Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Engaging the Text: What Romans 1 Says About God


In the previous post, I asked what the Romans passage says about the nature and preferences of God. While we did talk about the issue a bit, I don't think we really came down on this question. So I'm going to answer it. Obviously, much more about this passage has been said elsewhere, and my arguments are far from perfect. Feel free to disagree.

I think the Romans passage says this, and not much more, about God:

Because the Gentile culture was rebellious, God allowed it to become even more rebellious and corrupt.

To review, here's the passage in question:

The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.

For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened.Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles.

Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised. Amen.

Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural ones. In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed indecent acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their perversion.


First, let's observe that throughout this bit of Romans, Paul is talking about groups of people. In other words, the things that he says are about God's interaction with cultures -- Jewish and Gentile --not about God's interaction with Peter and Mary. For example, in a passage that's particularly troublesome for free-will theists, Paul speculates that God has created some vessels "for destruction". While this passage has been used to argue for predestination (basically, the idea that God has planned out precisely who will go to heaven and who won't), this is probably not what Paul intends. Instead, Paul is probably trying to figure out why the Jews, as a people, won't accept Jesus as the messiah. So any theological conclusions drawn from this argument have to be drawn about God's interaction with cultures, not God's interaction with individuals.

Second, let's observe that Paul's intent in this passage is diagnostic, and not morally prescriptive. He's trying to investigate and describe what's wrong with humanity, not prescribe a moral code that will fix the problem. Particularly telling is the order of events that Paul describes: First the pagans turned away from God, and as a result, God allowed them to slide into "unnatural" behavior. As Richard B. Hays writes*:

Homosexual activity will not incur God's punishment: it is its own punishment, an "anti-reward." Paul here simply echoes a traditional Jewish idea. The Wisdom of Solomon, an intertestamental writing that has surely influenced Paul's thinking in Romans 1, puts it like this: "Therefore those who in folly of life lived unrighteously [God] tormented through their own abominations" (Wisd. Sol. 12:1).


Paul does muddle the issue a bit by saying that men who commit indecent acts with other men "received in themselves the due penalty for their perversion". The use of the word "penalty" would seem to suggest that the indecent acts themselves are worthy of punishment. But I suspect the confusion here is just indicative of our larger confusion about free will, determinism, or whatever it is that motivates our behavior. When we step back to view Paul's whole argument, we can easily see that it is not setting out to establish a moral code. Instead, it assumes a moral code and attempts to show how the rejection of God has lead people to reject the code.

Third, although we have labeled Paul's argument in Romans "theological", this section is much more about people than it is about God. Notice that God's only action in this passage is actually inaction, as God "allows" or "gives people over" to various behaviors. In retrospect, It may have been a mistake for me to expect any firm statements about God's actions and preferences to come out of this passage in Romans.

Consequently, I think that it is problematic to portray this passage as a clear communication of what God thinks about homosexual behavior. We might be justified in doing so if we had more support from other scriptures, but as we have seen in previous posts, that support is flimsy at best. The strongest statement about homosexuality that we might be able to affirm is the narrower statement: "God disapproves of homosexual lust", but even this statement would get most of its support from other scriptures about how God views lust, homosexual or otherwise.

The only argument I can see for a broader statement would come from the adjective "unnatural", but to support such an argument one would have to show first that homoerotic behavior is indeed unnatural, and second that Paul is implying something true about God: namely, that God disapproves of all unnatural behavior. Based on Scott's earlier comments regarding the moral neutrality of our natural inclinations, I think such an argument would be very difficult to defend.

Instead, I think it's best to interpret this passage fairly conservatively: to read it as simply saying that God allowed the rebellious Gentile culture to degrade into wicked behavior. Perhaps we can even extend this as a way of understanding past and current events: if people reject the goodness of God, they slide downward into wickedness. But we are in no way obligated to affirm that all homoerotic behavior is contrary to the will of God, particularly when that behavior occurs in a committed, loving relationship.

Finally, I think it's worthwhile to note that as we have approached Paul's theology, we have been assuming that everything he says about God must be true. As a few of us have been discussing on Scott's blog (and also, here, and perpetually, on Darius's blog), this assumption is by no means universal, and it may not even be correct. If God allowed some simple numerical errors and other contradictions into the Bible, isn't it possible that there might be some incomplete or imperfect theology in there as well? Sure, it may be scary to suppose that some of the things that the Bible says about God are wrong, but as Darius suggests in earlier comments, perhaps we would be best served by admitting what seem to be errors in the text, and trusting the Holy Spirit's ability to use even this flawed text to lead us to a better understanding of God.

So. I think we're about done here. Interest on this topic seems to be waning a bit, and we're coming to the last of my original questions about the Romans passage, which was, what are the moral implications of this statement?

Feel free to discuss the theology question, and then we'll finish up in the next post.

* "Awaiting the Redemption of our Bodies", in Homosexuality in the Church, Both Sides of the Debate. Jeffrey S. Siker, ed.

30 comments:

Darius said...

The main thing that strikes me in this passage is Paul's conviction that immorality results from not believing in the Judeo-Christian God. It seems to me that today, right-wing Christians make essentially the same claim. When you read their blogs, you often find, for example, the assumption that atheists and anyone with "secular values" is necessarily immoral.

I think the evidence is overwhelmingly against the idea that Jews and/or Christians are any more or less moral than other groups of people.

Brian said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
scoots said...

In retrospect, It may have been a mistake for me to expect any firm statements about God's actions and preferences to come out of this passage in Romans.

Matt, I'm not sure you ever really make the case that God's view of homosexuality is ambiguous here.

You suggest that "handing over" is a passive thing for God to do, and in a sense it is, but it's also a key word that shows up three times in the passage, and seems to reflect systematic, intentional work on God's part.

By analogy, to say that Judas handed Jesus over (same word) to the authorities isn't to say that Judas did something physically difficult (and clearly they could have found Jesus some other way), but it was still a decisive, and highly symbolic, move. Assuming Judas was actually intending to betray Jesus, the handing over made a statement about where Judas stood.

In Romans, the usage isn't exactly the same, but I think the same dynamic holds, of a (relatively) passive word reflecting quite a significant intention on the part of the one who does it. God knows what will happen if he gives these people over, which makes God's role in the situation quite active––which means the passage does say something about God, and not just humanity.

If God ineed handed over of the people, it suggests that the impurity (1:24), dishonorable passions (1:26), and base mind (1:28) to which he gives them are bad enough to constitute the wrath of God (1:18). On a broad scale, I think that much is pretty clear.

I think the Hays quote just splits hairs as far as our discussion goes. If we only wanted to avoid wrath, it might give us some comfort. But if we're believers trying to figure out what God actually wants, I'm not sure the fact that God thinks we're already punished enough just by engaging in a behavior is all that comforting.

If certain kinds of actions are bad enough that God would consider them their own wrath, I think that indicates that God has a clear preference against them.

In any event, Matt, I don't think you would be satisfied with homosexual relationships merely being something God would tolerate with mild disapproval, would you?

Darius said...

Matthew and Scoots: Just FYI, there's a big liberal Christian blog called "Crossleft," and one of the bloggers there, named "Zeus" - that's actually his name - has also been looking at the bible in relation to homosexuality.

He seems like a bright guy too, and also knows his scripture on this subject.

HillsboroughHeretic said...

VERY fascinating article.

I just wanted to say that I love your site. I enjoy it so much that I added it to my links page, which gets quite a few daily hits. I hope it helps. I also blog about Progressive Christianity on my site TheZealotInMyCloset.com, which is also where your link is located.

Matthew said...

Darius said...
The main thing that strikes me ... is Paul's conviction that immorality results from not believing in the Judeo-Christian God

Yes, that bothers me too. I may be cheating when I try to gloss that as being a condemnation of the Gentiles' damaging religious practices (temple prostitution, for example) rather than a condemnation of their beliefs about God.

Brian said...
I wish that I came even close to an intellectual level that would allow me to contribute...

Thanks for your positive comments, but please refrain from self-deprecation as it is not allowed on this blog. =)

Scoots said...
Assuming Judas was actually intending to betray Jesus, the handing over made a statement about where Judas stood.

Sure, this is true of Judas, who reported Jesus' location to the authorities and identified him to the mob. But I can't really understand the actions God would take to "hand over" a culture to wickedness. Consequently, I have to picture this as inaction on God's part -- and so the verses that follow are essentially just Paul's observation of how the world works. When an entire culture rejects goodness, systemic wickedness is bound to take hold.

If that's right, and Paul is talking about the natural progression of the world rather than about the actions and preferences of God, we might be more likely to attribute Paul's choice of wicked behavior to the gender biases of his culture.

In any event, Matt, I don't think you would be satisfied with homosexual relationships merely being something God would tolerate with mild disapproval, would you?

If I had plenty of evidence that God disapproved of homoerotic behavior, I think that I'd be content with that conclusion. I just don't see the evidence.

What I do see is a few scriptures that reflect the gender biases of the authors' cultures (gender is the wider issue, I think, not homosexuality), as well as a church with a poorly-defined sexual ethic, and a history of abusing homosexual people and pushing them away from the love of God.

HillsboroughHeretic said...
nice things

Thanks! I'll have to give those sites a read. =)

homo escapeons said...

To be honest I view the entire 'book' as a human invention that took centuries and nearly 100 authors to compile, edit, translate, edit,
translate, edit and still editing....

but for argument sake, I think that from a historical aspect homosexuality may have not been very popular with the desert monotheists but they were certainly aware that it was accepted and even encouraged amongst many of the sea faring people who were well ahead of the desert crowd in nearly every aspect of life except of course when it came to desert survival.

Nothing in this world will ever convince any literalist that this god does not hate unnatural(4 to 10% of the pop)people who are genetically homosexuals. Nothing. Not science or medicine or statistical or empirical data.

Unfortunately for some of them even having gay children is not enough to open their eyes to the real world.

The whole thing is part and parcel of the branding of people to either be for or against their VERSION of god. Love the sinner hate the sin. right! Join our group now and you'll receive a lifetime supply of prejudice and judgemental immunity absolutely free.

Your efforts are commendable since there are millions of people suffering in needless shame and guilt because of this ignorant behavior and prejudice.

scoots said...

"Natural" is an interesting word. While Paul does imply that gay sex is unnatural, it seems to me that far more misuse of sex comes from doing what comes naturally than from doing something unnatural. (I realize I'm playing a bit with two different meanings of the world "natural".)

I see a world around us where most people's sexuality (whether gay or straight) is broken, from a Christian perspective. Setting aside briefly the debate over gay sex, I would suggest that when most people do what comes natural, it ends up looking something like bouncing from one sexual relationship to another looking for some kind of fulfillment. I would argue instead, as a Christian, that God created sex to form a single lifelong bond that is not to be broken. Sometimes it's fulfilling, and sometimes it isn't, but it's permanent either way.

From my perspective, Christians are actually called to act in contradiction of our natural desires in the way we approach sex. For straight folks, this is true in that they are called to chose one spouse for life, even if they would naturally want to have multiple partners.

This perspective would admittedly ask a far greater sacrifice from gays, who would be called to never engage in a sexual act with another person at all, rather than just limiting their sexual acts to one partner for life. I realize that's a hard teaching, and I hope I don't suggest it too glibly.

In any event, calling homosexual attraction natural does not necessarily make it right for a Christian. We rightly avoid what comes natural to us quite often.

Here I go again, thinking people's inclinations are typically evil rather than good.

crystal said...

Hi Matthew.

I find it hard to take what Paul says seriously as he says other things that seem questionable - stuff about women and about slavery, etc.

I've read that some think he was labeling the behavior "unatural" because he meant people who were normally heterosexual but who had changed to homosexual ... not people who were originally homosexual.

Darius said...

Scoots: I'd say that telling homosexuals they can never engage in sex is more than a hard teaching. It's an impossible demand.

Why should Christians expect more of homosexuals than heterosexuals? Paul recommends celibacy as the preferred way of life, but knowing that most people are incapable of that, recommends marriage as an alternative for those unable to restrain themselves.

I'd suggest that on the issue of homosexuality the text, like life itself, calls us to use our own hearts and minds. You can use scripture either way, for or against - as you and Matthew demonstrate.

Therefore the case needs to be argued on its merits.

Matthew said...

homo escapeons said...
To be honest I view the entire 'book' as a human invention

When Americans (and Canadians) argue about the morality of homoerotic behavior, I think there are a few critical issues that underpin all the other arguments. This is one. Essentially, it's an argument over whether the Bible has any moral authority, and if so, how much.

My opinion is that the Bible is a special text -- one that God has helped provide, but also one that also reflects the moral, literary and theological flaws of its writers, translators, transcribers and compilers. My arguments will not be helpful, or even sound reasonable, to people with a significantly different view of scripture. But I appreciate your trying to think about the issue from my perspective.

Matthew said...

Scoots said:
I see a world around us where most people's sexuality (whether gay or straight) is broken, from a Christian perspective.

I think this difference in our perspective is important. You think that just our behavior is broken, but I think that our sex problems can be blamed on the church as much as they can be blamed on inadequate willpower.

In my opinion, there is no "Christian perspective" about sex. All we have now is a mishmash of sexual mores loosely based on poor interpretations of scripture. What we need is a coherent, theologically grounded ethic of sexuality that would apply to all people (gay, straight, married and single) at all times. Even if such an ethic ended up prohibiting homoerotic behavior, it would still be preferable to the mess we have now.

Matthew said...

crystal said...
Hi Matthew.

Hi, Crystal. I have the same reservations about Paul -- his thinking about gender seems to be very patriarchal-Jewish, and not particularly true to the way Jesus interacted with women.

For the same reason, I have a hard time buying the argument that Paul was merely condemning those who were going against their natural sexual leanings. From what I've read, Paul (like other ancients and many modern conservatives) was blissfully unaware that a person could be naturally homosexual, and his condemnations of all homosexuality as against nature fall right in line with the mores of his culture.

So while I think it would be kind of silly to use Paul's use of the word "natural" as a loophole ("the Bible doesn't say it's wrong, so it must be OK"), I think it is helpful, if we're trying to put together a general sexual ethic, to notice that Paul's comments on homosexuality are, like his other comments on gender, grounded in his patriarchal society and probably not on any special revelation about God's opinion on the matter.

scoots said...

Matthew said: But I can't really understand the actions God would take to "hand over" a culture to wickedness. Consequently, I have to picture this as inaction on God's part -- and so the verses that follow are essentially just Paul's observation of how the world works.

Well, God might hand over a culture to wickedness by opting not to send a prophet (as with Jonah) to correct them. He might harden their hearts (as with Pharaoh) to manipulate them into doing something against their own best interests. Or he could send a lying spirit (as in 1Kgs 22) to encourage them to act wickedly.

In any event, I'm not sure the means are important, since Paul's use of the word "wrath" seem to indicate that he thinks God is indeed doing something when he hands over those who reject him. Unless you're saying that God has simply built a world in which one kind of wickedness leads to another, but in that case a claim about the world would automatically be theological claim.

Are you arguing that Paul would say it's just the way the world works and not something God was actually doing? Or that Paul thinks it's God's wrath, but in reality he's just using God as an explanation for what he witnesses? Or something else?

Matthew said...

Darius said...
Why should Christians expect more of homosexuals than heterosexuals?

I think if you asked an evangelical-type Christian this question, his answer would be something like, "because God told us to."

If you operate under the assumption that good is simply what God does or says to do, and also interpret the passages that mention homosexuality as both intentional and normative, you generally end up at the conclusion that homosexual attraction is something like pedophilia: a predisposition that God condemns and therefore one that has no acceptable expression but must be "conquered" or suppressed.

Darius said...

Yeah, that does sound like what a right wing rebuttal would look like.

Please don't sign up with them...

Btw, somewhere in this thread you mention viewing the Bible as authorotative. I'd be interested if you ever have a chance to post on that topic - how you view its authority.

Matthew said...

Scoots said...
Are you arguing that Paul would say it's just the way the world works and not something God was actually doing? Or that Paul thinks it's God's wrath, but in reality he's just using God as an explanation for what he witnesses?

Good questions.

Basically, in the paragraph you quoted, I'm arguing that Paul's description of God's role in this process is both passive and vague. If Paul really understood and wanted to talk about God's role in condemnation and sin, this would be the place to do it, but Paul glosses over this bit and forges ahead to his one clear theological point, which is that God's redemption is the only hope for a corrupt humanity.

Did Paul understand exactly how God was involved in the corruption of the Gentiles? I don't think so, partly because the Old Testament passages about Saul and Pharaoh leave this sort of thing so murky, and partly because I understand his commentary on the salvation of the Jews as a puzzled discussion of this very same topic. Did God make vessels intended for destruction? Paul says that God could, but almost immediately (10:1), he also seems to say: "I hope not."

If Paul really is just setting up his point, and not being intentionally theological, we may be more willing to entertain the possiblity that these comments about homsexuality being "unnatural" actually reflect Paul's attitudes, and not God's.

scoots said...

It still seems like you're using the phrase "passive and vague" to obscure what is clear in the passage: Paul is arguing that (1) this is all according to God's wishes, and (2) the behaviors he describes are the epitome of fallenness and wickedness.

Since the entire logic of the passage is based on those two points, I have to think Paul thought he was saying something true of God and sin.

Here's the catch in your argument, from my point of view: it is indeed possible that Paul is working only from his presuppositions, but if on the other hand what he describes is what God actually did, then it seems to me there's no way Paul could have described it that would satisfy you.

crystal said...

If we're really trying to figure out waht God is saying, I'm not sure we can rely on scriptural passages alone, for they reflect to a greater or lesser degree the beliefs of the writers (or so I think).

Paul mentions slavery also in Romans. He doesn't condemn it but tells slaves they should obey their masters. I don't believe this is God talking through Paul and endorsing slavery, but just Paul reflecting the opinion of his times. I think the same can be said of his view of homosexuality.

Matthew said...

Scoots said:
Here's the catch in your argument, from my point of view: it is indeed possible that Paul is working only from his presuppositions, but if on the other hand what he describes is what God actually did, then it seems to me there's no way Paul could have described it that would satisfy you.

Oh, OK. I think I understand now. I said that Paul's statements weren't really theology because they described God's inaction, but you're saying that theology must include things that we say about God's inaction as well as God's action.

That seems right.

So I've changed my mind: Paul really is making theological statments when he says that God allowed the wickedness of the Gentiles to self-perpetuate.

But does this change what the passage teaches us about God's attitudes and behaviors? I don't think it does ... I still think we should limit our theological conclusions to: "Because the Gentile culture was rebellious, God allowed it to become even more rebellious and corrupt."

Do you think we can draw more detailed conclusions? And if so, what are they?

Matthew said...

crystal said...
I don't believe this is God talking through Paul and endorsing slavery, but just Paul reflecting the opinion of his times.

I agree, but how do you decide which things are Paul "reflecting the opinion of his times", and which things are accurate revelations of God's eternal and universal will (if there is such a thing)?

scoots said...

Matthew said:
I still think we should limit our theological conclusions to: "Because the Gentile culture was rebellious, God allowed it to become even more rebellious and corrupt."

I do have to admit that at times I insist on reading Scripture for the essence of its argument, without holding literally to all the details as individual pieces of truth on their own. So in that sense, I'd agree that what you've written above is the essence of what Paul wants to communicate.

My gut says, though, that in questions of morality, we're supposed to lean more heavily on Scripture than perhaps in other areas. So for example, I can't remember if Paul ever makes a reasoned theological argument for why greed is wrong, but if he doesn't, I don't think that means we should question whether it's a sin. Sometimes presuppositions are just right.

So we need something like a consistent hermeneutic (=interpreting principle). I'm sure Hays has some helpful suggestions here, although I'm also sure we could all slice things in slightly different ways than he does.

Matthew said...

Scoots said...
So for example, I can't remember if Paul ever makes a reasoned theological argument for why greed is wrong, but if he doesn't, I don't think that means we should question whether it's a sin. Sometimes presuppositions are just right.

Yes, but sometimes they're wrong. And while I've never been reason to doubt that greed is inherently harmful, scientific evidence and my conversations with homosexual people have given me reason to doubt all of the assumptions in this passage: that homosexuality is unnatural, that homoerotic behavior can only be lustful, that homosexual people represent some sort of divine judgment on a society, that a Christian sexual ethic should have anything to say about the gender of the people involved.

But I guess this is why we need the "consistent hermeneutic" you're talking about ... we need to know whether we should take our own experiences or the author's prejudices into account. We need to know whether we're ever obligated to disregard certain scriptures as the presuppositions of misogynistic homophobes.

Darius and Crystal seem to say "yes", we are so obligated ... although Darius's hermenutic probably has some differences that would trump any disagreement about using a culture-filter.

What do you say, Scoots?

(And if I recall correctly, Hays doesn't backtrack into hermenutic, but I'll provide pdfs of his article, and some other articles, in the next post.)

crystal said...

Maybe how one decides which are the keeper scriptural passages depends on why they're reading in the first place.

If you're a secular scholar, you might decide based soley on historical/scholarly evidence.

If you're a believer, you might decide based on a comparison of the God you know through experience with the God shown in the passage.

I'd try to get as much scholarly info as possible, and I'd choose experience over scripture if my experience of God seemed to contradict what was in the passage, with maybe some help from a spiritual director.

It's not a perfect system, but I can't think of a better one than these two methods combined.

Wes said...

I gotta throw my 2 cents into the sparring ring.....

A lot of talk keeps going back and forth about "natural" and "unnatural"....but how are these words defined? I truly believe people will shift the meanings to reflect their viewpoints on this particular matter. It's human nature, we all want to be right.

For example, take a purely biological (now don't read into the word "biological" too much...)approach: the male and female pieces fit in order to procreate, which we are told by God to do in Genesis (aka heterosexual intercourse). Homesexual intercourse is not procreative, hence heterosexual intercourse is natural, and homosexual intercourse is unnatural.

Now, flip the coin, and we'll talk about another viewpoint: if people have a "natural" inclination to have homosexual intercourse, then it must be natural. (Then what is truly "unnatural"?)

If you chose the latter as your reasoning path, you also must accept ALL natural inclinations when it comes to sexual behavior. Some people naturally are inclined to have intercourse with animals, some with children--noting Matt's comment on pedophilia--you can even argue that some animals display homosexual behavior. I had 2 female dogs in my backyard growing up at one time..... 'nuff said.

My point, when we start talking about what is acceptable in society today, anybody can twist the words and meaning into any Clinton-esque point they choose (what an oratory master, yet lacking in sexual morality).

I prefer to take the bible as a whole, as written by man, but inspired by God. When I do, I'm told numerous times throughout in multiple passages that homosexual behavior is wrong---even though the main point of a given passage might be falling away from God, etc. We can twist the subject of suicide the same way, depending on the context in which it takes place--especially in society today.

Who is unbiased? Not any of us, and certainly not myself. But say I decide to pick and chose what to follow which is found in the bible. Then I claim everything that goes against my personal feelings/beliefs as outdated or applies to society 2000 years ago. Am I not adapting God's message to fit what I believe? I believe I need to follow God's message, even though most is delivered by an imperfect humanity. At the same time, I'm no angel, nor am I holier than thou.

Back to the subject at hand--depending on what source you use, some state homosexuality is genetically determined. Other say it occurs due to psychological factors, a detached father figure relationship that manifests itself as a desire to be loved by another man (vice versa for women/mothers).

Heck, men can have homosexual tendencies, yet are 100% heterosexual. I've watched an incriminating video tape of this blog's author in drag when he was in high school......I believe he was a "powderpuff cheerleader" :)

Another point, to explain it in church of christ terms.....instrumental music is always a great argument topic. I believe its acceptable, while others not. The ones against state that it is not specifically mentioned in the New Testament (sounds familiar, a la "consentual committed homoerotic behavior"). Instrumental music is mentioned many times in the Old Testament, but is never condemned in the New yet is assumed to be BAD. Homosexuality, even though it is never the main topic of discussion in a certain passage, it is still described as sinful in both the Old & New Testament. But those infamous words of "consensual committed" are missing everywhere.....but I believe that enough evidence persists that shows homosexual behavior is wrong, and is condemned by God.

In historical studies, homosexual behavior was quite prevalent in the Mediterranean about 2000 years ago (especially greek & roman society). However with the onslaught of Christianity, the prevalency of homosexuality decreased, and has stayed relatively low in societies today which are tied to christian-judeo roots. I don't find this coincidental. I also believe from this evidence that homosexuality was always proclaimed by the early christian forefathers as sinful in all forms. Google the subject sometime, or just watch the History channel more often :)

I've rambled enough....great blog by the way, good responses/comments, but I wish more people could remove the emotion from their arguments, in order to see with a more open eye to both sides of the coin. Especially myself.

God bless :)

Connor said...

Wes typed:

"Heck, men can have homosexual tendencies, yet are 100% heterosexual."

Is this like giving a 110%?

Darius said...

Wes, re. "natural": John Stuart Mill, the 19th c. British essayist, wrote a great piece on that word. The gist of it - he developed his argument very clearly and rationally - is that using the concepts of "natural" or "unnatural" to argue for or against anything is 100% meaningless.

Matthew said...

Hi, Wes! I was talking with Sam just last week and we were wondering if you are still jet-setting around the world.

Wes said...
Homesexual intercourse is not procreative, hence heterosexual intercourse is natural, and homosexual intercourse is unnatural.

So here you're defining "natural" as "according to God's intentions", and you're defining God's sole intention for sex as procreation. While I think this is probably close to what Paul means by "natural", I think most of us would disagree that God's sole intention for sex is procreation.

Now, flip the coin, and we'll talk about another viewpoint: if people have a "natural" inclination to have homosexual intercourse, then it must be natural.

This probably isn't what Paul meant, since it would pretty much blow his point out of the water.

anybody can twist the words and meaning into any Clinton-esque point they choose

And let's remember that "anybody" includes traditionalists as well as progressives. Take, for example, the traditional take on the Sodom and Gomorrah story, which (as we've seen) is emphatically NOT a condemnation of homoerotic behavior.

I prefer to take the bible as a whole, as written by man, but inspired by God.

Your definition of "inspired" is probably pretty important here. Does "inspired" mean that we should expect it to be 100% accurate? Does it mean that we should expect it to be completely theologically accurate?

I'm told numerous times throughout in multiple passages that homosexual behavior is wrong---even though the main point of a given passage might be falling away from God, etc.

Yes, we've examined the multiple (six) passages that seem to touch on homoerotic behavior. Most of them only mention it in passing, and none of them say anything about homoerotic behavior within a committed relationship. Consequently, many of us see these gay-bashing asides as reflections of a patriarchial culture, rather than a reflection of what God thinks about homoeroticism.

We can twist the subject of suicide the same way, depending on the context in which it takes place--especially in society today.

I wonder which suicide passages you're talking about.

The ones against state that it is not specifically mentioned in the New Testament (sounds familiar, a la "consentual committed homoerotic behavior").

Actually, you've got it backward. The old CoC argument about instruments is: "The new testament says God wants songs, and doesn't say God wants instruments, so we're only gonna do songs." In other words: "What is not specifically endorsed is forbidden". This is precisely the same argument that a person might use against consensual, committed homoerotic behavior: while the Bible doesn't have anything to say against it (except that part in Dueteronomy, right alongside the passages forbidding shrimp and polyester), the scriptures don't specifically endorse gay marriage, so God must only want straight marriage.

men can have homosexual tendencies, yet are 100% heterosexual.

I don't get it. Although it may be helpful to mention that cross-dressing is "transgendered" more than it is "homosexual".

In historical studies, homosexual behavior was quite prevalent ... However with the onslaught of Christianity, the prevalency of homosexuality decreased, and has stayed relatively low in societies today which are tied to christian-judeo roots.

First, I'm not convinced this is true. From what I've read, the ancient (patriarchal) moralists, Roman and Jewish alike, argued that homoerotic behavior was unnatural and wrong. Citing some sources would help.

Second, while Christianity and Islam have traditionally looked down on and persecuted homosexual people, that doesn't make it right. Both religions have also traditionally looked down on and marginalized women, but that doesn't make their behavior any more true to the gospel.

Thanks for visiting, Wes, and I hope all is well.

Brian said...

Ok, I've got to jump in here myself.

Wes said:
Homesexual intercourse is not procreative, hence heterosexual intercourse is natural, and homosexual intercourse is unnatural.


That’s a pretty black and white statement. So then in that vein, would it follow that men and women who are unable to "procreate" (i.e. barren women, men with low sperm count, post menopausal women, men with vasectomies, and for that case sex which involved any form of birth control) would be considered “unnatural”?

Wes said:
If you chose the latter as your reasoning path, you also must accept ALL natural inclinations when it comes to sexual behavior. Some people naturally are inclined to have intercourse with animals, some with children


How this became the argument against homosexuality for Christians is beyond me. Is it so hard for Christians to see the difference between what two consenting adults do with each other as opposed to bestiality and pedophilia? The difference between homosexual intercourse and your examples is the difference between consensual sex between adults and rape.

Wes said:
Heck, men can have homosexual tendencies, yet are 100% heterosexual. I've watched an incriminating video tape of this blog's author in drag when he was in high school......I believe he was a "powderpuff cheerleader"


I think I am seeing the problem here. I’m wondering if you are saying that a man dressing up as a “powderpuff cheerleader” for some laughs is the same as homosexual tendencies. Because if you are then I would have to agree with you 100%. That kind of “homosexual tendency” can be overcome and triumphed over, however many gay people, myself included, who have never dressed in drag, powderpuff or otherwise, would argue that people with true “homosexual tendencies” could never live 100% heterosexual lives. Sure, some may get married and appear to be, but I could pretty much guarantee that if they aren’t implicitly cheating on their spouses they are at least somewhere else in their mind during their most intimate of moments.

Wes said:
In historical studies, homosexual behavior was quite prevalent in the Mediterranean about 2000 years ago (especially greek & roman society). However with the onslaught of Christianity, the prevalency of homosexuality decreased


I am almost going to have to agree with you again here, but with a caveat. I think you are right, homosexual behavior may have been more prevalent in Greek and Roman society, and I think that is exactly what is being talked about in Romans. I think people who really were not gay were involved in homosexual behavior and that was part of what was being called out. It may have actually reduced homosexual behavior with the onslaught (good choice of words by the way) of Christianity because those that were practicing homosexual behavior, but were not gay, no longer engaged in that behavior, leaving only those who were truly homosexual still engaging in homosexual sex.
Oh and btw, I am an avid History Channel watcher.

Brian

ConcernedEngineer said...

In the homosexuality discussion, it is important not only to determine whether or not homosexuality is a sin, but it is important to recover (or as the case may be - discover) a right theology about sex.

The chief end of sex is not only procreation.

See also Song of Solomon. God invented sex so that we could get it on... and so we could procreate.