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The Bible and the Gay Debate

magnet-trion-zI have been following and involved in the discussion about same-sex relations since Buzz magazine published an article on it when I was 16. (I will leave you to guess how many years ago that was; anyone else remember Buzz? It eventually morphed into Christianity). It had a wonderfully euphemistic picture on the front cover of a magnet, with the caption ‘Do like poles attract?’

Since then it has been fascinating to see how the public debate has swung from one pole of argument to another. One axis of that has been the question of choice versus givenness. At times the argument in favour of accepting same-sex relations has been on the basis of personal choice; at others it has been on the basis that this is just the way some people are made. In Britain we are legally in the position of the latter; discrimination legislation categorises sexual orientation with race and sex as being of the essence of human identity, even though there is no scientific consensus on this, and some clear evidence that ‘orientation’ is not fixed.

There have also been significant movements amongst Christians on the role of the Bible in the discussion. I remember a few years ago reading the biblical resource section on the LGCM website exploring Paul’s theology. It ended with something like ‘Paul clearly condemned all same-sex relations—but equally clearly Paul was wrong.’ The current resources take a very different approach, arguing that Pauline and other biblical texts are not referring to what we would now call faithful same-sex relations.

715FfnQMPZL._SL1250_Amongst evangelicals perhaps the best-known early attempt to argue that the Bible, when interpreted rightly, did allow space for the acceptance of same-sex relationships was the late Michael Vasey’s Strangers and Friends. It was not generally seen as offering a persuasive position, suggesting as it did that we needed to read the Old Testament in particular ‘symbolically.’ But it did signal a change of direction in the discussion, and allow a number who want to continue to call themselves ‘evangelical’ (that is, putting a high value on Scripture in shaping their understanding and ethical decision-making) to advocate acceptance of same-sex relations as something blessed by God and so to be blessed by the churches.

But at the same time it appears that other commentators have moved in the opposite direction. In reading William Loader’s Sexuality in the New Testament I was struck by how clear he was that the New Testament in general, and Paul in particular, stand against the acceptance of any kind of same-sex sexual activity. In his longer, more technical text The New Testament on Sexuality, he comments:

It is very possible that Paul knew of views which claimed some people had what we would call a homosexual orientation, though we cannot know for sure and certainly should not read our modern theories back into his world.  If he did, it is more likely that, like other Jews, he would have rejected them out of hand….He would have stood more strongly under the influence of Jewish creation tradition which declares human beings male and female, to which may well even be alluding in 1.26-27, and so seen same-sex sexual acts by people (all of whom he deemed heterosexual in our terms) as flouting divine order. (p 323-4)

Loader is not alone in this assessment. In his short book debating the question with Robert Gagnon, Dan O Via comments:

Professor Gagnon and I are in substantial agreement that the biblical texts that deal specifically with homosexual practice condemn it unconditionally.  However, on the question of what the church might or should make of this we diverge sharply. (p 93)

A notable exception to this strategy is James Brownson’s volume Bible, Gender and Sexuality, but he is swimming against the tide of commentators on both sides of the debate.

A number of these commentators, including Loader, link condemnation of same-sex relations with what they understand to be Paul’s gender hierarchy, and so want to reject both.

I have argued that Paul’s condemnation of homoeroticism, particularly female homoeroticism, reflects and helps to maintain a gender asymmetry based on female subordination.  I hope that churches today, being apprised of the history that I have presented, will no longer teach Rom 1.26f as authoritative. (Bernadette J. Brooten, ‘Love Between Women: Early Christian Responses to Female Homoeroticism’, p 302)

I don’t think this is convincing, not least because there is a notable and consistent distance between Paul’s comment on same-sex relations and his comment on gender relations, and he never links the two. And I have argued extensively that Paul does not believe in gender hierarchy. But there is a strange point of connection between ‘revisionists’ and ultra-conservatives in linking the two issues.

This shift in the debate has implications for all parties in the discussion. For ‘revisionists’ the question now is what strategy to employ in arguing their case.

1. A popular line has been to say that the Leviticus texts are about cultic activity, and Paul condemns abusive same-sex relations, but had no knowledge of loving, stable same-sex relations or an understanding of ‘orientation.’ A number of commentators have disproved the ‘cultic’ argument, and there is now quite a strong consensus that the issue in Paul is not about the form of same-sex relations, but the fact that they go against the creation order in Genesis 1 and 2 of male and female in the image of God. Our knowledge of the first century attitudes has developed considerably (see the work of Robert Gagnon and others) and it appears there was a wide variety of views, including some quite close to contemporary arguments in favour of same-sex relations. In any case, as commentators highlight, Paul was not concerned with context or motivation, but with the acts themselves.

2. A second strategy has been to put the specific ethical issue in the wider context of the command to love another. Loader cites Andre du Toit’s position:

Basically we should accept that, while upholding this dialectical tension, if a choice must be made between the biblical position on homosexuality and the love commandment – and such a choice is often inevitable – the latter must receive precedence.

Note here that du Toit is agreeing (as Loader does) that the ‘biblical position on homosexuality’ involves a prohibition on same-sex sexual relations—but that, in our context, this is incompatible with the command to love. Via offers a variation of that in relation to John 10:

‘Abundant life’, because of its non-specificity, is all-encompassing. It can exclude no aspect of human life. And since God wills abundant life for all of God’s creation, God’s own, on what grounds could we deny that God wills abundant bodily (sexual) life for gays and lesbians as well as for heterosexuals?

This makes the wide-ranging assumption that ‘abundance of life’ means full sexual expression, which of course is denied by both Jesus’ and Paul’s singleness. But more striking is the fact that neither Jesus nor Paul seemed to think that loving another meant changing their sexual ethic to include sexual expression outside male-female marriage.

The only remaining option then is to join with those who think the Bible is wrong on this issue.

Where the Bible mentions homosexual behavior at all, it clearly condemns it. I freely grant that. The issue is precisely whether that Biblical judgment is correct. (Walter Wink, “Homosexuality and the Bible”)

This is an issue of biblical authority.  Despite much well-intentioned theological fancy footwork to the contrary, it is difficult to see the Bible as expressing anything else but disapproval of homosexual activity. (Diarmaid MacCulloch, “Reformation: Europe’s House Divided, 1490-1700”, p 705)

For the Church of England to revise its position, it would then need to agree that the Bible’s theological anthropology—what it means to be human in the light of who God is and what he does—is essentially mistaken in this area. This was not something it was prepared to do in relation to women’s ordination; consideration of biblical theology was an integral part of the decision-making process on that question, and it is hard to see that this would not be the case here.

But this situation also gives a problem for those (like me) believe that the Bible’s teaching that sex belongs in male-female marriage should shape church life. An increasing number in Britain appear to think this is unreasonable, including a large proportion of young people. Although the Church of England publicly engages in all sorts of other issues, there continues to be the strong impression that the Church is obsessed with sex, and that its current policy is nothing more than cruel and discriminatory.

It is worth putting this problem in a wider historical and global perspective. Is this the only or first issue on which Christians have been in danger of being out of step with their culture? Indeed, shouldn’t we be more worried if we are in step with culture? But unless the Church can find a form of dissent from culture combined with a persuasive pastoral apologetic, this continues to be a significant mission issue. Do we really want to make this the issue which inhibits people coming to faith?

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17 Responses to The Bible and the Gay Debate

  1. Phil Groom September 28, 2013 at 4:04 pm #

    Over on fussbook you introduced this post with the question, “Is the gay debate really about the Bible?”

    What follows is my response to that specific question; and yes, btw, I too remember Buzz magazine 🙂

    Which gay debate? There is a gay debate about the Bible; and there’s another — albeit parallel — gay debate about the way we live and relate to one another. The two conversations clash and overlap as Christians struggle to bring together their attitudes towards Scripture and their attitudes towards their fellow human beings. For me, it comes down to grace: I look at the lives of my LGBT brothers and sisters and I see God’s grace at work in their lives in equal, if not at times greater, measure than in my own. I see them battling against all manner of prejudice and bigotry to maintain faithful relationships and I see them offering love in return for hatred – not without some bitterness from time to time, of course: we are all human, all subject to emotional overload and impatience with intransigent attitudes. So, I return to Scripture and ask myself, what is it all about? Why do the biblical writers appear to unequivocally condemn same-sex relationships when, in today’s world, we see God blessing and working through gay people?

    What I find is this: God’s call to his people, throughout Scripture, from beginning to end — from Adam & Eve’s betrayal of God’s trust in Eden through to Judas’ betrayal of Jesus in Gethsemane, and everywhere in the Law, the Histories and the Prophets, right through the New Testament letters into Revelation — is to faithfulness. Faithfulness to God, faithfulness to one another. In the milieu within which the biblical writers were writing, faithfulness in sexual relationships only existed in one context: heterosexual marriage. LGBT relationships inevitably represented a betrayal of faithfulness — and that, I’ve come to believe, is why they were regarded as anathema.

    We, however, no longer live in that world: we live in a world where faithful same-sex relationships can and do exist; in a world where God is as much at work amongst LGBT people as amongst straight people — just as, to the shock and amazement of Jews in the early church, God was at work amongst the Gentiles without any hint of requiring them to take up the rite of circumcision or any of the other demands of the Law.

    The God who has turned the world upside-down on many previous occasions is quite capable of doing so again; is in fact doing so in the eyes of many like myself who have moved from a conservative/traditionalist view of sexuality to a more accepting attitude. God loves faithfulness: that’s the overarching biblical message and that’s the point at which — for those with eyes to see, ears to hear and hearts to feel — the two debates cease to clash and instead coalesce. God does not call us to debate the Bible so much as to live it. Call it tightrope walking, hermeneutical tension or whatever you wish, but somewhere down the line our understandings of what God appears to be saying through Scripture and what God appears to be doing in our midst must meet; and I believe that it’s at this point, the point of faithfulness.

  2. Gill September 28, 2013 at 4:37 pm #

    I wonder how much it really and in fact inhibits people coming to faith. We in the church are always beaten round the head with this, whenever the church does not agree with popular culture – ‘See, no wonder people don’t want to come to church.’ Nonsense … coming to faith is coming to Christ, and coming into his transformative power.

    Even so, Ian, I think you’ve summed up the different stances fairly, and have put us back in the uneasy situation in which some of us find ourselves – what is the right way forward for gays in committed, permanent relationships? I simply cannot bring myself to come off the fence – I agree we need a ‘persuasive pastoral apologetic’ and I don’t think we have it yet. I’m willing to listen and learn.

  3. Andy Gubbins September 28, 2013 at 5:02 pm #

    Not sure tat Ian’s FB response to Phil about traditional faithfulness to an exegesis of scripture does justice to the grammar of faithfulness which I thought was directed towards God. I am wondering if O’Donovan’s Fulcrum essays have a better grammar going forward compared to the quietist counsel of asking revisionists to be quiet. Is the conversation of the Church embodied enough?

  4. Richard Fellows September 28, 2013 at 6:41 pm #

    Nice post!

    What is the evidence for committed, loving, same-gender relationships in the first century? When I looked into this I found slim pickings. We need to distinguish between our Roman sources and our (generally earlier) Greek sources. I get the sense that some gay writers are too eager to find loving homosexual relationships in the ancient world, perhaps because they want to show that the gay community has a long and distinguished history.

    It’s also worth pointing out that Paul’s aim in Rom 1:26-27 is not to warn his readers against same-gender sex. He mentions same-gender sex as part of his argument against being judgemental (ironically!).

    The key issue in the debate about choice vs orientation is whether therapies to change people’s urges are ever likely to succeed with our current state of medical knowledge. Some discussion of this would be useful if you ever re-publish your piece.

  5. Andrew Talbert September 28, 2013 at 9:57 pm #

    This is not a contribution to the previous comments, but an additional source to include in your wheelhouse here, Ian. Alongside Wink, Luke Timothy Johnson appeals to experience and the Holy Spirit, against Scripture, as leading the Church in a different direction: https://www.commonwealmagazine.org/homosexuality-church-1?utm_source=PANTHEON_STRIPPED&utm_medium=PANTHEON_STRIPPED&utm_campaign=PANTHEON_STRIPPED

  6. Ian Paul September 29, 2013 at 9:58 am #

    Andrew, thanks for this link. I think the first interesting comment Johnson makes is:

    The church could devote its energies to resisting the widespread commodification of sex in our culture, the manipulation of sexual attraction in order to sell products. It could fight the exploitation of women and children caught in a vast web of international prostitution and pornography. It could correct the perceptions that enabled pedophilia to be practiced and protected among clergy. It could name the many ways that straight males enable such distorted and diseased forms of sexuality.

    Instead, the relatively small set of same-sex unions gets singled out for moral condemnation, while the vast pandemic of sexual disorder goes ignored.

    This is the first nonsense. In the UK at least, Christians are indeed speaking out against all these other things, and very few make same-sex relations the no 1 issue.

  7. Ian Paul September 29, 2013 at 10:00 am #

    Again, his treatment of other ethical issues seems very flippant:

    Of course, Christianity as actually practiced has never lived in precise accord with the Scriptures. War stands in tension with Jesus’ command of nonviolence, while divorce, even under another name (annulment), defies Jesus’ clear prohibition.

    This appears to ignore the careful engagement with biblical theology in the Just War tradition, and the significant exegetical issues in reading Jesus’ comment on divorce in relation to the debate between Hillel and Shammai (on which see the work of David Instone Brewer.)

  8. Ian Paul September 29, 2013 at 10:01 am #

    As you say, he appears to agree with Wink, MacCulloch and others:

    The task demands intellectual honesty. I have little patience with efforts to make Scripture say something other than what it says, through appeals to linguistic or cultural subtleties. The exegetical situation is straightforward: we know what the text says. But what are we to do with what the text says?

  9. Ian Paul September 29, 2013 at 10:03 am #

    Again, his treatment of the slavery issue is really simplistic:

    During the 1850s, arguments raged over the morality of slave-holding, and the exegesis of Scripture played a key role in those debates. The exegetical battles were one-sided: all abolitionists could point to was Galatians 3:28 and the Letter of Philemon, while slave owners had the rest of the Old and New Testaments, which gave every indication that slaveholding was a legitimate.

    Even in a blog comment, I managed better than that: My position is that slavery was not part of the created order—in fact the idea in Genesis of humanity universally being made in the image of God strongly mitigates against it. The most central theological idea in the OT is expressed in the Exodus where God delivers his people from slavery and this is then carried over into the NT: Jesus is characterised as the one who delivers us from slavery. The slavery described in the OT law texts should really be understood as debt-bondage rather than slavery as practiced in the last few hundred years. It was an important economic mechanism to allow people to work themselves out of debt and did not eliminate what we might call human rights. And of course it was strictly limited. In the NT we have documents from a small and oppressed minority who were not in a position to campaign for change in their culture. Nevertheless Paul’s language as a ‘slave’ of Christ and his paradoxical language of Christ as liberator seriously undercut the idea that people should be slaves of one another. The ethical injunctions always remind masters that they actual have the same status before God as their slaves. Interestingly one of the condemnations of Rome in Revelation was for slave trading (Rev 18.13). Because of this significant theological content, those arguing for the abolition of slavery never had to say ‘The Bible approves of slavery, but we still think it is wrong.’ Instead, they drew on Scripture for their case.

  10. Ian Paul September 29, 2013 at 10:09 am #

    Johnson’s opposer puts it well:

    As I understand it, the theology of the body takes Jesus’ words on Jewish divorce laws as its starting point: “From the beginning it was not so” (Matthew 19:8). In this approach, we look to Genesis, to the creation narratives, to discover who we truly are and how we could most perfectly relate to one another. Although marriage is the primary focus of the theology of the body, sexual difference is a recurring theme. And here we discover that la différence is at the heart of human nature. Before we relate to one another as parent and child, worker and boss, artist and audience, soldier and comrade, or any other relationship, we are man and woman. Before we have any other identity (excepting, of course, our most central identity as children of God), we have sexual identity.

  11. Erika Baker September 29, 2013 at 3:58 pm #

    Robert,

    “What is the evidence for committed, loving, same-gender relationships in the first century? When I looked into this I found slim pickings”

    Thank you! Most of us lgbt people have long argued that we do not see any examples of our relationships in Scripture, which is one of the reasons we simply do not see how the prohibitions apply to our lives.

    “The key issue in the debate about choice vs orientation is whether therapies to change people’s urges are ever likely to succeed with our current state of medical knowledge.”

    They key issue for whom?
    I find it an irrelevant question. Either same sex relationships are morally acceptable or they are not. ‘Therapy’ only comes into it if you have already decided that they are immoral and that people must be helped to change in order to become moral.
    If you see same sex relationships as nothing more than one of the rich diversions of God’s creation the whole issue of therapy becomes irrelevant.

  12. Ian Paul September 30, 2013 at 11:49 am #

    Well it is interesting that gay commentators have gone both ways on this question. But Robert Gagnon cites some important evidence in the FB conversation.

    On sexual orientation understanding in the Greco-Roman world: Greco-Roman theories (Platonic, Aristotelian, Hippocratic, and even astrological) existed that posited at least some congenital basis for some forms of homosexual attraction, particularly on the part of males desiring to be penetrated. These theories included: a creation splitting of male-male or female-female binary humans; a particular mix of male and female sperm elements at conception; a chronic disease of the mind or soul influenced indirectly by biological factors and made hard to resist by socialization; an inherited disease analogous to a mutated gene; sperm ducts leading to the anus; and the particular alignment of heavenly constellations at the time of one’s birth (for a detailed discussion of these, see Gagnon 2003c, 140-52). Some of the ancient theories are obviously closer to modern theories than others. What matters, though, is that many in the ancient world attributed one or more forms of homosexual practice to an interplay of nature and nurture. Moreover, many believed that homoerotic impulses could be very resistant to change. As Hubbard notes, “homosexuality in this era [viz., of the early imperial age of Rome] may have ceased to be merely another practice of personal pleasure and began to be viewed as an essential and central category of personal identity, exclusive of and antithetical to heterosexual orientation” (Hubbard 2003, 386). He also points to a series of later texts from the second to fourth centuries that “reflect the perception that sexual orientation is something fixed and incurable” (446).

    In other words, the range of views in the ancient world mirrored many of the views today, in the sense that attraction to those of the same sex was seen by some as ‘natural’ and more or less permanent.

  13. etseq October 15, 2013 at 1:55 am #

    As a gay atheist I know anything I say will be doubly discounted and taken as evidence that you poor poor white middle class evangelicals are the real victims and will use this victim narrative to reinforce your existing homophobia. But just so you know how this conversation looks someone outside of your bubble, consider the following:…[clip]

    • Ian Paul March 3, 2014 at 12:23 pm #

      Thanks for this post etseq. I had hoped to respond in detail, but you have not revisited, and the discussion has moved on. It would also be good to post with a name, rather than anonymously.

  14. Caleb July 15, 2014 at 10:12 am #

    I’m sorry in advance for this lengthy point-by-point rebuttal – but you did say on another blog how you appreciate how blogs (unlike books) invite responses which hopefully enhance both sides’ views.

    “A number of these commentators, including Loader, link condemnation of same-sex relations with what they understand to be Paul’s gender hierarchy, and so want to reject both. … I don’t think this is convincing, not least because there is a notable and consistent distance between Paul’s comment on same-sex relations and his comment on gender relations, and he never links the two. And I have argued extensively that Paul does not believe in gender hierarchy.”

    – That seems quite simplistic and naïve. Yes, Paul was basically the most ‘feminist’ person on record in his context. But even contemporary feminists sometimes harbour reactionary views. Despite Paul’s radical views and practice challenging gender hierarchy and essentialist gender roles, there is substantial evidence that Paul’s condemnations of ‘unnatural’ sex acts are conditioned by the hierarchical patriarchal ‘naturalist’ logic of the Stoics and other Greek/Roman/Jewish thinkers.

    “But there is a strange point of connection between ‘revisionists’ and ultra-conservatives in linking the two issues.”

    – One could just as easily say there’s a strange blindspot among ‘egalitarian’ anti-homosexual interpreters who do not see the connection.

    “This shift in the debate has implications for all parties in the discussion. For ‘revisionists’ the question now is what strategy to employ in arguing their case.
    1. A popular line has been to say that the Leviticus texts are about cultic activity, and Paul condemns abusive same-sex relations, but had no knowledge of loving, stable same-sex relations or an understanding of ‘orientation.’ A number of commentators have disproved the ‘cultic’ argument, and there is now quite a strong consensus that the issue in Paul is not about the form of same-sex relations, but the fact that they go against the creation order in Genesis 1 and 2 of male and female in the image of God.”

    – Perhaps, or at least the fact they go against some kind of hetero-patriarchal gender binary. But there is still an open question about whether this gender binary is an eternal prescription from the divine author of scripture, or the result of its human authors being conditioned by their patriarchal contexts.

    “Our knowledge of the first century attitudes has developed considerably (see the work of Robert Gagnon and others) and it appears there was a wide variety of views, including some quite close to contemporary arguments in favour of same-sex relations.”

    – Gagnon is a joke: he is intellectually dishonest, twisting everything to produce the strongest possible position in support of his presupposed view. My reading from a variety of Christian and non-Christian commentators on ancient views of sexuality leads me to believe that what you’ve just said is not true; rather, all condemnations and commendations of same-sex sexuality in the ancient world were strongly conditioned by the dominant Greco-Roman hierarchical sex/gender systems: In other words, they all saw it as men taking the passive, dominated, penetrated ‘female’ role or women taking the active, dominant, penetrating ‘male’ role; it’s just that some condemned it, and others (sometimes) endorsed it. This includes Aristophanes’ myth in the Symposium, which says that some men are ‘oriented’ towards pederastic relationships with young boys – not towards mutual, monogamous same-sex marriage.

    “In any case, as commentators highlight, Paul was not concerned with context or motivation, but with the acts themselves.”

    – Rubbish; Paul highlights the lustful motivations as well as the actions (please forgive the capitalisation – it seems to be the only kind of formatting available to me here):

    24 Therefore God gave them over in the SINFUL DESIRES of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. 25 They exchanged the truth about God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised. Amen.

    26 Because of this, God gave them over to SHAMEFUL LUSTS. Even their women exchanged natural sexual relations for unnatural ones. 27 In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were INFLAMED WITH LUST for one another. Men committed shameful acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their error.

    “2. A second strategy has been to put the specific ethical issue in the wider context of the command to love another. …
    This makes the wide-ranging assumption that ‘abundance of life’ means full sexual expression, which of course is denied by both Jesus’ and Paul’s singleness.”

    – Perhaps those particular arguments do make that erroneous assumption. Christians must grant that abundant life is possible for the single celibate Christian as well as the married sexually active Christian. But the traditionalist side does need to show what it is about the gender of the partners that can disqualify same-sex marriage/sex from abundant life.

    “But more striking is the fact that neither Jesus nor Paul seemed to think that loving another meant changing their sexual ethic to include sexual expression outside male-female marriage.”

    – They also didn’t argue for the abolition of slavery or old-age pensions or minimum-wage laws.

    “The only remaining option then is to join with those who think the Bible is wrong on this issue.”

    – That’s one way of putting it; another is how I put it above – conditioned by its patriarchal contexts. However you put it, it’s basically an equivalent stance to Christians who believe in evolution, or pi for that matter – “the Bible is wrong on this issue” or “conditioned by the scientific beliefs of its contexts”.

    “For the Church of England to revise its position, it would then need to agree that the Bible’s theological anthropology—what it means to be human in the light of who God is and what he does—is essentially mistaken in this area.”

    – Insofar as it was written in societies with hetero-patriarchal gender binaries, and did not have committed non-heterosexual couples seeking Christian marriage – yes; but this is no different to saying it’s mistaken about pi or about minimum wage laws.

    “This was not something it was prepared to do in relation to women’s ordination; consideration of biblical theology was an integral part of the decision-making process on that question, and it is hard to see that this would not be the case here.”

    – Actually, I think it requires hermeneutical gymnastics to deny that there are some New Testament texts about men’s and women’s roles that are also conditioned by the patriarchal context, aka “wrong on this issue” – 1 Cor 11 for example. So I don’t think a different hermeneutic is required for same-sex marriage as for women’s ordination. Both involve Galatians 3:28 and contemporary sex/gender science versus ‘natural’ gender hierarchy (cf Rom 1 and 1 Cor 11).

    “It is worth putting this problem in a wider historical and global perspective. Is this the only or first issue on which Christians have been in danger of being out of step with their culture? Indeed, shouldn’t we be more worried if we are in step with culture?”

    – You ARE in step with culture (or, to be more precise – because “culture” is far too general to be of any use – you’re in step with the dominant status quo cultures of this world). The biblical texts and contemporary proponents of opposite-sex-only sex are in step with almost all societies throughout history, including our own to a large extent, which hold to strong essentialist gender roles which ultimately represent the domination of men over everyone else. Even the supposedly “egalitarian” among them, such as yourself, fight to maintain these essentialist gender roles that maintain strong gender inequalities in power, jobs, money, violence, sex, marriage, etc. Opposing essentialist and patriarchal gender roles, which was initiated by biblical texts and continued by contemporary feminists who continue to fight the dominant patriarchal sex/gender system, is the true counter-cultural stance.

  15. Tim June 12, 2015 at 5:28 pm #

    Ian

    People keep posting to Facebook things like Jesus isn’t anti-gay and that Jesus never mentions homosexuality so it’s not an issue. Would you think it’s reasonable to respond that:
    a) Jesus is not anti anyone (John 3:16)
    b) Whilst Jesus doesn’t mention homosexuality he does affirm that marriage is only between men and women (Matt 19v5 and 22v30). And that the place for sex is within this definition of marriage (Matt 5v28 & John 8 v1-11).

    If we accept that Jesus is the Son of God, that he sent the Holy Spirit and that the Holy Spirit inspired the parts of the New Testament that do condemn homosexual acts, then this supports point b).

    The trouble with Facebook (and social media) is that it’s difficult to view non popular views or have meaningful debate; hence my writing here.

    Thanks

    Tim

    • Ian Paul June 14, 2015 at 9:04 pm #

      Yes, Tim, I think you are quite right. But there are two other things to note.

      First, first-century Judaism (technically called ‘Second Temple’ Judaism) was uniformly hostile to same-sex sexual activity, and saw it is characteristic of the Gentiles and clear evidence of their idolatry. That is why Paul uses it in Romans 1 as a Jewish condemnation of the Gentile world, before turning in chapter 2 to biblical critique of Judaism, so that in chapter 3 he can conclude ‘all [ie both Jew and Gentile] have sinned’. We know that Jesus caused a scandal by various things, including *appearing* to flout some dietary laws, and eating with ‘tax collectors and sinners’. If there had been the slightest hint of an acceptance of same-sex relations, that too would have caused a scandal, and would have left some historical evidence.

      Secondly, in Mark 7 (about food) Jesus comments that it is what is in the heart which causes impurity. He includes ‘porneiai’ (sexual immoralities, plural) as well as ‘adultery’ in the list, and there the only way to read this is as a reference to the list of prohibited sexual relations in Lev 18 to 20.

      So Jesus silence on the question really only can mean that he did not disagree with his contemporaries’ disapproval of same-sex relations.

      Hope that helps.

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