A Progressive Christian View of Marriage Equality

A Progressive Christian View of Marriage Equality March 27, 2013

What is the Christian view of marriage? Of human sexuality generally? Today on the news, I heard one Christian (a Presbyterian minister) declare that God’s plan was for marriage to be between a man and a woman, and I heard another self-described Christian declare that “fags are lawless.” These were, literally, the only voices I heard in opposition to marriage equality today, and they were both Christians, and while one was respectful, neither really represents my understanding of Christianity, the Biblical tradition, or the nature of God.

Among my own Christian friends, through the magic of Facebook, I saw two reactions to the Supreme Court arguments on marriage equality. One reaction was support for equal rights to marriage. Many people posted and reposted statuses and profile photos that proclaimed their solidarity with gay and lesbian folks in their pursuit of equal rights, often with a specific note that they were doing so because they were Christian. The other reaction was silence. Many of my more conservative friends didn’t say anything at all, either for or against. Knowing many of them, this was in part an attempt to avoid controversy. But I also wonder if the silence wasn’t also the product of a creeping question: what if all these people who support marriage equality are on to something, and what if God is now doing a new thing, as Scripture promises God will do from time to time? What if the societal change of opinion on the issue has something to do with the workings of the Holy Spirit, and what if there’s something here I should pay attention to?

Just in case those are the questions some are asking, and just in case some were confused by why their Christian friends would ever support equal rights for gay and lesbian people (and everybody else, for that matter), here is a primer of one progressive Christian’s view of human marriage and sexuality, in six parts.

1.     There is no normative Biblical marriage. The Bible contains marriages between one man and one woman. But it also contains lots of other kinds of marriages—between soldiers and captives, a woman and her dead husband’s brother (seriously), between rape victims and their rapists, and, of course polygamy. In fact, if there is one major Biblical normative type of marriage, it is polygamy. Because of this, any claims that God’s plan is for marriage to be between one man and one woman will run into serious problems—namely, that it is not supported by the Biblical evidence. Speaking of Biblical evidence….

2.     ….it is true that there are several passages in the Bible that appear to condemn homosexuality. But upon closer inspection, including attention to the original languages and contexts, they are a great deal more complicated. Some seem to refer to specific cultic contexts or concerns about ritual purity; others might have more to do with social order, temple prostitution, or hospitality. The arguments about these texts are well-worn and will never be definitively solved one way or the other, since they are matters of interpretation. Which leads us to….

3.     ….Biblical ethics and a holistic view of the Biblical tradition. People who do think that the Bible is clear in its condemnation of homosexuality and promotion of one-man, one-woman marriage (despite the evidence) are still faced with a problem. The Bible is troublesome, to say the least, when viewed as a handbook for modern living. Right next to the frequently-cited passages from Leviticus 18 and 20 are passages condemning the eating of shrimp and pork, condemning the wearing of garments of more than one type of fiber, and of course condemning the mixing of milk and meat in the same dish or meal. (Hope you don’t like bacon cheeseburgers). And right next to the Romans 1 passage that is quoted so often, elsewhere in the Pauline canon are affirmations of slavery and the silence of women in churches. So unless we are willing to be intellectually honest Biblical literalists—to really be Biblical literalists, which almost zero Christians are—the Bible needs interpreting. It does not interpret itself. Which leads us to….

4.     ….what can we know of creation? One of my convictions (along with many Christians down through the ages) is that God speaks both through Scripture and through nature—that “even the stones cry out.” If science is telling us that homosexuality is not a choice, but that it is a biological trait, then are we to believe that God’s creative power has failed? Are we to believe that it is flawed? Or, should we not rather trust that God makes us just the way we are, and that God doesn’t make junk (as we used to reassure kids at the summer camp where I used to be a counselor)? Which leads to the question….

5.     ….what kind of God do you think God is? Is God hateful? Is God petty? If you find yourself thinking, “well, I don’t see what the big deal is, but God’s law says to condemn people who do these things,” you should stop and think. Are you more merciful than God? Are you more righteous than God? Put another way (and a very ancient way, in a tradition of thinking well-worn by Christians from the beginning), for God to be God, God’s mercy, justice, righteousness, love, and knowledge must surpass ours. Unless God is a petty tyrant, surpassed even by the likes of us in what we might call “humanity,” then God is “out ahead of us,” in the recent words of Rob Bell, calling us forward in love. Which leads us at last to….

6.     ….love. “God is love,” scripture says. Where love flourishes, God is pleased. This three-word sentence is as simple as theology and Biblical interpretation get. God is love.

The debate over marriage equality among people of faith is not held between those who read the Bible and those who don’t. It is not held between those who love God and those who don’t. It is not held between those who follow Christ and those who don’t. It is held between people with different understandings of God’s view of sexuality and marriage, gleaned faithfully from prayer, Bible study, reflection, and learning. I know many faithful Christians on all sides of this issue, and perhaps we should be content to trust, in the words of Paul, that “to each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.”

Many will read this and consider it heresy, because it does not comport with what they already think they know about the Bible. That’s fine. But for those who have heard a still, small voice—those who have had that subtle inkling that God’s embrace might be still wider than we have imagined—I encourage you to keep searching. Keep searching your own heart, keep plumbing the Scriptures, and keep your ears and eyes open for the new thing God is doing in the world. And trust that God is love, and be God’s love in this world.

The Rev. Eric Smith is Minister of Community Life at First Plymouth Congregational Church in Denver, CO. He has a Master of Theological Studies from Vanderbilt Divinity School and is currently a PhD candidate in Biblical Interpretation in the Joint PhD Program of Iliff School of Theology and the University of Denver. He was ordained in the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in 2007. 

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185 responses to “A Progressive Christian View of Marriage Equality”

  1. What a fantastically faithful post! Thank you for your voice and light in the world

  2. Number 1 is accurate, but does not help the homosexual position because there is no such thing as a homosexual marriage. If polygamy is not a sin then it’s not a sin. So what?

    Number 2 is misleading. The arguments against homosexual activity are crystal clear (http://souldevice.wordpress.com/2009/06/03/homosexuality-according-to-the-bible/). This does not mean they are true, but that is a seperate issue.

    Number 3 confuses the Old Covenant God made with Israel and New Covenant made with the World. Both condemn homosexuality, so at best all this does is show that one instance of God’s law against homosexual activity is no longer relevant. But just as Americans who do not have to obey England’s laws against murder still have to obey America’s laws against murder, the world today is still under God’s law.

    Number 4 confuses empirical science with natural law. The purposes of sexual activity are unification and procreation. Sexual activity is disordered if these purposes are frustrated. Homosexual acts are deliberately against procreation.

    Number 5 is self-defeating, for in contradicting God’s laws and threats in His word, the author apparently thinks he is more loving and righteous than God.

    Number 6 is true but contributes nothing to the debate.

  3. “but does not help the homosexual position because there is no such thing as a homosexual marriage.” But there is such as thing as thousands of years of bigotry against them, an impulse that is shared by some of the worst actors in history. It’s time for it to stop.

    “Number 3 confuses the Old Covenant God made with Israel and New Covenant made with the World. Both condemn homosexuality” The only New Convenant came through Jesus. What did he say about homosexuality?

    “The purposes of sexual activity are unification and procreation.” Setting aside the issue of whether only two purposes actually exist, the first of these is operative no matter who the willing partners are. The second is purely evolutionary and has no relevance to matters of morality except in the context of a supporting social order that is justified by reason instead of prejudice. When gay marriages contribute to the social order by creating families that are stable and nurturing, they have satisfied this requirement. What evidence exists that they cannot do this?

    “the author apparently thinks he is more loving and righteous than God.” Really? That’s what you got from that? Well, good luck.

    “Number 6 is true but contributes nothing to the debate.” It’s the entire debate in a nutshell. Love is good, bigotry (hate) is bad. Jesus summarized the entirety of the law in two commandments. Which one of those was about NOT loving someone?

  4. With regard to the silence of your friends holding a traditional view of marriage, it is more likely that they are weary of being “flamed,” slammed as being “against love,” personally attacked as bigots and accused of being theological knuckle-draggers. It is decidedly tedious, not at all tolerant and inclusive and an unproductive waste of time.

    With regard to the “models” of marriage assembled in the OT, this is a surprisingly literalistic and wooden reading of Scripture, failing to discern between historical narratives never intended to be prescriptive and the ideal of the creation model, re-affirmed by Jesus in Matthew.

    When you wrote “Leviticus 18 and 20 are passages condemning the eating of shrimp and pork, condemning the wearing of garments of more than one type of fiber, and of course condemning the mixing of milk and meat in the same dish or meal…And right next to the Romans 1 passage that is quoted so often, elsewhere in the Pauline canon are affirmations of slavery and the silence of women in churches,” as an example that Scripture that needs interpretation, this is again an example of wooden literalism, as though God cared about mixing fibers, milk and meat. What is clear is that God was creating a people to follow him – and that required teaching them to think about God and what God desired every time they got dressed, every time they cooked something, every time they needed to eat. They did not get to ask questions, only to obey perfectly. If one believes that Jesus is God who came to fulfill all these ceremonial laws on our behalf, then it would be inconsistent for a believer in Christ to keep the ceremonial laws, because Jesus has done it for us. As for the moral laws, the proscriptions and mandates of the OT that are restated in the NT remain in effect – only the penalties have changed.

    I know of nowhere in Scripture that Paul affirms slavery except insofar as we are bond servants of Christ. Slavery in that day was a given; a majority of the people in the world of that day were in fact the property of someone else – this was the world into which the Gospel was preached – a world where people are slaves, either literally and physically or metaphorically in sin. Philemon was nearly threatened by Paul to treat Onesimus as his brother on his return. A Christian case has never been made that Paul supported slavery except by those who owned slaves themselves. I would posit that it is the same slaveholders today who attempt to keep people in bondage to what God names as Sin.

    In spite of many attempts to prove it true, science has been utterly unable to come up with a genetic or physical reason for a homosexual preference. You are perpetuating a falsehood. And even if science does one day make such a discovery, it will be akin to a genetic predisposition to, say, alcoholism – but drunkenness remains sinful. I have my own predisposition to sin, as does everyone – but I am learning not to act on it through the power of the Spirit, and to find fulfillment and satisfaction and true love in Christ before I look for it in someone else.

    Of course we do not condemn those caught in a web of sin and deceit. Neither do we consign them to a place where we deny them the transformative grace of God because we need to be “nice” or because we don’t want to be labeled as “haters” or “bigots.”

    God is love. Human beings are twisted. Human beings twist God’s love. God is not the “love” between an 8-year-old boy and the North American Man-Boy Love Association. God is not murder in the name of love by the Manson Family. Love is not polyamery. Love is NOT adultery. All of these expressions of love are idolatrous.

    In spite of how text comes across as communication, I do not seek to be argumentative, as much as to balance a one-sided thesis put forward as though everyone in the world agreed with you – except your ‘silent’ friends. You are correct that God’s embrace is big enough for many more people and every sin imaginable. You are correct that God is not a petty tyrant. But please do not pretend to speak for your silent, conservative friends. You are demeaning those who grieve for the souls of the unrepentant sinner in a way they would never speak of the homosexual community.

  5. If one believes that Jesus is God who came to fulfill all these ceremonial laws on our behalf, then it would be inconsistent for a believer in Christ to keep the ceremonial laws, because Jesus has done it for us. As for the moral laws, the proscriptions and mandates of the OT that are restated in the NT remain in effect – only the penalties have changed.


    Scripture itself never makes a distinction between moral and ceremonial law. From what I can gather this is a fairly recent Protestant-evangelical invention. This does not necessarily make it invalid. But, like Eric says, “the Bible needs interpreting.” The moral-ceremonial distinction is an interpretive lens through which you read Scripture; it does not come from Scripture itself.

  6. This “progressive” way of thinking is what dilutes the Bible to it’s point of irrelevance and why proponents argue against its value. Christian means to be CHRIST-like, love your neighbor as yourself, do not judge lest ye be judged, etc.. The thought that God is some sort of “grandfatherly” figure belittles his power and nullifies his influence on us. HIS traditions as you seem to have dismissed, is what EVERY family creates most of it’s memories on. It’s the traditions of past generations that keep our history alive for other generations. Pushing liberal minded thinking such as yours to Christians asserts your true intent which not only accepts the Adam and Steve agenda, it condones it. Adam and Eve were created by God to populate the Earth, not Adam and Steve. When God flooded the Earth, he didn’t ask for LBGTs to repopulate, they were a part of what was wrong. Marriage, regardless of it’s “tradition” is a spiritual and biblical covenant between a man, woman, and God. If you only want PART of what God has commanded, then your faith is of convenience only. Charasmatic churches were founded on the concept of “I’m ok, so you’re ok” belief. The Bible clearly gives commands on what is and is not acceptable in a marriage such as leaving your parents and cleaving to your wife to create one flesh and what a man’s and a woman’s responsibilites are. Just as you, I do not have hate in my heart for people who are LBGT, nor do I condemn them for their lifestyle and behaviors, it’s THEIR choice. This is not my place as the Bible has instructed. Perhaps your studies and degrees in Christianity might be best served in an environment which does NOT go against that which is NOT your place to change. You are not a prophet nor the Savior, and it’s not your place to tell the rest of us that we’re all living in new times and you’ve decided the last 2000 years were in vain or that the Bible was a mistype of sorts and that “God is Love” is all there is to it. You’ve OVER simplified his word. The word gospel means truth, which you clearly do not speak. The laws of nature, science, and the Bible all go against the ridiculous equalization of two like sexed people being married as it provides ZERO chance of procreation and the illusion that same sex marriage is normal. I’ve also seen the analogy of animals engaging in this behavior. I’m not sure YOU have a good understanding of the Bible sir. Jesus associated with whores, tax collectors, adulters, etc. which were considered socially bad people. He didn’t condone or progress their behaviors, he gave them the word of God which then gave them the choice to either change or continue their ways. Yes, it is true that while there will be two sides to every issue and that only one will prevail (most likely we will be seeing same sex “marriages” soon) and that it will be decided by the men and women of the Supreme Court, however, as a Christian, or soldier of God, it is not only your duty, but also your responsibility to attempt to lead others to CHRIST-like behavior. Unless you’re planning on “progressive” teaching that allows for pedophilia, murder, theft, and covetuous behavior, please do not spread your diseased word under the guise of the name Christian. God DOES love us all, but he does have expectations of us.

  7. There are two things I am aware of that Satan cannot do. Read my mind and procreate. I personally believe that his inability to procreate really angers him so he has chosen to target our sexuality to have us destroy something sacred that God created. Sometimes ourselves in the process.

    Don’t misunderstand me, sex is not just for procreation. There are clearly parts of our bodies that are created for and only for sexual pleasure. I am not a prude nor do I think like one…quite the opposite in fact. (The Act of Marriage; LaHaye)

    Having said that, I will follow by saying that while our bodies weren’t necessarily for procreating, they are designed for it. A woman and a man unite in perfect unity to create oneness, which represents the unity God longs to have with us, His creation. In that unity, procreation can occur as a natural function of what our bodies are designed to do. Not only that, but the woman can feed and and sustain her newborn for several months without outside help, usually. This plan is not an accident or a freak of nature. Everything Christ taught us, He used symbols to do it. Our bodies speak to that about His creative powers, which ONLY HE has. It’s the primary thing that separates God from Satan.

    Any other form of sexual activity that prevents our bodies to procreate then appears to me to be unnatural. I’ve been accused of being a purist so… get in line….

    I’m not speaking out about homosexuality. I’m speaking about any forms of sexual sin or immorality as the Bible puts it. Lust, fornication, adultery, perhaps even masturbation are all included. It’s all very damaging to my spirit and affects my ability to achieve the level of intimacy I desire to have with my God, myself and my fellow man. I believe the reason why it interferes is that God designed me, created me, with these things in mind. It’s too perfect, the way our bodies work, perform and yes, procreate. Following what I believe is Gods design for my body is part of how I worship….

    I do believe that we are born with propensities to certain behaviors or addictions, etc. I can’t change that. I can, however change what I choose to do with it. Just because I may have been born with a propensity to say, lust, commit fornication and adultery, that does NOT mean that I have to act on it. It does give me ample opportunity to trust Jesus. To put more effort into helping others, to learn to love better and deeper, and to start with myself. (Matt 22: 36-40).

    What may not have started out as a choice, with Gods help, becomes one. Today I hear the voice of Christ softly calling in my ear “Jeana, do you trust me?”. Another book I love says that “God is either everything or He is nothing”. The choice is mine.

    God Bless you on your journey, CUNHVN!

    PS. I hope we all realize that many of the stories in the Bible aren’t in there to be examples of what we are supposed to do, they’re there to warn us about what NOT to do!

  8. –“Marriage, regardless of it’s “tradition” is a spiritual and biblical covenant between a man, woman, and God.”
    For some, this may be true. The question at hand, however, is of the state’s recognition of marriage. The legal benefits of marriage (taxation, death benefits, etc.) exist for all married couples, whether they did things Christian-like on a Saturday in June with a preacher and God and all these witnesses gathered or in plainclothes on a Tuesday afternoon at the JP’s office. Non-christians getting married outside of the church doesn’t somehow damage my marriage; how can the marriage of gays and lesbians have an impact on “traditional” marriage?
    Marriage equality isn’t concerned with God’s opinions on the subject, it’s about whether or not the government treats its citizens equally. Right now it doesn’t, but it should.

  9. You flatter yourself if you presume to know my mind, my faith or my heart. You further flatter yourself if you presume to speak for me when I choose to be silent. I am particularly amused by your willingness to equate what you and your friends “feel” is right which the will of God. Now that is some serious self-flattery. Try this on for size: I can love my neighbor without necessarily being forced to embrace his wrongdoing. It’s hard enough to try to repent and turn away from my own. But, I will say the effort by folks like you to rationalize wrong and call it right does not ring true to the still small voice of God I am am able to hear from time to time. Your rationalization is vanity and striving after wind.

  10. You flatter yourself if you presume to know my mind, my faith or my heart. You further flatter yourself if you presume to speak for me when I choose to be silent. I am particularly amused by your willingness to equate what you and your friends “feel” is right which the will of God. Now that is some serious self-flattery. Try this on for size: I can love my neighbor without necessarily being forced to embrace his wrongdoing. It’s hard enough to try to repent and turn away from my own. But, I will say the effort by folks like you to rationalize wrong and call it right does not ring true to the still small voice of God I am am able to hear from time to time. Your rationalization is vanity and striving after wind.

  11. Deborah’s reply is why I no longer attend church. So many people who I have trusted and looked up who say they are Christian seem so self-righteous and all-knowing of what is right and moral. I don’t see very much warmth or love in the reply – the overall tone is cold and unloving, and it seems that the point is to “set things straight”. I actually felt terrible just reading it. Where is the love in any of these “points” being made?

  12. Here we go again – Mark – why do you have to be so unkind in your reply, and instead simply debate the issue? “Try this on for size” and “now that is some serious self-flattery”? Really? This is what is wrong with so many you say they are “Christian”. Why do you have to be so mean? This is why I turned away from organized religion. Every “Christian” seems to be the spokesperson for God. Over and over I have heard “hate the sin, not the sinner”. I wish these “Christians” who told me this in church really meant it, because their actions don’t match their words. Wouldn’t it be better to state your position with a little love and respect ?

  13. For the most part I think DB is spot on. I grow tried of these kinds of arguments that boldly declar the bible is unclear when you read it and crystal clear when I read it.
    Sure he says, in effect, “no one knows for sure” yet he maintains a strings position that he claims he draws from the bible because we have “misunderstood it”. This post shows, I think, a devistatingly bankrupt understanding of the bible and theology in general, especially from someone who holds a masters degree in theology. It’s the oldest trick in the book to demonize the oposing side and write them of as bigots. I assure you, almost every Christian I’ve ever talked to about Thai does not hold a hateful veiw. It’s to simplistic to reduce what we think as hatered.
    Anderson Wilson: how do you know that we are to follow only the moral commands that are restated in the NT? Shouldn’t we, rather, assume continuity unless otherwise stated? Ask yourself this question: if its true that only the repeated laws are morally bindin for the Christian, then is it morally wrong to have sexual relations with animals? Cause i don’t see that one in the NT. obviously, the law can save us, but that doesn’t mean we aren’t obligated to follow the mosaic law. Afterall, both sides claim the moral law and its penal sanctions are the reflections of god’s own holy charactor. If so, then we are to be like God “be ye perfect as God in heaven is perfect”

  14. @Hailey I can imagine that you would be put off by a discussion like this in a church, and after 30 years in church I’ve never heard anyone talk like this and I’m sorry that you found the one that did. The tone of this is logical theological debate, not a Sunday school class, or a sermon or a counseling session. You are right that “everyone seems to be the spokesperson for God.” That is exactly the problem – Scripture is where God is revealed. As for correct interpretation, if there are multiple interpretations only one can be Truth – the way we discern truth is by reading Scripture together to find the Truth. Our feelings are deceptive. Can we make incorrect interpretations? You betcha – and to do so is not a mere mistake, it is sin. It’s sinful to misrepresent God to people in desperate need – that’s why we need to be in regular study and fellowship to get God right. I never said that “right” sbould be communicated harshly – because yes, God is love.

  15. @Jim: If marriage is only about procreation, then – as was pointed out in the court yesterday – old people should not be allowed to marry, nor those who cannot or will not have children. Is that the case? Should we prohibit old people from getting married? If, however, marriage has other purposes, why should they be withheld from gay couples?

  16. “If you only want PART of what God has commanded, then your faith is of convenience only.” I can only assume from this that you do not mix fibers, nor milk and meat, ie no cheeseburgers? Or did you not really read the article in the first place?

  17. I am sorry for all the backlash and condescending replies you have received that have missed the point of your words, Reverend Smith.
    I found your blog post wonderful, and I hope that more Christians find it in their hearts to love their fellow neighbors, and at the very least quietly respect the fact that we live in a beautiful country where we have freedom of religion, and one’s personal religious views cannot take away the rights of those who do not share the same view.
    God Bless.

  18. This was a very well written reply. Another issue I saw was with “what if God is now doing a new thing, as Scripture promises God will do from time to time?”. In Malachi we see “I the Lord do not change”

  19. @Anderson Wilson ~ I appreciate your comment, but I disagree that Scripture makes no distinction between the ceremonial and moral laws. In a way similar to the way “Trinity” is not a word used in Scripture, but is readily apparent, the Book of Hebrews explains how the OT laws were fulfilled. However, Romans 13:8ff presumes that the apostles understood that “Love fulfills the law” meant, in effect, “if you love your neighbor you will not…commit adultery…kill…steal…covet.” The OT sex ethic is repeated throughout the NT. Yes, love is the centerpiece of the NT, but most of the epistles are treatises on how to exhibit that love, what we should do to make love obvious, and what we should not do to love with integrity. The moral laws reveal the character of God. Taken together, I do in fact see a distinction between the ceremonial and moral laws.

    We often hear people say, “My god…would never…” or “I could never believe in a god who would…” I submit that these are sure-fire indicators of an idolatrous, feelings-based, view of God’s attributes, unsupported by the whole of the canon. Another thing commonly encountered is, “I don’t like the God of the OT…” or “Jesus would never…” as though grace did not infuse the whole of the OT and Jesus is not the same God who initiated the moral law in the first place. Jesus spent plenty of time preaching repentance, forgiving sins and cautioning people to “sin no more” and “stop sinning or something worse will happen to you.” The heirs of Marcion are still at work.

    Whether or not this is a “new invention” “that may or may not be valid” – if it’s in the canon, it obviously not invented, nor is it new. I agree that we cannot help seeing what we want to see at times. That would be why faithful study requires a group with more than one voice, from more than one historical era. Today, the various interpretive factions have retreated into their own corners and refuse to engage one another. I once attended a university debate on the historical truth of the resurrection. Both debaters were respected “stars” in their respective theological communities. One argued for the truth of the resurrection from a logical, historical and Biblical basis. The other responded, “Well, I read different books than you do.” Hard to know if he was merely insulting, stating the obvious or just anti-intellectual because he only interacted with people who agreed with him.

    Think how the conversation would change if people would acknowledge the points made by others and then respond as to why their understanding differs – that’s why I appreciated your comment – but then, we would have to agree that Truth exists and that Scripture is God-breathed.

  20. Deborah,
    Unfortunately this happened to me at many churches, not just one. I understand that theological debate is happening here but what I don’t understand is why it isn’t conducted in a more loving and respectful manner in some of the posts. How do you know that your interpretation is correct, i.e., the Truth? That’s what I struggle with, because everyone seems to have their “correct” interpretation. This is why I am so scared to try and go back to church, because I feel like I’ll just be disappointed again. As far as homosexuality is concerned, over time I’ve met gay and lesbian people who truly seem to love one another, and I love them as my friends. It hurts to think that they are caught in a “web of deceit” because to me, their love seems genuine. I believe in God and I believe in Jesus. I can’t reconcile these thoughts with what I’ve been taught to believe to be considered a “Christian”. It feels like it’s an all or nothing situation, and I don’t want it to be.

  21. It is important to note, that in the story of the woman accused of adultery, when Jesus said “let he who is without sin, cast the first stone”, that Jesus himself was the only person within a stone’s throw of the woman who was indeed without sin…and he declined to cast that first stone.

  22. If you truly believe that God “does not change” then how did we end up with the New Covenant? To throw this quote around as some kind of point about God is to take it horribly out of any context, or to just be wilfully ignorant.
    God’s *nature* doesn’t change, God’s *personality*, *morals*, *ethics* etc don’t change BUT what he does, the way he does things can be changed. If not, we’d all still be living like the ancient Hebrews did under the Law (well, they would, all us gentiles would be condemned to our sin).

  23. We can’t decide the things of the Lord by how we feel or what we think He would feel. We have to go by what the scriptures say. If we try to change the scriptures or manipulate them for our advancement then we are truly trying to play God. The law in the OT was fulfilled by Jesus which rendered it’s power of mankind null and void. That action removed the veil that was between us and God and allowed us to have a relationship with the Lord that no other could before that. At that point God’s message was to spread His message to all the world. His message is one of love and hope and that’s what should be spread but we (christians) have been given a way to live life in such a way that is beneficial. Allowing God to show us the right path is what it means to follow after God. To do that we must adhere to the things the scriptures say.

    1 Corinthians 6:9 – Homosexuality in NT
    Acts 10:15 – The eating of things unclean
    1 Corinthians 7:2 – God’s desire for monogamous relationships between one man and one woman

    *One thing to note about slavery in the Jewish community in that time. If someone stole something or committed some crime against another and was found guilty had to pay restitution. If they didn’t have the means then they became the slave to that wronged party. At the 7 year period all debts were written off and slaves were to be set free. This is most likely what Peter was referring to when talking about slavery.

  24. Thank you for your openness and consideration. Please don’t be too frustrated by the pushback in the comments. Your efforts do not go unnoticed or unappreciated.

  25. “Number 6 is true but contributes nothing to the debate.”

    Nonsense, it’s the heart of the matter. Can you define God? The answer had better be no, lest you be guilty of the deadly sin of Pride (the sin that drove Adam and Eve out of the Garden, and cast Lucifer from Heaven). And if you can’t define God, who IS love, then you can’t define love, and all the other manmade exclusions made by writers of various parts of the Bible do not trump that.

  26. Really? You let people come between you and the Lord? If Deborah’s comment and others like her’s offend you, why do you let that come between you and God? Just think about the real reason why you go to church. Are you there to please God or everyone else? I think you need to re-evaluate your heart and understand the reason why we attend church.

  27. 2 Timothy 2:3-5

    Beware false teachers and prophets:

    For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables.

  28. Thank you for pointing that out. Back then, they really couldn’t afford to feed too many criminal non-workers and house them in prisons. So, there was the death penalty for murder, rape and other capital crimes; and there were fines/slavery for property crimes.

  29. 1.Have you bothered to actually read the Bible and interpret it as it is written? If so then you know that the actual ceremony of marriage is between a man and woman. Marriage also refers to God and the church. All the others you mentioned are rituals/traditions of man and not of God….therefore doomed to fail.
    2. Sodom and Gomarah. Go back and re read it and interpret it exactly as its written and pray for God to guide you in your understanding.
    3. The Bible is troublesome when viewed as a handbook for “modern” living???? And you call yourself a preacher of Gods word!?? The Bible teaches us exactly how we are to live! Do you know the difference between the old Testiment (law) and the New Testiment (grace)? Why do you think Jesus hung on the cross? Once again you have gotten the traditions of man confused with the word of God. Man went his own way many times in the Bible and strayed from
    Gods word. What happened?
    4. Your right..God don’t make junk. But he did make us creatures of choice. We choose our lifestyles! If we are to believe you ,then we also have to believe that God is ever changing. The Bible does not teach that! God is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow. Otherwise he went to the cross for nothing!
    5. God is the Almighty! He handed down his commandments and then sent to us the Holy Spirit to help guide and comfort us. He didn’t stand for his people to stray among their own paths in the beginning and he won’t stand for it in the end. If you have read your Bible then you know that God does punish his people when they stray from His word. Call that what you wish, but God will punish!
    6. And Yes….God is Love! As Christians, we can love one another but hate each others sinful ways.
    7. Are YOU struggling with a lifestyle that’s outside the will of God? The Bible teaches of the falling away of the church and the teaching of “each to his own” mentality … It will be the teaching of the end times and you’re going right along with it. I would hate to lay my head down each night knowing that I proclaimed myself a preacher of Gods Holy word and then to be as misleading as you are. Will you be responsible for the souls that you’re misleading? I do think so.

  30. If that is so, then black is white, Jesus is Satan, and being Christian is worthless. Go join the Freedom From Religion Foundation.

  31. So, DB, you must obviously only have sex when you want to procreate and never at any other time, am right to assume that?

  32. Thank you so much for writing this. I will join the smaller chorus and ask that you not be discouraged by those here complaining, particularly the ones who attempt to showcase their Christian faith and love through some of the nastier comments. Your message may have sailed over their heads, but some of us reading really appreciate what you have to say.

  33. Your first point wasn’t accurate. While it may be correct in the “technical” sense, God DOES lay out a plan for what marriage should look like. He does it in the OT and in the NT. It is a common theme throughout the entire Bible and is reinforced again and again and again and again. Some of the comments already point to some of those reasons and there are more that are unwritten that you likely know (like 1 Tim 3).

    I’m all for the conversation but you really need to check your own stance when you have to twist truths to reinforce your stance. You damaged any and all credibility. Why would anyone with a different view than you be swayed or impacted when you were untruthful in your very first point?

  34. The “reason” most Christians are silent as you stated is because it takes too long to correct views like yours. You remind me of the serpent in the garden: “Did God really say?” Jesus upheld the order of creation and all of the OT scriptures…”Have you not heard that from the beginning He created them male and female?” If you new the languages then you would know that the Hebrew means “corresponding parts” for male and female – not “same” parts. Remember too that God is only a God of love because of Jesus on the cross who took all of the payment for our sin…our doing what we want in spite of what God has said. Original sin (Adam’s Fall) causes all sorts of damage…remember your classes…it’s why we die, why there’s disease, why there’s suffering, etc. My biology is damaged because of it and so is every other human’s. Biology is no excuse for wrong choices. The cross frees us from the end result of sin, death and the consequences of sin (which would have been punishment). There is always forgiveness at the cross (love as you say) for my wrong choices (my sin) and everyone else. But we negate that if we allow the world to think that the things we do (including me) that go against God’s Word isn’t sin. Like the medical field, if I tell you, you don’t have cancer when you do, you won’t look for treatment…and as the scriptures say “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us”. The church must always proclaim what sin is, but it must also always proclaim what grace is (the cross of Jesus).

  35. Consider the hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, and dissension on display in the comments above. Did you all forget that these are sins of the flesh, every bit as much as sexual immorality? (Gal. 5:20). Have you ever stopped to consider where the fruits of the spirit are on display in this debate? If you did so, could you bear to embrace what it would show you?

  36. What bothers me most about the conversation in these comments are the accusations without evidence. If you want to say Rev. Smith got something wrong, tell us specifically what he got wrong and your evidence. In that vein, I’d like to add a little meat to the conversation with one example, Romans 1.

    Rev. Smith makes the argument that the Bible isn’t clear about homosexuality, and some of you beg to differ (David, for example). In some translations (for instance, those that use the word “homosexuality”), and when taking verses out of context, that might be the case. But in terms of the context of the references, and/or in terms of the original languages, that clarity disappears. Romans 1 is the only reference that does not have translation problems, which is part of why I’m choosing to discuss it rather than the other passages.

    It is my opinion that in Romans 1 Paul does show evidence that he didn’t think very highly of same-sex sexuality (which is different from homosexuality, which seems to be a modern concept and phenomenon, despite a long history of same-sex sexuality). However, it’s also my opinion that this is far from his main point in Romans 1, which is to talk about the problem with idolatry. Moreover, that argument is part of the much bigger point in the first part of Romans that everyone, both Jews and Gentiles, are equally in need of Christ (Romans 1 is part of the argument that Gentiles need Christ; he then goes on to say that Jews, while they might think they are fine without Christ, actually need Christ, too). All that is to say that Paul mentions same-sex sexuality briefly as part of a much larger and much different argument. He never addresses the topic head on or with any intentionality. It appears that he took for granted the dislike of same-sex sexuality that was prevalent among Jews of his time. It also appears that his vision of same-sex sexuality was part of his vision for idolaters, and was a far cry from the committed, monogamous, same-sex partnerships for which people are struggling today.

    Thus I agree with Rev. Smith that this passage, like all the others, requires interpretation. The interpreter must decide whether Paul’s assumptions and taken-for-granted worldviews are decisive for current questions (questions about which Paul was not really interested), or whether our interpretation of Romans 1 should focus on Paul’s intended message. That is, do we read for what Paul had to say to us, or do we take every detail and make it the focus of attention and of doctrine? Throughout history, Christians have chosen both paths. But Rev. Smith is correct to point out that it is always a choice, and that neither is the exclusively “Christian” way to interpret.

  37. CB: Why do you think “gospel” means “truth”? It seems to me it means something more like “good news.”

  38. I have been thinking about this a lot lately (how can it be avoided). I know more and more that there is not a right/wrong answer, which is the same in a lot of aspects of our lives: abortion, divorce, wealth, healing, prayer. Honestly what can we really claim 100% when it comes to sin? I do not believe this is the way we should aproach this topic. Yes the bible is important, but it was one part of a larger relationship with God. If I wrote a letter to a dear friend and then came for a visit and she spent the whole time dissecting my letter, my visit would be meaningless.

    The Kingdom is here, Jesus is here and we are His disciples, we need to stop burying our faces in the bible. The Bible is safe; God is not safe!(Like Aslan, he is good but not tame.) One of the biggest things Jesus did on Earth was to replace law with love: he healed people on the sabath, spared the life of an adulter, and welcome the unwanted.

    This argument cannot be solved through the bible, and I’m sorry to say it. But this is moment in time where God is telling us, “Look to me, love me, love your neighbor.” If God wanted us to have all the answers, God gets what He wants, but we don’t so God must be trying to tell us something.

  39. I’m wondering this: Is it possible that when the bible was translated, parts of it were translated the way King James wanted them to be instead of how they actually were? Because the bible says that with God *ALL* things are possible…so if *ALL* things are possible, why is it wrong for two people to love each other and want to be in a monogamous, committed relationship…even if they’re the same sex? Surely not EVERYONE was meant to populate the earth…otherwise, we’d be so overcrowded that we’d have all been done in long ago with not enough resources to support us all. So maybe those that aren’t ‘set aside’ for procreation …. are the ones that aren’t procreating….because they can’t, or choose not to. And maybe those same sex couples that want to have a family take in the children that others don’t want…….

    just my two cents.

  40. We have gotten to the point in this country where it has become acceptable to write just about anything and say it is true, when so many times it is not. Those who know must stand up and counter it or we are doomed – both in our churches and in our culture.

    And we wonder why the voice of the Christian church isn’t effective in the culture anymore. It’s because the Church has lost its moral high ground and lost the foundation upon which it stood – the truth of Scripture. That book that we say we believe came from the creator of the universe. “Progressive Christians” simply do not read the Scriptures as God intended. Oh, they can surely “interpret” it with the best of them – but God is no dummy and He didn’t give us a book that required each new generation to interpret it for their wants, needs, desires. If He was that kind of God, He’d not be all-knowing, all-powerful, and righteous.

    Some counterpoints to his numbers:
    1. Yes there IS a normative Biblical marriage. Gen 2:22 Then the Lord God made a woman from the rib he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man.23 The man said,“This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called ‘woman,’ for she was taken out of man.” 24 That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh.”

    There are many other marriage “types” in the Bible, but like many other things the Bible records as history, it is not condoned as God’s plan. Do you not understand the contents of the Bible? This desire to find new interpretations or make statements in factual ways that have no basis in truth is an endemic problem in our culture today – a culture that decides truth for itself (whether a person believes they are a Christian or not).

    2. “Some seem to refer to specific cultic contexts or concerns about ritual purity; others might have more to do with social order, temple prostitution, or hospitality.” Oh my gosh – this is the oldest cry of the “progressive Christian” (and the non-Christian who disagrees with the point) – it was a cultural thing, blah, blah. No, even in the Hebrew or the Greek, it is CLEAR what the Bible is saying on these topics. Gen 19:3 But he insisted so strongly that they did go with him and entered his house. …4 Before they had gone to bed, all the men from every part of the city of Sodom—both young and old—surrounded the house. 5 They called to Lot, “Where are the men who came to you tonight? Bring them out to us so that we can have sex with them.” 6 Lot went outside to meet them and shut the door behind him 7 and said, “No, my friends. Don’t do this wicked thing.” Wicked means wicked in the original language. And the interpretations of “progressives” about it being forced (like rape, so it’s not about homosexuality) does not let the men off the hook, nor the act they specifically wanted to perform, so easily. Why didn’t women come to the door instead of men? For more on this part of Scripture, check out Genesis parts 42-44 in this series: http://www.mcleanbible.org/pages/page.asp?page_id=84375

    3. This is simply muddying the waters by showing, even though you have a divinity degree from Vanderbilt, that you apparently do not understand the difference between the Old and New Testaments. In the Old Testament they lived under a direct theocracy (for a time) where God was in charge – He directly ruled them. In the New Testament, that no longer exists. And there is a lot more to be said about the NT stuff cited that can’t be fully covered here. One note, a divinity degree from Vanderbilt, with regard to Biblical Christianity, isn’t saying much. That’s the same program Al Gore started when he was there!

    4. “that God speaks both through Scripture and through nature.” Another “progressive” idea – that nature is a 67th book of the Bible. Unfortunately this again shows a lack of Scriptural understanding since this supposed 67th book is actually a fallen world, and not the way God created it to be. After sin entered it was altered. Death entered. Animals are no longer vegetarian. Death, disease, etc – all are present. And he wants to use this to interpret the Bible and who God is? After the flood of Noah’s time, we definitely are not seeing anything like the original earth. ANYTHING we see in this world today has to be seen through this knowledge. And to state that “even the stones cry out” is to again show a lack of Biblical knowledge, or to deliberately mislead. The verse doesn’t say they cry out, but that they WOULD if no one on earth praised God – Luke 19:40 (Jesus) “I tell you,” he replied, “if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out.” And finally, b/c this MUST be dealt with – “If science is telling us that homosexuality is not a choice, but that it is a biological trait,” That is a BIG “IF” thrown in there. The reality is that science has told us no such thing, and in reality it never could. Just like it is never going to be able to tell us exactly what causes autism – sorry to say that folks, but it won’t. As well it should be, the #1 myth in this guide (http://www.frc.org/brochure/the-top-ten-myths-of-homosexuality) on the top ten myths of homosexuality, is “people are born this way.” As stated, “The widespread, popular belief that science has proven a biological or genetic origin to homo- sexuality can be traced to the publicity which surrounded three studies published in the early 1990’s.”

    No, God doesn’t make us flawed – we are BORN flawed. It’s called the sin nature and the author needs to look it up. It’s all through Scripture that he claims to know so much about. If he doesn’t understand this fundamental, Biblical concept, he can’t rightly understand much of Scripture. Until a person is a new creation in Christ, he can fall for any sin (and will), even sexual ones. And since those seem to be the biggest sin du jour, I expect we’ll see more go down this path. Listen to this to learn more about being a real, “new creation” in Christ: https://dl.dropbox.com/u/5431786/Genesis%2C%20part%2045%20-%20What%20a%20True%20Disciple%20Looks%20Like.mp3

    5 & 6. “Is God hateful? Is God petty? If you find yourself thinking, “well, I don’t see what the big deal is, but God’s law says to condemn people who do these things,” I don’t think His law says condemn these people. God’s law says the act is wrong and is to be avoided – like all other sins. “God is love.” God is much MORE than love. God is righteous, holy, and he is our judge. A holy, righteous God can not abide our human sin forever no more than a solid, loving parent can allow their child to grow up with out bounds, discipline, or structure. A parent that understands human nature and the world knows that if they left their child to do whatever felt right that child would be ill-prepared for life on their own. They would end up self-destructing and would forever hold their parents a grudge for putting them in that situation. God is no different. His love is SHOWN through His discipline, boundaries (rules, if you will) and all his other attributes. I recommend “The Fear of God” (Gen part 44): http://www.mcleanbible.org/pages/page.asp?page_id=84375

    I do not consider what is written to be heresy. I consider it ill-informed, factually inaccurate where Scripture is concerned, and historically inaccurate with the established teachings of Christ, the church, and history. But the reality of where the author is -that is the problem. This is being played out in lives all around this country in “Christian” churches, homes, and lives. I have come to believe that when Jesus said that the way is “narrow and few find it” meant it was MUCH narrower than most in this country have led themselves to believe. As Lon says in this message, it means something FAR different to be a disciple of Christ than what most churches in America are teaching today: https://dl.dropbox.com/u/5431786/Genesis%2C%20part%2045%20-%20What%20a%20True%20Disciple%20Looks%20Like.mp3

  41. My two cents on PMG’s 2 cents is that he needs to study hermeneutics and the science of Biblical translation and how we get to the original autographs. Most don’t know where or how we got the Bible, that’s how we get comments like this. Here are three decent resources on the topic: http://www.jashow.org/resources/downloads/mp3-downloads.html?cat=106

    You can find more on this top – dealing with the “lost gospels” and how we got the Bible we have by going through these archives: http://www.oneplace.com/ministries/ankerberg-show/listen/

  42. Sabrina, can you please explain to me what it means to interpret a text exactly as it is written? And what language should I read it in? What does the word “know” mean? Are you aware that the vast majority of the time in Hebrew, “know” means the usual sense, and not the sexual sense? How can we know for sure what sense is meant in the key verse in Genesis (19:5)?

  43. Why does god seemingly hate homosexuality? And why does he decide that the exersize of our free will is to be limited to a hobsons choice: You either conform to whatever I want you to be at the time or not (And I’ll fix it so that you’ll suffer if you don’t conform)?

    And why does he get to decide for us what our purpose is? Is it merely because he created us (making us his property without any rights besides what he’ll give us)? Is it because we have no possible way of resisting against his desires (might making right)?

    And why does a being that supposedly desires to have a positive relationship with me firstly makes it almost physically impossible for meto believe that I could have a relationship with it in the first place, and secondly seemingly decide that the relationship requires me to be nothing more then a puppet, willing or not?

  44. In regards to Romans 1, I don’t think that Paul was making the point that idolators practiced homosexual sex, but that homosexual sex was idolaltrous in and of itself, because it placed something carnal (like gluttony, lying and other besetting sins) in the place that belonged only to God. Human beings substitute ourselves and things and activities in places where only God deserves to be; but God substituted himself for us in the place where we deserved to be. The only option left to us is to accept everything God said (with the view that the whole canon is God-breathed) or to not believe any of it and do whatever we want.

  45. So you are saying that factual, reasoned responses based in truth and reality offend you? I think what you are really saying is that people who can accurately defend the faith “given once, for all”, and that actual faith itself, is what offends you. Too many so-called Christians in this country have created their own idea of Christ, God, the Bible, etc and when someone comes along and points out the fallacies of those notices, from the Bible and history itself, they just can’t stand it.

    If you want a man-made religion that you can feel good about, there are plenty out there: Mormonism, Islam, Scientology, Hinduism, Buddism, …

  46. Original poster here. I don’t typically comment on stuff I write, but I wanted to chime in to thank everyone for the conversation, even those who disagree with me. There is precisely nothing in my post that is new, and not much that is very controversial in mainstream biblical scholarship (as people like Gil and MTN pointed above). And in mainline Protestant and much of Catholic Christianity, my views would be very average, and very typical for what is taught at many leading seminaries.

    I wrote this not because I had new ideas, but because Christianity gets painted with a very broad brush, and the views of the Christians I heard interviewed around the Supreme Court case did not represent the views of me or tens of millions of other faithful, committed Christians around the world. I wanted another voice in the conversation.

    As I write this, tomorrow is Easter. I’m reminded that Christians are people who live in the hope and expectation of resurrection–who believe that death will have no dominion. Talk about God doing a new thing! All those who thirst for truth and justice, do not be discouraged. God is ever before us, calling us onward. Listen and answer.

  47. The key verses, Romans 1:26-27, begin “Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts,” (NIV translation) and end with men having sex with one another. Because of what? The answer is in 1:25: “they exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator.” The logic is clear: Paul thinks that worshiping created things rather than the creator will lead to men having sex with one another. And what men, specifically? Who are the “them” in 1:26-27? To answer that, we have to go back to 1:18: “men who suppress the truth by their wickedness.” We learn in 1:21-23 that they are idolaters (i.e. Roman gentiles). The logic goes: they ignored God and worshiped idols, so “God gave them over to shameful lusts.” Homosexuality is depicted more as God’s natural punishment for idolatry than as the target of Paul’s polemic. Moreover, this fits with what we see throughout the Bible, where accusations of sexual deviance are commonly used to attack or shame the author’s opponent, whether it be non-Israelite nations in Genesis and Leviticus or idol-worshiping Romans here.

  48. Eric, hope you are doing well. I have another friend who shares your views theologically. As one highly trained in theology myself, I am trying to understand this viewpoint more. One of the many questions I have is: what is your definition of Christian marriage? Is there anyone or any circumstance that would not qualify based on the reasoning for Christian gay marriage? (in other words, could we just not trade out “gay marriage” and insert anything else also via this interpretation?) And if so, on what authority do you make the definition solid? (since it is implied the traditional biblical interpretations are wrong; what in the Bible could we really trust about marriage?). 2. the people of Jesus’ time assumed divorce was a normal thing and even Moses had permitted it, but Jesus flat out condemns it. How is your interpretation on gay marriage different (in principle) from that of the divorce issue analogy? (obviously Jesus didn’t condemn homosexuality directly b/c everyone already knew the law on that) 3. It appeared you were saying because someone might be born gay, that is an indication God intended for people to act on that desire. How is this not akin to saying that because a person is born greedy, lustful, envious, prideful, etc. they should act on those? Does this not teach people that being born with desires translate into an authoriztion to act them out? 4. It appeared you were implying that because we find polygamy, etc. in the Bible it is therefore what God intended. What is your distinction between the “ideal” (what God’s perfect design and command is) and the “real” that which occurs due to the corruptions and imperfections of our society. Should we not teach to the highest “ideals” of God’s design, whether people live up to them or not? [if you get a chance to answer these, fb message me. thanks]

  49. Eric,

    You’ve figured it out! You have the answer. Your religion is the only way. All other beliefs are heresy. What does God say when you speak with him? He has told you that there is only one way. Please, lead us to the promised land. You are not an arrogant person. Because how could you be wrong? You are simply not to be challenged. I just wish I would have stumbled upon the brilliance of these precious sentences earlier in life so that I might not waste the remainder. These nuggets of knowledge. Kernels of veracity. For lo, I thought I was on the right path, but clearly was not. Thank you, oh enlightened one, for clearing my journey e’er onward toward salvation.

    Although I have accepted Jesus, alas it is not good enough for Eric.

    If you need anything, sir, anything at all, simply page me. I’ll be burning in hell.

  50. Don’t actually see any theological or logical responses to my statements – only personal attacks and strawmen. That is typical of liberals or progressives, be they political or theological.

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