Thursday, May 1, 2014

Some of my arguments on Same Sex Relationships

1. You  said you define holy as living within scriptural authority. Which scripture?

I have yet to find in Jesus’ teaching any prohibition of gay relationships. He simply doesn’t discuss them. This is not an endorsement, but neither is it a condemnation. It is silence. This is why Theologians like Robert Gagnon have tried so hard to find texts that could be construed in this matter. But his best attempts are wrong. And though he write about marriage in a heterosexual context it is clearly focused on the topic. Nothing that he says could not be part of Gay relationships (if such things existed, which they did not at the time)

Paul’s writings I DO ignore on the topic. Because the infallibility of Paul’s writing have yet to be presented to me in scripture, either by Paul himself, or by others. It is, of course ,not the only position of Paul I ignore, and I’m certain that though you may accept some of his teaching on the issue of Homosexuality, you reject his teaching on slavery and other topics. Which leads to the question: why one and not the other?
Clearly, you don’t accept his ideas on the origins and nature of homosexual attraction either, as recorded in Romans 1:18-32. Yet the conclusion you do accept. Why one and not the other?

At this point, I would like to point out that neither you nor I have (yet) explicitly referenced the most important person in this discussion. The most important because his writings are the closest thing to being declared indisputable that are recorded in scripture, yet are also the ones that Christianity is defined by disputing.
I speak here of Moses. It is ironic that it is his writing, the only undisputed part of the biblical Canon, that we are so comfortable following. And it is on his writings that the notion that a scriptural prohibition or endorsement is sufficient without dispute for all time founders. Or Christianity. Whichever one you think should tip over.

To both Jesus and the apostles, the Law of Moses is what Scripture (again indisputably) meant. But any cursory look at the New Testament will make clear that this did not stop them from challenging and rejecting parts of it. Which means that scriptural authority, for the Christian is NOT ENOUGH. When Peter (temporarily) accepts the notion of challenging the Law explicitly, he does so for two apparent reasons. One is that he sees God’s Spirit present and made manifest in the lives of people who don’t keep the Law completely (Acts 10). And recall that the Law of Moses IS scripture . The definition of the word, as far as Peter would have been concerned. The second is the IMPACT that the Law has on people’s lives Acts 15:6-12). It’s probably verse 10 that has been the most impactful on me in regards to this topic.

So when I hear someone say that they define holiness as living within scriptural authority, I always ask what they mean. Because as a Christian you do not claim all scripture to be binding on your life. You, in conjunction with the wider faith community of which you are a part, bind and loose, accept and reject, follow and even condemn scripture on the basis of its effects on the lives of others. As the first disciples did.

I wrote in my initial response that I rejected the notion that homosexuality is in opposition to holiness because “it is the presence of God and the fruit of His Spirit (Love being most important) in a person or activity that renders something holy”. And if this is the case who are we to suggest that it is “common or unclean”?
If there is any other notion to be found in the Gospel, I have not heard of it.

2.  I did not presume that Jesus’ silence on a topic meant what I wanted it to mean. Only that it doesn't mean anything one way or the other. It doesn't back up my view, doesn't shut it down either. It leaves ground open for discussion.

Jesus’ references to marriage are occurring in the context of a majority heterosexual community in which the concept of sexual orientation, much less marriage for same-sex couples, simply did not exist. He was not defining marriage in those texts in terms of sexuality and gender. He was only defining them in terms of the obligations the partners had to one another.

And the ” Adam and Eve not Adam and Steve” argument is not one that I find credible. Ethnicity and race did not exist in the Garden of Eden. For me to suggest that to refer to ourselves in those terms was sinful because they aren't mentioned in the creation story would be unthinkable. The text also speaks of fruitful multiplication. But I have yet to see that used to suggest that either celibacy or marriages deliberately free of children are incompatible with Christian practice or faithfulness to God.

If you read the writings of the suffragists and abolitionists, you will find that their arguments are mostly based on the same type of reasoning that Liberals use today on the issue of Gay marriage. In effect, most ignored the texts they didn't like and acted as if they didn’t exist. Then they made a moral suasion argument, based on things like “Love” and “Christian Brotherhood”.
The ultimate effectiveness of such arguments is demonstrated by the fact that people think there are passages in the Bible that condemn slavery as such. The best you can find in the Biblical text are passages that decry the slavery of Israel. But that is because the GROUP is enslaved to pagan foreigners, not because slavery itself is considered to be wrong. As subsequent texts in favor of slavery among the Israelites as well as the enslavement by Israelites of foreigners attest.

But there were a few abolitionists who took the approach that I believe was the right one. They acknowledged that the Bible was indeed a pro-slavery document as such. That the majority of texts to be found on the topic are in favor of (or at least not hostile towards) the institution. Only then did they use the moral suasion argument, saying in effect that the IMPACT that slavery had on both slave and slave master was all the proof one needed to see that it was not in harmony with the spirit of Christ. And because it was destructive, the followers of Jesus should reject it in full.

This is not, “Bible says it, I believe it, that settles it”. Which raises the question: If the Bible supports slavery, mustn't we?
That is the implication of the idea that there is no justified reason to reject any text. And if you read scripture, especially the Law, with this principle in mind, you will quickly notice how much scripture the early church and most modern Christians have rejected. You’ll realize that, by this argument, The New Testament itself would have to be removed from our Bibles, for violating the Deuteronomic principle that nothing contrary to what is written in the Law can be accepted as from God, and Peter and Paul condemned for leading us astray.

This is the implication, but too many have decided simply not to be honest about the text and therefore avoid the implication. Liberals often try to make the text say what it doesn’t say in hopes of justifying the “right” cause. Conservatives try to protect the Bible from itself by declaring everything good and then simply ignoring the bad (non-beneficial) parts.
And both sides declare that it is wrong to reject any text for any reason, even though they do reject them (following the example of Jesus and the Apostles) as they deem necessary.

So yes, I do think your position is illogical and contradictory. And, if you realized fully the implications of your position, deeply dishonest and harmful. That is why I had to reject it myself a few years back when held it. I looked myself and other Gay people in the eye, and told them that the text says what it says, and all they could do is obey it or be disloyal to God. But then they read all the destructive and harmful and unnecessary things the BIble says that we as Christians don’t obey. They see that some of those texts are rejected by the early church, but others (like those on slavery) aren’t fully rejected until relatively recent times. Not with a new book of the Bible but with little else but the fierce belief that Jesus and his loving spirit are incompatible with harmful, but scripturally supported, acts or beliefs. As I contemplated this, I realized that it must seem like our churches are telling people dying of thirst that they shouldn’t drink water and then dipping our whole heads in the river flowing nearby.

Before, I was comfortable with celibacy for Gay people. Still am, truth be told, at least for myself. But for all the young people who come after me? And what about the Gay people who have families and relationships? How could I condemn them and yet praise Christianity, when part of the very foundations of our faith as Christians is a stance toward Scripture that we deem wrong when gay people make appeal to it in favor of their relationships? It makes liars of us. And it brings disrepute on the Gospel of Jesus.

I could say more in extremely strident terms, but I notice how long this is so I’ll stop. Thanks for letting us respond to your stance.

3."Basically, your position comes down to “It makes me feel bad therefore I can ignore it”.I disagree with that characterization. BAsically, I'm saying that the great commandments (Love the lord your god, Love your neighbor as Yourself) are the general principles by which all our beliefs and acts must be judged. But how we do that is ambiguous and unclear as a result of the revelation of Jesus Christ and the reaction of the early church to His life and teaching and the presence of the Holy Spirit in their own. So any future upholding or laying down of any specific Biblical injunction or position must be done with the impact that it has on peoples lives.

 What possible reason is there to give up Circumcision, Stoning as punishment, the Deuteronomical position on Slavery, the sacrifice of animals, the keeping of the Sabbaths, the levitical dietary laws or any other scriptural instruction if the apparent impact that it has on people is not to be taken into account? It is literally unjustifiable. You could expand upon, perhaps spiritualize, the MEANING of these actions , but to abandon these practices altogether? There would be absolutely no need to do so. And no grounds according to the Law.

And Peter's speech in Acts 15 at the Jerusalem Council makes it clear that the impact the Law had on the lives of others was prominent in his decision not to support the enforcement of the Law on other Christians. And his PERSONAL feeling and experience on the matter was taken into account by the Jerusalem Council. Many of whom had not had the same experience. So personal gnosis matters. And what are the writings of Paul on the subject of circumcision in Galatians other than personal gnosis and exegesis? We forget that much of the Bible is personal experience with God and personal belief that is recorded, then presented as useful to a community.

 What is the Bible for then, if it is no longer an instruction manual? It remains a record of personal and communal experience with God, an imperfect guide, which conveys certain general principles and perspectives and several specific standards based on those principles. And we like all the communities of ages past, must judge whether and how those standards will be applied in our communities today.

4. But you're making my point in your very own example. You cited Jesus, Paul, Peter, but you avoid Moses. Why?

I talk about Old Testament Law first because it IS the Law. THE Law. When Jesus, Paul and Peter were alive there was no book of Timothy or Corinthians. There was only the Law and its pronouncements. The fact that there is ANY deviation (because the key word to be found in the Law about it being followed is ALL) makes my case.

When Peter made his argument to the Jerusalem Council, (based on his personal gnosis as you recall), he was not the only one. What he said was weighed and as you said, some familiar elements of Biblical law were kept. But it wasn't ALL (no circumcision for one thing). If the Scriptures told them to follow everything and they don't follow everything, what does it say about their and as a consequence our, relationship to Scripture?
Perhaps what I found most intriguing about the fact that you used what parts of the Law the Council agreed to enforce, is that one of the rules on that list (don't eat foods sacrificed to idols) had a (slight) dissenter.  Paul argues in Corinthians ch.8 and 10 that if someone deliberately offers something that has been offered to Idols they shouldn't eat it, but not because it is a sinful act. Rather, it is because the offeror might THINK so. This type of reasoning suggests he didn't see anything personally wrong with it himself. Not exactly unified obedience to either the council OR (most importantly) Scripture.

So clearly something being scriptural is not enough according to the New Testament. Jesus famously does the same thing, with the famous "you have heard that it was said" statements in which he quotes scripture (as if it was just something someone said) and then dismisses it in favor of something else (usually a more stringent rule). So what else has to be taken into consideration?

More than one thing. But one of those things is what impact the action or activity being endorsed/condemned has on the lives of those who do them. And also what impact the condemnation/endorsement has on those who follow the scriptural rule. Paul rejects a full throated endorsement of the Council's (and before that the Law's) position on eating things gifted to idols because of the implications it has on people's understanding of both eating and God. Peter as I mentioned before, does so on the basis of his experience witnessing the Holy Spirit at work in the lives of people who were not circumcised and the impact that the Law in general has on those who were.

That last part is important. You said that Jesus did not say that everything would be easy following him and it's true. But he also made clear that unnecessary burdens were wrong as well. And Jesus wasn't afraid to challenge the Law in various and sundry ways to make the point. For instance, when he touches the woman (and is touched in return) who  had the issue of blood. The Law presents bleeding outside of the menstrual cycle as "sin" that those who do so must make restitution for (Lev. 15:25-31). The fact that Jesus touched her renders them both unclean according to Scripture. But he not only allows himself to be touched, but publicizes it (and the healing of course) before raising a young girl from the dead (still unclean, and now more so that the touches the dead). Like so much Jesus did, it was a highly scandalous (blasphemous?) act.

Now if the general attitude was "Yeah, following the Bible is tough, but what can you do, pray for strength to obey.", then NONE of these stories would have made the cut. And Christianity as a whole would still insist on and endorse the Law. But is doesn't.

And neither do you. "Stoning unrepentant homosexuals who claim to be Christians to death is tough, the local police might give you a hard time about it, but the Bible says what the Bible says and all we can do is obey". That is the kind of thing you WOULD say if you truly practiced the kind of approach to Scripture you claim is necessary. But curiously you don't. Why?

Perhaps it has something to do with the impact (in every sense of the word) such actions would have on them and you.

Now all of this isn't an argument in favor of or against Homosexuality. This is an argument against the notion of biblical infallibility or inerrancy. Against the idea that how the text affects people is irrelevant. The New Testament and the history of the Church up to this day speaks against this idea. And I do to.
The reason why this is good for Gay people is that the Fruit of the Spirit in their lives becomes the criterion by which their relationship is judged, The impact good or bad those relationships have in themselves and others. And if they are judged on that basis, Gay couples win.

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