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Saturday, May 13, 2006 

Homosexuality Debate Taking Time

Some of you have asked me lately what has been going on with my blog and why did I post something a couple of weeks ago which indicated that I would be blogging more only to not follow through with that promise. Well, currently I am engaging a fellow Louisvillian on the issue of homosexuality and whether or not Scripture reveals it to be a sin if it is practiced in a "loving, committed" relationship. Our debate can be found under my post, "American Baptist Association Votes to Split From the ABC Over Homosexuality". My position is that Scripture clearly reveals homosexuality in any form to be sinful, but my opponent, Dan Trabue, author of the blog, A Payne Hollow Visit, contends that Scripture is not clear in this way and that homosexuality is not only something that cannot be characterized as sinful, but also is a legitimate expression of Christianity and glorifies God in the same way that a committed marriage between a man and a woman does. Currently the thread is topping 100 comments, but we have only discussed Leviticus 18:21 and 20:13 and are, as of now, moving on to dealing with Romans 1:24-27. I encourage you, if you are interested in understanding the current conflict regarding homosexuality within the Church, to at least take the time to examine our closing arguments on Leviticus and follow along as we begin to discuss the central passage in the Bible on homosexuality, Romans 1. Please pray that our discussion would be glorifying to God and that the truth of God's Word would be revealed through our conversation. Whether you agree with Dan or with me, I hope that you will be encouraged, as I have been, to open up God's Word and dig deeply. John Piper is fond of saying that he learned from Daniel Fuller while in seminary that "those who rake always find leaves, but those who dig might find gold." May we find gold for the glory of God!

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Dan has asked if we could move our discussion on Romans 1 here, so I have agreed. Here is my introduction to Romans, which is posted on the previous thread as well.


Now Dan, let's begin our discussion of Romans 1. First I want to deal with the context of the letter. I am going to lay out for you my understanding of the context of the letter to Romans and how this passage in which we will deal has to do with that overall context. Then I am going to stop there and allow you to respond to it in any way you wish. So let’s begin.

Paul begins his letter to the Romans by telling them that he wants to come visit them basically because he is the divinely appointed messenger to the Gentiles and they are mainly a Gentile church and thus God has placed it in his heart to do so. But also Paul hopes to use Rome as a base of operations for future evangelistic crusade to Spain and is hoping they will lend him some support on his journey.

Vv.16-17 provide the theme for the entire book – God’s salvation. Paul mentions God’s righteousness in v.17 as the ground of salvation, but quickly turns to a discussion of God’s wrath. This juxtaposition is done in order to begin his exposition of the gospel that he preaches. The gospel always begins with sin. The righteousness of God requires the wrath of God and the wrath of God is thus necessary because of the sin of man. So we could draw a schematic of this:

Righteousness of God + Sin of Man = Wrath of God

Later we will see that

Righteousness of God + Sin of Man = Eternal Salvation through Christ or Eternal Wrath of God

But for now, Paul is concerned with the wrath of God that is being poured out on all men because of their sin.

Tom Schreiner (yes, the same man who is the pastor of the church we attend) notes in his BECNT commentary on Romans that “The theme of this section [1:18-3:20], then, is that God’s wrath is being righteously revealed against all people, both Gentiles and Jews, since all have sinned and fallen short of God’s glory (Rom. 3:23). Both Gentiles and Jews have failed to honor God’s name and glorify Him as they should (1:21, 2:24)” (p.78).

Later, Dr. Schreiner points out that Paul first indicts the Gentiles (1:18-32) and then the Jews (2:1-3:8)” (p.79). This is important because homosexuality was not an activity largely prevalent in the Jewish community, but was normal in the prevailing Roman culture, which was very accepting of it. Mounce (New American Commentary, B&H, 1995) notes that William Barclay in his commentary, The Letter to the Romans (St. Andrews Press, 1957), that “fourteen out of the first fifteen Roman Emperors were homosexuals” (p.82 Mounce, p.32 Barclay). Add to that Plato’s Symposium, which according to James R. White (The Same-Sex Controversy, p.?), “written centuries before Paul wrote Romans, showed that the ancients were well aware of all the elements of modern homosexual behavior, even if they did not use the same exact words. Plato’s writings make reference to male homosexuality, lesbianism, the claims of some to be born as a willing mate of a man, the concept of mutuality, permanency, gay pride, pederasty, “homophobia,” motive, desire, passion, etc.” You can find additional evidence of this at this link. It would be false to say that Paul didn’t likely understand all this, especially knowing that he grew up in Tarsus, a thoroughly Roman city, and was himself a Roman citizen, schooled in Greek rhetoric and having most likely studied Plato among other philosophers of the previous centuries. We will return to Plato and his Symposium at a later date.

Paul’s point will eventually be that despite the efforts of the Gentiles (whom had a given a divinely-inspired conscience) and the Jews (whom God had given the Law), they had still transgressed the holiness of God and thus deserved the due punishment of eternal death. But God provided a way through the sacrifice of Christ and through the vehicle of faith for both Jews and Gentiles to have their sins atoned for and thus provided them with salvation.

Finally, Schreiner ends his explanation on the overall background of this section by asking, “Why did Paul write this section to the Church at Rome?” and answers with the following:

“He did not write it for the parenetic [Hortatory; encouraging; persuasive, from the Free Online Dictionary] purposes of calling the Roman church to repent (contra N. Elliot 1990: 110-46, 167-204). They had already repented and put their faith in Jesus…To use this section as a mirror to detect any specific problems in the Roman community is an error. In order to explain acceptably the Gospel that he preached, Paul needed to explain both how the Gentiles and particularly how the Jews related to it. The Romans Churches would have no reason to accept and promote the Pauline mission if they did not have a clear understanding of the Gospel he proclaimed” (p.80).

Now why is this important to our debate? Because we must understand the nature of Paul’s argument in vv.18-32 in order to establish the context for verses 24-27.

So far, do you disagree with anything I have said or with Schreiner’s position on the book’s general purpose and this section’s (1:18-32) specific function within that purpose? If so, exactly what is it that you disagree with and why do you do so? Additionally, what evidence do you have to back up your view if it is indeed different?

10:15 PM, May 12, 2006

This is the one verse in the NT that seems like it may (MAY) actually be speaking about homosexuality. The other 3-5 verses in the NT (nothing from Jesus, by the way), use words
like "effeminite," "soft," "homosexual" and "homosexual offender" to translate a word
that biblical translators just aren't sure of the meaning. (I believe "soft" is the literal translation, if I'm not remembering incorrectly.)

And so, truly, Romans is the one place in the NT that I feel it important to deal with.

So, what does Romans say?

"For this reason God gave them over to degrading passions; for their women exchanged the natural function for that which is unnatural,and in the same way also the men
abandoned the natural function of the woman and burned in their desire toward one another, men with men committing indecent acts and receiving in their own persons the due penalty of their error."

Romans 1:26-27

And it seems to be a condemnation (in the midst of a stream of condemnations over those who have forgotten God) of men "burning in lust toward one another." And I felt this was clearly about homosexuality when I was younger.

Now, I just don't know.

1. We're still not dealing with God telling us in God's word, practicing Gays - even those in committed relationships - are sinful. That sort of clarity exists nowhere in the Bible. As you assert, the people of Paul's day were familiar with gay marriages/committed relationships, why wouldn't Paul condemn that specifically, if it were such a horrid sin?

2. Even if this is condemning men lusting after men, the subtext that Paul provides is that these are people who've "exchanged the natural function (or "relation") for that
which is unnatural."

3. For gays, the "natural function" is for the same gender. Is Paul condemning abandoning the natural function/relation (which would be a straight guy having gay sex)? If so,
then to not encourage gays to pursue their natural choice would be the sin. This is what makes sense to me, this is what I get from the scripture taking it
a. in context of the rest of the Word, and
b. with what we know about God,
c. coupled with the absolute lack of a position on this by Jesus in the Gospels and
d. the scarcity of commentary in the rest of the scripture on the topic and
e. the inconclusive nature of what is spoken in the handful of passages that even seem to touch on it.

4. But - but - but, the traditionalist might say, that conclusion would be ignoring the
rest of what Paul says. To which I would respond, no more so than taking the Leviticus passage that condemns disrespectful children to death and hanging on to the first half (it's wrong to be disrespectful) and not hanging on to the second half (if they are
disrespectful, they should be killed).

5. This is not unlike the slavery issue, for which one can find verses in the Bible that at least seem to support slavery and no real verses that condemn slavery (as one can find a few verses that seem to condemn homosexuality and none that celebrate gay marriage), and yet, we can tell from the greater subtext of God's nature that slavery is wrong.

I find within God's celebration of committed loving relationships in the Bible support for thinking that God's character rejoices in healthy relationships.

5. We all cipher out the meanings of scriptures based on the context of the whole scripture. Sometimes, that means we pay find one portion of the Bible to not be as conclusive as other portions of the Bible. We choose not to kill disrespectful children, we choose to ignore the Jubilee Laws, we choose to ignore Jesus' command to overcome evil with
good and kill our enemies instead, etc, etc, etc, because we're trying to make sense of the whole of the Bible given what we know of it and of God's nature.

We're not talking about some who take every word literally literally and others who don't, we're talking about trying to discern God's will from God's word. Sometimes, some
of us disagree. Even on important topics (or topics that one group thinks is important and the others don't).

That's what we do. All of us. We're human with imperfect human understanding. Now we see as through a glass darkly, you know? And sometimes, we may feel the need to challenge or rebuke the other because of the position they hold. And we must be prepared to defend our position or willing to admit error and repent...or at the least, admit a difference and be willing to consider the other's point prayerfully.

I don't know what else we can do.

daniel,

i was reading an interview with NT Wright just the other day, and he was asked about homosexulaity and romans 1. his comments may prove helpful...its near the beginning of the itnerview. here is the link:

http://www.nationalcatholicreporter.org/word/wright.htm

Gavin, thanks for the tip. I was a bit shocked to see NT Wright take such a hard line on a controversial issue, but like usual, you never know where Wright will pop up and either pleasantly suprise or really perturb you. I will have to check into what he has to say about Romans 1.

Are you waiting on further response from me? If you're still thinking, that's fine. No hurry.

Hey D.R. and Dan T (thanks for visiting my site last week btw):

Dan, your argument that:

"I find within God's celebration of committed loving relationships in the Bible support for thinking that God's character rejoices in healthy relationships."

Is weak at best and misleading at worst. (Because the argument is a sexual one I an not including parental or non-sexual relationships) There are absolutely NO examples of ANY homosexual committed loving relationships anywhere in the Bible and as a consequence there is NO support for it. The 'natural' Biblical committed-loving relationship is ALWAYS male-female!

I appreciate that you and D.R. have kept this discussion above the table and kind although I would like to see you stop referring back to how you have been where we are now but have moved on from here. That is not helpful to this argument. Deal with D.R.'s concise presentation.

Concise?

But seriously, we're working on it there, brother Stephen. I'll gladly try to refrain from pointing out that "I've been where you are" if y'all will try to refrain from talking down to me and acting as if I've never heard your arguments before. I truly understand your point of view, that's all I'm saying.

As to "The 'natural' Biblical committed-loving relationship is ALWAYS male-female!"

The 'natural' biblical relationship is all over the place. We have women as chattel, we have polygamy, we have harems, we have concubines, we have Abraham offering to give his wife away, we have marrying practicing prostitutes and on and on and on, ALL of which goes uncondemned in the Bible.

If you want to talk literal interpretation, I don't reckon we can condemn any of the above, as it is never condemned in the Bible. I know that there are no married gays in the Bible held up as fine moral examples, but neither are there married gays held up as wrong.

It goes unaddressed. Not touched on at all.

Just as slavery-as-sin is never touched on or polygamy-as-wrong is never touched on and yet we can know from the Bible that these are bad ideas. Conversely, I feel confident that we can know from God's nature as revealed in God's word that we can know that loving relationships are a good idea.

Dan,

All of those "women as chattel, we have polygamy, we have harems, we have concubines, we have Abraham offering to give his wife away, we have marrying practicing prostitutes and on and on and on," examples would NEVER be included as a "celebration of committed loving relationships" would they? No.

So they are not to be included in this argument. What we are talking about is something totally different. This kind of thing would be one of those 'strawmen' that DR has mentioned before.

My response to you is that the only thing to conclude from your statement that:

"I find within God's celebration of committed loving relationships in the Bible support for thinking that God's character rejoices in healthy relationships." is that

The ONLY HEALTHY relationships that you find support for in the Scriptures is ALWAYS and ONLY Male/Female.

I am not arguing that EVERY male/female relationship in the Bible is healthy. I am arguing that your argument is from complete silence and so has no merit in this discussion.

On another note, how would you argue that slavery-is-sin or polygamy-as-sin from the Bible?

You said:

"Just as slavery-as-sin is never touched on or polygamy-as-wrong is never touched on and yet we can know from the Bible that these are bad ideas."

According to your interpretation of the Bible how are they 'bad ideas'?

Also how can you argue the converse?

"Conversely, I feel confident that we can know from God's nature as revealed in God's word that we can know that loving relationships are a good idea."

How do you 'feel confident that" you "can know"?

BTW: my brother holds DR in quite high esteem and I am impressed, Dan, with your responses to this point. I do not look down on you.

OK, guys, let's stay on task now and let me try to deal with Romans 1 some more. I still haven't gotten all of my research done, so I am going to hold off posting much, but I do want to offer the next installment of exegesis -- Romans 1:15-17.

Dan, I am not sure how to respond to your position without exegeting the entire passage first, so I am going to continue to walk through the passage and if and when you disagree you can stop me and we can deal with it. So far, though, you have said you have no problem with anything I have written, which I take to mean that so far my argument is not contrary to yours. Let me know if I am incorrect in that assumption.

I will begin at V.15 and continue to the end of the chapter.

V.15 gives the central reasoning behind Paul writing to the Romans and his intended visit to them, “So, for my part, I am eager to preach the Gospel to you also who are in Rome.”

V.16 begins with a “gar” meaning “for” and indicating the reason why Paul is so eager to preach this Gospel. “For I am not ashamed of the Gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.” Paul isn’t ashamed of the Gospel, which seems to indicate that he has not been let down by it and it has not “shamed” him. Mounce writes that stated “in a more positive way, ‘I am proud of the Gospel’” (pp.71-72). The reason for his unashamedness is signaled by yet another “gar” or “for”, “it is the power of God” for (eis) salvation (meaning it displays the power of God in bringing people to salvation). And who is this salvation given to? It is “to everyone who believes, to the Jew first, and also to the Greek.”

Schreiner says, “Verse 17 explains (gar) why the Gospel is the power of God that brings salvation…The Gospel is the saving power of God because the righteousness of God is being revealed in it. The word apokalyptetai, (is being revealed) is present tense, indicating that the righteousness of God is presently being manifested in the preaching of the Gospel. Apokaluptetai is an eschatological term in Paul (Rom. 1:18, 8:18; 1 Cor. 3:13; Gal. 3:23; 2 thess. 2:3, 6, 8), denoting an eschatological event that has invaded history…The passive form of the verb indicates that “God” is the one who has revealed His righteousness – the righteousness in question is His” (BECNT, 62-63). Later, Schreiner points out that this “forensic interpretation” is not the only valid view of the phrase “righteousness of God”, but Cranfield’s view of a “transformative interpretation” in which the “righteousness of God” is revealed through the Holy Spirit’s work of regeneration. Schreiner concludes that both views are necessary components to understanding this phrase (pp.62-71).

Turning now to the phrase “from faith to faith”, many have argued and I believe they are correct that, in essence, “from faith to faith” denotes the relationship of the believer from the beginning of faith to its consummation. The quoting of Habakkuk 2:4 undergirds this by indicating that those who are righteous live by means of faith. Schreiner explains this by saying, “This understanding of the Gospel and God’s righteousness fits with the OT Scriptures, for Habakkuk says (2:4) that those who are right with God shall obtain eschatological life by their faith/faithfulness” (p.76). Thus faith in Christ is a life journey to Paul which is revealed by an ongoing faith that perseveres.

I am going to stop right there and ask if you have any problems so far with this interpretation. I am not looking to overwhelm you here or to be wordy, but rather I want us to know the context of the words that Paul is using in vv.24-27. If we don’t follow Paul’s train of thought, how will we know what he is talking about when we get to the verses in question? My main concern here is to not prooftext, which is to pull verses out of their context in order to interpret them for the benefit of our arguments. We can’t do that and stay faithful to the text. Would you agree?

Take some time if you need to and read through these verses and those previously and see if you think that anything that I have said so far is problematic or not in line with your interpretation of Romans. If not, we will move on to the next verses.

Okay. Paul's eager to preach the Gospel because he's not ashamed of it, it's never let him down, it's the power of God to bring salvation by faith in Jesus.

Fine.

Next.

I will make the denotation that, as you know, Jesus defined the Gospel (which Paul is eager to preach) as good news for the poor, the imprisoned, the oppressed, the sick, the downtrodden, the outcast.

Important to remember.

Just a clarifying note. You said:

"which I take to mean that so far my argument is not contrary to yours. Let me know if I am incorrect in that assumption."

Yes, what you've said about Romans thus far is not contrary to what I believe. At least insofar as I understand what you're saying.

But maybe a couple of clarifications would be in order.

When you say, "Paul mentions God’s righteousness in v.17 as the ground of salvation...", I would say that salvation is God's gift to us. I'm supposing you agree as that is fairly orthodox thinking. Are you indicating that God is able to give us this gift because of God's righteousness? Or what exactly are you getting at there?

It seems to me that this would be an example of using wordy, churchy (or even legalese) language that has ambiguous meaning. God is righteous, sure. God provides salvation at God's grace, sure. Do you mean something beyond that?

Where you say:

"Righteousness of God + Sin of Man = Eternal Salvation through Christ or Eternal Wrath of God"

I'd say "Separation from God should the individual choose not accept God's gift, much to God's sorrow."

God is angry towards sin, it seems to me, but loving towards the sinner (as in, when the Rich Young Ruler walked away from Jesus because he chose money over God and Jesus was sad and loving towards the man).

Where you say:

"The word apokalyptetai, (is being revealed) is present tense, indicating that the righteousness of God is presently being manifested in the preaching of the Gospel."

I agree as long as we understand the nature of the Gospel - good news for the poor, oppressed and outcast. Certainly true that God is being manifest here and now.

All of that to say that I'm in agreement with what I understand you're saying, unless you're getting at something other than what I'm reading.

Dan,

In regards to your comment about the Gospel, I am not sure you can define something as itself. Gospel means "good news" and you spoke of those to whom Jesus directed this good news, but I would say that statement is sorely lacking as a definition of the Gospel. Paul's definition in 1 Cor. 15 is pretty clear and thus that is how I prefer to actually define it. Additionally, NT Wright has some good info here on what constituted Paul's Gospel. What Paul is about to do is to explain what that Gospel is about beginning with the righteouness of God, which I said was the ground of salvation.

Regarding this you said:
"When you say, "Paul mentions God’s righteousness in v.17 as the ground of salvation...", I would say that salvation is God's gift to us. I'm supposing you agree as that is fairly orthodox thinking. Are you indicating that God is able to give us this gift because of God's righteousness? Or what exactly are you getting at there?"

I don't disagree that salvation is God's gift "to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek." That is not what I mean when I say that the righteousness of God is the ground of salvation; rather, I mean that the basis on which God saves people is His righteousness. Said another way, God saves sinners because He is righteous, He is holy. But this righteousness not only results in salvation by the atoning work of Christ who pays the penalty for sin and whose perfect life is given to us in exchange for our wretched existence, but also for those who do not believe, the righteousness of God results in wrath, both presently and eschatologically in Hell. So God, because He is righteous must save some sinners from His wrath through His Son's atoning work and yet He must also pour out His wrath on other sinners. What is the difference you might ask? Well Paul anticipates this and answers by making the statement, "to everyone who believes" as well as by quoting Habakkuk 2:4, "For the righteous shall live by faith." So faith is the key element that distinguishes how God's righteousness is revealed.


But then you make this statement:
"It seems to me that this would be an example of using wordy, churchy (or even legalese) language that has ambiguous meaning. God is righteous, sure. God provides salvation at God's grace, sure. Do you mean something beyond that?"

Now, Dan I have to admit I don't get this critique. You have told me several times that you think I am disrespecting you by asking whether or not you are getting something and because I don't always believe that you understand Evangelical Orthodoxy, yet then you accuse me of "using wordy, churchy, (or even legalese) language that has ambiguous meaning." Which is it? I assume by your comments about how you have grown up in Evangelicalism, studied the Bible, and even minister regularly through it, that you would have not problem with religious language. After all I am not using any words not found in the Bible (well maybe the word "ground" is not used in this way, but that's not an exclusively religious term). And I still don't know what "legalese" is. Could you explain that to me? I do realize that alot of what I have said has come from commentaries, but again as a minister I assume that you would be familiar with this language and as someone who have formulated an opinion that goes against the grain of 2000 years of Church history, you likely can handle such sophisticated dialogue. In the end, my goal is not to speak in a certain way, but rather to communicate the truth of God the best way I know how. If that means using the language of the Bible, then so be it. Or if that means using colloqualisms, then that is fine too.

Dan, I am not trying to pull a fast one on you here. That is why I have documented all my sources with page numbers and enough information for you to examine the evidence. Also I have repeatedly told you to take your time. I just don't get this accusation or why it's a valid concern in our discussion.


Moving on...
You later made this statement,
"I agree as long as we understand the nature of the Gospel - good news for the poor, oppressed and outcast. Certainly true that God is being manifest here and now."

Let me say again that Gospel and good news are the same thing. You are just redefining the word. It's like saying a bookshelf is a shelf for books. Your not giving any new information. That is why I point to Paul in 1 Cor. 15. And your exposition following merely points out to whom the Gospel was directed. As I said before, Paul is about to explain what the Gospel is in the Book of Romans. It is clearly a systematized rendering of a definition for Gospel, as I noted earlier in my first exegesis of Romans 1.

Now let me know what you think about what I just said and again if there is no problem, then we will move on.

Oh, but speaking of clarification, I do want you to clarify something for me before we embark on vv.26-27. Do you believe that these verses are speaking about homosexuality? I ask this because your first sentence in this thread emphasized your ambiguity and possibly what you believe to be the ambiguity of the passage itself. You wrote, "This is the one verse in the NT that seems like it may (MAY) actually be speaking about homosexuality."

But then you went on to offer an exegesis of the passage based on the fact that Paul is speaking about homosexuality. So which one is it in your estimation? Do you believe it is about homosexuality or do you believe it is not? Or is the only certainty that you hold that this verse absolutely does not say what the Church has believed it has said for almost 2000 years, that homosexuality is a sinful consequence of an idolatrous society and incompatible with the created order and God's design for men and women sexually? And if this IS your only certainty, would I be correct to say that you base this on what you said in #3 of your exegesis an not on any given text that explicitly condones homosexual behavior?

Ok, that is enough for now. I will await your response to continue posting.

DR said:
"Gospel means "good news" and you spoke of those to whom Jesus directed this good news, but I would say that statement is sorely lacking as a definition of the Gospel. Paul's definition in 1 Cor. 15 is pretty clear and thus that is how I prefer to actually define it."

You prefer what you claim is Paul's definition of the gospel to Jesus' definition?

Actually, I reckon what you're saying is that your understanding is that when Jesus said he came to preach "good news to the poor, to proclaim liberty to captives, and to the blind new sight, to set the downtrodden free, to proclaim the Lord's year of favor...", you're interpreting that as TO WHOM Jesus was preaching the gospel as Paul defined it?

Well, here we probably have a difference (and maybe a fundamental one in relation to our common understanding of God's Word) I think what Jesus said IS the gospel - good news to the poor, liberty to the captives, etc, etc...We, the poor, ARE receiving good news that there is food for us all, meaningful work, plenty. We, the captive ARE receiving the good news of freedom - those of us who are political prisoners, economic prisoners or even prisoners of our own crimes we are being forgiven and set free. Etc, etc.

This IS the Gospel, the Good News. Not just WHO the Good News is for.

You said later:
"As I said before, Paul is about to explain what the Gospel is in the Book of Romans."

And I'm saying, perhaps Paul is expounding upon the Gospel somewhat. But Jesus had already explained the Good News.

For what it's worth.

Perhaps you should clarify what you think Paul is teaching the Gospel is in 1 Cor. 15?

DR said:
"I assume by your comments about how you have grown up in Evangelicalism, studied the Bible, and even minister regularly through it, that you would have not problem with religious language."

Then you assume wrongly. Yes, I grew up in evangelicalism, studied the Bible, have been a minister, AND YET, I don't have much use for the language of the religious.

I used to speak the religious language. I have deliberately left that behind me in my seeking God as I don't find a biblical or spiritual basis for it. I find it a confusing mess for the most part (although I still am at least a little familiar with it, having lived with it for 30 of my 43 years).

And if I've refered to myself as a minister, it is a minister in that old Baptist sense of the word that we're all ministers. Just so you understand I'm not making any claims beyond reality (although, I did travel for 10 years or so in a Gospel band and was a minister in that regards, too).

DR said:
"...and as someone who have formulated an opinion that goes against the grain of 2000 years of Church history..."

And what position would that be? For the record, I have formulated no position on my own, as that is what I'm hearing you suggest in the above comment. I'm part of the mainstream anabaptist tradition in most of my theology and amongst a number of progressive churches and teachers in the area of homosexuality and the Bible.

You said the above in response to my criticism of unclear language on your part, saying, "I have to admit I don't get this critique."

My critique was simply this: If you want to say that God is righteous and that is your point, then say it. If I'm not mistaken, you were saying that God is able to offer us salvation because God is righteous. But if that's what you're saying, why didn't you say that instead of offering a few paragraphs on the point?

I reckon I'm following you well enough (with the exception of a few questions which I asked), it just concerns me anytime someone takes 5 paragraphs to say 1 sentence. Just like most normal folk get nervous anytime they hear a lawyer start speaking in therefores and whereas-es. Say what you mean. I'll probably know your biblical reference and if I don't or I want you to provide it, I'll ask for it.

That'd be my preference, for ease of communication. You said, "I just don't get this accusation or why it's a valid concern in our discussion." and I reckon it's just because I don't suffer "religious" talk as easily as I used to when I was a speaker of it.

DR said:
"So which one is it in your estimation? Do you believe it is about homosexuality or do you believe it is not?"

I do not know of which Paul spoke. I have said that this verse, moreso than others in the Bible appears to be condemning homosexuality. But I don't think we can conclusively tell from the context because, as I said, he is also condemning "abandoning natural relations" which to me is an endorsement of loving committed relations, gay and straight.

Could it be that Paul was speaking from a historical point of view (much as you believe the death penalty rules were in Leviticus)? Was it true TO THEIR UNDERSTANDING THEN that men who loved other men were abandoning natural relations but now that we have a better understanding of humanity by God's grace and our own intellect, we know that natural relations for gays is with the same gender?

Just as you think it was literally true that people in Leviticus were to be put to death for certain sins but it is equally literally true that those same sinners are NOT to be put to death now?

Some might want to say at this point, "Well whether or not Paul knew what their natural relations were, God definitely knew and still condemned it." But the problem with this thought is that God definitely knew that slavery was wrong when the Bible was written but God never told the biblical writers to state that as the case. Why not?

Perhaps because of God's continual revelation to us?

What I'm saying about this particular passage, in answer to your question, is that I don't conclusively know what Paul was talking about. I'm not omniscient unfortunately.

I do know, though, that Paul unequivocally condemned abandoning natural relations. Now rather than making the Bible inconsistent (Paul condemning Men in Romantic Love with Men vs. Paul condemning abandoning natural relations), I tend to think that Paul was talking about something other than loving same-sex unions. But I simply don't know what was in Paul's mind. Forgive my humanity.

fDan, I am a bit shocked at some of your comments here. I can't respond to everything, and, as I have said, I think some things need to be reserved for when I actually put forth my interpretation of the passage.

Still, I don't quite understand your hang up on Luke 4:18-19. I have actually preached on this passage and written a paper on it and I have never read any commentator who claims this is Jesus' definition of the Gospel. So, on what basis do you proclaim that this is Jesus' definition of the Gospel? And I could easily turn your argument back on to you by asking, "Are you saying that Paul's definiton of the Gospel was in opposition to Jesus' definition?" I just don't understand why this is so definitive for you. The disciples never used this particular phrasing again in the Bible. Paul didn't use this phrasing and the accompanying phrases themselves in Luke 4:18ff indicate a parallel relationship to the word euangelion (good news), not a subordinate one. So please explain how you came to the conclusion from the text that this is THE definition of the Gospel.

You said, "Perhaps you should clarify what you think Paul is teaching the Gospel is in 1 Cor. 15?"

Well here it is:
1 Corinthians 15:1 "Now I make known to you, brethren, the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received, in which also you stand,
2 by which also you are saved, if you hold fast the word which I preached to you, unless you believed in vain.
3 For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures,
4 and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures,
5 and that He appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve.
6 After that He appeared to more than five hundred brethren at one time, most of whom remain until now, but some have fallen asleep;
7 then He appeared to James, then to (b)all the apostles;
8 and last of all, as to one untimely born, He appeared to me"

From v.1 Paul is clear that his intentions are to explain what the Gospel is -- the substance of it. Then he says, "For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died..." The word "that" signifies the beginning of his explanation. It seems very clear that Paul was presenting the Gospel to these people. Now, think about it Dan. When you present the Gospel to someone, do you just repeat Luke 4:18ff or do you say, "Jesus lived in the 1st c. A.D., He was the Son of God, He lived a perfect life, died on the cross for the sins of all who believe, and then He was resurrected on the third day? Aren't these the facts that we base our faith upon? We don't just have faith in faith, but rather we have faith that Jesus is who He said He was and did what the Apostles said He did. That substantive explanation is why I say that 1 Cor. 15:1ff is the definition of the Gospel that I generally go to when I am asked. I hope that is clear now.

Now, as for my questions on your position, I have to admit that I was baiting you somewhat. It seemed from your statements that your position is one of ambiguity -- you aren't sure what this text means. And that is why it is really difficult for me to understand how you could have abandoned the traditional position for one that you aren't sure of yourself. After all, you have staked a great deal on your belief that you are correct in your assurance that the Bible doesn't teach homosexuality is a sin. Futhermore, your friends whom you encourage in their homosexuality (if I am correct in my reading of this text) are "receiving in their own persons the due penalty of their error" and you are complicit in this. You could be aiding your friends in their misery and their possible eventual destruction. And all that is staked on this one text that you admit you aren't sure about, but the history of the Church has not been divided on.


Part of the reason why I asked you those questions and baited you in that was was because I read something today that seems to reflect your argument in your last post on this text. It is from James R. White in his book, The Same Sex Controversy. Here is the quote in its entirety:

...many books utilize the "Ph.D." method of obfuscation at the point: Piled Higher and Deeper. Seemingly, the author - or authors - of such revisions [of the traditional position] believes it to be best to multiply possible scenarios as to Paul's meaning in this passage, perhaps hopeful of presenting the idea that there are many possible ways to answer the traditional objections to homosexuality. Many of the less scholarly revisionists' works (those that do no present a single focused attempt to redefine Paul's meaning) will multiply possible understandings, seemingly in the hope of so muddling the thinking of the readers that they will throw their hands in despair and assume that no one can really know what Paul was talking about since so many "scholars" are "confused" as to the real meaning of the passage. At times the views cited within a single work can be seen to be self-contradictory, ut this passes without even a notation. This only adds to the confusion."

He goes on,
"The pro-homosexual, revisionist literature hardly presents a single coherent whole when it comes to its methods of "exegesis" and the conclusions it comes to. But there is one consistency in all the revisionist literature; an absolute refusal to allow for the possibility that the historical Christian viewpoint on the matter is correct. No matter what other conclusions are reached, the one that cannot be true is the one Christians have proclaimed from the beginning. This consideration alone is very telling."

Your piling on of arguments, regardless of their validity and consistency with a legitimate NT hermeneutic (for instance, if this is completely cultural and like could fall into the mold of your Levitical argument [though I still find that woefully lacking], couldn't Jesus words to love your neighbor be so as well [or maybe His whole Sermon on the Mount - after all no one can really live up to it fully -- how is that grace?] -- on what basis do you accept one and reject the other? - after all we have no manuscripts of Jesus actual words - He could have been speaking to only His generation -- I hope you see that this is problematic) indicates that you don't have any real leg to stand on other than your beliefs regarding the nature of God and your subjective reasoning that committed homosexual relationships fall into the category of God's provision for ALL loving relationships. And this seems to be your overridding argument. But the problem with that one is that we have to ask, "what about committed adulterous relationships that bring about divorce? Or committed incesteous relationship? Or loving committed polygamy (like slavery the Bible never outright condemns it, right)? Or bisexuality? Polyamory? A man and his dog?" I could go on.

I hope you see how far your reasoning can be taken. And if you are willing to go too far, then you end up rejecting the authority of the Bible in favor of a view of the God who is revealed in it. That's pretty contradictory.

Now, after researching this for days on end, it occurred to me that your attempt at being humble by saying things like "But I simply don't know what was in Paul's mind...Forgive my humanity" is actually not that humble at all because what you are basically saying is this:

"The early Christians were wrong when they thought Paul was speaking about the act of homosexuality being wrong (though all evidence points in this direction), the Ante-Nicene, Nicene, and Post-Nicene Church Fathers who were united in their interpretations of this passage were wrong (though many of them also saw the depravity Paul spoke of first hand), the Reformers were wrong, the post-Reformation English Christians (out of which your tradition - anabaptists - comes from) were wrong, the first American Christians were wrong, and now for almost the entirety of the 20th and 21st century, the Evangelicals are wrong, BUT NOW WE HAVE IT RIGHT ... even though I am not sure what this text means exactly. BUT I AM SURE IT DOESN'T MEAN WHAT CHURCH HISTORY HAS TAUGHT US IT MEANS."

Dan, do you see the problem with that? All of Christianity has been united on this (including your anabaptist predecessors), until about 50 years ago when the sexual revolution hit and homosexuality once again became mainstream, as it had in the days of Paul and the early Church, to whom Paul addressed this letter. It is a testimony to the Early Church's rejecting of same-sex relationships that homosexual practice all but became extinct after Constantine's Edict of Milan (even though previously it had looked very much like it does now -- about this I will speak more later on).

Now, I don't think we have to say that we understand Paul 100% accurately to get the gist that this text is speaking of homosexual relationships in a negative sense. I don't think we have to be arrogant to say that we can know without a shadow a doubt that Paul was writing informedly to a group of people that he knew might be susceptible to homosexual relationships and thus was trying to dissuade them from such activity on the basis of the fact that it was a result of a society based in paganism and idolatry and it was against the desire of a Sovereign God. I don't think we have to take a huge leap to come to the conclusion that Paul believed like his predecessors in the Jewish faith did that homosexuality was not in line with the will of God for any individuals. But I do think we have to do a lot of creative speculating to come to the conclusion that this text is either not about homosexuality at all or is actually an implicit advocation for it.

So with that, I am through with the sidebar and I am ready to post my next installment of my exegesis of the text of Romans 1. This will be on vv.18-25. It is actually pretty short, as I tried to keep it brief in order to quickly progress to the focal verses 26-27.

You can post a response to this comment, but I do not plan on answering it, so please refrain from asking any direct questions. My goal now is to exegete the passage first and then deal with your interpretation given in your first post on this thread and then add some peripheral arguments, such as quotes from Church Fathers and other historians and scholars.

Ok, Dan, here is my my exegesis for vv. 18-25:


In v. 18, Paul ties together the previous verse with this new section using the same word, apokaluptetai, meaning, “is being revealed”, suggesting again the present reality of what he is talking about. In this case, Paul is talking about the wrath of God. The “for” (gar) used here suggests that Paul is now going to explain what he means in vv.16-17. Like I said earlier, Paul is about to explain the Gospel to the Church at Rome. Paul uses the strange construction of God’s wrath being revealed. God’s wrath is typically framed eschatologically, not as something present. But Paul’s use of the present tense in the word apokaluptetai cannot be taken as anything but a present reality. Paul makes it clear that the wrath is directed toward those who people who practice ungodliness and unrighteousness and those who suppress the truth in that unrighteousness. Mounce notes that Paul’s understanding is that truth doesn’t change, but it can be “held down or stifled” (p.77).

Mounce says, “Verses 19 and 20 tell why the wrath of God is being revealed. God, in his creation, has provided sufficient evidence of himself to hold accountable all who reject that revelation. What can be known of God is perfectly clear. God himself made it plain” (p.77). If we remember that, as I said earlier, Paul was writing to a mainly Gentile audience and that in this particular section he deals with problems in the Gentile community, specifically idol worship and, as I will argue later, homosexuality, then we can see clearly that Paul is arguing that the Gentiles could know about God and see His glory through the created order manifested in “His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature.” Thus, Paul uses the argument of created order to establish a universal knowledge of God and thus godliness and righteousness.

Paul continues his argument of created order in v.21 adding that these people (Gentiles, not Jews) knew God. They didn’t know God like the Jews did, but still they had no excuse because of this fact. But though they did know of God, they decided not to thank Him and glorify Him, but rather they rejected Him. And this led to them becoming “futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened.” Basically, their views became vain or selfishly ridiculous and then their foolish (a harsh word in the NT world) hearts were darkened. MacArthur in his Bible Commentary says that “when man rejects the truth, the darkness of spiritual falsehood replaces it” (p.1507).

Verse 22 begins with the present participle, phaskontes, meaning “declaring.” Thus they arrogantly declared that they were wise, but by showing their arrogance they actually became even more foolish. This seems to parallel Paul’s words in 1 Cor. 1:25-31.

The natural effect of this arrogance and rejection of the God they should have known is that they now show even more foolishness by “exchanging the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man and of birds and four-footed animals and crawling creatures.” Their foolishness went so far that they ended up worshipping the very things that they had created with their own hands and they were above in the created order. They worshipped mortal men (probably a slap at Caesar-worship) and then even images of animals like birds and those that don’t even show any intelligence. Again this shows their ignorance of the created order and their complete foolishness.

Because of this foolishness, their refusal to worship God, and the exchange they made of God for men and animals, God is said to have in v.23 given these people (again Gentiles) over to the lusts of their hearts. The desire He gave them over to wasn’t from Him, but rather came from their depraved nature. Because of what they had done, God no longer kept them from their own sinfulness, but allowed them to experience it firsthand and to dive deeply into their depravity. These feelings were inborn, not something that God brought upon them from external forces. Mounce says that the phrase, “the sinful desires of their hearts” (NIV) is “normally used of desires that are evil. What the ‘sexual impurity’ [NIV] consists of is clearly delineated in the verses that follow” (p.81). The results of God giving them over to these sexual impurities is that “their bodies would be dishonored among them.” The NIV says, “for the degrading of their bodies with one another.” About this Mounce says a great deal: “By practicing the abnormal vices listed in vv.26-27, men and women actually degrade their own bodies. Our physical bodies were meant for better and more noble purposes. Sin is a virus that invades the human soul and takes its toll throughout a person’s entire being. The Greek infinitive translated ‘degrading’ (atimazesthai) is present tense, suggesting the continuing practice of dishonoring the body” (p. 81).

Turning to v.25, the word “because” (ESV – “for” in the NASB – “so” in the NLT) (oitanes) indicates that Paul is now going to give a summary reason for all of this “giving over.” It is because “they exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshipped and served the creature rather than the Creator.” This accurately summarizes Paul’s argument to this point.

And so we will stop there again, just short of our focal verses. Again, I haven’t said anything controversial and nothing that hasn’t been affirmed over and over again by scholars and even the Church Fathers. And I feel that I have accurately reflected Paul’s argument up to this point. If you have any problems so far, Dan, let me know. Otherwise, we will press on. Again, take as long as you need to go through the text and follow the argument just so we can be sure we are agreed and can build on this. Once you give me the OK, I will lay out my argument for verses 26-27.

"Still, I don't quite understand your hang up on Luke 4:18-19...So, on what basis do you proclaim that this is Jesus' definition of the Gospel?"

Self-evidency. Jesus said, "The Spirit has annointed me to..." This is the reason Jesus came by Jesus' definition.

Where you appear to see Jesus only addressing whom he's speaking to here, I only see Paul presenting the facts of Jesus' ministry there. Jesus came, preached the gospel, which led to his arrest and death and then he rose again. Those are the facts of Jesus' life on earth, not why he came.

I understand that this is not the traditional view, but the traditional view is more closely related to magic than godliness. "If you believe in your heart and confess with your lips, you will be saved!"

Presto!

I'd suggest our interpretation is fairly common in anabaptist and related churches. We believe the same facts that you do about Jesus, but it is in following Jesus that we are working out our salvation. If one "believes and confesses" and is saved, but is not preaching good news to the poor and oppressed, then is one following Jesus?

Be clear, I'm not talking about salvation by works. We are saved by God's gift. But the anabaptists put a lot of creedence in Jesus' actual teachings, the sermon on the mount, the sheep and the goats, what you do for the least of these.

One is either following those teachings or one is not.

You said:
"your position is one of ambiguity -- you aren't sure what this text means."

Not ambiguity. Humility. I don't know what Paul was saying there. Nor do you. You simply know what our traditions have been.

But sometimes our traditions are wrong. Your argument that 2000 years of an anti-gay tradition in the church (and I would question whether or not that has been the consistent tradition within the church, but don't have info at hand to refute it at the moment), could just as easily have been used (and was) in defense of slavery.

"Who are you Quakers to question what we've been doing for 1800 years?! The Bible and Tradition are clear on this point."

Tradition sometimes is flat wrong. Surely you understand this?

And you cite the early church (where I have not read anything indicating that we have a record of what the early church thought about gays), which I find interesting because it seems you reject the early church's position against participation in the military (one could not be a Christian and in the military for the first 300-ish years of the church).

More on that later, perhaps.

Still more on:
"your position is one of ambiguity -- you aren't sure what this text means."

I have told you that I think that this passage unambiguously comes out against acting against one's natural relations. That part seems straightforward enough to me. You're choosing to hold the first part of what Paul says literally but setting aside this part. I'm choosing to question what Paul says about men with men because of the clarity of his statements about natural relations.

Could I not just as easily accuse you of holding an ambiguous position? We shall see how you deal with this word.

As to your comment on:

"Your piling on of arguments, regardless of their validity and consistency with a legitimate NT hermeneutic..."

All I can say is Amen and Amen, Brother!

I certainly agree that a piling on of arguments and many words regardless of their validity is questionably helpful, but I've not held it against you too much.

You also said:
"if this is completely cultural and like could fall into the mold of your Levitical argument..., couldn't Jesus' words to love your neighbor be so as well"

Yes, those words can AND HAVE been set aside as meaning something less than what they mean. But this is what we do: We read the Bible, we pray, we ask for guidance and we sift through the cultural and literal. You have said that you do this as well. You DO NOT practice the Jubilee Laws. You DO wear polyester.

You're setting this up as if I'm interpreting something as cultural and you're not, but that is simply wrong according to your own testimony.

I rest my case, lest I pile on as many words as you have...

And, if you have nothing to respond to on my previous comments, then I shall begin my exegesis of your exegesis.

You said:
Paul makes it clear that the wrath is directed toward those who people who practice ungodliness and unrighteousness and those who suppress the truth in that unrighteousness.

And it may be a small point, but my view of God based on what the Bible says is that God's wrath is towards the sin. As Paul himself says here:

"For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men" v. 18

The wrath is towards the ungodliness, moreso than towards the sinner. But, that's really a side issue to our main point, so I'll leave it at that.

You proceed to add many, many words to say that this passage is about God getting angry about the rejection of God and God's ways. We are not in disagreement with this thrust of the passage. You do understand that, right? I'm not saying that this passage is not a condemnation of exchanging "the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator..."

We're not in disagreement on this point. Where we disagree is on what IS the truth of God?

You state:
"The desire He gave them over to wasn’t from Him, but rather came from their depraved nature."

And I would offer this as a support of loving homosexual relationships. My gay friends are not inclined towards folk of the same gender because of a depraved nature but because it IS their nature given to them by God. So if God is condemning folk in this passage for a depraved nature, then it can't be talking about loving relations.

Where you say:
"The Greek infinitive translated ‘degrading’ is present tense, suggesting the continuing practice of dishonoring the body”"

And again, this suggests to me they're doing something other than the natural love act that we all know is a beautiful gift from God. It would seem they're talking about something vile, despicable like bestiality or child abuse. You'll disagree, of course, and that's the way it goes. I'd just say that it is not nearly as clear as you'd like to think.

But, as you stated, you've not really stated much that I disagree with, except your interpretations of what is said as noted above.

Dan, why, again is bestiality or child abuse wrong?

For that matter, on what basis is slavery wrong or as you say... a bad idea?

Dan, you said,

"And I would offer this as a support of loving homosexual relationships. My gay friends are not inclined towards folk of the same gender because of a depraved nature but because it IS their nature given to them by God. So if God is condemning folk in this passage for a depraved nature, then it can't be talking about loving relations."

So, how can you be sure that their desire for homosexual relationships didn't come from their depraved nature and it is from God? What objective facts do you have to support this assertion? Science hasn't proven this fact and even so, would you say that God gave alcoholics or junkies their proclivity to be addicts? What about child molestors? We believe that to be a psychological disease. Did God give those folks that desire and thus we should just accept it as a part of their nature?

Do you hold your position on this because you believe your friends love each other? What about adulterers who love each other (did God give them this love or maybe the inability to commit to a marriage)? It's love right, but yet surely you would agree that their desire was born out of their depravity. Same thing with the these teachers who say they are in love with their 13-year old students (and vice-versa, those students who claim love for their 30+ year old teachers). It's love right? What right do we have to throw this woman in jail and keep this couple apart? And what about incest? Couldn't a brother and sister claim the same thing? Why is that so obviously immmoral, but this absolutely can't be?

Your entire arguement is based on subjectivity. Rather than allowing the Bible to be authoritative on this point, you usurp it in favor of your subjective view that this can't be true. The traditional view can't be right because these people are loving and God is love. But, again I point you to the above examples. God has drawn boundaries on what are appropriate and inappropriate expressions of sexual love and there are absolutely no examples of these in the Bible between homosexuals (though as I stated earlier, the belief that homosexual love was a prevalent view in both Caananite and Greek culture -- as well as Egyptian). Only marriage between and man and a woman is Biblically affirmed. What this text says and what the Church for 2000 years has held is that homosexuality is outside of the bounds of God's will in sexual relationships. Period.

I will respond to one thing you wrote above since this naturally follows my arguement. You said, "And you cite the early church (where I have not read anything indicating that we have a record of what the early church thought about gays)" ... [the rest is a red herring] and "Your argument that 2000 years of an anti-gay tradition in the church (and I would question whether or not that has been the consistent tradition within the church, but don't have info at hand to refute it at the moment)...[again the rest is another red herring]."

I would say, can you prove to me that before 1960 there existed any strain of the Christian Church at all that accepted that "loving" homosexual relationships were a legitimate expression of Christianity (or any form of homosexuality at that)?

Or can you prove that any Church Father, ancient Church Historian, or Reformer believed this text to be about anything but the condemnation of homosexuality?

I will show conclusively later that pre-Christian Jews, Jews at the time of Jesus, and Ante-Nicene, Nicene, and Post-Nicene Church Fathers, as well as Reformers, and English Baptists all held this passage to be a screaming indictment of homosexual behavior.

As to your red herring on slavery, there is no official church teaching on it and while there were some at different parts of history (particularly the Civil War era) that used the Bible to make a case for slavery, there exists no Church dogma like that on homosexual practice. The same goes for your red herring on wearing polyester. These arguments are completely incongruent. Let's start focusing on facts not trying to pull up every argument you can to continue to confirm that you fit perfectly into Dr. White's scenario quoted above.

Now, after your response to all these questions I have asked, I will post my exegesis of vv.26-27.

DR said:
"As to your red herring on slavery, there is no official church teaching on it and while there were some at different parts of history... that used the Bible to make a case for slavery, there exists no Church dogma like that on homosexual practice. The same goes for your red herring on wearing polyester. These arguments are completely incongruent."

And, as much as you may like to think of it as a red herring (something which draws attention away from the central issue), these issues are very analogous of the homosexuality issue and thus appropriate.

The Bible is not clearly against slavery. In fact, the verses that are there seem to suggest slavery is okay and have been used by Christians to endorse slavery in the past.

We agree, however, that slavery is an affront to God. We don't get to that point by pointing to a verse in the Bible that says, "Slavery is an affront to God," but by a discerning of God's nature as evidenced in verses such as, "Love your enemies," "love your neighbor as yourself," "do unto others as you'd have them do unto you," etc as well as using the moral logic that God built in to us (my words have I written on your heart).

SIMILARLY, there are no verses that advocate gay marriages. In fact, there are some few verses that the some in the church have traditionally used to condemn the notion of gay marriage.

And yet, many reach the point after careful bible study and prayer, that it is in God's nature to embrace gay marriage. We don't get there by pointing to a verse that says "God embraces gay marriage," but rather by looking at verses like Paul's here (where he endorses embracing natural relations), and the general notion of God as a good creator as well as using the moral logic that God has built within us.

So, despite your assertion that this is a red herring, it is clearly applicable. As is the polyester.

No one takes each verse in the Bible as applicable to us today. NO ONE. I won't bother rehashing this point after this time. We ALL look at the Bible and realize that there are some verses that are not applicable to us today. Period.

You DO NOT stone disrespectful children. You DO NOT embrace the Jubilee Laws. You DO NOT condemn polyester. Instead, WE ALL read the Bible and interpret what is relevant and applicable to us today.

We do not always agree on this process and there are some pretty important issues at hand (as opposed to the sinfulness or not of polyester). These we ought to talk about and work through the best we can, as we're doing here. Yet even then, we'll not come to an agreement and that's just the way it is.

Could some take my defense of gay marriage and run with it to say, "well, God created me to want to have sex with children?" Yes, they could.

That is called a slippery slope and it has limited usefulness as a logical argument. We deal with these other issues, if someone seriously wants to raise them, as they come along.

I could use a slippery slope argument and the Bible and make a decent case that we ought to have NO money at all. After all, the love of money is the root of all evil. Wealth is roundly thrashed throughout the Bible. "It's difficult for the rich to enter the kingdom of God," after all. "Sell all you own and give it to the poor," after all. And so the best thing to do would be to get rid of our use of money altogether.

Right?

Maybe, but that would actually be a slippery slope argument and not the best way to approach the issue. (Although, I would say you could make a heckuva lot more sound case for the above than you can on gay marriage-as-sin.)

My entire argument based on subjectivity? Perhaps. But no more so than your argument. The bible never says that gay marriage is wrong. What objective measure shall we use then?

Understand, I'm not discrediting objective truth. God's objective truth. But we're not God. We have limited understanding.

Considering objective's definition:

Having actual existence or reality. Based on observable phenomena; presented factually.

How are we mere mortals to determine UNsubjectively what this passage means?

We try our best, that's how. And we may be right or wrong or somewhere in between. That is the way it is.

So don't go suggesting that I'm being subjective and you're not. That you're taking each verse in the Bible literally and I'm not. That's simply not the case and truly is a red herring.

And Stephen, did you see that I answered your question above?

And I keep looking for a place to point this out and here is as good as any, I reckon.

How on what basis DO we know that slavery or child abuse is wrong. We have both said that we don't take each line as literally applying to us today, so what measure do we use to determine?

Well, Daniel has already suggested it is wise to try to understand the culture to whom it was written, the context of what was written and I agree. But ultimately, I suggest we, as Christians, use Jesus as our measure.

1. How does it measure/compare to the Golden Rule and what Jesus told us were the two Big Umbrella rules (Do unto others..., Love God and love your neighbor as yourself)?
2. How does it measure/compare to Jesus other teachings?
3. How does it measure to the teachings of the rest of the Bible?

That's a fairly basic criteria that is not especially radical. Southern Baptists even used to believe it.

I apologize for the ridiculously bad grammar and mistakes made in that second paragraph! Gee!

It should have read,

On what basis DO we know that slavery or child abuse is wrong? We have both said that we don't take each line of the Bible as literally applying to us today, so what measure do we use to determine a passage's applicability to us?

Dan, you know it occurred to me today that you sound a whole lot like a Fundamentalist. Recently I debated (if you can call it that) a guy who is a fundy and it is amazing how similar you guys argue. Red herrings, rejection of any logical argument, the Ph.D. method that Dr. White discussed, etc., etc.

So I had to ask myself -- Self, why are you getting so irritated? And I really don't know the answer to that. So, no longer am I going to pander to your arguments and red herrings. I'm not going to chase these rabbits that you insist on creating. I am going to stick to the original question:

Does the Bible teach that homosexuality is a sin?

And I refuse to discuss anything but this text. God willing, tomorrow I am going to lay out my argument for vv.26-27 along with an unbroken string of Church teaching. And with all of that evidence you still reject the traditional, historical position on homosexuality, then I can only say that I did my best and I wash my hands of this debate (at least I am strengthened by my 30+ hours of research and writing). And in the end, none of this debate has really been about you. It's been about showing that the text of the Bible teaches the historical position. I don't have the burden of the argument, Dan. You do. And so far, I do think think you have even begun to show why we should reject 2000 years of Church tradition and solid Biblical and extra-Biblical support. Deconstruction of the Bible and red herrings about slavery and polyester prove nothing. Building an argument from a "perceived" understanding of God and Jesus, despite the universal rejection of this view by both pre- and post- Reformation Church history proves nothing either. I choose accept the authority of the Bible, believe in the power of the Holy Spirit to speak the same Word for 2000 years, and to be a Christian in the line of Aristides, Polycarp, Clement of Alexandria, Tertullian, Chrysostom, Cyprian, Eusebius, Augustine, Aquinas, Luther, Thomas Watson, and Charles Spurgeon. If I am wrong, then at least I am in the best of company. And so like Luther, I say, "Here I stand, I can do no other."

I will next post the exegesis of Romans 1:26-27 in accordance with 2000 years of Church tradition. Then this debate will be finished.

As you noted something similar earlier about me: it seems when you've backed yourself in to a corner and have no answers, the solution is to avoid the question and declare yourself the winner.

Just saying an argument is a red herring does not make it so. You should at least explain why you think it is a red herring, a reasonable person would assume.

And speaking of fundies, I think the reason you're so irritated is probably related to this whole supposed "red herring" you refuse to fish for: A good number of traditionalists are simply uncomfortable with the notion that they do not take the Bible as to be taken line for line literally for our day and age.

As soon as you admit that you don't take the Bible "literally" literally, then you have to admit that we are all striving to sort out the literal from the non-literal, the cultural from the everlasting and admit that your system is not perfect.

What you're in effect saying is, "Darnit! I DO take the Traditions literally and we all should! So stop asking stupid questions and just tell me why you don't accept this Tradition the way it's always been accepted!" and offering no validation WHY we should take your Traditions literally. And accepting no answers except ones that fit your narrow thinking as to what an answer is.

And once you've thus shut yourself off from debate, then you have a situation like we find ourselves in, where you offer what you think are totally pertinent and cogent remarks which I find nearly totally irrelevant; and my remarks, which I find completely relevant, you don't see how in the world they apply.

I understand the feeling, it is a common human one. And very common in traditional churches.

Which is one reason why traditional churches are largely becoming irrelevant and unable to speak to the world at large.

Dan, if that is what you think then once again I can't change your opinion. But you are not going to provoke me to argue ridiculous points that are red herrings. This whole discussion you want to get into doesn't answer the central question:

Does the Bible teach that homosexuality is a sin?

If you choose to reject the teaching of the Bible because you think it is out-of-date or because you don't like what it says, then fine. But we started this discussion with the presupposition that we both believe in the authority and inspiration of the Bible. I no longer believe that is your position. I can't answer every caveat to every argument because we don't play by the same rules in interpretation. In fact, I have no clue how you interpret the Bible. So that is why I am done discussing peripheral issues with you. I never wanted to discuss anything but the text anyway. You have continually moved the subject away from it. So that is why I will not discuss anything but the text now. Believe what you want about why, but I think the text is central.

Now as to your comment about traditional churches being irrelevant...hmmm....is that why studies have shown over an over again that conservative churches are growing while moderate and liberal churches are declining? Of course, with your defintion of Gospel having nothing to do with Christ's death, resurrection, and future coming, then I would imagine it fits perfectly with the culture.

Again, let's focus on the text. You can find away to dismiss it after we dealt with it.

DR:

You wrote:

"I don't have the burden of the argument, Dan. You do."

That has been simply the most obvious argument to state up to this point. Isn't it humorous that statements like "I have been where you are now" put us into the midset that we have to try to 'bring someone back' and so we engage them in those things that distracted them in the first place?

Your 30+ hours of study have benefitted me also. Thank you for throwing the Word on the ground! I look forward to It bringing forth the fruit!

"If you choose to reject the teaching of the Bible because you think it is out-of-date or because you don't like what it says, then fine. But we started this discussion with the presupposition that we both believe in the authority and inspiration of the Bible. I no longer believe that is your position."

You misrepresent me, brother man. I don't reject the "teaching" of the Bible. I have said that I believe in the Truths of the Bible. We both have said that we do not believe that the Bible can be literally interpreted word for word as literally applicable to us today. BUT, I think we both believe that the Big Truths ARE applicable to us today.

THAT is what we're trying to get to discuss - the Big Truths.

Are you saying that you literally believe the Bible is to be taken literally word for word as applicable to us today? That isn't what you said earlier. And, in fact, whether or not you say it, you don't believe the Bible is to be taken thusly. Nor should you.

You can choose to believe me when I say that I believe in the authority and inspiration of the Word or not. All I can tell you is that I do and, quite frankly, I find it another indicator of your arrogance that you think you know better than I what I believe.

As I have pointed out, I will/have indulge(d) you in this discussion, as it is a fair request on your part. But we both know how this will end up, we have both researched our positions and reached our conclusions. You have offered up nothing to change my mind, nor I yours.

This is why MY ORIGINAL question to you was about the nature of who's saved and who's not. Do you reject me as a Christian because I have studied the Bible and reached a different conclusion than you? And, if so, what biblical basis do you have for doing so?

To me, while this exercise has been entertaining and helpful for me (in showing how I can better explain what I think the Bible does and doesn't say), I am really more interested in the "who's in and who's out?" question, according to you and yours.

But by all means, ignore my questions, pile your points up higher and carry on. I'll get to my question again at the end, if you are so inclined to deal with it.

For what it's worth, what we're saying and will continue to say about your question: "Does the Bible teach that homosexuality is a sin?"
is this:

You:

When the Bible condemns "men laying with men" in Leviticus, "men abandoning natural relations" in Romans and the word that is variously translated "soft," "effeminate," "homosexual" and "homosexual offender" in 4-5 places in the NT, that is condemning all homosexual behavior, including committed relationships.

Me:

When the Bible condemns the above, it is NOT talking about committed gay relationships, but rather abusive ones of one sort or the other. It's difficult to tell what exactly it's condemning due to our limited knowledge of exactly what the writers were saying and even uncertainty of how to translate the handful of words.

But even though it is difficult to know what exactly the Bible is talking about in these handful of verses, it is clearly not talking about committed same sex relationships.

And you'll say it is and I'll say it isn't and you'll say IS, and I'll say ISN'T. And you'll say that church tradition has said that it is and I'll say that church tradition has been wrong before and, in fact, Jesus' clear condemnation of valuing religious tradition over love and respect are of much greater concern than the issue of homosexuality, which our Lord and Savior never chose to address as a concern.

And you'll say, ISN'T and I'll say IS...etc.

"As you noted something similar earlier about me: it seems when you've backed yourself in to a corner and have no answers, the solution is to avoid the question and declare yourself the winner."


Ok, Dan, this comment irritated me enough to get me to respond. So I'll be your huckleberry. When I said you were backed into a corner, it was because you were not dealing with questions I had asked regarding the passages that I had brought up as well as challenges to your position of the text dealing with exploitation (all of which were issues you brought up and when answered you skipped over), not because I didn't like your answers. I have dealt with this crazy polyester argument before and as I have said you are trying to ignore the context of the passages. The context of Leviticus is in convenant community whereby there is a theocracy. The NT is not in this and though there are many differences in our cultures, you can't say, "well we don't take Leviticus 19:19 literally so why should we do the same with Romans 1:26-27." Can't you see that doesn't work, especially in your own framework of OT/NT dichotomy? Your own argument is that we don't obey these laws because they were for another people at another time and that our framework of ethics isn't built around the Law, but rather Jesus Christ. So now, you can't use this argument against me because you reject it for another reason. You already deal with the NT differently than you do the OT, ergo, you cannot now deal with them the same. That is contradictory to your own position. And you cannot use that against me because I don't have to prove that point right now. I have to prove that the NT teaches that homosexuality is wrong via Romans 1. Thus, the argument takes away from the central point, which is "Does the NT teach [since that is what part we are dealing with here] that HMS is wrong?" Thus, it is a red herring.

And the slavery issue is a red herring, as well. And it is not a congruent argument. Sure, people have taken texts that have to do with slavery and built a case for it, but this has not been universal church teaching for 2000 years (there has never been a "thou shalt have slavery" in the Bible or elsewhere --the practice existed and thus people tried to claim it was not out of line wiht the Bible [sounds more like your claim on homosexuality than my claim about it], but there is a "thou shalt not lie with a man as one lies with a woman" in the Bible as well as a charge that HMS behavior is "against nature" and plenty of prohibitions against HMS throughout Church history). I have never seen an Encyclical by the RCC endorsing slavery. Have you? I have never seen a statement in any church confession embracing it as Biblical (have you?), yet there exists statements regarding homosexuality in both types. Also, the texts on slavery deal with it because it was a part of their culture, not because the Bible was making a judgement call as to its validity -- unlike homosexuality where the texts explicitly forbid it in the OT and as I will show call it wicked in the NT.

Also, the slavery we deal with in 21st c. America and that which they dealt with in 18th and 19th c. Colonial America isn't congruent to that which is spoken of in the Bible. But once you read many of the ancient texts on homosexuality, as I have lately, you see that there is an almost exact congruency between ancient homosexual practices and modern homosexual practices.

So, please don't use just any argument you can drum up to take away from what this text in Romans says and what the Jews always believed Leviticus 18 said and what 2000 years of Christian history has taught, as if it just like slavery and wearing polyester. It's just not.

Dan, the question we agreed to debate was:

Does the Bible teach that homosexuality was a sin?

I don't care what you want to talk about. I didn't agree to talk about that though I did answer the question about homosexuals and Christianity and those who reject this teaching and Christianity a long time ago. Go back and read it. Since you refuse to let us stay on topic, I am closing the comments here and will post on the exegesis on Romans 1:26-27 in another post.

D. R., Thanks for the comment.
We're just not on the same page.
Homosexuality is natural for people because it is observed in all cultures for all of history. You say it is unnatural because it is prohibited by the Bible and/or a result of the Fall. Our first problem is a disagreement on the meaning of "(un)natural".
I do not take the Christian or Jewish Scriptures literally. Your argument is sound and so is Dan's. But I cannot defend the premise that the Bible is authoritative on the matter or the conclusion that homosexual acts are in all cases sinful. I believe St. Paul was mistaken about many things, especially sex and gender.
To answer your question, I think it's sad to describe homosexual acts and feelings as universally "unnatural and rebellion against God" because it betrays an attitude that same-sex feelings and behavior don't belong. Catholics use the term "intrinsically disordered", but the attitude is the same. Growing up as intrinsically disordered, one has few options: be alone, die in sin, or change (unlikely. and Oh I tried). If faced with those options, which would you chose? That is why it makes me sad when Christians say homosexuality is unnatural.
I hope I don't sound too polemical. I just want to offer food for thought. Good luck with your next post on the subject!

Day,
If you don't take the Bible to be God's authoritative truth, then you are right that we are just not on the same page. I am not sure if you are a Christian (I had been under the impression that you were and that is why I commented on your site), but even if you consider yourself one who at least tries to follow the teachings of Jesus, I would see your view of Scripture as problematic, given that most of what we know of Jesus comes from Scripture and the rest from the Early Church that relied on that same Scripture along with possibly some oral tradition. If we reject the Bible as having been inspired by the Holy Spirit and authoritative for our lives, then on what basis can we believe anything in it, including the words of Jesus which were recorded by men relying on their memory and on oral tradition (Scripture actually reveals that Jesus told these disciples that the Holy Spirit would remind them of what Jesus has said and that He (the Holy Spirit) would also teach them what Jesus couldn't and bring them into all truth. That is the purpose of the Holy Spirit's inspiration of the Scriptures.

But if you are not a Christian, I encourage you to continue to seek God and pray for Him to open your eyes so that you might see wonderous things in His Word. I also encourage you to pray that God would reveal Himself to you in a real way, showing you His glory and goodness. And even if you don't exactly agree with it, I encourage you to regularly read the Bible, if for no other reason than to understand Christians better.

May God bless you on your journey as you seek Him. Thanks for stopping by the blog.

Day and I have had this conversation before (several times). One of the response I've given to the natural/unnatural question is that it's both.

It was unnatural until the Fall, when it became a part of the sin nature built inside of us.

That's the short version. DR, what do you think about that argument? And Day would really like you to answer his question:

"Growing up as intrinsically disordered, one has few options: be alone, die in sin, or change (unlikely. and Oh I tried). If faced with those options, which would you chose?"

Thanks guys.

Joe, I think that in using the words natural/unnatural in the sense that you are doing, you are actually confusing the issue. I do think I understand what you mean, but you are not using those words like the apostle Paul was. What I believe you mean is that there is a certain amount of predisposition that occurs in those with same-sex attraction. In essence, feelings come about without any real push in that direction. Though they may be somewhat culturally conditioned, it seems that same-sex attraction just happens for some and not for others.

But, that is different than when Paul says that it is "contrary to nature." Paul's overall argument is that God has set forth an order for the universe. That order has been tainted, like you say, by the Fall, but also in Romans he argues by idolatry and a general turning from God in favor of man-made idols. NT Wright speaks about this in his New Interpreter's Bible commentary on Romans and explains that Paul's indictment is not so much on the individual as it is on the culture at large. Thus, because the culture is corrupt and idolatrous, perversion results, not necessarily from the individual idolatry. Hence, the idolatrous culture produces people who are predisposed and culturally conditioned to all sorts of sexual and moral perversions. The one who has a same-sex attraction is not alone in this culture in his or her battle with sin. Many face similar bouts with other types of sin.

Which brings me to the question at hand - what would I do if I were in Day's situation? Well, honestly I can't completely tell you because I can't understand the depth of distress and heartbreak that he feels, but I can tell you that he is not alone in the community of faith. There are many who choose to remain celibate and do so very well. In fact, I don't think his situation is really much different from that of a heterosexual to whom God never provides a spouse. I know many people who struggle with their celibacy and hope to one day find a relationship, yet many will not. But their resolve is strong not to sin. They would rather remain celibate than fall into sin. As I said there are many who struggle with same-sex attraction that do the same. They struggle but do not engage in those relationships because they are convinced that God has told them "No." These are courageous individuals and men and women with much spiritual discipline and a great love for God. This is not an easy road, but I imagine that if you ask them, they will tell you that it is worth it. And likely they won't be as alone as you think, but rather many throw themselves into their church, into the community, and into whatever else that brings to them meaningful, but non-sexual relationships.

You might not agree with a lot of what they do, but Exodus International has a website that helps people to deal with their same-sex attraction. Here is an article dealing with the issue of celibacy. Also, I highly recommend books by Joe Dallas, a former homosexual who now speaks and writes about such issues.

The Bible contains 6 admonishments to homosexuals and 362 to heterosexuals. That does not mean that God doesn’t love heterosexuals, they just need more supervision.

BAC

I never said that God didn't extend love toward those who engaged in homosexuality. However, that does not mean that God does not repudiate their behavior and call them to repentence. I have heard this statement before, but it really proves nothing and doesn't negate the continual and consistant witness of Scripture, which is that sexual intercourse is only appropriate when expressed between a man and a woman in the context of a covenant marriage. Anything other than that is a rejection of God's plan and a rejection of God Himself.

In your opinion.


BAC

Well, that may be how you feel, but it's an opinion informed by 2000 years of Church history and an in depth study of God's Word. And I would rather stand on that than simply anyone's non-authoritative opinion. In the end only God can speak Truth correctly and it's our job to interpret what He has said and still says. And since God doesn't change, I think I will stick to what He has made clear in the past -- that the only appropriate sexual relationships are between a man and a woman in the covenant of a marriage. PERIOD.

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Paul was not interested merely in the ethical principles of religion or of ethics. On the contrary, he was interested in the redeeming work of Christ and its effect upon us. His primary interest was in Christian doctrine, and Christian doctrine not merely in its presuppositions but at its centre. -- J. Greshem Machen.

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