Matthew vines speech: recent debate....... Blown away

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    May 11, 2012 2:12 PM GMT

    Twitter: @VinesMatthew / Facebook: matthew.vines.
    Alright, I’d just like to start by saying thank you to everybody for coming tonight – I really appreciate it – and for being interested in learning more about this subject. I also want to thank College Hill United Methodist for graciously agreeing to host the event. My name is Matthew Vines, I’m 21 years old, and I’m currently a student in college, although I’ve been on leave for most of the last two years in order to study the material that I’ll be presenting tonight. I was born and raised here in Wichita, in a loving Christian home and in a church community that holds to the traditional interpretation of Scripture on this subject.
    Just to offer a brief outline for this presentation: I’ll start by considering some of the broader issues and divisions that are behind this debate; and then I’ll move to a closer examination of the main biblical texts that are involved in it; and then I’ll offer some concluding remarks. The issue of homosexuality, of the ordination of gay clergy and of the blessing of same-sex unions, has caused tremendous divisions in the church in recent decades, and the church remains substantially divided over the issue today. On the one hand, the most common themes voiced by those who support changing traditional church teaching on homosexuality are those of acceptance, inclusion, and love, while on the other hand, those who oppose these changes express concerns about sexual purity, holiness, and most fundamentally, the place of Scripture in our communities. Are we continuing to uphold the Bible as authoritative, and are we taking biblical teachings seriously, even if they make us uncomfortable?
    I want to begin tonight by considering the traditional interpretation of Scripture on this subject, in part because its conclusions have a much longer history within the church, and also because I think that many who adhere to that position feel that those who are arguing for a new position haven’t yet put forth theological arguments that are as well-grounded in Scripture as their own, in which case the most biblically sound position should prevail.
    The traditional interpretation, in summary form, is this: There are six passages in the Bible that refer in some way to same-sex behavior, and they are all negative. Three of them are direct and clear. In the Old Testament, in Leviticus, male same-sex relations are prohibited, and labeled an “abomination.” And in the New Testament, in Romans, Paul speaks of women “exchanging natural relations for unnatural ones,” and of men abandoning “natural relations with women and committing shameful acts with other men.” And so according to the traditional interpretation, both the Old and the New Testament are consistent in their rejection of same-sex relationships. But it’s not just those three verses, as well as three others that I’ll come to later. It’s true that 6 verses isn’t all that many out of Scripture’s 31,000. But not only are they all negative, from the traditional viewpoint, they gain broader meaning and coherence from the opening chapters of Genesis, in which God creates Adam and Eve, male and female. That was the original creation – before the fall, before sin entered the world. That was the way that things were supposed to be. And so according to this view, if someone is gay, then their sexual orientation is a sign of the fall, a sign of human fallenness and brokenness. That was not the way that things were supposed to be. And while having a same-sex orientation is not in and of itself a sin, according to the traditional interpretation, acting upon it is, because the Bible is clear, both in what it negatively prohibits and in what it positively approves. Christians who are gay – those who are only attracted to members of the same sex – are thus called to refrain from acting on those attractions, to deny themselves, to take up their crosses and to follow Christ. And though it may not seem fair to us, God’s ways are higher than our own, and it’s not our role to question, but to obey.
    Within this framework, gay people have a problem, and that is that they want to have sex with the wrong people. They tend to be viewed as essentially lustful, sexual beings. So while straight people fall in love, get married, and start families, gay people just have sex. But everyone has a sexual orientation – and it isn’t just about sex. Straight people are never really forced to think about their sexual orientation as a distinctive characteristic, but it’s still a part of them, and it affects an enormous amount of their lives. What sexual orientation is for straight people is their capacity for romantic love and self-giving. It’s not just about sexual attraction and behavior. It’s because we have a sexual orientation that we’re able to fall in love with someone, to build a long-term, committed relationship with them, and to form a family. Family is not about sex, but for so many of us, it still depends upon having a companion, a spouse. And that’s true for gay people as well as for straight people. That is what sexual orientation means for them, too. Gay people have the very same capacity for romantic love and self-giving that straight people do. The emotional bond that gay couples share, the quality of love, is identical to that of straight couples. Gay people, like almost all of us, come from families, and they, too, long to build one of their own.
    But the consequence of the traditional interpretation of the Bible is that, while straight people are told to avoid lust, casual relationships, and promiscuity, gay people are told to avoid romantic relationships entirely. Straight people’s sexuality is seen as a fundamentally good thing, as a gift. It can be used in sinful or irresponsible ways, but it can also be harnessed and oriented toward a loving marriage relationship that will be blessed and celebrated by their community. But gay people, though they are capable of and desire loving relationships that are just as important to them, are told that, for them, even lifelong, committed relationships would be sinful, because their sexual orientation is completely broken. It’s not an issue of lust versus love, or of casual versus committed relationships, because same-sex relationships are intrinsically sinful, no matter the quality and no matter the context. Gay people’s sexual orientation is so broken, so messed up that nothing good can come from it – no morally good, godly relationship could ever come from it. And so they are told that they will never have a romantic bond that will be celebrated by their community; they are told that they will never have a family.
    Philippians 2:4 tells us to look not only to our own interests, but also to the interests of others. And in Matthew 5, Jesus instructs that if someone makes you go one mile, go with them two miles. And so I’m going to ask you: Would you step into my shoes for a moment, and walk with me just one mile, even if it makes you a bit uncomfortable? I am gay. I didn’t choose to be gay. It’s not something that I would have chosen, not because it’s necessarily a bad thing to be, but because it’s extremely inconvenient, it’s stressful, it’s difficult, and it can often be isolating and lonely – to be different, to feel not understood, to feel not accepted. I grew up in as loving and stable of a family and home as I can imagine. I love my parents, and I have strong relationships with them both. No one ever molested or abused me growing up, and I couldn’t have asked for a more supportive and nurturing childhood than the one that I had. I’ve never been in a relationship, and I’ve always believed in abstinence until marriage. But I also have a deeply-rooted desire to one day be married, to share my life with someone, and to build a family of my own.
    But according to the traditional interpretation of Scripture, as a Christian, I am uniquely excluded from that possibility for love, for companionship, and for fam
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    May 11, 2012 2:17 PM GMT
    But according to the traditional interpretation of Scripture, as a Christian, I am uniquely excluded from that possibility for love, for companionship, and for family. But unlike someone who senses a calling from God to celibacy, or unlike a straight person who just can’t find the right partner, I don’t sense a special calling to celibacy, and I may well find someone I grow to love and would like to spend the rest of my life with. But if that were to happen, following the traditional interpretation, if I were to fall in love with someone, and if those feelings were reciprocated, my only choice would be to walk away, to break my heart, and retreat into isolation, alone. And this wouldn’t be just a one-time heartbreak. It would continue throughout my entire life. Whenever I came to know someone whose company I really enjoyed, I would always fear that I might come to like them too much, that I might come to love them. And within the traditional interpretation of Scripture, falling in love is one of the worst things that could happen to a gay person. Because you will necessarily be heartbroken, you will have to run away, and that will happen every single time that you come to care about someone else too much. So while you watch your friends fall in love, get married, and start families, you will always be left out. You will never share in those joys yourself – of a spouse and of children of your own. You will always be alone.

    Well, that’s certainly sad, some might say, and I’m sorry for that. But you cannot elevate your experience over the authority of Scripture in order to be happy. Christianity isn’t about you being happy. It’s not about your personal fulfillment. Sacrifice and suffering were integral to the life of Christ, and as Christians, we’re called to deny ourselves, to take up our crosses, and to follow Him. This is true. But it assumes that there’s no doubt about the correctness of the traditional interpretation of Scripture on this subject, which I’m about to explore. And already, two major problems have presented themselves with that interpretation. The first problem is this: In Matthew 7, in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus warns against false teachers, and he offers a principle that can be used to test good teaching from bad teaching. By their fruit, you will recognize them, he says. Every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. Good teachings, according to Jesus, have good consequences. That doesn’t mean that following Christian teaching will or should be easy, and in fact, many of Jesus’s commands are not easy at all – turning the other cheek, loving your enemies, laying down your life for your friends. But those are all profound acts of love that both reflect God’s love for us and that powerfully affirm the dignity and worth of human life and of human beings. Good teachings, even when they are very difficult, are not destructive to human dignity. They don’t lead to emotional and spiritual devastation, and to the loss of self-esteem and self-worth. But those have been the consequences for gay people of the traditional teaching on homosexuality. It has not borne good fruit in their lives, and it’s caused them incalculable pain and suffering. If we’re taking Jesus seriously that bad fruit cannot come from a good tree, then that should cause us to question whether the traditional teaching is correct.

    The second problem that has already presented itself with the traditional interpretation comes from the opening chapters of Genesis, from the account of the creation of Adam and Eve. This story is often cited to argue against the blessing of same-sex unions: in the beginning, God created a man and a woman, and two men or two women would be a deviation from that design. But this biblical story deserves closer attention. In the first two chapters of Genesis, God creates the heavens and the earth, plants, animals, man, and everything in the earth. And He declares everything in creation to be either good or very good – except for one thing. In Genesis 2:18, God says, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.” And yes, the suitable helper or partner that God makes for Adam is Eve, a woman. And a woman is a suitable partner for the vast majority of men – for straight men. But for gay men, that isn’t the case. For them, a woman is not a suitable partner. And in all of the ways that a woman is a suitable partner for straight men—for gay men, it’s another gay man who is a suitable partner. And the same is true for lesbian women. For them, it is another lesbian woman who is a suitable partner. But the necessary consequence of the traditional teaching on homosexuality is that, even though gay people have suitable partners, they must reject them, and they must live alone for their whole lives, without a spouse or a family of their own. We are now declaring good the very first thing in Scripture that God declared not good: for the man to be forced to be alone. And the fruit that this teaching has borne has been deeply wounding and destructive.

    This is a major problem. By holding to the traditional interpretation, we are now contradicting the Bible’s own teachings: the Bible teaches that it is not good for the man to be forced to be alone, and yet now, we are teaching that it is. Scripture says that good teachings will bear good fruit, but now, the reverse is occurring, and we say it’s not a problem. Something here is off; something is out of place. And it’s because of these problems and these contradictions that more and more Christians have been going back to Scripture and re-examining the 6 verses that have formed the basis for an absolute condemnation of same-sex relationships. Can we go back, can we take a closer look at these verses, and see what we can learn from further study of them?

    What are these 6 verses? There are three in the Old Testament and three in the New Testament, so I’ll go in order of their appearance in Scripture. In the Old Testament, we have the story of the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah in Genesis 19 as well as two prohibitions in Leviticus 18 and 20. And in the New Testament, we have a passage by Paul in Romans 1, as well as two Greek terms in 1 Corinthians 6 and 1 Timothy 1.

    To begin, let’s look at Genesis 19, the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. In Genesis 18, God and two angels come in the form of men to visit Abraham and Sarah at their tent alongside the Dead Sea. Abraham and Sarah do not yet realize who they are, but they show them lavish hospitality nonetheless. Halfway through the chapter, God – now beginning to be recognized by Abraham – tells him “[t]he outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah is so great and their sin so grievous that I will go down and see if what they have done is as bad as the outcry that has reached me.” Abraham’s nephew, Lot, and Lot’s family, live in Sodom, and so Abraham bargains with God, and gets Him to agree not to destroy the city if He finds even 10 righteous people there.

    At the start of the next chapter, in Genesis 19, the two angels arrive in Sodom, still in the form of men. Lot invites them to spend the night in his home, and he prepares a meal for them. But beginning in verse 4, we read the following: “Before they had gone to bed, all the men from every part of the city of Sodom—both young and old—surrounded the house. They called to Lot, “Where are the men who came to you tonight? Bring them out to us so that we can have sex with them.” Lot went outside to meet them and shut the door behind him and said, “No, my friends. Don’t do this wicked thing. Look, I have two daughters who have never slept with a man. Let me bring them out to you, and you can do what you like with them. But don’t do anything to these men, for they have come under the protection of my roof.”

    But the men keep threatening, so the angels strike them with blindness. Lot
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    May 11, 2012 2:18 PM GMT
    But the men keep threatening, so the angels strike them with blindness. Lot and his family then flee from the city, and God destroys Sodom and Gomorrah with fire and brimstone. The destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah was not originally thought to have anything to do with sexuality at all, even if there is a sexual component to the passage we just read. But starting in the Middle Ages, it began to be widely believed that the sin of Sodom, the reason that Sodom was destroyed, was homosexuality in particular. This later interpretation held sway for centuries, giving rise to the English term “sodomy,” which technically refers to any form of non-procreative sexual behavior, but at various points in history, has referred primarily to male same-sex relations. But this is no longer the prevailing interpretation of this passage, and simply because later societies associated it with homosexuality doesn’t mean that’s that what the Bible itself teaches. In the passage, the men of Sodom threaten to gang rape Lot’s angel visitors, who have come in the form of men, and so this behavior would at least ostensibly be same-sex. But that is the only connection that can be drawn between this passage and homosexuality in general, and there is a world of difference between violent and coercive practices like gang rape and consensual, monogamous, and loving relationships. No one in the church or anywhere else is arguing for the acceptance of gang rape; that is vastly different from what we’re talking about.

    But the men of Sodom wanted to rape other men, so that must mean that they were gay, some will argue. And it was their same-sex desires, and not just their threatened rape, that God was punishing. But gang rape of men by men was used as a common tactic of humiliation and aggression in warfare and other hostile contexts in ancient times. It had nothing to do with sexual orientation or attraction; the point was to shame and to conquer. That is the appropriate background for reading this passage in Genesis 19, which, notably, is contrasted with two accounts of generous welcome and hospitality – that of Abraham and Sarah in Genesis 18 and Lot’s own display of hospitality in Genesis 19. The actions of the men of Sodom are intended to underscore their cruel treatment of outsiders, not to somehow tell us that they were gay.

    And indeed, Sodom and Gomorrah are referred to 20 times throughout the subsequent books of the Bible, sometimes with detailed commentary on what their sins were, but homosexuality is never mentioned or connected to them. In Ezekiel 16:49, the prophet quotes God as saying, “’Now this was the sin of your sister Sodom: She and her daughters were arrogant, overfed and unconcerned; they did not help the poor and needy.” So God Himself in Ezekiel declares the sin of Sodom to be arrogance and apathy toward the poor. In Matthew 10 and Luke 10, Jesus associates the sin of Sodom with inhospitable treatment of his disciples. Of all the 20 references to Sodom and Gomorrah throughout the rest of Scripture, only one connects their sins to sexual transgressions in general. The New Testament book of Jude, verse 7, states that Sodom and Gomorrah “gave themselves up to sexual immorality and perversion.” But there are many forms of sexual immorality and perversion, and even if Jude 7 is taken as specifically referring to the threatened gang rape from Genesis 19:5, that still has nothing to do with the kinds of relationships that we’re talking about.

    It’s now widely conceded by scholars on both sides of this debate that Sodom and Gomorrah do not offer biblical evidence to support the belief that homosexuality is a sin. But our next two verses, from Leviticus – “Do not lie with a man as one does with a woman; it is an abomination” – continue to be commonly cited to uphold that belief. And they certainly can be claimed to be of greater relevance to this issue than the matter of gang rape, so they deserve our careful study and attention. To back out for a moment and provide some context: Leviticus is the third book of the Bible. We have Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. Beginning in Exodus and continuing through Deuteronomy, God delivers the Law to the Israelites, which contains 613 rules in total.

    The Book of Leviticus deals primarily with ceremonial issues related to appropriate worship practices at the tabernacle: the various offerings and how to make them, clean versus unclean foods, diseases and bodily discharges, sexual taboos, and rules for the priests. Chapter 18 of Leviticus contains a list of sexual prohibitions, and chapter 20 follows this up with a list of punishments. In these chapters, male same-sex intercourse is prohibited, and the punishment for violators is death. The specific verses are Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13. They read: “You shall not lie with a male as with a woman; it is an abomination.” And 20:13 goes on to say: “If a man lies with a male as with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination; they shall surely be put to death; their blood is upon them.”

    Well, there we have it—for many, the biblical debate is now over. It’s surprising that so many people continue to believe that these verses in Leviticus somehow form the heart of the theological debate about homosexuality. They are, in fact, of secondary significance to the later passage by Paul in Romans 1. And the reason for that isn’t that their meaning is unclear, but that their context within the Old Testament Law makes them inapplicable to Christians. Much of the New Testament deals with the issue of the place of the Old Law in the emerging Christian church. As Gentiles were being included for the very first time into what was formerly an exclusively Jewish faith, there arose ferocious debates and divisions among the early Jewish Christians about whether Gentile converts should have to follow the Law, with its more than 600 rules. And in Acts 15, we read how this debate was resolved. In the year 49 AD, early church leaders gathered at what came to be called the Council of Jerusalem, and they decided that the Old Law would not be binding on Gentile believers. The most culturally distinctive aspects of the Old Law were the Israelites’ complex dietary code for keeping kosher and the practice of male circumcision. But after the Council of Jerusalem’s ruling, even those central parts of Israelite identity and culture no longer applied to Christians. Although it’s a common argument today, there is no reason to think that these two verses from the Old Law in Leviticus would somehow have remained applicable to Christians even when other, much more central parts of the Law did not.

    In Galatians 6, Paul goes so far as to say that, in Christ, neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything. He speaks of the Old Law as a “yoke of slavery” that he warns Christians not to be burdened by. In Colossians 2, Paul writes that, through Christ, God “forgave us all our sins, having canceled the written code, with its regulations, that was against us and that stood opposed to us; he took it away, nailing it to the cross.” In the Gospels, Jesus describes himself as the fulfillment of the Law, and in Romans 10:4, Paul writes “Christ is the end of the law.” Hebrews 8:13 states that the old covenant is now “obsolete,” because Christ is the basis of the new covenant, freeing Christians from the system of the Old Law, most of which was specific to the ancient Israelites, to their community and their unique worship practices. Christians have always regarded the Book of Leviticus, in particular, as being inapplicable to them in light of Christ’s fulfillment of the law. So while it is true that Leviticus prohibits male same-sex relations, it also prohibits a vast array of other behaviors, activities, and foods that Christians have never regarded as being prohibited for them. For example, chapter 11 of Leviticus forbids the eating of pork, shrimp, and lobster, which the church does
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    May 11, 2012 2:21 PM GMT
    But the Old Law does contain some rules that Christians have continued to observe – the Ten Commandments, for example. And so some argue that Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13 – the prohibitions of male same-sex relations – should be an exception to the rule, and that they should continue to have force for Christians today. There are three main arguments that are made for this position. The first is the verses’ immediate context: Leviticus 18 and 20 also prohibit adultery, incest, and bestiality, all of which continue to be regarded as sinful, and so homosexuality should be as well. But just 3 verses away from the prohibition of male same-sex relations, in 18:19, sexual relations during a woman’s menstrual period are also prohibited, and this, too, is called an “abomination” at the chapter’s close. But this is not regarded as sinful behavior by Christians; rather, it’s seen as a limited matter of ceremonial cleanliness for the ancient Israelites. And all of the other categories of prohibitions in these chapters – on adultery, incest, and bestiality – are repeated multiple times throughout the rest of the Old Testament, both within the Law and outside of it: in Exodus, Numbers, Deuteronomy, and Ezekiel. But the prohibitions on male same-sex relations only appear in Leviticus, among many dozens of other prohibitions that Christians have never viewed as being applicable to them.

    Well, Leviticus calls it an abomination, and if it was an abomination then, then it certainly can’t be a good thing now. The term “abomination” is applied to a very broad range of things in the Old Law – eating shellfish in Leviticus 11, eating rabbit or pork in Deuteronomy 14; these are all called abominations. As I just said, sex during a woman’s menstrual period is also called an abomination. The term “abomination” is primarily used in the Old Testament to distinguish practices that are common to foreign nations from those that are distinctly Israelite. This is why Genesis 43:32 says that for the Egyptians to eat with the Hebrews would be an abomination to the Egyptians, and why Exodus 8:26 says that for the Israelites to make sacrifices near the Pharaoh’s palace would be an abomination to the Egyptians. There is nothing wrong with the Israelites’ sacrifices, of course. The problem with both of these things is that they would blur the lines between practices that are specifically Israelite and those that are foreign. The nature of the term “abomination” in the Old Testament is intentionally culturally specific; it defines religious and cultural boundaries between Israel and other nations. But it’s not a statement about what is intrinsically good or bad, right or wrong, and that’s why numerous things that it’s applied to in the Old Testament have long been accepted parts of Christian life and practice.

    Okay, but the penalty is death – certainly, that indicates that the behavior in question is particularly bad, and that we should still regard it as sinful. But this overlooks the severity of all of the other punishments in the Old Law. Given the threats posed to the Israelites by starvation, disease, internal discord, and attacks from other tribes, maintaining order and cohesiveness was of paramount importance for them, and so almost all of the punishments in the Old Testament will strike us as being quite harsh. A couple that has sex during the woman’s menstrual period is to be permanently exiled from the community. If a priest’s daughter falls into prostitution, she is to be burned at the stake. Anyone who uses the Lord’s name in vain is not only to be reprimanded, but to be stoned. And anyone who disobeys their parents is to be stoned as well. Even some things that we don’t see as moral issues at all received the death penalty in the Old Testament – according to Exodus 35:2, working on the Sabbath was a capital offense. And in Ezekiel 18, the death penalty is applied to anyone who charges interest on a loan, and this, too, is called an “abomination” at the chapter’s close. Simply because something received the death penalty in the Old Testament doesn’t mean that Christians should view it as sinful; there’s too much variance for that to be a consistent and effective approach. The default Christian approach for nearly two millennia now has been to view the particular hundreds of rules and prohibitions in the Old Law as having been fulfilled by Christ’s death, and there is no good reason why Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13 should be exceptions to that rule.

    So if our three Old Testament passages do not, upon closer examination, furnish persuasive arguments against loving relationships for gay Christians, then what about our three New Testament passages? And indeed, for those who’ve spent some time studying this theological debate, they will know that the most significant of the six passages is not in the Old Testament; instead, it appears in the opening chapter of Paul’s letter to the church in Rome: specifically, Romans 1:26-27. This passage is the most significant for three reasons: First, it’s in the New Testament, and so it doesn’t encounter the same problems of context and applicability that Leviticus does. Secondly, unlike Leviticus, it speaks of both men and women. And thirdly, even though it’s not very long, at two consecutive verses, it’s still the longest discussion of any form of same-sex behavior anywhere in Scripture. And because these two verses are embedded within a broader theological argument about idolatry that’s somewhat complex, I want to spend more time on this passage than any other.

    Paul begins his letter in Romans 1-3 by describing the unrighteousness of all humanity, Jew and Gentile alike, and the universal need for a savior. Romans 3 nears its close with the famous verse, “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” In Romans 3:10, Paul says, “There is no one righteous, not even one.” To build his case to that effect, Paul argues in chapter 2 that, even though the Jews have the Law, they still don’t follow it well enough to earn their salvation on their own. But he starts in chapter 1 by describing the unrighteousness of humanity more broadly. And in Romans 1:18-32, Paul writes of the descent of Gentiles into idolatry and the consequences for them of their rejection of God. He says that they knew the truth of God, but they rejected it; they exchanged the truth for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator – birds, animals, reptiles. And so because they had given up God, God, in turn, let them go – He let them live without Him, and He gave them over, it says, to a wide array of vices and passions. Included among these passions were some forms of lustful same-sex behavior. In verses 26 and 27, we read the following:

    “Because of this [referring to their idol worship], God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural sexual relations for unnatural ones. In the same way, the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed shameful acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their error.”
    Well, now, it seems, the case is finally closed. Even though the verses in Leviticus don’t apply to Christians, here we have Paul in the New Testament explicitly teaching the unacceptability, the sinfulness of same-sex relationships. And even though he only speaks of lustful behavior, and not of loving relationships, he labels same-sex unions unnatural. They are outside of God’s natural design, which was set forth in Genesis 1 and 2 and is exclusively heterosexual. So even if a same-sex relationship is loving and committed, it is still sinful. That is the traditional interpretation of Romans 1:26-27.

    How solid of an interpretation is that? Does this passage require us to reject the possibility of loving relationships for gay people, and if so, how does that make sense, given the problems that I outlined earlier with that posi
  • CuriousJockAZ

    Posts: 19656

    May 11, 2012 2:30 PM GMT
    Is there a cliff notes version? icon_eek.gif
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    May 11, 2012 2:32 PM GMT
    How solid of an interpretation is that? Does this passage require us to reject the possibility of loving relationships for gay people, and if so, how does that make sense, given the problems that I outlined earlier with that position? Was that Paul’s intent here, to teach that God desires gay people to be alone for their entire lives, because their sexual orientation is broken, and is outside of His created, natural design?

    How we understand this passage hinges in large part on how we understand the meaning of the terms “natural” and “unnatural.” It’s commonly assumed by those who hold to the traditional interpretation that these terms refer back to Genesis 1 and 2, and are intended to define heterosexuality as God’s natural design and homosexuality as an unnatural distortion of that design. But once again, closer examination does not support that interpretation. In order to understand what Paul meant by the use of these terms, we have to consider two things. First, we have to look at the broader context of the passage in order to see how the concept of nature functions within it. And secondly, we need to see how Paul himself uses these terms in his other letters and how they were commonly and widely applied to sexual behavior in particular in the ancient world.

    First, the passage’s context. In 1:18-32, Paul is making a larger argument about idolatry, and that argument has a very precise logic to it. The reason, he says in verses 18-20, that the idolaters’ actions are blameworthy is because they knew God. They started with the knowledge of God, but they chose to reject Him. Paul writes, “What may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world, God’s invisible qualities – his eternal power and divine nature – have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.” The idolaters are without excuse because they knew the truth, they started with the truth, but they rejected it. Paul’s subsequent statements about sexual behavior follow this same pattern. The women, he says, “exchanged” natural relations for unnatural ones. And the men “abandoned” relations with women and committed shameful acts with other men. Both the men and the women started with heterosexuality—they were naturally disposed to it just as they were naturally disposed to the knowledge of God—but they rejected their original, natural inclinations for those that were unnatural: for them, same-sex behavior. Paul’s argument about idolatry requires that there be an exchange; the reason, he says, that the idolaters are at fault is because they first knew God but then turned away from him, exchanged Him for idols. Paul’s reference to same-sex behavior is intended to illustrate this larger sin of idolatry. But in order for this analogy to have any force, in order for it to make sense within this argument, the people he is describing must naturally begin with heterosexual relations and then abandon them. And that is exactly how he describes it.

    But that is not what we are talking about. Gay people have a natural, permanent orientation toward those of the same sex; it’s not something that they choose, and it’s not something that they can change. They aren’t abandoning or rejecting heterosexuality—that’s never an option for them to begin with. And if applied to gay people, Paul’s argument here should actually work in the other direction: If the point of this passage is to rebuke those who have spurned their true nature, be it religious when it comes to idolatry or sexual, then just as those who are naturally heterosexual should not be with those of the same sex, so, too, those who have a natural orientation toward the same sex should not be with those of the opposite sex. For them, that would be exchanging “the natural for the unnatural” in just the same way. We have different natures when it comes to sexual orientation.
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    May 11, 2012 2:32 PM GMT
    Hahaha... Sorry.... I get carried away sometimes
  • Buddha

    Posts: 1802

    May 11, 2012 2:40 PM GMT
    Maybe we could do a close-reading of Dumbo and see if it supports homosexuality as well.
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    May 20, 2012 5:52 AM GMT
    I'm really good friends with Matt. I think he presents us with one of the most careful, well-structured analyses of the Bible's stance on homosexuality. He's a great guy fighting a huge, uphill battle in Kansas.
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    May 20, 2012 3:10 PM GMT
    That's interesting, Durbdoc, although I disagree with several points, but will mention only a couple.

    This one, "Christianity isn’t about you being happy."

    I keep imagining myself after dying being asked by God, "Well? How was the life I gave you?" Shall I say, "Full of misery and suffering because in that book written by primitive people with axes to grind it said I was supposed to."

    ..or shall I say, with a profound burst of happiness "THANK YOU! I experienced sadness and learned how to overcome it with JOY, I felt anger and learned how to overcome it with forgiveness, I experienced conflict and learned how to overcome it with peace. I experienced hate and learned how to overcome it with love, and combinations of the above. Here's a gift to you for what you gave me (life) , the happiness in my life." And then explain all the ways my life was happy, by my own actions and those of others.

    Here's another point, and one that told me long ago how flawed that book is if taken literally,
    ' Abraham’s nephew, Lot, and Lot’s family, live in Sodom, and so Abraham bargains with God, and gets Him to agree not to destroy the city if He finds even 10 righteous people there. '
    Ugh. There's so many kinds of wrong in this I don't know where to start, and I don't mean Mr Vine, but the book's authors and many editors.

    ...and this one,

    "Halfway through the chapter, God – now beginning to be recognized by Abraham – tells him “[t]he outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah is so great and their sin so grievous that I will go down and see if what they have done is as bad as the outcry that has reached me.

    The implications of a non-omniscient God are rather stunning, considering this same God created everything. More Ugh.

    As for the sin of Sodom, there's a single statement in here:
    In a nutshell, "Behold, this was the guilt of your sister Sodom: she and her daughters had pride, excess of food, and prosperous ease, but did not aid the poor and needy."

    As for Paul, if he'd been truly listened to and followed the portion of the human race doing so would have been extinct in 2 generations or less.
    His desire was that all others be like him, which was celibate.

    Too many pay no attention to the authors, but only their words. I was raised to consider the source. icon_wink.gif


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    May 21, 2012 10:48 AM GMT
    Good points you make Doug
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    May 21, 2012 2:13 PM GMT
    Durbdoc saidGood points you make Doug

    Thanks Durbdoc; I understand why Mr Vine is saying the things he did in that speech, as he's trying to reach them on their terms and in ways they can relate to. lol, his speech says a lot about them, without addressing their narrow-mindedness openly and directly and so losing their willingness to listen. Clever.

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    Sep 20, 2012 1:21 AM GMT
    Here the awesome video...

  • CuriousJockAZ

    Posts: 19656

    Sep 20, 2012 3:08 PM GMT
    What a remarkable young man. I admire his research and commitment to changing minds