So Tony Jones blogged the other day about our friend Adele and her new website/network Queermergent. Though Tony was simply mentioning the fact of its existence, his post erupted in a firestorm of angry blog comments from all sides (sigh). I came in kinda late, but there’s something I’ve been mulling over for about a year now that I think makes it possible for friends & followers of Jesus on all sides to have loving & courageous conversation about the matter. Or at the very least, when we all pause to take a breath, we can consider each other members of one family, and indeed one body.
Here’s what I say:
Well, I’m coming in on this discussion late – which is probably merciful. I think that, before posting on such things, we need to do a quick blood-pressure check. If its too high, then it’s probably not the Holy Spirit, no matter *what* our views on Subject XYZ are! What follows is not an attempt to change anyone’s mind about the sinfulness or blessedness of homosexual orientation and practice. We all have our perspectives, and they change like glaciers, not ice cubes. Rather, I want to lay out in as concise a manner as possible my own readings, prayer, and reflection in this these past few years, showing essentially four different options people of faith have in this regard. I’m pretty sure we all fall into one of these four understandings. My goal in showing them in a descriptive, matter-of-fact manner is to humanize all four perspectives, so that we don’t demonize one another.
Continue reading this over at Tony’s blog.
Meanwhile… Adam Walker Cleaveland is blogging about Jesus, the Bible, and Homosexuality by Jack Rogers. Here’s the Preulde, Chapter 1, Chapter 2, Chapter 3, Chapter 4, Chapter 5…chapters 6 and 7 forthcoming.
And, have you seen Andy Marin’s blog Love is an Orientation yet? http://love-is-an-orientation.blogspot.com/
Kudos to you, Mike, for having the patience to participate in a conversation that makes me want to gouge my eyes out with a potato peeler.
Why am I not surprised?
Mike, sound biblical study eloquently dismantles categories 2,3, and 4 of your taxonomy. I encourage you to check out http://www.robgagnon.net/
For instance, while ‘sociologists (which ones I’m not clear on) may agree that contemporary loving, monogamous homosexual orientation didn’t even exist until relatively contemporary times’, this view has been widely discredited within academic circles from a historic position (Robert A. Gagnon’s “The Bible and Homosexual Practice” will provide you with plenty of lurid details concerning ‘committed’ homosexual relationships from anitquity).
Oh, plus you missed one glaringly current fashionable argument: Homosexuality has a genetic component that biblical writers did not recognize. Even so, correlation has suggested genetic predisposition toward alcohol abuse…but does this make drunkenness any less sinful? Furthermore, by proffering the genetic defense one must then deny that heterosexuals can become homosexuals to be consistent with the orientation argument. Ultimately, scientific research reflects what Scripture and common sense have already told us, which is that human behavior results from a complex mixture of biological desires, family, environment, and individual choices.
It is interesting that emotivism (all ethical choices are based on preference) claims that the world is ahead of the church in regard to a compassionate spirituality of freedom. By this token God is doing a new thing in the way of progress. His truth is not tethered to the printed words of dead men. Unfortunately, emotivism fails to notice that the historically standard orthodox position actually does know more about human liberation through the application of real repentance and soteriological forgiveness. Jesus came to justify sinners not sin.
Finally, it is funny that the liberal churchmen who are normally addicted to pragmatic symbolism so quickly become hermeneutically conservative when it comes to the issue of homosexuality in the Bible. I find it most ironic and not a little dishonest when they look for authoritative proof for a behavior in a Bible which they’ve already concluded is errant, edited, and archaic. Why bother? I greatly prefer the person of homosexual orientation who openly mocks the Scriptures as opposed to those who purport to twist them.
Declaration of an eloquent demo job on all positions but one’s own seems a bit premature, especially when “sound biblical study” means different things to different people.
What if the church were to really embrace its authority for “binding and loosing” and take upon itself the divine mandate to extend grace when God comes to us as the Other? Not in a reckless, willy-nilly way that would have us blessing the vocations of axe murderers, but in a thoughtful, deliberate way that allows us to see the Spirit at work in changing social contexts.
Many of us have already seen it a matter of Biblical justice to extend rights to women, embracing them in leadership and preaching roles that Paul seems to have been less comfortable with, at least in his circumstances, and least in some of the texts attributed to him. Sometimes, of course, we do this by reinterpreting or rethinking or rehabilitating Paul, and in some kinds of Christian theology this forms part of the basic rules of discourse. We find our position in the founding texts as a way of legitimizing it — but the broad range of what we’ve found over the years betrays the ambiguity of such endeavors.
One can find a Paul who defends (or defines) orthodoxy just as well as one can find a homophobic, misogynistic Paul, or a liberating, progressive agent of social change. All of these Pauls are fictions, and the real Paul is unlikely to show up and settle the score. At some point it is tempting just to declare it a wash.
So of course we seek scriptural guidance but we’re always loading the dice, like playing eeny-meeny-miny-mo but carefully calculating the start position to get the answer we want. (Surely I’m not the only one who’s ever done this.)
The thing I wonder about — and maybe this is just fluffy, latte-swilling liberal malarkey — is the possibility that God is coming to the church today as a gay couple.
Now, where did I put that potato peeler?
Mike, I appreciate the patience and thoughtfulness you showed in outlining the various points of view on this issue. To me, the most important line you wrote is: “it’s possible to hold any of these four (really three) perspectives with love and integrity.”
“it’s possible to hold any of these four (really three) perspectives with love and integrity.”
Question 1: Does real love justify unrepentant sin or does it justify repentant sinners?
Question 2: Are you speaking about an integrity based on a lifestyle lived openly in reliance upon the righteousness of Christ or one which is lived openly in reliance upon one’s own self-acceptance?
Mike has directly described the positions as he sees them. Now, after asking these two questions I would assert that challenging dialogue and disagreement do not make for demonization. And, on the front end I don’t believe that my former comments on this thread or these sincere questions are demonizing or meant to demonize (at least this time, I don’t think I can always be honest about that).
What a topic. As someone who has committed the sin of homosexuality I must say that the unbridled forgiveness of Jesus Christ brought an experiential deliverance via faithful repentance. The gospel is not intimidated by the guilty.
While Christ is in the business of rescuing and restoring people who struggle with homosexuality I would not hesitate to say that most Evangelicals are homophobic. Furthermore, the sins of gossip or slander (which are spoken of just as directly and often as homosexuality in the Bible and which I have a tendency to practice from time to time) are often nearly ignored in Romans 1. We must be consistent in our hatred of sinful lifestyle. Many a nosy elder’s wife will prime up little gossip parties just as slimy as any Amsterdam bathhouse, “We should really pray for Mr. Jones, I mean you know he never puts a dime in the plate and I heard from Larry all about his tax issues..but that thing with his daughter…oh yeah, she came out of the closet. I always knew it, I can spot ’em, she was always just such a little tomboy.” I truly believe that these ones will be held just as accountable as Ellen Degeneres for embracing and promoting a lifestyle centered around specific sin. Even so, Paul does include the particular sin of homosexuality as a direct result of idolatry. I believe that the nature of this idolatry is self-worship, psychological egoism, and a moral solipsism stemming from humankind’s total pollution by sin.
Jesus did not come to teach humans how to accept themselves, live authentically out of their innate identities, or discover the key to self-esteem. God chose to show humans that he accepts us because his Son lived authentically out of His innate identity as a sacrificial Lamb. This man Jesus identifies with humans by taking our sin and handing us rightness, to give us a NEW identity. His perfect obedience, even to death on a cross, is a torture that human negligence deserves. Redemption accomplished and now applied. Ah, not fair, not fair! True…Grace isn’t fair…no…its better than fair.
But, this substitution now gives humans a key to (instead of self-esteem) Christ-esteem. This key opens a union with a Savior. This union makes possible a lifestyle which pulls our eyes off of our idols. A lifestyle that just quits attempting to justify whatever sort of activity that we think makes us who we are. But, instead rests in an ever enfolding freedom of forgiveness. Instead we are carried along by faith…not some nebulous, non-specific belief, but an active philosophy based on a Person….a Person who constantly and consistently tells us, reminding us, that He makes us who we are. Beloved.
I am tired of debating… I just want to learn how to love more and better.
Good! The best way to that is to say to people what Jesus said: “I don’t condemn you either. Now go and sin no more.”
Wow- just wow. Thank you. well and eloquently said.