A LOVE SUPREME

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Sunday, October 14, 2007

"God did not make Adam and Steve"

Over at "Not That There's Anything Wrong With That!" Sam presented us with the following scenario:

Here's the thing: John comes to church, he is a new convert. The pastor asks him after the service to tell a bit about himself and he says that he is a successful businessman, basically an agnostic, who has been feeling a sense of conviction for some time and started reading the bible and decided that he believes in Jesus, that Jesus is his savior.

The pastor is really excited. A new convert, someone who can be discipled!

Then he says that after having been in love for 2 years, finally, 5 years ago he married Jack and they have one adopted child Julie, that they got from Sri Lanka, who is now 4 years old.

What/how would you want your pastor to continue the conversation?
[1]

The above situation reminds me of various mission efforts to the Native Americans a century or two back. As I understand it, certain missionaries encountered polygamy among various tribes. They elicited converts to Christianity and then had a problem: there were families with multiple wives and children from these wives. The problem? Polygamy is a sin. The solution? "Send away the slave woman!"[1] So, they had to pick a wife, perhaps the first one they married, and send the other(s) away with their children. As I understand it, this created a great deal of difficulty and poverty for the families that were sent away and had no means of supporting themselves.

The above "solution" strikes me as cruel and shortsighted. But what then do we do with Sam's "Adam and Steve" scenario of the new convert (John) who brings to the church a relationship with Jack that involves a child, Julie?

My primary thought is that the American church has very little organizational capacity for correctly and compassionately engaging John and his family. For example, the current church model is that believers meet on Sunday morning and may or may not have other "ministries" or "programs" that they are a part of. So, basically, if you believe that homosexuality is wrong or perhaps not the best way to do things, then you have to ship the guy (in this scenario, John) off to "counseling" (or some other such ministry/program) or else you just kind of lay down the law (in a nice way) and say that we don't do things that way in these here parts so you can shape up or ship out.

So, we either have to issue an ultimatum or else send John to counseling. In the former situation I think we force a hasty decision on a new believer that he may not be entirely ready to deal with, in all of its many ramifications (i.e. the moral issue, issues of family/love, caring for a daughter, splitting a home, etc.). In the case of sending him to counseling right away this makes him feel freakish from the very beginning, and this is very unfair. The fact is that anyone who comes to Christ is going to have baggage, and they need a close-knit community and a group of individuals to share their faith with and to work through baggage that they bring in and baggage that they accumulate while being a believer. (The little-known secret, of course, is that most of us in nice churches have even more baggage that usually gets lost in the shuffle, and my experience is that you accumulate quite a bit of baggage in church circles because we often do not have the contexts for dealing real issues.)

The point thus far is simply to say that the current Sunday morning Christianity in America has no human or even biblical way to appropriately deal with Sam's scenario because we are an event-oriented institution. At our most fundamental level we are not relational. At our most fundamental level we are institutional and obsessed with "events."

Ideally, all believers are not simply a hodge-podge group of people that meet once a week to sing and watch a sermon. Rather, the best scenario that I can see would be that when John enters into a fellowship of believers he is immediately plugged in with a group of believers with whom he can meet regularly and begin to share his life. In fact, in my mind's eye I imagine that it was probably through contact with this group of believers that he was able to come to faith, rather than on Sam's scenario where the guy happens across a Bible and starts reading.

Within this very small group of caring believers John can begin to explore who he is with people who are ready to care for his soul and impart grace into his life. These would be people who would be primarily interested in getting to know John, the person, and finding out what faith looks like for his situation. They would be interested in John, regardless of where they stood on the homo issue. If they believed that God stands against homosexuality, they would present their reasons and interact with various biblical passages. But then they would allow John the respect as a fellow believer to work through these issues himself. (This fulfills the Galatians 6 "bear each other's burdens" exhortation, as well as the Philippians 2 encouragement to "work out your salvation.") Furthermore, this caring yet insightful group of believers would suspend judgment and allow themselves to reexplore and reexamine an issue that needs to be reexamined.

In John's case there is no simple "solution," the matter requires time and care. I would also suggest that the answer is not clear, either. In the case of the Native Americans, I would suggest that the missionaries should have continued to allow the practice of polygamy for those who already had multiple wives. The alternative brought pain and disruption to the existing family and culture. One could move the people towards monogamy, but this would be a movement over time.

This same line of reasoning must be a part of the consideration of John's relationship with Jack and to their daughter Julie. John needs to have room to understand his scenario for himself and in relation to all of the various facets of his life. He needs to take the time to explore and discuss with a group of believers who can get to know him and minister with him over a period of months and years.

Unfortunately, Sam's scenario cannot be answered in the existing church framework. One is hard pressed to find an American church that truly acts in unison as the body of Christ. We have many "churches" but no body. And the sad thing is that there is no reason for someone like John to ever have any interest in Jesus Christ, because the Body of Christ is completely impotent. We have nothing to call John to - no true community or real fellowship. So, as unfortunate as it is, I believe that Sam's scenario remains an impossible quandary. Until the power of Christ is displayed in authentic relationships and true community we should expect very little.

57 comments:

samlcarr said...

I find an assumption, in this post, that the church's correct position is that homosexuality itself is essentially a sinful state. In other words, I disagree that homosexuality is parallel to the polygamy situation because here (in homosexual marriage) one can have and often does have a stable, faithful, monogamous, nuclear family.

The church has to read the bible in the light of the gospel and get rid of the prejudice that surrounds how it will deal and should deal with the issues of sexual orientations and homosexual marriages.

Melody said...

Well - ok Jon, lack of community might contribute to the problem, but do you really think that because a group of people interact with each other on a daily basis this is going to somehow give them all knowledge on how to deal with this kind of thing?

Even when you have community it doesn't give you the right words or insights.

I agree with Sam that the polygamy scenario is not the same as homosexuality - though my problem with it is that God once allowed polygamy and never allowed homosexuality.

I think the only thing I do agree with is that it's going to take John time to understand how Christianity fully impacts his life. Very few people come into this really understanding what they're getting themselves into.

I also think it's highly likely that John may never feel any reason to change. Not because there isn't any reason, but more because I know people who became Christians later in life and had sins that were huge parts of their lives - and to date they have never seen a problem with it.

Jonathan Erdman said...

Sam: I find an assumption, in this post, that the church's correct position is that homosexuality itself is essentially a sinful state. In other words, I disagree that homosexuality is parallel to the polygamy situation because here (in homosexual marriage) one can have and often does have a stable, faithful, monogamous, nuclear family.

Sam, I think the assumption that I make is simply that most conservative evangelical churches will approach it as a sin issue. In light of that fact I am presenting the thesis that (regardless of whether it is a sin or not) the church's current organization and institutionalization does not allow it to appropriately address the issue. Furthermore, the fact that it is an "untouchable" fact that homo = sin prevents the church from truly engaging the issue of whether it is right or wrong.

Another thought: Is polygamy a sin? It was practiced by the patriarchs and it is never condemned as sinful. We do see Paul encouraging elders to be "husbands of but one wife," but other than that I don't know that we have any imperatives against polygamy. Furthermore, I don't know that polygamy in ancient cultures and in Native American cultures was a destabilizing feature. Perhaps it was, but to say that polygamy destabilized the family may be a Western assumption that we read in to other cultures.

Jonathan Erdman said...

Melody, your second statement answers the first...and vica versa:
Well - ok Jon, lack of community might contribute to the problem, but do you really think that because a group of people interact with each other on a daily basis this is going to somehow give them all knowledge on how to deal with this kind of thing?

So, in your first question you say that community isn't going to give a person "knowledge" to deal. And then in your second statement you indicate that working through sin issues involves time:
I think the only thing I do agree with is that it's going to take John time to understand how Christianity fully impacts his life. Very few people come into this really understanding what they're getting themselves into.

I also think it's highly likely that John may never feel any reason to change. Not because there isn't any reason, but more because I know people who became Christians later in life and had sins that were huge parts of their lives - and to date they have never seen a problem with it.


But the point I am making is that it is only within the context of a caring community that sin (and non-sin) issues that hold us back as Christians and as people can truly be exposed and worked through. When we live Lone Ranger Christian lives the "deceitfulness of sin" (Hebrews 3) is more powerful. Self-deceit is stronger when we go it alone. But it is precisely because of the deceitfulness of sin that the author of Hebrews (God?) says, "encourage each other daily."

Melody said...

Another thought: Is polygamy a sin? It was practiced by the patriarchs and it is never condemned as sinful.

I think the general idea behind why polygamy is wrong is that it has selfish motivations. Did Solomon need 700 + wives? Do you think that being the 224th wife of a man would be fulfilling in any way? Because I have my doubts.

Also - God didn't set up Adam with multiple wives (which would have helped alot with the whole be fruitful and multiply thing) and when God talks about marriage it is always between two people. And when God talks about marriage it is always as if there were only two people involved.

I don't think polygamy would have to be a sin. Making it forbidden for church leaders makes it clear that people who weren't leaders could still have more than one wife - but I do think it's obvious that polygamy makes the "not helpful" list.

But the point I am making is that it is only within the context of a caring community that sin (and non-sin) issues that hold us back as Christians and as people can truly be exposed and worked through.

I take issue with the only.
Plenty of people have dealt with plenty of issues outside of this idealized (read: imaginary) caring community.

But aside from being nit-picky, I still think your assertion that the church doesn't have a context for this ignores the question, because:

1. Since we aren't living in this semi-cultish state what do we do?

and

2. Even inside your ideal community scenario you will still have that time when "John" introduces himself to the group and shares his family life.

What do they do?

Uncomfortable eye-contact avoidence?

Tight smiles and, "Oh - that sounds...interesting"?

Pretend it's ok?

Treat them like kids with an ugly crayon drawing and ask, "Why don't you tell us about that?" ???

I mean - I realize that if you're Sam this is a non-issue, but for those of us who are more likely to panic and quickly change the subject to foreign politics this situation is going to be hard no matter what church looks like.

samlcarr said...

Jon,
"God did not make Adam and Steve"
I wonder who did? Must have been one of the elohim who was in secret doing the dastardly deed...

Melody, shares his family life probably involves stuff like "We're really so proud of our daughter Julie. She got the elocution prize at school last week!"

What is it that makes you assume that someone with GTLB leanings automatically become tactless? How many heterosexual couples do you know that enjoy talking to single people (or even to other couples) about what they did in their bedroom last night? Now that sounds really off kilter to me.

Jon, on polygamy, the times they have a changed. The reason for allowing polygamy back then was mainly that the population had to increase, same reason that practices like rape and having concubines, apart from the wives, was encouraged, and the more the merrier.

The issue eventually boils down to justice. One on one is the ideal pattern. A man with many wives, or a wife with many husbands denies all those persons their right to find someone exclusively for themselves - which is what God says that each person deserves.

"but other than that I don't know that we have any imperatives against polygamy" there is that little passage where Jesus, speaking on divorce, interprets the Mosaic Law and says "from the beginning it was not so..."

Beautifully Profound said...

Anyone who follows the Lords word would be a total hypocrite to accept a homosexual in their church. It's plain and simple. No gray areas. The Bible tells us in the end God will separate the wheat from the chaff and anyone who would accept that is definitely part of the chaff. Look at Sodom and Gamorah they were destroyed by the Lord for such behaviors.

Melody said...

Melody, shares his family life probably involves stuff like "We're really so proud of our daughter Julie. She got the elocution prize at school last week!"

You, sir, need to chill. I just meant that point in time when he tells everyone he's married to a man and that they have an adopted daughter. How does "family life" translate into "sex life"??? And incidentally, even though this

How many heterosexual couples do you know that enjoy talking to single people (or even to other couples) about what they did in their bedroom last night?

was not what I was talking about the answer is: A Lot. A whole bloody lot.

In either case, I wish you wouldn't jump to conclusions - it's kinda frustrating.

samlcarr said...

Melody, my sincerest apologies. My bad.

Jonathan Erdman said...

BP: Anyone who follows the Lords word would be a total hypocrite to accept a homosexual in their church. It's plain and simple.

BP, is there really a command against allowing a homosexual into the church fellowship? Even if you hold that homosexuality is a sin why would that exclude coming in to the fellowship? For example, there are people who struggle with gluttony (and it shows) who are allowed to participate as members and even church leaders. There are others who are not good stewards and caretakers of the earth. There are control freaks in leadership positions. Others who spend lots of money on stuff they don't need. Furthermore, there are many who are legalistic, and others who have grown spiritually complacent. The complacency issue is usually not even addressed as a big deal, so in America the vast majority of us have no real passion for God or for serving others.

So, what do we do?

It seems to me that in American Christianity we allow for a whole lot of the gray areas, but we draw the line at the so-called "big sins," like homosexuality.

The point of my post was to basically ask: if we (the church in America) can't even get the small things right - like community and belonging (Rom. 12:7) - then why would we think that we have a right to weigh in on the big issues that have huge social, cultural, and family implications? In the recent past we have majored on the "loudest" things: political activism against the homosexual issue, abortion, et al, but we have failed on the so-called "little" things. But I think the paradigm should reverse. Before we preach to the world about their sin, we need to demonstrate a body of Christ that is alive, not lethargic.

Beautifully Profound said...

The gray areas I was referring to doesn't just apply to homosexuality. And to be honest with you, now that you mention it, it makes me think that if the little things are getting by and they are allowing one thing in and not another than I don't think it would be a church that I would like to be part of. It's all or none.

Melody said...

It seems to me that in American Christianity we allow for a whole lot of the gray areas, but we draw the line at the so-called "big sins," like homosexuality.

Oh come on - you don't really expect for the church to be all

"Well we're having a little trouble with the gossip mill around here - so I guess we really can't take a hard line on murder or infidelity."

How absurd would that be?

samlcarr said...

Let me take a shot at defining absurdity.

Let's see, we have unwanted teenage pregnancies, STDs, those quiet abortions, quite a bit of porno, SM is common in many bedrooms and within the privacy of our homes a bit of wife bashing (battered wives), and let's not forget not sparing the rod (battered kids)...and then about 50% of the time marriages ending in divorce.

Now the absurdity part. All of this is par for the course! It is all a NORMAL part of the variation that we NORMALLY expect in heterosexual relationships - perfectly understandable and perfectly forgivable and so never a hindrance to fellowship!

Matt said...

"The church has to read the bible in the light of the gospel and get rid of the prejudice that surrounds how it will deal and should deal with the issues of sexual orientations and homosexual marriages." - Sam

Do you believe that the disciples, apostles, church leaders, etc didn't believe that homosexuality was wrong? If this bias is wrong, why wouldn't it have been addressed? As you have pointed out, he weighed in on divorce and remarriage. Paul encourages one wife or none at all if you can hack it.

If you don't believe it is a sin, then the answer to the example is simple.

If you do believe it is sinful, then it is difficult to address. As Jon pointed out, there is a lot of hypocrosy involved with saying that one person who lives a sinful lifestyle can't stay, while another could, and even be the pastor.

samlcarr said...

Matt, I don't think that having a homosexual tendency is a sin any more than having a heterosexual tendency is sinful. Sexual orientation is a very complex thing (that sometimes may even be fluid) that by and large is not under our voluntary control.

It's what one does with that that is what God will be looking at. He gives relatively few people (from what I can tell) the gift permanent singleness. So, the rest of us have to figure out what His will is for our lives and get on with doing it. In most cases that means being monogamously married, faithfully, and for life.

Beyond this i think that God doesn't classify us physically, genetically, sexually, or status wise. I see no reason for myself to be willing to discriminate when God is not willing to do.

Melody and i did discuss the question of whether homosexuality is condemned in scripture at some length on the previous post on this topic (that Jon has linked to in his post above). Hermeneutically I see some parallels with slavery.

Jonathan Erdman said...

Sam: Melody and i did discuss the question of whether homosexuality is condemned in scripture at some length on the previous post on this topic

Who won???

BP: And to be honest with you, now that you mention it, it makes me think that if the little things are getting by and they are allowing one thing in and not another than I don't think it would be a church that I would like to be part of. It's all or none.

BP, You may be churchless the rest of your life!

Seriously, though, how does this work in your mind??? At this point you kind of get an idea where I am coming from. I am very inclusive. If someone names the name of Christ and "confesses with their mouth" that they are going to live all-out for Jesus Christ "taking up their cross daily," then I say they are in, regardless of issues (because I think we all have issues).

So, then for me it is not a matter of doing the church thing on Sunday morning, but about committing to a group (that Melody refers to as a "cult"!) where there is openness and honesty - and where people will challenge you and care for your soul. In turn you are a caretaker for the souls of those who are in your small church context. To me this is the best place to work through all issues, including what it means for John (remember our imaginary friend?) to be in a homosexual relationship with a young daughter.

So, what are your thoughts??? How does the "all or nothing" thing play out?

Melody said...

Let's see, we have unwanted teenage pregnancies, STDs, those quiet abortions, quite a bit of porno, SM is common in many bedrooms and within the privacy of our homes a bit of wife bashing (battered wives), and let's not forget not sparing the rod (battered kids)...and then about 50% of the time marriages ending in divorce.

Sam, I don't like any of those things - and I certainly don't expect them from people.

But the wrongness of those actions - does not negate or lessen the wrongness of other actions.

Beautifully Profound said...

I guess I will be churchless. By the way I e-mailed the leaders of that group and withdrew my participation. It's not really something I am whole heartedly into right now, besides it's something I want to do with Mik on our own.

samlcarr said...

Melody, i'm not saying that any of you are saying that any of the listed things are ok. Only that when it 'happens' to a heterosexual, it's just a bit of stuff that they very privately are encouraged to work through but while (and whether or not) they do so, fellowship is not affected.

There, in the prejudice, is what is so absurdly hypocritical and terribly, unlovingly, unbiblical.

We can wink at so much, but we absolutely will not cut the homosexual enough slack to get into a faithful, loving, committed, monogamous relationship?

Robin Marie said...

I realize I'm coming into this discussion a bit late, but I'm still curious. When was it decided that homosexuality isn't a sin?
From what I've read, it seems that in the Bible we are called to monogamous heterosexual relationships.

Which begs the question: if John comes to church and he wants to be a member, do we let him? Of course, he can be a part of the sermons, and even participate in events, but can he truly be a member of the church? Can he teach our children or lead our sunday school classes or a Bible study? Most churches would say that homosexuality is a sin, and they wouldn't be able to condone that. However, if John is committed to Christ, what's he supposed to do: divorce his husband? Cast away his daughter? That doesn't seem right, either.

On the other hand, what if the situation were changed? What if Larry were attending a church where homosexuality was deemed a sin, and he approached the pastor and said, "I've been a member of this church for seven years, but for the last five of those years, I've been in a monogamous relationship with Tom." Larry clearly has no desire to change. He clearly sees no problem with his relationship with Tom. How does the church handle that?

Is there a difference between the way that the two situations are handled? Is it okay because it's monogamous? Somehow, that's not the way I've ever interpreted it - or heard it interpreted.

Daniel said...

The striking aspect of this debate is how homosexuality is assumed to be culturally and socially normative. The Church in America has allowed this to become so by tolerating the 'rights of man' discourse which is basically anti-thetical to Christianity. We need to storm the gates of the enemy, not wait for him to come knocking and then act surprised when he does! How is it that homosexuality has been admitted to Godly institutions of marriage and family as in this scenario? We need to go to the enemy's camp and take back what the devil has stolen - our most foundational family values. This is very obvious to the Church in the rest of the world, if not to you that are in thick of things there in the USA. Be encouraged! The worldwide body of Christ will stand with you on the firm ground of Christ's promises to us of freedom from all bondage to sin. Don't be confused by the secular propoganda promoting homosexuality and compromise what God has made abundantly clear in his eternal Word: affirmation of marriage and Godly offspring, and condemnation of all form of sexual sin that perverts this purpose.

samlcarr said...

Robin and Daniel, there are substantial issues of interpretation that face us with sexuality and the Bible. While no attempt has been made here to discuss these issues, and they are BIG issues that do require concentrated study, some of the matters have been touched upon in a previous post that is linked in the intro to this post (above).

I believe that what we are attempting to do is to We need to go to the enemy's camp and take back what the devil has stolen. The blinkered eyes that have failed to tackle what the gospel is all about have to be opened even if it is a couple thousand years late.

The issue is precisely God's loving and just character, as revealed fully by Jesus and that is precisely what is still being travestied in the name of ...freedom from all bondage to sin?

Melody said...

Only that when it 'happens' to a heterosexual, it's just a bit of stuff that they very privately are encouraged to work through but while (and whether or not) they do so, fellowship is not affected.

Sam, that's just not true.

I mean - those things aren't on equal levels, I don't think, so it varies from issue to issue, but do you really see the church telling a wife beater or a child abuser, "Oh don't worry, work it out on your own time. We're here for potlucks if you need us!" ???

I grew up in a church that looked the other way - for such a small church it has done an awful lot of damage, but even that church wouldn't have been able stand there singing, "Holy, Holy, Holy" with someone we knew was physically abusing thier family.

We can wink at so much, but we absolutely will not cut the homosexual enough slack to get into a faithful, loving, committed, monogamous relationship?

This statement baffles me. You are placing homosexuality in comparison with some awful things and then saying because we haven't got those other things under wraps we should cut homosexuals (who you don't think are sinning!) some slack?

I don't even know where to begin dissagreeing because it is such an odd question/statement.

If you were correct and homosexuality was not a sin - it wouldn't be about cutting people slack.

If I am correct and homosexuality is a sin, there is no reason to say that one sin is permissable just because we're really bad about the other!

That's like saying, "Well I've cut off my right arm so I guess I'll cut off the left one too!"

Should not the attitude rather be, "Yes, homosexuality is wrong and we do not condone it - but neither can we allow these other atrocities to continue under our noses"?

Daniel said...

The blinkered eyes that have failed to tackle what the gospel is all about have to be opened even if it is a couple thousand years late.

To insinuate that the gospel has been misunderstood by the Church for the past two thousand years - is it not to fault Christ who has been building His Church? Is that an accusation against His bride?

Rhetoric aside, I challenge the American Church to step outside of the cultural particularity you find yourselves in (i.e. advocacy of homosexual "lifestyle") and reclaim the basics. We are called to live for Christ and crucify the old sinful nature. We are called to live beyond sin-consciousness and to share in His righteousness. There is a cloud of witnesses urging us on. By His grace we are empowered to live at a higher level than was ever possible under the law, and morevoer we shall meet Him face to face and be heirs of His Kingdom - fallen creatures no more.

So long as the Church lets the world define how it is meant to love, we will not attain a righteous truth in love, through lack of courage to stand up for what we believe in. Jesus died to save us from sin - lets his death and the grace he is given us not be in vain. The Church as body of Christ can heal people of homosexual lust and deliver them from the deception that it is somehow acceptable, by the strength of our conviction and compassion and by the power of the Holy Spirit.

How terrible to misrepresent God's righteous judgment and spread false religion? That in my opinion is the role of an organization calling itself a Church that tolerates homosexuality, and any other sin for that matter. It is corruption of the world spoken of by the Apostle James.

samlcarr said...

Melody, I have seen eyes being averted politely in a church to an obvious case of wife and child battery. The person continued to be a deacon and continued to lead a home bible study, but this was many, many years ago and hopefully things have now changed. Back then avoidance was the better part of valor.

No, my logic is not that 'if that sin can be tolerated then why not this one too?' My belief is that homosexuality can be just as holy as heterosexuality and just as sinful. But the church, by and large, does not acknowledge hetero sin as a big deal, but just the hint or the whiff of homosexuality, (even if practiced in a biblically sound way) will drive us up a wall and round a bend.

In other words, even if you think it is sin, this prejudiced and judgmental reaction is wrong.

Daniel, I'm afraid that one of your premises is wrong and that is that I am an American. I am not, and my argument here on this very American blog is not particularly geared to Americans but to anyone who loves God and wishes to both follow Jesus and share Jesus with others. Get those blinkers off, really read what the bible says, and start following the Jesus of the gospels who did not turn anyone away; except perhaps the hypocrites?

samlcarr said...

Here is an interesting story from Scot McKnight's jesuscreed? that seems to swing both ways but yet illustrates a lot of what I have unsuccessfully been trying to convey!

Melody said...

Melody, I have seen eyes being averted politely in a church to an obvious case of wife and child battery.

Ok - well I guess we've just been in different places seeing different things.

But the church, by and large, does not acknowledge hetero sin as a big deal, but just the hint or the whiff of homosexuality, (even if practiced in a biblically sound way) will drive us up a wall and round a bend.

Ok - well, I don't think there is a biblically sound way to practice homosexuality, but - I would have problem saying that homosexuality is more wrong than other types of consensual sexual sin (rape & child molestation get their own category of evil - imo).

Daniel said...

Sam, whether or not you are American, the question posed is based on the American social landscape. For the simple reason that in most other places in the world, people cannot choose same-sex marriages or adopt children within such 'marriages'.

Your reading of the gospels is out of line with the widely accepted standards for sexual morality accepted by the Church over the last two thousand years, insofar as you read an acceptance of homosexuality by Jesus. Jesus ministry on earth fulfilled the promises of God to man of redemption from the law of sin and death and thus broke the curse resulting from Adam's fall. Jesus is the same God who reduced Sodom and Gommorah to ashes for their sexual immorality, which included homosexuality which ever way you spin the story. Jesus is the same holy God who flooded the earth for reasons linked to sexual immorality, and warned the Israelites not to follow the Caananites into sexual sin in the time of entering the promised land. Amongst these forbidden practices were homosexual acts. The law given by God (Jesus) to Moses is clear enough on this issue too.

Slavery, while socially unacceptable today and reprehensible in the Antarctic slave trade, associated if not responsible for modern racism (which is out of line with God's Word and character), is not denounced in the Bible as sin, and neither is cultural/ social inequality between men and women specifically sinful. Likewise, polygamy is not ideal but cannot be categorised as sexual sin, unlike rape, incest, bestiality and (yes) homosexuality.

These are conclusions drawn from scripture in its entirity whether we are comfortable culturally with them or not. God's Word (the Bible) does not change, just as He does not change. He is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow. We change and try fit Him to our mold, unsuccesfully. We prefer our relativist doctrines that are not spiritually discerned but rely on physical, emotional and intellectual argument.

There is no common ground between the Bible and Human Rights, the Bible is about Human Wrongs and the Righteousness of God (manifested most triumphantly by Jesus Christ).

The Bible is clear that when we sin sexually we sin against our own bodies, and our bodies are meant to be temples of the Jesus' Holy Spirit when we are born again. Thus sexual sin is viewed in a most serious light. We moderns and post-moderns have lost some of the fear of God on this issue (and not just with regards to homosexuality, although I would say that it is a flagship).

As for a biblically sound way of practicing sin, that sounds to me like a good definition of hypocrisy.

Jonathan Erdman said...

Daniel: The striking aspect of this debate is how homosexuality is assumed to be culturally and socially normative. The Church in America has allowed this to become so by tolerating the 'rights of man' discourse which is basically anti-thetical to Christianity.

I think I would perhaps make a brief correction. In the church in the U.S. the opinions and statements made on this issue are wide ranging. I don't know that there has been one, unified "response" to the cultural acceptance of homosexuality. Furthermore, there have been many, many voices from the church that have loudly protested against homosexuals. Some have even done so in a violent way. Others have seasoned their opposition with grace. Still others are very politically active. The point is that despite very prominent opposition from various churches American, by and large, is very accepting of homosexuality. I do not have statistics available to link to, unfortunately, but I don't know that this is highly disputed.

In terms of how homosexuality became accepted by the general public I would say that much of it has to do with the various forms of media: television, movies, music, literature, etc. Perhaps also a factor is the "humanness" of homosexualiy - that is, all of us know homosexuals personally: interacting with them as family or working with one another in an office environment.

The above is just my take on the situation. Daniel, what would you say about South Africa?

Jonathan Erdman said...

Good link, Sam, to that short essay at Jesus Creed. A few thoughts I am cutting and pasting here:

10. Although human sexuality is deeply rooted, it is more complex and subject to the ability to change over time than either gays or conservative (or even liberal) Christains seem to acknowledge. Their positions are polarized and depend on extreme claims about the nature of sexuality that are as rigid and fixed as their political agendas.
15. As a Christian, and a Psychology Major, I understand that my “change” was influenced by my faith walk, and by much more, including what it means to be human in the way God created me and creates each person uniquely.


Sam, you seemed to indicate that you believed sexuality was something one could not change. This guy seems to indicate that for him change was possible, over time. He even is currently married and for all intents and purposes, it seems he can't get enough of his wife!

More quotes:
11. One of the more unfortunate results of the on-going, anti-gay political reaction by the religious right, is to further alienate and separate gays from Christian community and the gospel of Christ.

12. Church folk need to be more patient with gay seekers and Christians, as they purport to be with others, and allow time for the Holy Spirit to work change.

13. Gay folk need to be more tolerant of other gays who explore other facets of their sexuality and not see their “changing” as a threat to themselves or their own politically reactionary agenda.


And this one I find particularly interesting:
14. Emotionally supportive, straight, male friends are one of the most important influences in healing for a gay man who seeks to “change.” Come to think of it, shouldn’t all Christians be emotionally supportive of each other? Gal. 6:2, Prov. 17:7, Eccl. 4:10. What opportunites are there for these relationships to form in your church, or in your life of ministry, with gay seekers?

I guess this was a lot of where I was going with this post. I even had Galatians 6 in my mind. Is there is an environment in our current American church structure to facilitate these "emotionally supportive" relationships? I suggest no. Furthermore, I submit that we are a long, long way away from it.

This guy mentions the importance of male support, but his own story also indicates that he had a difficult time relating with members of the opposite gender. Small contexts are a great setting for developing and nurturing respectful relations with both genders. And, as I stated in the opening post, this is the most ideal environment to explore a biblical, Christ honoring, and Gospel centered understanding of sexuality. Not just homosexuality, but the many ways in which sexuality is abused or distorted in this strange American culture.

samlcarr said...

Jon, there have been studies done on change in sexual orientation that indicate that for men a 5% figure is reasonable while for women it could go as high as 30%!

This in turn indicates that sexual orientation is fluid for a few men and for quite a few women. One problem with many studies is the lack of rigor in scoring people initially when they enter the studies with the result that a lot of what looks like change is actually a built in fluidity (e.g. persons who might have been somewhat bisexual and didn't realise that)and that real change for those who start out at the ends of the spectrum (strongly homo or strongly hetero) is next to impossible.

I also think that we have to make allowances for etiology. It's possible that for some a certain type of upbringing and environment may have contributed to the orientation, while for others it might be more genetic, or something else could be involved. Currently scientists are undecided on this issue.

In 1Cor 7, Paul urges us not to try to change who and what we basically are just because we have become Christians, and I think that that is sound advice.

samlcarr said...

Daniel, if you don't think that slavery is such a big deal then I don't have much hope that I can get you to see that injustice is something that is abhorrent to God.

...modern racism (which is out of line with God's Word and character) I found confusing. Is it only 'modern' racism that is out of line with God's character? The ancient forms of racism that the bible actively encourages were OK?

Religion is a human concoction, selfish and oriented to propagating its own interests. I want to be careful not to let the blind spots of Religion give God a bad name.

On the balance of the evidence in scripture, I am confident that in and of itself there is nothing sinful about a homosexual orientation any more than there is in a heterosexual orientation! It's what one then does with this that can be sinful or not.

It will take something more than 10,000 years of wrong practice - religious prejudice to convince me that I am wrong.

Daniel said...

We consider slavery to be morally wrong, but the Bible doesn't consider it to be sinful per se. God worked it for the good of Joseph in Egypt and the nation of Israel in Babylon, even if we agree that it was not part of his perfect will for this to happen.

Similarly with the Atlantic slave trade, God has worked it for good: Modern racism, white vs. black, with all its ramifications, is the evil that resulted from slavery in the modern world as we know that a white/black division was not known to the ancients; but God in his wisdom has blessed the African-American Christians with the pentecostal revival starting at Azusa Street and continuing unabated ever since, not to mention the impact of gospel music on the world and the Christian leadership of men such as Martin Luther King Jnr and contemporary African-American preachers that are rocking the world for Christ.

I believe we have yet to see in full how God will make good out of the terrible episode of modern slavery, which in the final analysis may appear morally neutral despite the terrible abuses, because of what God has done.

Nonetheless it took great courage to stand against the institution of slavery which was considered normal, much like homosexuality is considered today. We need a William Wilberforce that will stand against men's enslavement to sexual passions no matter what popular opinion dicates. Is sexual slavery that defiles the body and tears at the soul not far worse then the slavery that batters the body but cannot touch the soul?

That economic slavery cannot touch the soul is evident from the cultural achievements of the nation of Israel in Babylon (synagogue culture) and the African Diaspora(our Spirit-filled Church).

That sexual slavery such as (but not limited to) homosexuality is destructive is evident from the homosexuals I know, as well as the people I know who have fallen in adultery, but especially true in my own life before I became a Christian: sexual sin wrecked my soul life (mind, will, emotions) and led me on a road to mental hospital. But Jesus rescued me - and the main point is that he promises to save all who call on Him.

To answer Jon's question:

We face the same challenge in South Africa, as our neo-liberal government in its pride has passed same-sex marriage laws, and child adoption cases are being brought to our Constitutional Court by homosexual couples. The Church will have the fallout, as a harvest or a hassle, depending on how we handle it: but the majority of Christians here (80% of the population) would have preffered to stand with the rest of the African continent in completely opposing gay marriage. That was made clear during the government's round of community consultation, only the homosexual lobby was too strong or maybe it was the need to keep up with the Western democracies.

We too are in need of God's grace on this issue, may His will be done! He will redeem all men unto himself.

Homosexuals are welcomed in Church as they are preached a gospel of repentance - the same gospel we all submit ourselves to. In our particular denomination our leadership reach out to homosexuals in love, expressing God's father heart and addressing that wound - with many people healed to God's glory.

samlcarr said...

Daniel, I'm wondering about your hermeneutics for this issue. I am unable to follow you to your homepage as the message that I get is "blogger, profile not available: so I am forced to ask a non-post oriented basic quaestion here.

You say that neither slavery nor racism are good parallels and you do mention that God can bring a good result even from man's evil (I agree) but none of these issues seem to me to be to the point.

What is it in particular that convinces you that homosexuality, unlike heterosexuality, is in and of itself sinful?

I live in a country (India) that does not have a legal homosexual marriage but the culture of Hinduism is so diverse that for male homosexuals there are 'outlets' that are a recognised part of the culture/religion. For women it is not culturally so clear cut.

The church here is very conservative on this issue such that it is something of a non-issue here. In other words, no one brings it up in open discussion.

I do know a number of men that have homosexual tendencies but that are married (to women), and perhaps not even as unhappily married as some of my heterosexual friends!

chris van allsburg said...

Hmmm, that's odd. Not too much Scripture being cited here. Oh no, wait--we're evangelicals debating topics concerning the ways of man with God--why resort to the bible? After all, it's up for grabs in interpretive methods--no one knows for sure what it means....

I think samlcarr raises a good issue worth talking about though: what is the difference, if any, among certain sins? Divorce, child abuse, a hot temper, lustful thoughts, backbiting, overeating, coffee/tv/internet/et al addiction.

I'll not post the answer here, but I do recall that homosexual offenders, among others, will not inherit the kingdom of heaven. That's FIRST CORINTHIANS SIX VERSES NINE AND TEN.
Others: sorcerers, swindlers, drunkards, the sexually immoral, murderers. Before I repented of my sins, I saw MYSELF in this passage. Apparently, it matters to God how we live.

Scenario: you walk up to a prostitute and explain that Jesus died for her sins and rose from the dead. "Really?" she says. "I believe! But do I have to stop being a prostitute?" Uhh...

Sanctification and justification are perhaps more closely linked than we cheap gracers and easy believismers want to admit.

"When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die," (a very good German from the WWII era by name of Deitrich).

Jonathan Erdman said...

Hey Chris!

There was a previous post where Sam and Melody went back and forth quite a bit on various Scriptural related matters - "Not That There's Anything Wrong With That!"

But, by all means, discussion can continue on in regards to the Scriptural aspects. In my two posts I was specifically concerned with the greater culture and also the culture/atmosphere/institutions that we have set up within the church and whether or not they are truly capable of addressing the contemporary scene. Yet I also recognize the interrelated nature of the discussion.

By the way, are you going to keep blogging, or look for a new name, or what???

How about TheRealDispensationStartedWithCalvin.com? That might suite you well!

chris van allsburg said...

Jon,
I dig. The church, lead by Falwell and Dobson and others, has demoralized itself by trying to moralize the nation. I think maybe we've woken up to the fact that President Bush is not the uber-christian or the conservative he'd led to believe he was. (I wonder if his "born again" experience was politically motivated).

Anywho--yes, the church needs to learn how to both confront the godless culture and show it the love of Jesus. It's a fine line that only a trapeeze artist at at big tent circus in California during the Great Depression could meander.

Let's believe the Bible, but not be angry about it. Right?

And no--no blogging for me. Too much work. I've a family, reading to do, and I'm debating a bunch of atheists on headtochrist.com (I could use some help!).

And yes--I'll need a new name, too. Stickthatinyourpipeandsmokeit is already taken. Look it up though--it's funny. Not mine, the other person's. I like your suggestion though.

samlcarr said...

wheretheressmoke, (Chris) I wonder how you have managed to discover the meaning of a word that has stumped some great classical scholars? Sounds like you better get on with writing that book on Paul's use of obscure Greek terms!

Do join us on the other post as i think melody would certainly appreciate the company. Jon's proved to be quite too elusive...

Melody said...

Jon's proved to be quite too elusive...

Yes - for someone who's always talking about community...

Jonathan Erdman said...

Elusive? How so?

Melody said...

Elusive? How so?

He's probably refering to how you just kinda start trouble and then let us hash it out between ourselves.

Not that we don't appreciate the discussion starters. After all, I could be frittering away my work day reading messageboard threads titled things like "Rob Bell: Jesus or Anti-Christ?" or "Name that Movie Quote".
And that would be dire indeed.

samlcarr said...

Jon, that was just a light tease, though from your rather 'too quick' protest, might we suspect that we unwittingly hit a bit too close to the truth?

Anyhow, I'm with Melody, thanks for an opportunity to discuss something that really badly needs an airing, though when your own vision of this being something that is dealt with honestly by fellowships and in fellowship is still a very moot point.

Jonathan Erdman said...

Yes. Well, I learn from hearing everyone fight - not to mention the entertainment value!

I want to hash out my position more on this issue before telling everyone what they must believe! For example, I really want to study the language used and also compare the historical situations that influenced the biblical writers. That's definitely an area that I need to do a bit of work on. Oh, goody! More trips to the library!!!

In other words, more posts will be on the way....but probably not in the near future......

samlcarr said...

More study, we want/need more please!

Well, the last word has not been said and I liked Chris pointing out that the lexical approach may not be ideal, but then that's a funny demurral that seems to come (perhaps from a bit of shock) after we realise that our assumptions about meanings are perhaps not really very solidly based (in the text).

The study of functions within the originating cultures and then comparing that to what we know of God - now that's much more likely to be fruitful!

But, certainly not easy to do either, so, I look forward to the results of your study!

Daniel said...

Hi all,

I needed a sabbath from this topic.

Sorry not to have a blog profile Sam, unfortunately I don't intend creating one - to many multiple identities not enough time.

However, having visited this blog a few times and jumped in on this conversation, I have decided that it would be proper to stay connected and not 'hit and run'.

So I'm here. Praise the Lord! Glad to be part of what God is doing on this blog. I work as a music teacher in Grahamstown, South Africa, married to a beautiful woman and blessed with a precious little girl. Have lots of academic interests, and desire to see redemption of post-modern language and general trend along with traditional expressions. For the King and the Kingdom!

With regards language, isn't it strange how comments tend towards the didactic and/or polemical? At least my comments veer that way and I can't seem to help it??!!

That's one of the most remarkable aspects of the letters in the NT: their tone and register. We can learn a lot without getting to agreement on specific words, which is where this discussion has hit a brick wall seemingly. The empathy that is the quality we agree is lacking. The Holy Spirit of God (Jesus Christ) was promised to us for this purpose: to comfort us and lead us into truth.

As a friend said yesterday: the Church has been focussing on right and wrong - when what is in people's hearts is the question of truth.

"Is a practice true" may be a better question than "is it right or wrong", sinful or acceptable. Further questions in this vein: Is it fruitful? Is it life-giving? What values are substantiated by this practice? What meaning does it give birth to?

Framed thus, homosexuality is a deception and perversion in my estimation, and cannot be compared with the sexuality that God originated for men and women to embrace in all its wonderful, life-sustaining complementarity.

There goes the polemic again, its such an alienating mode of writing. Hope being in this blog will lead to better communication.

yours in the love of Christ

Daniel

samlcarr said...

We can learn a lot without getting to agreement on specific words, which is where this discussion has hit a brick wall seemingly. The empathy that is the quality we agree is lacking. The Holy Spirit of God (Jesus Christ) was promised to us for this purpose: to comfort us and lead us into truth.

Well Daniel, sorry for the delay in getting back to you. You're right, we should be able to find areas of oneness without agreeing on each and every little thing. In fact if we did so agree, it would be SO boring!

"Is a practice true" and "Is it fruitful? Is it life-giving? What values are substantiated by this practice? What meaning does it give birth to?"

These are exactly the right questions and they are similar to the ones that I have been asking my bible and my fellow believers.

What do you mean by life? It seems to me that you are thinking mechanically - procreation, rather than LIFE now, abundant in its richness, aching to be shared, to overflow into other lives all around.

What you and Chris are arguing is that truth = mechanical truth. The parts have to fit together complementarily otherwise it's false. Well i think you know why you don't find slavery or inequality, or injustice (adikia) so horrible, but these are the very things that Jesus fought against and that His disciples should SEE.

Not the pharisaic fencing-in of a dead law as a great way to do religion but a very lousy way to seek God's Kingdom and an even worse way to witness to the God who set us free!

(i love polemic...)

Daniel said...

We've been so busy toing and froing over the acceptability of homosexuality, ever since the first comment by Sam. Still the question remains how to ensure people who identify themselves as homosexuals are welcome in the Church.

Change can come later, but we do seem to have an impractical expectation of homosexuals to change before they even come through the door. This is preventing many who are otherwise interested in Christianity from coming into the fold.

I'm not sure whether its an institutional problem or not. It may be as a result of the whole issue being swept under the carpet.

Just recently I heard of two prominent lesbians who are both interested and afraid to join our Church because they fear being judged and rejected. This is surely wrong. We pray that God would continue to attract them to us, and also make us soft and open towards them.

When the final choice comes between Christian identity and homosexuality, they will be in a position to make the change by God's grace - but we need to accept them first as people. Despite completely disagreeing with Sam's acceptance of homosexual lifestyle, I would agree that we need to seriously interrogate our attitudes on the matter, and trust God to see more homosexuals in our fellowship.

I don't think the last word has been spoken here by any means. The issue deserves a lot more discussion.

Jonathan Erdman said...

Daniel: I'm not sure whether its an institutional problem or not. It may be as a result of the whole issue being swept under the carpet.

Probably something of both, though perhaps "locked in the closet" might also be a good metaphor!

Seriously, though, I am interested to know about your church situation. If the lesbian couple joins the church what context will they find themselves in? Specifically, I am wondering if they will be involved in a small group context where they can openly inquire and wrestle with the issues? It is something of a question as to how your local church fellowship is organized.

Daniel said...

The lesbian couple are close friends of Church members who also lead "cell" groups. This is a strong aspect of our Church life, over 60% of committed members lead cells, many lead more than one. So lots of people get exposed to Christian fellowship without coming to Sunday services. They would be discipled in one of these groups.

In fact I would not put it past the Church to organize a cell specifically for people struggling with homosexuality (no not a prison cell). Maybe I should suggest it! Many of the cell groups have a specific focus.

These two lesbian women are very prominent activists on campus, one is outgoing (no pun) chairperson of the gay and lesbian society, the other chairperson of the HIV/Aids campaign. It is through their genuine friendship with Christians from our Church whom they have met in English class, that they are expressing interest in Christianity.

A recent incident highlights the progress made. There was a spate of homophobic outburst on campus and said couple together with their organizations marched to protest and petition against hate-speech and discrimination. Members of our Church, including the campus pastor, marched together with them. Since this action by Christians it seems their loyalty has been won on some level.

However they know our stance is that homosexuality is not of God.

So much remains to be done, and we continue to pray and trust God to see them come into the Kingdom (and bring many with them).

Jonathan Erdman said...

Thanks for the input, Daniel. It will be good to see what God does through you and your church.

Also, it is encouraging to see that there are small "cell groups" that are in the world and making a difference through lived community. That's an encouragement to me.

samlcarr said...

I agree, that's very encouraging. We are called to love first and always. i think we get ourselves mixed up when we start talking about "tough love" and related unbiblical confusions.

God is big enough and capable enough to convict us of our sins and to help us to change. We need to have enough confidence in God and in the blood of Jesus to know that He is not going to lead us down the wrong path, as long as we are obediently trusting Him with our love.

As Daniel says, it does need a lot more discussion, but regardless of the issues, the issues are secondary to our commission which is to love one another even as God first loved us and gave Himself for us.

Melody said...

We need to have enough confidence in God and in the blood of Jesus to know that He is not going to lead us down the wrong path, as long as we are obediently trusting Him with our love.

No, God isn't going to lead us astray, but come on - we're flawed. We get confused or we willfully pretend we're hearing something different (the heart is decietful above all things and desperately wicked?). God's isn't the only voice we're hearing.

I'm not trying to be difficult, but this "all you need is love" stuff seems kinda sketchy to me - so often we don't even know what love is (the tender mercies of the wicked are cruel? Who's wicked? Oh, that's right - us).

It just seems overly simplistic to say, "Follow your heart to the first star and straight on till morning".

I mean - God's love wasn't all that simple, was it?

It's got this whole long complicated story/explenation that goes with it. And while I appreciate that, on some levels, loving somebody can be as simple as giving them your coat, on a lot of other levels, it really isn't.

Daniel said...

One of the challenges to me is that it seems far easier for Christian women to befriend lesbians than for Christian men such as myself to befriend homosexuals.

It is a matter of loving one another first and foremost, after all "the goodness of God leads to repentance" and God reveals His goodness towards us because of His great love for us. Jesus's love is quite an act to follow!

samlcarr said...

I'm not trying to be difficult, but this "all you need is love" stuff seems kinda sketchy to me - so often we don't even know what love is (the tender mercies of the wicked are cruel? Who's wicked? Oh, that's right - us).

It just seems overly simplistic to say, "Follow your heart to the first star and straight on till morning".

I mean - God's love wasn't all that simple, was it?


Melody, I wasn't trying to be difficult either but that quote was fairly drippin'.

I guess what I was trying to say was let's start with acceptance, try to be loving, and let God worry about the consequences.

There will be consequences. Anytime i'm feeling snug and secure, i know i've missed the track somewhere, but that's no excuse to stop trying!

name said...

Good job!

Melody said...

Melody, I wasn't trying to be difficult either but that quote was fairly drippin'.

Sorry - when I'm frustrated I get a smidgy bit sarcastic, let me rephrase:

I don't want to nitpick because love is important and all and I think it's great that you want to love people, but I think your theory misses some significant factors, like the fact that humanity sucks at the whole love deal and frequently confuses love with passion or compliance or worse.

I think ignoring this is idealistic and dangerous.

Daniel said...

Melody, you make a good point. Before I was saved I thought I was full of love for the world, but after Jesus became my Lord I realized it was just plain selfishness. I chose whom to 'love' and usually for reasons that were to my own benefit - even when being unselfish it was my pride that motivated me, and not true love.

Christ-like love is giving yourself for other people, and is different because it costs something. Look where love took Jesus in the end!