Sunday, March 20, 2011

Soulforce on the Bible and Homosexuality

A pro-gay Christian perspective on the Bible.

50 comments:

steve said...

Here's the now-standard counterargument:

http://www.robgagnon.net/

Anonymous said...

Do you need the Bible to tell you that homosexuality is wrong? It's obviously sick.

William Watson Birch said...

The Leviticus Codes: I am so glad that all of those codes are now void, because sex with animals and those in my immediate family is finally permissible! Oh, what I have been missing.

Anonymous said...

The Leviticus Codes: I am so glad that all of those codes are now void, because wearing cotton/polyester blended clothing and eating shrimp is finally permissible! Oh, what I have been missing.

BenYachov said...

**Cough!****Cough!****Cough!****Cough!****Cough!**

Natural Law!

**Cough!**

BenYachov said...

>DEUTERONOMY 25:11-12
If a man gets into a fight with another man and his wife seeks to rescue her husband by grabbing the enemy's genitals, her hand shall be cut off and no pity shall be shown her.

According to both Rashi and Maimonides the phrase hand shall be cut off is a metaphor for imposing a harsh fine. They also said anyone who imposes this fine literally will be guilty of a capital crime and deserve death by strangulation.

Now I think this is plausible unless someone can comes up with a case from the Talmud or the Mishnah that shows this law was ever enforced literally.

As for homosexuality I do remember reading somewhere there are no cases of these laws being enforced literally.

But there are a host of stories in the Talmud of Rabbis encountering two men having at it in some isolated area of the world & the men threatening the life of the Rabbi.

BenYachov said...

continue..

In those cases the two "gay" Jewish men would say to the Rabbi who caught them "Remember Rabbi we are both two & you are but one". The threat here was two false witnesses can put a man to death by testifying falsely they have committed a crime.

One last point. Homosexuality (being sexually attracted to the same sex) is not a sin that demands a death penalty. It's the sin of two men having anal sex in public that demands a death penalty. Other gay & Lesbian sex acts are called immoral licentiousness but not abominations.

BenYachov said...

Edit & Correction:

They also said anyone who imposes this penalty literally will be guilty of a capital crime and deserve death by strangulation.

Mr Veale said...

I was stunned by James Barr’s dismissal of the revisionist case in “Biblical Faith and Natural Theology Referring to Boswell, Barr states “Interesting as his work is in its gathering of material from the history, in its handling of biblical texts and above all in its arguments from specific biblical words I can only say that I find it to be staggering in the degree of its misjudgement.”. I then found a similar dismissal of Boswell in Richard Evans “In Defence of History”. (p222).

Graham

Mr Veale said...

Ben Witherington argues that enough is enough.

Mr Veale said...

It seems that scholars writing from a secular or liberal viewpoint have no qualms in dismissing revisionism.

My problem with revisionism is that it is a priori extremely unlikely that Paul, as a first Century Jewish Rabbi, would believe that homosexual relationships were acceptable; so the a posteriori evidence for tolerance on Paul’s part would need to be very powerful to sustain revisionism. But the evidence is that Paul is relying on the critique ‘from nature’ prompted by Jewish and Graeco-Roman moralists.
For example, note the strong similarity between Paul’s argument in Romans 1 and Josephus polemic in Contra Apion., ii. 199

The law recognizes only one kind of sexual intercourse, the natural one, that [of a man] with a woman, and this [only] if it is to take place for the sake of having children. It abominates intercourse of men with men, and death is the punishment if anyone attempts it.

Mr Veale said...

Given the a priori probability that Paul would not have approved of homosexual activity, the evidence that Paul was endorsing a more permissive view would need
in Romans One would need to be very strong. But this is not the case. The mention of lesbianism, and mutual desire, rules out any possibility that Paul was condemning Temple prostitution or pederastry.

And, as it happens, Paul would have been aware of consenting same-sex relationships. This is why Martha Nussbaum’s testimony to the Colorado Supreme Court in 1993 was cited.

“…in all of these [pre-Christian Mediterranean] traditions and civilizations, same-sex romantic relationships, attachments, and sexual conduct were highly regarded. . . .Such relationships were never considered shameful.”

“…in Greek culture of the fifth and fourth centuries b.c., and on, really, through to the first century a.d. where Christianity starts to have a big impact, homosexual acts between consenting males, and in rarer cases between consenting females, are attested as received with great approval.”

What seems to be at work in revisionism is a "postmodern" conviction that any coherent explanation, supported the requisite scholarship, should be given parity of esteem with more probable explanations. Or that less oppressive readings should be preferred to more probable readings.

If you want to endorse homosexuality, fine. But let Paul be Paul. Stop censoring him in the name of political correctness.

Graham

Anonymous said...

I'll be sad to see one of favorite modus tollenses of the infallibility of The Bible go, but it might be nice to see a drop off in mindless bigotry (e.g., 3/21/2011 @ 7:09 AM).

John W. Loftus said...

But wait, Christians have reinvented what they think the Bible says about, well, most everything, from women being silent, to slavery, racism, science, cosmology, religious freedom, hell, exclusive salvation, and so forth.

Why not let them do their thing? You might appreciate it in a few decades and embrace it too, like Christianities always have done.

Don't knock it. This is how it's done!

Only the utterly ignorant think otherwise.

Mr Veale said...

Wow. The Bible has an opinion on Science. And racism.

Can anyone spell anachronism?

Shackleman said...

When last I checked, Jesus died for all of us, not just for the righteous. If he had died only for the latter, not one of us would be forgiven, for none of us are sinless.

There are no exclusions for homosexuals in John 3:16-17

"For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him."

Mr Veale said...

I never said that there were. So I hope that wasn't directed at me.

Anonymous said...

Mr Veal(e),

I had some veal for tea last night. It was marvelous.

Thought you'd like to know.

Yours,
Anon

Shackleman said...

@Mr. Veale:

"I never said that there were. So I hope that wasn't directed at me."

**sigh** Come on now, Mr. Veale.

The point of a public forum like this is to share ideas and to inspire thoughts and then, hopefully, engage in dialog about them.

I did not direct *anything* at you, but if I had, so what? Isn't the POINT of your posts to inspire people to think and then share their thoughts in return?

So sensitive.

As to the content of my comment...do you agree? If so, do you see why it might be important, in a thread with a lot of negativity about homosexuality (including suggestions to put them to death), that it might be beneficial to point out the sacrifice Jesus made for us...*all* of us? Or should we sit back and not share the Good News of God's grace and let those who would cast stones have the only voice on this blog?

unkleE said...

I feel christians on either side are not behaving very christianly about this. We seem to resort to arguing, bickering and even name-calling when we all know these will tend to polarise rather than bring resolution. If peace is going to come among christians on this issue, whether we eventually all agree or not, whether we endorse one view or the other, it requires prayer, repentance, and, very importantly, the guidance of the Spirit on how these difficult questions should be approached. It would be nice to think we could exhibit some of those qualities in this discussion, and see how the Spirit leads.

Mr Veale said...

Can we back up a bit?

Of course I agree that Christ died for every human being without exception. That has no bearing on what behaviour the Bible does or does not approve of.

I had typed something about me being every bit as fallen as any homosexual; then I thought "no, that would be horribly patronising to any homosexual reading these comments". So I deleted it.

I have said nothing more than James Barr (a liberal Christian theologian) and Richard Evans (an agnostic historian) have said. Revisionism doesn't work. You have to break company with Paul if you wish to condone homosexual relationships. This wasn't a throwaway remark on Paul's part. It was "written into the DNA" of how he thought about creation and the Fall.

There are Christian Theists on this blog who might be quite happy to say "Paul got this wrong." So I'm not arguing that this settles the issue (although it does for me as an evangelical). But, for the moment, I'm just saying let Paul be Paul. If you disagree with him, fine.

Graham

Mr Veale said...

I'm pretty sure that Ben Yachov is just making some points about Rabbinic tradition; I don't think that he's making suggestions for modern penal codes.

Mr Veale said...

UncleE

I admire, and empathise with, those sentiments. But the Spirit can't make Paul's words mean something else, and people need guidance on this immediately.

I'm not taking anything personally. I'm treating this as an academic discussion. And I'm just trying to say that rejecting revisionism does not have any implications for the extent of the atonement.

Anonymous said...

"If peace is going to come among christians on this issue, whether we eventually all agree or not, whether we endorse one view or the other, it requires prayer, repentance, and, very importantly, the guidance of the Spirit on how these difficult questions should be approached."

Hardly. The difference is between those who don't want to follow Scripture and those who do. It's not a difficult question, or it shouldn't be, if you are a Christian.

Shackleman said...

My Pastor once told me "In the face of what Jesus has to say, I don't give a rip what Paul has to say".

From an academic standpoint, where there is *potential* conflict (I think the conflict is human interpretation, not within scripture itself per se), Jesus, His sacrifice, and his grace, trumps all.

So, while people shouldn't steal, or lie, or arguably partake in homosexual acts, one's salvation does not hinge upon one's abstention from those behaviors, no matter how immoral. One's salvation hinges on grace alone, justified by faith.

Academically speaking, I think this issue of homosexuality is a red-herring which keeps people's hearts and minds on things that don't ultimately matter. These issues detract from the true messages of Hope, Grace, ***Forgiveness***, and Love, that is the Good News.

This issue is particularly important to me because it's fracturing my church (ELCA), and I'm heartsick at how Christians are reacting in such unloving and unforgiving ways toward one another.

GREV said...

Mr. Shackleman:

As much as I appreciate what you have written in the past, your Pastor is dead wrong when he or she says --

"My Pastor once told me "In the face of what Jesus has to say, I don't give a rip what Paul has to say".

Also, while salvation does rest on grace. A person saved by grace will want their life to reflect the transforming grace of God. Which is the sole purpose of Christ saving us. So our lives may show forth the grace of God to the glory of God. Bearing in mind the struggles we will experience in doing so. So the following argument does not work for me --

"So, while people shouldn't steal, or lie, or arguably partake in homosexual acts, one's salvation does not hinge upon one's abstention from those behaviors, no matter how immoral. One's salvation hinges on grace alone, justified by faith."

For faith without works is dead.

I do agree that homosexuality and other issues are often red herrings. That Christians often concentrate on the things they do not do or dislike without bothering to look at themselves and how they are either surrendering themselves to rightousness or surrendering themselves to sin.

Now that last part comes from the Apostle Paul, who is important to this discussion but I will only say it is found in Romans.

BenYachov said...

>As to the content of my comment...do you agree? If so, do you see why it might be important, in a thread with a lot of negativity about homosexuality (including suggestions to put them to death),

I thought I made it plain the Bible did not as it was historically understood teach we must put homosexuals to death for beig gay.

At worst if two men have anal sex in public (& it doesn't matter if they are gay, bi or straight with an experimental mentality) they would be subject to the death penalty.

If a gentile man had anal sex in public with his wife they would be put to death. A Jewish man who did the same would not be put to death for that specific crime(do to a weird legal convention) but could be executed for imitating the actions of idolaters.

If course if you want to commit suicide by committing unnatural acts in public as it says in the Bible you are responsible for your own death. Smart sinners who want to live rent a room.

BenYachov said...

>I'm pretty sure that Ben Yachov is just making some points about Rabbinic tradition; I don't think that he's making suggestions for modern penal codes.

Pretty much yeh. I was jsut trying to debunk the gay myth that homosexuals feared for their lives in ancient Israel. They didn't.

Shackleman said...

Mr. Grev,

My Pastor was being flippant and making a point. He wasn't diminishing Paul's importance, but suggesting, and I agree, that if a person finds themselves in theological tension between two sets of ideas, then follow Jesus. Period. Would you agree?

I'm coming at this not as a scholar or theologian or pastor, but as a layperson. The scholars can and will debate the issue of homosexuality. But me, just a simple man who goes to church to do the best I can, I'm not going to engage in exegesis. I'm not going to pick apart the finer details in Paul's message, or quote mine particular passages in Leviticus---I'm just going to follow Jesus. And when I keep my heart and mind on him, the issue of homosexuality seems so diminished. It seems so much less important for me. When I hear Jesus, I'm left with the impression that when all else fails, I should love my neighbor, forgive them their trespasses, and work on the plank in my own eye, not the spec in theirs.

This is the point for me, and the reason I thought I'd chime in on this thread. There are onlookers here who will likely get, or already have, the impression that Christianity is an intolerant, gay-bashing, hateful bunch. My angle is mostly from the outside because I *was* on the outside. If we leave this thread to be only an academic pursuit of just how wrong or sinful gay people are, we will be diminishing the Good News.

I believe strongly that the more we in-fight about what *other* people should do or not do, the more we *detract* from the messages of love and grace that God has given us through Christ.

If all of scripture should be viewed through the lens of John 3:16, then all of our conversations should too, and that's all I'm doing.

GREV said...

Mr. Shackleman:

I am glad that your Pastor was being flippant. In this age of the "autonomous self" -- where I am the sole reference point for determining what is right and wrong, one never knows when one is being flippant or not.

So the clarification is important.

That said ... as a Pastor myself ... I cannot see the need to posit such a dichotomy between Jesus and Paul. Being flippant or not the division is just not there.

And it would be not there if more followed what you write here --

"When I hear Jesus, I'm left with the impression that when all else fails, I should love my neighbor, forgive them their trespasses, and work on the plank in my own eye, not the spec in theirs."

Could not agree more.

Paul preached about the need to live a Transformed Life in Jesus. Jesus invited people to come and follow Him. I fail to see how the two might be in tension when one meditates on the Scripture and seeks guidance in the context of discussion and prayer with fellow believers.

I recall well a conversation with a more right wing Christian fundie type who demanded a black and white answer from me on this issue of homosexuality.

When I did not immediately offer the emphatic God hates fags and burn them all, she gave me such a withering look of judgement and to this day has trouble talking in a civil manner with me.

There but by the grace of God ....

Continue to follow after Christ but I would always say that right practice must always be framed by right thinking. For myself. For anyone.

GREV said...

"I believe strongly that the more we in-fight about what *other* people should do or not do, the more we *detract* from the messages of love and grace that God has given us through Christ."

Another very good point that deserves commendation.

I hope soon to be situated in a city pastorate and intend to pursue a more focused ministry to those groups who make the Church uncomfortable.

John W. Loftus said...

Hey Vic, do a post on what best explains why people who call themselves Christians cannot agree with each other. It's amusing to me to see them disagree no matter what the level of discussion.

BenYachov said...

>Hey Vic, do a post on what best explains why people who call themselves Christians cannot agree with each other.

St. Augustine didn't agree with St Basel on the nature of the Days in Genesis One. The Thomists don't agree with the Scotus.

An Strong Atheist does not agree with a weak Atheist on wither or not you can know god(s) don't exist.

So what is your point if any?

Shackleman said...

Just to be even more clear, my Pastor wasn't setting up a dichotomy between Jesus and Paul. His flippant remark was in direct response to a person asking about how one should go about deciding who was right in theological debates when presented with quote-mined passages that seem in conflict with one another. Again, in the ELCA this is a present topic and we all knew that the question was really asking about homosexuality.

The person asked "So, if Paul says X, but in Leviticus it says Y, what do we believe?".

To which he responded as he did, and again reminded us at the table that when in doubt, follow Jesus. Period. End of story.

Most of us don't bother with the details. I think that's a sad reality. So when two or more are gathered and engage in discussion about "hot-button" issues like homosexuality, I don't think exegesis helps much. Chances are, we laypeople couldn't do it anyway. But I do think my Pastor's reminder does help. Follow Jesus, judge not, and love thy neighbor. The rest will work itself out.

GREV said...

Paul said the following:

1Cor 11:1 Be imitators of me, just as I also am of Christ.

So again I must state -- there is nothing to be gained by somehow saying we must just follow Jesus as if Paul is going to be saying something different from Jesus.

So anybody setting that forth as some great guide is positing something that doesn't exist -- a difference between Paul and Jesus on what it means to obey the will of God and do the work He has given us to do.

Mr Veale said...

It's ironic that every time I express my opinion on this at least one Christian rushes in to take the speck out of my eye. Very helpful of them.

Mr Veale said...

Postmodernists generally don't claim that texts can say anything that we want them to; frankly I'm fed up with evangelicals claiming that this is what postmodern historiography is claiming.

Rather the postmodern tendency is to claim that all scholarly readings are equal; or that *possible* readings are equal with more probable readings. While not all revisionists consciously take this position, and some consciously reject it, it does seem to have kept revisionism alive and thriving (especially in Emergent circles.)

There is no evidence that Paul was expressing anything other than the standard rabbinic horror at gentile sexual ethics. This is not like texts on the role of women in one Church - Corinth. Paul was expressing his thoughts on a type of activity.

The plain, common sense, reading of Paul is that he didn't approve of homosexual activity. And the plain, common sense reading of the Bible is that God doesn't approve of homosexual relationships. Now that doesn't settle the issue. But it isn't traditionalists who are turning academic somersaults.

Now, if you want to argue that Paul was mistaken, and that he hadn't reflected enough on the nature of grace and love, fine. That's your right. And we can go on to discuss views of revelation and authority. And we should do that in a polite, respectful way. I've heard how some conservative /centrist evangelicals treat their opponents and, frankly, I wish that they'd stay off my side. (Tom Wright has some very good advice for Christians facing these disputes in their denomination...a lot of it is on YouTube, if memory serves).

But in finding a way forward on the authority of Scripture, and in resolving Church disputes peacefully, we can't force Paul to say something that he did not say. We should have more respect for the truth. That's all I'm asking for here.

Graham

Mr Veale said...

One more thing....

I think that you need to deal with the evidence when stating that this is just a matter of interpetation. I'm also bewildered by the statement "I don't think exegesis helps much. Chances are, we laypeople couldn't do it anyway." I'm not happy with any sort of elitism; and these issues are not so abstract that a layperson can't get his head around them by consulting commentaries. I think that you've a right to an informed opinion, and as it happens, you seem to be expressing one.

Again, the fact that scholars disagree doesn't signify much.Christian Scholars disagree on all sorts of important subjects from extramarital sex to religious pluralism to the deity of Christ. Do we reserve judgment on all of these? Peter Rollins, Don Cuppitt (and many other scholars) aren't even convinced that a Christian is committed to Theism! Do we reserve judgment?

Mr Veale said...

Out of curiosity ...


Paul and Jesus both reasoned from the same text in the same way when dealing with sexual ethics. So where is the clash between Paul and Jesus on this issue? Or is the clash on a different issue?

Graham

Shackleman said...

Mr. Grev,

What I took from my Pastor's words was a sense of pastoral care, not academic pursuit. He was saying that if one, a parishioner, is having difficulties or internal struggles over what to do and how to live out the meaning of scripture, then when in doubt, go back to Jesus. I'm not sure why that's at all contentious.

Again, this was in context of the homosexuality issue which is fracturing the ELCA. It's a painful thing our church is going through right now, and he's reminding everyone to keep their eyes on the prize of the Good News.

To suggest he was setting up a dichotomy between Christ and Paul is a failure of *mine*, not his. He wasn't doing any such thing. I evidently failed to express his instruction properly.

Shackleman said...

Mr. Veale,

"It's ironic that every time I express my opinion on this at least one Christian rushes in to take the speck out of my eye. Very helpful of them."

I assume this was meant for me, yes? If so, all I'd say is that someone offering a different perspective, or someone offering respectful disagreement is in no way fishing for your flaws. It's just dialog, man. It's how we grow and learn.

Should we all just rush in and express our agreement with you?

Let me be clear...and disagree if you must, that's fine...**while** we're discussing the "apparent" abomination of homosexuality, can we please at least be reminded of God's grace and love, or should we simply just shout damnation from the hilltops and leave it at that?

Shackleman said...

Mr. Veale,

"There is no evidence that Paul was expressing anything other than the standard rabbinic horror at gentile sexual ethics. This is not like texts on the role of women in one Church - Corinth. Paul was expressing his thoughts on a type of activity"

Let's assume for sake of argument that you're correct and homosexuality is an abomination. What then? Are homosexuals barred from salvation?

If your answer is no, that homosexuals are not necessarily barred from salvation, then why all the fuss?

Shackleman said...

Mr. Veale,

"Paul and Jesus both reasoned from the same text in the same way when dealing with sexual ethics. So where is the clash between Paul and Jesus on this issue? Or is the clash on a different issue? "

I beg to differ. Jesus reasoned from his divinity, not from any text. He didn't need any book to study. Or is that not what you meant?

Shackleman said...

Mr. Veale,

Last one for now. :-)

"I think that you need to deal with the evidence when stating that this is just a matter of interpetation. I'm also bewildered by the statement "I don't think exegesis helps much. Chances are, we laypeople couldn't do it anyway." I'm not happy with any sort of elitism; and these issues are not so abstract that a layperson can't get his head around them by consulting commentaries. I think that you've a right to an informed opinion, and as it happens, you seem to be expressing one. "

I'm trying not to do much interpretation for myself. I'm trying to let the Word speak for itself, with help from prayer number one, and help from my clergy and other theologians too.

As I read what people have sited here, I'm inclined to agree with you that homosexuality is a sin.

My only point is, I'm not sure why it matters so much! There aren't any church congregations, fracturing over divorce, which is also, as I understand a sin. They're not fracturing over pre-marital sex. Also, as I understand it, a sin. Why does the homosexual issue drive such a wedge?

"Again, the fact that scholars disagree doesn't signify much."

That's precisely the point I'm trying to make. If even scholars can't agree, what hope do we laypersons have? *This* is why my pastor advised, if *I* can't figure it out, if I can't make heads or tails of the competing scholars, then I should just put the issue aside. It gets in the way of the really important stuff---Christ's atonement and by it God's forgiveness of my sins. Would you agree that that's paramount? If so, why so much angst and ink spilled over one singular sin in a pool of millions of sins? (That's not directed at you, by the way! It's a collective question).

GREV said...

Mr. Shackleman:

"My only point is, I'm not sure why it matters so much! There aren't any church congregations, fracturing over divorce, which is also, as I understand a sin. They're not fracturing over pre-marital sex. Also, as I understand it, a sin. Why does the homosexual issue drive such a wedge?"

Don't you know the church people don't want to discuss their Respectable Sins or to put a roadblock in the way of unmarried couples who are coming to church?

Trevor said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Shackleman said...

Quite a profound quip Mr. Grev!

Mr Veale said...

Shack

Er, right. I think we're having a violent agreement!

We're agreed that homosexual activity is not allowed. Neither is extramarital heterosexual activity. As is soft pornography. Why the focus on homosexuality and not other issues? I don't know, Vic posted the thread. I thought we'd be discussing Rob Bell by now...

A few caveats

1) I wouldn't worry too much about revisionist scholarship...although, as always, revisionism has forced us to think through Paul's creation theology (which was the same as Jesus'), and examine how he agreed and disagreed with other thinkers of the period. That's always helpful.
2) The incarnation means that Jesus was fully God and fully human. That means that he was a first century Jewish Rabbi. We have to locate Jesus within history, and not rip his words and actions out of the historical context that gives them their meaning.

Graham

Mr Veale said...

Oh, I wouldn't call homosexual sin an "abomination". KJV language, doesn't get to the meaning of toe'vah (apparently).

I don't think that homosexuality is any more twisted than the current heterosexual obsession with soft porn. Or with the male heterosexual obsession with female bisexuality, as it happens. (Katy Perry, Linsay Lohan, Angelina Jolie, Megan Fox all using it to increase their male fan base. Lot's of people in glass houses casting the first stone on this issue.)

Graham

Shackleman said...

Mr. Veale,

Thanks for the discussion and clarification. I think you're right and we agree! :-) Perhaps just different emphasis due to our different experiences, and well, the fact that I don't really know what I'm talking about! (Seriously).

I enjoyed the banter, and the education. Thanks all!