Patrol Mag: Let's Stop Making Pronouncements about Others' Sexuality

If you don’t subscribe to the online mag Patrol, you should, because you’ll get to read smart, spicy posts like this one from Jonathan Fitzgerald on same sex marriage:

I’m fine with being proven wrong on this, and the last thing I’m trying to do is prooftext with the Bible. I really don’t believe that’s the way we are intended to read it. A different approach, then, is to look at the spirit of the Gospel, to look at its earliest implementation in the first century church, and ask myself whether making pronouncements about people’s particular sins seemed to be a priority. I submit that it did not. That it still should not. I took this question to my friend, the priest of my parish, and he wisely pointed out that sin in the Bible is hardly ever talked about in terms of this or that action, but rather as a state that we all live in. In that way, it’s not the kind of thing we identify in others’ actions because it is more than that, it is our very nature.

via Let’s Not Talk About the Morality of Strangers | Patrol.

  • http://marginaltheology.wordpress.com Annie

    I disagree that it’s our very nature. It’s a condition but that’s not the same thing. Doing wrong is not inherent in being human. It is less than human.

    I do agree that we should all probably spend a lot more time worrying about ourselves and less time worrying about the sins of other people. But that doesn’t mean we’re off the hook for sin. Just because everyone does wrong doesn’t make it right or okay. And the fact that plenty of straight people like to act like their sexuality isn’t also inherently disordered in various ways doesn’t mean it isn’t true.

    So to stop talking about the morality of others doesn’t mean we’re done talking about sexuality or what’s moral. It means the conversation changes from “What I do is okay and what you do isn’t” to “let’s acknowledge the many ways in which all of us are wrong.” It’s, “We’re all hopelessly mired in sin” not “We’re all pretty much okay.”

    We’re not okay. That’s the truth about sin.

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  • Jim

    So should we stop making pronouncements about the evils of sex slavery? Rape? According to Fitzgerald we should “Tuck your conclusion away for the time when someone close asks for your guidance, or for when you are faced with the question of your own moral culpability.”

    (Note: I’m not equating homosexuality with rape, but just applying Fitzgerald’s logic to forms of sexual sin we can all agree on.)

  • Charles

    Being in harmony with God’s intent is not about sin (missing the mark), it’s about understanding how we should best live. So, yes, Tony, let’s stop making pronouncements about others lives and concentrate on being the kind of person God wants us to be. Love given away is a good place to start.

  • Justin

    I agree with what Annie said. I’d also add that if being human was to inherently be sinful, then Christ could not have become one of us.

  • Dan Hauge

    I overall like Fitzgerlad’s argument, at least it resonates with me on a gut level, when talking about sexuality issues. But Jim’s point is interesting–there are plenty of other sins, including those having nothing to do with sexuality, where we would, I think, rightly insist that the church does make public pronouncements–say on racism, or economic exploitation.

    So the question interesting to me is: how do we decide which moral issues mandate public pronouncement, and which require a ‘private’ approach? It seems to me this is where liberals and conservatives seem to fall on opposite sides–conservatives insist that sexual, gender, ‘family issues’ require a strong public voice, whereas questions of how one makes or spends their money ought to be left in the private, individual sphere (“government keep your hands off my money!”). Whereas progressive types seem to invert that formula–how much wealth people accrue and how wealth is distributed is a matter of communal or societal justice, whereas issues of sexual practice or orientation are for personal reflection and decision–not for anyone else to decide.

    My little formula is of course an oversimplification, but my question remains: how do we decide which moral questions are ‘private’ and which are ‘public’?

  • JoeyS

    I’m with Dan and resonate with Jim’s point. I’ve never really considered the order the way that Dan put it.

    One might point to the prophets as a source of guidance here. They were public about all of these issues, but they also were speaking from God’s POV so maybe it is an issue of authority. Could it be that the average person is in no place to make specific pronouncements about sin? That still makes me uncomfortable though. Maybe a better litmus is Christians should publicly stand opposed to anything that causes another harm – love of neighbor as our standard by which we judge morality?

  • Scot Miller

    There are very good moral reasons to be opposed to sexual slavery, pedophilia, rape, etc. because they involve harm to other human beings, violations of people’s autonomy, coercion, deception, etc. Notice that the moral objections to these practices is not because of kind of sex act involved (e.g., the mechanics of intercourse are the same whether it is forced or consensual), but for other reasons.

    The issue of homosexuality (and any other consensual sex act between fully informed adults) seems different in kind. So long as the relationship respects the autonomy of all parties involved, so long as coercion and deception are avoided, and so long as the relationship leads to the flourishing of interpersonal relationships, homosexual relationships are positively good and should be promoted for people who have that orientation.

    Moreover, condemning people who are involved in loving, voluntary, and truthful relationships seems to be morally wrong. Instead of respecting persons and their lived relationships, Christians look at “homosexuals” as objects, not as persons.

  • Jim

    I’ve thought this over a little bit, and here’s my honest question. For Tony, and for others that tend to agree with Fitzgerald, what sins (that you, personally, agree with as sinful) do you object to public preaching against?

    Do have a problem with the proclamation that greed is sinful?

    Do you object to the proclamation that violence against the helpless is sinful?

    Would you dislike a proclamation that wanton destruction of the environment is sinful?

    If you don’t have a problem with these things being proclaimed, isn’t the issue really that you disagree with the content of the proclamation (the idea that homosexuality is sinful) rather than the act of proclaiming?

    Am I making sense here? I’m just trying to figure out what it is that’s at stake here. I welcome all of your guys’ answers.

  • Charles

    For me it’s a matter of authority. Who, church leaders in-particular, has the authority to point out a moral short-coming/certainty to me? I think the “church” has lost that authority. I’m now leaning toward my personal study and understanding of what God wants of me. My accountability MAY be to those know me intimately and share my theological understanding.

  • Dan Hauge

    I think Scot and Jim’s comments both point to the issue really being that of the ‘sinfulness’ of same-sex relationships or not. Does that statement ‘we shouldn’t make public pronouncements about homosexuality’ really come from a concern of public vs. private, or does it rather come from the conviction that homosexuality is not wrong? Fitzgerald himself says that he’s OK with people believing, privately, that it’s sinful, but I’m not sure that he would advocate for the ‘private’ position for behavior that he himself actually thought was sinful. Where we fall on the ‘public or private’ question does seem to derive from our own convictions on the content of the issue.

  • Scot Miller

    I suppose I don’t equate sin and immorality, although these concepts overlap. “Sin” is a theological concept which refers to anything I do that violates my relationship with God, with other people, with the natural world (the environment), or with myself. (That means that going to church and reading the Bible can be a sin if I treat them as sacred objects that stand in the way of my relationship with God… but going to church or reading the Bible are not truly immoral acts.)

    Morality concerns the (right) way for human beings to relate to each other and their environment. While it may be the case that everything that is immoral is a “sin,” not everything that is a “sin” is immoral. (At least I can’t think of anything off the top of my head that is immoral that wouldn’t also be a sin…)

    Homosexuality is no more immoral than heterosexuality. In fact, sexual orientation (straight, gay, bisexual, transgender) is morally neutral. It’s how you behave as straight, gay, bi, etc., that becomes moral or immoral. Only if being gay or being straight is more important than being in a right relationship with God would homosexuality or heterosexuality be a sin per se.

    Many people read the Bible to say that homosexuality is a sin, or that somehow “God” says that homosexuality is a sin. If you read the Bible this way, or if you hear God saying this, then I would recommend that you not be homosexual. However, unless there are moral reasons to object to homosexuality, I can only assume that God would be homophobic to object to homosexuality. It makes more sense to read the biblical objections to homosexuality as historically conditioned, which means the biblical objections are not addressed to the same phenomenon that we currently understand to be “homosexuality.”

  • Charles

    Scot’s larger point is well taken. Sin is subject to interpretation by individuals. LGBTQ folk are no more or less “sinful” than anyone else. So, is being moral different? Isn’t ones morality subject to interpretation? Who, other than God, can possibly determine this? Thus the decline of denominational “church” (loosing its authority) and the rise of a relational gospel. Yes? No?

  • Phil L

    I find Jim’s first point very interesting. At a very simple level I tend to separate sin as well as moral issues into two categories: is it hurting the individual and their relationship with God? Or, is it damaging another person and/or their relationship with God? I make the assumption that generally most people would not object to a proclamation against a sin relating to the latter. We feel like we are protecting someone from some sinful “thing”, and society also sees at as the “moral” thing to do. Sins relating to the former however a very personal, and society often sees these proclamations like attacks on the actual person (sometimes they can be). Then the protection instinct comes into play again, but those who do not see homosexuality as sinful see this attack as immoral . Then the hypocrisy argument is thrown around and, “judge not lest ye be judged” is dropped, and it’s a PR mess. It is a very difficult road when bringing up sins that do not relate to harming another, we must be loving, admit our faults, and not be judgmental. I tend to agree with Fitzgerald’s premise.

    Fitzgerald writes the truth, it is our nature to be in sin, however I’d like to append as Christians we are called to be “perfect as our heavenly father is perfect”, though it is one lofty goal.

  • Keith

    It’s all so very interesting… Notice who and what has become the authority. “I…” No references to the Scriptures, in context, just “I” and personal preference. Perhaps we should view the world through the lens of Scripture rather than the lens of “I”.

    As for homosexuality being a sin, morally wrong… Jesus said, I did not come to nullify the law but to fulfill it… not one dot or stroke will pass away… heaven and earth will pass away… So… as I type this… the earth and the heavens are still here. Now, I know some will prooftext, or try to find a “contradictory” passage and take it out of context.

    But what about the appeal to biblical authority.

    Tony, my Socian friend, don’t forget that the letter “i” is the first vowel in the English word “idolatry.” Whereas Jerry Lee Lewis once sang, “there’s a whole lotta shakin’ (sic) goin’ on…” I think among some of you there’s a whole lot of “i” dolatry (self worship) goin’ on as you elevate your preferences and choices to godhood.

  • Charles

    Keith: “But what about the appeal to biblical authority.”

    Biblical authority only works for literalists, in my opinion. And then only selectively. Finding proof texts to make ones point is an endless effort in circular logic. The Bible presents larger truths. As most pastors learned in seminary, the Bible is a collection of oral traditions written down many years, sometimes centuries, later. The authority it brings to the table is the larger truths experienced.

  • Scot Miller

    It’s comforting to know that there are people like Keith who don’t appeal to their own interpretations of biblical authority, but can grasp biblical authority directly, without human understanding. I, on the other hand, can only understand God in human ways, for I am merely human. I can only grasp the meaning of the infinite in finite ways. I wish I could believe that my interpretation of scripture was identical to God’s meaning, like Keith apparently does, but I don’t.

    Of course, it may be the case that instead of actually struggling with the Bible to hear God speaking, one can make one’s own interpretation of biblical authority into an idol (which is what I was talking about in comment 11 above). Sometimes making claims for “biblical authority” becomes a way of turning the Bible into an idol. To paraphrase the psalmist, “For you have no delight in appeals to biblical authority; if I were to quote the Bible by chapter and verse, you would not be pleased. The recognition of true biblical authority which is acceptable to God is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise” (Ps 51:16-17, paraphrased).

    I also think that positions like Keith’s do more to elevate human beings to godlike stats than positions like Tony’s or Jonathan Fitzgerald’s. People like Keith seem to believe that their human understanding in no way distorts God’s meaning, that they can actually speak for God (speaking the “plain meaning” of scripture). Tony and Jonathan Fitzgerald, on the other hand, seem painfully aware of their limitations and finitude.

    “For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then we will see face to face. Now I know only in part; then I will know fully, even as I have been fully known. And now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love” (1 cor 13:12-13). Our interpretations of scripture are like “seeing in a mirror, dimly.” We try to give the best interpretation of scripture with the best information we have, but we can still be mistaken. If Paul is right, what matters is love. Reading scripture in a way that condemns homosexuality for no good reason (other than God said so) does not seem consistent with love.

  • Hugh Askew

    Leave out the homosexual aberration.
    Are sexual relations outside of marriage ever condoned? Given a million years, there is no way to show &/or imply that God ever condones such relations. Argue, equivocate, do whatever. Sexual relations outside of marriage go against EVERYTHING God has shown and taught mankind regarding sexual morality since He created us.

    The bible (if you still actually consult that anachronism) makes it pretty clear that marriage is between “man” and “woman”. It gives no alternative arrangement. Any argument to the contrary – as with most of the previous comments above – are simply humans justifying sin to suit their desires.

    For man to put the Creators imprimatur on acts that are outside of His revealed will requires massive arrogance on the part of man.

  • Scot Miller

    The Bible unequivocally teaches that the earth is at the center of the universe, that the sun, moon, planets, and stars revolve around the earth (Josh. 10:12-13; Ps. 93:1; Ps. 104:5; Eccl. 1:5; Ps. 19:4c-6). By the 16th century (not quite a million years), we discovered that it’s not the sun that goes around the earth, but the earth around the sun. That means that all of those scriptures are historically conditioned, that the “scientific” truth isn’t in reading these scriptures literally, that it’s better to read those scriptures metaphorically.

    The Bible unequivocally tolerates (if not advocates) the practice of slavery (see Gen. 9:18-27; 1 Cor. 7:20-24; Eph. 6:5-9; Col. 3:22-25). Christian slaveholders in the U.S. South argued that slavery was God’s will, and that opposing slavery is actually opposing the Word of God, which is clear about slavery. But I know of no Christian today who really believes that slavery is God’s will. Most Christians recognize that those scriptures referring to slavery need to be understood in their historical context.

    Given these two examples (which were not “obvious” to Christians until at least the 16th century and the 19th century), it seems likely that the Bible is reflecting a historically conditioned reality when it comes to marriage between a “man” and a “woman.” The timeless truth isn’t a particular form of marriage, but the love and respect between two individuals.

  • Charles

    “Leave out the homosexual aberration.”
    Spare me Hugh! Your biblical anti-gay views are well documented. There is no leaving out “the homosexual aberration” in your mind. The problem for me with your world view is it lacks authority. God has NOT appointed you spokesman. Those us of us who see God as a loving God believe we are on the right side in this struggle to stop the church’s marginalizing of groups. I’m very well versed in scripture, I don’t need you to tell me how to interpret it.

  • http://www.antechurch.com Joshua Jinno

    Sin, is partaking of the fruit, of the knowledge of good and evil, in order to be like God.

  • Hugh Askew

    Jesus: “For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife”

    Malachi: “Has not the LORD made them one? In flesh and spirit they are his. And why one? Because he was seeking godly offspring.”

    Adam: “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh.”

    Simple, unequivocal, no room for same sex in any of those, sorry. Argue as you will, you won’t win an argument with Jesus.

  • Hugh Askew

    “Spare me Hugh! Your biblical anti-gay views are well documented.”

    I’m curious as to where these views are “documented”, and by whom.
    Would Mr. know-it-almost-all Charles care to elaborate?
    Please explain how my views are “anti-gay” whilst elaborating.

  • Charles

    Hugh; Is this not your opinion piece:
    http://www.nowpublic.com/world/gay-anger-gay-hatred
    In my view the piece is anti-gay. If this piece was not written by you, I
    apologize. If it was I retain my opinion. I don’t claim to be Mr. know-it-all. I’m just expressing my views and opinions. I admit to viewing sanctimonious “Christians” as being offensive. But it’s just my opinion.

  • Scot Miller

    Hugh, I assume you also believe that the earth is the center of the universe and the sun, moon, planets, and stars all revolve around us (Josh. 10:12-13; Ps. 93:1; Ps. 104:5; Eccl. 1:5; Ps. 19:4c-6). I also assume that you believe that the practice of slavery is morally permissible, and follows moral rules (see Gen. 9:18-27; 1 Cor. 7:20-24; Eph. 6:5-9; Col. 3:22-25). All of these scriptures are simple, and unequivocal.

    And I can only assume that you believe that abortion is wrong, but infanticide is OK with you (as long as it is infanticide of the babies of God’s enemies; see Deut 3:3-6, 1 Sam 15:1-3). Why, I’m sure you rejoice with the Psalmist when he says, “O daughter of Babylon, you devastator! /Happy shall he be who requites you /with what you have done to us! / Happy shall he be who takes your little ones / and dashes them against the rock!” (Psalm 137:8-9).

    But my question is why is God opposed to homosexuality and same-sex marriage? Does God have any moral reasons that a rational human being could understand, or is God just homophobic?

  • Hugh Askew

    Mr. know-it-almost-all Charles, that is indeed my piece!

    So, where is the “anti-gay”/homosexual portion of the piece?
    Please quote in full anything there that is anti-homosexual. Please.
    Where is this so called documentation?

    If I am not pro-homosexual, that does not presume that i am “ant-homosexual, except of course to those that would throw stone for the sake of their argument.

  • Hugh Askew

    Mr Miller,
    God a homophobic?
    The Creator? Perish the thought.
    Although He does seem to have a thing about sin!

    You failed to mention which part of the Creator’s “man+woman=marriage” equation that you have problems with. Is it that you have decided that our Heavenly Father is wrong?

    I am sorry, where did i use slavery in my argument? I do appreciate you constructing a straw man for my benefit, but as my free time is rather limited, please keep the argument on subject. Thank you!

  • Scot Miller

    Hugh, it’s actually called a reductio ad absurdum, since I was demonstrating that your hermeneutic logically entails accepting absurd conclusions. You do believe in accepting the clear, unambiguous language of the Bible, right? Then if you want to be consistent, you must believe in the geocentric model of the universe, slavery, and infanticide, because all of these beliefs are stated in the clear and unambiguous language of the Bible. These beliefs are absurd.

    I think there are very good reasons to reject a geocentric model for the universe, slavery, and infanticide, even if the Bible says the opposite. That means I have to change the way I read scripture on these matters. I am challenging you to articulate the moral reasons God has to oppose homosexuality. If they withstand rational scrutiny, I’ll accept them. If they don’t (and there is no plausible argument against homosexuality I know that withstands rational scrutiny), then it would be better to change the way you read scripture.

    As I said above, I would be very cautious in assuming any interpretation (yours or mine) is absolutely identical with God’s meaning. We can only understand the Divine and infinite in human and finite ways. It is the height of arrogance for anyone to say their human understanding can stand in the place of God’s understanding.

  • Hugh Askew

    Mr Miller,
    While you did real well defending your argument ( which answered nothing, btw)

    I hate to mention it, but you have yet answer my question:
    “You failed to mention which part of the Creator’s “man+woman=marriage” equation that you have problems with. Is it that you have decided that our Heavenly Father is wrong? “

  • Hugh Askew

    Mr Miller,
    Sorry, I was interrupted while posting my response – it should have read thus:

    While you did real well defending your argument ( which answered nothing, btw), you have yet answer my question:
    “You failed to mention which part of the Creator’s “man+woman=marriage” equation that you have problems with. Is it that you have decided that our Heavenly Father is wrong? “

  • Scot Miller

    Mr. Askew (sorry about my earlier informality) — There is absolutely nothing wrong with “man+ woman = marriage.” That happens to be the form of marriage I currently enjoy. However, there is no logical or moral contradiction between “man+woman=marriage” and “man+man=marriage,” or “woman+woman=marriage.” Perhaps marriage should be understood more broadly to mean “the loving commitment between two human beings” (or something like that).

    There is nothing sacred about “man+woman” arrangements when those arrangements are abusive and damaging. It is not the gender of the participants that make a marriage good or sacred, but the nature of the relationship itself. Does it lead to human flourishing? Is it voluntary? Is coercion involved?

    As I said above in comment 7, there are moral reasons for being opposed to activities like rape or sex slavery or pedophilia, etc., but I can’t think of a moral reason to be opposed to same sex relations if those relations are purely voluntary and non-coerced. Homosexuality is morally neutral, as is heterosexuality.

    The fact remains that you cannot seem to articulate any moral reasons for your objections/God’s objections to homosexuality. Perhaps the objection is a religious objection. If you think God doesn’t like homosexuality, then I would recommend that you not be homosexual. However, your belief is insufficient to count for a moral position, or a publicly defensible policy position of denying same-sex marriage. (The fact that people vote to deny the right of same-sex couples to marry is irrelevant to the morality of same-sex marriage. The fact that the vast majority of southerners in 1860 approved of slavery did not make slavery morally justifiable, and the fact that citizens vote to deny same-sex marriage does not make their denial morally justifiable.)

  • Charles

    Thanks, Scot, well said.
    All-in-all a good discussion on an interesting, important topic. It seems to me inclusiveness and acceptance is a much more reasonable explanation for the expansiveness of God’s love. I have always wondered and been puzzled by marginalization and exclusiveness within some religious system; those don’t compute for me.
    As a life-long (66 years) believer in Jesus’ message of love toward others I enjoy the give-and-take of a good theological discussion.
    Thanks, Tony, for this venue and platform.

  • http://xjm716.wordpress.com/ John Mulholland

    “But my question is why is God opposed to homosexuality and same-sex marriage? Does God have any moral reasons that a rational human being could understand, or is God just homophobic?”

    Scot, do you really believe God owes you a response to this?

  • Scot Miller

    John, I’m not worried so much about God’s reasons as for people who claim to speak for God. Some people act as if what they believe in their finite little minds is somehow coextensive with God’s infinite mind, that their interpretation of scripture can stand in the place of God. Surely people who have such beliefs could explain God’s mind to someone like me, who is not so sure that God is as opposed to homosexuality as people claim. It makes more sense to see these scriptures as historically conditioned (like scriptures that assume a geocentric universe or tolerate slavery – see my comment 18 above).

    It is certainly possible that God is opposed to homosexuality for some mysterious reason that doesn’t make moral sense to us, even as we are required to do what God wants. I think that’s William of Ockahm’s position, that God is so powerful that whatever he says goes, even if we don’t understand it. But if that’s the case, then all bets are off when it comes to knowing anything about God’s will.

    If something is morally right (or wrong) just because God says so, then nothing would prevent God from willing that lying is good. Of course, then God would lie to us about it, because lying would now be good. That would mean that whatever we now believe is required to be obedient to God (e.g., accepting Jesus as one’s personal Lord and Savior, salvation by grace through faith, baptism, going to church, reading the Bible, etc.) would then be bad (if lying is good). When the obedient Christian gets to heaven, and God says, “Go to hell,” wouldn’t that Christian have the right to say, “You are doing something wrong when you send someone to hell for being obedient to your revealed will in the Bible”? God could then respond, “But I am God, and whatever I say is good is good because I say it, and I said that lying is good.” Such a God would not be worthy of worship and I would say would be an evil being.

    I think it is more plausible to believe that God’s nature is good and that God would have intelligible, principled reasons for saying something is morally right or wrong. Unfortunately, I can’t find any plausible moral reasons for anyone to object to homosexuality, any more than I find any plausible moral reason to tolerate human slavery. It seems far more in keeping with God’s nature to accept someone regardless of that person’s sexual orientation. (See my comments 11 and 16.)

  • Hugh Askew

    “Moral sense”, Mr. Miller? Who gets to decide then? You?

    The first Adam knew the natural order as his Creator designed it: Man + woman = marriage
    The second Adam reiterated and confirmed it, as does nature itself.

    Just where does this “moral sense” enter the picture? When has the Almighty become answerable to you and your “moral sense”? Lots of good Lutherans decided that their moral sense could justify their allegiance with Hitler. Many good Baptists let their moral sense allow their ownership of slaves. Mankind’s “moral sense” is as corruptible as the people that birth it.

    “…then nothing would prevent God from willing that lying is good.” To believe that is to believe that our loving Father treats us as toys to amuse Himself. One presumes that you have not even an inkling of His love for us. For all your educated sounding blather, you are just another pharisee, writing your own rules, because you don’t want to give obedience to a God you don’t want to understand.

    I have asked this question of you twice, it is still unanswered: Is it that you have decided that our Heavenly Father is wrong?

  • Hugh Askew

    Mr. know-it-almost-all Charles,
    You earlier accused me of being “anti-gay”, even looked up a piece i did.

    You have yet to respond to my request that you show where i was “anti-gay”.
    If my “biblical anti-gay views are well documented”, where is the documentation?.

  • Charles

    Mr. Askew,
    You appear to me to be a bit flummoxed that other don’t agree with you. I understand, I used to of similar ilk.
    Views expressed here are just that, ones own views. If I perceive you as a bit homophobic, that’s my view. I continue to hold it and nothing you’ve written has changed that perception. Once again, and for the last time, I don’t claim to be Mr. Know-it-all. That you perceive me thus is your perception, you are entitled to it.
    Another perception I have is that God is bigger than we can imagine. My personal challenge is to get closer to God through study, dialog with others, community, prayer, contemplation, observation of all creation and other avenues. This site and others introduce new ideas and thoughts about theology and religious life. I find some comments, like Scot Miller’s, encouraging, even inspiring. Others I find to “old school.” I understand, I was one (an evangelical) for 30 years; I am trying to recover from that viewpoint. I find the discussions of who God is, who Jesus was/is, what it means to be church, what an expanded faith looks like, inspiring and sometimes enlightening. But that’s just me.
    Peace,
    RCB

  • Hugh Askew

    “Once again, and for the last time, I don’t claim to be Mr. Know-it-all.”

    If that is so, why do you make claims that are neither true, nor can be backed up with fact? You do recall making the claim that i was “ant-gay” don’t you? You do recall declaring that my “biblical anti-gay views are well documented”, don’t you?

    Again, show us/me, where these “well documented” views – put them out for all to see, or admit that you impugned my character.

  • Scot Miller

    Mr. Askew — I think my comments in comment 16 originally addressed to Keith are sufficient to respond to your question. But let me be clear: I am not saying that our Heavenly Father is wrong, but that your interpretation of our Heavenly Father is wrong.

    Whereas I admit that I “see through a glass darkly,” it appears that you don’t have that problem. Somehow your human limitations and finitude are no problems to understanding God’s very mind about homosexuality. I’m closer to Paul, who admitted, “now we know in part…” (1 Cor. 13).

    I would argue that you are confusing your own interpretation of scripture with God’s eternal will, since it appears that you confidently can speak for God and understand God’s will without (admitting your) interpretation. Whereas you seem to accuse me of somehow asserting my human understanding as judging God, I would contend that your dogmatic assertions about homosexuality and same-sex marriages are far more arrogant than anything I’ve said, because you identify your ideas with God’s.

    I wish there were some way that I could understand God directly as you do. I can only understand God in human ways, which is why I have to ask why God could possibly be opposed to homosexuality.

  • Hugh Askew

    Mr. Miller,
    At some point in your questioning, do you ever say, “What has God clearly shown us about this?”

    The answer to that is painfully obvious. From the beginning, He told man that a man and a woman are to be together. The fact that throughout His revealed word we are never given alternatives should speak volumes.
    Has it ever occurred to you that God is much bigger than us? If He is everlasting, couldn’t one presume that He has searched past AND future, in wisdom and in love, to design the best course for us?

    We, of course, are arrogant enough to constantly decide that we know better……until we eventually realize that we really don’t. That realization seems to come in times of distress and want. When forced to worry about food and survival, most folks don’t seem so concerned about vapid arguments.

    As to why God could possibly be opposed to homosexuality, I would suggest that it is because it runs counter to His design. If that isn’t so, where has He ever shown otherwise?

  • Charles

    Mr. Askew,
    I see I’ll have to proofread my posts carefully, evidently my thoughts are ahead of my fingers.
    I continue to believe your views are anti-gay. As you continue to engage in dialog here your writings strengthen my opinion. I’ve re-read your opinion piece and my opinion about it stands. I perhaps erred in making a declarative statement about documentation based on the citations offered in a Google search of your name. The few citations I reviewed led to my opinion.
    It is not my intent to impugn your character, only to challenge your level of certainty about God’s will for his people. As Scot has said, “I wish there were some way that I could understand God directly as you do.” I just cannot understand that level of certainty. I do not think any human should be that certain. But, again, that is my opinion – to which I am entitled.

    Έχω την προσφορά σας τον τελευταίο χαιρετισμό.

  • Scot Miller

    Mr. Askew — I don’t think that we should ever stop asking questions, especially when someone claims “God has clearly shown us X.” As I have said, Christians have used the Bible to say, “God has clearly shown us that slavery is good,” and I doubt that even you would defend slavery.

    In 1 Cor 13:12, Paul says, “For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then we will see face to face. Now I know only in part; then I will know fully, even as I have been fully known.” So I suppose until I cease being a mortal being on this planet, I am stuck asking questions.

    And I am especially suspicious of any claim that “God has clearly shown X,” since not everything that looks like it comes from God actually is from God (see 2 Cor 11:14, “Even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light.”) It’s not the scripture but those who interpret scripture who distort the light.

    I think only irresponsible and thoughtless Christians would cease to question things when the well-being of others is involved. Paul also said in 1 Thess 5:21 that we should “test everything; hold fast to what is good….” I would hope that my reading of the Bible honors the supreme revelation of God in Christ, who loved and respected sinners. For we are all in a state of sin (i.e., in a broken relationship with God, with others and our environment, and with ourselves), and we all need to hear that God’s redemptive work can reconcile us. That seems to be Jonathan Fitzgerald’s point in the article quoted by Tony.

  • Hugh Askew

    Mr. Miller,
    You suggest earlier that i was flummoxed because others don’t agree with me. No, that isn’t so. I am flummoxed at the hand-wringing brand of Christianity. Following our Savior isn’t democracy. We don’t get to vote on what is good and what is evil. That is already decided…..and not by us.

    You quote scripture to buttress your equivocation, yet when i use them, you find them unacceptable.

    “I think only irresponsible and thoughtless Christians would cease to question things when the well-being of others is involved.”
    Saying that behavior that is outside of God’s revealed will is acceptable would hardly seem to contribute to that person’s well-being, however enlightened our position may appear to be.

    From an earlier post of yours above, “The timeless truth isn’t a particular form of marriage, but the love and respect between two individuals.” Is that mans “truth”, or our Father’s? If it is not from God, then you will find yourself in Peter’s uncomfortable position when Jesus declared to him, “Get behind me, Satan. You are a stumbling block to Me; for you are not setting your mind on God’s interests, but man’s.”

  • Scot Miller

    Mr. Askew — I did not suggest you were “flummoxed” because others disagree with you. I pointed out that you never clearly articulated any kind of intelligible moral reason for anyone (including God) to be opposed to homosexuality. Interestingly, you finally DID provide such a moral reason when you said that homosexuality was unnatural or somehow against God’s cosmic design. In other words, you CAN specify a moral reason why homosexuality and same-sex marriage are wrong: they are unnatural. That wasn’t so hard, was it?

    Now you can see that our disagreement isn’t about morality (i.e., you want to defend what’s “right” and I want to defend what’s “wrong”), but what counts as a an adequate moral justification. You say that what is natural (i.e., what is in accordance with God’s eternal design in nature) is good, but I contend that principles which respect persons and promote the flourishing of the human person are good. (As I said above in comment 7, ” So long as the relationship respects the autonomy of all parties involved, so long as coercion and deception are avoided, and so long as the relationship leads to the flourishing of interpersonal relationships, homosexual relationships are positively good and should be promoted for people who have that orientation.”) I find a natural law approach to be mistaken for many reasons.

    I’m somewhat disappointed that you disapprove of my appeal to scripture to support my interpretation of scripture. My personal relationship with the living God was mediated to me through the Bible , so I can’t really help appealing to scripture. Perhaps you simply disagree with my interpretation of those scriptures. If I have made a mistake, then it should be easy for you to show how my interpretation misses the mark. After all, I think your interpretation of scripture misses the mark about homosexuality, and I think I have shown why: the scriptures on homosexuality are historically conditioned, just as the scriptures on slavery are historically conditioned. The overall message of scripture (“in Christ there is no slave or free, no male or female, etc.”) is not honored by tolerance of slavery or condemnation of homosexuality.

    I think our fundamental disagreement (which no amount of argument will resolve) concerns the ability of finite humans to grasp the infinite Truth. You believe it is a simple matter to know the Truth of God because the clear meaning of scripture is self-evident to you. I believe it is not so easy to know the truth, that we “see through a mirror, dimly,” that we must “work out our salvation with fear and trembling…” (… oops, there I go again, making scriptural allusions that disappoint you so…).

    On the matter of truth, I have to go with the heretic Meister Eckhart, who once said that if he had to choose between the truth and God, he would always go with the truth rather than God, because God is always found where the truth is, but God is not always found where “God” is. Not everything that sounds like it comes from God really is from God. In other words, we need to be careful to distinguish between our ideas and interpretations of “God” and the reality of God which is beyond our ideas and interpretations. My questioning is not really so much about God, but about how we conceive of God. Are our conceptions and ideas about “God” adequate to the reality of God?

  • Bob

    Scot,
    Yes, our conceptions and ideas about “God” are inadequate to the reality of God. But you have to have some sense of the “reality of God” to make that statement. It’s both/and not either/or. As much as Paul recognized that he “sees through a mirror dimly”, he saw enough clearly to know that he doesn’t see all. And what he saw clearly, he declared it with conviction and gave his life to it.

    I resonate with your view of our finiteness, but please don’t restrict God’s self revelation to our finiteness.

    Peace.


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