Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Homosexuality Part I: The State of my Brain (today)

I had pointed you to a discussion here - which then moved to here. I am now posting on the latest state of my brain cramp.

Tyler, and company, are at least mostly divinity students at the University of Chicago. Tyler himself is very sincere, possibly/probably intends ministry, is not gay, but is a very passionate believer that homosexual sex is only sin in context - as is heterosexual sex. He supports allowing legal marriage to homosexuals. I like Tyler a great deal - he has an obvious heart for people and God. You need to read through the two blogs and their comments linked above. I deeply sympathize with both these positions. I have a sister who is gay; my wife's brother was a gay Catholic who died of AIDS; my wife's niece was one of the gay marriages in Oregon that was annulled by the state; and I myself have had gay relationships in the past. As Walter Taylor says in New Testament on homosexuality:

"This is not merely a theoretical issue for me nor can it be for anyone who is engaged in the life of the church and who is honest . . . I do not carry out my scholarship, my ministry, nor this presentation in splendid isolation from gay and lesbian people . . . for the first time, churches are facing the issue of homosexuality with fellow Christians who are professed gays and lesbians. 'Now we know the gay person as one of us, a fellow member of the household of faith.' . . . At an intuitive level, part of me wants to say, 'What's the big deal! Let's just take people where they are . . . and get on with things.' My struggle, however, is that my commitment to the biblical witness and my reading of it do not allow me to make that move . . . Part of what we are about today . . . is discerning what God's will is. For some people that will is quite obvious, but for most of us it is a bit more muddified."
and later:
"Which is to say that my reading today stands against what I would like at many levels to conclude. But my dilemma is part of what I think it means to be under the authority of the Word and part of what it means to allow the Word to address us from outside our own wishes." [My emphasis]
Which is where I stand: I truly believe that the Christian position that that homosexuality is necessarily sin comes down to one sure passage:
Romans 1: 26 For this reason God gave them over to degrading passions; for their women exchanged the natural function for that which is unnatural, 27 and in the same way also the men abandoned the natural function of the woman and burned in their desire toward one another, men with men committing indecent acts and receiving in their own persons the due penalty of their error. (NASB)
and one iffy one: 1 Corinthians 6: 9-10. This is iffy because it has been translated a lot of different ways; and Taylor pretty much dismisses it as talking about temple prostitution in particular - not homosexual acts in general. I will post the NASB and the NRSV:
I Cor 6:9 Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, 10 nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, will inherit the kingdom of God. (NASB)
I Cor 6:9 Do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived! Fornicators, idolaters, adulterers, male prostitutes, sodomites, 10 thieves, the greedy, drunkards, revilers, robbers—none of these will inherit the kingdom of God (NRSV)
You have to keep in mind that "homosexual" as some kind of group; as opposed to discussing "homosexual acts" did not exist as a word until the late 1800's. Taylor again:
Strictly speaking, of course, we could quit right now, since the word homosexuality had not yet been coined when the Bible was written, and therefore the Bible does not speak about that specific term. The word itself, I believe, was first used only in 1869. But certainly the Bible does have a number of passages that talk about same-sex sexual relationships
Taylor's conclusion:
there is a shorter line between then and now because of my understanding of the original historical situation, namely, that not all the texts deal with pederasty or prostitution but in fact at least one and perhaps two deal with consenting adults. I think that Paul was dealing with a situation much closer to our reality that some others would allow. And . . . the theological basis of Paul's argument in Romans 1, rooted in the Old Testament and in his understanding of God as creator, indicates the fundamental nature of his comments.
I do not have a problem with the New Testament position against homosexuality being based on one or two passages. However, Taylor raises some very important questions:
Even if one assumes with Paul that same-sex sexual activity is a manifestation of sin (which obviously many people would not agree to), given the broken world in which we live how can Christians bring the most order and justice out of less than ideal situations? In other words, is it possible to glorify God in sexually active gay and lesbian relationships?

What does it mean that immediately following what Paul says in Romans 1:26-27 he lists twenty-one other examples of inappropriate behavior? Do we not need to talk about how what Paul says about same-sex relationships fits with or doesn't fit with the rest of his list? In other words, even granting that same-sex relations are his primary example, do we pay the same attention to his other examples as we do to same-sex relations? Why or why not?

Is it possible for Christians to affirm the understanding of Romans 1:26-27 that I have outlined without concluding that condemnation and persecution should result? I think so.

Is it possible for Christians to differ radically on this particular issue and yet carry on the dialogue in a way that respects people as individuals as well as respects their thoughts, feelings, and opinions? I think so, and I have seen Christians all over this nation do that. Romans 14:1-15:13 provide us good models on how to welcome each other in the Lord even - perhaps especially - when we differ.
The upshot of these four questions for me is: Why is homosexuality a big issue nationally for Christians?

Next: Methinks we protest too loudly! (Comments will be allowed at end of series)

No comments: