What does science say about sexuality?

cura gay‘Shame on you! You’re a disgrace! These people were born gay! How dare you suggest otherwise! I am going to make a formal complaint!’

This was the rather striking response to one of my seminars at New Wine this summer on the biblical picture of human sexuality. In response to the first question following my talk, I had set out why I thought the debate on same-sex sexuality was so contentious. Then the second question was about ‘nature versus nurture’—are people ‘born gay’? And why would God reject someone because of their sexuality? My first response was adamant: God does not reject anyone because of their sexuality. But I then went on to outline what the consensus of research appear to say. It was this which provoked the response above—and it illustrates one of the major problems about this area of discussion. Although it is often claimed that issues of research, science and causation of sexual orientation are not that important, since they do not solve the ethical or pastoral questions, in fact most people hold on very dearly to a particular view (for understandable reasons) and these views on the science often in fact shape ethical and pastoral responses.

This is likely to change with the publication of a major report in the latest edition of the US publication The New Atlantis. In its 143 pages (with several hundred footnotes), the authors Lawrence S Mayer and Paul R McHugh aim to summarise all the reliable, peer-reviewed research on causation of sexual orientation, issues of mental health in relation to those who are same-sex attracted and transgender, and questions of gender and sexual identity. In amongst all the technical references, there are some useful information which should be widely read. It is still surprising that people make quite ill-informed comments about the prevalence of same-sex attraction, which are corrected here:

The third iteration of Natsal from 2010 found, over an age range from 16 to 74, that 1.0% of women and 1.5% of men consider themselves gay/lesbian, and 1.4% of women and 1.0% of men think of themselves as bisexual. (n 125 p 126)

But in fact you don’t need to dig through all the footnotes to find useful information, since there is not only a clear conclusion at the end, but a very easy-to-read Executive Summary at the beginning—which makes some very startling claims. I quote them here in full because they are expressed so concisely.

Part One: Sexual Orientation

  • The understanding of sexual orientation as an innate, biologically fixed property of human beings—the idea that people are “born that way”—is not supported by scientific evidence.
  • While there is evidence that biological factors such as genes and hormones are associated with sexual behaviors and attractions, there are no compelling causal biological explanations for human sexual orientation. While minor differences in the brain structures and brain activity between homosexual and heterosexual individuals have been identified by researchers, such neurobiological findings do not demonstrate whether these differences are innate or are the result of environmental and psychological factors.
  • Longitudinal studies of adolescents suggest that sexual orientation may be quite fluid over the life course for some people, with one study estimating that as many as 80% of male adolescents who report same-sex attractions no longer do so as adults (although the extent to which this figure reflects actual changes in same-sex attractions and not just artifacts of the survey process has been contested by some researchers).
  • Compared to heterosexuals, non-heterosexuals are about two to three times as likely to have experienced childhood sexual abuse.

Part Two: Sexuality, Mental Health Outcomes, and Social Stress

  • Compared to the general population, non-heterosexual sub-populations are at an elevated risk for a variety of adverse health and mental health outcomes.
  • Members of the non-heterosexual population are estimated to have about 1.5 times higher risk of experiencing anxiety disorders than members of the heterosexual population, as well as roughly double the risk of depression, 1.5 times the risk of substance abuse, and nearly 2.5 times the risk of suicide.
  • Members of the transgender population are also at higher risk of a variety of mental health problems compared to members of the non-transgender population. Especially alarmingly, the rate of lifetime suicide attempts across all ages of transgender individuals is estimated at 41%, compared to under 5% in the overall U.S. population.
  • There is evidence, albeit limited, that social stressors such as discrimination and stigma contribute to the elevated risk of poor mental health outcomes for non-heterosexual and transgender populations. More high-quality longitudinal studies are necessary for the “social stress model” to be a useful tool for understanding public health concerns.

Part Three: Gender Identity

  • The hypothesis that gender identity is an innate, fixed property of human beings that is independent of biological sex—that a person might be “a man trapped in a woman’s body” or “a woman trapped in a man’s body”—is not supported by scientific evidence.
  • According to a recent estimate, about 0.6% of U.S. adults identify as a gender that does not correspond to their biological sex.
  • Studies comparing the brain structures of transgender and non-transgender individuals have demonstrated weak correla- tions between brain structure and cross-gender identification. These correlations do not provide any evidence for a neurobiological basis for cross-gender identification.
  • Compared to the general population, adults who have undergone sex-reassignment surgery continue to have a higher risk of experiencing poor mental health outcomes. One study found that, compared to controls, sex-reassigned individuals were about 5 times more likely to attempt suicide and about 19 times more likely to die by suicide.
  • Children are a special case when addressing transgender issues. Only a minority of children who experience cross-gender identification will continue to do so into adolescence or adulthood.
  • There is little scientific evidence for the therapeutic value of interventions that delay puberty or modify the secondary sex characteristics of adolescents, although some children may have improved psychological well-being if they are encouraged and supported in their cross-gender identification. There is no evidence that all children who express gender-atypical thoughts or behavior should be encouraged to become transgender.

I think most people reading this summary will immediately see how contentious these conclusions are in the context of most public discussion of these issues. No doubt there will be scrutiny of these arguments, but they are unlikely to be contradicted for several reasons. First, the lead author appears supportive of LGBT+ rights, and in fact dedicates the report to the LGBT+ community:

I dedicate my work on this report, first, to the LGBT community, which bears a disproportionate rate of mental health problems compared the population as a whole. We must find ways to relieve their suffering.

Secondly, though the journal has been criticised as being ‘conservative’, it appears to have a commitment to honest appraisal of scientific evidence in a number of fields.

An editorial in the inaugural issue states that the aim of the journal is “to help us avoid the extremes of euphoria and despair that new technologies too often arouse; and to help us judge when mobilizing our technological prowess is sensible or necessary, and when the preservation of things that count requires limiting the kinds of technological power that would lessen, cheapen, or ultimately destroy us.”

Thirdly, both the qualifications of the authors and the care that they have taken in surveying the literature are impressive.

Fourthly, the conclusions they draw are actually no surprise to anyone who has done a modicum of reading in this area, since they line up with research from a diverse range of sources. For example, the 2006 study of 2 million Danes found that, in additional to correlation with parental marital breakdown, ‘[f]or men, homosexual marriage was associated [ie there was a statistically significant correlation] with having older mothers, divorced parents, absent fathers, and being the youngest child.’

Screen Shot 2016-08-24 at 07.22.23Lisa Diamond, former lecturer at Cornell University, herself gay and a campaigner for gay rights, explicitly rejects the notion of ‘gay identity’ as a basis for gay rights, since the fluidity of sexual orientation, amongst men but particular amongst women, rules this out. (Her research has been misused by some conservatives to claim that orientation can be changed through counselling; her point is not that it can be changed, but simply that, over time, it does change.)

A 2003 study in New Zealand showed the instability of SSA amongst women in early adulthood; less than 40% of those stating exclusive SSA at age 21 remained SSA at age 26, whereas nearly 90% of those other-sex attracted continued to be so five years on.

Overall, the conclusions of The New Atlantis in relation to causation match the kind of multi-causal model offered by Thomas Schmidt in his Straight and Narrow? from 1995. (I understand a new edition is in preparation.)


For those involved in current debates in the Church of England, one of the most striking things about this report is that it contradicts the assertions frequently made in the discussions as part of the case for a change in the Church’s teaching.

Loveday Alexander’s contribution to the Shared Conversations draws on the Pilling Report in order to take the existence of ‘homosexual identity’ as a given (pp 25–26); this frames her discussion of the biblical texts which, since they show no knowledge of such ‘identities’, must be treated with extreme caution. In her presentations on this, she has commented ‘We know what the science says: some people are born gay.’ She goes on to limit Paul’s teaching in his letters because ‘he did not know’ the phenomenon we are considering; confidence in the notion of ‘homosexual identity’ leads her to minimise and marginalise the relevance of the biblical texts.

Alan Wilson, in his More Perfect Union?argues that same-sex sexual relations are ‘natural’ without any intrinsic difference from other-sex relationships.

People increasingly do not believe that homosexuality is harmful, sinful or shameful. They believe it is a phenomenon with nature, rather than an offence against it…All human options are equally natural. (pp 31–33)

The confusion here between different meanings of ‘natural’, and the strange move from what is, to what is moral, aside, this approach shows little understanding of what the scientific research actually shows.

Even more worrying is the chapter on ‘Being Human’ in Andrew Davison’s Amazing LoveThe approach here, whilst claiming to be ‘objective’ and written by well-qualified authors, appears to be a long way out of touch with the actual research, not least because it leans so heavily on the discredited work of gay researcher Simon LeVay. It manages to claim that ‘What is clear is that scientists agree almost universally that there is a biological basis to same-sex attraction’, a claim that flies in the face of actual research as cited by Mayer and McHugh:

“To recap, more than 50 years of research has failed to demonstrate that biological factors are a major influence in the development of women’s sexual orientation….Contrary to popular belief, scientists have not convincingly demonstrated that biology determines women’s sexual orientation.” In light of the studies we have summarized here, this statement could also be made for research on male sexual orientation, however this concept is defined. (p 41)

There is a serious question to be asked about how intelligent, well informed people are able to offer confident statements in influential texts which ignore, disguise or set aside the research consensus in this area—in order to bolster the case for change in the Church’s teaching.

Screen Shot 2016-08-24 at 06.54.16Where does this take us in the debate in the Church? For me, the most powerful lesson is the need to take seriously the pastoral challenge to create a space of welcome and support to the LGBT community. We need to echo the statement of the lead author, Mayer: ‘We must find ways to relieve their suffering.’ Despite the dominance of the sexuality agenda in our cultural narrative, and despite the prominence of gay men and women in the media, in culture and in government, this is a small part of our population, at around 1 to 1.5%. Yet it is a community which bears a disproportionate amount of social, relational and mental health issues; the section of the report covering this, from pages 60 to 73, makes harrowing reading, and is all the more powerful by being expressed in objective terms. If someone comes out to me as gay, the first (and only?) response I can make is ‘This will be a hard road; I will walk with you.’

As the report states, there is no doubt that some of these issues arise from contexts of social stigmatisation; it is quite right that all recent Church of England reports have included a clear rejection of stigmatisation, discrimination and homophobia, and that, in the past, Christians took the lead in decriminalising homosexuality and in offering a response to those suffering from AIDS. But the report is also clear that a significant proportion of these problems arise from other causes, and this is supported by evidence from Scandinavian contexts where social stigmatisation is not present because of the long acceptance of same-sex marriage. One of the most alarming concerns, which I had not read about previously, was that of inter-partner violence (IPV) in male same-sex relationships:

Every study in the review estimated rates of IPV for gay men that were similar to or higher than those for all women regardless of sexual orientation. The authors conclude that “the emergent evidence reviewed here demonstrates that IPV—psychological, physical, and sexual—occurs in male-male partnerships at alarming rates.” (p 72)

The recent public letter from evangelicals and others on Synod to the House of Bishops was quite right to comment:

We are committed to building a church that is genuinely welcoming to all people, irrespective of the pattern of sexual attraction that they experience. We would welcome initiatives to help local churches do this in a way that is affirming of and consistent with Scripture, and would hope to support suggestions you might wish to bring to Synod to that effect.

But the New Atlantis report offers another challenge too, and one that is in tension with the first. Even before we consider the alarming rates of promiscuity amongst male same-sex couples, and the consequent extraordinarily high levels of sexually-transmitted diseases in the community, the evidence undermines any claim that ‘marriage is marriage’ and that same-sex sexual relations are in essence the same as other-sex relations. The wide-ranging evidence shows that there is a pathology to same-sex relations which is quite different from patterns in other-sex relations (without pretending that the latter are without their own problems!) Even setting aside the concerns of theology, of the Church’s tradition, and the consistent teaching of Scripture, for the Church to head down a route of viewing same-sex marriage and relationships as parallel with or equivalent to ‘traditional’ marriage would be a serious error which flies in the face of the scientific evidence.

Follow me on Twitter @psephizo

Much of my work is done on a freelance basis. If you have valued this post, would you consider donating £1.20 a month to support the production of this blog?


Signup to get email updates of new posts
We promise not to spam you. Unsubscribe at any time.
Invalid email address

If you enjoyed this, do share it on social media (Facebook or Twitter) using the buttons on the left. Follow me on Twitter @psephizo. Like my page on Facebook.

Much of my work is done on a freelance basis. If you have valued this post, you can make a single or repeat donation through PayPal:

For other ways to support this ministry, visit my Support page.

Comments policy: Do engage with the subject. Please don't turn this into a private discussion board. Do challenge others in the debate; please don't attack them personally. I no longer allow anonymous comments; if there are very good reasons, you may publish under a pseudonym; otherwise please include your full name, both first and surnames.

234 thoughts on “What does science say about sexuality?”

  1. I predict a firestorm of comments in 3…2…1…

    Thanks for posting this Ian – I think this kind of thing deserves as wide a readership as possible. At the least I think it does demonstrate that the path the government (and, increasingly, the church) are pursuing are more out of ideological reasons than scientific ones. Part of the problem is scientists are not immune to pressure, and I think there is huge pressure on scientists to come up with the ‘right’ conclusions.

    I think you can really see this with the studies on same-sex parenting. Katy Faust blogged about it last year – many studies conclude there are ‘no differences’ between children with same-sex and opposite sex parents, but those studies generally do not use social science best practices.

    • Thanks Phill. Yes, I think the differences for children of same-sex parenting is another whole area that I have not mentioned here. What is odd about the idea that same-sex and other-sex parenting are no different is the really well-established evidence that boys and girls are shaped psychologically in different ways by their parents of different sexes.

  2. Ian, you wrote:
    “No doubt there will be scrutiny of these arguments, but they are unlikely to be contradicted for several reasons.”

    I, unfortunately, suspect that there will be little actual scrutiny and an awful lot of effort put in to irresponsible discreditation of the authors.

      • A cautionary tale was something that happened to me on Thinking Anglicans. I cited all the papers known to me on a topic. Two errors were made in the comeback.

        First of all the fact that Paul Cameron (whose methods have previously been criticised) was one of the authors was held to discredit all the research of the other independent researchers as well(!) when clearly only his own study, at most, could be discredited.

        Second, his findings were on this occasion (namely: correlation of homosexual orientation with a history of molestation) squarely in line with the average of the other researchers’ findings.

        The other error that was usually made was to assume that the secondary sources were written by primary researchers.

        Oh – and the idea that if more than 50% of people with a certain STI or particular molestation-proclivity were heterosexual that reflected badly on heterosexuals (as though the population were split 50-50 homosexual – heterosexual).

        All I ask is that once these basic errors are pointed out there be some progress in the shape of people not endlessly repeating them.

  3. Please note that not all of us General Synod members who signed the open letter to the Bishops, referred to in your piece, were evangelicals. This is important, because some liberals have tried to argue that the conservative position is confined to a narrow evangelical faction, and is not represented across the breadth of the Church of England. Such a claim is false.

    • William, thanks for pointing to this. It was also highlighted in the Facebook discussion and I made the following observations:

      Throckmorton cites one of the authors quoted in the review, Michael Bailey. Although he does not agree with all the conclusions, he supports some key ones:
      2. I agree with the authors that discrimination alone is unlikely to completely explain differences between heterosexual and homosexual people in mental health profiles, although it may contribute.
      3. They are right on that the idea of innate, fixed gender identity is not consistent with empirical evidence. I differ from them, however, in believing that sex reassignment is still the best option for some individuals.
      I am not sure that they claim that no-one should ever have sex reassignment surgery. They point out that, post surgery, transgender people still suffer elevated levels of mental health problems.

      Bailey criticises this review for omitting reference to a recent (peer-reviewed!) review by Lisa Diamond and others. Much of that report actually concurs. For instance, in reviewing the key evidence from twin studies, Diamond et al conclude:
      “In conclusion, the evidence supporting a genetic influence on sexual orientation is consistent, although sampling biases remain a concern even for the best available studies. Our best estimate of the magnitude of genetic effects is moderate—certainly not overwhelming. In contrast, the evidence for environmental influence is unequivocal, given that MZ twin concordances tend to be far less than 100%,23 assuming that the MZ twin pairs are truly discordant.”

      That study is not looking at the differences between biological and envinonrmental factors, but between social culture factors and all others, and conclude that ‘conservatives’ are alarmist about the effect of contemporary culture on attraction.

      My main point is that, peer reviewed or not, the conclusions of this study match very closely other peer-reviewed work on issues of environment, mental health issue, and the fluidity of same-sex sexual orientation. The real question is whether they are mistaken in this, and neither Throckmorton nor Bailey appear to think so.

      Does that help?

  4. Thank you for brining attention of the need for the church’s debate to be informed by scientific research. However, I’m concerned with your final paragraph. In an article that emphasises the questionable notion of biological influence on non-heterosexuals, it is wrong to use the word ‘pathology’ to describe same-sex relations, as this word concerns biological disease. As quoted in your article “social stressors such as discrimination and stigma contribute to the elevated risk of poor mental health outcomes for non-heterosexual and transgender populations”, as opposed to biological disease. Please change this word. Secondly, it seems erroneous to conclude that your article and the research highlighted in it leads to a conclusion on same-sex marriage. The problem is that you are implying that the research highlighting mistreatment in same-sex relations is equivalent to same-sex marriage, which seems unfair when the term marriage is only introduced in your conclusion and not in the research itself. To avoid this implication, you’d do well to clarify if the research comments on same-sex marriage specifically, and whether same-sex marriage has similar benefits to heterosexual marriage in countering the concerning aspects identified more generally in the research. If this is the case, then it may well be that same-sex marriage is parallel to heterosexual marriage in this regard, which after all is the specific context of your article.

    • Thanks for the comment Thomas. The word ‘pathology’ is mostly used of disease, but not exclusively so, and I don’t think anywhere in any of my comments do I come close to suggesting that same-sex attraction is a disease, either in the sense of being an ‘illness’ or on this sense of being a contagion. Apart from being used metaphorically, the origins of the word relate to ‘the understanding of suffering’ which seems appropriate here.

      However, the research does appear to point to the fact that there is something disordered in (particularly) male same-sex relationships, beyond any impact of social stigmatisation.

      My final comments are simply expressing a response to the now-common argument, that same-sex relations, including same-sex marriage, simply offer another parallel to other-sex marriage, and in all other respects the two kinds of relationship are entirely parallel and comparable. The evidence shows this is not the case, and so undermines this assertion.

  5. One issue that does not perhaps surface here is that being “born gay” is often seen as one side of a false dichotomy in which the other option is “choosing to be gay”. Neither the fluidity and non-binary nature of sexuality, nor the lack of clear neurological or other organic markers, supports the contention that non-heterosexual attraction is, after all, a matter of conscious, or even unconscious, personal moral choice.

    There is also the possibility that gay promiscuity, like some mental health issues, may be to some extent consequent on the social constraints under which same-sex relationships have hitherto been conducted. It remains to be seen whether greater social acceptance of homosexual partnerships will have a positive impact on this.

    • Jeremy, thanks for the comment.

      I am sure you are right in identifying the false alternatives of ‘born gay’ and ‘choosing to be gay.’ But there are a couple of things to say about choice. The first is that, I think in any context, our experience shapes our subsequent decisions, and the decision to engage in any form of sexual experience will influence later desires and decisions. Someone posted on Facebook some anecdotal experience of this, and I think it is the only way to explain the correlation in the 2006 Danish study between living in an urban context and ending up in a same-sex marriage.

      i agree with you that it is possible that promiscuity relates to social context—were it not for the fact that the research that I link to finds that this occurs in all contexts. In the review, the mental health issues are linked to the high prevalence of disease because of promiscuity, in a context where there is no social stigma.

          • Marrying does not conjure away all the problems of growing up as in a minority, and it has not been legalised ‘for decades’. I grew up in the Netherlands, trust me, it was not easy at all.

  6. Ian,

    I think your reply to Throckmorton’s critique fails to understand the distinction between genetics and epigenetics. This failing undermines your reading of the twin studies. It is possible for twins to share identical sets of genes but have somewhat different expressions of those genes. Thus, twins could have the same genes but be born with different sexual orientations. It might be hard to control for epigenetics when addressing the question of fluidity as well.

    One way of approaching this problem is to look at neurological differences. This is not my area of study, so I can’t say address Throckmorton’s claim that that Mayer and McHugh are overly dismissive of the current literature demonstrating neurological differences. However, I’d keep that claim in mind.

    I do appreciate your willingness to ask these questions and provide pastoral care with the solidarity of Our Lord demands for all who suffer.

    • Thanks Caelius. I am not sure that I have misunderstood. Traditional genetics sees certain dispositions as predetermined, in the sense that environmental experiences do not have an impact on the genetic determiners.

      Epigenetics tells us that experience actually shapes whether genes have an effect on our subsequent behaviour. So this shifts the debate from the ‘givenness’ and fixed nature of genetics to the importance of environment and experience.

      The low correlation between twins simply says that the ‘fixed’ genetic component is not very important, but environment, decisions and experience are. I am not sure it matters whether you attribute that to classical environmental factors, or epigenetics—does it?

      And surely recent research on brain plasticity undercuts the notion that neurological differences are evidence of immutable genetic differences?

  7. Great post, very informative.

    My only question is whether we can acknowledge that what we mean by discrimination and homophobia is not the same as what most people mean by these things. They mean having no negative view of same-sex relations and relationships, and not basing any practical distinctions on whether or not a relationship is same-sex or opposite sex. But clearly we want to do this. I can understand wanting to join with the social condemnation of prejudice, but I do worry with things like this that the church is being a little slippery with the words it is using, and setting itself up for misunderstandings (and worse).

  8. Thank you for your Facebook reply and sorry the link was taken down for some inexplicable reason.

    I read your discussion with Laurence Cunnington (I think I read the right bits any, I couldn’t search the comments on my ipad).

    If I understand correctly, you contend that the same developmental issues which contribute to an individual identifying as gay are also liable to cause mental health problems.

    However, this seems to me insufficient to ground any kind of moral argument against homosexuality. Presumably, a person who has suffered the kind of developmental problems you identify can seek therapy for the mental health problems they suffer as a result. And indeed they should do so in the interests of their own well-being. But ought they at the same time seek therapy to rid themselves of the accompanying homosexuality? That does not seem to follow. It is the mental health problems, not the homosexuality, that are obviously problematic. We need another reason why the homosexuality itself is problematic. Why could they not resolve their mental health problems and remain happily gay?

    • Homosexuality is intrinsically disordered – that’s the heart of the moral argument (though not the whole of it). The mental health issues (and other problems) associated with it indicate its disordered nature, but by themselves do not amount to a moral argument. Why is homosexuality intrinsically disordered? Because the healthy, properly functioning human being has sexual orientation in line with its anatomy i.e. the male is attracted to the female and vice-versa. That is the proper functioning of human sexuality, and why other forms are disordered. (I should add that no adverse moral judgement is implied merely by experiencing same-sex attraction.)

      • Will – your perspective is simple and commonsensical and has historically and internationally been the majority perspective; much recent discussion has dishonestly ignored it rather than refuted it.

      • Thanks Will—that is helpful, concisely and clearly put. I think that kind of understanding underlies precisely the sweep of biblical objection to same-sex sexual relations, and finds its expression in the language of ‘para phusin’ in Romans 1, where ‘nature’ is not simply ‘what is there’ but ‘the world the way God created it and intended it to be’.

  9. Right I have not read the whole study so may be responding based on inadequate information but I also have some agreement with James’s comments. There are some elements of the discussion that concern me. The first is the impact of sexual abuse in childhood. Familial experience has shown that such events can come back to bite you big-time and no amount of therapy solves the issues that can present themselves.

    Secondly the frequency of mental illness in non-heterosexual people. This appears to be being ignored as a factor, particularly if it is connected with childhood abuse. Mental illness can be physical – it shows up on scans of brain activity so if it is physical, why can someone not be ‘born gay’?

    It is easy for those who are heterosexual to pontificate. Just because a study is scientific it does not mean it is fact; it simply means that it has not yet been disproved.

    If people disagree with me or have answers to any of my points please be courteous because life has been difficult since a whole can of worms was opened and they started to wriggle with a vengeance…

    • Sue, if a study is scientific it is not proven, it just gives an indication, in conjunction with other such studies, of both (a) where the probabilities lie and (b) whether the evidence is finely-balanced, on the one hand, or points strongly one way, on the other hand. in cases where the different available random large-scale studies point strongly one way, that is not only good evidence, but the best evidence that can possibly ever be found. The appeal to proof is a red herring. Where studies all point strongly one way, we do know what sort of answer is going to be correct.

    • Sue, what shows up on brain scans are, in effect, scars due to mental damage of one sort or another, but I believe that I am correct in saying that these “scars” are not the same as genetic damage and thus are not passed on to a next generation. That is why one cannot be “born gay.”

      Those who believe that sexual orientation has a genetic basis never seem to face the fact that this postulates a genetic defect which is by its very nature mainly not replicated in the next generation. The continued appearance of the same defect in different families in every generation would be very difficult to explain.

      It would be interesting to know if any studies have been done to see what are the orientations of children born to parents who consider themselves “gay” but whose children are brought up as heterosexuals. There are such children particularly from lesbians raped or coerced into marriage. Such a study would not be easy to arrange, I would imagine, because the subjects would be difficult to identify but if possible, it could be very fruitful.

  10. As Mr Throckmorton wrote, for readers who want information not gleaned from conservative Christian American sites, but a more thorough review of the scientific literature on the matter by the very people Ian is only fond of quoting when they agree with his evangelical agenda, see: Sexual Orientation, Controversy and Science, by J. M. Bailey, L. Diamond, P.L. Vaisey, S. M. Breedlove and Marc Epprecht. It’s actually available online in the Journal of Psychological Science in the Public Interest, an actually peer reviewed publication.

    • Thanks Lorenzo. I have had a quick scan, and need to spend more time reading it.

      But one of the key authors, Lisa Diamond, is a pro-gay campaigner, gay herself and a leading commentator. I have cited her frequently in the past, and not above that her research mostly supports the summary position of this review.

      I also (in the above comments) quote directly from the report you cite, in their conclusions from twin studies, which again correlate with the review article.

      It is worth noting that, in the conclusion of the ‘Controversy’ article, they appear less to be exploring the nature/nurture question, and rather exploring whether wider social narratives have any significant effect on orientation. They conclude ‘no’, but this does not appear to lead them to assert either that sexuality is not fluid, nor that environmental factors are anything other that highly formative.

  11. And personally, I’d sooner commit suicide and inflate the statistics of Mc Hugh and the likes of his evangelical mates than have them dedicate ‘their work… to find ways to relieve’ my sufferings.

    • Ah, so the statistics just belong to McHugh and his evangelical mates, do they?

      And what evidence do you have that the statistics are not objective? Apparently, that they don’t submit to your own inflated sense of an immutable gay identity.

    • This is an error I have very often come across. People unbelievably think that a Gagnon or a Michael Brown actually did all the research that they cite. I didn’t know that either Gagnon or Michael Brown ever researched any such topic. All they do is summarise the research that has been done. Likewise McHugh. Which piece of research did McHugh do? He is just summarising the research done by others.

      • Never claimed that, it’s called irony: I’d rather blow my brains than let the likes of those ‘researchers’ be in charge of my mental health, thus pushing the statistics they use in a direction that would prove them right.

  12. Given the many responses, particularly Lorenzo’s responses, it didn’t take long for the preferential selection of some research from others and the immediate destruction of the report based upon little real actual evidence whilst clutching at bits of evidence here and there.

    • Nope, sorry, this is a slur, your side only ever quotes the research useful to back up conclusions they already have arrived through religious choice, and always tout the same names and few studies, Butterfield, Diamond… most conservative evangelical sites are usually quite happy to ignore ‘science,’ particularly in the US, unless it suddenly is useful to bolster their own moral conclusions.

      • Lorenzo, that is a bizarre accusations. Diamond is gay and a gay campaigner. She argues that sexual orientation is fluid on the basis of repeated research findings. In what sense is this being ‘selective’? Where is the peer-reviewed research which contradicts her?

        • She argues no such thing, and she has denounced this caricature of her research repeatedly: she has tentatively showed that there is a certain degree of fluidity in some women’s sexuality only and that in certain circumstances.

          • She explicitly rejects the notion of ‘gay identity’ because of fluidity, and does not believe that forms a grounds for arguing for gay rights, which she does on other grounds.

            In other words, she herself disagrees with the most common argument currently being pressed in the C of E.

          • Though of course the C of E is not *arguing* for orientation but assuming it without argument because of being unaware of cultural assumptions created by non-experts like the media and activists.

          • She does not reject a gay ‘identity’, she merely argues that her study (which, I believe, is entirely based on a small sample of female students taking ‘women studies’) shows that female sexuality is malleable, though not voluntarily so.

    • And it’s ‘clutching at bits of evidence here and there.’ I have linked (as has Dr Throckmorton) to the latest comprehensive review of the scientific literature on the matter by five of the authors, most of them frequently quoted in the New Atlantist article. When five of the authors you base your alleged research on actually write that this is not what their own research show, you should listen and not twist their own words to suit your religious views.

  13. I’ll not go after the authors, nor dive into the ocean of studies. The nature/nurture debate is a Stalingrad waiting to ensnare anyone in the affirming camp who engages with it. Conclusive proof isn’t there, and like biblical interpretation, it distracts from the main issue: what is the rational and substantive reason for being unwilling to accept homosexual relationships?

    • I’ll go after the authors: The New Atlantis is not a scientific publication, it’s mouthpiece of the American religious right on pretty much any issue of sexuality or bioethics, as even the quickest glance will show. I have no desire to prove or even belief that same-sex attraction is due entirely to nature. I would be surprised if it lacked any genetic or epigenetic background as these influence pretty much every other dimension of human life, I just want Christians to use scientific research honestly, and not import the sordid American culture wars in the CofE.

      • If the culture wars have been imported into the C of E, then they have mostly been done so by those wanting change in the Church’s teaching. As I have pointed out, it is these perspectives which are claiming that science supports their case, and I think the evidence of Diamond et al as well as this review, demonstrate that this is not the case.

        • Well, I’ve linked to Lisa Diamond’s latest summary of contemporary research, let people read it and make their own minds up… oh, but they are already made up.

    • You and I have been there, done that, James. Should I provide the link?

      As you love to say, ‘that ship has long sailed’.

    • James, in order to say that ‘conclusive proof isn’t there’, you would either have to have mastered all the literature, or to be an ideologue who jumps to conclusions.

      And why should not biblical interpretation be a valid study in its own right?

      Who decides what is ‘the main issue’? There are several different interrelated issues, each of which is important.

      And just to be clear: when you use the unacceptably vague word ‘relationships’ is it a euphemism for ‘sexual relationships’ or not?

      • “Homosexual relationships” is, as the plain reading of the phrase suggests, sexually active relationships between people of the same sex: I don’t want to reduce relationships to sex, nor deny its importance.

        There is, so far as I’m aware, no scientific consensus around the causes of homosexuality. I’m not particularly interested, and as I said, from an affirming POV, view it as a road to nowhere.

        Exegesis is of course valid. I just don’t view it as a foundation for ethics, anymore than Homer (not Simpson) or Virgil are.

        • So you say that the word ‘relationships’ implies sexually active??! That is obviously wrong. By the dictionary.

          Each of us has relationships with thousands of people and animals and objects.

    • “What is the rational and substantive reason for being unwilling to accept homosexual relationships?”

      I think that is exactly the issue James. The Peter Ould line is basically that those who engage in or support such relationships are on a ‘wide road to hell’ (his phrase) – it is seen as a salvation issue. If I understand Ian Paul correctly, such sexual relationships discredit the body of Christ if we accept them as being not sinful.

      The substantive reason is that traditionally – with limited biblical support – such relationships are sinful, and the church is in the business of calling people to repent of sin. So any support for this view, especially quasi scientific, simply brings power to their particular elbow.

      What it fails to recognise is that the mechanistic view of salvation simply doesn’t interest people outside of the church, and is not really effective at getting people to stay within it. It might have worked in the Middle Ages, but it doesn’t quite do it now. Even 21st century rubbish tips are a bit more sophisticated than a big bonfire burning all the rubbish and emitting sulphurous fumes.

      • “What is the rational and substantive reason for being unwilling to accept homosexual relationships?”

        For those accepting scripture as the final word on matters of faith and doctrine, as per the C of E formularies, canons and liturgies, then the reason is that Scripture consistently, widely and comprehensively describes same-sex sexual activity as sinful and opposed to God’s good plan for his creation. This view is affirmed by people across the spectrum of views on the moral issues.

        For those who agree with the biblical teaching, the underlying issue of theological anthropology has been expressed above by Will Jones:

        Homosexuality is intrinsically disordered – that’s the heart of the moral argument (though not the whole of it). The mental health issues (and other problems) associated with it indicate its disordered nature, but by themselves do not amount to a moral argument. Why is homosexuality intrinsically disordered? Because the healthy, properly functioning human being has sexual orientation in line with its anatomy i.e. the male is attracted to the female and vice-versa. That is the proper functioning of human sexuality, and why other forms are disordered. (I should add that no adverse moral judgement is implied merely by experiencing same-sex attraction.)

        This research doesn’t ‘prove’ that the orthodox Christian position is right, but it does offer some congruent evidence.

        This is, in a nutshell, why many Anglicans do not believe it would be right for the Church to view SSM as equivalent to male-female marriage.

          • Okay, so you mean that the rationale which declares that same-sex sexual relationships to be sinful according to biblical tradition:
            fails to recognise…that the mechanistic view of salvation simply doesn’t interest people outside of the church, and is not really effective at getting people to stay within it

            Hmm…but, to maintain such a view, you’d have to explain away the growth of so many churches and denominations which hold to what you call ‘a mechanistic view of salvation’, you’d have to attribute their missionary success to some other phenomena, such as a more exuberant style of worship.

            And, doubtless, these other phenomena will be pressed into the service of explaining away TEC’s dire decline, while their liberal stance on same-sex marriage has engendered very little interest from those outside the church.

            What’s more, you’ve the temerity to denigrate this key study produced by eminently qualified scientists as ‘quasi-science’, while your own last paragraph has not a whit of objective evidence to support its assertions.

            Yet, coming from you, that doesn’t surprise me.

          • Thanks David. I don’t think the ‘mine is bigger than yours’ arguments really get us very far. But peace and blessings to you.

          • Yeah, I beg to differ: the hypocrisy of unsubstantiated assertions, while accusing Drs. Mayer and McHugh of ‘quasi-science’ actually does matter…

            Well, at least, if you value your own credibility.

          • “but, to maintain such a view, you’d have to explain away the growth of so many churches and denominations which hold to what you call ‘a mechanistic view of salvation’, ”

            David: if your theory were correct then the RC church would be exhibiting significant growth in Britain. It isn’t. Lots of the C of E churches that are growing simply don’t want to address the issue of human sexuality, because they know that to do so alienates the young people they wish to attract.

            It is ‘quasi science’ because it is basically a statistical analysis. I’m happy for you to call that absolute science if you wish. I’d prefer to maintain that it has some of the attributes of science, which is all that quasi means. Either way, I don’t think hurling personal insults gets us anywhere either.

          • That depends which statistics you read Clive – quasi science. But even those which report growth suggest that immigration from Eastern Europe accounts for it.

          • Andrew, you didn’t ask about the potential reasons for growth, you tried to dismiss David’s comments by saying that the RC church has to grow, and it is. Whenever a Church grows there are those who seek to explain the growth. The Cof E would be happy to grow but the point is that the RC church view is not actually putting people off and sending them away. So regardless of the reason for growth your response to David falls short of being accurate.

          • Either way Clive, the RC Church is not exhibiting ‘significant’ growth in Britain, which was what I said to David.

          • Andrew,

            But I didn’t claim that what you pejoratively call ‘the mechanistic view of salvation’ is invincibly causal of growth. I did challenge the pessimistic view that such a position was causal of decline: simply doesn’t interest people outside of the church, and is not really effective at getting people to stay within it.

            While some churches that hold to the traditional position might not be experiencing significant growth, I did challenge your claim that such a view ‘is not really effective at getting people to stay within it.’, since there are churches which oppose same-sex sexual relationships and which are very effective at getting people to stay within them.

          • And David there are churches which support same sex relationships that are effective at attracting new people and getting them to stay within them. But it is all a pretty inexact science – hence my comment that ‘mine is bigger than yours’ doesn’t get us anywhere at all.

          • Andrew,

            Yeah, I actually agree that it’s a pretty inexact science to try to establish a causal link between a particular view of salvation (mechanistic or otherwise) and the interest generated among those outside the church, or effectiveness at getting people to stay in it.

            So, by all means, let’s avoid that.

        • That’s a ridiculous argument, almost no part of our human anatomy is used strictly for a single purpose, nor for the ‘only’ purpose for which they have evolved (not ‘were designed’). You go and defend God’s ‘good plan’ for his creation in the face of millions of year of universal predation and destruction, that’ll save Christianity.

        • That’s a ridiculous argument, almost no part of our human anatomy is used strictly for a single purpose, nor for the ‘only’ purpose for which they have evolved (not ‘were designed’). You go and defend God’s ‘good plan’ for his creation in the face of millions of year of universal predation and destruction, that’ll save Christianity.

  14. I’m still not not convinced. I honestly think the Jury’s out on this issue still and this report, while definitely worth reading and considering (I wouldn’t dismiss it so easily as some here), is somewhat over-presumptive and clearly not as objective as Ian would have us believe.

    James Byron is right, this report is a Stalingrad and I don’t think it will have any substantive effect on the Church of England, other than to make both sides more dogmatic and unreasonable about the scientific aspects of the debate.

    • Mat, could you clarify on what you think the jury is out?

      The 2006 Danish study demonstrates the statistical importance of a number of environmental factors in leading to SSM, including family/parental context and social factors.

      Twin studies confirm this, as the Diamond et al review article shows, and from which i quote above.

      The fluidity of SSA, particularly amongst women, has been demonstrated in several studies, and is something Diamond herself emphasises.

      These all undermine the idea of ‘gay identity’ as the grounds of an ethical argument, which is why I don’t think it is used as a serious argument outside the Church.

      What we might conclude from this is open to discussion—but on which of these issues is ‘the jury out’?

      • Yes, I’ll gladly clarify, I suppose I was being rather ambiguous.

        1. I’ll start by saying I would agree that by far the biggest influence on sexuality is environmental and I would acknowledge the evidence for this is conclusive: nurture more than nature. I have no issues there.

        2.However I think the degree and role of ‘nature’, specifically in regards to genetic influences and brain chemistry/development, has yet to be fully investigated. My perception is that evidence either way is minimal at the moment, so there is much scientific investigation yet to be done. Until this happens and we have a broader range of studies I think a pronouncement such as “people are not born gay” is premature; a house built on the barest of foundations. The truest answer to the ‘nature’ question may be less polarising than a choice between two options, an either-or, much as we would like it to be…..

        In any case I am not a scientist (I needed to look up ‘epigenetics’), but I still haven’t read anything sufficiently compelling to draw me on on either side of that one. I don’t mind saying that I could still be convinced by those better informed than I.

        3. In terms of the ethical argument as it relates to the SSM debate in the church, my point of agreement with the article is that those claiming homosexuality to be fixed, innate, or ‘natural’ need to be far more careful about pronouncing authoritatively on the subject, especially if the cite scientific consensus in their favour, but my point of disagreement is that just because they cannot say those things with certainty, those of us advocating the traditional view cannot claim the opposite (or at least, not from science alone..).

        4. While I would defend the writers of this report as entitled to formulate and justify their own conclusions from the evidence reviewed, we need to read this report while recognising who they represent, and more importantly, the audience they’re targeting. To that end I do think Atlantis was possibly the wrong choice (as a conservative-minded journal), which combined with the lack of peer review does invite people to be dismissive, as per Lorenzo. True or not,it does give the impression that they’re ‘singing to the choir’ rather than contributing to the debate. As an aside, I believe the comment at the start where the report is dedicated to the LBGT community was sincere, but I can understand why it has prompted the reaction it has.

        5. Lastly, my comment about the issue being a Stalingrad is just one of frustration. The science issue should be the entirely objective one in the SSM debate, the one least subject to differing interpretations from either side. I am not naive, I know that science is rarely purely objective, but when papers can be easily be dismissed (rightly or wrongly) because of who funded/published/reviewed/wrote them then we haven’t actually helped the situation. Both sides are throwing more material into the conflict, hoping for a decisive blow, when actually all we’re doing is escalating the scale..

        Like the real Stalingrad we may end up looking back on this debate in a decade and not viewing it as a victory, but as an immense and costly sacrifice, a criminal waste of resources and a battle between two ideologies ignorant of the people on the ground who’re being harmed the most..

        My apologies for the melodrama.

        • Thanks, Mat, that is very helpful.

          ‘The science issue should be the entirely objective one in the SSM debate, the one least subject to differing interpretations from either side.’

          Do you have a view on where the problem lies here?

          • I think the problem lies not so much with the ‘sides’ of the debate and their interpretations of the data, but rather that the way scientific research itself is proposed and presented creates a new problem that distracts from the others.

            Simply, research in this area all too often has, if not an ‘agenda’, at least an implicit (and sometimes declared) influence from the ones commissioning it. The result of this is that the “who?” and “why?” questions about the origins/causes of a report (who commissioned it, who do they represent, what are they trying to achieve?) are considered more important, and more widely discussed, than the actual content (what does the data say, what can we learn from it, is it accurate?).

            I think you’ve hit the nail on the head elsewhere in these comments by asking specifically which of the points in the executive summary can be shown to be false. That is what we should be discussing, but we don’t, because the more interesting and more pressing questions are about the things I’ve mentioned above!

            So that’s where the problem lies for me: the debate needs an objectively neutral party to collate/interpret and preset data like this in order for progress to be made. A party that can’t be easily doubted or questioned. Is that an unachievable ideal? Probably, but unless we have that we’re just going to focus on the wrong thing and make the debate about a war between factions rather than facts.

            Is that clearer?

            Does one side of the debate more often encourage this to happen than the other, or does one side have an interest in keeping the issue clouded?

            I couldn’t possibly say………

          • I just want to clarify an apparent contradiction between my last two comments.

            I say in the first that we should question the authors and motives behind the report, and in the second that we shouldn’t question them.

            My assertion is that we shouldn’t actually need to spend time questioning these things because scientific data and analysis should be as impartial as possible. The first comment reflects the reality, the second reflects and ideal.

        • Dear Mat,

          You have made a good contribution to the debate.

          All of my qualifications are Science and Engineering based except for my other degree, an MA in Theology.

          You wrote:
          “Until this happens and we have a broader range of studies I think a pronouncement such as “people are not born gay” is premature; …”

          You are correct but it REALLY does follow that “a pronouncement such as “people are born gay”…” is equally very, very premature and inappropriate indeed (actually it is currently unproven). Yet it is the claim that people are born gay that is being ideologically and forcibly pushed at people. This is fundamentally wrong and the whole subject actually needs more research.

          Scientific papers are simply being dismissed because of “who funded / published / reviewed / wrote them” and this is indeed crass. Irrespective of who wrote / funded / published / reviewed etc papers should nonetheless be read and taken seriously. Yet even on this website contributors have used terms such as “Christian” and “evangelical” as dismissive terms to avoid dealing with any of the substantive content.

          It is correct that just because Science methodology has been used for anything does not mean that it is automatically the right answer. Calling something “Scientific” doesn’t make it right.

          You end with relating the argument to Stalingrad and melodrama, but your comments are right and now appropriate. The whole debate has got as nasty as that and the LGBT clergy are busy putting facts down on the ground as a means of avoiding the proper discernment process.

          • It’s nice to be in agreement Clive. I think your first comment;“I, unfortunately, suspect that there will be little actual scrutiny and an awful lot of effort put in to irresponsible discreditation of the authors.”..Is exactly right, and it looks like many discussions across the blogosphere (not just here on Psephizo) are proving your point.

  15. What you will not find among the large majority of LGBT commenters is any attention to, or even knowledge of, the science and statistics. I brought science and statistics into the debates on Thinking Anglicans and on Changing Attitude some years ago, with the result that I was banned from both sites, one claiming that I had not a modicum of knowledge on the topic and that most of my statistical references were nonsense.

    The only possible response to that was for me to say: (1) point out wherein they are nonsense, and (2) quote alternative science that gives another conclusion. Neither of these things were done. This is why I thought that dishonesty was at work. My requests (1) -(2) still stand.

    At the London Synod I was escorted by security from Deans Yard for publicising such statistics. The person who made the complaint said that all that I quoted was not proper science, and was tosh. When questioned, the person actually did not know whether I had cited one paper or several, and did not know the names, let alone the contents, of any paper cited. The same peer-reviewed top-journal papers that they said were, one and all, not science at all.

    I am qualified to doctoral level, so why should my contributions be banned unless people have something to hide? Why should the contributions of anyone who tries to be maximally scientific, and to follow the stats where they lead, be banned? You would think that that would be the type of contribution most valued.

    If people think that they are going to get away with this anti-science approach, they are, to coin a phrase, taking the mickey. Truth will out, and all good people, all Christians, love truth. They don’t love bullying.

  16. Rather than making ad hominem arguments about the writers or the journal, I would be genuinely interested in anyone taking any one of the bullet points in the executive summary which I have quoted, and demonstrating why it is mistaken by quoting from peer-reviewed research.

    I think that could be an interesting discussion.

    • Fine, to begin with, as Throckmorton, himself an evangelical Christian points out: “‘One the “born that way” claim, I find it contradictory that the authors express uncertainty about the causes of orientation but then say with great certainty that the “born that way” theory isn’t supported by scientific evidence. This line is of course meant to hook the social conservatives which indeed it has.” For readers wanting a more thorough review of the literature, please see the paper from Bailey, Lisa Diamond, so often invoked here, and colleagues linked above.

  17. I am surprised that you got the comment you quoted in your OP at New Wine. I would have thought that this event tends to attract a clientele that is theologically conservative on sexuality.
    Not that I think the New Atlantis article would have had any effect on the ‘offended’ party mind.

    • New Wine and Soul Survivor reach a lot of young people. They have grown up with an education system and a media that have never even mentioned the multiple counter-arguments to the politically correct status quo. An anti-science schooling (highly paradoxically) is what they have received.

    • In addition, and not always for the worst reasons, since about 2004 (around the time of Soul in the City and Mike Pilavachi’s Trafalgar Square speech) large charismatic/evangelical brands like HTB, Hillsong, (less so) New Wine can be cagey about ever speaking about what they disapprove of rather than what they approve of – being constantly positive. I love it when people are constantly positive – there is nothing worse than moaning and complaints. But of course for everything that one approves of there will be things one disapproves of, and I cannot imagine the complicated mental calculations people must have to go through in being diplomatic and precisely-judged in what they say and do not say. I understand why the selectivity – there is a very hostile and crafty media out there. But the Christian way is still transparency and truth both about the positives and about the negatives. Constantly being positive can evolve into having such a low social deviance tolerance that one is never counter-cultural at all. That is extremely serious. Christians are pretty much bound to be counter-cultural in multiple ways, living as they do in a world driven by the dictates of human nature rather than the kingdom of God.

    • Plus: have you noticed that worship songs from this most recent period are lacking any enemy or struggle or challenge. This is a major theological change which has crept up without many even realising it. I consider many of these songs effectively asleep. The 1980s had plenty of spiritual warfare songs, and there is a distinguished history of these e.g. in the history of the progress of civil rights. I was not surprised when the devil was left out of the baptism service, because that was the current trajectory.

      The song I noted as marking the seachange was Delirious ‘I could sing of your love forever’ (mid-1990s) where both (typically half-formed) words and harmonic progression go absolutely nowhere. Message: we are already in luxury and don’t need to move, don’t need a challenge, don’t need to acknowledge the existence of any battle.

  18. You mention a statistic about higher levels of depression, suicide etc among non heterosexuals… maybe this is due to being made to wrongly feel guilty about their sexuality by the church.

    • Dear Judith – not only are there ways of measuring that, but many measurements have already been taken. For example, people have tested whether the ‘mental health’ of homosexuals is better or worse in gay-affirming places like Sweden, New Zealand, Amsterdam and San Francisco. The result is that it is much the same. This result fits with the view that homosexual practice itself is the issue (since that is the same in all the locations) and works against the idea that degrees of acceptance are the issue (since that theory would produce variation between locations, with the gay-friendly coming out best, which they clearly don’t).

      Four things are very clear to everyone:
      (1) The more acceptance of homosexual practice there has been, the more (and worse) STDs have broken out. There is a chronological pattern here: mostly (except for syphilis and gonorrhoea, both of which have evolved to become more lethal, and both of which affect men who have sex with men more than any other group) they broke out shortly after the sexual revolution was allowed to kick in.
      (2) The more acceptance of homosexual practice there has been, the more organisation there has been among homosexuals, leading to more people sleeping with more people.
      (3) The more acceptance of homosexual practice there has been, the more outrageous, long-lasting and drug-fuelled the orgies have become.
      (4) The idea that homosexual practice is itself the issue is rarely even considered. People just assume without argument that homosexual practice and heterosexual practice are two equivalent alternatives. it is undeniable that one should never assume anything without argument.

      Your proposal is actually the *only* route that the gay-practice-friendly can take. But it is still, statistically and factually, a blind alley.

  19. Shame on you, Ian Paul! Why can’t you get off youjr favourite hobby horse and allow LBGTI people to be how they understand themselves to be – without questioning their motives for doing so. You don’t do any good for the Evangelical Christians you purport to represent in your pogrom of criticism of Gay people. About time your learnt the meaning of the statement of Jesus: “they will know you are my disciples by your love” – not by your quasi-tehological hypotheses. Time you reflected on the sins of your own heterosexual community, rather then imputing evil to God’s children who happen to be Gay or Different from the majority to which you consider yourself privileged to belong – with its inherent claim to sexual enjoyment. You are helping to harm the innate individual consciences of a class of people you will never be able to understand. I’m sure that God is not pleased with your efforts to call what He has created ‘Unclean’.

    • The reality Ron Smith is that you may say “Shame on you, Ian Paul! Why can’t you …. allow LBGTI people to be how they understand themselves to be” would actually be very good and is what many Christians, including Ian Paul. myself etc, have really tried to do but instead LGBTI people have tried forcibly to make everyone else “be how they understand themselves to be” holding others around them in contempt…. and you are encouraging that.

    • Dear Ron

      If you click the link at the top of this page Archives, then I think you will see clearly what my favourite hobby horse is: the good reading of Scripture, enlightened by the Spirit, to equip and nurture faithful discipleship.

      I am not sure that Jesus thinks it is loving to people make false and self-justifying claims in a way which misleads others. The evidence cited in this article strongly demonstrates that the public narrative—being pushed on children in our schools—is without foundation or justification, and so is the imposition of a misleading ideological agenda. Jesus had some words for people who do such things:

      “If anyone causes one of these little ones–those who believe in me–to stumble, it would be better for them if a large millstone were hung around their neck and they were thrown into the sea.” (Mark 9.42)

      It is fascinating that you finish your comment with exactly the claim ‘God made them this way’ which the evidence contradicts. The real question here is: are we prepared to face the facts?

      • Hi Ian,
        Just a quick comment on the suggestion that you have got on ‘your favourite hobby horse’: it reminds me of an old-fashioned ‘joke’ about a man who complained that his wife kept ‘going on’ about money – it turned out that he had never given her enough money, and if he had, she would have had no need to keep ‘going on’ about money.
        I really appreciate this article and the work of other theologians such as yourself who conscientiously and with great expertise respond to revisionists who seem to be determined to keep putting the church in the dock with regard to church teaching on sexuality.

    • (1) People can and should have hobby horses. If inaccurate paradigms are being broadcast, we can and should continue pursuing our hobby horses (mixed metaphor?) until that fact is acknowledged.

      (2) So the self-witness of LGBTI people should be unquestioned? ‘If I witness to myself my testimony is not valid.’ If we witness to ourselves we will skew things to our own advantage. It will not be objective. Anyway, none of the rest of us is allowed to have unquestioned self-witness.

      (3) Motives in particular should be questioned. Ideology is everywhere rife. People’s so-called theories and views are very regularly nothing but their preferred scenario, their wishful thinking. By the law of averages, many of the theories we hold will be uncongenial to us. Where that is not the case, questions should be asked.

      (4) To purport to ‘represent’ Evangelical Christians would be to grant that a homogeneous body of people incapable of an independent thought existed. Think; Life of Brian crowd. What has that to do with following the research where it leads, as in this post? It is the very opposite.

      (5) Love is on the side of truthfulness, as all parents and teachers know.

      (6) The sins of the homosexual ‘community’ and those of the heterosexual ‘community’ (do they have community centres?) are not an either/or!! ‘Answer either A or B but not both’. They are both issues and both need to be addressed.

      (7) ‘God’s children’ – you confuse two things: God’s children by creation on the one hand, and by adoption / new birth.on the other hand.]](8) ‘Happen to be gay’ / ‘class of people’ / ‘what he has created’ – but this entire post is about whether that is in fact the case, whether orientation is innate. Many people don’t want that issue to be raised. We are supposed to (zombie-like) accept the politically correct version without question. But like everything in life it is about evidence. You can’t prejudge any issue, least of all the main issue which this post is about: is orientation innate or not? None of us has met gay babies. None of us was sexually attracted to anyone at all until a great deal of water had flowed under our life’s bridge.

  20. Ian, if sexual orientation is largely determined by environmental factors (and/or if the gene pool has changed over the last two thousand years) then the proportion of gay an bi-sexual people in biblical times may have been quite different from today. Indeed, our gay/straight/bi categories may be inapplicable to the ancient societies and the roles that sexual practices played in those societies may have been quite different from what we assume. It is therefore hazardous to assume that the teachings of Paul are directly applicable to our time and place. As you know, Hultgren and I have argued, from ancient sources, that Paul was speaking to a world in which same-gender sex was generally an act of social domination. Paul was not talking about gay marriage. Now, I know that you have considered this line of thinking and still decide against gay marriage. However, I think your piece should have admitted that the application of the scriptural texts on same-gender sex to modern societies becomes more complicated if we accept that our orientations are not genetically pre-determined.

    Secondly, I think your piece needs a clear statement on whether you think that therapy or church doctrine can change people’s sexual orientation. This is a crucial question.

    Do you have any statistics on whether same sex attracted people have better outcomes in parts of the U.S. where traditional church doctrine in retained, compared to parts of the U.S. that take a more progressive view? That would be an important statistic, wouldn’t it?

    • I know of two studies on the matter, one from the University of Tell Aviv by Dr Bar Joseph showing that suicide rates are a lot higher among religious Jews, and another one in Utah, showing pretty much the same thing, but I have not got a link or reference at hand.

    • Thanks Richard. I will come back to you on Paul when I have more time.

      But I am happy to clarify: I have nowhere ever claimed that our patterns of attraction are a choice, nor that they can or should change, even though the evidence says they are changeable. You do not need to be heterosexual to be saved. (On this I take a very different view from some conservative evangelicals, who appear to think that SSA is in itself sinful. I think that position is not supportable and is in fact very damaging.)

      The choice we have is whether (for all of us) we act on them.

      • They are not a choice, though may be traceable to some past determinative choice.

        SSA is not sinful where it is innate (if it ever is).
        In other cases, it may only ever arise because of some former deliberate sinful choice / relaxation of boundaries. See para 1.
        Also sins are interrelated (hence the single abstract-noun ‘sin’), so there is an extent to which one sin leads to another. And there would be a way to test that: does SSA arise more often in people who are already involved in more sin than average?
        There is a sliding scale and exactitude is difficult. To be confronted with a lustful thought-picture out of the blue is different from saying yes to it (Matt 5) – or else ‘tempted in every way yet without sin’ means nothing – but there will be times when the distinction between the two is not clear. After all, were your former choices responsible for the quantity of times that thought-pictures appeared in the first place?
        And is SSA not clearly something that has more in common with the relevant sin than does the absence of SSA?
        Then there’s the issue of how we define SSA in the first place. Is it at the level of being confronted with a thought-picture, or at the level of saying yes to the thought-picture?
        So I find this area a bit fuzzy-edged. But it is clear that each of us is steeped in sin and where sin abound grace abounds all the more.

      • The evidence does not say they are changeable, merely that they change, sometimes in spite of a person’s will.

  21. Useful and interesting post – as always – on a sensitive topic. The New Atlantis article seems to reinforce a number of the points made in Mark Yarhouse’s book, Understanding Gender Disphoria – which I found very helpful in thinking around the topic and reflecting on my respone to it.


  22. No great theological Scholar has yet fully explained the text in Matthew 19:10-12, in a way that would justify Ian Paul’s (or any other conservative Evangelical teacher’s) efforts to disenfranchise homosexuals from their full membership in the Body of Christ. In his discourse, following Jesus’ criiticism of heterosexual divorce, he takes the trouble to describe another class of people which, from his reference to them as being ‘eunuchs’ could either be monks, nuns. R/C. clergy, disabled or maybe even Gay – unwilling, not disposed or unable to procreate in a hetersexual union.

    The category Jesus describes as being eunuchs ‘from their mother’s womb’ could well include those among us who are intrinsically Gay! This may well be the one and only occasion Jesus actually spoke about this phenomenon, and those disposed to dismiss the occasion seem not able to consider this pericope from Matthew’s Gospel as being germane to the situation.

    • Re eunuchs: Study of the sorts of ways Matthew makes additions to Mark leads scholars to believe that one thing Matthew is doing is investigating the sorts of finer distinctions and special cases that would interest a scribe, rabbi or student. The absence of this bit from Mark makes it unlikely it goes back to Jesus, and the fact that it is simultaneously characteristic of Matthew gives us a satisfactory account of its provenance.

      Your use of the term ‘conservative evangelical’ suggests that people begin from a body of doctrine or a preexisting perspective and derive their answers or ‘conclusions’ from that. Scholars never do anything of the sort, since scholars are open-minded truth-seekers. Is it not clear that Ian’s investigation is evidence-based rather than ideological? – he is constantly citing and weighing evidence. Consequently you are beginning from an incorrect premise.

  23. I’m finding it a little hard to understand the backlash over the New Atlantis journal and this post.

    The criticism seems to boil down to (1) being gay is not a problem to diagnose / solve, the very discussion of this question offends me; (2) the journal did not reference enough science articles which might disagree with, or at least nuance some of its conclusions.

    I’m really not sure what to say. On (1) – we have to talk about things scientifically and dispassionately. If we can’t talk about homosexuality etc. in a scientific way without being offended I’m not sure whether we can go any further. A number of books e.g. Loveday Alexander and Alan Wilson (as quoted above) have rested at least some of their case on the science. If their case is to hold any validity the science needs to be open to be challenged.

    On (2) – the journal did at least refer to plenty of scientific studies and literature. It does at least demonstrate, to my mind, that the science is not as ‘settled’ as some would have us believe.

    Michael Bailey, quoted by Warren Throckmorton on Patheos, said in his response:

    “4. Most importantly, I agree that all of these issues should be openly discussed and researched. There is little government support for open-minded investigation for these controversial issues. That is unfortunate and exactly backwards. Support should be directed to resolve the most contentious issues”

    I think he’s right. And I get the feeling people are angry at the New Atlantis journal not because it misrepresented the science so much as because it came to the ‘wrong’ conclusions.

  24. This is a very important post. At last, perhaps, objective science may be allowed to become an intrinsic part of the debate on sexuality. That which science has revealed so far about sexual orientation is a fundamental starting point if you are engaged in promoting a different societal approach to what has always been generally accepted. Yet those who have promoted the gay agenda have been less than objective, and often deliberately misleading, in their treatment of scientific knowledge; indeed, some people within the psychology world appear to have allowed their curiosity and open mindedness to be curtailed in obedience to LGBT pressure.

    For all of us it is essential to remember that science is almost always a work in progress (new discoveries constantly challenge old certainties while posing yet more questions); and in an area where genetics, environment and the human brain interact with such complexity and variability it is almost impossible to arrive at any absolute conclusions. How, for example, do you approach such things as the will to change one’s behaviour? How much are we victims of a fixed inheritance and how much can we exert our own inner will on how we think and what we do? Can science ever fully explain this?

    For the Christian, science is the discovery of how God has designed our world and, insofar as science is objectively researched and honestly presented, it cannot be at odds with our Biblical understanding. The Word who created cannot be at odds with the Word who spoke. In the present case I believe it is long overdue that the honest science we have, thus far, relating to same sex attraction is widely disseminated and carefully considered alongside what the Bible tells us, always remembering that we have the Bible in full but science only in part.

    What we think and what we do about same sex attraction and relationships should never have started with political lobbying and perceived social trends. The Church of England is plainly wrong to have instigated ‘shared conversations’ before formally consulting the Bible and assimilating what we know thus far from science. So there needs to be a lot of rethinking done before any decisions regarding the CofE’s doctrine and practice take place.

    • Don – you say that this is an important study, but it’s also ‘same old’: the large majority of the very many scientific and statistical studies have always pointed in a similar direction. Just, many people have tried to make sure that this fact is not publicised, and many others have, partly for that reason, lived in a state of ignorance.

      • I absolutely agree, Christopher; the thing is that perhaps what has been hitherto concealed may, at last, begin to be revealed.

  25. If the percentage is so small it rather throws into sharp relief the fact that the percentage of homosexual clergy is so much higher.

  26. Like everyone here I am fascinated by the science: it is complex, subtle and developing. Like other disciplines it is also ideological and culturally influenced/influencing. However whether homosexuality is caused by genetics, epigenetics, hormones, environment or being rogered by your uncle Bert says nothing about whether it is sinful, or to use that dreadful phrase from natural theology “intrinsically disordered”. If God had intended tool A only to enter hole B in order to produce progeny, the humankind would not be capable of reproducing and of experiencing sexual pleasure in all seasons, and any non-procreative form of heterosexual sexual intimacy would also be intrinsically disordered. At least RC theology is consistent (if mistaken) here. Seeing same-sex sex as disordered, but not straight non reproductive sex is just a muddle.

    • It’s not a muddle at all. Homosexuality (SSA) is disordered because it is a mismatch between sexual desire and sexual anatomy. Same-sex sex is morally problematic because it proceeds from disordered desire. Straight non-procreative sex is not (intrinsically) morally problematic because it doesn’t follow from disordered desire – there is nothing disordered about desiring your (opposite sex) spouse sexually when procreation is not possible. The issue of being disordered does not turn on the possibility of procreation but on the mismatch between desire and anatomy.

      • It is a muddle, Will Jones. Sexual dimorphism is an evolutionary strategy, not a divinely imposed order. I thought this article was about ‘what science says about sexuality.’ Furthermore there are next to no element in our human anatomy that are used for a single purpose, let alone restricted to it by divine command or design. You’re just reading Genesis in the book of nature. Your desiring sex for pleasure is in itself curious.

        • So, according to you, sexual dimorphism is not a divinely imposed order. How about monogamy? Perhaps, that’s just an evolutionary strategy too. So, that’s optional too?

          Yet, Christ’s own words must appear so primitive and ill-informed to you:, “Haven’t you read,” he replied, “that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’ (Matt. 19:4)

          You also state that: Furthermore, there are next to no element [sic] of in our human anatomy that used for a single purpose But, Will’s argument does not challenge about our organic capacity for multiple purposes, it does challenge re-purposing primary sexual characteristics in a manner that contradicts primary sexual purpose in heterosexual union, which is thrice repeated as divinely intended in scripture (Gen. 2:24; Matt. 19:5; Eph. 5:31)

          The nose might well be used for multiple purposes in addition to olfaction, but, if, say, chronic cocaine use prevents the nose from serving the latter purpose at all, it is abuse.

          • In the Daily Mail this morning (it’s a weird addiction of mine), you can watch the video of a python slowly suffocating, then ingesting then regurgitating a whole antelope to digest her better. Divinely imposed order. Glory!

          • Yep, and what part of Christ’s response to the moral dilemma posed by His contemporaries, i.e ‘it was not is from the beginning’ do you not understand?

          • In the beginning, the creator did not make any living thing male and female. Your argument is scientifically, demonstrably false. And our Lord was making a point about the legality of repudiation ‘for any reason,’ not marriage in the way we understand it now.

            I really cannot understand what you mean by ‘re-purposing primary sexual characteristics.’ It’s gobbledygook. Using your wanger to give or receive pleasure is not ‘abuse’ or in any way harmful, therefore the analogy with cocaine use is moot. You can dispense with links to biblical verses, I too can read the Bible. The biological purpose of organs is not ‘revealed.’ It’s biology, and, be it said in passing, evolutionary biology does not deal in ‘purpose.’

          • Oh dear. So, now you resort to the catch-all excusing suffix of ‘In the way we understand it now’

            I wonder why Jesus’ contemporaries didn’t claim that His harking back to the Genesis archetype of marriage was woefully anachronistic. You know, they could have said the Genesis reference to marriage was superseded by Moses Law and could have claimed equally that it was ‘not marriage in the way we understand it now’.

            In fact, let’s broaden this to any biblically prohibited aspect of human behaviour.

            Also, Jesus decried covetous devotion to wealth, but, of course, that’s not wealth ‘in the way we understand it now’!

            Your special pleading by any other name would be just as false.

          • Ok, I’ll try one last time: this is supposed to be an article about what science says. There was no ‘marriage’ in the beginning, scientifically speaking. There was no distinction between sexes, it’s a very late adaptation. There is no ‘revealed’ purpose for sexual organs… and I did not write ‘int he way we understand it now.’ All the above is scientific certainty. Evolution is only a ‘theory’ int he sense that gravity is. It could of course be disproved, but it would require a complete overhaul of the ‘way we understand things now,’ a copernican revolution if you want, only the other way around. It’s not going to happen.

          • Okay, so you now assert: and I did not write ‘in the way we understand it now’

            Instead, you posted at 8:44am:
            Your argument is scientifically, demonstrably false. And our Lord was making a point about the legality of repudiation ‘for any reason,’ not marriage in the way we understand it now.

            Yeah, I now see how wrong it must seem for me to quote you on that.

            You really are priceless!

          • Lorenzo, you are just making up what “science says” without a shred of evidence to support your bizarre version of science. You wrote: “There was no ‘marriage’ in the beginning, scientifically speaking. There was no distinction between sexes, it’s a very late adaptation….”

            Actually science does NOT tell us what came before marriage, it simply doesn’t say anything about it for there is no evidence to answer the idea. Science also simply doesn’t say that there was some other form of person before the sexes, there is equally no evidence to support any such idea. There is no evidence for a hermaphrodite person.

            You are simply making science up in a completely unscientific way.

        • Your argument will undermine all morality. Since G E Moore and others rebutted Herbert Spencer it has been known that evolution cannot underpin ethics. The concept of a well-ordered human being and human society is necessarily independent of the evolutionary process. Ethics cannot be reduced to evolutionary advantage, which has no room for the idea of what a good human being as a human being is.

        • “Sexual dimorphism is an evolutionary strategy, not a divinely imposed order.”

          Lorenzo – if evolution is a true description of how we got to be what we are, then there is no “strategy”. Only minds and wills have strategies: an unplanned, undirected, purposeless process (that is what evolution means) has no “strategy” whatsoever.

          You should be consistent in your assumptions and not sneak in purpose where none exists – at least on your methodological atheist presuppositions.

      • Your mismatch argument goes back to tool A and hole B again, which is utter nonsense because that is not the only sexual intimacy enjoyed by straight couples. Your assertion that same sex sex is disordered isn’t even an argument; it’s simply an assertion. Why is same sex desire disordered?

        • It’s not about tool A and hole B. That trivialises the concept of a healthy, well functioning human being. It’s about how the human organism is supposed to function. Human beings are supposed to have sexual desire in line with their anatomy. The male is supposed to be attracted to the female. That’s the well-ordered human being. That may just be a statement, but it’s also a fact.

          • Exactly Will. Such attention to the “fact” of plumbing does trivialise the concept of a healthy, well functioning human being. There is nothing to suggest that men and women cannot be healthily orientated towards their own sex/gender. Saying that “human beings are supposed to have sexual desire in line with their anatomy” is nonsense. Why are they “supposed to” and what does “in line with their anatomy” mean? Straight couples also enjoy sexual intimacy which is not open to procreation. Is that in line with their anatomy?

          • Not plumbing, Penelope, physiology. They are supposed to because that’s the healthy, well-functioning human organism. You keep asking why when you have already been told the basic reason but you won’t accept it. There is nothing trivial about the proper form of human beings.

            Yes non-procreative straight sex is in line with human anatomy.

            It isn’t nonsense and it isn’t a muddle. It is entirely coherent and makes perfect sense.

          • Will I haven’t been ‘told’ any reason why straight sex is healthy and well functioning and gay sex isn’t. Simply saying it is so isn’t an argument. Nor can I see why sexual intimacy which doesn’t involve penile vaginal penetration is ok for straight couples but not ok for gay couples.

          • You have. The reason gay sex is disordered is because it proceeds from disordered desire. The desire is disordered because it is contrary to the well-ordered, properly functioning human organism, in which male desires female and vice versa. I can see that you don’t accept this account of the well-ordered human being, but you can’t say you haven’t been given a reason that gay sex is disordered.

          • Will ‘it is contrary to what he well ordered, properly functioning human organism in which male desires female’, is an assertion. It’s your belief. It’s not a fact nor an argument. Great be me a reason why this is so.

          • It is an assertion and it is my belief. It is also a fact, these things are not mutually exclusive.The well-ordered human being is a first principle of ethics. That the well-ordered human being desires the opposite sex, in line with its anatomy, is an intuition based on observation. It is corroborated by the associated problems of homosexuality. We are dealing with first principles here. I know you don’t accept this first principle, and think the well-ordered human being may have sexual desire at odds with its anatomy. But even if I can’t convince you, I have given a reason, based in first principles, why gay sex is disordered, and shown it is not nonsense or muddled.

          • Will, I don’t think that the well-ordered human being has desires at odds with his/her anatomy. I don’t believe that sexual intimacy which doesn’t involve penile/vaginal penetration is disordered; I don’t believe that using contraception is disordered. So sex doesn’t have to be open to procreation (in a strict biological sense) to be good. Intuition and observation sound suspiciously like ‘experience’ to me.

          • That your assertion and belief is a fact is itself no more than a mere assertion.

            “That the well-ordered human being desires the opposite sex, in line with its anatomy, is an intuition based on observation.”

            By that you are presumably implying that a “well-ordered” human being cannot desire people of the same sex. That may be your intuition, but an intuition is not an objective fact.

            “I know you don’t accept this first principle, and think the well-ordered human being may have sexual desire at odds with its anatomy.”

            If the implication is that sexual desires for people of the same sex are somehow at odds with one’s anatomy, I would reply that that is not an objective fact either. They are merely at odds with your belief that a “well-ordered” human being can desire people only of the other sex.

          • I know that’s what you think. That means you think that same-sex desire is not at odds with human anatomy. I think you’re wrong. But the point is that my belief, that they are, is neither muddled nor nonsense, which was the charge. It is based on intuition and observation, which is a form of reason and experience. Your points about procreation and contraception are not relevant to my position as they are not at odds with human anatomy.

          • William Fisher – of course it is an assertion, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t also an objective fact. Your point is also an assertion, that is just stating the obvious, but it might also be a fact. The first principles of ethics are intuitions based on observation. You can’t just dismiss this as subjective belief without undermining the whole of ethics.

          • Will, I think you’re wrong. You think I’m wrong. This means that your belief is neither objective nor a ‘fact, I would argue that, unlike RC theologians, you aren’t being consistent. They would see any sexual act not open to conception as disordered. Anglicanism hasn’t taught that since 1920. That being so, the genders of those participating in sexual acts which aren’t procreative doesn’t make the acts or desires themselves disordered. That’s what I mean by muddled. Of course RC theology is muddled too because it permits the marriage of infertile couples.

          • Just because we disagree, doesn’t mean one of us isn’t right (and what we say isn’t a fact). That is a basic fallacy. Scientists disagree, but their claims may still be correct, and be a fact.

            My position is not muddled just because it is different from the RC view. My claim is that same-sex desire is disordered because it is at odds with human anatomy. This is based on an intuition grounded in observation about what appears to be the proper form of the human being. This is corroborated by the problems associated with homosexuality. This is in no way muddled, and neither does it place any reliance on the idea of openness to conception. I understand that you disagree, but I don’t understand why you persist in your claim that this is muddled. Your argument could be stated as: Well, if you don’t object to contraception, then you can’t have any objection to homosexuality. But that is obviously absurd.

          • Absurd? I assume you’ve read ‘The Body’s Grace’ and disagree with it. Of course disagreeing doesn’t make us both wrong, but what you state as a fact and as objective is still no more than an assertion and a belief. For me and for many others (including, presumably Rowan Williams) a well-ordered human being may have a desire for the other sex (I don’t believe in opposite sexes) although their plumbing – physiology, if you will – may not be capable of sexual reproduction. Believing that sexual desire must be orientated towards penile/vaginal penetration is, I would argue, an unnaturally mechanistic and instrumental view of sexuality. But then , I too am guided by intuition, observation and experience, as well as by scripture and theology.

          • I could describe your view of what is unnatural about sex as no more than an assertion and belief as you do mine. But I won’t, because I don’t think it is ever helpful in a discussion to call your opponent’s views subjective, when clearly the discussion concerns which of the views might be correct. I agree with your claim that the well-ordered nature of sexual desire for the other/opposite sex does not turn on the possibility of procreation. I do not think it then follows that sexual desire for the same sex is also well-ordered. From intuitions grounded in anatomy (and confirmed, as I read it, by scripture, and corroborated by evidence of associated problems) I conclude that it is disordered, though I see you do not. While we disagree, I may perhaps hope that you will cease to describe my position as a muddle.

          • David, that is a very modern definition of one of the goods of marriage. As I said, it is not one to which ancient Israel, who generally favoured endogamy, would have adhered. However it is only one of the goods of marriage, there are others which of course SSM can exemplify. And, of course, gay couples can also nurture children even if they aren’t the fruit of their loins ( though they may be), which also contributes to a stable and healthy society.

        • Penelope, do you honestly not give any special separate category to what you call the A-B conjunction, which is only the way that every one of us was made? Is it no more than one sexual activity among many?

          • Reproduction is actually aligned with the inclusive fitness of our species. This is an evolutionary priority for maintaining our overall genetic diversity.

            However, since inclusive fitness is an average, ‘it will reflect the reproductive outcomes of all individuals of a particular genotype in a given environment or set of environments’.

            When compared to more costly efforts to perpetuate genetic diversity (which is crucial to the success of our species), society may inter-generationally prioritise the types of sexual relationships that, at first sight, are capable of furthering the inclusive fitness of human society.

            Human society has sought this priority, without intruding upon privacy, by establishing an institution called marriage and by privileging the types of sexual relationships which, at first sight, are congruous with this priority.

          • David that’s a good case for privileging fertile exogamous marriage (the second being something the Hebrew Bible doesn’t really approve of) because it secures well being through genetic variety. It’s not really a theological argument though, is it? And nor does it concern itself with the goods of other kinds of sexual expression within marriage or covenant relationship.

          • Hi Penelope,

            You simply asked: What’s special or separate about it?

            You didn’t qualify that with (and neither is there any need for) a requirement that the argument should be theological.

            There may well be goods derived from other kinds of sexual expression within marriage, but they do not have the same potential to deliver the public goods and the societal impact of inter-generational outcomes from heterosexual union.

            And that’s why the latter is privileged by all human societies.

          • Hi David,that’s not specific to straight marriages tho’. SSM can also include children and widen the genetic pool. Indeed procreation outside marriage can widen the genetic pool.

          • Penelope, I have already answered that in my 3-line post. it is only the way that every one of us was made. That is obvious to an intelligent child; in fact, there are few more basic truths on the planet.

          • Christopher 1) not everyone of us is made in this way (whatever this way is). 2) what does this way demonstrate? That most straight couples can have children. Is this the only purpose of sexual intimacy?

          • Penelope, You are getting confused.

            You wrote:
            “SSM can also include children and widen the genetic pool. Indeed procreation outside marriage can widen the genetic pool.”

            SSM cannot procreate children so it CANNOT widen the genetic pool.

            If you then say “…procreation outside marriage can widen the genetic pool” then you have said that for SSM the occurrence in your version of SSM happened outside the marriage and so monogamy went out of the window and so did the marriage with it.

          • Penelope,

            Procreation outside marriage may well widen the gene pool, however the purpose of marriage policy is to ameliorate what I described as ‘the intergenerational outcomes of heterosexual union’.

            Sex outside of marriage leaves to chance whether and to what extent a couple will accept joint responsibility for these intergenerational outcomes of heterosexual union, primarily children.

            Therefore, sex outside of marriage thwarts public policy which would make their responsibility certain and the care of children secure.

            Public policy privileges this ‘at first sight’ capacity of a couple to contribute towards the inclusive fitness of human society.

            I say ‘at first sight’ because the couple’s right to personal privacy curtails any further State intrusion to determine or dictate the use of reproductive capacity. (cf. Griswold vs. Connecticut)

            Historically, the right to privacy explains why the impediments to marriage delve no further than the prima facie minimum requirement for responsible natural parenthood: that the couple are of age and male and female.

            This minimum requirement also explains why elderly and infertile heterosexual couples have never been excluded from the institution of marriage.

            A same-sex sexual relationship is per se incapable of furthering the inclusive fitness of human society.

            It is only the perpetual media-stoked victimhood narrative that has led to privileging of same-sex sexual relationships as marriage.

          • Clive, I’m not in the least confused. I said that SSM could include children, either from previous relationships or via surrogacy (very good biblical precedents for the latter). I was referring to David’s comments about widening the gene pool, not commentating on the morality of monogamy, which, I think, is generally a Good Thing.

          • Sorry Penelope but you have shown yourself to be confused because SSM cannot possibly procreate their own children within the marriage of the two people involved because they are of the same sex. And if you say they can have children then it is essential for them that monogamy and their marriage has been discarded.

          • David, if you had attended to what I wrote, I said that children are not necessarily the fruit of same- sex partner’s loins, though they may be. Monogamous relationships exist in the face of divorce, death and surrogacy. The church may remarry divorcees and widows remember ( despite scripture).

          • We can demonstrate the way we are made physiologically. Physiologically all of us are made male or female (give or take).

            What we can’t demonstrate is how we are psychologically. That is for several reasons. (1) People can lie. (2) People can be confused or inarticulate. (3) Experiences that happen later can affect our basic innate nature, and it is our basic innate nature that we are now talking about. (4) Psychology is less straightforward, and less measurable: conclusions derived from psychology are therefore less firm than those derived from physiology.

            Conclusion: physiology is hard science whereas psychology is less hard, more subjective. It would be bad enough to treat the two of them as being on the same level, but you are (like the men-in-girls’-bathrooms advocates in the States) actually treating psychology as being the more important of the two.

            You have used the argument ‘we both think differently and so that’s that’. This is a well-known philosophical fallacy. You are making the mistake of focussing on ‘views’ and not on evidence. Views are useless if they are not based on evidence.

            I did not say that children are the only purpose of sexual intimacy. But they are a stratospherically important and wonderful result of it. Nature’s lesson is that what you call the AB conjunction is where we all come from. What could be more important than that? What could more clearly differentiate this particular conjunction from other ‘sexual acts’? (A failure to differentiate could only emanate from someone who had completely neglected the most obvious of all the facts about sex, that it produces babies!! Of all the facts to neglect, that is the strangest.) That is biology 101 and (as mentioned before) one of the most obvious facts that exists.

          • Penelope we have been clearly told that SSM couples can be monogamous – therefore if an SSM have a child by another they are clearly not monogamous and the whole thing is a lie.

          • Penelope,

            You wrote: David, that is a very modern definition of one of the goods of marriage. As I said, it is not one to which ancient Israel, who generally favoured endogamy, would have adhered.

            In ancient Israel, there are prominent examples of endogamy, which must be held in tension with prohibitions against heathen inter-marriage. Particularly, Abraham, though married to his half-sister, Sarah, is encouraged by her take a second wife, Hagar (who is an Egyptian slave) as a second wife to bear his first son.

            As Karen Strand Winslow has written: There is no explicit indication that Sarah’s kinship with Abraham as a Terahide is the reason the covenant son must be born by her, nor is there any suggestion that Ishmael and the sons of Keturah were expelled because of their “outsider” status through their mothers.

            Further prominent counter-examples which demonstrate that Israelite exogamy was conditionally permissible include Moses’ marriage to Zipporah, a Midianite; Joseph’s marriage to Asenath, the daughter of an Egyptian priest; Judah’s marriage to a Canaanite and Rahab, who collaborated with Israel’s reconnaissance party and whose entire family joined the congregation of Israel.

            In Deuteronomy, the prohibition on heathen inter-marriage is clearly expressed as a sub-set of the broader danger of forming pacts which would entail compromise with the generally recalcitrant idolatry of Canaan: Make no treaty with them, and show them no mercy. Do not intermarry with them. Do not give your daughters to their sons or take their daughters for your sons, for they will turn your children away from following me to serve other gods, and the Lord’s anger will burn against you and will quickly destroy you. (Deut. 7:2-6)

          • Penelope,

            Despite the title of Ian’s post is What does science say about sexuality?, it was you who has insistently pursued the theological line, despite this not being a requirement for answering the first question which you posed:What’s special and/or separate about it?, i.e. what you call A/B conjunction.

            Christopher, Clive and I have fully explained why such relationships deserve to be prioritised as marriage by society.

            Your counter-argument has been to re-orient the discussion towards what’re you call ‘the goods of other kinds of sexual expression within marriage or covenant relationship’. To do this, you’ve turned a blind eye towards marriage’s essential good, which is to ameliorate the inter-generational outcomes of sexual union.

            As Blackstone, the English common law authority: ‘And the reason that our English law is surely far superior to that of the Romans, if we consider the principal goal and design of establishing the contract of marriage, considered in a civil light; (leaving aside any religious view, which has nothing to do with the legal recognition or non-recognition of the children.)’

            ‘The main goal and design of marriage therefore being to ascertain and fix upon some certain person, to whom the care, the protection, the maintenance, and the education of the children should belong. an obligation, says Pufendorf, laid on them not only by nature herself, but by their own appropriate act, in bringing them into the world : for they would be most harmful to their offspring, if they only gave the children life, that they might afterwards see them die.

            You point us to gay surrogacy and the nurturing of children, which are subsidiary and subsequent to the priority of protecting the natural identity of children and their primary care by that couple, who through marriage, establish their claim as co-founders of an inviolable family unit and joint parents of any child born with the marriage.

            Even the European Court of Human Rights, ever at the vanguard of LGBT rights, declared in Schalk and Kopf vs. Austria that marriage remains “geared towards the fundamental possibility of parenthood’.

            You have yet to explain why public policy should privilege any relationship as marriage which, at first sight is incapable of furthering the inclusive fitness of human society and is, at first sight incapable of the fundamental possibility of parenthood.

            And to re-iterate, there has never been a prima facie requirement that marriage couples be fertile, as I explained in the context of privacy law here.

          • David, if you think that the essential good of marriage is to ameliorate the inter generational outcomes of sexual Union, what can I say?

          • Penelope,

            What part of Blackstone’s qualification: if we consider the principal goal and design of establishing the contract of marriage, considered in a civil light; (leaving aside any religious view, which has nothing to do with the legal recognition or non-recognition of the children.)’ did you not understand?

          • To avoid ambiguity: When I say that the AB conjunction was the way every one of us was made, I mean it is generally (with weird and wonderful exceptions) how every animal on the planet was conceived. Where we ‘came from’. None would be here without it. Doesn’t that count for something? Like – an incomparably colossal amount.

      • “…of course it is an assertion, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t also an objective fact.”

        No, it doesn’t, but you haven’t shown that it is. You have merely asserted that it is.

        “You can’t just dismiss this as subjective belief without undermining the whole of ethics.”

        Another mere assertion. Yes, you can.

        • This reply appeared in strange place!

          My main point on this thread is to show that my position is not nonsense or muddled by showing how it follows coherently from sensible first principles. Pointing out that my first principles are ‘mere assertions’ and have not been ‘shown’ therefore doesn’t counter my argument. My first principle is that the well-ordered human being has sexual desire in line with his/her anatomy. This is not nonsense or muddled. It is a perfectly respectable view. So I have achieved my aim.

          You now challenge me to ‘show’ my first principle. It is not clear what you want here. What will count as showing a first principle? I have explained where it came from: it is an intuition based on observations of what appears to be the proper form of the human being. It is corroborated by the demonstrable problems associated with homosexuality. I’m not sure what more you could ask of a first principle?

          • “My first principle is that the well-ordered human being has sexual desire in line with his/her anatomy.”

            I’m not concerned to dispute that “perfectly respectable view”. I wouldn’t myself particularly expect any human being to have sexual desire that is NOT in line with his/her anatomy. What I dispute is your assertion that same-sex desire is “at odds with human anatomy”, for which I see no basis in reality. Since I reject that premiss as unwarranted, I likewise reject your inference that same-sex desire is somehow “disordered”, and the corollary that someone whose sexual desires are homosexual is not (in that respect at any rate) a “well-ordered human being” – unless, of course, that is merely a way of saying “not the kind of human being that I personally would prefer everyone to be”.

          • I would have thought that the mismatch between same-sex desire and sexually dimorphic human anatomy was basic biology and physiology, and thus that homosexuality, like transgenderism, was straightforwardly a disorder. But at least we have now established where our positions differ.

          • Thank you for your reply. Whereas by far the majority are heterosexual (their sexual desires are for people of the other sex), a small minority are homosexual (their sexual desires are for people of the same sex). That simple fact of life does not in any way conflict with the reality of sexually dimorphic human anatomy. If there is any mismatch here, it is only with some people’s belief that EVERYONE ought to be heterosexual. Transgenderism is in this context a red herring, since it is a completely different phenomenon.

            I agree with you that we have now established where our positions differ.

  27. “monogamy” is a pretty widespread phenomenon in the animal world, yes. Nothing much to do with a divinely imposed order, though it has huge societal and moral advantages.

    • Yet, among the approx. 5000 species of mammals (to which we belong), ‘only 3 to 5 percent are known to form lifelong pair bonds’.

      So, I wonder how you’ll explain away the 95 to 97 percent of mammalian species, for which evolutionary progress led away from the huge societal advantages of monogamy.

      • I don’t explain it away: it is you who sees some divine design in monogamy. We could simply be part of these 3 to 5 pc.

        • Whatever I might see in divine design, it was you who cited the huge societal advantages of monogamy and this was the focus of my reply.

          So, given those huge advantages, pray tell, why evolution wouldn’t cause the formation of lifelong pair bonds to predominate among mammals?

    • Lorenzo, “monogamy” doesn’t procreate so it is not a pretty widespread phenomenon … it is actually a non-existent phenomenon due to its absolute perfect propensity to die out.

        • Lorenzo, it was you who said:
          ““monogamy” is a pretty widespread phenomenon in the animal world” – That’s your claim.

          There are two possibilities with your claim of monogamy:
          1) If monogamy doesn’t involve sex then it is actually a non-existent phenomenon due to its absolute perfect propensity to die out.
          2) If monogamy means only having the one partner then that partner HAS to be of the opposite sex in order to procreate (otherwise they die out).

          … Therefore you have made the mistake of proving the very thing you don’t want to prove:
          a) That the purpose of marriage really is to have a partner of the opposite sex.
          b) Sex is about procreation (whether or not that is achieved) and so it is really NOT about sex as recreation and purposeless pleasure,
          … Thus Lorenzo has shewn SSM to be pointless.

          • Lorenzo, your “science” proving that the monogamy and the purpose of sex being procreation, means that every child has a Father and a Mother.

            The irony is that Jamie Baulch, the olympic athlete, is on BBC TV now desperately looking for his natural Father even though he was brought up by others. You can now see why I find it so difficult to understand why so many should expect the Church to cave in and join the rest of society in showing no compassion or care for children looking for their natural parents and instead celebrate the adult couple who simply want to celebrate sex as a recreation activity!

  28. And yes again, Christ’s (and the apostles’) understanding of human biology was definitely a bit wonky.

      • Diseases caused by demons, all of humanity descended biologically and chronologically from an ancestral pair of, the belief that people think with their hearts and feel with their entrails, and a complete ignorance of the functions of pretty much all major organs… the list would be very long.

  29. Gentlemen, I think these last couple of threads are slightly going off topic, or at last going off respectful exchanges about the issue at hand. If everyone could try and address the actual issues in a direct way, and respond to others rather than going off track, then I think that would be more fruitful.


    • Ian,

      It would be great to debate just the issues raised by the study. However, we are told by those who discount its validity that:

      for information not gleaned from conservative Christian American sites, but a more thorough review of the scientific literature on the matter by the very people Ian is only fond of quoting when they agree with his evangelical agenda, we should turn instead to Sexual Orientation, Controversy and Science.

      it distracts from the main issue: what is the rational and substantive reason for being unwilling to accept homosexual relationships?, despite the claims of Loveday Alexander, Alan Wilson and the writer of ‘Amazing Love’.

      I find it contradictory that the authors express uncertainty about the causes of orientation but then say with great certainty that the “born that way” theory isn’t supported by scientific evidence

      It is ‘quasi science’ because it is basically a statistical analysis

      The New Atlantis is not a scientific publication, it’s mouthpiece of the American religious right on pretty much any issue of sexuality or bioethics

      Likewise McHugh. Which piece of research did McHugh do? He is just summarising the research done by others

      (and saving my personal favourite fallacy for last:) ‘Just because a study is scientific it does not mean it is fact; it simply means that it has not yet been disproved’

      (by which we could sweep aside everything aspect of scientific research)

      On what possible basis could anyone keep on topic and focus on the issues raised by the study when the revisionists here denigrate it as quasi-science, its findings as little more than propaganda of the religious right and its authors as falsely summarizing the research of others?

      You have admirable patience to endure more of their endless inanity, but I don’t.

      • Helpful to hear that Peter Ould, when asked about this publication, actually refers to both sides of this debate engaging in ‘pseudo science’ David. It’s just not the main issue. And that’s why it attracts inanity.

  30. I was very interested – but not too surprised – to read Chistopher Shell’s rerbuttal of my suggestion (above) that Matthew 19:12-13 might have soimething important to say in its reported statement of Jesus – after his criticism of heterosexual divorce – that there was a category of ”eunuchs, so from their mother’s womb” – that might well have included homosexuals. Matthew does not elaborate on this statement – but people like C.S. (and the ‘scholars’ he cites) do – I think, because they do not want to challenge the possibility of this being the case – that a certain category of eunuch was born that way.

    The reason Mr. Shell gives for his rejection of my idea is that ‘scholars’ have rejected the veracity of these words ever having been uttered by Jesus. And why? Because they are not found in Mark.This, then. must be a real problem for Sola Scriptura people who really do believe that every word of the Scriptures has been God-breathed and is to be taken seriously. Come now, Mr Shell, what is really the answer to my original question; about the possibility that this piece of Scripture may give an answer to questions about the human condition that certain conservatives do not really want to hear. Was not Matt.19:12-13 God-breathed? Or did the compilers of the Canon not even notice what Matthew was saying about Jesus. Or, perhaps worst of all, has the Canon of Scripture been tampered with by the Liberal Revisionists?

    • It is very widely held in the New Testament fraternity that Matthew is using (and sometimes elaborating on) Mark. To deny that is to align yourself with a small minority, which you would not be able to do with integrity unless you had done independent New Testament reearch to a certain level.

      Now – you are imagining (on what evidence?) that the whole world is split into ideological conservatives and ideological radicals. In a world of 7 billion people there are only 2 options? That is some serious stereotyping. Even if the whole world were split into those 2 ideological groups, ideologues by definition have no place in the world of scholarship. Scholars belong to a third group: truth-seekers.

  31. Intrigued to find this discussion. So many words. Why is it that those who want to drill into texts like Romans 1.27 to condemn faithful same sex relationships, never seem to drill into texts like Romans 2.1? We need a different narrative on this issue apart from self proclaimed scholars and theologians telling us what is right and wrong. The first sin was grasping after the knowledge of good and evil and the church has made an art form out of that ever since. We call it moral theology and christian ethics. I don’t hear many calling for repentance from that sin and yet it is what Jesus picks up on time and time again when he calls us not to judge the other. Of course we don’t live in a moral vacuum – but to make judgement on this issue our first point of reference is very dangerous indeed for our own salvation according to Romans 2.1. Like the saying from the desert fathers – “Our life and our death is with our neighbour – we must not judge them in any way whatsoever” (my wording as I don’t have exact quote in front of me!). Our calling is to love not judgement. We demean and diminish ourselves when we make our first, second, third etc. point of reference with the other – one of judgement. Who am I to cast the first stone.

    • (1) There is nothing inherently bad with a lot of words. It might indicate that the treatment had been thorough, which is a good thing. In a world of soundbites and 140-word twitter (which are far too short to provide adequate discussion of anything) it is a good thing.

      (2) Bible interpretation is not a matter of what people ‘want to’ find, but of what they do find.

      (3) Over 99% of same-sex pairings are not ‘faithful’ according to The Male Couple by McWhirter and Mattison. No, they are not evangelical Christians.

      (4) Romans 1.27 and 2.1 are not either/or alternatives. Justify your position that we are only able to focus on one of these. It is obviously perfectly possible to focus on both. How can that be denied?

      (5) What about scholars who are not so-called ‘self-proclaimed’ but actual qualified scholars? You don’t mention them.

      (6)The people discussing these passages would generally not be ‘theologians’ but New Testament scholars, who are quite a different kettle of fish and often regard theologians with suspicion.

      (7) Your position is that no study of moral theology or Christian ethics should take place. I disagree: who has the right to stifle study of any topic?

      (8) It might simply be a matter of accurate biblical interpretation to say that a group of people was condemned by a text. You seem to say that it is us that is doing the judging, when obviously it is not us but the text that is doing the judging.

      (9) 1.27 and 2.1 are two complementary steps in a single multi-stage argument. (a) Gentiles have sinned and fallen short. (b) Jews have sinned and falled short.

    • Simon,

      The first sin was surrendering to the seeds of doubt sown by Satan about what had really said, as relayed to Eve by Adam: ‘ Yea, has God said?’ Liberals have made an art out of challenging any and everything relayed by church tradition!

      I know that correcting your quote adds to the chagrin caused by ‘so many words’, but Anthony of Egypt actually said:“Our life and our death are with our neighbour. If we win our brother, we win God. If we cause our brother to stumble, we have sinned against Christ.”

      As Jesus explained of restoring each other:“If your brother or sister sins, go and point out their fault, just between the two of you. If they listen to you, you have won them over. But if they will not listen, take one or two others along, so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses. If they still refuse to listen, tell it to the church; and if they refuse to listen even to the church, treat them as you would a pagan or a tax collector. (Matt. 18:15-17)

      St. Paul concurs with this, by saying: ‘Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently. But watch yourselves, or you also may be tempted’ (Gal. 6:1)

      And again: ‘Do not entertain an accusation against an elder unless it is brought by two or three witnesses. But those elders who are sinning you are to reprove before everyone, so that the others may take warning. I charge you, in the sight of God and Christ Jesus and the elect angels, to keep these instructions without partiality, and to do nothing out of favoritism.

      Jude says: ‘Be merciful to those who doubt; save others by snatching them from the fire; to others show mercy, mixed with fear—hating even the clothing stained by corrupted flesh.

      The focus of these dominical and apostolic instructions is seek mutual restoration confidentially (cf. James 5:16). Nevertheless, if personal admonition and imploring are to no avail, church leadership is to maintain discipline by censuring those who claim to represent the church, but misrepresent the gospel by contemptuously persisting in sinful behaviour.

      There is a vast difference between godly rebuke for casting aside the decisions of apostolic authority in the scriptures and the ungodly Jewish rejection of Gentiles who had demonstrated the fruit of repentance and were living in accordance with the apostolic edict of the Jerusalem council.

  32. Dear Christopher and David.

    Thank you for taking the time and trouble to respond to my posting and you make some very interesting and insightful points which are helpful. I don’t really want to get into a ping pong match trying to win you over to my side because that is not my point and I have no interest in trying to win you over to my point of view anyway. It’s the Holy Spirit that changes us.

    What I was trying to say by “so many words” is that the world “out there” does not care about my or even perhaps your words when they form ping pong matches between Christians as can so easily happen. In fact it just confirms to them our judgemental attitude and hypocrisy. That is why I think we need a different narrative and that was the point I was trying to make. I was not trying to “win the argument”. I know that that is a futile exercise anyway when it is simply me wanting to win over you.

    I am off to bask in the wonderful sunshine that God has graciously provided us here in Devon today and I hope for you too wherever you are. By the way – I would much rather meet for coffee and chat about matters than through these rather impersonal forums. In Tiverton area if anyone passing and interested.

    God bless. Simon

    • Simon, you trivialise serious debates when you call them a ‘ping pong match’, and you do a disservice to others by then lightly withdrawing.

      Nothing would make life easier for many of us than to agree with the modern regnant liberal attitude about sex – except that our conscience and the consentient witness of biblical scholars (not those you easily dismiss as “self-proclaimed”) doesn’t allow us to do so.

      Nor does Romans 2.1 contradict Romans 1.27 or stand in any way in tension with it, as you seem to imply. The idea that a living, thinking human being – let alone a Christian – can get through life while suspending all moral judgments is utterly absurd. EVERY form of social existence involves moral choices and judgments at every step of the way. It’s one of the things that make us human in the first place. If you think that some human beings are too quick to judge and don’t show enough patience or willingness to understand, then you may (or may not) be right – but such an observation isn’t all that profound – and may even be, er, judgmental!

    • Simon,

      As our in-laws live in Devon, who knows? I might very well take you up on that offer.

      I’d suspect that the world ‘out there’ could easily discount any narrative that doesn’t both side-step any challenge to its ungodly sexual mores: reducing Christianity to a movement that avoids upsetting the political class al all costs, while providing conspicuous charitable effort whenever society abdicates its duty to protect and support the underprivileged.

      Yet, I’d doubt that you’d avoid the judgmental narrative of challenging the belligerent war-mongering of those who press children into military service, such as the Revolutionary United Front in Sierra Leone, or the Burmese Army recruiters who think nothing of forcing a teenager into battle with an AK47.

      So, this new narrative amounts to cherry-picking the kind of morality that is completely palatable to modern Western society. It’s really just Christianity-lite.

      However, I wonder how you square such a laissez-faire view with John the Baptist’s prophetic denunciation of Herod Antipas’ marriage to his half-brother’s ex-wife, Herodias. After all, as far as I can see, all they wanted was to be happy together.

      Would you consider the fore-runner of Christ (whom Jesus described as a ‘burning and shining light’) to be judgmental or hypocritical?

  33. Dear Brian

    I am not seeking to trivialise – its just that going back and forth with our arguments doesn’t seem to be getting anyone very far on this blog. I am not withdrawing – I am offering to meet up which I would find far more fruitful.

    Dear David

    You are welcome anytime. seriously. I would much rather discuss these things face to face than via this format.


    • Simon,

      Thanks for the invitation. If you’re ever near Farnborough, the same hospitality is extended to you and yours.

      One of the most important benefits of Ian’s blog is that, within ground rules of mutual courtesy, he permits the unmoderated discussion of sensitive topics among people from all quarters of the Church of England and beyond.

      The subjects which Ian has tackled in his posts have ranged from the impact of Reform and Renewal proposals to redemption theology to provisions for ministerial education.

      The comment thread allows clergy and laity of widely varying persuasions to debate these matters both strenuously, passionately and courteously.

      Some might ask whether that gets us anywhere. My answer is ‘I think so.’

      I believe that progress is made when even most vigorously opposed commenters here are perfectly capable of explaining exactly where and why we disagree with each other.

      Also, on either side of these debates, the comments reveal far more nuanced distinctions among those who agree than would be permitted by the ‘single issue’ pressure groups which dedicate themselves to building consensus by ensuring their membership hold to monolithic mantras of liberal or conservative orthodoxy.

      So, I see Ian’s blog as chiefly and exceptionally beneficial in providing a forum for thought-provoking and skilfully argued theology and ethics: a space in which clergy and laity alike have genuine freedom to challenge each other and in which, without organisational coercion, we can also discover exactly where we can agree.

  34. Dear Simon

    I too very much prefer face to face where possible – less chance of misunderstanding. However, I don’t see many drawbacks with the present format either.

    You are quite wrong to call it pingpong. It is only pingpong if people are ideological as opposed to being truth-seekers. If they are truth seekers, they will listen, adapt where superior evidence is presented, not be at all concerned with maintaining preconceived positions if truth and evidence dictate otherwise.

    There is a point where we are not at one. I see the bullet points as the locus of the discussion. If they are not addressed, then the debate is not taking place. in other words, the debate is all about the *factors* rather than being a stand-off between two ‘positions’. A truth seeker does not necessarily know what his/her ‘position’ is (it is changeable in the light of truth and evidence) but that is an irrelevant consideration anyway because ‘positions’ are no more and no less than the sum of factors anyway. You seem to be assuming that people have all their positions already sorted out. If that were the case, their positions would be supported by arguments/factors, and they would be able to defend their positions.

    In summary you are position/conclusion-oriented, I am factor/argument-oriented; and the former orientation is not a possible one to have, for the reasons stated. Conclusions come at the end of the process, and least of all do they come at the beginning. You are speaking of having a position of your own before putting your supporting arguments into the arena for testing. And also before giving counter-arguments against any of our own points. On that evidence, why should we believe that you do have a position of your own, or that you do not subscribe to ours?

    This is in fact the main point in debate and one of the least-often-grasped. People’s so-called ‘views/opinions’ are (a) sometimes ideologies and (b) sometimes the result of disinterested research. The chasm between (a) and (b) is simply vast. Only (b) is acceptable; (a) is utterly unacceptable and is the enemy of scholarship. For this reason, if we persist with the ‘everyone has their own opinion’ fallacy (which I detect in your own postings) then we are committing the cardinal error in any debate, and automatically concede the debate. For we are saying that ideology and research (diametric opposites) are much the same as each other.

    • Dear Christopher

      Your response highlights exactly why these sorts of forums are fruitless ping pong matches. You know nothing about me and yet you jump to conclusions such as you are the truth seeker and I am a ideologue. You are willing to adapt to evidence and argument – I am not. You say I am position/conclusion orientated whilst you are factor/argument orientated. My position is therefore illogical or impossible whilst yours is considered and logical. You seem to be implying that my position is born of ideology and yours from research. All of that is rather offensive. As I say – you know nothing about my background or position and yet you jump to these conclusion, which only tells me you are not really interested in listening to my view.

      Some of the responses to my original posting demonstrate this non-listening very clearly asserting that I was arguing for something that if my words had been read more carefully, people would have realised that I was not. for e.g. “suspending all moral judgement would be absurd”. I was not saying that we should – I simply said judgement should not be our 1st, 2nd or 3rd etc. encounter with the other. Jesus demonstrated that gospel imperative very clearly by always first welcoming the outsider – not making judgement of them his first or on most occasion any point of reference. His judgement is always reserved for religious types who want to keep such outsiders away from him.

      I have set out my position – we need a different narrative. But just to give you some of my background – I was brought up in a conservative evangelical background and have tried to faithfully follow Jesus for the last 40 years. I studied at a Baptist Theological college – though I am not Baptist but part of an Anglican church. I consider and desire that my faith should be rooted in the scriptures. I don’t consider myself a “regnant liberal”. For many decades I held the same views and arguments around this issue as expressed in all the arguments against SSM found above. I am very familiar with the arguments and have read widely on this subject for the last 5 years, though I would never proclaim myself an expert or scholar on such issues. Over the last few years I have changed my mind and realised that I was wrong.

      God bless


      • Hi Simon,

        At the risk of commencing another set of ping pong, please let me interject.

        Christopher Shell appears to be taking issue with your stated opinion that ‘going back and forth with our arguments doesn’t seem to be getting anyone very far on this blog

        Christopher’s counter was centered on this statement, which implied that you consider this forum to be ping-pong because ‘you seem to be assuming that people have all their positions already sorted out’.

        He probed this assumption by saying: ‘If that were the case, their positions would be supported by arguments/factors, and they would be able to defend their positions.

        This forum is very much for people who are willing to test their arguments/factors with those who oppose them. The to and fro of arguments is very much a part of that evaluative process.

        Christopher can obviously speak for himself, but I think that he’s saying that this forum is only futile for those who have established their conclusions and consider any further evaluation to be unnecessary. He actually acknowledged your point about the preference for face-to-face discussion.

        You could very well acknowledge that this forum is an important vehicle for evaluating your own views which you have come to accept in the last few years. After all, what could better demonstrate that Christopher was completely wrong to comment that you are ‘position/conclusion-oriented’?

        Finally, it’s testimony to the value of this forum that your latest comment here is now far more nuanced than before. Concerning ‘suspending moral judgement’, you have now written: I was not saying that we should – I simply said judgement should not be our 1st, 2nd or 3rd etc. encounter with the other.

        Now that’s quite different from your earlier attempt to link moral judgements on this issue to first sin and claiming that Christ prioritized this for repentance, in your own words,: to make judgement on this issue our first point of reference is very dangerous indeed for our own salvation according to Romans 2.1.

        I would still value your input on this blog, but we have your conclusion already, don’t we? I have set out my position – we need a different narrative.

        And, unless you were willing to test such a foregone conclusion (‘I held the same views and arguments around this issue as expressed in all the arguments against SSM found above’) in an open forum like this, your comments really would result in a ping pong debate..

        • Dear David

          If I had any sense that the responses really wanted to listen to my argument – then I would carry on the debate in this forum. But the responses pretty much just come back with people’s own position and stance without really hearing what I was saying in the first place, or worse – assuming that I am some liberal or from a different tradition within our communion which gives excuse to dismiss what I have to say as being positional or conclusion orientated. I am not positional as I have changed my mind and changed my position over time. I would like to hear from any who are opposed to SSM whether they have changed their position on this matter at all over the last few years? That would give some authenticity to some of the argument made above.

          I have not nuanced my position from my first posting about judgement. I was very clear that
          we don’t live in a moral vacuum. I was simply pointing out that to make judgement on this issue our first point of reference is very dangerous indeed for our own salvation according to Romans 2.1. This is the gospel imperative of Jesus when we meet the outsider.

          I don’t really understand the points being made in some of the replies about my highlighting that Romans 2.1 is seldom if ever referred to by those who want to use Romans 1.27 as a defence against SSM. I am not arguing that Paul is not referring to forms of same sex sexual activity as sinful – the question as you well know that scholars are dealing with here is what form of same sex activity is he referring to? That is the nub of the debate around this verse – is he including or referring to our contemporary context and understanding of faithful same sex relationships. I do not agree with temple prostitution, prostitution, pederasty, abuse etc etc. Having read a lot of different views and scholars on this, as I am sure you and other have, I have come to the conclusion that he is not talking about faithful mutual same sex relationships here. That does not mean I have become some liberal and chucked all morality out of the window as seems to have been suggested above.

          Romans 1.27 has to be read in the context of Romans 2.1 and the entire letter. Some have argued and I am persuaded that Paul’s argument in the first few chapters should be read in light of concluding remarks for the opening section in 3.21-25 – i.e. that all have sinned and that now a different sort of righteousness apart from the Law comes through faith in Jesus Christ. A different sort of righteousness – a different narrative from the old purity codes and law. And yet we are still obsessed by law and purity codes!

          Could it be that in Romans 1 Paul is preaching to the gallery and setting up a rhetorical argument that goes along the lines of: “the pagans have rejected the true God from the centre of their lives and placed there instead idols which have led them into all sort of practices which lead to destruction.” You can almost hear the insiders shout – “preach it brother, preach it.” But then Paul springs his trap and says in 2.1 that those who cry “preach it” are falling into the same trap of idolatry of their own self righteousness – rather than acknowledging that judgement sits with the true God who is other and beyond our thinking and understanding. In our self righteous judgement – Paul is saying we are no better that the pagans we like to point at. That is why I believe you rarely if ever hear those arguing against SSM talk more widely about what 1.27 might mean in the light of 2.1.

          It is ironic in the extreme that Christians have used this passage from 1.27 to pass judgement on the LGBT community. The judgement seat is occupied by God and not us. Putting ourselves on it is to create an idol out of our thinking.

          I cant see how you can read 2.1 in any other way. But open to your view.


          • Simon Friend

            (Without repeating it all in this thread) in the thread ‘Synod’s Shared Conversations’ I make an attempt (post on July 14 2016 at 10.32 am) to summarise what I think is the same-sex ‘affirming’ view of Romans 1:27, and make some comments on it. I would be interested to know whether you agree with my attempt or what your disagreements are and any comments you may have on my comments.

            Phil Almond

          • Philip

            I understand your points, I think, in your posting on July 14th re natural use / against nature and I know there is debate around that – but that is not really the point I am wanting to explore. I am more interested at this stage at hearing how you or others view 1.27 in the light of 2.1 as outlined in my response to David. I can honestly say that I don’t think I have ever heard or read anyone who wants to deny SSM on the basis of 1.27 – even refer to or make any argument as to how they might get around the “having said all that” nature of 2.1? Hence my original posting about drilling into certain texts and how erroneous that can be when it is out of context.


          • I do in my Grove booklet. Do also read Richard Hayes’ The Moral Vision of the New Testament who reads it well in the context of Paul’s overall theological argument. As does Tom Wright.

            No sensible reading suggests Paul is choosing same-sex relations here for singling out arbitrarily. His rhetorical strategy is to draw on classic Jewish critiques of paganism to show they are sinful (Jewish reader nods sagely) and then use the Jewish Scriptures to point out Jewish sinfulness. His climactic conclusion then comes in 3.23 ‘All [ie both Jew and Gentile] have sinned and fallen short’ and so all [ie Jew and Gentile] are in need of the grace that is made available in Jesus…which draws us away from our sin, whatever form it might take.

            Although his language in chapter 1 might echo some pagan practices, Paul does not ‘appear to have in mind’ any particular form of same-sex sex in his writings, in the context of committed relationships or not. He agrees with Jewish rejection of SSS because, as he says pretty clearly in Romans 1, it is part of human defiance of God’s creation, which is clearly visible. For Paul, the created shape of male and female bodies makes clear what they are for, and same-sex sex is a rejection of that.

            It is striking in 1 Cor 6 and 1 Tim 1.9 that he uses the Levitical term for same-sex sex which he has coined, and none of the possible contemporary terms, in particular not using erastes and eromenos indicating the older and younger partners in an asymmetrical relationships.

            Someone said to me a while back ‘If Paul had seen my relationship, he would accept it.’ That is based on the mistaken notion that Paul was only concerned with qualities of relationship. He was also interested in the form of relationships, and SSS rejects the creation narrative of male-female, and so for Paul represents a rejection of the creator God–hence its association for him with idolatry.

          • Yes, they are falling into the same trap…but it is a trap nonetheless. To say ‘You are just as sinful as those you criticise!’ does not make those you criticise unsinful. Why would it?

          • Ian

            I agree with you to a certain extent – but the very fact that Paul is building a rhetorical argument in Romans 1 to demonstrate the universal sinfulness of humanity is the over-arching theme which reaches it point at 3.20. To try and define exactly what sort of SSS he was referring to in 1.27 is to miss the point isn’t it? We have all fallen short.

            According to James V Brownson’s Bible Gender Sexuality – Richard Hays in his book you quote is making the same point – Paul is engaged in a “homitetical sting operation”.

            Not only is it ironic that some are still being caught in the same sting operation but that you quote Hays in defence of judging those who desire faithful SSM, when Hays – as far as I understand it is actually making the point that Paul is wanting to expose his readers subtle but no less deadly sin of judgementalism and selfish ambition. Brownson pg 151.

            Brownson goes on to argue that the posture of judgementalism has the added twist of advancing one’s own agenda. indeed own honour and status – which Paul confirms later in 2.8 with the words “those who are self seeking”, which might be translated selfish ambition.

            Rather – none of us stand in a position of self righteousness – but only under the righteousness freely given by Christ.

            If we start highlighting particular sins as being outside of that righteousness – then why don’t we get so hung up about the other sins in the lists you quote which we might commit daily – ones like greed, envy, deceit, gossiping, arrogance etc. Are you saying that those who are faithfully trying to follow Christ, and who are in committed SSM, are committing a sin (accepting your view of 1.27) but that that is unforgivable by God whilst at the same time I daily commit any number of the sins from the same list? Is it our perfection that brings righteousness or Christ’s gift of grace and mercy?


          • Hi Simon,

            Thanks for replying. You assert that ‘the responses pretty much just come back with people’s own position and stance without really hearing what I was saying in the first place’.

            Of course, the alternative to that view is that people have heard and that they take pains to quote what you’ve actually written before providing a measured response to it.

            They, as I did, have endeavoured to explain where and why they disagree with what you’ve written. You may well interpret these explanations as nothing more than responses that ‘ just come back with people’s own position and stance without really hearing’.

            You go on to say that some here are: ‘assuming that I am some liberal or from a different tradition within our communion which gives excuse to dismiss what I have to say as being positional or conclusion orientated.

            As I explained, Christopher’s response had nothing do with any assumption of you being liberal or from a different tradition. Instead, it was prompted by your statements about the futility and wrongfulness of extending debate on this kind of forum:

            so many words

            I don’t really want to get into a ping pong match

            ‘the world “out there” does not care about my or even perhaps your words when they form ping pong matches between Christians as can so easily happen. In fact it just confirms to them our judgemental attitude and hypocrisy.

            So, Christopher’s response was not influenced by pre-supposing you to be liberal, conservative, evangelical, or Anglo-Catholic. All of these traditions and persuasions are represented by the many people who comment here and they would likely disagree with your dim view of the comment threads on this blog.

            Turning to your exegesis, the issue with your emphasis of Rom. 2:1 is that it’s at the expense of recognizing that Paul is accurately describing the outworking of divine wrath. In contrast, you are reducing Rom. 1:18 – 25 to nothing more than a rhetorical device aimed at sandbagging self-righteous religious pride among Jews.

            What you’ve bypassed is the fact that Rom. 1:18 – 25 presents the rationale for St. Paul’s urgency to reach Rome to preach the gospel to both Gentiles and Jews alike. The ‘alternative’ to the gospel’ is the outworking of divine wrath. And Paul charts the moral decline that occurs when God’s retributive justice is effected upon ‘all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men’, not just first-century mankind.

            It results from our very human refusal to recognize God’s self-evident goodness as revealed in His ordering of ‘the creation of the world’ for our benefit. The result is our descent into subverting the self-evident: material phenomena are worshipped as divine and the divine ordering human relationships is subverted, to the extent that physical cravings dispense with any regard for that order.

            Whereas you have no difficulty in applying Rom. 2:1 and even the fall in Genesis to a contemporary Christian context, you balk at any parallels between Rom. 1:17ff and same-sex sexual activity in our era. This is despite Paul using the phrase para phusin negatively, which he repeats in Romans 11:24 to describe joining plants of the same species in a manner which contradicted the intrinsic physical characteristics.

            But even as a rhetorical device, let’s compare the ministry of Christ ,which preceded Paul. In the Sermon on the Mount, Christ declares: ‘You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ (Matt. 5:27) and, as you say, You can almost hear the insiders shout – “preach it brother, preach it.”

            Only then does Christ ‘spring his trap’ by saying: But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart. (Matt. 5:28)

            To be consistent, I would have to wonder whether you think Jesus thereby limited any rejection of adultery to the context of ancient patriarchal societies, similar to those in which He lived. Or are special pleadings only reserved for same-sex sexual relationships?

            Again, Christ says of murder: ‘You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘You shall not murder and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’

            But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to a brother or sister, ‘Raca’ is answerable to the court. And anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell.

            So, I can only surmise that you might also consider it to be ironic in the extreme for any Christian to denounce murder because:
            1. the murder as it is committed today is very different from that of the first century;
            2. to describe it as wrong is to ‘pass judgment’ on murderers.

            In fact, to challenge wrongdoing may bring about what Paul calls ‘godly sorrow’ (2 Cor. 7:9-11). St. Paul did this and his prophetic message provoked a reverent sorrow among Corinthian Christians, which resulted in their repentance and did not assume that they were irredeemable: ‘yet now I am happy, not because you were made sorry, but because your sorrow led you to repentance. For you became sorrowful as God intended and so were not harmed in any way by us.’

            To challenge same-sex marriage as wrong is not the same as considering the same-sex married to be irredeemable.

            To consider someone to be irredeemable is what’s really meant by casting the first stone, not simply saying anything that challenges a person’s mistaken assumptions as much as they might challenge mine.

          • Regarding sins, I agree that ‘we might commit daily – ones like greed, envy, deceit, gossiping, arrogance’.

            I’m certainly not exonerated by claiming that a detailed exegesis of passages containing the Greek word for greed pleonexias would reveal that its meaning is disputed among scholars and that it was used in the context of ancient predominantly agrarian societies which bear little resemblance to the complexities of our contemporary financial markets.

          • David

            Its not me saying that Paul is “sandbagging” his self righteous hearers – but Hays as quoted by Ian Paul. But I agree that is what I think is going on – I don’t think this is about a wrathful God at all – Paul is not trying to convince us that Jesus came to change God’s mind about us – he is arguing that Jesus came to change our mind about God – that actually after all – God is not some wrathful entity to be feared by keeping all the right rules – but that he is a loving father who chooses to forgive and redeem.

            I am not quite sure what point you are making in Sermon on Mount paragraphs. You are not seriously suggesting that Jesus was not being rhetorical when he took OT law and applied a twist which would make is impossible to abide by his code without being super super perfect? I don’t see many men – Christian men – going around with eyes plucked out though I know plenty who admit to looking at women lustfully. Surely Jesus’ point is that thinking we can attain salvation by keeping the law is not only impossible but leads to abuse of the law to judge, control, manipulate others.


            PS – I would still like to know if you or others have changed you mind on SSM say from an affirming position on SSM to a non-affirming one?

          • Simon – I hope I can simplify my main point. If I take your observation that (a) you are not trying to win an argument and (b) it would be futile to do so anyway, then I think that therein lies a strong and central disagreement between us. I agree with you about the human element of discussion, but we are playing the ball and not the man, and at times when the topic under discussion is some issue, reverting to the human (important in its own right) sidesteps that issue.

            Debate is everything about trying to reach the goal of resolving an argument, because that leads to the advance of truth. It does not matter whether the person who makes an advance or headway is you or I or someone else, or a combination of us. But moving the discussion forward is an extremely important thing to do, and is the purpose of our debating.

            Pingpong can happen only among the deliberately polarised, never among truth-seekers. The deliberately polarised are ideologues. Evidence never congregates at two poles. Likely theories never congregate at 2 poles. Congregating at 2 poles is the reverse of normal (or believable) distribution.

            I don’t think we should be talking about people’s positions/stances at all – whether our own or those of a list of scholars. They are, after all, only as good or as bad as the evidence they rest on. We should therefore be discussing factors and evidence only. Where is self-contradiction found? That is how we clear the ground of non-starter theories. Where are especially striking statistics found? That is how we identify what are the leading theories.

          • Hi Simon,

            You wrote: I don’t think this is about a wrathful God at all – Paul is not trying to convince us that Jesus came to change God’s mind about us – he is arguing that Jesus came to change our mind about God – that actually after all – God is not some wrathful entity to be feared by keeping all the right rules – but that he is a loving father who chooses to forgive and redeem.

            I’m not sure where you get the idea that I’m advancing the notion that ‘Jesus came to change God’s mind about us’. when I actually wrote: Rom. 1:18 – 25 presents the rationale for St. Paul’s urgency to reach Rome to preach the gospel to both Gentiles and Jews alike. The ‘alternative’ to the gospel’ is the outworking of divine wrath. The gospel of Christ doesn’t change God’s mind because it is God’s mind.

            Paul does express his longing to share spiritual insight (Rom. 1:11,12) and a sense of obligation to proclaim again the gift of eternal life through the gospel in Rome (Rom. 1:14,15). This culminates in his declaration that the message of Christ’s redemption: the gospel is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes’.

            Paul recalls the prophetic reassurance through Habakkuk to chastened and penitent exiles, who despite being stripped of form and ritual were promised eventual deliverance and return from captivity: ‘the just shall live by faith’ (Rom. 1:17)

            The next verse answers the tacit question: ‘But why are we reconciled to God by faith, but not by works?’. Paul explains, in describes the situation of mankind, absent faith:For the wrath of God is being revealed against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men.’ Apart from the gospel there is no salvation.

            You may well disagree, but Christ says the same thing: ‘He who believes in the Son has eternal life; but he who does not obey the Son will not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him’

            That God is capable of wrath (i.e. retributive justice) doesn’t make God wrath-ful. As described by Paul in Romans 1 and 2, God has an abundance of mercy, which through the gospel results in salvation.

            He is also capable of exercising retributive justice which (unlike the vengeful gods of paganism) simply results in the surrender of people to their desire for self-rule and the eventual disastrous consequences of declaring independence from God.

            The point about the Sermon on the Mount is that, while Jesus treats the guilt of inner thought-life as no different from overt sins, He doesn’t exonerate the latter, We’re not taking Jesus’ words out of their first-century context to say that acts of murder or adultery are still wrong.

            By the same token, Rom. 2:1 doesn’t exonerate same-sex sexual behaviour, which Paul presents in Rom. 1 as the final concomitant of Gentile moral decline.

            Finally, you ask: ‘I would still like to know if you or others have changed your mind on SSM say from an affirming position on SSM to a non-affirming one?’

            I can’t speak for others, but this and other forums have helped me to refine, to listen and to articulate differently my position on a wide range of topics. On some of these issues, for instance, Reform and Renewal and resourcing rural ministry, my position has changed radically.

            In terms of SSM, there’s been no sea change, but compared to many years ago, some of my grounds for opposition have altered and some have been abandoned. That would be well-nigh impossible without the skillful and, yes, often adversarial debating that goes on here.

            This is not just futile ping-pong.

          • Christopher – I agree – I don’t think we should talk about positions and poles – but it was you who led me in that direction when you said in an earlier reply:

            “In summary you are position/conclusion-oriented, I am factor/argument-oriented”

            You seem to be saying that truth seeking is the goal but that in doing that – you yourself are not taking a position because you are in the only pole position possible – i.e. the place of truth as per your understanding. Everywhere else, or other positions – cannot be a place of truth because they are not where you are at. Really!

            I agree with you that we should not be taking position anyway – which is why I started this whole reply off with trying to find a different biblical narrative of grace and non-judgement around which we could perhaps agree.


            Retributive Justice sounds pretty much like a wrathful God acting out some punishment on the outsiders to me. I believe that Jesus came to demonstrate and open a way for restorative justice to replace the Old Redemptive Violence system with Redemptive forgiveness, Redemptive suffering. These are very different ways of seeing the saving grace of God. This too is perhaps another different narrative to employ in this whole debate. John 3.17 goes on to say “For God did not send his son into the world to condemn the world – but to save the world.” My point about Romans 2.1 is that I think Paul is saying this in another way – God does not condemns people on the basis of whether they keep a particular law or purity code as per Jewish thinking of the time – but has redeemed people because of Jesus death – which is free gift and all grace. So who are we to carry on condemning the other – when if we enter the playing field on those terms – we cannot possibly keep the law to full requirement of the law (sermon on the mount again). Therefore as we judge – we inevitably bring judgement on ourselves because we too constantly and daily fail under the law.

            I know you will both reply with your counter arguments but I am going to have to do some work now and so unlikely to be replying in short term. Good discussion though I still think it is rather fruitless ping pong!

          • Don’t worry about replying in the short term, but I shall, as you have, exercise my right to respond. You assert: I believe that Jesus came to demonstrate and open a way for restorative justice to replace the Old Redemptive Violence system with Redemptive forgiveness, Redemptive suffering.

            Yes, I believe that and I also wholeheartedly agree that God doesn’t condemn people on the basis of whether they keep a particular law or purity code as per Jewish thinking of the time – but has redeemed people because of Jesus death – which is free gift and all grace Progress!

            However, the question of whether retributive justice can be attributed to God in the New Testament hinges on what happens, as Jesus explains, when that way for restorative justice in John 3:17 is rejected.’ Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed.’ (John 3:18 – 20)

            So, Jesus is also clearly explaining that people can condemn themselves to darkness by rejecting the Light, the prophetic insight which exposes our sinfulness and need for deliverance from it, whether that’s a sexual predisposition, or self-righteousness. (cf. Acts 13:46)

            St. Paul takes up this same theme of light when he instructs the Ephesian church: For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth) and find out what pleases the Lord. Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them. It is shameful even to mention what the disobedient do in secret. (Eph. 5:10,11)

            There’s a vast difference between exposing wrong (which, in fairness, you sought to do here yourself) and treating people who do specific wrongs as beyond the gift of repentance when compared to ourselves. The latter is the focus of Rom. 2:1.

          • Simon, we cannot find ‘a biblical narrative of grace and non-judgment’. That is ideology in excelsis. People like grace. Obviously. They don’t like judgment. Obviously. That has absolutely everything to do with their wants and nothing at all to do with the ‘biblical narrative’ within which grace and judgment both figure very largely and interrelatedly. Simplifying 66 or 73 different books from different eras from different authors in different genres (the biblical canon) into one single message is a very difficult proposition; but you are proposing to simplify to a very high degree, involving large-scale excision. But if there is excision then it is not ‘the biblical narrative’ that we are talking about, but what is left of the biblical narrative after we have (on what authority) lopped chunks off. That would be your own narrative (or our own agreed narrative, supposing we ever agreed) but not the ‘biblical’ narrative. Surely you can see that this proposal is ideological.

          • One point – when did I define truth as being ‘truth according to my understanding’? You said that I said this (where??) – but it’s something I obviously never did say, never would say, and never could believe.

            Ways of attaining truth are agreed to be: ruling out self-contradiction; attaining the best match with the realia or phenomena through observation and analysis; attaining a coherent system.

          • Simon, many thanks for your continued engagement here and discussion. You ask:

            ‘Are you saying that those who are faithfully trying to follow Christ, and who are in committed SSM, are committing a sin (accepting your view of 1.27) but that that is unforgivable by God whilst at the same time I daily commit any number of the sins from the same list?’

            I don’t think any of my comments, made in any context, comes anywhere close to suggesting that any of these sins is unforgivable.

            I agree with Brownson’s citation of Hays’ description of this as a ‘homiletical sting operation.’ But what is Paul hoping to achieve by this? That we should acknowledge our sin–all of us–and by God’s grace in Jesus, repent and receive forgiveness and now live in newness of holy living.

            That is precisely what all the C of E statements have said, going back at least at far as 1987.

            But argument here is with people like Lorenzo and Andrew, amongst others, who, contrary to the consistent position of the Scriptures and the church’s teaching in many contexts and over many years, believe that such relationships are in fact holy, and should therefore be celebrated and blessing by both church and God.

            That is the debate we are having in the C of E.

            And, in answer to your other question, yes, I have changed my mind a lot, and on many issues, as a result of study and debate. I have changed my mind on where Jesus was born (not in a stable); on the meaning of Matt 24 (all these things did indeed happen); on Matt 25 (the least of these brothers of mine refers to disciples, not the poor in general); and on fasting…which has changed not only my view but my personal habits.

            On sexuality, I haven’t changed my overall position—since, after much discussion and many conversations I remain convinced that the Scriptural texts are clear and consistent, and the arguments for change are thin, involved special pleading, and are unconvincing. But I have change my mind on many details of the debate, and take a position in disagreement with many more ‘conservative’ evangelicals.

    • I have been a legal expert witness on scientific matters myself and what you say in Court has to be entirely truthful and accurate. It has to be the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.
      Mayer, one of the authors of this report said: “[I] strongly support equality and oppose discrimination for the LGBT community, and have testified on their behalf as a statistical expert.”

      McHugh is a professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and was, for 25 years, the psychiatrist-in-chief at the Johns Hopkins Hospital. It was during his tenure as psychiatrist-in-chief at Johns Hopkins, that he put an end to sex reassignment surgery there, after a study launched at Hopkins revealed that it didn’t have the benefits for which doctors and patients had long hoped.

      Mayer is a professor of statistics and biostatistics at Arizona State University and a scholar-in-residence in the Department of Psychiatry at Johns Hopkins University. Mayer is a research physician having been trained in medicine and psychiatry. He has testified in dozens of federal and state legal and regulatory hearings having to do with complex scientific literature.

      So it was very disappointing to read Dean Hammer’s commentary, linked by Andrew Foreshew-Cain, that does nothing but use terminology to belittle the authors and fails to engage with any of the content at all.

      Mr Hammer’s Commentary starts by saying the review is not peer-reviewed, it then says “there are “currently no agreed-upon definitions for purposes of empirical research.”” Although Mr Hammer says this to diminish the report the statement actually says everything about the reviewed research itself and nothing whatsoever about this report because it reveals the absolute inconsistency of the source research when it cannot even have a consistent definition for the source material. The “Commentary” goes on to use terminology such as “obscure study” to belittle the report as if a comprehensive study was to leave out research that Dean Hammer finds obscure in his opinion.

      Hammer then goes on to say “Equally dubious are the authors’ repeated calls for “more research.””…. when the reality admitted earlier in Hammer’s Commentary was that there is no consistency of definition for the purposes of empirical research so Hammer’s rebuttal of the request for more research actually reveals the inadequacy of Hammer’s response and says nothing about either McHugh or Mayer.

      Hammer then has a go at McHugh for being Catholic and reported in Catholic publications whilst ignoring McHugh’s actual qualifications.

      Hammer then makes an entirely false connection between McHugh – NARTH- and conversion therapy when no such link actually exists.

    • Well it is interesting, but perhaps not in the way you intended. For one, he characterises them as arguing that being gay is a choice, which they don’t, and he ends with his commitment to believing that it is everyone’s right to choice their sexual identity for themselves. So he is hardly bringing an ‘objective’, ‘scientific’ perspective to this debate, is he?

    • Also worth noting that the review article is claiming neither to be ‘new’ nor to be ‘scientific’ in the sense of a peer-reviewed science paper. It would be great if critics were able to read more carefully and not dismiss the review for not doing what it does not claim to do.

      • The authors are claiming to present “Findings from the Biological, Psychological, and Social Sciences” with regard to “Sexuality and Gender,” and so they should cite and take into account all the significant recent literature relevant to their article. Otherwise it doesn’t prove anything as a review. I can’t understand how anyone can argue otherwise?

    • Oh, and The Advocate is just that—advocating for gay and transgender rights. So on the terms of criticism that the New Atlantis has an ‘agenda’, we should equally dismiss any contribution from such a biased journal. (Not a little ironic, don’t you think?)

      • Ron, ‘bias’ means distorting the evidence in order to support one’s view. I am very happy for you to point out any occasions when I have done that.

        I am very happy to go where the evidence goes. As the extended debate in these comments show, my assessment in the blog post is an accurate reflection of the evidence.

  35. Of course the central point of the article, from someone whose field is precisely the area Mayer and McHugh are reviewing is, and I quote:

    ”The authors’ review of the role of genes in sexual orientation, the area of my own research, is revealing of their methodology. Of the six studies using proper probability sampling methods that have been published in the peer-reviewed literature in the past 16 years, they include only one — and it just so happens to be the one with the lowest estimate of genetic influence of the entire set.

    They then discuss, at great length, an obscure study of 7th- to 12th-graders, published in a sociology journal, that doesn’t even measure sexual orientation, instead relying on a single question about “romantic attraction.” It’s an odd choice of articles to review given Mayer and McHugh’s emphasis on proper trait measurement; perhaps they were driven by the fact that it failed to find any heritability, thus supporting their claim that nobody is “born gay.” A very different conclusion was reached by a careful meta-analysis of all the available twin data, recently published in a large review that Mayer and McHugh fail to even mention.

    No one is addressing these points above at all, unsurprising really given that – to follow Ian’s example above – this Blog is advocating for the denial of LGBTI rights and freedoms in the Church. So on the terms of criticism that the Advocate has an ‘agenda’, we should really equally dismiss any contribution from the author of this blog. (Not a little ironic, don’t you think?)

    • ‘I guess that would be true, if I was claiming to be a peer-reviewed science research blog. But I am not!

      I am interested that you mention ‘A very different conclusion was reached by a careful meta-analysis of all the available twin data, recently published in a large review that Mayer and McHugh fail to even mention.’ Would that be the review by five authors, including Lisa Diamond, which includes this conclusion on twin studies:

      “In conclusion, the evidence supporting a genetic influence on sexual orientation is consistent, although sampling biases remain a concern even for the best available studies. Our best estimate of the magnitude of genetic effects is moderate—certainly not overwhelming. In contrast, the evidence for environmental influence is unequivocal, given that MZ twin concordances tend to be far less than 100%,23 assuming that the MZ twin pairs are truly discordant.”

      So genetic influence is there, consistent but moderate…whilst environmental influence is, by contrast, ‘unequivocal.’ That is pretty close to nuanced position in the review article you criticise…and as I point out, their other conclusions, e.g. regarding fluidity, also concur with peer-reviewed research.

    • Andrew Foreshew-Cain wrote: “No one is addressing these points above at all…” but that is clearly untrue as I clearly dealt with all of these points in my first response.

      You then went on to write: “….this Blog is advocating for the denial of LGBTI rights and freedoms in the Church.”
      Yet the ECHR has clearly ruled multiple times that these are NOT rights and in the last ruling says that this is there final ruling on the matter (they are that fed up with it) so it has nothing to do with this blog as you claim but there are much more serious authorities already giving you a clear answer.

      Notwithstanding that your comment about “freedoms in the Church” comes across as hypocritical given that you have put facts on the ground as a means of forcing the Church to act without due process. Yet, in the Judge’s ruling in the Employment tribunal on 2nd and 3rd September 2015 (a case in which you are personally named at paragraph 196 even if your surname might be mispelt) at paragraph 209 says:
      “Rather like a cabinet minister who fundamentally disagrees on a policy, he can either having had the debate, reluctantly accept the position and hope for a change but act in conformity, or, of course, he can resign, and thus be free to publicly campaign on the issue. The same choice was of course available to the Claimant.”

      Items have already been addressed and your claim is clearly false.

    • Andrew, correct me if I am wrong, but the pattern of a small genetic element and a large, clear and undisputed environmental element to orientation *both* being found is replicated again and again – in fact, replicated in studies on both sides of the fence (as you perceive the fence to be).

      Re environment, 7 areas that see a massive statistical discrepancy are:
      (1) urban vs rural men
      (2) college vs non-college women
      (3) molested vs unmolested
      (4) congenial culture vs uncongenial: e.g. quadrupling of women with lesbian experience in the last 20 years in this particular culture; also note that self-identified lesbians have on average slept with twice as many men as have straight women
      (5) fluidity of self-identification among ‘homosexuals’ vs among ‘heterosexuals’
      (6) self-identification as lesbian among those brought up by lesbians vs among those not bought up by lesbians
      (7) identical twins (a group normally so prone to copy each other, and so useful in genetic studies for obvious reasons) who fail to match their twin’s homosexual self-identification vs those who do match it.

    • To deny LGBTI rights and freedoms in the church, one would first have to accept that the designations ‘LGBTI’ were coherent. The predominance of environmental factors in ‘orientation’ just listed means that the science does not view sexual orientation as something essential in most instances.

      However, all talk of ‘homosexual’, ‘gay’, ‘lesbian’ etc. does view it as something essential.

      Consequently, those keen to be scientific will reject these terms. There can be behaviours of this nature as opposed to individuals of this nature. Insofar as there are indeed individuals of this fixed nature, it has not been explained how the fixity of their present (as opposed to inborn) state is any different from e.g. the state of being a smoker. It is something adopted a long time after birth, and it is extremely hard to throw off – not everyone wishes to do so at all.

      But, people will say, the terms ‘homosexual’ and ‘gay’ are the most foundational terms of all. How can they be questioned? Everything in life should be questioned. Most of all those terms which are thrown into question by the science. It is, in fact, through not allowing these terms (and the perspective which they generate) to be questioned that the revisionists have made the progress they have. Using the term ‘gay’ for something that people simply are (from birth); inventing a term ‘heterosexual’ so that ‘homosexual’ can be seen as parallel to it and an equally good alternative. Speaking of ‘orientation’. These things have framed the debate so that it can be presented as being a matter of equality. And who would deny equality?

      The emperor in fact has no clothes. The environmental factors are statistically overwhelming. It follows that ‘orientation’ is a highly questionable perspective. And equally questionable, therefore, are the terms which are built on the rock (or rather sand) of ‘orientation’, such as ‘gay’ and ‘homosexual’. Far from denying LGBTI rights and freedoms, we must strongly question the use of those terms at all.

      • So are you telling us that you have no sexual orientation, i.e. no regular, ongoing pattern of sexual attraction to other people of either sex?

        • Hi William

          What I am saying is different from that. I am saying 3 things:

          (1) If orientation is the central concept, then we are simply *assuming* that having desires opposed to the evidence of one’s genitalia is much of a muchness with having the desires that might might be expected on the evidence of one’s genitalia. They are just 2 variants, equally good.
          Yet one of the two is in line with biology and one is against it – how can they be equally good, then? How can they be regarded as being on a level?
          And biology is far less open to argument than is psychology.
          And it is far less subject to change and fluidity.
          And it is far less subject to cultural influences.

          The sort of things we *assume* are obvious things. Whereas this thing, so far from being obvious, is not even correct or well-evidenced at all.

          (2) Such sexual orientation as people now have may be either innate / inborn or acquired. Discussion above indicates that it is largely acquired. Since it is largely acquired, there is no way that ‘orientation’ can be the central concept without qualifications and riders.

          (3) it is only a tiny minority of societies that have even felt the need for a concept like sexual orientation at all. The unintelligent imagine that their own society, their own period of history, has to be right and all the other thousands of societies wrong. What are the odds against that? And how many of the other societies do they even know anything about?

          Short answer: I am a man, so of course (given healthy development) I remain as my biology indicates. That’s not an orientation.

          • “Sexual orientation refers to an enduring pattern of emotional, romantic and/or sexual attractions to men, women or both sexes.” – The American Psychological Association

            (1) Sexual orientation, as defined above, is an objectively valid concept. The term denotes a reality. What you or anyone else *assumes* or refuses to *assume* about that reality is another matter entirely. You appear to *assume* that a homosexual (same sex) orientation is not “in line with” but “against” biology. That is not an assumption that the evidence requires me to make, so I decline to make it. It is a fact that the sexual orientation of by far the majority of people is heterosexual (other sex); it is not a fact that the “evidence of one’s genitalia” somehow conflicts with a small minority of people having a homosexual orientation.

            (2) The reality of sexual orientation is again a different matter from the question of how it is caused. Discussions and arguments about that question have been going on now for many decades. The evidence remains inconclusive. There are any number of theories, of varying degrees of plausibility/implausibility, but to date no-one positively *knows* what causes a heterosexual or a homosexual orientation.

            (3) Whether or not any society feels the “need” for a concept tells us nothing whatever about the validity of that concept. If many or even most societies have not felt the need for a concept, or have not shown any awareness of it, or do not have any name for it, that does not show that those which do are somehow “wrong”.

            Yes, you are a man. No, that is not an orientation. What of it? Who has suggested that it is?

          • (1) But I didn’t say that there is no such thing as sexual orientation. People may have all sorts of orientations *now* (at their present remove from their original birth state), just as some of them may be smokers *now* (at their present remove from their original birth state).

            Those ‘orientations’ may also be flexible and change any number of times.

            All sorts of things are ‘realities’. Are you denying that some of those realities are beneficial and some harmful? Or are they all beneficial?

            You are quite wrong to think that psychological factors are more reliable than biological in determining ‘orientation’ (always assuming – and assuming is dangerous – that people can have real as opposed to acquired orientations). They are more reliable in zero ways, and less reliable in three. (a) The biological is visually testable and objective. (b) The bilological cannot be lied about. (c) The biological will almost always represent inborn reality, whereas psychological things can be acquired later so are less intrinsic. You are saying in definance of the biology that people can have different orientations, but to do so involves rejecting our best evidwence and prioritising less reliable sorts of evidence a-c over more reliable.

            (b) That is one of the most sweeping generalisations I have ever heard, and the more sweeping the generalisation the less intelligent it sounds. But it’s even worse than that – the area you are speaking of is one of the most intensely-studied there is. Is that the best summary you can give?

            Moreover the study that there has been has come up with massive discrepancies between self-styled heterosexuals and self-styled homosexuals in environmental / cultural / volitional / circumstantial matters (as listed above in my reply to Andrew). Urban men, college women, the molested, those who live in gay-friendly/gay-promoting cultures, those brought up by lesbians are all massively more likely to be self-styled homosexual. Homosexual self-designation is very fluid indeed, to the extent that there are more ex-gays than gays if the large study by Savin-Williams and Ream is correct. That is very different from the received position where gays are everywhere and exgays are not acknowledged to exist. Study of identical twins shows that 11-14% of twins of a homosexual are homosexual. Lesbians have on average twice as many male sexual partners as the average. You summarise all that as ‘the jury is still out’?? A massive amount more has to be said on this. Your vague and very short generalisation is obfuscating, and how is it totally honest?

            (c) I mentioned this point because it is so common for self-styled progressives to imagine that their own society and their own time of history must be the best and right one. This is apparent from their rhetoric (‘right side of history’ and all that). In fact, they often, just like the rest of us, know very little about other eras and cultures, most of which needed perforce to be a lot harder-working than our own. With this very large proviso I have always approved your point (c).

            Best, Chris.

    • Andrew,

      Several important responses have been posted here. So, I hope that you can debate them in the near future.

      That would be a far more practical demonstration of ‘no surrender’ than merely suffixing those words to another rallying cry posted on Changing Attitude’s Facebook page.

  36. So “The understanding of sexual orientation as an innate, biologically fixed property of human beings—the idea that people are “born that way”—is not supported by scientific evidence”.

    The resurrection is not supported by scientific evidence, miracles cannot be supported by scientific evidence, neither indeed the existence of God or the virgin birth. (Which reminds me that Jesus was born illegitimate into a three parent family! Nothing normal there – which tell us something about how God breaks down our preconceived notions of normality.)

    I think science is incredibly important but since when has it become the slam dunk argument in issues of ethics, theology and biblical interpretation?

    Just because you can’t prove something – does not make that illegitimate.

    • Simon, this is a very different case indeed. The resurrection cannot for chronological reasons be subitted to science at all . ‘Born’ gay can be submitted to science. More than that, ‘born gay’ has been already submitted to science multiple times. It has largely (but not 100%) been found wanting.

      Science has precedence because of its track record. But – precedence over what, exactly? It is not one competitor among many. Science simply means observation of what is actually there and not what we would like to be there. (It also involves testing hypotheses, and that is where circularity can sometimes raise its unwelcome head.) Whatever it is that we are studying, we use this scientific method. Science is not a topic for study. It is a method. The physical , chemical and biological worlds are topics for study.

      The existence of God is, like everything else, a matter of evidence and probability.

  37. In short, you are comparing things that have not been submitted to scientific scrutiny (because they happened too long ago) to things that have already been so submitted and have been found wanting. That comparison, as will be agreed, cannot possibly be allowable.

  38. Ian, if I wanted to know ‘what science says about sexuality’ I would look to a science journal (peer reviewed perhaps?). I might think twice about heading to the New Atlantis, published by the Ethics and Public Policy Centre. The EPPC is a social conservative advocacy group which is (and I quote from their web site) ‘dedicated to applying the Judeo-Christian moral tradition to critical issues of public policy.’ One does not wish to question anyone’s integrity, but if this article really was the groundbreaking scientific analysis you think it is, it might just be published somewhere slightly more, erm scientifically plausible…? Having read the full report, this seems unlikely.

    Whether your theological / ecclesiological arguments are right or wrong, if you want what you are saying to be taken seriously you need to think a bit more carefully about your sources: only those already shouting in a conservative echo chamber are going to be convinced by this article.

  39. Hi Ian,

    two little comments:
    i) you say in a comment to Thomas, that “the research does appear to point to the fact that there is something disordered in (particularly) male same-sex relationships”. If you’re inferring that male same-sex relationships are somehow more disordered than female ones, are you carrying through your argument in any way, and how do you square this with the way you read the Bible?

    ii) more widely on method: “The wide-ranging evidence shows that there is a pathology to same-sex relations which is quite different from patterns in other-sex relations (without pretending that the latter are without their own problems!)”. But suppose it were pointed out that the vast majority of people in prison are men, that most of those convicted of violent crime are men, that most homeless people are men, that for some age groups the biggest cause of death for men is suicide… by similar reasoning to yours, wouldn’t it be the case that there’s a pathology to being male that there isn’t to being female? If this is valid it might suggest a need to pause (at least) before drawing the conclusion you draw…

    in friendship, Blair


Leave a comment