GOD LOVES GAYS 2 – a Revision – a Revolution even

What a difference a day makes! After my previous post, (https://delemares.wordpress.com/2012/04/24/105/ ) I was sent a link to a video by Matthew Vines which totally revised, revolutionised even, my thinking. I had accepted the traditional interpretation of certain passages in the Bible – Matthew caused me to look at those passages again.

This post describes a re-evaluation of those passages. (I describe the events leading up to this re-evaluation here: https://delemares.wordpress.com/2012/05/01/my-story-2-me-and-the-gay-debate-the-backstory-of-a-blog-3/ )  There is so much more in Matthew’s moving account. I encourage you to watch it for yourself.

As I mentioned earlier, the Bible doesn’t major on homosexuality – there are just 6 short passages, 7 if you include the Genesis account of the creation of Eve.

Matthew has taken 2 years out of college to study these passages carefully. He (along with many others) questions the traditional interpretation of these passages. He asks that we go the extra mile, that we be prepared to step into his shoes and look again at those passages.

He reminds us that Jesus warned us against false teachers, and asked us to judge them by their fruit. What has been the fruit of traditional teaching? So often that teaching has led to hatred and division, instead of love and acceptance.

In Genesis chapter 2, God said that it is not good for man to be alone, and so he created Eve from one of Adam’s ribs. Matthew describes the lonely life of a gay person if they are to stick to the traditional teaching. God has said it is not good for us to be alone, but gay people are told to do just that.

Matthew then looks at each of the 6 passages. First the account of Sodom and Gomorrah in Genesis 19. He points out that elsewhere in the Bible (e.g. Ezekiel 16) we are told that the sin of Sodom was their arrogance, greed and not helping the poor and needy. Their intention to gang rape the angels in Genesis was not the main point of the story, God was already intending to destroy them before that.

He then looked at the 2 passages in Leviticus (chapters 18 and 20) and suggests that these laws were part of a whole range of laws that were designed to distinguish the Israelites from their pagan neighbours. The early church at the Council of Jerusalem in Acts 15 declared that these laws were no longer binding on gentile converts. So why should same-sex relations be the exception to that ruling?

Matthew then turned to the New Testament and spoke at some length on the passage in Romans 1, which speaks of unnatural relations between men and men, and women and women. As the term unnatural is elsewhere used by Paul to describe men having long hair, it is better to interpret that as a social custom. In any case, this passage describes men turning away from their women, becoming inflamed with lust for other men – it’s not about gay men in loving relationships.

The other passages are in 1Corinthians 6 and 1Timothy 1, where the meanings of the greek words are disputed (it has been suggested that Paul made one of them up!) but seem to refer to coercive, exploitative, or economic relations i.e. male prostitutes. The terms are included in sin lists which include lying and drunkenness, as I mentioned in my previous post.

In sum, the New Testament passages seem to apply to lustful even violent relationships, not loving, committed, monogamous ones.

So what views have I changed? I’ve concluded that the Bible does not speak about loving, committed, lifelong, monogamous homosexual relationships. The sin of sexual immorality is mentioned many more times in the Bible and includes fornication and adultery; the sin is in exchanging lust for love, it’s about rape and coercion – and applies to heterosexual sex just as much as homosexual sex.

Jesus summed up the commandments in one: Love God – and its rider – Love your Neighbour as yourself.

Do find time to watch the video (it’s just over an hour long). http://matthewvines.tumblr.com/ (there is a transcript attached).

Comments please. I’d value comments on this blog – I’ve had comments on the previous post left on twitter and facebook – I’d value comments left here so all may read and join in the debate.

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About Sandra Delemare

follower of Jesus, retired mental health nurse, writer. Interests: crochet, photography, wildlife I blog on biblical meditation, mental health and crochet. I'm also posting a series on my life story so people know where I'm coming from.
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67 Responses to GOD LOVES GAYS 2 – a Revision – a Revolution even

  1. Andy says:

    Thank you, Sandra, for your openness, your honesty, your integrity, and for being prepared to love. You are an incredible encouragement.
    My prayer is that you don’t now experience a barrage of abuse, but I want to say be ready for it.
    Much love
    Andy

    • delemares says:

      Thanks for your concern. I am prepared for some backlash – but that would be nothing compared to the abuse you guys have had to endure for years.
      I’ve read stuff from the anti-gay lobby that would make you think being gay was the unforgiveable sin.
      Years ago I gave up on an organisation that used to send me campaigning material (I used to write a lot of letters to local papers – and got one or two mildly abusive responses – in fact there was a series of letters about section 28 in the Southern Echo some years back in which I had 3 published [still with my old thinking I’m afraid])
      I chose the title for my original Lymington Times article expecting flack from both sides – it didn’t happen – I think the editors thought there’d been enough on the subject the previous year.
      Sorry I’ve rambled on rather. This is a subject that’s been on my heart for many years. In some ways, it’s a relief to be able to come down on the side where my heart is.
      be blessed

  2. First of all your title..God Loves Gays…is absolutely correct. I used to be very judgmental in the case of gay relationships….The Holy Spirit really convicted me that I had absolutely No right to judge in this regard..I didn’t do so in others but I did with gay relationships. I feel that it is ONLY up to God to judge ANYONE..He alone looks at the hearts of the individuals just as He does with any perceived sin….Sin is Sin no matter what form it takes…greed, adultery, fornication, murderers, and the list goes on. We have neighbors who are in a gay relationship and I treat them as I would treat anyone else whose hearts I don’t try to begin to know. …Diane

    • delemares says:

      So true, Diane – Judge not that you be not judged – and with the measure you judge, so you will be judged. It’s not for us judge others – and we’ll ultimately be answerable for every careless word – concentrates the mind when it comes to putting stuff on the net!

    • Clare Weiner says:

      Hey, good response! And so true: leave judgments up to God 🙂

    • stasisonline says:

      Of course God loves gays. Does anyone other than Westboro Baptist seriously dispute that? The controversial question is whether he condones gay sex. A straight-forward reading of most English translations of the Bible would lead you to conclude he doesnt condone gay sex, whether that sex be in a monogamous relationship or otherwise. How do we know that Romans 1 doesnt apply to monogamous gay relationships too? It seems to be more than lust that is condemned in Romans 1 – the sex is too. And dont even most long-term relationships include lust at some point? How do we know that those described in Romans 1 were not loving while at the same time being lustful? If Matthew’s interpretation of Romans 1 is valid, how does it make sense that a straight person would lust after a member of their same sex? And how could Matthew’s interpretation be fair to bisexuals or those who are in a heterosexual relationship for many years, but then decide that they are gay (EG http://www.advocate.com/Arts_and_Entertainment/People/Meredith_Baxters_New_Family_Ties/) – it wouldnt make sense.
      This is not an issue with easy answers, but there are various elements of the video that dont add up, as critiqued here:
      http://stasisonline.wordpress.com/2012/04/10/homosexual-marriage/

      • Stephen says:

        “If Matthew’s interpretation of Romans 1 is valid, how does it make sense that a straight person would lust after a member of their same sex?”

        Did you not watch the whole video? He explains how homosexuality was commonly seen as an excess of lust for anyone, not a different orientation for some. It’s not as though they thought and spoke of “straight” and “gay” people — rather, there were just people, any of whom could go off and have sex with the same sex if they were being highly lustful. It’s a very different way of looking at it than we do now, but Paul makes much more sense within that ancient context.

        Also, how do we know they weren’t also being loving in addition to lustful? Because the Bible separates lust from love; when a loving relationship is being described, it doesn’t call it lustful. Lust is a sin, love isn’t. Your argument here relies on a lot of conjecture.

        • stasisonline says:

          Stephen thanks for your reply. Ive now come to agree with you about the question of how Matthew would try to explain a heterosexual lusting after a member of their same sex. Thank you for that.

          Your claim that my argument include conjecture is true. But let’s not assume that Matthew’s is without conjecture. Likewise, I suggest that your interpretation of Romans 1 as not including loving relationships, is conjecture also. Unfortunately, with the Bible we are often dependant on talking about what is probable (ie conjecture), given that what is definite is often impossible to pin down.

          I still dont think Matthew’s interpretation of the passage is strong. You suggest that Matthew’s claim that straight people can lust after their same sex, is explained by a supposed ancient understanding that everyone was basically heterosexual and that homosexuality was an expression of an excess of lust. Yes, I acknowledge that Matthew claimed something along those lines. But lets not fool ourselves in thinking that the people of the New Testament era were thoroughly ignorant about sexuality. Matthew’s claim that they are “far removed” from our modern understandings, is questionable. It doesnt require fancy computers and modernity to be able to establish that different people are sexually attracted to different things – all it takes is a confidant, such as a priest, who talks with a wide variety of people at a personal and honest level. The idea of homosexual behaviour being an ‘excess’ is not a foreign concept to us today. Even now, some people still perceive it to be excessive, in terms of gay men often having many sexual partners, using “gay baths” and being party animals. I hope that doesnt sound rude, but I need to illustrate how i dont think there is a huge gap in understandings between then and now. I accept that ancient writers probably did consider homosexual lust to be excessive, but I dont think Matthew offers concrete evidence that people of the New Testament era didnt realise that human beings have variations in sexual orientation, as some historians have suggested.

          Furthermore, does the claim that people would believe that *anyone* could be “inflamed with lust” for members of their same sex and abandon heterosexual relations, sound sensible? Many (but not all) heterosexual men today would laugh at such a suggestion being valid. Why do you think many men of the New Testament era would accept that this is how all human beings work? A good friend of mine is clearly heterosexual and non-religious, and tells me that he once tried gay sex, but didnt enjoy it, and tells me he is disinterested in ever doing it again. He’s a perfect example of an open-minded person who would still laugh at Matthew’s perception of ancient understandings on this. The idea that any and all heterosexuals could be “inflamed with same-sex lust” AND abandon heterosexual relations, is a rather unlikely suggestion.

          I think we should note too, that Matthew’s basis for claiming that homosexuality was thought to be an excess of lust for heterosexuals, is based on materials from outside of the Bible. To embrace the argument that Paul believed homosexuality to simply be an excess of lust on the part of heterosexuals, is to say that Paul did not understand that homosexuals are not heterosexually attracted. IE it’s to claim that people who authored the Bible did not understand reality of human sexuality. That claim brings into question the standard notion that scripture was “god breathed”. That would not be a new position; it’s Biblical liberalism. But that’s not the angle that Matthew is generally coming from. In the presentation Matthew generally treats the Bible as authoritative, but not Romans 1. And if Paul doesnt know what he’s talking about here, is it reasonable to take the rest of the epistles as authoritative? Why does Matthew even bother treating the Bible seriously at all? He’s being disingenuous. He finishes his presentation by claiming that the Bible does not condemn committed same-sex relationships, when in actual fact, his argument is partially based in a position of believing that what the Bible states doesnt matter, because the writers didnt know what they were on about.

          • Stephen J March says:

            Replying to stasisonline’s long post. (Which for some reason I don’t see displayed here?)
            I think one of the crucial issues when a new understanding of a biblical test surfaces, is how does this sit with the rest of scripture and how the church / Judais tradition has understood these verses.
            For example the recent revision of our understanding of sexual equality between men and women. This new optic challenged the entrenched values and exegesis. However when we came to look at scripture we saw that in Genesis man and women were of equal value, although one might argue with differentiation in role. We saw in the Old Testament – a strongly patriarchal culture – that nonethless women occasionally took leadership roles. Sometimes because men failed to assume these roles, but others because they just seemed in the ideal position to do it and to eb gifted for it. The New Testament theology of their no longer being male or female further supported a new optic that was at least less dogmatic about the relative roles of men and women. Some (like me) would consider that generally men are more suited to leadership, but would not want to preclude women from such roles given the Scriptural data supporting a certain openness to this issue.
            Others would go further and consider that gender equivalence is now the norm. But I still regard men and women as equal but different – and I relsih that difference.

            However back to our question, in reconsidering homosexual practice, can we look back and see that we have culturally narrowed a more open original biblical position? Have we erred in limiting human sexuality when originally it had a wider range of expression? Do we see any examples in Scripture where homosexual practice is approved of, or finds acceptance?

            Similarly, in the Jewish and Christian traditions has there been expressed at any moment the idea that somehow the biblical interdictions on a wide arrange of sexual activity can be interpreted in another way, or have some other meaning?

            As far as I can tell the answer to both questions is “No”.

            Thus it seems to me that the best understanding of what we are experiencing in this issue, is not the desire to take the Bible seriously as the divine guide for human life, but rather a world-view clash between a culture that is in the process of abandonning biblical norms in most areas of human behaviour and the Christian faith, as it has always been understood and lived.

            I may well be wrong in this view, but it seems to me that when culture says one thing and Scripture says the opposite, I cannot but come down on the side of Scripture. Regardless of how that pains, disturbs, hurts, annoys, exasperates me.

            That is my faith and I’m stick with it.

      • delemares says:

        Phil Groom has posted at http://philgroom.wordpress.com/2012/04/28/shadow-dancing-a-conversation-about-faith-hope-and-gay-love-in-the-church/
        a lengthy online conversation discussing this – there are no easy answers – maybe it’s about whether we follow our head or our heart.
        Is it a case of ‘mercy triumphs over judgment’? – never forgetting that we all fall short (way short) of the glory of God’

      • You know, there’s a long standing “Truism” in the gay community that goes like this: “What’s the difference between a straight man and a gay man?” The Answer to which is “A Six Pack” alluding to the fact that many a “straight man” will screw just about anything with the right amount of alcohol and lust in their system. While it may not be true across the board, it’s proven itself to be true enough that most gay men know men who have “exchanged their attractions to women for an attraction to men” with the right chemical alterations to their systems. I’m fairly certain that Lesbians could tell similar tales about straight women and alcohol…..

        • PS – This also includes tales of men in Prison, men on long sea voyages or other environments where contact with women is absent for long periods of time and the men adopt homosexuality for the duration and then return to their heterosexual selves once brought back to communion with women.

          • stasisonline says:

            Yes, good point Steve. Matthew’s claim that sexual orientation is permanent rather than a little flexible, is oversimplified, as is his not catering to the reality of bisexuality in his analysis. If Matthew’s interpretation is correct, then bisexual Christians in Rome would have felt not only marginalised, but rather confused about what was sanctioned for them sexually.

  3. Fabulous!!! Ten years ago I was not affirming to the glbt community, but of course, loving, in my own sort of variety of “love”. Conditional. It thrill me to read of the transformation of fellow believers when they re-look at the verses. I like to say that I REVISIT them , not REVISE them.
    I hope you will join me on my blog http://www.canyonwalkerconnections.com and learn about ways to engage and strengthen your voice to do what God asked us to do: love, serve, make disciples and fight oppression.
    Matthew is a friend of mine and his work is needed and clearly significant in helping fellow Christian understand another way to view the verses that have been used to oppress. YIPPEE for you!

    • delemares says:

      Thanks for your comment. I’ve found this experience very humbling to find how enthusiastic people are.
      btw I meant that I’d revised my thinking, not the verses.
      Matt’s a great guy

  4. Thomas says:

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts. Your caring and your deep desire to love as Christ loved are very apparent! We have been following blindly what we have been told and taught for years. We all need to take the time to find or what scripture is really saying by reading and praying over it. It takes bravery to admit when we are wrong, to say we didn’t understand. Thank you for your bravery and sharing your revelation.

    • delemares says:

      Thanks for your comment. I’ve found this experience very humbling to find how enthusiastic people are. I really don’t feel brave at all – just following where the truth leads.

  5. Liz says:

    For most of my life I believed that same sex relationships were a sin and then my son came out and I took a second look. Thanks to people who had gone before me and taken the time to study and examine what scripture does and does not say about same sex relationships I was able to instantly see that scripture does say loving, monogamous, same sex relationships are sinful. I came to the conclusion that without sufficient evidence it would be unjust and a sin to condemn loving, monogamous, same sex relationships. I am thankful that you are the kind of person who is also willing to admit that the beliefs you had held most of your life about same sex relationships was wrong. What hurts is that so many people won’t admit it even when the evidence (or lack of evidence) is clearly presented. Thanks again for being a sincere listener. “Those who have ears to hear, let them hear”

  6. soultwist says:

    Reblogged this on soultwist and commented:
    Great thoughts! Thanks for being able to share them publicly. That takes an amazing amount of courage.

  7. Sara Elliott says:

    I echo the appreciation and admiration of your other readers. I came to your blog because a friend posted a link to it. This friend and I are involved in an organization called OneWheaton, which is made up of alumni of Wheaton College, a conservative/Evangelical Christian college, who are glbtq and allies. Many in the group have had to struggle with the Christian exclusion of glbt people. The organization has a great blog that includes entries from a variety of people addressing the issues, challenges, and joys of being glbtq or an ally either within a Christian context or coming from a Christian background. You and your other readers might find it interesting. (www.onewheaton.com — the blog is called Untold)

  8. delemares says:

    Thanks for your comments, Sara – and for the link – I’ve just had a brief look at it and will put a link on this blog (still learning how to do that, not sure why there’s not a hyperlink coming up on your comment – here goes http://www.onewheaton.com

  9. Such an amazing thing to have U-turned on your views on this. I’m so grateful to you for having an open mind and being able to listen to other people’s ideas. There’s a little bit more happiness around 🙂 xx

    • delemares says:

      Thanks James
      I hope a lot more people are willing to have an open mind on this
      I’ve emailed the link to various christians and christian organisations in the uk – let me know of some I could send it to
      thanks again for sending me the link 🙂 xx

  10. Ember says:

    With you in this.

  11. Phil Groom says:

    Thank you; very helpful. As you’ve realised, I guess, from my post today — I hope you’ll forgive the link, Shadow Dancing: A conversation about faith, hope and gay love in the church — I too have taken a long, hard look at those ‘texts of terror’, and my conclusions are similar: what, exactly, is it that God hates? Unfaithfulness. That’s the key issue, the theme that runs through scripture, all the way from Adam & Eve’s betrayal of God’s trust in the Garden of Eden through to Judas’ betrayal of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane, everywhere in between and beyond: God calls us to trust, to loving, faithful relationships.

    In the biblical world, there was only one possibility for that: the partnership of man and woman in marriage; in that world, homosexual encounters could only, ever represent a betrayal of such a relationship. But we do not live in that world and nor, I think, does God want us to go back there: we must move on, as God is always moving on, and recognise the faithfulness of our LGBT brothers and sisters — often a faithfulness that puts the ‘straight’ world to shame!

    • delemares says:

      Thanks for this, Phil. Link away – I was hoping you wouldn’t mind my putting a link on your blog.
      As I see it – there are just four chapters in the Bible that show how God wants things to be: Genesis 1& 2, and Revelation 21 & 22.
      At the Fall, not only was Adam and Eve’s relationship with God messed up, but there was a great fault line throughout creation. Paul writes about the whole of creation groaning as in childbirth, waiting for the redemption of man (I’m writing this from memory so it’s just the gist). So it might be that same-sex orientation is also a result of the Fall. – I don’t want our gay friends to think that last comment means I think they are second class – we’re all broken in some way, all messed up. Praise God, that in Jesus he has provided the way out – for all of us.
      I so agree with your last comment that the faithfulness shown by our LGBT brothers and sisters puts the rest of us to shame.

    • stasisonline says:

      Phil, I hope Delemares wont mind me replying to say and ask the following. Firstly in regards to loving faithful relationships you refer to, we know that gay men often fare worse at this in terms of monogamy (www.nytimes.com/2010/01/29/us/29sfmetro.html ) whether they are Christian or not (www.oocities.org/mccstlouis/30p2.html ), but yes many have remained in the closet yet remained faithful to their churches even when those churches proclaim gay sex to be sinful, so the faithful commitment of gay men to some things, is honourable.
      Can I ask you the following in light of your post above. Why would god allow homosexual relationships now, but not in the new testament era? If he is changing his mind in order to reduce suffering, why did he permit suffering back then?

  12. Kevin says:

    Beautifully written. It takes great courage to actually think about your beliefs on something and to actually change them.

    I also love the fact that every comment so far has been a positive one 🙂

  13. Stephen J March says:

    I have been recently involved in conversations on this subject and am very much still trying to make sense of this difficult issue. I come from a traditional evangelical background and am of an age in which homosexuality didn’t exist in any visible form for most ordinary, middle class people. Just so you know where I’m coming from.
    I have watched Vimes video and found it challenging and thought-provoking and he does point out some weaknesses in the traditional understandings of certain of the passages. For that he should be congratulated and I hope serious theologians will respond to him.
    One problem I have is that he seems to be saying that the Levitical Laws can now be jettisoned. That the New Testament Church has no need of, or interest in the Old Testament Laws.
    That is a false dichotemy. The God of the Old Testament is also the God of the New. God doesn’t change. Hence what God said in the Old Testement must still speak in some way to New Testament Christians.
    Jesus himself said that not one iota of the Law would disappear.
    Whilst the specifics of the Levitical Laws no longer have bearing on us today – because of the One New Man being created out of both Jew and Gentile – hence no need of the ritual and purification laws intended to separate Israel from the Gentile world.
    However the eternal principles behind those laws still fully apply to Christians.
    For example we may not need to follow the restriction of wearing garments made of only one type of yarn, or about boiling a young goat in its mother’s milk – but we are required to follow the principle behind these interdictions. A principle which warns against involvement in pagan magical practices, wearing good-luck charms, superstitious practices etc.
    The moot question is therefore, if these texts are to be understood in the same way – situational commandments for the Israelite people some 3,000 – 4,000 years ago – then we must ask oursleves what is the eternal root principle behind these sexual purity laws? What is in view? What eternal principle motivates God to make these demands, to impose these constraints on human freedom? Why is God saying this?
    Very few people seem to be asking this question.
    Of the few responses I have seen, the view that posits that marital faithfulness is the root concern, does not convinve me.
    Neither am I convinved that the root principle is simply about the curtailing of unbridled sexual activity.
    Either God these Laws were merely a case of God speaking without having anything to say, or we are completely missing the point when we treat them in this way.
    It seems to me that these texts are better understood, and have more logical rationale, when they are taken as straightforward statements which define certain forms of sexual activity that God regards as inappropriate for human beings.
    That may be culturally awkward, pastorally difficult, personally painful, but if we take God’s word to be divine revelation of how we should live, I am not convinced we have another option that is intellectually honest.
    I struggle with this issue. I know how painful and hurtful it is to many. I deeply regret that pain.
    But I want to be faithful to God’s word too.
    I cannot at present, see any way around this.

    • delemares says:

      Thank you for your comment, Stephen. I’ve read the conversation you refer to – others can find it here: http://philgroom.wordpress.com/2012/04/28/shadow-dancing-a-conversation-about-faith-hope-and-gay-love-in-the-church/ (be warned – it’s very long, but worth reading).
      Re-reading those texts, I suppose the Levitacal laws are the most difficult to get round – the meaning is very clear, and difficult to argue that they no longer apply — and yet.
      I too want to be faithful to God’s word, and his heart. At present, it’s difficult to reconcile the two.
      Thanks again for your thoughtful comment.

      • delemares says:

        I want to make it clear that that last comment is not meant to imply that I am back-pedalling in any way. ‘I too want to be faithful to God’s word, and his heart. At present, it’s difficult to reconcile the two.’ The last sentence should more accurately read: At present, it’s difficult FOR MANY OF US to reconcile the two.
        Elsewhere I’ve commented that ‘mercy triumphs over justice’, and we are all broken and messed up.
        There were two points Matthew made in his video that spoke to me, even before he got to the 6 passages
        1) God said it was not good for man to be alone.
        2) Jesus said of false teachers that it is by their fruit we shall know them – a lot of the teaching from those 6 verses has led to hatred, misery and suicide.

        I’d also like to point out that there are just 4 chapters in the whole Bible that describe how God wants things to be (although there are hints throughout the rest), Genesis 1 & 2 and Revelation 21 & 22 – the rest is a sorry tale of how man/humankind has rebelled and God has been merciful, sending his Son so that whoever believes on/in him should not perish but have everlasting life.
        Just as allowances were made in regard to divorce – should not allowances be made in regard to this.
        As Jesus said, there is no marriage in heaven. We shall all be united as one – the Bride of Christ.

    • Phil Groom says:

      But I want to be faithful to God’s word too.

      You’ve said it, Stephen. That really is it, the core issue: being faithful 🙂

      Some fascinating discussions and studies over at my friend Scott Miles’ place, Real Life, Honesty, Dialogue — I found this all-too-brief study particularly interesting: Leviticus 18: Using the hermeneutic principle “General-specific-general”. Well worth spending some time exploring Scott’s other posts on homosexuality; and some useful links in his sidebar under ‘Theology and Sexuality’…

    • stasisonline says:

      Stephen, I hope Delemeres doesnt mind me replying to ask you the following. You say that Vines points out some weaknesses in the traditional understandings of certain passages. Other than the Leviticus passages you refer to, which other passages are you referring to?

      • Stephen J March says:

        I invite you to read the transcriptfor yourself.
        Certainly think he makes clear that the Pauline passages are highly complex linguistically and that the words often used are obscure of precise meaning.
        I also think he does make the point that what is in view is not ‘modern’ homosexual practice, but rather homosexual sex undertaken by those with a heterosexual lifestyle, but who for reasons of sensation-seeking, exploration, experiment, cultic prostitution etc.
        However, recently reading the Didache (C150AD) a manual for Christian initiation, it struck me that pederasty (named as the corrupting of young boys) was specifically mentioned as something incompatible with Christian life.
        Again, anyone making the claim that the homosexual interdictions of Scripture should now be abondonned, must answer why the original Christians were so wrong in their understanding of these passages. The burden of proof must always rest with the innovator.

        • Phil Groom says:

          In response to those questions, please allow me to quote from Delemares’ original post:

          So what views have I changed? I’ve concluded that the Bible does not speak about loving, committed, lifelong, monogamous homosexual relationships. The sin of sexual immorality is mentioned many more times in the Bible and includes fornication and adultery; the sin is in exchanging lust for love, it’s about rape and coercion – and applies to heterosexual sex just as much as homosexual sex.

          I concur. The Bible simply does not address homosexual relationships as we have come to understand them today. As I have said, repeatedly, but still, alas, seeming to fall on deaf ears, in the biblical worldview, heterosexual marriage is the only legitimate setting for sexual activity; the biblical writers simply fail to envisage the world as it is today; in their world, homosexual activity is necessarily another form of sexual immorality because it can only occur outside of that marriage framework: it is, in short, a form of unfaithfulness.

          We do not inhabit that world: we inhabit a world in which same-sex attraction is recognised as part of the normal variation in human sexuality; and many, many LGBT couples live together in faithful, loving relationships, where there is mutual trust and commitment — often, it must be said, at a level that puts heterosexuals to shame, especially as they so often have to put up with the hatred and contempt of heterosexual self-righteousness and hypocrisy.

          Open your eyes. Look around. See God blessing gay couples; see God blessing their ministry; see god reaching out to the lost through their faithful testimony, through their humility and integrity. Look back at all the controversies over the proposals that Jeffrey John might be appointed as a Bishop: see the bile and spite of the righteous in their rage, and compare that to the graciousness of Jeffrey John. Ask yourself whose behaviour is more Christlike: that of Jeffrey John, or that of his opponents. Listen now to the strident voices of unJesus emerging from those opposed to marriage equality, to the appalling and outrageous accusations levelled by senior clerics in the Church of Rome, to the nonsense spouted by the Campaign for Marriage as they rant about slippery slopes and the collapse of society, and compare that to the more quiet and reflective voices of those in the Campaign for Equal Marriage. Ask yourself, where can you hear the voice of Jesus in this? With whom did Jesus ever stand: the Pharisees in their self-righteousness planting their hedges around the law, or the outcasts?

          In the light of all this, ask yourself: can those few verses really stand the weight you put upon them? Can you really stand in the presence of Jesus and say, we will not accept these people?

          I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show mercy on whom I will show mercy, says the LORD, the God of Israel.

          Truly I tell you: there are none so blind as those who will not see.

          • stasisonline says:

            Phil, assuming you may be interested in dialoguing, I will respond to your above post.

            I recognise the frustration of feeling like you are speaking and others are not listening. I too am trying to listen. You explain that you have repeatedly explained that “the biblical worldview, heterosexual marriage is the only legitimate setting for sexual activity”. Well yes, I agree absolutely. Im actually surprised if anyone disagrees with that.

            You say that the Bible “simply does not address homosexual relationships as we have come to understand them today”. Well, the Bible doesnt specifically address using machine guns, cyanide poison or anthrax. But does this mean god would condone using these 3 examples to kill a neighbour you dont like? I suggest not. Why? Because of the basic principles stated in the Bible, eg thou shalt not kill. The basic principles guide us in areas that the Bible does not specifically address. And do we have basic principles stated in the Bible that are relevant to homosexual relationships? Yes, we do, but I wont demean your intelligence by pointing them out this time.

            You write that “the biblical writers simply fail to envisage the world as it is today; in their world, homosexual activity is necessarily another form of sexual immorality because it can only occur outside of that marriage framework: it is, in short, a form of unfaithfulness. We do not inhabit that world: we inhabit a world in which same-sex attraction is recognised as part of the normal variation in human sexuality”. You suggest a change has occurred, and that the change is not in how god sees homosexuality but in human understanding of homosexuality. What you seem to be saying is that the Bible is wrong? IE that it’s always been wrong? Well if the Bible is wrong about sexuality, ie about things that we experience here on earth, why should we trust it in regards to what it says about things we cant see? EG Jesus divinity or the afterlife? Why even bother following it?

            You then claim that “many, many LGBT couples live together in faithful, loving relationships, where there is mutual trust and commitment — often, it must be said, at a level that puts heterosexuals to shame”. Are you claiming that on average, homosexual relationships feature more trust and commitment than average heterosexual relationships? Granted as you infer, they must weather less support from the wider community, and on one level this does suggest greater commitment. But in what way is there greater trust? We know that gay relationships tend to be much less monogamous than heterosexual relationships, so doesnt that imply that homosexual relationships would involve less trust on average?

            You encourage people to open their eyes and “See God blessing gay couples; see God blessing their ministry; see god reaching out to the lost through their faithful testimony, through their humility and integrity.” Well, to be honest, is there any apparent difference in blessing that can be seen between gay people and those who preach that homosexual sex is sin? There are gay pastors with fairly standard congregations, and there are theologically conservative pastors with fairly standard congregations. How do you measure blessing, and why is god apparently blessing those on both sides of the debate? Can we actually prove anything based on this difficult attempt to measure?

            You encourage people to look at past controversies about gay people in the church, and weigh which side was more Christlike. Well it depends on how you measure it. I perceive the “nonsense” that you refer to, as coming from both sides. I perceive nonsense in Matthew’s video, and I perceive nonsense from some Christians who have little idea what homosexuality is. I perceive lack of love from Christians who turn their backs to homosexuals, and I perceive lack of love from gay Christians who hate Republicans. I perceive caring attitudes from gay pastors, but I also perceive less respect for scripture. Im many ways, they even out on the scales.

            You ask, “Can you really stand in the presence of Jesus and say, we will not accept these people?” No, I cannot say that. And that is rarely the position that any denomination takes. Like you, who feels that people do not listen, I too feel like I repeat myself when I say that the standard conservative theological position on this is that homosexually oriented individuals are welcome to fully participate in church life, so long as they do not engage in homosexual sex. The door is not closed.

            Thank you again for your time. And my apologies for the length of this reply!

          • Phil Groom says:

            Stasis, thank you. Assuming that you have read my previous conversation with Stephen March, then you know full well that I am indeed open to dialogue. If you have not read it, then I encourage you to do so and would welcome further conversation with you there, rather than have to repeat myself endlessly here and clog up Delemare’s thread. But be warned: it is a long conversation.

            You refer to basic principles. There are two basic principles, as specified by Jesus himself:

            When the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together, and one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. ‘Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?’ He said to him, ‘ “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.” This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: “You shall love your neighbour as yourself.” On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.’

            In saying this, Jesus echoes the earlier Rabbi Hillel, but turns Hillel’s negative observation into a positive:

            When asked by a non-Jew to relate all the Torah had to say while standing on one foot, Hillel replied, “Do not unto your neighbour what you would not have him do unto you; this is the whole Law; the rest is commentary.”

            So, let us consider the “commentary”. We have the condensed version, the Ten Commandments; and the extended version, where all the nitty gritty implicit in the Ten Commandments is spelt out for the Covenant Community of ancient Israel.

            You are, of course, familiar with the Ten Commandments, which spell out how we relate to God and how we relate to one another in that well known series of negative statements, “Thou shalt not…”

            It’s all about faithfulness: faithfulness to God; faithfulness to one another; about avoiding those things that harm another person. In the nitty gritty of Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy it’s all spelt out: do not harm one another; be faithful to one another. Again and again we see these things spelt out piecemeal.

            As you point out, the basic principle with respect to life itself is Thou shalt not kill; and the basic principle of our sex lives is Thou shalt not commit adultery.

            The prohibitions against same-sex activity fall under that principle: in the ancient world, same-sex activity could only take place outside marriage.

            I say again: we do not live in that world. We live in a world where faithful same-sex relationships are possible. This nullifies those prohibitions because a greater principle takes precedence: the call to faithfulness.

            In an entirely heterosexual society, same-sex activity could only be harmful because it breached that principle. In today’s society, that no longer applies.

            You say:

            the standard conservative theological position on this is that homosexually oriented individuals are welcome to fully participate in church life, so long as they do not engage in homosexual sex.

            This puts gay couples into a Catch 22 situation which is entirely of the church’s making: you can’t have sex because you’re not married; you can’t get married because you’re gay.

            You thus slam the door in people’s faces then say,

            The door is not closed.

            This, my brother, will not do.

          • Phil Groom says:

            My apologies, Stasis: looking back at my post I see that you have indeed read it and commented; I shall respond there in due course…

        • stasisonline says:

          Thanks Stephen. From your response I see that you felt that if I wanted to know of weaknesses in the traditional understandings of certain passages, I should just review Matthew’s transcript. Well of course, but that was not what I was asking. I was asking which of the weaknesses claimed by Matthew, were ones that you found to be compelling weaknesses. Thank you for proceeding to answer the latter also.

          I agree that Matthew suggests that the Pauline passages are highly complex linguistically , but I myself dont necessarily agree with Matthew on that. I watched a Youtube video of a very popular pastor expound various relevant passages on the topic within the last 24 hours, and unlike Matthew, that pastor didnt appear to feel that the passages meant anything other than they do at face value.

          I agree that Matthew also makes a claim that what is in view in the Romans 1 passage is not ‘modern’ homosexual practice, but rather homosexual sex undertaken by those with a true heterosexual orientation as their foundation. I note that Matthew claims that such a view was standard in that era. However, Ive recently investigated that argument, and found it wanting. In my opinion, the first century writings of Philo bring Matthew’s argument on this point into much doubt. I detail my thoughts on this half way thought this updated page:
          http://stasisonline.wordpress.com/2012/04/10/homosexual-marriage/

          I agree with the remaining points in your reply. Thank you again for taking the time to respond.

  14. Phil Groom says:

    … and for anyone looking for more to read, you’ll find plenty here: Changing Attitude Bookshop

  15. Phil Groom says:

    In particular, I recommend this blog post from October last year, which offers a round-up of some of the books available:

    Speaking with many voices: God and sexuality

    The most depressing part of the exercise was that the overwhelming majority of resources expressed the sense that ‘We’ inside the church must try to understand ‘Them’ outside. So few essays, let alone whole books, acknowledge the fact that this huge range of voices is all from within the Body of Christ.

  16. delemares says:

    Thanks for these comments and links, Phil. I’ll check them out when I have more time.

    • Phil Groom says:

      Time is the challenge, isn’t it? I’m having to do a bit more research as I’ve been sent a guest post proposal for my Christian Bookshops blog introducing a book that comes down on the ‘Gay is not OK’ side, so need to balance it with some stuff on the affirming side…

  17. stasisonline says:

    Delemares, thank you for posting my earlier comment and Stephen’s response to it. Id like in turn to reply to Stephen’s comment, but there is no ‘Reply’ option available at that point. I suspect this may be due to settings on your blog. Under the WordPress Settings menu there is a submenu called Discussion which includes an option to display threaded (nested) comments a certain number of levels deep. Please consider increasing the number of levels you currently allow. But if you choose not to, I still express my thanks to you for raising and exploring this topical subject.

  18. Phil Groom says:

    An excerpt from another, not entirely unrelated, conversation which has some bearing on our conversation here, methinks…

    As with many other passages in the Bible understanding the mind set of those for whom it was written has to be an essential prerequisite for getting at the meaning of what particular verses mean.

    The so called ‘plain meaning of the text’ is far from plain if it is decontextualised from its setting and often leads to erroneous or even bizarre interpretations. The various narratives we read in the scripture were called forth from a particular perspective that may or may not be applicable to today.

    This is not saying they are not relevant now yet clearly, some verses in the Bible are no longer significant. It would be interesting for example to see an exegesis on Tim 4:13 and applied to modern life (although I guess there might be some who would attempt to uncover some hidden spiritual meaning in cloaks).

    To negotiate our way intelligently through difficult and obscure passages we must endeavour first to discover the original intent of the biblical text. This is the ‘plain meaning’.

    — Iconoclast @ Gentle Wisdom, Thursday 3 May, 2012 at 11:19 pm

  19. Phil Groom says:

    Not quite sure what to make of this: has anyone else following this conversation read it? If so, would be interested in your thoughts… Jesus on Homosexuality

  20. Phil Groom says:

    Hope you’ll forgive me posting this here too… Excellent new post on this topic from Peter Kirk: Gay Marriage: Why Christians Shouldn’t Try to Ban It

  21. Well done Sandra for tackling this whole topis with sensitivity. Another guy worth listening to on this one is James Allison, the Catholic priest who often speaks at the Greenbelt festival. He takes a similar line to Matthew on some of the passages quoted from Scripture.

    Keep up the good work.

    Blessings

    Dylan

  22. Jeremy Myers says:

    I watched that video. It is quite the research and presentation! Thanks for referring to it on my blog!

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