Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Engaging The Text: Overview

Ok, so we've had a bit of discussion on Lewis Smedes's article suggesting that the church should include committed homosexual couples in the same way it inculdes remarried divorcees. But it's been a bit difficult to stay focused on the argument in the article, because some of us (you know who you are, anonymous) keep wanting to go to the text. I assume our anonymous visitor focuses on the text because she thinks it's the knockout punch in this discussion:

Anonymous Said: Homosexuality is directly related to the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. It is described in Romans 1 with words like “indecent” and “perversion”. It is mentioned in 1st Corinthians in a list along with “sexually immoral, adulterers, thieves, slanderers and swindlers” and followed by paragraphs about sexual immorality. In Leviticus, it is called “detestable”. If we were to read any of those sections without a previous opinion on the issue, it’s not likely we would come to the conclusion that the Bible is either indifferent or approving of homosexuality.

So says anonymous. But before we continue, I feel obligated to raise a point that Shane raised in a previous comment: While Scripture is a loud voice in our moral reasoning, it is not the only voice that is normative. To be more specific, some of us (maybe most of us) work from a framework wherein we give consideration to the following four voices:

Scripture
Reason
Experience
The Tradition of the Church


For the next couple of posts, we'll try to listen very closely to the first voice. I would like to mention, though, that the tradition of the church may need to be disregarded on this issue ... the church's traditional response seems to be too little of love, and too much of fear, hatred, torture and murder.

Finally, before we begin our investigation of Scripture, it's probably important to point out that when we're reading the Bible -- or anything -- we always have to interpret what we're reading. This is something Connor touched on in responses to the previous post: our culture is always going to influence how we read the Bible. Just today, Mike Cope, the preaching minister for Highland Church of Christ, used his blog to briefly discuss the ever-present difficulty of interpretation:

As I've led discussions about the ministry of women, I've often heard people say, "We shouldn't make the Bible say what we want it to say." I agree. Absolutely. But let's also be honest about this: none of us comes to scripture completely objective and unbiased. All of us are having to use tools of interpretation.

Keeping that in mind, here are the scriptures that are most often referenced when discussing the morality of homoerotic behavior.

Sodom and Gommorah (Genesis 19)
The Creation Accounts (Genesis 1 and Genesis 2)
The Holiness Code (Leviticus 18 and 20)
Paul's Theology of Idolatry (Romans 1)
Vice List (1 Corinthians 6)
Vice List (1 Timothy 1)


Feel free to read and discuss these passages. I'll post more about them later.

5 comments:

A. Lo said...

Since we're talking about Sodom & Gomorrah, let's include Ezekiel 16:49-50: 49 " 'Now this was the sin of your sister Sodom: She and her daughters were arrogant, overfed and unconcerned; they did not help the poor and needy. 50 They were haughty and did detestable things before me. Therefore I did away with them as you have seen.' "

Homosexuality is never specifically mentioned in this text as one of their detestable sins, but ignoring the plight of the poor and needy is pointed out in a pretty obvious way.

I just think it's good to keep some perspective about Sodom & Gomorrah, especially because the text in Ezekiel brings such an interesting point of view to the party.

Anonymous said...

I would agree with Cope's points to a degree, but there are some things within the Bible that are pretty clear, unless one wants it to mean the opposite. For example, "Thou shalt not steal," is not difficult to interpret. It doesn't matter what is being stolen, who it is being stolen from or who is doing the stealing. Stealing is wrong.

Although my view may be influenced by tradition and culture, I find it hard to believe that anyone without an agenda could read the scriptures you cited and come to the conclusion that God is either indifferent or permissive when it comes to homosexuality.

Matthew said...

Although my view may be influenced by tradition and culture, I find it hard to believe that anyone without an agenda could read the scriptures you cited and come to the conclusion that God is either indifferent or permissive when it comes to homosexuality.

Hopefully I'll be able to present other reasonable interpretations.

Matthew said...

For example, "Thou shalt not steal," is not difficult to interpret. It doesn't matter what is being stolen, who it is being stolen from or who is doing the stealing. Stealing is wrong.

Ok, stealing is categorically wrong. But are there any circumstances in which we are morally obligated to steal because it's the lesser of two evils? For example, the classical moral dilemma where a man must steal an overpriced medication, or allow his wife to die?

I suppose the point I want to make is that it's easy to interpret a rule about stealing candy bars from "thou shalt not steal", but when other values come into the picture, what we should actually do becomes a little hard to figure out.

I don't really want to apply this to the current discussion, but I think it may be an important point later.

connor said...

Seems to me that the Vice Lists are pretty straight forward; each pretty much says that homosexual relations are wrong. Excluding any proposed confusion between translating the passages from the original language I don't see any way of arguing that they don't condemn homosexual acts. So I want to here why these vice lists aren't condemning homosexual activity.