Christians and homosexuality – is there a peaceful way forward?

Difficult issues series

This has been perhaps the most difficult post I have written.

I’ve avoided writing about this issue because it is so divisive, and because I wasn’t sure I had anything worthwhile to say.

But while I don’t pretend to have a solution to the argument between the traditionalists and the progressives, I can’t help feeling that there should be some things christians of goodwill from both sides can agree on, and which might ease the tensions a little.

There is also the issue of how the secular world sees christians – surveys show that the perceived anti-gay emphasis of christians is a major barrier to non-believers ever seriously considering the claims of christianity.

Is it really this important?

Outsiders might sometimes wonder if being anti-gay is the core of christianity. But the subject is only raised in a handful of passages in the Bible, far less than, say, the dangers of wealth, materialism and greed. Yet how many churches, and how many christians, devote more attention to greed than they do to homosexuality?

Whatever shade of theology we hold, from conservative to liberal, sexual ethics is not the centre of our faith. In evangelical terms, it is “not a salvation issue”, nor is it at the core of the message of the kingdom of God that Jesus taught.

Allowing this to be seen as such a big issue means we are not saying what most needs to be said.

We have much to repent of

Christians and churches have an unfortunate (to say the least!) history of persecution of LGBTI people. We have not been alone in this – many cultures and many societies have behaved badly towards gays, but we haven’t shown the love that Jesus commanded us to show even to our enemies, let alone those we have no reason to regard as enemies.

People who are at least nominal christians, maybe even “born again” christians, have bashed gays, even murdered them, discriminated against them and hated them. There can be no justification for this, and it needs to be repented of and apologised for, if it hasn’t already. The discrimination and lack of love must stop.

I remember as long ago as the 1970s, a friend of mine who was a University chaplain for a conservative evangelical denomination, was arguing that it was homosexual actions that the Bible spoke against, not the orientation. We know now that many, perhaps most, of those who identify as LGBTI had no choice in this orientation, so it is sad and reprehensible that some christians are still saying LGBTI orientation is a sin.

Christians should welcome an end to all discrimination on the basis of gender and sexuality, except where there may be clear social reasons – if there are actually any such cases. We should welcome LGBTI christians into our churches, our fellowship and our friendships, whether we approve of them or not, just as we welcome anyone else. We all need to experience the love of God.

Minding our own business

In 1 Corinthians 5:12, speaking of a different aspect of sexual ethics, Paul asks the rhetorical question: “What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church?” I think this principle is appropriate for the question of gay marriage.

Whatever christians think about gay marriage, what other people do with their lives isn’t our business. We don’t try to make laws against pride, promiscuity, jealousy or gluttony, so I cannot see that opposing gay marriage is something any of us should be doing.

I think secular gays can go too far here too. Ministers and churches shouldn’t be required to perform gay weddings if they feel it is against their conscience.

Live and let live seems to be a good motto for both sides.

Forcing the interpretation?

The passages commonly quoted to condemn homosexual activity should, it is argued by pro-gay christians, be interpreted differently. Paul was speaking against coercive and unloving gay relationships (which were common in the Roman Empire), it is said, and didn’t address loving and committed gay relationships.

I have difficulties with this. It is true that male citizens of the Empire commonly had homosexual partners among their slaves, a practice that we would all condemn because of the inequality and lack of choice in the relationship. But the scriptures were written out of very traditional and patriarchal societies, and I am doubtful that the writers REALLY meant, or would ever supported, what the pro-gay activists try to make them say. The alleged silence of the New Testament writers on loving gay relationships cannot reasonably be interpreted as approval.

It is understandable that gay christians would want to find scriptural support for what is deeply important for them, but an extremely doubtful re-interpretation of scripture doesn’t seem to be the best way forwards.

Consistent interpretation?

But the traditional interpretation has problems too. The passages may seem to be clear at first sight, but the “hard line” interpretation is inconsistent with “softer” interpretations of other passages.

  • Jesus taught strongly against divorce, yet today, while we still regard divorce as unfortunate and undesirable, most christians don’t oppose divorce or re-marriage. Rather accept it as either the lesser of two evils, or as simply a fact not to be questioned. Most churches happily re-marry divorcees, contrary to clear teaching by Jesus.
  • Many churches interpret strictly and literally New Testament passages on male headship and the limited role of women in leadership in the church, but are less strict about teachings in the same passages about women covering their heads, long hair for men, and women wearing fine clothes, fancy hairstyles and jewellery – see It was kind of amusing and revealing at the same time.
  • Conservative churches rarely follow Paul’s encouragement for us all to speak in tongues and (even better) to prophesy (1 Corinthians 14:5), and I don’t know of any church that would allow a spontaneous utterance from the congregation to silence the prepared speaker (1 Corinthians 14:30)! Some conservative churches even change the meaning of the word prophecy to justify their departure from Paul’s teaching.

Some of these departures from a literal understanding are said to be justified by the idea that Paul’s thoughts on women’s clothing and hair styles were a cultural matter that don’t apply today. But how do we know that some of the things held dear by conservative christians (such as the role of women or our attitude to homosexuality) do not similarly have cultural or historical aspects?

Consistency in Biblical interpretation is difficult, but I believe there is a better way to address this issue.

Word vs Spirit

So we have reached an impasse. Gay christians refuse to accept no for an answer, but that is the only answer conservative christians are willing to give. Each side speaks confidently of God being on their side, but they both can’t be right. I suspect they are both at least partly wrong.

Jesus promised that the Holy Spirit would guide us into all truth (John 16:13). Instead of arguing vehemently from the Greek about what Paul may or may not have meant, and being implacably opposed to any other way of looking at things, we need to know from God what he wants for today. If everything in the scriptures doesn’t necessarily apply to us today, we need the Spirit’s guidance on whether and how much these teachings on homosexuality should be applied.

It will be said that this is playing with the Word of God, but as we have seen, both sides are already doing that, and coming to opposite conclusions. I would much rather trust the answer when the worldwide church is praying honestly for God’s wisdom on this, than trust people with preconceived opinions stretching to make the Bible say what they want.

I have seen one church go through a process like this. For about two months they met, prayed, read the scriptures and discussed, all in an atmosphere that was accepting and non-confrontational. Both sides of the debate were expressed. There was no argument, as far as I am aware, for I only attended once when visiting. In the end the church decided to affirm LGBTI people as made in the image of God. I think they were probably always going to come to that conclusion, but I think they modelled a good process that the rest of us could learn from.

What’s a poor boy to do?

I can’t honestly feel that I can endorse either the strong resistance of the conservatives or the affirming way of the progressives, at the moment at least.

But what are the alternatives?

Praying with those we disagree with and asking the Holy Spirit to reveal God’s guidance on this matter will not be a fast process, and realistically, most people and churches are probably not going to be willing to do it just yet – too many are too far down their particular track. And gay christians are impatient for change.

Like I said at the start, I don’t have any answers, just a wish to see a more peaceful approach. Any ideas I’ve had so far don’t seem to be satisfactory, and I outline them here with some trepidation. Some could be seen as insulting to LGBTI people, while others could be seen by some as not respecting scripture, but we need to explore ideas.

  1. Conservative christians could accept that the Bible speaks about homosexual behaviour, not orientation, publicly repent of past discriminatory actions, stop opposing secular gay marriage, and welcome LGBTI people into their churches. Churches unwilling to accept homosexual relations among christians could promote voluntary celibacy and singleness – a tough ask for gays, but no more than is required for many single straight christians. This is surely the least that should happen, and would at least remove some of the barriers many non-believers see at present.
  2. Few actions regarded as sins are regulated by conservative churches in the way that homosexuality is. Most churches look the other way when members are blatantly materialistic, greedy, prone to anger, proud, over indulging in alcohol or food, or (as has become apparent recently) even abusing their wives. Should gays be subject to divisive scrutiny when these others are not?
  3. Divorce is condemned in scripture just as homosexual behaviour is, but, as I’ve already suggested, most churches accept it without approving it. Could gay marriage be treated the same way?
  4. A useful principle is that, if in doubt, we should do the loving thing. It could be argued that it would be better for christians to err on the side of acceptance and love rather than on the side of non-acceptance.
  5. Delay is going to be hurtful to gay christians, but, sadly, I can’t presently any way out of that. The reality is that gay christians will go to churches that support their own view. These days many, maybe most, churches accept celibate gay christians, so that part will be easy, but gay christians who are married will find it much harder to find fellowship. The rest of us need to support them even if we disagree with them – they are still brothers and sisters trying to live in a difficult broken world.

My conclusion

I can’t say I’m really happy with any of this. I feel like I’m setting myself up to be criticised by both sides in this debate. The church is divided on the issue, and diverging more than converging, it seems. We need to know what God thinks, not what our traditions or our wishes say.

So I am committed to being open-minded, praying and asking the Holy Spirit to convince not only me, but a growing number of christians. And I am committed to be loving as much as I can. I cannot at present feel happy to come to a conclusion myself, and especially not actively support either side until I feel confident that God is leading his people in a clear way.

I just have no idea how he might lead us, but I’m waiting to see evidence of his work in the worldwide church.

Photo Credit: Daniel Dudek Flickr via Compfight cc

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40 thoughts on “Christians and homosexuality – is there a peaceful way forward?

  1. westofthebluemountains says:

    As a secular person I can only say that gay marriage does not particularly worry me as it only involves consenting adults, but gay parenting has slipped under the radar and is definitely not something I would support, even though most States (Australia) seem to allow it.

    Children are being manufactured to make gay people feel “equal”, and the children are being robbed of biological parents and therefore their heritage not to mention a balanced upbringing in a heterosexual environment which most children are.

    My fear therefore about gay marriage is that it will further legitimise gay parenting and so I will probably vote No, even though I don’t mind gay marriage as such.

    As you say it’s a very difficult issue, and I hope that people of all views can have a civil discussion in the months ahead.

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  2. Randy Myers says:

    I found this a thoughtful piece.
    Perhaps the positions staked out by both sides are missing an opportunity for the Spirit’s work in them. I’m currently reading Miroslav Volf on Exclusion and Embrace. I think he lays the ground work for a very different approach which up to this point has been largely ideological rather than thoughtful or prayerful. If I may draw on the analogy of another issue, that of war and peace, it might reveal how I approach significant differences. I am a committed Christian pacifist with nonviolence at the center of my conversion and discipleship as a follower of Jesus. But I recognize that there are those whose consciences call them to participate in the military. Even with that, I can still find myself worshiping alongside them, sharing at the Table with them, confessing the same Lord, and bound to one another in the church.
    There are a number of convictions that might divide Christians on any count. How we recognize differences and embrace the other is the challenge.
    Again, thank you for your thoughts.

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  3. rwwilson147 says:

    Hey, estofthebluemountains,
    Thanks for weighing in with your secular perspective. Sometimes inclusionist christians aren’t willing to even consider the possibility that the concerns you raise about “gay parenting” have any validity at all. I think you raise issues that are legitimate aspects in considering secular societal consequences of legitimizing same gender partnerships and parenting.

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  4. rwwilson147 says:

    Hi Eric (unkleE),
    I have to admit that I’m a bit uncomfortable with the fact that the first thing you mention regarding the issue is how non-believers view the matter. It seems to misplace what should be our Christ following concern, devotion to God and His will. Isn’t that what Jesus modeled for us as His highest priority rather than how he would be viewed by unbelievers?

    Then you rather disappointingly trend off into a typically progressive line of reasoning suggesting that it really isn’t that important a concern using a rather weak argument about it not being a very much emphasized point. Do you not realize that the lack of debate about the issue in the New Testament context might actually confirm that condemnation of same gender sexual relations was so unquestionably agreed to be God’s will that it wasn’t needing debate? I hope it isn’t necessary to point to other moral matters that aren’t discussed or debated in the New Testament about which there should be no debate but concerning which we all unquestionably agree. This is a red herring canard.

    Yes, it is reasonable to say that sexual ethics is not the centre of our faith. But sexual immorality is in fact a New Testament criteria for declaring who can NOT inherit the Kingdom of God and immortality. I shouldn’t need to quote the numerous scriptures that make this point, but if anyone needs me to do that I will track them down. So, contrary to your assertion, sexual ethics is in fact, unquestionably, a “salvation issue” in New Testament texts.

    Very well said here:
    “It is understandable that gay christians would want to find scriptural support for what is deeply important for them, but an extremely doubtful re-interpretation of scripture doesn’t seem to be the best way forwards.”

    Redefining New Testament texts so as to make them say something other than what every Jewish believer would have understood them to mean in their cultural and historical context is not honest theology. It is as far as I can see a kind of historical revisionism equivalent to some other kinds of historical denials like disavowing that there was a holocaust. I know that sounds a bit extreme, but the rejection of historical reality is required in order to reinterpret New Testament texts as not prohibiting same gender sexual relations. Paul didn’t need to address “loving and committed gay relationships” because any gay relationship was prohibited by Old Testament AND New Covenant agreement with the former sexual moral standards.

    On the other hand, arguments about other issues regarding which there are various possible interpretations and understandings in no valid sense impacts the clarity of New Testament teaching on same gender sexual relationship.

    The main problem with your conclusions based on the idea “if everything in the scriptures doesn’t necessarily apply to us today, we need the Spirit’s guidance on whether and how much these teachings on homosexuality should be applied,” is that there is in the New Testament or Old no hint of the idea whether the sexual morality prescribed by God might be a merely cultural contextual application of biblical or spiritual principles needing cultural re-interpretation. All kinds of issues have possibly different trajectories except sexual matters. Sorry, but on this one it is not the case that “both sides” are “playing with the Word of God. Unfortunately, with that statement you seem to have declared on which side you stand. If you can find any teacher or accepted interpreter of New Testament teaching anywhere in the history of the Church until the last 50 or perhaps 100 years endorsing homosexual relationships I would be astonished. This isn’t just a matter of “people with preconceived opinions stretching to make the Bible say what they want” on both sides of this conflict. There is only one side doing that.

    It seems that most of your suggestions for “the way forward” are progressive in implication if not explicitly. You don’t actually appear to be ambivalent or uncertain at all, just wanting to mediate toward uncertainty and progress toward the “love” option, inclusive of all those who say they are Christian whether submitted to his teaching as recorded by the apostles or revising to accommodate progressive divergence from it.

    In the final analysis, loving inclusiveness of those committed to behaviors proscribed by New Testament teaching isn’t loving in the way of Jesus.

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  5. westofthebluemountains says:

    In the final analysis, loving inclusiveness of those committed to behaviors proscribed by New Testament teaching isn’t loving in the way of Jesus.

    In doing some research I find that Jesus himself never mentioned homosexuality. Is that true ?

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  6. unkleE says:

    Hi West,

    “Children are being manufactured to make gay people feel “equal”, and the children are being robbed of biological parents and therefore their heritage not to mention a balanced upbringing in a heterosexual environment which most children are.”

    I think there is scientific evidence for this – that children of same sex parents don’t do as well as those of heterosexual parents (but I can’t remember the details). So you have some justification for what you say.

    But my problem with that is that children of single parent families, of alcoholics or drug users, of poor parents, etc probably also don’t do as well in later life using the same measures, but I would find it difficult to argue that they should be prevented of deterred from having children.

    So in the end I think, to be consistent, we have to let them all be free to marry and procreate.

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  7. unkleE says:

    Hi Randy,

    I in turn appreciate the thought in your comments too. There are times, I suppose, when christians have to pass judgment on their fellow believers, but I think mostly step 1 is loving acceptance and fellowship, despite differences, as you say. Thanks.

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  8. unkleE says:

    Hi RWW,

    Thanks for your comments. However I think you have misunderstood some of what I was saying, and my overall purpose.

    “the first thing you mention regarding the issue is how non-believers view the matter”

    This isn’t actually the case. I mention this matter in my intro, but I mentioned the differences among christians before I said this. But it is also interesting, for while this is my fourth paragraph, it was actually one of the last sentences I wrote. I competed this post a couple of days ago, without this sentence in it, then let it sit for a day or so while I considered it all. I only added this sentence, and a few others, at the last stage before posting. So all the conclusions you draw from this observation are in fact not true of my thought processes.

    “other moral matters that aren’t discussed or debated in the New Testament about which there should be no debate but concerning which we all unquestionably agree.”

    Again, you have missed my point, I’m sorry. Of course there are many moral matters about which most christians agree. The point is that this is one moral matter about which we do NOT agree. And that is what I am writing about – our disagreement and increasingly, lack of fellowship, and how we may try to reach some measure of fellowship and perhaps even agree – hence my title.

    “contrary to your assertion, sexual ethics is in fact, unquestionably, a “salvation issue” in New Testament texts.”

    This is an interesting comment. Do you then believe in salvation or damnation by works? Do you think gay people are definitely excluded from God’s kingdom?

    Do you think other moral matters mentioned in these verse are also likely to lead to salvation or damnation depending on how we live? For example, 1 Corinthians 6:10 includes (along with homosexuals) thieves, the greedy, drunkards, slanderers & swindlers, while Ephesians 5:4 includes immoral, impure or greedy people. Do you think all greedy people are excluded also?

    I won’t respond to the rest of what you say, for I have put the case for being willing to allow God to show us if he wants us to regard these parts of the NT as still applying today, in the light of the fact that we already disregard or explain away several other passages. I am doubtful you obey the whole NT literally (let alone the whole OT), and I would be even more worried if I thought you actually did. But until we each address our own inconsistencies, I don’t think the christian church will make much progress on this issue. If you do accept all teachings literally, I’d be interested to hear.

    Thanks for your thoughts.

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  9. matrimble says:

    I had a little difficulty posting this comment, so I apologize if what follows shows up as a duplicate post.

    When I stop to think about how Jesus would answer a man that asked if homosexuality was sinful, I can’t help but believe that Jesus would say that yes, it is. Indeed, I can’t imagine a scenario when Jesus would say otherwise. Now, as with other sins, it can and will be forgiven if the practitioner repents of their actions asks Jesus for forgiveness, but that is about as far as it would seem we can go on the topic without writing the rules ourselves. So, as a sin, it would seem to me that it obviously can never be welcomed, endorsed, or sanctioned. This is undoubtedly not what homosexuals want to hear, but it does seem to be the authentic Christian position. For those who cannot accept this, fair enough, no one is forcing them to be Christian. Those of us Christians who are guilty of a multitude of other sins are not clamoring for the church to formally welcome or accept our transgressions, indeed we are most strongly encouraged to recognize them, repent of them, and confess them. Yes, live and let live. Be Christian (or not) and let others do the same.

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  10. westofthebluemountains says:

    But my problem with that is that children of single parent families, of alcoholics or drug users, of poor parents, etc probably also don’t do as well in later life using the same measures, but I would find it difficult to argue that they should be prevented of deterred from having children.

    As a society I think we should be aiming to improve children’s lives in all areas not just saying that one wrong excuses another.

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  11. unkleE says:

    G’day MATRimble, everything came through fine and just once, so no worries! 🙂

    Thanks for your thoughtful comment. I agree with where you start, but am unsure about where you end up.

    It is always a dodgy exercise trying to guess what Jesus would say in a hypothetical situation (he rarely conformed to our expectations), but my guess is the same as yours – that he would not have approved of homosexual relations. But the questions I have are whether that settles the question for us today.

    1. The OT commands against adultery were specific, and included stoning, yet (if we accept the genuineness of John 8) Jesus accepted that adultery was a sin, but didn’t follow the Law in approving of stoning. So he modified the Law at that point.

    The OT punishment for homosexual relations was also stoning, so we may guess that Jesus would have reacted the same – supporting the Law but not the punishment.

    There were other OT commands which we can assume Jesus wouldn’t have approved of – for example the genocidal commands in Joshua. Jesus taught us to love enemies, not wipe them out.

    So we can see that Jesus was willing, in these and other cases, to oppose some clear statements of the Law.

    2. We do the same thing today in some areas. As I said in the post, we hold to male headship but disregard some of Paul’s clear commands in the male headship and women keep silent passages. We have decided that some parts of those passages are cultural and no longer apply.

    Likewise we follow Jesus in not welcoming divorce, but we don’t follow his quite clear teachings that re-marrying after divorce is adultery. We also ignore, or water down, his strong teachings against wealth, and you (I presume) and I live gloriously rich by world standards in extravagantly rich countries.

    3. So the obvious question is: how do we decide which of all these teachings should be maintained today, and which should be reinterpreted? Those who say it is quite clear, and those who think we should obey everything literally seem to me to not be reading the Bible in all its diversity.

    So does God want us to still consider homosexual relationships to be a sin, or not? If you (as I presume) think he does, I wonder on what grounds? I don’t know, and I don’t think the confidence of each side in their respective positions can be justified when we look at all these other teachings, which we interpret in inconsistent ways.

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  12. rwwilson147 says:

    It does seem to be true at least from the historical records we have of what he said. However, as my post above notes: “the lack of debate about the issue in the New Testament context might actually confirm that condemnation of same gender sexual relations was so unquestionably agreed to be God’s will that it wasn’t needing debate?”

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  13. unkleE says:

    “As a society I think we should be aiming to improve children’s lives in all areas not just saying that one wrong excuses another.”

    Yes, of course I agree. But experience shows that we can’t force this. Alcohol might, overall, be bad for society, but prohibition doesn’t work and creates crime.

    Aboriginal children may have been suffering from poor health, but removing them from their parents is (generally) a very bad idea.

    Take away parents’ rights and you tend to create a police state – and you give power to people who may just as likely abuse it.

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  14. unkleE says:

    “condemnation of same gender sexual relations was so unquestionably agreed to be God’s will that it wasn’t needing debate?”

    Yes, I agree, but my point is that (1) it may have been cultural then (we don’t know), and (2) things can sometimes change, and perhaps God’s will isn’t the same in today’s society. See my comment above to MATrimble.

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  15. westofthebluemountains says:

    Take away parents’ rights and you tend to create a police state – and you give power to people who may just as likely abuse it.

    I think we are talking about two different things, the rights of biological parents, and the so called “rights” of homosexuals to reproduce with the aid of artificial methods newly discovered by science.

    Do you think that God gave homosexuals the right to reproduce ? Why haven’t they (in all species) been able to do so for 2 million + years ?

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  16. rwwilson147 says:

    RWW:
    Thanks for your thoughtful response and my apologies if it appears I am misunderstanding or misrepresenting what you were trying to say. I can’t claim to know what your intentions were or exactly what your purpose was, or what you were intending to say, but was attempting to respond to what you wrote.

    Sorry, but your saying that I missed your point about issues not addressed in the New Testament seems to reflect your not understanding the point I was making. I was critiquing your argument about the issue of homosexuality not being addressed much in the New Testament. My point was not that there are points about which Christians disagree but that there is no evidence that New Testament authors nor the apostles disagreed about homosexual behaviors.

    Seeking to maintain fellowship with those who reject discipleship parameters adopted by the apostles doesn’t seem to me to be a valid objective since if one goes beyond those pre- and pro-scriptions, if one relativizes and peripheralizes the teaching of Jesus and the apostles, there is no longer any objective standard for determining what grounds we might have to determine what it means to be in fellowship. Agreeing to disagree with those who have rejected the teaching of the New Testament isn’t in my mind a way forward toward peace with God through Christ, but a virtual abandonment of any means of deciding what that peace might require.

    No, I don’t think that following the New Testament criteria for being conformed to the will of God is equivalent to believing “in salvation or damnation by works.” It does seem to me to be relatively apparent that the the New Testament teaches that one can’t be saved apart from repentance and seeking to do God’s will–you know, there is that summary line: “faith without works is dead.”

    Gay people are not excluded from God’s kingdom. It is not being sinful “by nature” that excludes us from eternal life but persistent unrepentant sinful behavior. We are all sinful by nature, so saying “I was born this way” can not be a valid ethical argument. This is New Testament teaching. Reject it at your peril. Anyone that persists in proscribed sinful behaviors will according to the teaching of the New Testament be excluded from the Kingdom of God. That isn’t what I think but what the apostles thought.

    Now, as for my misunderstanding what your purpose was, the suggestion that we should await some new revelation of what God’s will is regarding human sexual behaviors, as you say “in the light of the fact that we already disregard or explain away several other passages” is just rather poor ethical reasoning. Should we conclude from the fact that people have misinterpreted God’s will regarding all kinds of ethic matters that we can’t therefore know anything about what he has said? Really?

    If there is anywhere in New Testament scripture that suggests that biblical rejection of same gender sexual relationships is merely a transient cultural accommodation I would like to see that case put forward honestly (there are a variety of arguments that seek to suggest in very sophisticated ways “did God really say that?” but they seem more devious than decisive).

    Look, is it at all complicated to see that if one’s main argument is a questioning of what parts of New Testament teaching are still relevant today, based on questions regarding what is merely culturally determined, it can just as easily be asserted that the whole complete Gospel is merely a cultural artifact, the spiritual ramblings and speculations of a bunch of backward uneducated superstitious Jews? Of course it isn’t. Let’s be done with it and just move on. Right? I think not. There is much that is historically certain, unquestionable if one takes seriously the objective existence of a God who is able to communicate his will through real people in real time. That may sound like too definite a philosophical statement, but in contrast to the sort of “we can’t know what God’s will is” or even “we can be certain that God is knowable at all” kind of thinking that undergirds all the uncertainty about what the New Testament teaches about human sexuality, it is perhaps a mere antidote, not a cure. Relativism is rampant–it is the philosophical stew in which we are being boiled, the contemporary cultural fiery furnace into which we are being thrown daily.

    Addressing my own inconsistencies with or divergences from the teaching of the New Testament with the help of other believers is what I think we should be about as co-disciplers of one another. If you or anyone knows of a particular behavior of mine that is out of line with New Testament teaching I pray it will be brought to my attention with persistent vigor.
    All the best to all in Christ.

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  17. rwwilson147 says:

    Right, as I just noted, we seem to be thinking “we can’t know this and we can’t know that” so let’s not be so certain about knowing anything regarding human sexuality. Please pardon my sarcasm, but it is my poor defense against conversational despair.

    UncleE, is there any reason I shouldn’t think that at least one of your purposes in writing the way you have on this issue is anything other than to throw doubt on the idea that the traditional understanding of biblical teaching regarding human sexuality has validity as a proper interpretation of those texts? This despite the fact that there has never in the whole history of the the New Covenant Church (until the last half century) been any doubt expressed by any teacher of the Church on these matters?

    Again, seeking a peace with those who have rejected the apparent teaching of the New Testament should be a non-starter, if it weren’t for the absolutizing relativism of the culturally subservient “progressive” christians for whom opposition to tradition is their new faith commitment.

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  18. rwwilson147 says:

    I am open to the idea that God’s will may be different today. I’m just waiting for God to let us know how it has changed. To know what was said by God through Christ and the apostles but decide one doesn’t have to follow that teaching now is equivalent to saying “what I think now is equal to what Jesus or the apostles said then.” Claiming to be a prophet of God is implicit in the rejection of what was declared to be the Word of God and belief in some new contemporary understanding of “God’s will.” Are you a prophet for today? If not you should stand down, bend your knee to the God of the bible, and await his return. If and when God himself declares a new teaching I will agree to that (God and my heart willing), but until that time I can do no other than submit myself to the expressed written will of God as declared by the prophetic pronouncements of the apostles (and counsel others to do likewise).

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  19. unkleE says:

    “I think we are talking about two different things, the rights of biological parents, and the so called “rights” of homosexuals to reproduce with the aid of artificial methods newly discovered by science.”

    Obviously we are dealing with complex issues here, and I’m not particularly wanting to change your view. But I don’t see there is a difference here. Many of us wouldn’t be here today without modern medical technology.

    “Do you think that God gave homosexuals the right to reproduce ? Why haven’t they (in all species) been able to do so for 2 million + years ?”

    I don’t feel this is relevant either. I have some concerns about gay couples adopting, and about surrogacy, but like I said, not enough to think they shouldn’t be allowed.

    I think we just think differently on this.

    Like

  20. unkleE says:

    Hi RWW,

    “my apologies if it appears I am misunderstanding or misrepresenting what you were trying to say”

    No apology needed, I didn’t feel you were misrepresenting me, just misunderstanding the sequence of my thoughts, which led you to conclusions that weren’t how things were in my mind. If I sounded critical, my apologies to you.

    “Anyone that persists in proscribed sinful behaviors will according to the teaching of the New Testament be excluded from the Kingdom of God.”

    So then, do you think that greedy people today, or women who pray with their heads uncovered, or men with long hair, or women who are not silent in church, or people who re-marry after divorce will definitely be excluded?

    “Should we conclude from the fact that people have misinterpreted God’s will regarding all kinds of ethic matters that we can’t therefore know anything about what he has said?”

    You are making a number of assumptions here. For one, do you think that any move away from any Biblical command is misinterpreting God’s will?

    “If there is anywhere in New Testament scripture that suggests that biblical rejection of same gender sexual relationships is merely a transient cultural accommodation I would like to see that case put forward honestly”

    That is exactly what I am asking from both sides, and then both sides to pray together until God’s will becomes clearer.

    “it can just as easily be asserted that the whole complete Gospel is merely a cultural artifact, the spiritual ramblings and speculations of a bunch of backward uneducated superstitious Jews?”

    I don’t think there is any chance that either of us think that. But if someone did, I would be happy to work through the issues with them. I think this is a red herring.

    “If you or anyone knows of a particular behavior of mine that is out of line with New Testament teaching I pray it will be brought to my attention with persistent vigor.”

    I have asked you this above, but I’ll do it again in greater detail. Do you accept all these statements as ones we should follow today?

    No remarriage after divorce.
    Women silent in church.
    Women have head covering when praying. (How does this fit with keeping silent?)
    Men not having long hair.
    Not being greedy. (How rich is greedy in world terms?)
    Everyone speaking in tongues. (As Paul says he wants everyone to do.)
    Even more importantly, everyone prophesying.
    Giving up everything we have. (Jesus said we can’t be his disciples unless we do.)
    Hating our parents and other relatives.
    Loving our parents.

    “is there any reason I shouldn’t think that at least one of your purposes in writing the way you have on this issue is anything other than to throw doubt on the idea that the traditional understanding of biblical teaching regarding human sexuality has validity as a proper interpretation of those texts?”

    No reason. I wish to throw doubt on both sides of the debate. I think the debate is unhelpful and often unloving, and I’m trying to suggest a re-set, praying rather than arguing.

    “This despite the fact that there has never in the whole history of the the New Covenant Church (until the last half century) been any doubt expressed by any teacher of the Church on these matters?”

    But now there is doubt, and contention, and the body isn’t dealing with it very well in my opinion.

    “I am open to the idea that God’s will may be different today. I’m just waiting for God to let us know how it has changed.”

    Here we agree. That is the point of my post.

    “To know what was said by God through Christ and the apostles but decide one doesn’t have to follow that teaching now is equivalent to saying “what I think now is equal to what Jesus or the apostles said then.””

    These are strong words, and I think not fully justified. (1) We all do this already, we just don’t want to face up to this. (Hence my questions above about what things you accept and what you don’t.) (2) If the will of God, revealed by the Holy Spirit, is that we change, then that is what we should do. Knowing if that is true is a big responsibility, and should be discerned carefully, corporately (worldwide) and prayerfully.

    I realise this is all problematic for you. All I am asking is that you consider and pray, and I’m happy to keep discussing of that helps. Thanks.

    Like

  21. westofthebluemountains says:

    I think we just think differently on this.

    We certainly do. But I also believe that if you asked people who had a happy upbringing with their biological mother and father if they would have preferred to have been brought up in a gay relationship I doubt if you would get many yes votes.

    If we would not be prepared to have a gay upbringing ourselves I don’t see how we could wish that on others.

    Like

  22. matrimble says:

    I ask a question now that may seem out of place, but I don’t think it is. Why do we not call ourselves Jewish? Jesus is, we believe, the (Jewish) Messiah foretold in the OT. We are the living branch of Judaism and yet we call ourselves Christian. Why?

    I believe it is because the fathers of the Church recognized that Jesus the Christ had turned the page and that they and their faith was now something different and evolved from traditional Judaism. They did not seek to remain indentified and weighed down with the old ways and instead sought a new identity.

    Perhaps if progressive Christians feel so strongly that the Holy Spirit is leading them to reinterpret traditional Jewish and Christian understandings of sin in ways that conveniently correspond to contemporary secular morality, it is time for them to break free from the old ways and seek a new and separate identity for themselves.

    And stop calling themselves Christians.

    And let those that wish to remain in the old way call themselves Christian without interference.

    Maybe it’s time to just move on.

    Like

  23. unkleE says:

    Interesting thoughts ….

    1. Many progressive christians already try to move away from the name “christian”, to something like follower of Jesus, because of the connotations of the word.

    2. There have been many changes in world christianity over the years greater than what we are talking about here, for example:

    * the acceptance of Gentile believers
    * acceptance by Constantine
    * the split between east and west
    * the Reformation
    * the Pentecostal movement
    * many other changes our understanding of the Bible, such as anti-slavery, emancipation of women, Genesis vs evolution, etc

    I suppose we could change the name after each of them, but I hardly think it would change anything much, or assist in any way.

    It is an interesting idea, but do your comments mean you are threatened or upset by what I suggest? Do you think it is a very dramatic change?

    Like

  24. matrimble says:

    I believe the notion that humans ultimately are the ones that define the will of God is so fundamentally opposed to Christianity and so completely radical compared to any of the challenges posed by your list, that yes, I believe such a movement deserves and even demands a new name.

    And yes, it is both threatening and upsetting to see individuals within the Christian community advocating for reforms in fundamental conflict with the tradition of the faith. I’m not sure why such a reaction would come as a surprise. One can still remain civil when debating ideas that are both threatening and upsetting.

    Like

  25. unkleE says:

    Hi, thanks for your response. I agree we should remain civil, and more, when discussing these things, and you have certainly done that. I have tried to also. I am not wanting to argue, but rather to explore.

    And I think the points you raise here are worth exploring. May I ask you a few more questions to see where your thinking is at?

    1. Where do you sit on the matters I raised with TWW? Do you accept all these New Testament statements as ones we should follow today?

    No remarriage after divorce.
    Women silent in church.
    Women have head covering when praying. (How does this fit with keeping silent?)
    Men not having long hair.
    Not being greedy. (How rich is greedy in world terms?)
    Everyone speaking in tongues. (As Paul says he wants everyone to do.)
    Even more importantly, everyone prophesying.
    Giving up everything we have. (Jesus said we can’t be his disciples unless we do.)
    Hating our parents and other relatives.
    Loving our parents.

    2. You say: “I believe the notion that humans ultimately are the ones that define the will of God is so fundamentally opposed to Christianity and so completely radical compared to any of the challenges posed by your list”

    2.1 I have suggested praying that the Holy Spirit will reveal what we should be thinking about these issues today? Do you think this is humans ultimately defining the will of God? If so, how is that more than human writing the scriptures?

    2.2 Are all the historical examples I gave, and changes like allowing divorcees to re-marry or women no longer covering their heads to pray and no longer being silent in church, are they any less re-defining the will of God than praying about the status of gays would be?

    It seems to me that christianity has been redefining itself throughout its 2 millennium history, so I’m wondering why proposing we consider this change (I’m not proposing any particular change, nor keeping the status quo, just suggesting prayer) is quite so radical as you think.

    I’m genuinely interested in your thoughts. Thanks.

    Like

  26. rwwilson147 says:

    Eric: “So then, do you think that greedy people today, or women who pray with their heads uncovered, or men with long hair, or women who are not silent in church, or people who re-marry after divorce will definitely be excluded”
    There is a bit of “apples and oranges” to this. Yes, I think Paul’s teaching in 1 Corinthians 6:9 and Ephesians 5:5 and John’s in Rev. 22:15 reflects God’s truth. Both the generically “sexually immoral” and those “who practice homosexuality” are not going to enter the eternal kingdom of the faithful, according to scripture. And as you suggest “the greedy” are going to be excluded also (how God defines and determines who those are is up to him, but all should be forewarned and contrite regarding how and why they might fall into that generic category). Now as to the oranges, there is no listing of those “women who pray with their heads uncovered, or men with long hair, or women who are not silent in church, or people who re-marry after divorce” as being those “definitely [to] be excluded.” Theological/ethical apples and oranges, unquestionably.

    Eric: “You are making a number of assumptions here. For one, do you think that any move away from any Biblical command is misinterpreting God’s will?”
    Why shouldn’t we make this [one] assumption?

    Eric: “That [same gender sexual relationships is merely a transient cultural accommodation??] is exactly what I am asking from both sides, and then both sides to pray together until God’s will becomes clearer.”
    The problem is that there is no reasonable historical textual evidence to suggest that this particular issue is merely a cultural accommodation. Sorry, but the Torah, ancient Jewish interpretation, the teaching of Jesus and the apostles, and 2000 years of Church teaching don’t find this a valid question. The only reason one might present this as a reasonable request is our very contemporary cultural context, nothing more.

    Eric: “I don’t think there is any chance that either of us think that. But if someone did, I would be happy to work through the issues with them. I think this is a red herring.”
    I am glad to hear that you don’t think that, but it is a reasonable consequence of going down that particular hermeneutical path you propose because “cultural relativism” as a cultural movement is very much alive and eager to reach that conclusion using any ammunition we give it. So, I hardly think it is a mere red herring.

    OK, to the details:
    Eric: “No remarriage after divorce.”
    Who says that, not even Paul. This may be relevant to ethical issues regarding sexuality, but not directly to questions regarding homosexuality, right?

    Eric: “Women silent in church.”
    How can even Paul think they must keep silent when he desires that that pray. There seems to be reason to think he was saying something somewhat different from that in that particular context. How is this relevant to ethical issues regarding sexuality?

    Eric: “Women have head covering when praying. (How does this fit with keeping silent?)
    Excellent question; follow the implication. More to the point, there was debate about what kind and when head covering was necessary, but it isn’t unreasonable to understand this as a merely cultural, and definitely NOT an ethical matter, the latter of which always have a higher priority in biblical thought (OSISTM). How is this relevant to ethical issues regarding sexuality?

    Eric: “Men not having long hair.”
    This might be a negative implication from Paul’s argument, but isn’t stated in scripture (as far as I know). How is this relevant to ethical issues regarding sexuality?

    Eric: “Not being greedy. (How rich is greedy in world terms?)”
    It is not being rich that makes one greedy but how one deals with riches and how one might get them. How is this relevant to ethical issues regarding sexuality?

    Eric: “Everyone speaking in tongues. (As Paul says he wants everyone to do.)” Sounds OK to me. How is this relevant to ethical issues regarding sexuality?

    Eric: “Even more importantly, everyone prophesying.”
    If only it were to come true. How is this relevant to ethical issues regarding sexuality?

    Eric: “Giving up everything we have. (Jesus said we can’t be his disciples unless we do.)”
    I pray that we all adopt that approach to our possessions. How is this relevant to ethical issues regarding sexuality?

    Eric: “Hating our parents and other relatives.”
    Sounds like typical Hebraic hyperbole to me. What do you think? How is this relevant to ethical issues regarding sexuality?

    Eric: “Loving our parents.”
    Sounds like a good thing to me. How is this relevant to ethical issues regarding sexuality?

    Eric: “I wish to throw doubt on both sides of the debate. I think the debate is unhelpful and often unloving, and I’m trying to suggest a re-set, praying rather than arguing.”
    So, throwing doubt in every direction is helpful how? As I have suggested, throwing up our mental hands and declaring that we can’t actually know what God has said about questions regarding human sexuality is throwing gas on the fires of contemporary cultural ethical moral relativism such that the flames might consume us all, believer and unbeliever alike, perhaps even leading us all toward becoming unbelievers. Yup, it is that significant an issue, spiritually and biblically speaking. So, if praying is all that is left to me I fervently pray that everyone would come to a knowledge of God through Christ as revealed in the universally relevant and to my heart and mind not-debatable revelation of his will through Jesus and the apostles as evident in the scriptures.

    Eric: “But now there is doubt, and contention, and the body isn’t dealing with it very well in my opinion.”
    The reason there is doubt and contention isn’t likely because the scriptures themselves or Christian tradition shows there was debate about these matters among early or later believers in Christ, but because there is now a willingness to go beyond what they taught and to embrace whatever we today feel is right and true for us.

    There are valid and reasonable justifications for rethinking what we have been taught by Christian tradition in the light of New Testament texts, and there are invalid and unreasonable rationalizations for abandoning what has been universally understood to be the teaching of Jesus and the apostles. Acceptance of those practicing homosexual relationships in Christian fellowship falls into the latter category. There are adiaphora (debatable non ethical questions regarding Christian practices) and there are “diaphora,” which might be coining a phrase but by which I mean simple appealing to the fact that there are teachings in the New Testament that we should just repeat and/or recite. The rejection of homosexual relationships, seeing those as unacceptable Christian behavior, is merely a recitation of what has been taught since the beginning of the New Covenant. When the early Church declared that gentiles should refrain from “sexual immorality” (Acts 15 Council) they enjoined adherence to the Old Covenant teaching regarding human sexual relationships. This isn’t complicated, unless one is intent on spiritual obfuscation.

    I have done considerable praying and studying and discerning regarding these matters but am still open to hearing whatever you or others have to say.
    All the best to all in Christ.

    Liked by 1 person

  27. unkleE says:

    Hi RWW,

    ”I have done considerable praying and studying and discerning regarding these matters but am still open to hearing whatever you or others have to say.”

    That I what I am suggesting we all need to do.

    ”The reason there is doubt and contention isn’t likely because the scriptures themselves or Christian tradition shows there was debate about these matters among early or later believers in Christ, but because there is now a willingness to go beyond what they taught and to embrace whatever we today feel is right and true for us.”

    I think this is missing some obvious issues. Do you know that LGBTI youth are much more likely to attempt suicide, and to succeed, than straight youth? And more likely to suffer mental illness, homelessness and bullying? And there are reports of christian teens suiciding because of the pressures they felt being gay?

    So if we care for our LGBTI brothers and sisters, and secular LGBTI people too, we surely should at least consider whether we can relieve one of the major sources of that pressure – the fact that most christians consider that homosexual behaviour, and often orientation too, are sins which are often trenchantly condemned. Perhaps there is nothing we can do, but surely it is right to at least consider the question?

    ”How is this relevant to ethical issues regarding sexuality?”

    I thought I should address your repeated refrain first, for it is obviously important to you, and seems to show the key point where we are not yet connecting very well.

    Most of these matters have no direct relevance to sexual ethics (though some do). But they are all relevant to the question of how we interpret the Bible. And that is the point I am trying to make.

    Let me state very clearly the logic behind my questions.

    1. There are some passages in the Bible/New Testament which are often interpreted and applied literally, and there are some which are not generally – they are often ignored, re-interpreted or explained away.

    2. Thus before we can address a question where some people take the passage literally and some ignore, re-interpret or explain it away, we have to find agreement on the principles that determine how we decide that.

    3. Thus all these passages about Bible interpretation are indirectly relevant to the question we are discussing. And it is inconsistent interpretation that I am examining.

    So when I look at your answers, I find there are 7 which you have not indicated you accept literally, and 3 which you have indicated that you do. The 7 are:

    * no marriage after divorce – Paul may not say it but Jesus does – Mark 10:11, Matt 5:32, Luke 16:18.
    * women keep silent – you explain it away
    * Women head covering – you explain it away, asserting it is “merely cultural” without giving any principles as to what makes this cultural but not other commands
    * men & long hair – you deny this is a teaching, but Paul says it is not appropriate – 1 Corinthians 11:13-16
    * greed – you don’t specifically endorse the NT teaching on this
    * giving up everything we have – you don’t say you accept and adopt this
    * hating parents – explained away

    So it appears that you are willing to avoid or explain away a literal interpretation of these commands. So we can say that you DON’T accept all commands, a fact which you asked be ”brought to my attention with persistent vigor.”

    Now please be clear that I am NOT criticising you in any way for these choices, I am simply pointing out that they are not a literal following of the plain meaning of these NT teachings.

    I will defer further discussion of your other points until I see what your guidelines are for accepting the literal meaning of some teachings and not others. I think there are some principles, but I’m interested to see what basis you use. Thanks.

    Like

  28. rwwilson147 says:

    Eric:
    “Do you know that LGBTI youth are much more likely to attempt suicide, and to succeed, than straight youth? And more likely to suffer mental illness, homelessness and bullying? And there are reports of christian teens suiciding because of the pressures they felt being gay?”

    How is this an argument from scripture? There is unquestionably good reason to think that persons who have been the victims of abuse at the hands of those acting sinfully are more prone to psycho-social problems that may lead to suicide. It is also likely that those who engage in sinful behaviors are more likely to suffer the same tendencies and consequences. I have just recently heard of a hetero female that committed suicide after years of sexual unfaithfulness. Does that mean we should stop teaching that sexual immorality is wrong? Think about it. Is what you refer to an argument against scriptural teaching? So what is the purpose of this argument? Yes, it is an argument in opposition to scriptural teaching. I’ve had it thrown at me as a direct accusation of my personal complicity in the suicides of people I’ve never had any contact with. Just think about that a minute.

    Caring for those engaged in what are considered from a biblical perspective as sexual sins is definitely what we should be doing and teaching. But suggesting that because people are engaged in sinful behavior and feel bad if we say they are not doing the will of God is an argument for not upholding scriptural teaching is just not very compelling theologically or even psycho-socially.

    I have considered whether abandoning scriptural teaching regarding human sexuality is a viable and faithful way forward and can’t see any valid reason to believe it is. If an argument can’t be applied to every and all kinds of sins why should we apply it to some specific ones? The argument, I think, is shown to be completely inept and inapt because if it is a valid argument there would be no justification for any moral standards at all because it will make people feel bad and maybe kill themselves.

    I understand that there is a need for hermeneutical guidelines in determining whether some particular teaching should be taken as ‘literally’ (or instead literarily) valid and sometimes not. I don’t blame you for assuming I’m saying something I might not actually be saying about some particular issue (I think you are assuming too much in the way you refer to my positions on some things in the list you present). My point in asking ”How is this relevant to ethical issues regarding sexuality?” is simply that bringing up issues that have been interpreted in various ways by the Church (or churches) throughout history is not an appropriate approach to the question of human sexuality as specifically related to LGBTQetc issues because there has never in the history of the Church been any serious question about the matter from the beginning until our generation. There has never been any inconsistency on the prohibition of sexual relations outside of a heterosexual marriage relationship. Period. So, is there a particular need to discuss how I might address various other issues of concern to Christ’s followers when we are presumably concerned specifically with the issue of LGBTQetc behaviors among believers?

    I’m more than willing to discuss questions regarding other particular biblical texts and issues but I don’t find the existence of various interpretations of other even moral matters a serious argument against traditional understanding of scriptural teaching on human sexuality per se.

    Liked by 1 person

  29. unkleE says:

    Hi RWW,

    I will be open with you. I find it very frustrating to be discussing with you because you have several times now made assumptions and misinterpretations and build fervent arguments on that erroneous basis. I don’t think you do this deliberately, but I do wonder if it may show that you look for what you expect rather than what I say.. So I’m asking if you can please try harder to hear what I am saying, and what I am not saying.

    Here’s the latest example. You say: “How is this an argument from scripture? …… So what is the purpose of this argument? Yes, it is an argument in opposition to scriptural teaching. I’ve had it thrown at me as a direct accusation of my personal complicity in the suicides of people I’ve never had any contact with. Just think about that a minute.”

    Well, no, that was definitely NOT making any accusation at all, and I’m sorry if you thought it was. I think accusations like that are pernicious. Actually I wasn’t attempting any argument at all, contrary to what you thought. Let’s go back ….

    You said: “The reason there is doubt and contention isn’t likely because the scriptures themselves or Christian tradition shows there was debate about these matters among early or later believers in Christ, but because there is now a willingness to go beyond what they taught and to embrace whatever we today feel is right and true for us.”

    You are arguing that the reason why people are questioning these scriptures is because they want to “embrace whatever we today feel is right and true for us”. Now that might well be true, but it isn’t why I am doing it. And I gave you my reasons why I am concerned – because people are hurting and even suiciding. I didn’t suggest that was your fault, I didn’t suggest we should automatically throw in the traditional teaching (I have said all along that I’m not comfortable with either view), and I gave you a quite specific conclusion (bold added):

    “So if we care for our LGBTI brothers and sisters, and secular LGBTI people too, we surely should at least consider whether we can relieve one of the major sources of that pressure”

    So I WASN’T making any argument, against scripture or for it, just answering your comment about my motives.

    So you have drawn conclusions and no doubt think things about me that I DO NOT think and have not said. Can you please try harder to not do that any more? Thanks.

    I’ll leave further comment until I read your response. Thanks.

    Like

  30. rwwilson147 says:

    Eric,
    I didn’t say you were making that accusation against me. I said someone else made that accusation. Please, don’t think I am attacking you personally. I argue against arguments first and only, with the intent to bring every argument into subjection to Christ (as Paul said he did).

    If you think I am making assumptions about what you have said, rather than simply seeing the implications of what an argument you bring has within the context of the discussion and debate in the Church today, then I think you are making assumptions about what I am saying rather than reflecting what my thought processes are. I don’t presume to know what you are thinking, but am only taking into account how what you are saying fits within the broader context of current debate regarding LGBTQetc sexuality. I think it is true that the argument that LGBTQ folk feel they are being hurt by biblical teaching is being used to undermine, sideline, and ultimately dismiss it as not relevant today. I don’t think that is either complicated or controversial. The further point that I made had nothing to do with how I understood your discussion or purposes, only that the argument which you repeat and which is common from the side of those approving of homosexual behaviors is one which is intended to reject biblical teaching. This is not about you. I did not think you were accusing me of complicity in the suicide of homosexuals. Did I say that? NO. Why are you thinking I I might have been thinking that? Please pay careful attention to what I write, and not think I’m implying something I didn’t say, and not think I’m thinking something merely because you think I do.

    I didn’t say you were wanting to “embrace whatever we today feel is right and true for us.” I did say that those who support LGTQetc behaviors are doing that. I wasn’t criticizing you or what you explicitly said and I don’t think I should be understood as saying that you were saying that. I didn’t say that. I wasn’t commenting on your motives. Please, read what I said as objectively and specifically as possible. I’m not trying to read into what you are saying and pray you don’t do that with what I say either. We need to do proper exegesis with what people say and avoid eisogesis (reading into rather than out of what is said), with one another and especially with scripture.

    We can’t help but make our interpretations within our experienced frames of reference. I am reflecting the implications of your arguments within the context of the wider Christian communities discourse regarding LGBTQect concerns and my engagement with it. If I am inferring implications of your input within that debate that you may not be aware of that doesn’t mean they aren’t appropriate. Again, I was not accusing you of having any particular intentions regarding things you have said, only trying to point out the implications of presenting those arguments in the broader context of the discussion.
    Peace, love, and power to all in and through the grace of Christ.

    Liked by 1 person

  31. unkleE says:

    I’m sorry, I’m going to stop this discussion, because this has become misunderstanding on misunderstanding. I think once a misunderstanding is pointed out and not corrected, the discussion becomes a mass of self justifications, and I’m not really interested. So let’s just leave it, shall we? Thanks.

    Like

  32. westofthebluemountains says:

    Hello Unklee,

    Your motives in writing this article are very good. Concern for your fellow man, inclusion of persecuted minorities and making all feel welcome in the Church. Those actions are, I feel the essence of Christianity and you are to be commended for them.

    However, I wonder if you would agree that there is a dividing line between welcoming and inclusion, and becoming a proponent of a lifestyle that has has some serious effects eg the AIDS epidemic.

    Supporting people passing on a lifestyle to children whose basic instincts are at variance with those of their “parents” , making those children confused about their their own attractions and denying them their heritage if they don’t reveal their biological parents to their children are some of the problems with same sex parenting and the blurring of the traditional family unit.

    Of course , you can consider my position irrelevant, but here is a woman who was raised by lesbians and she details the problems she faced and the effect that they had on her life.

    I’ll leave it at that because I don’t want to turn your blog into a battleground, but I again commend you for writing the article even if it did open you up to attack from your peers.

    Like

  33. unkleE says:

    Hello again,

    Yes, there are some bad stories around, and I think they all need to be considered.

    I think the Canadian account you shared may have been biased. I don’t doubt that sort of thing happens, but it isn’t inevitable, so it depends how gay marriage is implemented. There are plenty of places around the world where it has been successful as far as I know.

    Likewise, the second video is not from a neutral source either, though I have no doubt there are genuine stories like this, as well as bad stories about heterosexual parents. I agree that hetero parents are better for the children, but it isn’t like all straight parents are better than all gay parents.

    Finally, I’m not supporting the pro gay marriage or the pro gay lobby, I am simply pointing out some problems I see in both sides and suggesting we need a better approach to resolving these questions, both christians and society as a whole.

    So we should consider the good, the bad and the ugly on both sides of the question.

    Like

  34. westofthebluemountains says:

    Likewise, the second video is not from a neutral source either,

    I really don’t know how you would define a “neutral source”, perhaps you can give your definition. She was raised an atheist and found comfort among Christians, I would think that would please you.

    Like

  35. unkleE says:

    Of course I’m pleased for her. Like the Bible says, she’s passed (I believe) from death to life. But that still means she’s seeing this issue in a particular light. Her perspective is valuable, but there are other perspectives that are also valuable.

    Like

  36. matrimble says:

    My apologies for the delay in responding to your questions, but I chose to turn to the document (The Catechism of the Catholic Church) my faith uses to explain its positions and which serves to connect and explain the implications in contemporary life of the bible’s teachings.

    Because my every experience (including this one) of reading the Catechism reinforces my perception that it offers exceptionally cogent explanations of why Catholics do and believe the things they do, I have chosen to not only include specific links to sections in the document (for further exploration), but in most cases also the language of the section itself. Because of the number of questions addressed, this makes for a long post and for this I apologize in advance for this, but it is reading that I believe is worth your time.

    So, below represents where I stand on the questions you raised in #1 of your latest response to me. The remaining questions will be addressed in separate posts.

    Now, on to the stuff contained in your question #1:

    **************************************************
    No remarriage after divorce.

    http://www.scborromeo.org/ccc/para/1665.htm
    1665 The remarriage of persons divorced from a living, lawful spouse contravenes the plan and law of God as taught by Christ. They are not separated from the Church, but they cannot receive Eucharistic communion. They will lead Christian lives especially by educating their children in the faith.

    And in sections 2382-2386, the Catechism elaborates on the Church’s position and reasoning concerning divorce:
    http://www.scborromeo.org/ccc/p3s2c2a6.htm#2382
    2382 The Lord Jesus insisted on the original intention of the Creator who willed that marriage be indissoluble.174 He abrogates the accommodations that had slipped into the old Law.

    Between the baptized, “a ratified and consummated marriage cannot be dissolved by any human power or for any reason other than death.”

    2383 The separation of spouses while maintaining the marriage bond can be legitimate in certain cases provided for by canon law.

    If civil divorce remains the only possible way of ensuring certain legal rights, the care of the children, or the protection of inheritance, it can be tolerated and does not constitute a moral offense.

    2384 Divorce is a grave offense against the natural law. It claims to break the contract, to which the spouses freely consented, to live with each other till death. Divorce does injury to the covenant of salvation, of which sacramental marriage is the sign. Contracting a new union, even if it is recognized by civil law, adds to the gravity of the rupture: the remarried spouse is then in a situation of public and permanent adultery:

    If a husband, separated from his wife, approaches another woman, he is an adulterer because he makes that woman commit adultery, and the woman who lives with him is an adulteress, because she has drawn another’s husband to herself.

    2385 Divorce is immoral also because it introduces disorder into the family and into society. This disorder brings grave harm to the deserted spouse, to children traumatized by the separation of their parents and often torn between them, and because of its contagious effect which makes it truly a plague on society.

    2386 It can happen that one of the spouses is the innocent victim of a divorce decreed by civil law; this spouse therefore has not contravened the moral law. There is a considerable difference between a spouse who has sincerely tried to be faithful to the sacrament of marriage and is unjustly abandoned, and one who through his own grave fault destroys a canonically valid marriage.

    **************************************************
    Women silent in church.
    Women have head covering when praying. (How does this fit with keeping silent?)
    Men not having long hair.

    I could find no reference to these items in the Catechism, but this is perhaps because the Church is leaving this up to local custom based on this in 1 Corinthians 11 13-16:

    13 Judge for yourselves: is it proper for a woman to pray to God with her head unveiled?
    14 Does not nature itself teach you that if a man wears his hair long it is a disgrace to him,
    15 whereas if a woman has long hair it is her glory, because long hair has been given [her] for a covering?
    16 But if anyone is inclined to be argumentative, we do not have such a custom, nor do the churches of God.

    **************************************************
    Not being greedy. (How rich is greedy in world terms?)

    http://www.scborromeo.org/ccc/para/2536.htm
    2536 The tenth commandment forbids greed and the desire to amass earthly goods without limit. It forbids avarice arising from a passion for riches and their attendant power. It also forbids the desire to commit injustice by harming our neighbor in his temporal goods:

    When the Law says, “You shall not covet,” these words mean that we should banish our desires for whatever does not belong to us. Our thirst for another’s goods is immense, infinite, never quenched. Thus it is written: “He who loves money never has money enough.”

    http://www.scborromeo.org/ccc/p3s1c1a8.htm#1866

    **************************************************
    Everyone speaking in tongues. (As Paul says he wants everyone to do.)

    I could find no reference to a mandate for speaking in tongues in the Catechism, but this is perhaps because of what is said in 1 Corinthians 12 4-11:

    4 There are different kinds of spiritual gifts but the same Spirit;
    5 there are different forms of service but the same Lord;
    6 there are different workings but the same God who produces all of them in everyone.
    7 To each individual the manifestation of the Spirit is given for some benefit.
    8 To one is given through the Spirit the expression of wisdom; to another the expression of knowledge according to the same Spirit;
    9 to another faith by the same Spirit; to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit;
    10 to another mighty deeds; to another prophecy; to another discernment of spirits; to another varieties of tongues; to another interpretation of tongues.
    11 But one and the same Spirit produces all of these, distributing them individually to each person as he wishes.

    **************************************************
    Even more importantly, everyone prophesying.

    http://www.scborromeo.org/ccc/para/873.htm
    873 The very differences which the Lord has willed to put between the members of his body serve its unity and mission. For “in the Church there is diversity of ministry but unity of mission. To the apostles and their successors Christ has entrusted the office of teaching, sanctifying and governing in his name and by his power. But the laity are made to share in the priestly, prophetical, and kingly office of Christ; they have therefore, in the Church and in the world, their own assignment in the mission of the whole People of God.” Finally, “from both groups [hierarchy and laity] there exist Christian faithful who are consecrated to God in their own special manner and serve the salvific mission of the Church through the profession of the evangelical counsels.”

    **************************************************
    Giving up everything we have. (Jesus said we can’t be his disciples unless we do.)

    The Catechism says first this concerning wealth:
    http://www.scborromeo.org/ccc/para/1938.htm
    1938 There exist also sinful inequalities that affect millions of men and women. These are in open contradiction of the Gospel:

    Their equal dignity as persons demands that we strive for fairer and more humane conditions. Excessive economic and social disparity between individuals and peoples of the one human race is a source of scandal and militates against social justice, equity, human dignity, as well as social and international peace.

    Then this:
    http://www.scborromeo.org/ccc/para/2053.htm
    2053 To this first reply Jesus adds a second: “If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” This reply does not do away with the first: following Jesus Christ involves keeping the Commandments. The Law has not been abolished, but rather man is invited to rediscover it in the person of his Master who is its perfect fulfillment. In the three synoptic Gospels, Jesus’ call to the rich young man to follow him, in the obedience of a disciple and in the observance of the Commandments, is joined to the call to poverty and chastity. The evangelical counsels are inseparable from the Commandments.

    And then later in stronger and more detailed language in sections 2443-2449 titled “Love For The Poor”:
    http://www.scborromeo.org/ccc/p3s2c2a7.htm#2443
    2443 God blesses those who come to the aid of the poor and rebukes those who turn away from them: “Give to him who begs from you, do not refuse him who would borrow from you”; “you received without pay, give without pay.” It is by what they have done for the poor that Jesus Christ will recognize his chosen ones. When “the poor have the good news preached to them,” it is the sign of Christ’s presence.

    2444 “The Church’s love for the poor . . . is a part of her constant tradition.” This love is inspired by the Gospel of the Beatitudes, of the poverty of Jesus, and of his concern for the poor. Love for the poor is even one of the motives for the duty of working so as to “be able to give to those in need.” It extends not only to material poverty but also to the many forms of cultural and religious poverty.

    2445 Love for the poor is incompatible with immoderate love of riches or their selfish use:

    Come now, you rich, weep and howl for the miseries that are coming upon you. Your riches have rotted and your garments are moth-eaten. Your gold and silver have rusted, and their rust will be evidence against you and will eat your flesh like fire. You have laid up treasure for the last days. Behold, the wages of the laborers who mowed your fields, which you kept back by fraud, cry out; and the cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord of hosts. You have lived on the earth in luxury and in pleasure; you have fattened your hearts in a day of slaughter. You have condemned, you have killed the righteous man; he does not resist you.

    2446 St. John Chrysostom vigorously recalls this: “Not to enable the poor to share in our goods is to steal from them and deprive them of life. The goods we possess are not ours, but theirs.” “The demands of justice must be satisfied first of all; that which is already due in justice is not to be offered as a gift of charity”:

    When we attend to the needs of those in want, we give them what is theirs, not ours. More than performing works of mercy, we are paying a debt of justice.

    2447 The works of mercy are charitable actions by which we come to the aid of our neighbor in his spiritual and bodily necessities. Instructing, advising, consoling, comforting are spiritual works of mercy, as are forgiving and bearing wrongs patiently. The corporal works of mercy consist especially in feeding the hungry, sheltering the homeless, clothing the naked, visiting the sick and imprisoned, and burying the dead. Among all these, giving alms to the poor is one of the chief witnesses to fraternal charity: it is also a work of justice pleasing to God:

    He who has two coats, let him share with him who has none and he who has food must do likewise.245 But give for alms those things which are within; and behold, everything is clean for you. If a brother or sister is ill-clad and in lack of daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what does it profit?

    2448 “In its various forms – material deprivation, unjust oppression, physical and psychological illness and death – human misery is the obvious sign of the inherited condition of frailty and need for salvation in which man finds himself as a consequence of original sin. This misery elicited the compassion of Christ the Savior, who willingly took it upon himself and identified himself with the least of his brethren. Hence, those who are oppressed by poverty are the object of a preferential love on the part of the Church which, since her origin and in spite of the failings of many of her members, has not ceased to work for their relief, defense, and liberation through numerous works of charity which remain indispensable always and everywhere.”248

    2449 Beginning with the Old Testament, all kinds of juridical measures (the jubilee year of forgiveness of debts, prohibition of loans at interest and the keeping of collateral, the obligation to tithe, the daily payment of the day-laborer, the right to glean vines and fields) answer the exhortation of Deuteronomy: “For the poor will never cease out of the land; therefore I command you, ‘You shall open wide your hand to your brother, to the needy and to the poor in the land.'” Jesus makes these words his own: “The poor you always have with you, but you do not always have me.” In so doing he does not soften the vehemence of former oracles against “buying the poor for silver and the needy for a pair of sandals . . .,” but invites us to recognize his own presence in the poor who are his brethren:

    When her mother reproached her for caring for the poor and the sick at home, St. Rose of Lima said to her: “When we serve the poor and the sick, we serve Jesus. We must not fail to help our neighbors, because in them we serve Jesus.

    Additionally, I came across a very well written explanation of the Christian relationship with and obligations concerning material wealth:
    https://questions.org/attq/does-jesus-expect-his-followers-to-give-up-all-of-their-possessions/

    **************************************************
    Hating our parents and other relatives.

    I believe this relates best to the question of discipleship and is addressed in the Catechism directly here:
    http://www.scborromeo.org/ccc/para/1816.htm
    1816 The disciple of Christ must not only keep the faith and live on it, but also profess it, confidently bear witness to it, and spread it: “All however must be prepared to confess Christ before men and to follow him along the way of the Cross, amidst the persecutions which the Church never lacks.” Service of and witness to the faith are necessary for salvation: “So every one who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven; but whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven.”

    Additionally, I came across another well written explanation of what is meant by “hating our parents…”:
    https://www.gotquestions.org/hate-father-mother.html

    **************************************************
    Loving our parents.

    While I’m unable to find anything in the Bible or the Catechism that literally states we must love our parents, the Bible has plenty to say about honoring and obeying our parents. Here’s how it’s explained in the Catechism in the section entitled “The duties of children” in sections 2214-2220:
    http://www.scborromeo.org/ccc/p3s2c2a4.htm#2214
    The duties of children

    2214 The divine fatherhood is the source of human fatherhood; this is the foundation of the honor owed to parents. The respect of children, whether minors or adults, for their father and mother is nourished by the natural affection born of the bond uniting them. It is required by God’s commandment.

    2215 Respect for parents (filial piety) derives from gratitude toward those who, by the gift of life, their love and their work, have brought their children into the world and enabled them to grow in stature, wisdom, and grace. “With all your heart honor your father, and do not forget the birth pangs of your mother. Remember that through your parents you were born; what can you give back to them that equals their gift to you?”

    2216 Filial respect is shown by true docility and obedience. “My son, keep your father’s commandment, and forsake not your mother’s teaching. . . . When you walk, they will lead you; when you lie down, they will watch over you; and when you awake, they will talk with you.” “A wise son hears his father’s instruction, but a scoffer does not listen to rebuke.”

    2217 As long as a child lives at home with his parents, the child should obey his parents in all that they ask of him when it is for his good or that of the family. “Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord.” Children should also obey the reasonable directions of their teachers and all to whom their parents have entrusted them. But if a child is convinced in conscience that it would be morally wrong to obey a particular order, he must not do so.

    As they grow up, children should continue to respect their parents. They should anticipate their wishes, willingly seek their advice, and accept their just admonitions. Obedience toward parents ceases with the emancipation of the children; not so respect, which is always owed to them. This respect has its roots in the fear of God, one of the gifts of the Holy Spirit.

    2218 The fourth commandment reminds grown children of their responsibilities toward their parents. As much as they can, they must give them material and moral support in old age and in times of illness, loneliness, or distress. Jesus recalls this duty of gratitude.

    For the Lord honored the father above the children, and he confirmed the right of the mother over her sons. Whoever honors his father atones for sins, and whoever glorifies his mother is like one who lays up treasure. Whoever honors his father will be gladdened by his own children, and when he prays he will be heard. Whoever glorifies his father will have long life, and whoever obeys the Lord will refresh his mother.
    O son, help your father in his old age, and do not grieve him as long as he lives; even if he is lacking in understanding, show forbearance; in all your strength do not despise him. . . . Whoever forsakes his father is like a blasphemer, and whoever angers his mother is cursed by the Lord.

    2219 Filial respect promotes harmony in all of family life; it also concerns relationships between brothers and sisters. Respect toward parents fills the home with light and warmth. “Grandchildren are the crown of the aged.” “With all humility and meekness, with patience, [support] one another in charity.”

    2220 For Christians a special gratitude is due to those from whom they have received the gift of faith, the grace of Baptism, and life in the Church. These may include parents, grandparents, other members of the family, pastors, catechists, and other teachers or friends. “I am reminded of your sincere faith, a faith that dwelt first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice and now, I am sure, dwells in you.”

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  37. unkleE says:

    Hi RWW,

    “Who has pointed out a misunderstanding and not corrected it?”

    I don’t know if I have misunderstood you or offended you. I don’t think so, but if I have, it wasn’t my intention, and I’m sorry.

    I didn’t make my choice to withdraw from discussion lightly, just as I didn’t tell you several times that you were misunderstanding me idly or in some attempt to gain some argumentative higher ground. I felt, and I still feel, that you have argued against things I am not saying.

    Going back over apparent misunderstandings can be tedious, but is necessary if a derailed conversation is to be constructive. But going back over misunderstandings of statements about misunderstandings is doubly tedious and generally (I have found) generates more heat than light. We seem to have reached that point.

    I tried several times to get things on track. I never accused you of deliberately misunderstanding, in fact I specifically said I didn’t think that. But I don’t feel that all the work necessary to agree on the truth of what was understood or misunderstood is likely to achieve its desired result.

    If you really want to continue and can offer some way forward that is based on what I have said, and doesn’t involve a long-winded self justification by each of us, I’m all ears.

    Thanks.

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  38. unkleE says:

    Hi MAT,

    That is an amazingly detailed answer. Thanks for going to all that trouble. I will assume that you agree with the Catholic references you quote.

    My reading of your answer can be summarised this way (if I have gotten anything wrong, please correct me):

    Cases where you accept the Biblical statements as applicable today:
    – Greed (but not sure if you apply it as Paul meant it)
    – Loving parents
    – No remarriage after divorce.

    Not accepted as fully applicable today”
    – Women silent in church.
    – Women have head covering when praying.
    – Men not having long hair.
    – Speaking in tongues
    – Prophesying
    – Hate parents – reinterpreted
    – Give up everything you have

    Comments:

    1. I have included re-marriage and divorce as being applicable today, but I must tell you of a close friend (not a Catholic) who was married for something like 20 years and had two children, and her husband had her marriage annulled by the Catholic Church, which allowed him to re-marry and stay in the Catholic education system which employed him. That sounds like not applying the teachings you have outlined. But I included it here because that is your belief, even if not the priests who dealt with this case.

    2. You give various reasons for not following many of the teachings today:

    – some you say were local custom, even though the passage talks about “nature itself” and “the custom of the churches”, which sound like more than local custom.
    – you are happy to re-interpret “hate your parents” and “give up everything you have”.
    – you don’t give tongues and prophecy the importance Paul did when he said “I want you all ….”.

    3. Therefore, I think this illustrates the point I was making. These were all direct commands in the NT, yet more than half you and the Church feel free to reinterpret and/or not follow closely.

    So my question therefore is, how can you be so certain that the commands on homosexuality are not open to reinterpretation if so many others are? Note again I’m not saying they should be, only that we have precedent to at least consider and pray about the possibility. And of course, reinterpretation doesn’t necessarily mean totally throw them out – there would be other options, though I’m still unclear about that.

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