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Were loving, faithful same-sex relations known in antiquity?

This is a guest post from John Pike, making the case that loving, faithful same-sex relations were known in antiquity, amongst other kinds of same-sex sexual relationships.

John is a GP in the Bristol area whom I know online. We have had some very interesting discussions in the context of our having quite different views on whether the Church should change its teaching on marriage and same-sex sexual relationships. But, as with such discussions, we often find unexpected things in common. John here makes the case that, in the range of patterns of relationship, loving and faithful same-sex relationships were known in antiquity, drawing on academic work which is itself based on primary research. Although I might assess parts of the evidence differently, I think he is essentially correct; it seems extraordinary to suppose that contemporary examples of such relationships are a modern construction—and outside the Church debate this is a widely held view, and one that deserves to be taken seriously. But if John is correct in his helpful summary of the evidence, then it makes it very hard to argue that the biblical writers ‘did not know’ of faithful and loving same-sex relationships, or that they ‘only condemned’ abusive relationships of this form. Same-sex relationships, and views about them, seem to have been as diverse then as they are now.

The post consists of the section of John’s discussion relating particularly to the New Testament texts; the whole of his piece is attached at the end as a document for download, if you are interested in the wider argument. It includes sections on the Ancient Near East, more on Ancient Greece, and a section on female homoeroticism.


John Pike writes: When one looks at the biblical texts that refer to same gender sexual behaviour, it is important to try and understand exactly what acts took place at various stages of history and to ask whether the biblical writers were aware of the acts and types of relationships that we now know existed. Were those writers aware of people who we now refer to as lesbian, gay or bisexual? Why are the acts condemned? Did the biblical condemnations apply to people in loving relationships then and, if so, do they still apply to those types of relationships today? This article seeks to answer some of those questions.

Some of the best evidence that we have is reported by gay and lesbian progressive scholars. They include Bernadette Brooten, who uncovers much evidence of sexual love between women in her book Love Between Women. Such relationships are best described by the term “homoeroticism” since the term “homosexuality” was first used in 1868 and is not suitable for describing the relationships that existed in ancient times.

[The full paper has a section here on the Ancient Near East.]


The Greco-Roman World

Quite a lot is known about practices and attitudes in the Greco-Roman world between 400 BCE and 400CE, which includes the time of St Paul. Ancient writers saw every sexual pairing as being between an active and a passive partner, regardless of gender, so the distinction was not biological. Passive, penetrated males, such as slaves (in Rome) and freeborn boys (in Greece), were regarded as feminine or effeminate, and active partners, whether male or female, were regarded as masculine. Passive males and active females were seen as transgressing gender roles and these ideas appear in much of the ancient literature. Philo and others reserved their greatest scorn for the effeminate, passive partner. Indeed, Philo labelled the effeminate male androgynos (literally ‘male-female’).

Many males would have sexual desire for, and engage in, sexual intercourse with both males and females, and especially with young boys and girls. There were various forms of homoerotic relationship across the Greco-Roman world. There were four broad groups – exploitation, concubinage, lovers (especially pederasty in Greece) and formal unions. There were male-male marriages and other formal same-sex unions in both Greece and Rome, and Brooten reports that there were also female-female marriages in parts of Egypt. However, we do not know about the precise nature of these marriages.i

The most common form of same gender relationship in ancient Greece was pederasty, a relationship between a man and a boy. However, there were also voluntary sexual encounters or “one night stands”, slave prostitution in the ancient Roman Empire, and “Effeminate Call Boys”, possibly in both ancient Greece and Rome.


Ancient Greece

In ancient Greece the commonest form of homoeroticism was same-gender, erotic-social relationships between a freeborn boy or youth and an adult, with predominantly education and wisdom, rather than sexual satisfaction, as the goal. This was true “pederasty”, the “love of boys”. Pederasty was very common in classical Greece, especially between teachers and pupils at the gymnasium. In upper class circles, meetings were also arranged at athletics venues and the palaestra (private wrestling schools). Even the earliest texts suggest that some men had a “different nature” and therefore different sexual preferences.ii

[The full paper contains a longer section here giving detail of different forms of relationships.]

Mark D. Smith, Bruce Thornton, William Loader and others state that there were also consensual, loving relationships between adults in classical Greece.iii In Plato’s Symposium, which was written c. 385-370 BC, nearly four centuries before Paul, Aristophanes, Phaedrus and Pausanias all give a positive view of same-gender eroticism.iv Robert Gagnon writes:

Aristophanes refers to men who are lovers of males as those ‘who continue with one another throughout life. . . . desiring to join together and to be fused into a single entity with his beloved and to become one person from two’ (192E). Pausanias, who was a lover of Agathon (a relationship that began when Agathon, now 31, was 18 years old), similarly emphasizes that lovers who love rightly ‘are prepared to love in the expectation that they will be with them all their life and will share their lives in common,’ ‘as if having been fused into a single entity with’ the soul of the beloved (181D, 183E). Consistent also with Aristophanes’ image of exclusive homosexual desire as an inherent trait is this remark of Pausanias: Men who love males ‘are not inclined by nature (phusei) toward marriage and the procreation of children, yet are compelled to do so by the law or custom (nomos)’ with the result that two joined males ‘live their lives out with one another unmarried’ (192A-B; my translations).v

In the same paper, Gagnon also cites the speech of Callicratidas, the defender of male-male love in the pseudo-Lucianic “Affairs of the Heart” (c. 300 C.E.) and numerous other examples of loving homoerotic relationships in the Greco-Roman world.

Hubbard notes that:

Literature of the first century C.E. bears witness to an increasing polarization of attitudes toward homosexual activity, ranging from frank acknowledgment and public display of sexual indulgence on the part of leading Roman citizens to severe moral condemnation of all homosexual acts.vi

N T Wright comments:

As a classicist, I have to say that when I read Plato’s Symposium, or when I read the accounts from the early Roman empire of the practice of homosexuality, then it seems to me they knew just as much about it as we do. In particular, a point which is often missed, they knew a great deal about what people today would regard as longer-term, reasonably stable relations between two people of the same gender. This is not a modern invention, it’s already there in Plato. The idea that in Paul’s today it was always a matter of exploitation of younger men by older men or whatever … of course there was plenty of that then, as there is today, but it was by no means the only thing.vii

However, others have disputed that Plato was aware of same-sex unions that were the equivalent of today’s same-gender, monogamous partnerships of love and faithfulness, intended to be permanent.viii

Dover concludes:

So long as we think of the world as divided into homosexuals and heterosexuals and regard the commission of a homosexual act, or even the entertaining of a homosexual desire, as an irrevocable step across a frontier which divides the normal, healthy, sane, natural and good from the abnormal, morbid, insane, unnatural and evil, we shall not get very far in understanding Greek attitudes to homosexuality. ix


Ancient Rome

We know quite a lot about sexual practices in ancient Rome from art, literature, inscriptions and archaeological remains and Rome was renowned for sexual license and abuse. Roman homoeroticism is closer in time to the NT world and to that of the early church, and homoerotic behaviour was quite common in Rome at that time. Under certain conditions it was accepted, but never in the way that it was celebrated in Athens or Sparta. It is claimed that, of the first fifteen Emperors, only Claudius was entirely heterosexual in his behaviour, and Nero is reported to have been in two same-gender “marriages” as well as being a sexual libertine in general. x However, the exact nature of these and other same-gender “marriages” and their legal status is unknown. Julius Caesar, Caligula and Domitian were also notorious for their homoerotic behaviour, as well as adultery in the case of Julius Caesar. xi

The Greek model, of pederastic relationships between an adult male and a freeborn youth or boy, was strongly disapproved of in Ancient Rome, whether the active or the passive partner, and there was no educational component to Roman homoeroticism. xii However, it was common for Roman men, even if they were married, to have sexual relationships with male or female concubines, with young male and female slaves, male and female prostitutes, and especially with young boys (pueri delicati) or girls, but this was frowned upon if excessive or if the partner was freeborn. Wives would not necessarily approve of such relationships, but they would not have been surprised either.xiii Adultery was regarded as particularly disgraceful.xiv Hubbard states that only relationships with slaves were positively valued, from about 200 BCE, but even those were questioned by some and especially later on, when all homoerotic conduct was often criticised. However, by the Augustan period and the first century CE, the influence of pederasty was seen as less of a threat.xv

Hubbard suggests that frequent objections from wives may be evidence of considerable personal intimacy and affection in relationships with slaves but, even here, slaves could reject advances from their masters. However, acceding was an opportunity for slaves to improve their status and to become free men.xvi

There was a particular street and a place by the River Tiber where one could find male prostitutes and sailors respectively. Public baths were also used. Juvenal refers to scratching one’s head with a single finger as an indication of a homoerotic inclination.xvii There is no record of same-gender female relationships in Rome. There were also homoerotic relationships in the Roman military. Wartime rape of both sexes and prostitution were also recorded.xviii

Prostitution, including male homoerotic prostitution, was a common, legal, public and tolerated phenomenon in Roman streets and baths, and involved mainly slaves, who nearly always served as the passive partner, but also involving entertainers and foreigners. Sometimes, a male prostitute was paid to penetrate his customer. xix Roman men in general seem to have preferred youths (male and female) between the ages of 12 and 20 as sexual partners, but older men could still prove attractive and professional prostitutes and entertainers might also have been considerably older. xx In Rome, the sexual dimension was emphasised more than in Greece. The Roman ideal of masculinity involved aggression and dominion, including in sexual life, and penetration was a symbol of masculinity. Much value was also placed on being especially well-endowed with a phallus and Craig Williams describes this concern with masculinity, domination and penetration as the “Priapic Model.”xxi

Alongside the priapic model, there was another ideal of faithfulness in married life, and a few aspired to it but, in general, the priapic model was much more common.xxii There is also evidence in poetry of genuine love for boys, who were often, against all rules, free born, or even of noble lineage. Cantarella feels that this is evidence for genuine, “homosexual” romantic love. xxiii Hubbard writes:

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.xxiv

Young male slaves in Rome often served as sexual partner to their master for a long time. Men could practice sex with slaves before getting married, and emotional bonds were not always excluded. Although, once married, these relationships became less tolerated, it was not unusual for a married Roman man to keep a puer. Although true pederasty was relatively rare in Rome, it may have existed around the classical age of Greece and, despite later laws against it, may have been practised in the last two centuries BCE, mainly by the social elite.xxv There are no Latin words for our modern concepts of “homosexuality” and “heterosexuality” and very little evidence remains of the practices that helped form the homoerotic “model” in the century in which Paul lived. xxvi

[The full paper here includes a section on female homoeroticism.]


Did The Ancient Writers Have Any Awareness Of A Homosexual Orientation?

Were the writers of the biblical texts that refer to homoerotic conduct aware of people with what we now refer to as a homosexual orientation, as opposed to people who chose to have intercourse with someone of the same sex? Were the ancients aware of loving, faithful same gender relationships? If so, did Paul and other writers of the time, both Christian and non-Christian, include such relationships in their condemnations? Scholarly opinions differ on these questions.

The first use of the term “homosexuality” was in German in 1868, and the term first appeared in an English translation of the Bible in 1946, when the original Revised Standard Version (RSV) appeared.xxvii Scholars generally agree that the ancients (biblical, Jewish, Assyrian, Greek or Roman) did not understand “homosexual orientation” or “homosexuals” in the sophisticated way we understand these ideas today, at least without significant qualification, and there was no word corresponding to “homosexuality”, “heterosexuality” or “bisexuality” in Greek, Hebrew or Aramaic.xxviii However, some scholars from both the conservative and progressive sides make a number of qualifications to the general view. xxix

Some argue that the ancients (such as Josephus and Philo) saw homoeroticism as being due to excessive heterosexual lust, and that their views are therefore not relevant to contemporary culture.xxx Moreover, some feel that, although there were various ancient attempts to explain same-gender erotic desire, no biblical writer shows any awareness of these ancient explanations and there is no mention of same-gender attraction in the creation stories. Victor Paul Furnish argues that no ancient account of sexual attraction comes close to modern understanding, achieved through biological, sociological and psychological work.xxxi Others disagree and Robert Gagnon additionally argues that

Philo and Josephus employed the excess-passion argument as a way of denigrating behaviour that on other grounds had been shown to be “contrary to nature”, not the other way round. xxxii

John Boswell states: “The persons Paul condemns are manifestly not homosexual: what he derogates are homosexual acts committed by apparently heterosexual persons…”xxxiii However, other scholars do not accept this ideaxxxiv and many, in addition, regard the use of the term “homosexual” in relation to these times as anachronistic. xxxv

In his 1994 book, Same-Sex Unions in Pre-Modern Europe, Boswell presents evidence that some of the Ancients in Greece, Rome and elsewhere were aware of people who seemed to be permanently attracted to people of the same gender and formed loving relationships together, including formal and legally-recognised unions. While some of Boswell’s work is no longer accepted, his findings are broadly in accord with some other scholars. xxxvi

Conservatives generally think it possible that Paul was aware of “constitutional homosexuality” and that the biblical writers knew about both same-gender attraction without sexual intimacy, and of same-gender intimacy which was neither violent, commercial, nor pederastic, including caring relationships.xxxvii As we have seen, the ancients produced explanations for why some people are attracted to members of their own sex and Robert Gagnon states that some of the views sound “remarkably like the current scientific consensus on homosexual orientation…” Dan O. Via accepts that in certain – perhaps small – circles in the ancient Mediterranean world there was some awareness of a homosexual disposition or orientation, but he thinks there is no clear evidence to support Gagnon’s view that Paul was familiar with one or more of the ancient theories about a congenital homosexual nature or orientation. xxxviii

While generally siding with the conservatives, the authors of Some Issues in Human Sexuality also recognise that nearly all the examples of ancient same-gender behaviours that we have refer to people who were married or went on to be married; most of the people who indulged in same-gender intercourse were, in effect, either bisexuals or heterosexuals who chose to have same-gender intercourse. Anthony Thiselton refers to the work of Christian Wolff, who cites a range of Greek literature which speaks of “genuine love” between male partners but who also acknowledges that the ancients possibly distinguished between “perversion” (people having intercourse with someone of the same gender contrary to their own inclination) and “inversion” (similar to the modern concept of a homosexual orientation). xxxix

Mark D. Smith, although of a conservative persuasion, urges caution in drawing too many conclusions from some of the material cited by Gagnon and others:

None of these sources can be considered representative of a general attitude in the Greco-Roman world, and none adequately parallels the modern concept of sexual orientation. xl

There is evidence of patriarchal societies, ancient misogynistic and prejudiced views and moral disgust with homoeroticism at the expense of any cultural achievements, such as those of Sappho.

The evidence also shows that Christian and non-Christian views of homoeroticism were very similar, and that medical views (some of them very strange) influenced the views of early Christians such as Tertullian. Also, the views of moral disgust which Paul expressed were very similar to those articulated by astrologers (some of them contemporaries of Paul) and medical writers of just a century or two later. Paul’s views in Romans 1 of homoeroticism being due to idolatry are also seen in the female homoerotic love spells dating from just a few centuries later in Egypt.

In summary, it seems that some of the ancients were aware of people who had what we today call a “homosexual orientation” and they formulated explanations to account for the phenomena. Some of the medical ideas do indeed come surprisingly close to some modern views about a “genetic component”, while other medical and astrological beliefs will seem absurd to contemporary people. David Greenberg demonstrates that homosexuality is not a uniform phenomenon across time and place and he argues that homoerotic behaviour is produced and interpreted in different ways by different societies at different times.xli He believes that homosexuality is only deviant because society has constructed or defined it as deviant.xlii

Many scholars believe that St Paul himself would have been aware of people who were naturally attracted to people of the same-sex, and who formed loving relationships or even formal unions, but we cannot be certain about this, since most of the materials we have were neither precisely contemporaneous nor originating in places where he worked, and none are directly related to him. Some of the manifestations of homoeroticism that Paul would probably have been familiar with, including paedophilia, pederasty and prostitution (especially with slaves), are very far removed from loving, committed, faithful gay relationships today. However, although Paul does not specifically exclude loving relationships from his teaching in Romans 1:26-27, 1 Corinthians 6:9-10 and 1 Timothy 1:9-11 (if it is indeed by him), a key point, as Preston Sprinklexliii and others note, is that for St Paul and many of his contemporaries, same gender sexual behaviour was “contrary to nature” and was therefore not tolerated in any circumstances.

Based on some of the seven uses in Paul (1 Cor 11:14-15, Rom 11:13-24), progressives argue that para physin meant “(seriously) unconventional” xliv whereas Robert Gagnon and other conservatives believe that, in this context, it has intertextual echoes with Genesis 1 and 2 and refers principally to gender discomplementarity and inability to procreate.xlv

As even the progressive Nissinen puts it:

Paul does not mention tribades or kinaidoi, that is, female and male persons who were habitually involved in homoerotic relationships, but if he knew about them (and there is every reason to believe that he did), it is difficult to think that, because of their apparent ‘orientation,’ he would not have included them in Romans 1:24-27. . . . Paul speaks of homoeroticism as a practice that transgresses the boundaries of “nature” (physis) so, for him, no individual inversion or inclination would make this conduct less culpable . . . Presumably nothing would have made Paul approve homoerotic behaviour. xlvi


Conclusion

The evidence suggests that the ancients and biblical writers were aware of a wide variety of homoerotic contacts and relationships, including loving relationships. While alternative readings of the biblical texts have been suggested, the vast majority of scholars, including progressives and/or gay/lesbian scholars such as Dan O. Viaxlvii, Louis Cromptonxlviii, Diarmaid MacCullochxlix, William Schoedell, Walter Winkli, Bernadette Brootenlii , Pim Pronkliii and Martti Nissinenliv, are agreed that the biblical texts condemn intercourse between two males in any context, regardless of any loving disposition or orientation, and, in the case of Romans 1, probably between two females as well. Progressives who take this view have responded in a variety of ways: for Brooten, Romans 1:26ff is not authoritativelv, MacCulloch believes that “in this, as in much else, the Bible is simply wrong”lvi, Wink also questions whether the Bible is correct, while for Nissinen “Ultimately, it all turned out to be about loving one’s neighbour as oneself…”lvii

Full paper: What types of same gender relationships were the ancients and biblical writers aware of (short)


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Works referenced and selected further reading

John L. Allen, Jr. “Interview with Anglican Bishop N.T. Wright of Durham, England”, 2004, available at: http://www.nationalcatholicreporter.org/word/wright.htm (accessed 5.8.17)

S.M. Baugh, “Cult Prostitution in New Testament Ephesus: A Reappraisal”, Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 42.3, 1999, 443-460

Phyllis Bird, “The Bible in Christian Ethical Deliberation concerning Homosexuality”, in Homosexuality, science, and the “plain sense” of scripture, ed. David L. Balch, Eerdmans, 2000

John Boswell, Christianity, Social Tolerance, and Homosexuality, University of Chicago Press, Chicago, 1981

——— Same-gender Unions In Premodern Europe, Villard Books, 1994

——— “Rediscovering Gay History: Archetypes of Gay Love in Christian History; The Fifth Michael Harding Memorial Address, 1982”, Gay Christian Movement, 1985 reprint

Bernadette Brooten, Love between Women: Early Christian Responses to Female Homoeroticism, University of Chicago Press, 1996

James V. Brownson, Bible, Gender, Sexuality: Reframing the Church’s Debate on Same-Sex Relationships, Eerdmans, 2013

Eva Cantarella, trans. O’ Cuilleanain, Bisexuality in the Ancient World, Yale University Press (Nota Bene), New Haven CT and London, 2002

William L. Countryman, Dirt, Greed and Sex, SCM Classics, Fortress Press, London, 1988-2001

Louis Crompton, Homosexuality and Civilization, Harvard University Press, 2003

Richard M. Davidson, Flame of Yahweh: Sexuality in the OT, Baker Academic, 2007

Kenneth J. Dover, Greek Homosexuality, Harvard, Cambridge, MA, 1989

Victor Paul Furnish, The Moral Teaching of Paul – Selected Issues, Abingdon Press, Nashville, third edition, 2009

——— “The Bible and Homosexuality: Reading the Texts in Context”, in Homosexuality in the Church, Both Sides of the Debate, ed Jeffrey S. Siker, Westminster John Knox Press, Louisville, 1994.

Robert A.J. Gagnon, The Bible and Homosexual Practice – Texts and Hermeneutics, Abingdon Press, Nashville, 2001

——— “The Bible and Homosexual Practice: Key Issues” in Homosexuality and the Bible: Two Views, (with Dan O. Via); Fortress Press, Minneapolis, 2003

——— Numerous papers available at www.robgagnon.net

Andrew Goddard, “James V. Brownson, Bible, Gender, Sexuality: A Critical Engagement”, for Kirby Laing Institute for Christian Ethics, 2014, available at: http://klice.co.uk/uploads/Goddard%20KLICE%20review%20of%20Brownson.pdf (accessed 15.8.17)

David F. Greenberg, The Construction of Homosexuality, The University of Chicago Press, 1988

Stanley J. Grenz, Welcoming But Not Affirming: Evangelical Response to Homosexuality, Westminster/John Knox Press, Louisville, 1998

David M. Halperin, One Hundred Years of Homosexuality: And Other Essays on Greek Love, Routledge, 1990

Richard B. Hays “Relations Natural and Unnatural: A Response to John Boswell’s Exegesis of Romans I”, Journal of Religious Ethics, Vol. 14 (1986), pp. 184-215.

——— “Awaiting the Redemption of Our Bodies: The Witness of Scripture Concerning Homosexuality”, in Homosexuality in the Church – Both Sides of the Debate, ed. Jeffrey S. Siker, Westminster John Knox Press, Louisville, 1994

——— The Moral Vision of the New Testament: A Contemporary Introduction to New Testament Ethics, Harper Collins, San Francisco, 1996.

Thomas K. Hubbard, Homosexuality in Greece and Rome: A Sourcebook, University of California Press, 2003

William R. G. Loader, The NT on Sexuality (Attitudes Towards Sexuality in Judaism and Christianity in the Hellenistic Greco-Roman Era), Eerdmans, 2012.

Dale B. Martin, Sex and the Single Saviour: Gender and Sexuality in Biblical Interpretation, Westminster John Knox Press, Louisville, 2006

John J. McNeill, The Church and the Homosexual, Fourth Edition, Beacon Press, Boston, 1993, ISBN 0-8070-7931-6

——— “Homosexuality: Challenging the Church to Grow”, in Homosexuality in the Church, Both Sides of the Debate, ed Jeffrey S. Siker, Westminster John Knox Press, Louisville, 1994

Martti Nissinen, Homoeroticism in the Biblical World, Fortress, 1998

Philo, The Special Laws III, available at: http://www.earlychristianwritings.com/yonge/book29.html (accessed 5.8.17)

Simon Ponsonby, God is For Us: 52 Readings from Romans, Monarch Books, 2013

David Prior, The Message of 1 Corinthians, “Bible Speaks Today” Bible commentary, IVP, Leicester, 1985

Robin Scroggs, The NT and Homosexuality, Augsburg Fortress, Philadelphia, 1983

Keith Sharpe, The Gay Gospels: Good News for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgendered People, Circle Books, Winchester, 2011

John R. W. Stott, Same Sex Partnerships? A Christian Contribution to Contemporary Debate, Marshall Pickering, London, 1998

Plato, Symposium. Full text with line numbers available at: https://website.education.wisc.edu/halverson/wp-content/uploads/2012/12/Symposium.pdf (accessed 5.8.17). Also available at Hubbard, p. 180-207

Amy Richlin, “Not before Homosexuality: The Materiality of the Cinaedus and the Roman Law against Love between Men”, Journal of the History of Sexuality, Vol. 3, No. 4 (Apr. 1993), pp. 523-573

Eugene F. Rogers Jr., Sexuality and the Christian Body: Their Way into the Triune God, John Wiley & Sons, 1999

Jack Rogers, Jesus, The Bible, and Homosexuality, Westminster John Knox Press, Louisville, 2009

William Schoedel, “Same-Sex Eros: Paul and the Greco-Roman Tradition”, in Homosexuality, Science, and the “Plain Sense” of Scripture, ed. Balch, Eerdmans, 2000

Mark D. Smith, “Ancient Bisexuality and the Interpretation of Romans 1.26, 27”, Journal of the American Academy of Religion, 1996, 64: 223-54

Some Issues in Human Sexuality – A Guide to the Debate. A discussion document from the House of Bishops’ Group on “Issues in Human Sexuality”, Church House Publishing, London, 2003

Preston Sprinkle, People to Be Loved: Why Homosexuality is not just an Issue, Zondervan, 2015

Anthony C. Thiselton, “Can Hermeneutics Ease the Deadlock? Some Biblical Exegesis and Hermeneutical Models”, in The Way Forward? ed. Bradshaw, SCM, 2nd edition, London, 2003

——— 1 Corinthians: A Shorter Exegetical and Pastoral Commentary, Eerdmans, 2011 (Paperback edition)

Bruce S. Thornton, “Eros”, The Myth of Ancient Greek Sexuality, Westview Press, Boulder, Colorado and Cumnor Hill, Oxford, 1997.

Michael Vasey, Strangers and Friends: New Exploration of Homosexuality and the Bible, Hodder and Stoughton, London, 1995, ISBN 0-340-60814-5

——— “Travelling Together?” in The Way Forward? ed. Timothy Bradshaw, SCM Press, London, 2003

Dan O. Via and Robert A J Gagnon, Homosexuality and the Bible: Two Views, Fortress, 2003

Craig A. Williams, Roman Homosexuality, Oxford, Second Edition, 2010

Walter Wink, Homosexuality and Christian Faith: Questions of Conscience for Churches, Augsburg Fortress, 1999

David F. Wright, “Homosexuality: The Relevance of The Bible”, The Evangelical Quarterly, 61:4, 1989, 291-300, available at: http://biblicalstudies.org.uk/pdf/eq/1989-4_291.pdf (accessed 15.8.17)


Footnotes

i Brooten, 1996, p.3

ii Hubbard, p. 2-4

iii Smith, p. 235-7; Loader, 2012, p.84, 324-5; Gagnon, 2001, pp. 350; Thornton, p.108; Dover

iv Plato’s “Symposium”, Aristophanes’ speech 191e-193c; Phaedrus 178a-180b; Pausanias 180c- 185c

v Gagnon, “A Book Not To Be Embraced: A Critical Review Essay on Stacy Johnson’s A Time to Embrace”, available at www.robgagnon.net. See also Gagnon, 2001, p. 350-360 and Thornton, p.105.

vi Hubbard, p. 383

vii NT Wright, in interview with John L. Allen, Jr, 2004

viii See, for example, Ken Wilson, “A Letter to My Congregation”, David Crumm Media, LLC, 2014, citing Greco-Roman scholar Sarah Ruden, “Paul among the People”, Chapter 3.

ix Dover, 1989, p. 183. See also p. 203

x Wilson, 2014, p. 40; Williams, 2010, p. 280, 284-286; Richlin, 1993, p. 532

xi Williams, 2010, p. 9, 35, 76, 182, 280, 284-286; Richlin, 1993, p. 529, 532, 538-540; Cantarella, 2002, p. 156-164

xii Cantarella, 2002, p. xviii, 97; Hubbard p. 6-7, 9

xiii Williams, 2010, p. xi- xiv, 3, 5, 8, 11, 14, 16-17-20, 31-32, 39-40, 48-51, 68, 103-112; Richlin, 1993, p. 525-6, 533-4, 536; Cantarella, 2002, p. 99, 101-104, 171-2; Stuart, 1995, p.160; Loader, 2012, p. 88, 90; Hubbard, p. 13

xiv Williams, 2010, p. 122-125; Cantarella, ibid. From 18 BC, adultery became an offence, and there may have been more general laws against sexual immorality of various kinds against freeborn citizens since about 200 BC (ibid, p. 130-135)

xv Hubbard, p. 10, 15-16

xvi Hubbard, p. 13-14

xvii Hubbard, p. 4

xviii Williams, 2010, p. 112-116, 241; Richlin, 1993, p.540; Hubbard, p. 6

xix Williams, 2010, p. 90-92

xx Williams, 2010, p. 78-79, 83-90

xxi Williams, 2010, p. 14, 18, 94-102, 145-148, 179-183. See also Cantarella, 2002, p. xi, 98

xxii Williams, 2010, p. 54-59

xxiii Cantarella, 2002, p. xviii-xix

xxiv Hubbard, p. 386

xxv Smith, Op. Cit., p. 233-4

xxvi Smith, p. 234

xxvii Furnish, 2009, 3rd edition, p. 80

xxviii Countryman, 1988, p. 105; Martin, 2006, p. 58; Hays, 1994, p. 9; Furnish, 1994, p. 18-19, and 2009, 3rd edition, p. 55. Also Nissinen, 1998, p.128; Scroggs, 1983; Halperin, 1990; Richlin, 1993, p. 525; Hubbard, p.1

xxix Gagnon, 2001, p. 393; Schoedel, p. 46-47; Loader, 2012, p. 323-324, 496; Richlin, 1993, p. 524; Brooten, 1996, p. 8; Thiselton, 2003, p. 186-7; Cantarella, 2002, p. viii-ix; Sprinkle, 2015, p. 58-61; Hubbard, p.2-4.

xxx Martin, “Heterosexism and the Interpretation of Romans 1:18-32”, in “Sex and the Single Savior.” Furnish, 2009, pp, 55-57, 73-74. Also in ed. Siker, 1994, pp. 26-27. See also Gagnon, 2001, p. 176, 273

xxxi Furnish, 2009, 3rd edition, p. 56-7

xxxii Gagnon, 2001, p. 392, Schoedel, p. 45. Second point – Gagnon, 2001, p. 178

xxxiii Boswell, 1980, pp. 108-109, 112-3.

xxxiv See especially Hays, 1986, pp. 184-215; Also Gagnon, 2001, p. 393-4, Schoedel, p. 67-68; Grenz, 1998, p. 49-50; Scroggs, 1983, footnote 39, p.28; Crompton, p. 114.

xxxv Williams, 2010, p. 190; Mark D. Smith, 1996, p. 225, Halperin, 1990, pp. 24-29, Nissinen and Furnish, for example

xxxvi See, for example, Sprinkle, 2015, p. 61-64

xxxvii See, for example, Gagnon, 2001, p. 393 (2).

xxxviii Grenz, 1998, p.84-85; Gagnon 2001, pp. 350-360, 384-395; also “How Bad Is Homosexual Practice According to Scripture and Does Scripture’s Indictment Apply to Committed Homosexual Unions?” Available at www.robgagnon.net; http://www.robgagnon.net/2Views/HomoViaRespNotesRev.pdf (N94 and N95 notes); Via and Gagnon 2003, p.81; Schoedel, ed. Balch, pp. 43-72; Thiselton, 2003, p. 158-160; “Issues in Human Sexuality”, 2.16, p.12; Hubbard, p. 2

xxxix Thiselton, ibid, p. 169-170

xl Mark D. Smith, 1996, 64: 223-54, especially N5, p. 225

xli Greenberg, p.25-123, 635. See also LeVay, 2011, p. 19-26

xlii Greenberg, ibid, p.2, 6

xliii Sprinkle, 2015, pp. 91-102, 187-188

xliv McNeill, 1993, p. 54-56; E F Rogers, 1999, p. 64, 100, 263-4; Nissinen, Op. Cit., p. 105-6; Furnish, 1994, p. 30; J Rogers, p. 74; Via, 2003, p14; Sharpe, 2010, p. 50-51. See also David Prior, 1985, p.184. Vasey and Cranfield also feel that Paul is using physis in the same sense in Romans 1:26-27 and 1 Corinthians 11:14 (Vasey, 1995, p.131). See also Countryman, 1988, pp. 101-2; Thiselton, 2003, p. 176; Brownson, p. 235

xlv Gagnon, 2001, p. 256, 258 (p. 254-270), 2003, p.100 and various articles, such as “How Bad Is Homosexual Practice According to Scripture and Does Scripture’s Indictment Apply to Committed Homosexual Unions?” available at www.robgagnon.net. See also Gagnon in Fulcrum postings; Stott, 1998, p.45; Grenz, 1998, p. 51-6; Hays, 1986, pp. 184-215, esp. p. 192-4, and 1996, p.386; Goddard, 2014, p. 13-17, 53-58; Ponsonby, 2013, p. 103, also citing Karl Barth; Davidson, 2015, p. 637; David F. Wright, 1989, p. 295; Sprinkle, 2015, p. 93-98. See Brownson, 2013, p. 28-9 for a detailed critique of this.

xlvii Via, 2003, p. 11, 13

xlviii Crompton, 2003, p.114

xlix Diarmaid MacCulloch, “The Reformation: A History”, p. 705

l Schoedel, pp. 67-68

li Wink, 1999,

lii Brooten, 1996, p. 11, 106, 244, 253n, 257, 361

liii Pim Pronk, “ Against Nature? Types of Moral Argumentation Regarding Homosexuality”, Eerdmans, 1993, p.279.

liv Nissinen, 1998, p. 109-112

lv Brooten, 1996, p. 302

lvi MacCulloch, ibid

lvii Nissinen, 1998, p. vi, Preface. See also Wink, 1999, p. 45.

 

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73 Responses to Were loving, faithful same-sex relations known in antiquity?

  1. Mat Sheffield August 17, 2017 at 8:43 am #

    Fascinating, there is much to digest here.

    I think the crucial point for me remains, not that comparable faithful loving relationships existed in antiquity (as I agree completely here, though my knowledge on the subject is limited), but that even when they did they were still thought of as inherently disordered; a deviation from the natural order of things and that in many cases, this was seen as negative rather than positive. That said, I think Dover gets it right in his Summary; that even if they considered it thus it did not represent as definitive a ‘line’ as is commonly assumed, the line was blurry and subjective. A deviation, but not always an unacceptable one.

    I find Brooten’s work to be particularly difficult, as throughout she describes the unions she observes in her as “marriage”, or equivalent to, when I think this is academically ‘putting the cart before the horse’. That there were male-male and female-female unions is not usually in dispute, and her research is thorough; but weather these unions are comparable to marriage (both by Today’s and antiquity’s standards) is a different question…

    I also think the distinction between Homosexuality and Homoeroticism is significant, and I for one will be more careful of this in the future when discussing the subject. The division into 4 broad groups is also helpful, though I think it fair, in the context of the SSM debate, to be clear that “formal unions” were the minority. Pedastry and exploitation could legitimately be described as ‘common’, the latter could not.

    Mat

    • Will Jones August 17, 2017 at 10:12 am #

      I agree, Mat, the use of ‘marriage’ to describe some ancient same-sex relationships, which John reproduces at one point without comment, seems anachronistic. I’d be interested in any direct references to ancient texts which show the same word being used as for natural (male-female) unions.

      • Mat Sheffield August 17, 2017 at 10:59 am #

        I feel I should be clearer. I read Brooten’s work (or an extended summary of it) several years ago. That the word ‘marriage’ was used as a synonym for ‘formal union’ is my principle memory, and John’s comment would seem to affirm that as correct. I may be mistaken, I do not own a copy of her work, and am not familiar enough with it to be certain.

  2. Will Jones August 17, 2017 at 10:25 am #

    Very good summary of some of the key literature on this.

    One point: I was a little shocked to see pederasty not being classified as exploitative. Is the four part classification (exploitation, concubinage, lovers, and formal unions) an ancient or modern one? If ancient then this should be made clear (i.e. that they regarded certain same-sex relationships as exploitative, which didn’t include pederasty). If modern then there shouldn’t be any excuse for putting relationships between older, powerful men (as teachers) and adolescent boys as young as 12 as non-exploitative ones between lovers. If it is an attempt to summarise how they saw things then it would be helpful for the modern reader have this made clear, as we would certainly not classify them in the same way. Otherwise it can look like tacit endorsement of the classification by the writer, which presumably it is not.

  3. Richard. August 17, 2017 at 5:46 pm #

    Ian, this post provides very slim evidence for your conclusion that loving, faithful same-sex relations were known in antiquity. It provides still less evidence that they were known to Paul’s readers. The lack of evidence, particularly from primary sources, is telling.

    • Will Jones August 18, 2017 at 11:36 am #

      Are we reading the same article?

  4. James Byron August 17, 2017 at 7:03 pm #

    Great piece, especially for including at the end the rebuttal to “The Bible says it, I believe it.”

    That so few in the affirming camp simply come out and say that the Bible’s simply wrong indicates either theological conservatism (some, undoubtedly, are); or a fear of conflict. Since there’ll be conflict regardless, if you’re not wedded to biblical authority, better to save yourself the trouble of trying to make the Bible back your play.

    • Philip Almond August 17, 2017 at 8:23 pm #

      Interesting. I hope those who will make the ‘no change to current Church teaching case’ are reading all this closely.
      Phil Almond

      • James Byron August 17, 2017 at 11:18 pm #

        Who on the affirming side’s actually making such a case? A handful of hand-wringing moderates perhaps, but anyone who wants equal marriage and a repeal of Higton/Issues … quite openly want to change church teaching.

        • Philip Almond August 18, 2017 at 9:13 am #

          I wasn’t talking about the ‘affirming side’. I was taking about those who don’t want Church teaching to change because they believe that same-sex attraction and practice is a sinful inclination like any other sinful inclination, and like any other sinful inclination (we all have sinful inclinations of one sort or another) is a result of the Fall and Original Sin. The fact many that progressive scholars, according to the article, believe that Romans 1 rules out all ‘intercourse between two males in any context, regardless of any loving disposition or orientation’ is very significant, and if some of them take the view that the Bible, on this matter and on many others, is simply mistaken, this surely shows that the scope of the controversy to be addressed by the Bishops ‘Teaching Document’ is widened and deepened. I welcome that development so long as all participants are open and honest, and willing to criticise each other, in recognising that the Sexuality disagreement, though important in itself, is a symptom of a much deeper disagreement – about who God is and what he is like and whether or not we all face from birth onwards the wrath and condemnation of God and are born with a nature inclined to evil and ready to recognise that any who have made the Declaration of Assent not believing that terrible truth were just being dishonest.

          Phil Almond

          • Philip Almond August 18, 2017 at 10:41 am #

            I hasten to add that evangelicals who have made the Declaration of Assent without believing from the heart Prayer Book statements about Baptism and Absolution were equally dishonest. There is some truth in the jibe that the Church of England has Calvinistic Articles, an Arminian Clergy and a Popish Liturgy.

            Phil Almond

          • James Byron August 18, 2017 at 5:45 pm #

            I’d like that too, Phil: unfortunately, I expect the CoE & wider Communion will instead be served the usual slice of episcopal fudge, where the bishops assume the axioms the think will cause least dissent, waffle on donnishly about scripture, reason and tradition, add a dash of love, then reach whatever political conclusion they reached before the exercise began.

            Events may, on this occasion, overtake them.

          • Philip Almond August 18, 2017 at 6:46 pm #

            Sounds unduly cynical James – give them a chance!
            Phil Almond

          • Simon August 18, 2017 at 7:36 pm #

            Not cynical Philip, more a recognition the effects of original sin still working its ways, even for baptised anglicans? 😉

          • James Byron August 18, 2017 at 10:19 pm #

            In the immortal words of Sir Humphrey Appleby: “Ah, ‘a cynic’ — what an idealist calls a realist.” 😉

          • Philip Almond August 21, 2017 at 4:19 pm #

            In Philip Almond August 18, 2017 at 9:13 am and Philip Almond August 18, 2017 at 10:41 am I used the word ‘dishonest’. I withdraw that word, with apologies, because ‘dishonest’ means intending to deceive which I did not intend to imply. The meaning I meant to convey is that those referred to in the two posts were not facing up to what the Declaration must mean, on any reasonable reading.
            Phil Almond

    • Will Jones August 17, 2017 at 8:29 pm #

      Hi James. Problem is I don’t think many realise that the argument ‘the Bible is wrong’ is not one that the CofE has made before. Therefore they don’t appreciate the monumental, and probably catastrophic, significance of it. Liberals who already assume they are picking and choosing which bits of scripture to accept don’t recognise that this would be a radical new departure for the Church, one with deep and permanent consequences. I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say it would be disastrous for Church unity in this country and globally.

      • Philip Almond August 17, 2017 at 10:21 pm #

        But it would, at long last, be honest. ‘Church unity’?????
        Phil Almond

      • James Byron August 17, 2017 at 11:16 pm #

        De jure, maybe; de facto, well, lots of clever exegesis has been used to justify divorce and the rest as being in line with scripture, so if the CoE wants to go that way with homosexuality, I’m sure it can be cooked up to order!

        • Will Jones August 18, 2017 at 10:03 am #

          Yes, but transparently so! Which is little better.

          And it won’t achieve any kind of consensus because the truth is so obvious.

    • Ian Paul September 8, 2017 at 11:03 am #

      Um, perhaps they are just being dishonest?

  5. Phill August 18, 2017 at 9:19 am #

    I like seeing a blog post with footnotes and a bibliography – more should be like that, especially on this subject!

  6. James Edmonds August 18, 2017 at 3:27 pm #

    Look I just think the bible is authoritative in the things it is clear about. But my bar for ‘clear’ is higher than yours. I want to see big arching principles underpinning specific incidences or statements, or I want to see commands from Jesus. Be honest, be merciful, be generous, put God and others first- these are clear biblical commands.

    The fact that same-sex sex is condemned a few times isn’t enough to make that a biblical principle- since (in my and many other’s opinions) it can’t be reconciled with the bigger principles- it’s unloving and harmful- and it isn’t mentioned by Jesus, or consistently enough by prophets, angels or other people of note. With Paul there’s too much suspicion that it’s part of his cultural heritage rather than something from God. So yes, I accept that ‘whenever same-sex activity is mentioned in the bible, it is condemned’. But that’s not meaningful- how you decide what counts as a principle is a more complicated, reflective and indeed spiritual process than counting positive v negative mentions and totting them up.

    • Christopher Shell August 18, 2017 at 3:55 pm #

      Further: where is the logic in saying that it is always a complicated process to arrive at principles?

      Quite the contrary: if principles are the most basic things of all, there are likely to be some instances where they are also the most obvious things of all.

    • Will Jones August 18, 2017 at 4:25 pm #

      James, how much clearer do you want it to be?

      God’s design of human beings as male and female for mutual attraction and marriage is set out in Genesis 1:27-8 and 2:23-4 and repeated by Jesus (Matthew 19:4-6, Mark 10:6-9) and Paul (Ephesians 5:28-33). The design of human beings as male and female for sexual union and sexual reproduction is also abundantly evident in the form and function of human anatomy.

      Sexual immorality is condemned on numerous occasions throughout the Bible, and on three occasions in the New Testament the fact that that includes same-sex sex is expressly spelled out (in one instance linking it with idolatry).

      How do you avoid the conclusion that you simply want to set aside this clear biblical teaching about human sexual relationships because it doesn’t accord with your own moral views? You say it isn’t clear. But surely by your own admission it is clear – you accept that’s what it says. But then you want some ‘complicated’ process to be followed to discern the truth which allows you to set it aside. But how is that allowing the Bible to be ‘authoritative in the things it is clear about’?

      • David Shepherd August 19, 2017 at 10:08 am #

        Hi Will,

        I agree, but, according to James’ lights, that’s ‘unloving and harmful’…Just as some might infer from Jesus instructing severity in preventing the habitual occasion of sin. (Matt. 5:29,30; 18:8)

    • Simon Ponsonby August 18, 2017 at 7:39 pm #

      James, How many times does the bible need to call a sin a sin before you think you will be happy to call it a sin too?

  7. Christopher Shell August 18, 2017 at 3:50 pm #

    1. One man one woman is a big overarching principle in both testaments – but, also very importantly, also in the real world. It applies to human origins in 100% of cases and with rare exceptions to animal origins in 100% of cases. So it is unreasonable to ask for clarity when we already have 100% covering billions of cases. How much more clarity is needed?

    2. It is not a principle that is always stated, since it is even *more* fundamental than that: namely, it is too obvious even to need to be stated. But it is sometimes stated none the less.

    3. Jesus even cites one man one woman in a case where it might be thought irrelevant (divorce), so key is it to him.

    4. NT scholars seem united on the point that Jesus’s divorce saying in its Mark form is a very strong contender for Jesus’s best-attested saying of all.

    3.

  8. Robert Caldwell August 18, 2017 at 6:41 pm #

    Will Jones has stated the Biblical position most succinctly. A reading of the Bible clearly indicates that homosexual behavior and practice is forbidden. Those who disagree simply don’t like what they read. I am reminded by a quote by theologian R.C. Sproul: “We are required to believe, to teach, and to preach what the Bible says is true, and NOT what we want the Bible to say is true.”

    • James Byron August 18, 2017 at 10:26 pm #

      I agree that the Bible unequivocally condemns homosexuality, and disagree with the good Sproul’s opinion of its authority, so there we go. 🙂

      At least we all agree on interpretation!

  9. Simon Ponsonby August 18, 2017 at 7:44 pm #

    Thanks Robert- I like the similar Augustiian line that if you believe what you like in the gospel and reject what you dislike, it is not the gospel you believe but yourself.

  10. Simon Ponsonby August 18, 2017 at 7:45 pm #

    That would be – ‘Augustinian’ –

  11. Justin August 19, 2017 at 1:15 am #

    Without falling too much into arguments about specific verses I suppose I’d like to raise the point that treating 1st-century morality as the fundamentally unchanging part of God’s revelation suggests an ironic overlooking of Paul’s hermeneutical arguments (which are foundational to the logic and authority of the New Testament) in which the spirit of the text is superior to the letter of the text.

    That is to say, Paul spends a lot of time introducing legalists to the notion of intentionality, introducing dogmatists to spiritual authority, and introducing traditionalists to liberty. Those parts of the New Testament seem more important, at least in my estimation, than the handful of instances where homosexuality is condemned as an unacceptable practice, or where slavery is supported as tenable, or patriarchy is upheld as natural.

    When we emphasize only the “do this, don’t do that” parts of the New Testament, and treat them as legally binding codes, it feels like we run the risk of treating the New Testament as more-or-less hermeneutically identical to the Old Testament, as a sort of “Mosaic-Levitical Law Part II,” and I think that may miss the fundamental point.

    • David Shepherd August 19, 2017 at 9:42 am #

      Hi Justin,

      The issue here is that, despite the importance of intentionality, spiritual authority and liberty, the NT provides numerous instances where both John and Jesus were dogmatic and traditional.

      For instance, consider Herodias, who was orphaned by Herod the Great’s execution of Aristobulus and then married off to her half-uncle, Herod Philip.

      Despite her tragic early life, she eventually fell in love and married Herod Antipas, who just happened to be Herod Philip’s half-brother. She was a faithful wife to Antipas, ultimately even following him into the exile imposed by Caligula.

      Yet, the NT emphasis on liberty didn’t prevent John the Baptist (whom Jesus described as a ‘burning and shining light’) from denouncing Herodias’ marriage as illicit on the basis of Lev. 20:21.

      When Jesus and Paul took issue with the legalism of scribes and Pharisees, it was not their constant reference to the Law and Prophets, but because of their cherry-picking of certain bits of scripture, which concurred with and supported their pre-determined fixed ideas. Additionally, the Pharisees dismissed other parts of OT scripture which specifically contradicted their emphasis on outward religious observances (e.g. Deut. 30:6)

      For Jesus and the apostles, legalism was not merely dismissing the importance of human intentionality. Instead, it involved cherry-picking from the breadth of God’s revealed intentionality: the ‘whole counsel of God’.

      So, on the question of divorce, in contrasting the enduring applicability of the Genesis narrative with the provisionality of Moses’ accommodation of divorce, Jesus’ recorded response was so stringent as to cause His disciples to remark: ‘“If this is the situation between a husband and wife, it is better not to marry.”

      Regarding marriage, His principle was inductively reasoned from God’s unrevoked intention which is expressed in the Genesis narrative. The Pharisees’ insistence on what appeared to be Moses’ unqualified permission to divorce contradicted this because: ‘it was not so from the beginning’.

      St. Paul also leverages that inductive reasoning in Romans 1. As he explain his urgency to spread the gospel as the ‘power of God unto salvation’, he also described the inevitable outworking of divine reprobation without it.

      Without the message of divine grace through Jesus Christ, mankind descends inexorably into arrogant licence through thought, word and deed. This itself results from our dismissive, dissatisfied and ungrateful response of fallen humans to God’s ordering of the world in creation: ‘since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities–his eternal power and divine nature–have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.’ (Rom. 1:19,20)

      As a result of rejecting this natural revelation, God becomes caricatured into the elevation of our earthly aspirations, ideals and terrors. On this basis, greed is also idolatry (Eph. 5:5), because it elevates our material desires above His will that we imitate his generosity.

      Although ancients reified their earthly passions as man-made objects of worship, this ‘idealatry’ continues today in the slavish worship, pursuit and deference towards man-made sexual/gender identity.

      While I’m sure that some of these religious ‘idealaters’ will indeed appear to retain the form and ritual as a mere semblance of reverence for God (2 Tim. 3:5), the effect of divine reprobation on their obdurately arrogance is unmistakable. It continues to reveal them as not only increasingly disaffected by the faith ‘once delivered into the saints’, but also enslaved (or, at the very least, enchanted) by their darling disordered affections.

    • Will Jones August 19, 2017 at 9:48 am #

      Hi Justin.

      It’s not a matter of a do this, don’t do that mentality. You’re drawing false parallels between different issues. The specifics of each issue need to be attended to.

      For instance, there is no other instance of something which the NT describes as a sin on a number of occasions which we would now wish to interpret it as declaring good.

      Another difference: The NT never describes slavery as good or natural, and it includes slave trading as a sin. It regards slaves and masters as equal in Christ and encourages slaves to obtain their freedom. You don’t have any comparable themes to suggest the need to reconsider the clear inclusion of same-sex sex as sinful and an aspect of sexual immortality. There also isn’t any other sin from the vice lists that is up for potential striking off – this is literally the only one.

      The NT’s positive view of women has been widely discussed of course. Again, you have no comparable theme of positively viewed same-sex sex to justify something as unprecedented as setting aside a clear statement that it is sin.

      You also have to contend with the wider pan- biblical theme of the design of human beings as male and female for mutual attraction and marriage.

    • Christopher Shell August 19, 2017 at 11:32 am #

      Since when has it been an either/or?

      • David Shepherd August 19, 2017 at 12:56 pm #

        Hi Christopher,

        If that was to me, ‘either/or’ succinctly captures St. Paul’s conclusive denunciation of Gentile profligacy: ‘Although they know God’s righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them.’ (Rom. 1:32)

        While there is a minority in every era who perpetrate these acts ‘against nature’, there is also an unregenerate majority who, from the sidelines of this playground of 21st century depravity, are readily cheering them on!

        • Christopher Shell August 21, 2017 at 11:58 am #

          Hi David –

          It actually wasn’t to you, but at the moment I am struggling to see whom it was to. Good principle though….

    • Mat Sheffield August 19, 2017 at 2:55 pm #

      I rather like this sentence/summary: “Paul spends a lot of time introducing legalists to the notion of intentionality, introducing dogmatists to spiritual authority, and introducing traditionalists to liberty.”.

      Surely the whole purpose of Paul’s approach is to challenge not the specific actions, but the ‘worldview’ and system of thought on which they rest? This is why much of Paul’s writing appeals to human reason, ‘natural law’ ideas and philosophical ideals (often abstract), rather than as an explicit manifesto, or a thesis, and also why, much as we would like it to, Paul does not simply list do’s-and-don’ts for the post-Christ people. Paul is after all very clear that we do not need a new Deuteronomy or Leviticus (we have the Spirit), but we can very easily seem like we want one……which is what you said. 😉

      I find myself (once again) in agreement with James Byron. This article’s case, while compelling, is not necessarily as central to the wider argument as it can seem, and most people involved int his debate seem to accept it’s main conclusion: that antiquity bears witness to a diveristy of sexual ethics, in many ways comparable to today…

      The principle blockage in the SSM debate is not a lack of clarity on the ancient context(s) for same-sex relationships, but on the definition of marriage itself, and weather or not the bible is consistent in it’s exclusivity or male-female.

      • Will Jones August 19, 2017 at 3:39 pm #

        Hi Mat.

        My experience is that people often like to suggest that the Bible’s condemnation of same-sex sex is unclear, and make that a central point of their argument. If we really could agree that actually it is clear on this crucial issue that would be a big step forward.

        To be honest I haven’t seen an argument that tries to argue that the Bible is ambiguous on whether its concept of marriage is intrinsically male-female or not. Surely that is ruled out by Genesis 1:27-8 and 2:23-4, Matthew 19:4-6, Mark 10:6-9 and Ephesians 5:28-33? Can you point me to a good example of this kind of argument?

        • David Shepherd August 20, 2017 at 12:16 pm #

          Hi Will,

          The argument is more often more nuanced than you’ve described. It goes:

          1) there are specific contexts of same-sex sex, such as violence and subjugation, which the ancients were addressing in their condemnation of the practice.

          2) these prohibited contexts are unrelated to the modern experience of permanent, faithful, stable same-sex couples.

          In respect of marriage being intrinsically male-female, a good example of the counter-argument is to be found in Tobias Haller’s book, Reasonable and Hol’.

          His position is that male-female conjugation is not an essential instrumental good of marriage. In other words, his argument is that, absent male-female conjugation, the indispensable ends of marriage can still be accomplished by mutually committed same-sex couples.

          The argument that male-female conjugation is an essential intrinsic good of marriage concurs with Augustine’s explanation in The Good of Marriage: ‘there is good ground to inquire for what reason it be a good. And this seems not to me to be merely on account of the begetting of children, but also on account of the natural society itself in a difference of sex.’

          However, Haller criticizes the ‘intrinsic good’ argument by saying that it’s circular to assert that “Marriage can only take place between a man and a woman because only a man and a woman can marry’.

          He has a point, although the valid argument for orthodox marriage is that ‘Marriage can only take place between a man and a woman because only a male-female couple can rightfully assert marriage’s built-in contingency for joint natural parenthood’.

          In fact, that the basis of the European Court of Human Rights declaring that ‘marriage is geared towards the fundamental possibility of parenthood.’

          Concerning procreation, Haller therefore argues: ‘Only a make and female can accomplish procreation. But as I have shown, the capacity to procreate is neither essential to marriage, nor inseparable from its other goods.’

          Concerning ‘one flesh’, he concludes: ‘For Paul, union of flesh is morally neutral. It is good between a married couple, but not between a prostitute and her client’ (cf. 1 Cor. 6:6) ‘it is thus the context of the relationship (the fullness of marital unity of body mind and heart, in mutual joy and companionship) that determines the moral status of the act which renders the ‘one flesh’ morally good.’

          Of course, the fallacies committed here are that to prove that procreation is not essential to marriage does not alter the fact that contingency for joint natural parenthood is essential to marriage.

          Also, even if ‘one flesh’ is not exclusive to marriage (i.e. it can be extramarital) does not prove that ‘one flesh’ is not essential to marriage.

          Concerning complementarity, Haller is critical of Some Issues in Human Sexuality, as he writes: ‘In normal English usage, however, “complementarity” -when applied to two thing – means that one makes up what is lacking in the other, or that both together make up what is lacking in each…There are two faults with applying this concept to human beings and their relationships. First, it requires that the individual human being be seen as lacking in something as essentially incomplete or defective. Secondly, it implies an essential difference between men and women, whereby a man and a woman uniquely and jointly compensate for what is lacking in each other’.

          On this basis, he argues that the notion of complementarity is inimical to Chalcedonian orthodoxy regarding our essential human nature (both male and female) being made in the image of God.

          In 2012, I responded to this charge in the ‘other place’ (i.e. Thinking Anglicans) by explaining: ‘Complementarity is in the relation and mission of the couple, rather than their individual capacities considered in isolation. Complementarity doesn’t restrict how they function as individuals while married in other areas of their lives…The focus of the complementarity is on how they might exercise the full range of functions with respect to each other, in this case, as a married couple. The same is the true for membership of the Body of Christ ( 1 Cor. 12)

          Surely, no-one would argue that it contradicts Chalcedonian orthodoxy.for the Church to affirm Paul’s ‘body of Christ’ metaphor of complementarity in relation and mission between its members (Eph. 4:16).

          • Will Jones August 20, 2017 at 1:31 pm #

            Thanks, David.

            That seems to be a natural law argument rather than a scriptural argument. I assumed Mat to be saying that the key argument to be had was whether the biblical picture of marriage was clearly male-female or whether it was ambiguous. But I wouldn’t have thought that could be in dispute given its depiction of marriage. It is intrinsically male-female.

            Procreation provides the fundamental ordering principle for human sexual relationships and thus marriage because of what sex and the sexes are in nature i.e. they exist for sexual reproduction. This ordering and purpose is clear in the respective anatomy of male and female and how it works together. There is much more to be said about sex and the sexes but not less.

          • David Shepherd August 20, 2017 at 4:25 pm #

            Hi Will,

            You wrote: ‘Procreation provides the fundamental ordering principle for human sexual relationships and thus marriage because of what sex and the sexes are in nature i.e. they exist for sexual reproduction.

            The current ethical climate requires a substantially more robust orthodox argument. In response, the devil’s advocate might say: shouldn’t procreation, as the fundamental ordering principle for sexual relationships, mean that any non-procreative couples should be excluded from marriage? Why does that principle solely exclude non-procreative same-sex couples?

            Why should any sexual activity be permissible which either avoids or does not intend sexual reproduction?

            Procreation, as a final cause: is essential to the origin of sexual union in the context of marriage (causae matrimonii). However, it’s far too reductive to assert that, absent the purpose of procreation, scripture provides no other valid final causes of marriage which are secondary and accidental to that purpose (causae contrahendi).

          • Philip Almond August 20, 2017 at 4:42 pm #

            As I see it Haller’s line of thought (as summarised by David above) does not face up to the implications of the Genesis 2 account of the creation of the woman: the uniting together to become one flesh (Gen 2:24) is clearly a reversal of the creation of woman in Gen 2:21-23. Also, that man is kephale of the woman in Genesis 2 follows from a correct exegesis of Ephesians 5:18-33 and 1 Corinthians 11:3-16 and the male-female married relationship of asymmetry is a tightly coupled analogy of the Christ-Church relationship asymmetry in Ephesians 5. That asymmetry is an essential feature of both relationships.
            But we have to face the unwelcome fact that the pre-fall kephale of man is the key argument that should have ruled out the ordination of women, as some of us tried to point out at the time. This will prevent those arguing for ‘no change’ in the Church’s teaching on marriage from deploying what to me is the decisive argument – unless of course they are willing to recognise that the ordination of women was also contrary to the revealed word of God.

            Phil Almond

          • Will Jones August 20, 2017 at 6:11 pm #

            Hi David.

            I agree. I was being too brief and that’s what I meant by fundamental ordering principle – not what must be present in every instance, but what ultimately underlies the right ordering of sexual relationships according to the design of nature. I wasn’t disagreeing with your account.

          • Don Benson August 20, 2017 at 11:07 pm #

            Hi David

            ‘However, it’s far too reductive to assert that, absent the purpose of procreation, scripture provides no other valid final causes of marriage which are secondary and accidental to that purpose’

            I’m not sure what specific scriptural references you might be thinking of that make that case, not least because our present departure from accepting marriage as uniquely heterosexual is a very recent (and eccentric) development. But does not a pretty universal observation of the nature of the differences between men and women give cause for reason to step in here?

            If marriage were nothing to do with sex there would be no distinguishing it from two best friends. But there are two aspects to the sexual element: a) reproduction, b) those aspects of complementarity which are not directly to do with reproduction, ie the psychological combination of male and female, the physical combination of bodily differences (eg the stronger man protects the weaker woman), the benefits of sexual intimacy even when it is not reproductive. Of course b) can be said to have arisen only because of the necessity for a) but does it not, even on its own, still provide pretty strong validation of the orthodox case that heterosexual marriage is in a class of its own which homosexual arrangements can never match?

            Of course orthodox Christians should not be put in the dock by other Christians for saying that the Bible provides a coherent view on marriage which excludes homosexuality; but that’s just where we happen to be right now.

          • David Shepherd August 21, 2017 at 7:11 pm #

            Hi Don,

            As an example of how this procreation argument is expressed, consider (Bishop) Jonathan Pryke, who was a guest on The Big Questions presented by Nicky Campbell.

            The exchange went:
            ‘What is sex for?’
            ‘It is for the procreation of children’
            ‘Isn’t it for pleasure?’
            ‘No’

            Now, while that position is probably based on Gen. 1:28; Ps. 127:3,4, such a reductive interpretation requires over-spiritualizing the Song of Solomon, ignoring the other causes of marriage and construing as disordered every instance within marriage of non-procreative sexual desire between spouses.

            You wrote: ‘If marriage were nothing to do with sex there would be no distinguishing it from two best friends.’ Agreed, but the issue raised by revisionists is whether this distinction has ever prevented two straight platonic friends from marrying.

            You cite two aspects to the sexual element. a) reproduction:

            I’d agree that same-sex couples cannot reproduce naturally, but then again, neither can infertile straight couples. So, is the inability to reproduce is an impediment to straight couples who seek to marry?

            You also wrote:b) those aspects of complementarity which are not directly to do with reproduction, ie the psychological combination of male and female, the physical combination of bodily differences (eg the stronger man protects the weaker woman), the benefits of sexual intimacy even when it is not reproductive.

            While, for some couples, this might be the case, it’s a sweeping generalization (which could easily be perceived as sexist) to assert that the Church should prohibit same-sex marriage on the basis of a complementarity that includes ‘the stronger man protecting weaker woman’.

            Now, I’m only responding in this manner because I agree entirely with your last paragraph. Indeed, orthodox Christians are ‘in the dock’ for saying that the Bible provides a coherent view on marriage which excludes homosexuality.

            And, to some extent, the severe scrutiny of the orthodox position has been provoked by the Church’s paltry official responses on this issue: https://www.churchofengland.org/our-views/marriage,-family-and-sexuality-issues/same-sex-marriage.aspx

            The Church exists in a society which, through HFEA 2008, separates procreation from sexual union, but (rightly) celebrates male-female equality.

            We need to develop far more resilient arguments which clarify what’s meant by biological and psychological complementarity and the potential for procreation.

          • David Shepherd August 21, 2017 at 8:58 pm #

            Hi everyone,

            Here’s a Roman Catholic exegete presenting the biblical case for complementary in mission: https://www.faithandreason.com/2016/06/dr-deborah-savage-genius-man-woman-complementarity-mission/

          • Will Jones August 21, 2017 at 9:43 pm #

            Hi David

            On one level of course the church just needs to be faithful to what the Bible says about marriage and sex, not what it can justify to the wisdom of the world.

            In terms of natural reason though, the counterexample of the infertile couple doesn’t work because it fails to recognise that infertility is an unfortunate disorder suffered within an otherwise well-ordered relationship. Otherwise you might as well say that if infertile people may marry then human beings may be sexual with anything that gives them pleasure – an obvious non sequitur. The right ordering is given by the fundamental purpose, even where that purpose is frustrated or not currently being directly engaged.

            The disordered nature of same-sex sexual relationships can then be illustrated empirically by their connection with various risks and co-morbidities and ill-effects on any children involved.

          • David Shepherd August 22, 2017 at 7:58 am #

            Hi Will,

            Thanks for your explanation. While I’d broadly agree, Synod would likely be swayed towards the arguments of revisionists who provide empirical evidence (i.e. emotive, personal narratives) of PSF same-sex couples who do not overtly exhibit such risks, co-morbidities and ill-effects on any children involved.

            My alternate argument would be that to describe same-sex couples as infertile is a category error, since the word is not applicable to every lack of capacity to reproduce.

            A single person lacks the capacity to reproduce by themselves, but cannot be described as infertile. Neither is a husband and wife infertile because their respective jobs and responsibilities prevent them from engaging in regular sexual intimacy.

            Instead, as a medical condition, infertility is the inability to conceive after regular unprotected sexual intercourse for 2 years. The reference to sexual intercourse in order to conceive is clearly inapplicable to same-sex couples.

            Also, childless straight couples are not prevented from marrying each other because such infertility is neither (at first sight) untreatable, nor conclusive.

            As such, infertility Is no reason to exclude them from marriage’s built-in contingency for joint natural parenthood. From time immemorial, childless straight couples have sought parenthood through subsidiary routes, such as adoption without undermining natural parenthood.

            In contrast, and instead of these subsidiary routes to founding a family, many same-sex couples are misappropriating the right through marriage to be automatically considered joint natural parents of a family.

            We’ve seen the US Supreme Court declare that, as a right of marriiage, a lesbian spouse should be named as father on an Arkansas birth certificate.

            We have seen several cases in which lesbian spouses have sought a declaration of joint legal parenthood through marriage which deprives the child involved of any relationship with its known biological father.

            The International Lesbian and Gay Association has published a paper which seeks a European declaration that a registered partner or spouse of shall also be considered a parent ‘regardless of genetic connection’ to the child.

            In summary, same-sex marriage is a threat to the primacy of safeguarding the child’s natural identity and kinship: the very priority which marriage is meant to ensure.

            The threat is because, without regard to natural parenthood, SSM confers marriage’s built-in contingency for a spouse to be automatically recognised as a child’s parent.

            So, for the Church to affirm SSM will inevitably lead to the Church affirming this vehicle used by LGBT couples for routinely misappropriating children’s natural identity, parenthood and care.

          • David Shepherd August 22, 2017 at 9:23 am #

            BTW, in law, marriage’s built-in contingency for natural parenthood, not only safeguards the child’s identity, care and natural kinship, but also explains why non-consummation renders a marriage voidable and why adultery completely repudiates marriage.

            If the marriage cannot consummated, then a spouse’s reasonable expectation of joint parenthood (for which marriage has built-in contingency) is rendered completely futile.

            Adultery pollutes the marital bond and completely undermines the basis upon which legitimate joint pparenthood is legally presumed through marriage.

          • Will Jones August 22, 2017 at 9:56 am #

            Hi David.

            I agree with your very thorough account of this issue, and if this argument is the most persuasive then by all means prioritise it. I understood this effect on a child’s natural parentage to be chief among the harms to children which same-sex marriage brings.

            Personally I am most persuaded by the argument from first principles and God’s evident design of the form and function of human beings. I then see a number of negative consequences flowing from disregarding this design and right ordering, of which the issue about parentage is a central but not the only one. I can see that legally it is very important. One concern is that by itself it only addresses why marriage must be male-female, not why sex must be.

          • David Shepherd August 22, 2017 at 2:18 pm #

            Hi Will,

            Thanks for your reply. There’s merit to both of our strands of argument, but I believe that its particularly important to counteract the endless barrage of personal narratives intended to persuade us of the harm inflicted by the Church by refusing to affirm LGBT identities and same-sex sexual relationships.

            The argument from human form and function is inductively argued. Therefore, it’s important to be aware of the converse accident fallacy in which exceptions are deployed as deductive proof that the negative consequences which you describe are either not applicable to, say, lesbian couples, or that they do not prevent straight couples from engaging in the same sexual acts.

            Of course, these counter-arguments are often just a tactic aimed at casting supporters of orthodox marriage as merely bigoted and having no objective grounds for excluding LGBT couples from marriage.

            You explain: ‘One concern is that by itself it only addresses why marriage must be male-female, not why sex must be.’

            Agreed and I’m not averse to the argument from human form and function. However, the HoB has already issued Marriage – A Teaching Document in 1999, which declared: ‘Sexual intercourse, as an expression of faithful intimacy, properly belongs within marriage exclusively.’

            Thereby, the HoB has proscribed all sexual congress (whether straight or gay) outside of the bond of marriage which, as the primary safeguard of the child’s natural identity, parentage and care by its immediate kin, must be male-female.

          • Will Jones August 22, 2017 at 2:45 pm #

            Hi David.

            It isn’t inductively argued. It is deductively argued from the inherent structure of sexual reproduction and thus the purpose of sex and the sexes in nature. That’s the point of referring to procreation – these are structural features of sexual reproduction – two sexes, impregnation of female by male – and thus necessary truths. They are therefore not vulnerable to a converse accident fallacy. The fundamental purpose of the sexes and the sexual organs in nature is necessarily sexual reproduction. There is nothing inductive about it.

            More has to be said to justify exclusivity etc and to consider secondary purposes but the fundamental purpose is strictly and logically necessary.

            Appealing to an HoB statement is just citing authority, of course, not providing cogent reasoning. But I’m sure you realise that!

          • David Shepherd August 22, 2017 at 3:49 pm #

            Hi Will,

            Why then do you think that even many clergy and GS reps are not swayed by the ‘sex is for procreation’ argument?

            They might readily agree that there are two sexes, although I’m not sure whether that hiders or helps Christians with intersex characteristics.

            They’d also agree on the structural features of sexual reproduction – two sexes, impregnation of female by male.

            Where they’d disagree is on the Church prohibition of all sexual activity which does not align with or intend the fundamental purpose of sexual reproduction.

            If that’s the deductive argument, then it bears more than a passing resemblance to Pryke’s reductive response of ‘for the procreation of children’ to the question: ‘what is sex for?’

            Even St. Augustine’s The Good of Marriage reflects a far broader view than this on the purpose of sex.

            Of course, appealing to the HoB statement is citing authority. but the authority behind that ecclesiastical statement is also biblical. Synod cannot easily dismiss either.

            There is place in deliberative proceedings, such as Synod, for valid rhetoric which appropriately draws as much upon pathos and ethos (which includes citing authority) as it does upon logos to make a convincing argument.

            I’m sure that the logic of ‘sex must be male-female because its fundamental purpose is for reproduction’ will hold sway among many conservative evangelicals. However, I’d be interested to know of synod proceedings in which this line of argument has been persuasive enough to convince clergy, laity and synod members from the breadth of traditions in the Church.

          • Will Jones August 22, 2017 at 4:14 pm #

            Hi David

            People get mixed up between fundamental (necessary) purposes and secondary (contingent) purposes. I keep saying that there is more to be said about the latter, and you keep ignoring that and trying to paint me as reductionist!

            You say people agree about the fundamental purpose of sex as sexual reproduction. I really don’t think they do and if they did this would all be a lot easier. Many say it is principally given by God for delight.

            You say they think the argument is about whether sex must be limited to the procreative purpose. I never said it must; rather I argue that what constitutes a well-ordered sexual relationship is bounded by the procreative purpose in a certain way. I keep saying there is more to be said on this (including what you’re saying) but the fundamental purpose must be the starting point if this is going to make any sense at all to anyone.

            I don’t disagree with what you say about rhetoric. I was only defending that arguments from purpose and structure are not inductive but a priori deductive reasoning.

            People aren’t persuaded by the argument about procreation because: a) they misunderstand what it is saying and construe it as reductive in a way that it isn’t, and b) they don’t want to be for reasons of their own.

          • Don Benson August 22, 2017 at 5:32 pm #

            David and Will

            I think we need to be careful about where the argument should be focussed. For me the issue is about marriage and the family. There is an overwhelming case for the uniqueness of heterosexual marriage (as opposed to same sex arrangements) and its efficacy both for the individuals involved and for society in general; and the beauty of it is that it can be made from a Christian perspective and also objective secular observation and reasoning. Both the creation narrative and objective science are in agreement over this – there are undeniable facts here against which neither Christian revisionists nor LGBT warriors have any argument; that’s why they come up with all the diversions and straw men. Shockingly, the opportunity to make this case was inexcusably blown by the bishops in the House of Lords. But their recent disastrous performance is a whole issue in itself and is a major reason why the CofE is in this mess.

            Beyond that I’m not so sure that Christians should expend huge energy arguing over homosexuality: effective salesmen concentrate on selling their own product rather than mentioning or entering debate on someone else’s product. That is not to say that Christians should refrain from declaring prophetic warnings about the consequences of harm involved with the practice, not least for the rights of children forced to live without a mother or father. I think this is the Biblical stance – it’s seldom mentioned, but always condemned when it is (briefly) mentioned. But our fight is to defend real marriage, not to have a go at people with same sex attraction – like so many other human problems their issue is real whether or not it is of their own making.

            As far as Synod is concerned I think a very large proportion has completely lost focus on the creative imperative of heterosexual marriage, its inherent benefits, and Biblical prohibition of any sexual activity outside that context. They have been captivated (as has the secular Western world) by the ultimate cultural Marxist vision of a world where the differences not only of gender but sex itself must no longer exist in the public mind and that most references to them shall henceforth amount to a form of abuse. It’s a direct challenge to God himself and, if not very rapidly reversed, signals disaster for us all in general and our own CofE in particular.

            My case is that such a reversal can only come about by relentless concentration on the issue of marriage. Fighting on any other turf will turn out to be fighting in a bog; it cannot be successful until this first order, God ordained, truth has been universally re-established and accepted.

          • David Shepherd August 22, 2017 at 5:39 pm #

            Hi Will,

            Final comment. As I explained earlier in this thread, I am only being ‘devil’s advocate’ to demonstrate how the argument from procreation can founder. Despite this, my approach has elicited misunderstanding: it’s one thing to describe your argument as reductive (which I did), whereas it’s quite another to suggest that I was attempting to paint you as reductionist (which I didn’t).

            It might be interesting to understand the certain way in which ‘a well-ordered sexual relationship is bounded by the procreative purpose’.

            In fact, I think that the lack of clarity in explaining how the procreative purpose bounds a well-ordered sexual relationship is exactly why so few people are persuaded by that argument.

            Thanks for engaging.

          • David Shepherd August 22, 2017 at 6:02 pm #

            Hi Don,

            Your thoughtful comments are always welcome and, for the most part, I’d agree with you.

            The problem that we have is with those CoE ‘salemen’ (to use your analogy) who are wearing the same uniforms, but instead of promoting the marriage ‘product’ as a specialized vocation, they peddle it as ‘all-purpose’ badge of romantic attainment with little regard for it as the foundation of a child’s natural identity.

            As Paul said: ‘It isn’t my responsibility to judge outsiders, but it certainly is your responsibility to judge those inside the church who are sinning.’ (1 Cor. 5:12)

            Sure, there’s more to a promoting the importance of marriage than simply denouncing what it isn’t, but real harm is being done when we allow the natural parenthood and identity of children to be plundered so that they can become accessories to fulfill the family intentions same-sex couples.

          • Will Jones August 22, 2017 at 6:09 pm #

            Hi David

            The procreative purpose bounds a well-ordered sexual relationship by stipulating that it must be between an adult male and female i.e. a couple who are in principle capable of reproducing, assuming all else is in working order. I don’t think this is unclear – it’s what everyone thought until they were indoctrinated. Surely it’s obvious what male and female anatomy are for? They’re for one another, and ultimately for reproduction. You say people don’t find this persuasive but in my experience a lot of people do. Any other position is incoherent and involves a denial of a basic fact about the natural purpose of human anatomy.

            Other constraints on sexual relationships which point towards marriage involve the needs of children, women, men and the common good.

          • David Shepherd August 22, 2017 at 10:25 pm #

            Hi Don,

            Perhaps, your explanation of the orthodox position as is as plain as day and Synod’s ‘moderate majority’ are only prone to reject it because they are in thrall to what you describe as the cultural Marxist vision.

            What was clear from both February and July Synod was that neither has any truck with simplistic apologetics in support of a status quo which has perpetuated the harmful denigration of LGBT people.

            I’m sure that there are many conservative evangelicals who concur with the argument that the only permissible sexual behaviour (i.e. activity) is that which engages the complementary functions of male-female anatomy.

            In contrast, St. Augustine was far more eloquent and persuasive in describing the good of marriage :

            ”Forasmuch as each man is a part of the human race, and human nature is something social, and has for a great and natural good, the power also of friendship; on this account God willed to create all men out of one, in order that they might be held in their society not only by likeness of kind, but also by bond of kindred. Therefore the first natural bond of human society is man and wife.’

            ‘Nor did God create these each by himself, and join them together as alien by birth: but He created the one out of the other, setting a sign also of the power of the union in the side, whence she was drawn, was formed. For they are joined one to another side by side, who walk together, and look together whither they walk.’

            ‘Then follows the connection of fellowship in children, which is the one alone worthy fruit, not of the union of male and female, but of the sexual intercourse. For it were possible that there should exist in either sex, even without such intercourse, a certain friendly and true union of the one ruling, and the other obeying.’

            ‘There is good ground to inquire for what reason it be a good. And this seems not to me to be merely on account of the begetting of children, but also on account of the natural society itself in a difference of sex.’

            ‘Otherwise it would not any longer be called marriage in the case of old persons, especially if either they had lost sons, or had given birth to none. But now in good, although aged, marriage, albeit there has withered away the glow of full age between male and female, yet there lives in full vigour the order of charity between husband and wife’.

            Same-sex coupling is inimical to the bond of natural kindred and it obscures the loving permanent union of male-female complementarity which has been chosen by God to reflects the mystery of Christ and the Church.

            Conservative evangelicals will be wise in their own eyes and do as they think fit. Nevertheless, the provided excerpt shows why St. Augustine is recognised as one of the four great Doctors of the Church.

            As a gift from the Communion of Saints to the Church, maybe we’ll all find the humility to learn a lot more from him.

        • Mat Sheffield August 22, 2017 at 2:28 pm #

          Sorry for the delayed response Will, but I cannot point you to an example of an argument that doesn’t exist. 😉

          Truthfully, I am not even sure what point I was trying to make in my final comment, so please disregard.

          Mat

    • Ian Paul September 8, 2017 at 10:58 am #

      I have been pondering this comment for the last few weeks, and I confess I am puzzled by them. ‘That is to say, Paul spends a lot of time introducing legalists to the notion of intentionality, introducing dogmatists to spiritual authority, and introducing traditionalists to liberty. Those parts of the New Testament seem more important, at least in my estimation, than the handful of instances where homosexuality is condemned as an unacceptable practice, or where slavery is supported as tenable, or patriarchy is upheld as natural.’

      First, I think you are mixing and confusing categories here. The advocacy of slavery doesn’t form any part of NT ethical teaching; you will be aware of the complex debates about what apparent acceptance means when you are a minority community in a majority culture…and have noted the theological deconstruction of the grounds for slavery in the NT.

      I am not clear what you are thinking of where the NT ‘upholds patriarchy as natural’; I cannot think of any immediately.

      But I guess I want to pose the question back to you: if Paul did indeed ‘spends a lot of time introducing legalists to the notion of intentionality, introducing dogmatists to spiritual authority, and introducing traditionalists to liberty’, how come he ends up with three things: a. a clear sense of radical ethical disjuncture between believers and others, b. a strong sense that living on the right side of that disjuncture was an indispensable part of being a disciple of Jesus, and c. an non-negotiable assumption (in the texts) that most aspects of Jewish OT ethics, in particular sexual ethics, was a major constituent of that position.

      John Pike’s essay is so valuable to highlighting that this genuinely is Paul’s position, and given the range of views in the ancient world on sexuality, it is implausible to suggest either that Paul did not know what he was doing, or that Paul simply hadn’t worked out the ethical consequences of his own gospel. I think he did, and I think he had, and all subsequent commentators have thought the same.

      Being clear about either the demanding nature of Christian ethics nor their clarity in Scripture cannot be written off as being ‘pharisaical’—not least because of Jesus’ clear continuity with many aspects of Pharisaism. His comment in Matt 5.20 ‘For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven’ is not incidental, but programmatic.

  12. Dave Doveton August 21, 2017 at 6:12 pm #

    Another important book covering this issue and which looks at both primary sources in the Greco-Roman world, and the church’s witness to biblical teaching through the ages is
    Fortson and Grams: “Unchanging Witness: The Consistent Christian Teaching on Homosexuality in Scripture and Tradition” , B&H academic, Nashville, 2016.

  13. Ian H August 24, 2017 at 7:34 pm #

    As its gone slightly off-topic (not a criticism)… On marriage and ‘gays’ this is a seldom heard critique…

    https://billmuehlenberg.com/2017/08/23/homosexuals-homosexual-marriage/

    • David Shepherd August 24, 2017 at 11:24 pm #

      Hi Ian,

      Thanks for this link. For me, it was the insightful objection of the 30-year old gay man which provided the most effective, yet most easily discarded argument against same-sex marriage:
      ‘If marriage is little more than a love contract, why do we need government to get involved? Why was government invited to regulate marriages but not other interpersonal relationships, like friendships? Why does every religion hold marriage to be a sacred and divine institution? Surely marriage must be more than just a love contract….’

      ‘Marriage is often correctly viewed as an institution deeply rooted in religious tradition. But people sometimes forget that marriage is also based in science. When a heterosexual couple has sex, a biological reaction can occur that results in a new human life.’

      ‘Government got into the marriage business to ensure that these new lives are created in a responsible manner. This capacity for creating new life is what makes marriage special. No matter how much we try, same-sex couples will never be able to create a new life. If you find that level of inequality offensive, take it up with Mother Nature. Redefining marriage to include same-sex couples relegates this once noble institution to nothing more than a lousy love contract. This harms all of society by turning marriage, the bedrock of society, into a meaningless anachronism.’

      This argument concurs with my own reasons for opposing SSM, but, sadly, is rarely articulated by Orthodox leaders in the Church. The reason for society’s provision (through marriage) of built-in contingency for joint parenthood is the *possibility* of procreation. Granting marriage to same-sex couples has led to the routine and unwarranted misappropriation of this contingency.

      https://youtu.be/VVH1ZSss9c8

  14. Nick August 27, 2017 at 10:13 pm #

    A very helpful paper. However, in order to understand at least the Romans 1 passage it would be helpful to understand whether there was a link between homosexuality and pagan religious practices. If there was then were these practices abusive, or faithful, loving and permanent.

    • David Shepherd August 27, 2017 at 11:04 pm #

      Notably in Romans, Paul uses the phrase para phusin (Rom. 11:24: ‘‘contrary to nature’) to compare the influx of Gentile converts into the Christian faith (which began as predominantly Jewish) to the technique of grafting a wild-olive bud into the branch of the cultivated olive tree.

      While of the same overall species, this joining ran contrary to how either plant would propagate through their intrinsic physical characteristics.

      This is what Paul means by nature. For instance, when he states ‘the natural man receives not the things of the Spirit’, he is stating that, without supernatural revelation, we lack the intrinsic ability to appropriate divine insight.

      Paul uses the same phrase to describe same-sex sexual activity. It is the concomitant of rejecting what is the self-evident of God through creation, whereby society eventually dismisses the sexual purpose evident in the intrinsic physical characteristics distinguishing male from female. This behaviour is negatively described using the same phrase: ‘para phusin’.

      So, locus of St. Paul’s denunciation of same-sex sex is that it is also ‘para phusin’: contrary to what God has made self-evident through the intrinsic physical characteristics of male and female.

      The scale of the outworking of divine retributive justice that St. Paul describes (‘against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men’) demonstrates that the guilt of same-sex sex may be compounded by being abusive or linked to pagan worship, but not entirely mitigated by their absence.

    • Ian Paul August 28, 2017 at 7:37 am #

      Thanks Nick. I think most would say there undoubtedly was. But that is not Paul’s argument here. He is often read as saying ‘same-sex practices happen in the cult, therefore they are idolatrous’. He is saying, ‘They are a rejection of God’s self-disclosure, therefore they are idolatrous—so it is no surprise that they take place in pagan cults (amongst other places).’

  15. John Hooker September 5, 2017 at 3:04 pm #

    A little knowledge is a dangerous thing. N.T. Wright, a brilliant scholar on many subjects, writes “As a classicist…” but he is not a classicist. What you gain from actually having read and studied all of Xenophon, Aristophanes, Lucian, Plato, etc., etc., is plenty of confidence to understand that, say, in the Symposium (since this is a key text in this argument), when something like a modern equal homosexual relationship comes up, whatever the outre aristocratic banter on the subject, it is still clearly seen culturally as pathological and abhorrent (ridiculous at best), whereas pederastic relationships are seen as normal and wonderful. People are citing good scholars like Dover, but actually reading such scholarship and digesting all the ancient evidence will quickly destroy the thesis of this article.

    Now, full disclosure: if we’re really fond of the (mistaken) thesis that the ancients knew something just like the gay-married classics professors and Anglican organists of today, there ARE scholarly books that argue this. For example, James Davidson, “The Greeks and Greek Love: a Radical Reappraisal of Homosexuality in Ancient Greece.” This kind of work rejects the straightforward conclusions that emerge from a surface reading of all the ancient texts and, working from a progressive/gay point of view, labors very hard and creatively to maintain the counterintuitive (for a classicist) view that is so important to this guest article. It’s much like the feminist critics who, having grown tired of exploring ancient misogyny, have come up with creative arguments that certain ancient authors and texts are subversively and sneakily crypto-feminist. You can see what treacherous terrain this is for motivated arguers on both sides. But if you think I’m exaggerating, read Dover’s “Greek Homosexuality” and his commentary on Plato’s Symposium, and see whether what you learn there is actually consistent with N.T. Wright’s breezy “As a classicist…” It can feel comforting to throw in your lot with the minority of scholars who proceed from the premise that “Gay identity as we know it today is too important and human not to have existed in all times and places,” but history is weird, and this (to contemporary people) obvious-sounding view lacks cogent support.

    The fact that both sides indeed ought to deal with (though with Christians so cut off from classical scholarship I have my doubts about whether facts will ever penetrate into the cloud of bias), is that those are quite sound and correct who state that, for the ancients, the only laudable or normal same-sex relationships were exploitative and unequal ones, involving generally slaves, children, or prostitutes. You can indeed from this starting point arrive at very different conclusions about how to apply Paul’s ringing rejection of pagan sexual morality, our Lord’s piercing statements on divorce, etc. But let’s not start from revisionist historical fantasy.

    • Richard. September 7, 2017 at 4:10 pm #

      Thanks for this, John. I came to similar conclusions when I read the primary sources. Apart from Wright’s appeal to his own authority, I also feel that Plato is too early. Wright should focus on authors who are closer to Paul’s day and preferably Roman.

      The data that Pike has assembled do not support the conclusion that Ian draws from them. He relies too much on secondary sources, I feel. He appeals to the fact that some of his sources are gay authors but this is surely not relevant. I get the tentative sense that some gay authors want to cast the ancients who performed same gender sexual acts in a positive light, because they mistakenly think that it would reflect well on them. There may be an agenda to show that homosexuality has a long and glorious history, rather than to accept that human behaviours can change. John, is my tentative conclusion correct? Would you nuance it differently?

      • John Hooker September 15, 2017 at 1:51 pm #

        I think you’re quite right about the agenda of works like James Davidson’s–it is to give their own self-understanding in such non-ancient categories as “sexual orientation” a “long and glorious history.”

  16. Tony Phillips September 7, 2017 at 7:46 am #

    Historians, including amateur historians, generally find what they’re looking for, and that certainly seems to be the case with Mr Pike. It rather reminds me of the flawed and tragic work of the late John Boswell.

    I’m a doctor too, and in my experience (experience being the sum total of many anecdotes), homosexuality remains best understood in the context of mental illness. Furthermore, there is no unitary condition of ‘homosexuality’; rather, there are several, perhaps many, syndromes which may include same-sex attraction and homosexual behaviour as part of a constellation of symptoms. We do no service to individuals affected by these disorders to pretend they are psychologically healthy. (Am I biased because of my own upbringing and religious/cultural beliefs? Undoubtedly–as are we all.)

    Dr Pike’s modernist bias is most clear when he states, ‘the ancients (biblical, Jewish, Assyrian, Greek or Roman) did not understand “homosexual orientation” or “homosexuals” in the sophisticated way we understand these ideas today’. The notion that current ‘understanding’ (ie, construction) of these terms is more ‘sophisticated’ than that of the ancients is, frankly, laughable, but it is part and parcel of the modernist view that we are much wiser than our forbears.

    One thing modern Western society has in common with the societies Dr Pike describes is this: they (we) are materially rich but morally decadent. Dr Pike naturally focuses on the Roman Empire, in all its glory and perversions, rather than the Republic, when the vices (excuse me, lifestyles) he describes were looked upon rather differently.

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