assembly of God, vineyard, many independent churches etc.) can tend toward biblical literalism and a bit of a herd mentality; the lutheran tradition can tend toward antinomianism, while the anglican and wesleyan traditions do the best at shooting down the middle (though I am admittedly biased). If I had to guess, I would guess that most of the spiritual abuse that you guys talk about occurs in the reformed and pentecostal traditions.

  • “Attempting to force others to obey the dictates of our consciences on non-predatory behaviors is boundary invasion”

    I agree with this statement as far as it goes; the only problem I have with it is that I feel like there is a basic assumption here that it is easy and obvious to tell what behaviors of our own or others are predatory and destructive and which are not. I just don’t think that we have the proper perspective to understand the full consequences of our actions; that is why we must trust God on so many issues of morality even when we don’t understand. It’s not to keep ourselves out of Hell, it’s to keep from inflicting damage without realizing what we’re doing. I would also argue that this is a good reason why we should be open and gracious when others admonish us, because they may see something or know something about our behavior that we don’t understand. We need each other to check our blind spots for us.

    Not all admonishment is coercive, but the way you, Gary, David and others present it, it would seem that you believe that all admonishment is in fact unhealthy manipulative coercion.

  • Carol


    I believe that you are correct in supposing that Reformed Evangelical [Calvinism] Churches have a greater tendency to fall into authoritarian abuse; but a lot depends on the leadership and “old boy network” loyalties can trump accountability concerns in any human, not just ecclesiastical, institution.

    Ethnic influences also impact denominational communal spiritual experience and practice.. Scandanavian Lutheranism differs quite a bit from German Lutheranism and Spanish Catholicism is very different from Polish Catholicism.

    Any religion, especially an immanent incarnate tradition is going to be more susceptible to cultural syncretism. That can be a good thing for missions if the Christian believers have the theological/spiritual formation to be discerning; but too often cultural custom becomes absolutized along with the Tradition’s orthopraxis.

    “Tradition is the living faith of the dead; traditionalism is the dead faith of the living. Tradition lives in conversation with the past, while remembering where we are and when we are and that it is we who have to decide.
    Traditionalism supposes that nothing should ever be done for the first time, so all that is needed to solve any problem is to arrive at the supposedly unanimous testimony of this homogenized tradition.” –Jaroslav Pelikan

    “Cardinal Newman said there were three authorities in the Church: the authority of tradition, the authority of reason and the authority of experience, which he placed respectively in the hierarchy, the university and the body of the faithful.
    He added that if one of these three became too dominant, the right exercise of authority in the Church risked being compromised. Each needs to be strong; for example, the theological faculties have their authority. Charismatic movements, for example, easily tend to give too much authority to experience. There have been moments when reason appeared to be absolutized, as in some countries in eighteenth-century Europe. Today, I think that some groups within the Church give too exclusive a stress to tradition, to the detriment of reason and experience.” —Timothy Radcliffe, OP

  • Carol

    You are correct that discerning whether behavior, either our own or another’s, is coercive or manipulative is not easy.
    On deciding whether to admonish or not, I believe that depends on whether our perspective comes from a loving concern for the welfare of the offender or whether it comes from the perspective of a sense of having been morally offended.

    We can usually appreciate hearing hard truths from those whom we have received affection and encouragement than from those from whom we have experienced mostly judgment and criticism.

  • Gary

    “Not all admonishment is coercive, but the way you, Gary, David and others present it, it would seem that you believe that all admonishment is in fact unhealthy manipulative coercion.” – Johnathan

    No this statement does not reflect my beliefs. I agree with most of your statement leading up to this however. I would add that not all admonishment is appropriate. For instance, when in the course of discussion it is clear that the one receiving such admonishment actually disagrees with the point being made, then continued dogging attempts to force the other party to change does indeed become “manipulative coercion”.

    Questioning each other’s (and our own) beliefs is quite healthy. Beliefs that marginalize and diminish others (or identified groups of people) is one area where I often challenge such views. Bigotry of any kind is one such view (in my opinion) that should be challenged as it is inherently abusive. I have known individuals in several of the categories which are often subjected to such prejudice, and have seen first hand the damage that can be, and often is, inflicted upon them. But the healthy debate of views and ideas should be encouraged rather than classified as a form of abuse.

  • Frank

    Sorry to disappoint you Gary but its true. No one has made a compelling scripturally supported case that God condones or blesses homosexual behavior. I have read all the attempts so far and am open to continue to study them but as of today they are all fail.

  • The fact that you are still looking to scripture for proof indicates that you are not going to be able to break free of its archaic worldview that embraced radically different understandings and views of sexuality. Our only hope is to let the shackles of a fundamentalist mindset’s bondage to a literalist view of the bible fall off.

  • Thanks Gary and Carol, your responses satisfy me that we’re very close to being on the same page, maybe standing at nearly the same spot, back to back, defending it from attacks in opposing directions; that is to say we differ more in emphasis than in content.

    I think we would also disagree on when exactly in any given circumstance it is appropriate to admonish; but we would agree that whenever an admonishment is needed, it must be done in love, grace and humility and never coercively or manipulatively. I agree with Gary’s point: “when in the course of discussion it is clear that the one receiving such admonishment actually disagrees with the point being made, then continued dogging attempts to force the other party to change does indeed become ‘manipulative coercion.'”

  • Frank

    Thanks but I have no desire to “break free” from the word of God. Sadly the best case that’s being made is to simply abandon scripture. Tragic. After all if we can’t make scripture say what we want it to say its easier to simply dismiss it.

  • whoa who said anything about abandoning scripture here? did i miss something? i do believe we need to drop the shackles of fundamentalist literalist interpretations of it though. dead-ended. to try to find sexual revolution and gender understanding from largely patriarchal and traditional manuscripts is hopeless. to me it is like going to scripture to try to find permission to drive a car.

  • Gary

    “Sadly the best case that’s being made is to simply abandon scripture. Tragic. After all if we can’t make scripture say what we want it to say its easier to simply dismiss it.” – Frank

    This tells me your research into the subject has been very limited and/or unyieldingly biased. And don’t bother to say your bias is scripture because there are many great teachers of scripture who flatly disagree with you.

  • Frank

    David you did.

    “The fact that you are still looking to scripture for proof indicates that you are not going to be able to break free of its archaic worldview that embraced radically different understandings and views of sexuality. ”

    There is a sexual ethic and design in scripture which does not include homosexual behavior. You either accept that or eject that.

    Gary I have seen them all and I also have seen them dismantled one by one.

  • Carol

    I don’t believe that anyone is advocating that we “abandon scripture.” The plea is to “break free” from a fundamentalist interpretation of the bible, which is a moralistic, ahistorical hermeneutic that bows to the authority of the “written word” (bibliolatry) more faithfully than to the Christ Jesus, the Living Word of God.

    “The sacred history of redemption is still going on. It is now the history of the Church that is the Body of Christ. The Spirit-Comforter is already abiding in the Church. No complete system of Christian faith is yet possible, for the Church is still on her pilgrimage. And the Bible is kept by the Church as a book of history to remind believers of the dynamic nature of the divine revelation, “at sundry times and in divers manners.” ~Georges V. Florovsky, Bible, Church, Tradition: An Eastern Orthodox View

    “In Judaism it was possible simultaneously to ascribe change of purpose to God and to declare that God did not change, without resolving the paradox; for the immutability of God was seen as the trustworthiness of covenanted relation to his people in the concrete history of his judgment and mercy, rather than as a primarily ontological category.” –Jaroslav Pelikan, The Christian Tradition—Vol. 1

    “You cannot claim absolute finality for a dogma without claiming a commensurate finality for the sphere of thought within which it arose. If the dogmas of the Christian Church from the second to the sixth century centuries express finally and sufficiently the truths concerning the topics about which they deal, then the Greek philosophy of that period had developed a system of ideas of equal finality. You cannot limit the inspiration to a narrow circle of creeds. A dogma – in the sense of a precise statement – can never be final; it can only be adequate in its adjustment of certain abstract concepts…. Progress in truth – truth of science and truth of religion – is mainly a progress in the framing of concepts, in discarding artificial abstractions or partial metaphors, and in evolving notions which strike more deeply into the root of reality.” –Alfred North Whitehead

  • Gary

    It is not possible for you to have “seen them all”. Now you are entering into the realm of baseless bravado. Unfortunately this is typical of the fundamental mindset.

  • Frank

    Let me rephrase. I have read every widely available case made for the position that homosexual behavior is not a sin or that committed homosexuals are not what the bible is talking about. I am open to looking at any credible source you may have but chances are I have already seen it or I have seen the argument before. But hey you never know.

  • Frank

    Carol when I look at scripture I see a clear sexual ethic and morality. Its not about biblical idolotry its whether we believe that scripture is simply a suggestion, a guide or the revealed word of God. I believe that it is the revealed word of God and therefore it requires a high view and a sacredness. I believe that any question we have about life is revealed in its words. Nothing in there suggests that homosexual behavior is ok in any form, just the opposite.

  • Carol


    The bible has a lot more to say about heterosexual behavior than it does about homosexual behavior. Jesus teaches that divorce is sinful and that adultery is sinful and yet, with the exception of the Catholic Church in which curial officials representing the Roman magisterium have often failed to distinguish between dogmatic theology and pastoral theology, divorced persons are welcomed as equals in most Churches. Likewise former adulterers even though they feel that their infidelity may have been justified. So why the judgmental condemnation and exclusion of homosexuals by religious communities claiming to be Christian?

    When it comes to sin and the need for forgiveness, we are all “beggars before the throne” even though those of us whose self-interest is stronger than our self-will are more prone to sins of omission than commission are less likely to be found out.

    Do you think God is more or less pleased with a monogamous same-sex couple who love each other to the point of heroic self-sacrifice through the painful challenges of life’s many adversity or a heterosexual couple who seek their own comfort and pleasure at each other’s expense and turn their relationship into an unending abusive power struggle?

    Some life style choices should be left between the individual, their nearest and dearest and God. I feel that the choice of a domestic life partner is one of those choices.

    If the “Moral Majority/Religious Right” was as concerned with what goes on in America’s boardrooms as it is with what goes on in America’s bedrooms, we probably wouldn’t be in the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression!

  • Frank

    Carol I agree there has been a double standard but the answer is not simply allow more sinful behavior but to keep to the same standard. Everyone can receive forgiveness including those who divorced and those that have engaged in homosexual behavior. Unless of course someone divorces again or some engages again in homosexual behavior. Then the process starts over again.

    I think God is pleased when we trust Him and His perfect plan for marriage and sexuality.

  • Carol

    Hmmm, I believe the Catholic Church may not be the only Christian tradition where there is confusion between dogmatic theology, moral theology and pastoral theology.

    “Many Christians still at bottom look upon God as one of  the most selfish, self-absorbed Beings in the universe, far more selfish than they could think it right to be themselves, —intent only upon His own honor and glory, looking out continually that His own rights are never trampled on; and so absorbed in thoughts of Himself and of His own righteousness, as to have no love or
    pity to spare for the poor sinners who have offended Him.” ~Hannah Whitall Smith

  • Frank

    Carol I notice you quote humanity more than Gods word. Therein lies your problem.

  • Um, Frank… you didn’t quote the bible there. Just pointing that out.

  • Frank

    David that is true. Guilty as charged. However scripture is my standard not human “wisdom.” That’s why I asked for a scriptural case which you dismissed and Carol ignored.

    That being said I think humanity can provide insight if its backed up by scripture. Carol has only posted quotes from people and I ask where is the scriptural support for what she is posting.

  • Carol


    I am an adult convert, not a cradle Christian. My mother used many resources in the formation of my character. Aesop’s fables and literary classics like Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women both had much influence on me. Surely you don’t believe that the Judeo-Christian Scriptures are the sole source of wisdom, do you?

    As I considered the teachings of the Christian Religion, I was also seriously studying the wisdom of the Zen Buddhist spiritual tradition. The primary reason why I became a Christian rather than a Buddhist or an adherent of some other Religious Tradition is because I found in the Christological Mysteries a higher view of our humanity than that revealed by any other Tradition. That is not to say that I did not find any wisdom in other Religions. In fact, by confusing Tradition with traditionalism and radically opposing the Scriptures to Tradition, much of the Christian wisdom Tradition, beginning with the writings of the early Church Fathers (& Mothers) and continuing even into modern time, the Protestant Reformers have cut much of the Western Church off from the ongoing Revelation of the Christian wisdom Tradition.

    The Patristic writings are especially important because the Apostolic [biblical] Revelation ended just as the early Christians began to realize that perhaps the return of Jesus was not as immanent as they had originally expected and it might be necessary to form communities that would prove sustainable over time. That is when and why the institutional Church evolved. The early Christian faith communities only had the Hebrew Scriptures. They had no NT Scriptures because they were writing them with their lives. It took several centuries before the Church even had a canonically valid Bible. Even by the 16th century Martin Luther suggested dropping the NT books of James and Revelations because he felt that they posed challenges to his theological beliefs.

    It takes more than a Bible and Jesus in our hearts to provide the theological/spiritual formation that will produce mature Christian beliefs and practice rather than a childish faith that leads to mega churches led by charismatic personalities preaching a “health and wealth/prosperity gospel” that claims to confer Divine blessing on a materialistic consumerist capitalism that should be totally unfettered by any regulatory control or public accountability. End of rant.

    “I like your Christ. I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ. The materialism of affluent Christian countries appears to contradict the claims of Jesus Christ that says it’s not possible to worship both Mammon and God at the same time.” –Mahatma Gandhi

    “Plato told Aristotle no one should make more than five times the pay of the lowest member of society. J.P. Morgan said 20 times.  Jesus advocated a negative differential – that’s why they killed him.” ~Graef Crystal, former executive pay consultant, 1998 

  • Gary

    “I think God is pleased when we trust Him and His perfect plan for marriage and sexuality.” – Frank

    WHICH perfect plan would you be referring to Frank? There are several in scripture.

    MUCH of scripture IS human wisdom btw. It is not inerrant, it is not perfect. This is not difficult to prove. When you elevate it to such a place you engage in biblioletry. And according to this scripture…JESUS is the Word of God. Certainly not the book you claim has all the answers.

  • Caryn LeMur

    Frank: In the past, I wondered how Christianity differed from following the Laws of Moses. By the way, I hold to a ‘high view of the Bible’ (wherein poetry is interpreted as poetry; history as history; commands as commands; and so forth).

    I encountered the words of Jesus in Matthew 5, wherein He used the phrase, “You have heard it was said X, but now I say Y”. Clearly, Jesus was stating what the marks of His followers should not be, and what they should now become.

    Your wrote, “”So, the only question that really needs to be answered when asking if a particular act is sinful is whether or not God says that it is sinful or not”. This statement shows a focus (or placing a priority) upon answering the following question: “what is evil and what is good?”

    However, Jesus placed a higher priority on a different question – how do we show perfect impartiality towards those we (or God) calls evil and those we (or God) calls good? This is in His teaching at the end of Matthew Chapter 5, which begins with “Love your enemies…” and then goes far, far deeper.

    Therefore, to become as ‘perfect’ as our Heavenly Father, we must focus on the greater questions: How do we give perfect impartiality of blessings upon those that are evil and those that are good? For, as God makes the sun to shine on the evil and the good; and as He makes the rain to fall on the just and the unjust, we must do the same with the blessings we control.

    I have found overwhelming evidence that drinking and driving creates tangible victims, and so, I allow drinking (even to the point of being drunk alone at home), but therefore curtail the freedom of drinking and driving. Being ‘drunk’ appears to be ‘sin’ in the Bible… but, until there are tangible victims, I have no reason to curtail the perfect impariality of blessings as Jesus commanded.

    I have found no evidence of two women entering into marriage that creates tangible victims, at all. I have studied the literature quite a bit, and observed some hearsay evidence from religious parties, and studied the argumentation of conservative Christian PhDs doing research (Yarhouse, Throckmorton, etc.)… but find no evidence in scripture, or in science, of tangible victims due to same-sex marriage.

    Homosexual behaviors, and same-sex marriage may be a ‘sin’, it may be ‘evil’, it may be ‘unjust’ [by man’s definition or even by God’s definition]… but, without tangible victims beyond any reasonable doubt, I must therefore default to the teachings of Jesus, and ensure that their marriage receives all the Federal, State, and local ‘blessings’ that every marriage receives.

    We are Christians. We should therefore follow the pivotal teachings of Christ. Matthew 5 contains Christ’s words offering that there are higher questions – higher priorities – than just your question: ‘what is evil and what is good’. Your question is a good question, by the way. It is elementary… but it is no longer foundational. It is thought provoking… but the question posed by Jesus – how do you give perfect impartiality of blessings – is far more thought provoking.

    I am amazed by the Son of God, and His encouragement to move to the higher arguments. Jesus presents a stunning higher level mark of His disciples – even if an action/behavior/orientation is ‘evil’ or ‘unjust’, even if the same is ‘good’ or ‘just’, what are we doing to ensure perfect impartiality of blessings, so that we are called the sons of God?

    Much love in Christ always; Caryn

  • Carol


    Circumstances often define whether an act is “evil” or not.

    The Commandment is “Thou shalt not kill/murder.” But killing in self-defense is permissible and killing in defense of an innocent other is not only not a sin, failing to do so may be the sin.

    The problem with interpreting “biblical principles” as moral absolutes without taking the mitigating circumstances into consideration is that there is no room for compassion or mercy, which leads to the commission of sins against the law of love, which transcends and surpassingly fulfills all other laws.

    We also have a problem with discerning the spirit of the law when we come from an ahistorical, literal perspective.

    This excerpt from a recent article provides an example of applying an OT legal prohibition to contemporary experience that would not occur to most Christians employed in our tragically corrupt business sector where greed influences so many management policies:
    A practical advantage of meatless Fridays during Lent is that it gives the penitent a reason to go to confession. I recall weekly confession during my childhood, when Mom and Aunt Josie would drag me to church each Saturday afternoon even if it meant they had to place a tissue on their heads before entering. The “big three” got the ball rolling: “I missed Mass on Sunday, I ate meat on Friday, and I disobeyed my parents.” Those of us lucky enough to have siblings got a bonus: “I fought with my sister.” The number of times each transgression was committed provided the only variation from one week to the next. The penance was always “Say three Hail Marys.”

    I felt sorry for the priest having to sit hours on end through a drone of unoriginal sins. One year, I scoured the Old Testament in search of an exotic peccadillo. After my usual laundry list, I confessed: “And I ‘muzzled the ox that trod the grain underfoot,’ ” and for a touch of reality, added, “Twice.”

    Father was not amused. Despite the dark, screened confessional, the pastor apparently recognized my voice. “Knock it off, Joe!” he said. My citing Deuteronomy 25:4 didn’t help. I recall getting more than a few Hail Marys that day.

    Later I learned St. Paul applied this law of Moses to workers enjoying the fruits of their labor (1 Timothy 5:18). How we treat animals goes hand-in-hoof, so to speak, with how we treat one another. It wasn’t such an arcane law after all. Psychologists say people who abuse animals are more likely to mistreat humans. I don’t think it’s a coincidence stories about animal abuse and cruelty toward people are on the rise.

    It occurred to me that guilt has, over the years, gotten a bum rap. Guilt, in fact, serves a useful purpose. It pricks our conscience when we have violated our own standards of right conduct. Granted, since the 1960s guilt has fallen into disfavor. We went from feeling far too guilty for small things to feeling guilty about nothing. People misplace their guilt. Why was missing Mass confessed but few mentioned failing to pay workers a living wage? Or defrauding a business partner? Or deceiving customers or clients? Or taking delight in harming animals? “You shall not muzzle the ox …”

    My problem is with guilt-tripping, not guilt. Guilt-tripping by others is usually true enough to hurt, but not true enough to be fair. It is more likely to make people defensive than repentent. The guilt that comes from our own inner consciences is a “heads-up” that our behavior is harmful, not helpful. It is a symptom, not the cause of our dis-ease and should prompt us to “look deeper”, not beat ourselves up.

    There is also the danger of culturally-conditioned false guilt. Caryn, your insight that we should be able to identify a victim as the means to discern whether our guilt is legitimate or false is a stroke of spiritual genius, IMO.

  • Frank

    Gary there is only one perfect plan outlined in scripture. God made them male and female, be fruitful and multiply. Later affirmed by Jeuss.

  • Frank: Did you mean Seuss? As in Dr. Seuss?

  • Frank

    I am guilty of a typo. Yes. You know what I meant and its very telling when some one focuses on a typo.

  • Alvin Gongora

    Relax, Frank. I had a good chuckle and I hope that so did Jesus and Dr. Seuss

  • Gary

    Yes God did make them male and female,

    God ALSO made some intersexual, some asexual, some bi-sexual, and some homosexual. Of these only the bi-sexual even has the ability to live according to God’s “perfect plan”.

    Frank we all understand the basics of human reproductive sexuality…we had 5th grade sex ed. 😉 But your declarations imply that millions upon millions of people are forever excluded from any form of intimate and loving sexuality through no fault of their own.

    I could overwhelm you with outstanding scriptural studies disputing your position but clearly it matters not…you have deemed your understanding of scripture to be supreme. One only needs to examine the culture/language/translation issues involved to see that this issue is not clear as so many fundamentalists keep declaring. Yet you apparently won’t even examine the moral/ethical implications of your beliefs, which are I might add, contrary to much scriptural teaching. It is not that you believe this for yourself that is the problem here. (Though it is extremely fortunate that you were not born gay) It is the harm that has been done to this this much maligned group of people by such bigotry. (Yes…It IS bigotry) When one seeks to deny others the same rights they themselves enjoy, based solely on a very narrow and privileged view of scripture, they become an abuser.

  • Frank

    Gary if you have a scriptural case that God makes people gay or that God blesses homosexual behavior make it. Otherwise you only have your opinion which is fine but its only an opinion.

  • Caryn LeMur

    Frank: I cannot see your reply to my February 27, 2013 at 10:59 pm statement. Do you really just wish to argue only ‘what is right and what is wrong’? Why not tell me your thoughts on keeping Christ’s command at the end of Matt 5 – how do you plan to impartially bless those you call ‘evil’ and those you call ‘good’?

    The Patheos site does not show replies… somehow, my inbox shows that you are asking Gary to make a scriptural case for one of two items:
    – that God makes people gay; and/or
    – that God blesses homosexual behavior.
    So, it seems you still wish to work through the lesser arguments?

    Am I understanding you correctly?

    Much love in Christ always and unconditionally; Caryn

  • Caryn LeMur

    Sigh… I see why I cannot always follow the threads on Patheos… the are embedded in each other and appear higher or lower in the stream of messages. Guess I will focus on the email inbox at home…. lol.

  • Frank

    Caryn it can be confusing trying to follow comment threads for sure.

    Gary claims that homosexual behavior is not a sin so I am wondering where he gets that assertion.

    As far as your post and question I would say this:

    All sin hurts God and humanity. Whether we interpret it as a hurt or not is irrelevant. It is a rejection of God. Homosexual behavior is a rejection of God like any other sin. And there is a case to be made that homosexual behaviors hurts individuals and society as a whole even secularly.. You may disagree but many agree.

    There is nothing loving about supporting, condoning, affirming or remaining silent about sinful behavior.

    Not sure I understand your question to me regarding Matthew 5. Yes God sends both sun and rain on both the just and unjust. That’s why the unjust can have earthly success and the just can have earthly failures and vice versa. If anything this nullifies your victimhood question.

  • Caryn LeMur

    Frank: thank you for explaining your position.

    For the sake of following your argument, given that marrying a divorced person is adultery (Mark 10:10-12], and that is incredibly clear in the words of Jesus.

    Given that I cannot find any verse in the Bible supporting adultery (or adultery-by-remarriage),

    I therefore conclude that you make equal argumentation against second marriages (as compared to homosexual marriage). Indeed, I had a number of citations in my library about the extreme damage caused to the children of second marriages (blended families, as I recall the term). I therefore understand your position and respect your consistency. After all, the wisdom that comes from heaven is impartial (James 3:16). I applaud you taking a stand against all sin, especially sins-of-choice as obvious as marrying a divorced person… and sins of homsexual behavior.

    If I come across the Christian movement to nullify all such heterosexual second marriages, I will pass that information on to you. There is perhaps another movement among Evangelicals to force all people that are married-to-a-divorced partner out of church membership, or at least out of church leadership. .. if I find that information, I will try to post it for you here. Very impressed that you will speak out against adultery by remarriage, or adulterous behavior, even more than you speak out against homosexual marriage and/or homosexual behavior… after all, the direct words of Jesus should carry far more impact than just the words of Paul or Moses, right?

    So glad that you have decided to keep all the Law of Moses. I recall that the Galatian believers took the same position as yourself… although they were focused on only one aspect of the Law, Paul then corrected them that they had become obligated to keep the whole Law. He also said they had ‘fallen from grace’, and ‘would never inherit the blessings of a freeman’, and even worse things… but then again, many Christians do not believe the Book of Galatians is part of the Bible.

    Gosh… what is that Latin phrase for carrying an argument to its logical conclusion?… I forget….

    Much love in Christ always and unconditionally; and with humor; Caryn

  • Frank

    The wonderful thing about God is that forgiveness is available. A divorced person can receive forgiveness. An adulterer can receive forgiveness. Anyone engaging in homosexual behavior can receive forgiveness.

    All until they divorce again, commit adultery again or engage in homosexual behavior again. Then the process starts over.

  • Carol

    The only Christian tradition that I know of that assesses a penalty for divorce and remarriage is the Catholic Church, which teaches that divorced and remarried Catholics [unless they have been granted an annulment] should not be permitted to receive the Eucharistic bread and wine. They may, however, attend Mass on as a sort of “second class” Catholic I suppose. It is not quite an excommunication, more like an “ex-communioncation, I guess.

    Anyway, it never made much sense to me since there is a general liturgical acknowledgement [Lord, I am not worthy to receive you, but say the word and I shall be healed] that none of us is *worthy* to receive the sacrament. I guess some of us are less unworthy and some of us are more unworthy.

    Whatever the reasoning for excluding the divorced and remarried from receiving the Eucharist, it has been a pastoral nightmare, as has the Catholic Church’s unqualified ban on artificial contraception.

    At the parish level the pastoral problem is solved by leaving such matters off the table unless the lay person brings them up with the priest who administers the sacrament without questioning whether or not the communicant is “worthy.” I guess most priests feel that it is the desire to meet God in the sacrament, not the absence of sin, that makes the communicant “worthy” to receive.

    “When you look at the crucifix, you understand how much Jesus loved you then. When you look at the Sacred Host, you understand how much Jesus loves you now.” –Mother Teresa of Calcutta

  • Carol

    Frank the problem with that belief is that your are claiming that we are not “saved” by self-righteous works; but we “remain saved” by our righteous performance. Grace is no match for ignorance and/or weakness which keeps sending us back to “square one.”

    Here’s the thing about Unconditional Love. God will never love us more no matter how obedient we become and God will never love us less no matter how disobedient we become. The Parable of the Prodigal Son is really the Parable of the Loving Father, but we seem to always have to make everything, even the Scriptures about us which, of course, causes us to miss the whole point of the story.

  • Frank

    Carol I am not speaking about salvation. After all even after we are saved we still sin. What I am talking about is normalizing sin, affirming it, accepting it or surrendering to it. None of those things are acceptable and hurt God, hurt others and hurt ourselves.

  • Carol

    Well, Frank, we agree that sin is not normal, it is a disordering of our minds, desires and wills. It also separates us from God, self and others. But it does not separate us from God’s love for us.

    Unconditional Divine Love means that God loves Hitler as much as S/He loves Mother Teresa. The problem is that Hitler did not love God as much as Mother Teresa does.

    Too many Christians still do not “get” the unconditional implications of the Gospel’s Revelation of God’s Love as Unconditional/kenotic. We are too ready to believe the caution that “if it seems to good to be true, it probably is.”

    “The root of Christian love is not the will to love, but the faith that one is loved”.
    –Thomas Merton, New Seeds of Contemplation

  • Holy cow, you said it Carol, preach on!
    The only thing I would say, both to you and Caryn, is that I worry about only being concerned with actions that have a clear victim. I think that there are many actions which are serious and have a victim, but we don’t have the perspective that God does to see the links of causation between action and consequences. I would use your anecdote about muzzling an ox from above. At first glance, it seems like a harmless action and we would be tempted to ignore it until we dig deeper into the links between cruelty to animals and cruelty to humans, or until we begin to see the ox as a victim too. If there are some that seemed archaic until we figured out the link; could it be that there are also some that seem archaic because we have yet to see the link?

    Now, Acts 15 frees Gentiles from following the law of Moses, but we still have the commands of the NT. I am aware of my own human fallibility, and scenarios like that which you mentioned make me very careful when dealing with Scripture and give me pause, deep pause, before I disgard it as cultural.

  • Gary

    Frank, Since Jesus had absolutely ZERO to say against homosexuality (and some believe He acknowledged being born this way in Matthew 19:12) it seems to me the burden of proof lies with those who seek to declare homosexual activity to be sinful.

    Perhaps you would like to attempt to defend your view?

  • Frank

    In other words Gary you cannot support your position theologically. Not a surprise frankly.

    Jesus affirmed Gods created order for marriage and sexuality while answering a question on divorce. Jesus was not silent on this issue in any way shape or form.

  • Gary

    So if I understand you correctly you are declaring something sinful which scripture does not…you sidestep the request to prove your assertion…and yet you accuse me of not being able prove my position. Your statement that Jesus declared homosexual activity to be sinful in His statement from Matthew 19 is a clear case of eisegesis over exegesis.

    I will be happy to provide you some resources showing the error in your conclusions pertaining to this scripture as well as the other 6 or 7 often misused for the same purpose. I strongly encourage to evaluate them with an open mind.

    These are three excellent resources and of course there are countless more. This is a discussion that is much needed within the church. We can no longer allow the corruption of scripture to be used to justify abusive and horribly damaging false doctrine to be taught. Many in the fundamental/evangelical camps prefer to avoid questioning their prejudices, preferring instead to simply promote the very lazy approach to scriptural analysis as this is the only means of promoting religious bigotry.

  • Caryn LeMur

    Gary: your response to Frank is well-written and gracious. Thank you for taking the time and tone. I had ‘written off’ this thread after Frank seemed to be intent on ignoring the many avenues worth exploring.

    Frank: besides the above sites mentioned by Gary, you may also wish to visit some of the “ex-ex-gay” web sites run by Christian believers that worked for years to be heterosexual and/or celibate. Just search on ‘ex-ex-gay’, and your heart will be broken to read of all the men and women that underwent useless therapy, cycles of ‘forgiveness’, following the Law of Moses, being filled with the Spirit (or delivered from demons), and even marrying a heterosexual in order to change their behaviour and/or sexual orientation. Wars often cease when we see the carnage through the eyes of others.

    Much love in Christ always and unconditionally; Caryn

  • Carol

    Conversion involves the transformation of the mind, passions and will. Although it may [or may not] begin with an experience that changes the direction of our lives, that is only the beginning of a process, not the accomplishment of a spiritual goal.

    That is why we can all read the same biblical text and reach opposite conclusions. Although we may share the same depth of faith committment, we come from different experiences and places in our formal theological/spiritual formation.

    I am convinced that the Law of Love transcends and surpassingly fulfills all lesser cultural and even natural laws.

    “A moral theology built on the authentic Gospel will be a far cry from a stoical morality built on duty and obligation, both deduced from some cosmic law of nature.”–Fr. Joseph Oppitz, C.Ss.R, Autumn Memoirs of St. Alphonsus Liguori

    “Core moral concepts, such as freedom, conscience, obedience, and fidelity, can have very different meanings and importance. These differing meanings depend on if our concern is with conformity, fulfilling norms, and subordination, or instead if our focus is radical thinking infused with the spirit of God blowing as it wills and marked by grown-up, freely affirmed responsibility.” –Bernard Haering, The Virtues of an Authentic Life (1997), p. 53

    I think this Franciscan teaching may hold a useful key to biblical interpretation that helps us put our subjective experiences and religious formation in perspective:

    What is God doing in the Scripture reading? With that question in mind, I want to give you an operative principle, which, I believe, had it been used in the last 500 years, would have resulted in a much more exciting and positive Christian history. If you are meditating on a Bible text, Hebrew or Christian, and if you see God operating at a lesser level than the best person you know, then that text is not authentic revelation. “God is love” (1 John 4:16) and no person you meet could possibly be more loving than the Source of love itself. It is as simple as that. You now have a foundational hermeneutic (“interpretive key”) for interpreting all of Scripture wisely. Literalism is the lowest and most narrow hermeneutic for understanding conversation in general and sacred texts in particular.

    Haven’t you read texts and not known what to think? For example, where Yahweh presumably tells the Israelites to kill every Canaanite in sight—men, women and children—and then has them impose a ban on every pagan town, telling the Israelites to enter, burn, and destroy everything in sight (e.g., Joshua 6-7). Do you really think that is God talking? I don’t think so. They have created God in their own image instead of letting God re-create them in his image.

    “Well,” you say, “it is in the Bible and that makes it true and right.” That is why we have to use a whole different lens for interpreting any authoritative text. How we deal with sacred texts is how we deal with reality in general. And how we deal with reality in general is how we deal with sacred texts. And both reality and all sacred texts are also fragmented and “imperfect” (1 Corinthians 13:12). It takes a certain level of human and spiritual maturity to interpret a Scripture. Vengeful and petty people find vengeful and hateful texts (and they are there), but even when they are not there! Loving and peaceful people will hold out until a text resounds deep within them (and there are plenty there!). In short, ONLY LOVE CAN HANDLE BIG TRUTH.
    Richard Rohr, Adapted from the webcast A Teaching on Wondrous Encounters

  • Frank

    Thanks for showing us exegesis in action through your links Gary. Every single one of those arguments have been throughly dismantled.

    Still waiting to see someone put together a theological case that God condones or blesses homosexual behavior. We will be waiting forever it seems. You cannot explain away the truth.

  • Gary

    Of course this is exactly the response I knew you would have. Absolutely no willingness to even engage anyone here beyond your dogmatic assertion that your view is truth and all of us are simply trying to explain it away. We tried to engage you with decency and even respect…but there is no point in attempting to reason with those whose mind is so muddied.

    Reality is Frank…your view is exceptionally harmful to many millions of God’s children. It is based on prejudice and an outright refusal to examine scripture with integrity. But fortunately your kind are losing the battle just as surely as you did over racial and gender equality. Different issue…different decade…same bigotry. It is ugly…it is repulsive…it is, thankfully, dying.

    You’re not waiting for anything Frank so you can drop the ruse. I have very serious doubts you have spent any time investigating the scriptural truth of the matter at all. You simply parrot the dogma you have been taught and regurgitate it with snide denial. Fine…I have come to expect nothing more from your kind. But I will continue to be a voice for those you seek to marginalize and exclude from grace. And one day when someone you hold dear is faced with this very real struggle, through no fault or choice of their own, I hope and pray they find someone ELSE to turn to.

  • Carol

    There is no doubt that heterosexual coupling is the norm.

    However, “the norm” is a statistical fiction. We are a very diverse species.

    Frank, having read the entire bible 3 times in three different translations, I have come to the conclusion that the Law of Love transcends and surpassingly fulfills all other laws.

    A moral theology built on the authentic Gospel will be a far cry from a stoical morality built on duty and obligation, both deduced from some cosmic law of nature.
    –Fr. Joseph Oppitz, C.Ss.R, Autumn Memoirs of St. Alphonsus Liguori

    “Core moral concepts, such as freedom, conscience, obedience, and fidelity, can have very different meanings and importance. These differing meanings depend on if our concern is with conformity, fulfilling norms, and subordination, or instead if our focus is radical thinking infused with the spirit of God blowing as it wills and marked by grown-up, freely affirmed responsibility.” –Bernard Haering, The Virtues of an Authentic Life (1997), p. 53

  • Caryn_LeMur

    Frank: why do you not wish to take Carol’s advice, and allow ‘love to be the fullfilment of the Law’? Isn’t that one of the main points of Christianity?

    Why do you keep going back to the Law of Moses? Are you a disciple of Moses? Have I misunderstood your religion all this time? If so, I apologize… I thought you were a disciple of Jesus. I did not realize you were Jewish.

    How would you advise the woman married to a divorced man that is experiencing marital difficulties? would you advise her to divorce her husband, given they are living in sin – adultery by remarriage? [Mark 10:10-12] Or, if you are Jewish, how would you bless them?

    How would you advise the woman married to a woman that is experiencing marital difficulties? would you advise her to divorce her wife, given they are living in sin? Or, again, if you are Jewish, please tell us how you would bless them.

    Please answer the above, so that if I pursue this conversation, I can relate to you as a good Jew, or as a Christian.

    Much love in Christ always and unconditionally; Caryn

  • Frank

    There is nothing loving about accepting, condoning, affirming or remaining silent over sinful behavior.

    Gary I have studied it quite extensively and its a classic case exegesis. I am indeed waiting for a scripturally supported arguement that God condones or blesses homosexual behavior in any form.

  • Gary

    No you’re not Frank so drop the charade. (You might want to actually look up the words exegesis and eisegesis as you seem to be confused) 😉

    You have thus far completely refused all questions given to you in attempts to discuss the issue, have made absolutely zero effort to prove your assertion that homosexual activity is sinful, and have chosen instead to fall back on theatrical bravado. Empty declarative statements may work as a means to control the weak minded, but you’ll have no success employing such a tactic elsewhere.

    Further efforts to reason with you would be completely pointless.

  • Caryn LeMur


    For your sake, I will drop into the minor arguments. I shall abandon the argument of love for a time (written by Carol), or the reductio ad absurdum arguments (written by me), the arguments of Christ or of Paul the Apostle; or the arguments of seeking the Lord for wisdom (written by Gary).

    Since you are a disciple of Moses, let us see how you handle these easier arguments, beginning with the Law.

    The argument of a vow taken before God.

    Joshua and the elders were deceived by the Gibeonites into taking a vow of protection/non-violence. This vow was against the very documented will of God. Yet, God honored that vow for generations, even through the time of Saul the King, and punished all Israel for Saul’s attack on the Gibeonites. And, after the punishment on all Israel, then Saul’s own sons were executed to stop God’s judgment. [Joshua 9; II Sam 21]

    Two women take a vow of marriage before God, for our God hears every idle word and especially a vow taken before Him. Even if ‘it is against His expressed will’, God will honor the vow as He honored the vow of Joshua. Further, there is no deception between the two parties of the marriage vow – therefore, how much more will God honor their marriage vow. Lastly, God will punish any church that works against the vow, as He punished all Israel, and even as He punished Saul’s survivors.

    Your thoughts?

    Much love in Christ always and unconditionally; Caryn

  • Carol

    When the Law of Love becomes the measure of whether or not an act sinful, the issue is no longer about sexual orientation, hetero or homosexuality; but whether the act is one of expressing love or exercising power/control over another.

    Both heterosexual acts and homosexual acts can be sinful or not.

    The Law of Love never separates the law from the God of Love or our actions from our relationships.

    Excerpt from THE ETHICS OF FREEDOM By Jacques Ellul

    2. Freedom in Relation to the Powers

    Liberation in Christ frees us not only from the flesh but also from the powers. Here again some explanation is necessary. The Bible speaks of forces which subjugate man. These are distinct from the flesh, which in some sense assimilates itself to man. They are not just evil and rebellious powers. They are not just powers which scripture has rightly or wrongly, realistically or mythically, personalized. We have to take the term ‘power’ in its broadest sense, for the law and religion can also be described as powers.
    Liberation from the law is liberation from a power. We find ourselves in the common movement whereby man loses his freedom when he uses it against God and receives it when God re-establishes dialogue with him. God imposes a commandment on man. The decisive and constantly repeated act of man is to separate this word from the one who speaks it and to try to make it his own.
    Adam did this. Faced by the one commandment of God, he isolated it under the serpent’s influence. He set God aside and controlled the commandment by giving it another point and meaning. Finally he made the commandment into a word of his own by himself saying what is good and evil. The relationship with God was thus broken and Adam’s finitude became his alienation.
    Now the Old Testament shows that this process as constantly repeated by man. It was especially repeated by the chosen people; Paul brings out the implications of the changing of God’s commandment into law. We must not think, however, that the process was peculiar to Israel. At issue here is the relation of all men to God, and particularly of Christians.
    As is shown by Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount, and also in the exhortations in the New Testament epistles, we constantly separate the commandment from him who speaks it. This means that it ceases to be a living word. It is a living commandment only because he who formulates it is the living God. Apart from him this word becomes a dead word comparable to any quotation from any author. It no longer draws its value, force and authority from the one who has spoken it. The commandment is not seen to be true for man because God is the true God. It now derives its authority from itself and its content. Man can thus evaluate its content according to his own criteria, e.g., reason. It is no longer invested with what God reveals himself to be for us, namely, love. Once we isolate the commandment from him who speaks it, it is no longer the commandment of love. It necessarily becomes word alone, and as such constraint, duty, and obligation.
    Above all, when man separates the commandment from God in this way and sees it only as commandment, it becomes man’s own word. He can then go on to treat it as his own word. He may still view it as the supreme and perfect word, but it is still the word of man. We should note this well, for it is still true even though, like the Jews, we continue to maintain explicitly that we regard it as the word of God.
    What we are describing is not a philosophical or theological attitude. It is our natural and unconscious inclination. It is our innermost tendency even though in good faith we believe that we are defending the word of God. This always happens when we legalize the commandment, when we isolate it, when we try to obey it to the letter, or conversely when we dismiss it easily by saying that it is outmoded, when we make a summary of it (an ethics), when we bring it into our own circuit of good and evil, when we use it in our own lives to justify ourselves (before God) or to condemn ourselves (in God’s place), when we harden it into a reality that has been declared once and for all, when we measure it by our own standards, or when we take possession of it in exposition, discussion, or dissection. In all these common and familiar attitudes we seize the commandment of God and make it our own word.
    This brings dialogue with God to an end. When we make the word of God our own word we simply talk to ourselves. Our dialogue is with our own reflection in a mirror.
    Why do we unconsciously separate the commandment from him who speaks it? It is because the latter makes us uncomfortable. He disturbs us by his incalculability, by his actuality, by the weight that he gives to his words. We prefer to deal with mere words, with a formula which is stable, which does not budge, which we can count on, which enables us to estimate our chances.
    A strange thing happens, however, when we make this separation, when we seize the commandment and make it into our own law, so that the living word is only past scripture. We believe that in so doing we shall establish our power over this law and to some degree make it a chattel of ours. Instead, we invest this law itself with power.
    The power that we have denied to God ( the power of love) is transferred to what we have made an emanation of our own, namely, the law. But now it is legal, moral power. It is an implacable power of judgment that hangs over us. We have made the law into a law of death. We wanted to make it into something else, but we are caught, for the law is a much weightier matter than we supposed. It was given by God. It was invested with power by God. It cannot be changed into a mere object in our own hands. It cannot be something mediocre and neutral. It was the word of life and it is not going to become a mere phrase in fiction. It becomes the course of death (Romans 7:7-13).
    The law itself becomes a power over us which constrains and binds us and pushes us further and further away from God. This is what the Bible is showing us when it describes the exaltation of the Torah, the adoration of the word and letter, and the fanatical obedience that will lead to conflict with the Son of God and ultimately to his death. For we should not forget that when we deaden the commandment so that it is no longer the place of dialogue with the Father, when we make of it our own word and thus break off the relation with the love of the living God, this does not simply mean that we quarantine ourselves and shut ourselves up in a ghetto. It means that we do violence to God himself. God willed to be love, and in refusing this love we bring about the death of God.
    In the form of word or law or morality, the law invades our lives. It becomes a crushing and oppressive power that drives us away from God. It brings us under the attraction of evil and makes the good sterile and desiccated. It becomes demanding and mingles with the moral systems of the world except that it is infinitely more rigorous, being a power in a sense that moral systems can never be. It takes possession of our lives. Thus man comes to be made for the sabbath. Man himself brings this about, but only because the law comes from a higher place than man. This is why the law becomes a source of bondage. …… ‘In reality a new bondage has been set up, a gilded bondage in some regards, for the moment man was brought under the law he was given the hope, in spite of all the evidence, that a means was given him whereby he could please God and escape his wrath.’ This was possible only because the law itself not merely had power but had itself become a power with its own intrinsic authority. This is why it can enslave and why its threat continues even to our own day. …… ‘we are always in danger of being satisfied once more with a purely external law, alienating our freedom, through sloth or false comfort, by complying with the order outlined by the law. We are constantly tempted to reinvest our freedom in unimaginative obedience to commandments. Hence the commandment replaces our freedom and takes charge of our moral existence.’

    “The typical moralist sees grace as a means to fulfill a commandment. He puts the commandment in the first place and sees the difference of Old and New Testaments in the observance of the Decalogue. In the Old Testament they did not have the grace to keep the commandments; now in the New Testament they have sufficient grace if they use all the means, the sacraments, and so on. This is an anthropocentric, moralistic approach which makes the grace of Christ and finally Christ Himself only the means for the law, for the commandments . But primacy is not the law, the commandments “thou shalt” and “thou shalt not”; the primacy is our Lord, who in his grace, his tremendous love, comes to encounter us.” –Bernard Haering, C.Ss.R., Redemptorist Moral Theologian