Sunday, April 6, 2008

Still Not Convinced

I want to thank everyone who commented on my last post. You gave me much to think about. But I'm still not convinced.

Several of you brought up the culture issue when interpreting scripture. I think you have a very valid point. But I think you fail to relate culture to all of scripture. You say that certain passages should be taken in light of the culture and society in which they were written, but you seem to fail to apply this to other passages. When the writers of the New Testament books tell us to abstain from sexual immorality, I have to question what they considered to be sexually immoral behaviors. At the time, I think they would have certainly defined sexual immorality by what is written of it in the Old Testament books. Among those things considered sexually immoral would have been gay sex, and very few people dispute the prohibition against homosexual sex as outlined in Levitical law. In applying culture, I think it can easily be reasoned that what was considered to be sexually immoral during the first century AD was based on the teachings of the Pentateuch. So when the apostle Paul or the members of the council of Jerusalem say we should abstain from all sexual immorality, I'd imagine they were talking about that which they knew as being sexually immoral at the time. Based on that, I do believe gay sex was considered a sexually immoral act to them, and that that would have been included in the list of things to abstain from.

Now is the question of love. Is it possible that love would excuse a homosexual relationship? I'll admit, I wonder seriously if it might. However, given that we are told to abstain from all sexual immorality, and given that the apostles more than likely viewed gay sex of any kind as a sexually immoral act, I find it hard to believe that engaging in gay sex, even out of love, would be okay. For if gay sex is considered sin, how are we loving God by giving into it? And even though we are told to love each other, and that that is to be our greatest commandment, I still don't think that would excuse this. For one, sex does not equal love in itself. It is an expression of love. And in the same light, love does not equal sex. Love is about so much more than sex alone. Love is about commitment, patience, kindness, and selflessness. It isn't prideful or boastful or uncaring. I have to say I find it puzzling how some people can say that two men can't love each other, even intimately, without ever having sex with each other. I'll refer to the story of David and Jonathan, which I'll say more about in a follow up post. Is it not possible that these two men actually just deeply loved each other in a Godly manner without ever having sex? I think it is. But I'll refer back to the culture issue with their story. Reading it, and applying it to today's culture and our society, yes, it seems very much so to suggest that David and Jonathan were perhaps lovers. But to see their story in light of the culture in which they lived, would it have been so shocking for two men to be affectionate toward each other and to show signs of love for each other? Such as when scripture says they kissed and wept together? Have we not seen heterosexual Frenchmen in our own time kiss each other as a sign of greeting or recognition? And aren't we told that Judas betrayed Jesus with a “kiss”? Have none of us cried along with our fellow brothers in times of distress or mourning, or had parents not approve of certain friendships?

David, from Resolving Realities, brought up one particular issue, which I hope I can give him an answer to, and that is “why does God not like homosexual sex?” I think if one seriously looks at how God created us, one can find that answer. He created us men and women. Our bodies are designed in very specific ways, and I'd imagine He meant for our bodies to only be used in specific ways. God naturally created men and women in a manner so that they could procreate. It's His design—that's all I can really say (and not to imply that procreation is the only reason for which to have sex). And so, I can see why He might find it offensive when we misuse what He created (our bodies). Think of it this way. A painter paints a beautiful landscape of people walking in a field during springtime. Now, lets say He gave life to his painting, and the men and women in that painting decided to change their colors, their clothing, their setting, until the point where the painters original intent for the painting is completely changed. No longer is it a painting of people walking in a field during springtime, but it's a painting of creatures starving to death during a cold winter. I think the same could be applied here with homosexuality. If it were not okay with God, I'd imagine it's because He didn't create us and our bodies with that in mind. And so to give into that sort of thing, we misuse our bodies—we use them in an unnatural way. That's the best answer I can think of for that question. I hope it makes sense. I'll still come back to the question though, might God be okay with homosexual sex, even though that might not have been His original intent for us, if love is involved? I'm still not sure. I will just add though, for whatever reason God may have against homosexual relations, if that is indeed how He feels, I know that His understanding is so much greater than my own. So, if God tells me that homosexual sex is wrong, I'll have to trust that it's because He knows better than I do. What I think shouldn't matter so much as what He thinks.

Now, I've heard some people mention that the Old Testament teachings no longer apply to us because of Christ. I disagree with that, in part. I think the two go hand in hand. Without the Old Testament, you don't have Christ. And even Christ affirmed many Old Testament teachings. So, I do believe the Old Testament is indeed still valid to us in many ways today. Now, of course, because of Christ, certain teachings of the Old Testament, in fact, no longer apply. I could get into describing traditional, cultural, and moral laws and such, but I'd rather not go down that road again. For those who know what I'm talking about, I would just like to ask if it's possible that the prohibition on homosexual sex could actually have fallen among the cultural laws, rather than the moral laws? If so, would we still be bound by it?

Some would suggest that the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah was not due to homosexuality, and I'll admit, it may not have been. But I do think the men who approached Lot's house did indeed want sex from his houseguests, and probably by force. The reason I believe this is because it doesn't make sense for Lot to have offered them his daughters as a means to appease them. Why would he make such an offer if the men weren't after sex of some manner? What I get out of the story of Sodom and Gomorrah is that those two cities had become so sinful that God had to destroy them less their wickedness carry over into other places. I think there quite possibly was rampant homosexuality in those cities, but likewise there was probably rampant murder, theft, adultery, and any other sin imaginable. What I mean is I don't think the two cities were singularly destroyed because of homosexuality (if that was a cause), but because sin of all types had become so prevalent. You might be able to compare the two cities to two literal hells on earth, and God destroyed them because nothing good could any longer come from them.

What about Paul's made up word “arsenokoite”? This term is generally interpreted as meaning homosexual. Some would argue that what Paul was actually talking about though was either male prostitution, some form of idolatry, or pedastry. However, in 1 Corinthians 6:9, Paul already makes mention of those who engage in male prostitution and idolatry. If that were what he meant, he'd have been repeating himself needlessly. So, I do not think he was talking about either of those two things. I do think an argument could be made that Paul was talking about pedophilia (men having sex with young boys) though. However, I've read before that when Paul created the word arsenokoite, what he did was combine two words used from the passages in the book of Leviticus referring to the prohibition on homosexual sex. Joe Dallas makes this claim in both of his books, “Desires In Conflict” and “The Gay Theology?”. The two words used were man and bed, and used in a sexual context. The idea is that Paul was referring back to the prohibition against homosexual sex. If that indeed was what he was referring to, I will admit he did so rather poorly. He could have certainly been a little clearer as to his meaning.

Lastly, I know that not all sins are fought as hard against as homosexual sins a great deal of the time. I recognize this. However, that does not mean that those other sins aren't any less bad. Just because a great number of Christians aren't raising their voices more often against divorce, pornography, premarital sex (of any kind), lying, cheating, or even smoking, doesn't mean those things are any less sinful. Nor does it mean that just because those things aren't as heavily fought against should homosexual sins be less fought against. All sins should be fought against, and in equal measure.

So, that's my thoughts. I'm still not convinced. If any of you have anything you'd like to bring up or add, or try to correct me on, I'd be glad to hear you out. Comments are welcome, but the same applies as before—I refuse to get into any arguments with anyone.

God bless.

18 comments:

MR said...

I also believe the love between Jonathan and David was not sexual. Many people in our culture don't believe this, but two guys actually can have an intensely heartfelt non-sexual love as friends. I have experienced this kind of friendship even with straight guys and it can be very fulfilling.

A healthy friendship like this does not involve romantic kissing, cuddling, etc. It is also non-exclusive. In other words, I should have other friends, too, and not treat my friend as a boyfriend with jealousy and posessiveness.

Norm! said...

Just a few thoughts:

- I think it's oversimplistic to say penis-vagina sex is designed by God, therefore all other sexual behavior is offensive to God. I don't mean to be graphic, but is oral sex also outside of God's design? Also, I'm certainly no expert, but I understand that women often require more than penis-vagina stimulation to reach orgasm. The reality of human design is that humans are uniquely designed with complex sexuality with the brain often being the most important sex organ.

- It's obvious to me that a story that involves a father offering his daughters to be raped, isn't a story about sexual morality.

- If Paul's word choice were so unclear, doesn't that show that he was merely sharing his own understanding -- not divine revelation? Remember, Paul was speaking in a time before psychology and it's doubtful that he was ever referring to committed, consentual, same-sex partners. Would Paul have the same view if he lived today?

Brandon said...

MR,

I'll agree. Seems like today men are so discouraged from showing any signs of affection or love for each other that when they do that, it's considered to be homosexual in nature. Outrageous! I actually have at various times in my life told other male (nonsexual) friends that I loved them, and have given hugs, wept with them, and yes even had my parents not like some of them. Doesn't mean I was in a sexual relationship with any of them though. It just meant we were good friends.

Norm,

Well, I wasn't exactly talking about "penis-vagina sex" only, but just meant that if God created man to only be with woman (if that is true), then to go against that might actually be offensive to him. That would seem to nicely explain why God would not like homosexual sex. If he didn't create two men (or two women) to have sex with each other, and we do that, then we go against His original intent for us, and sex.

Interesting notion about oral sex though. Might it be wrong? I don't know. But the logic might suggest that, mightened it?

"A story that involves a father offering his daughters to be raped, isn't a story about sexual morality." What do you mean exactly?

"If Paul's word choice were so unclear, doesn't that show that he was merely sharing his own understanding -- not divine revelation?" I'm not so sure. I think it could be that he just did a poor job at trying his best to explain something. One could look at the apostle John when writing the book of Revelation and not having words to accurately describe the magnificence of Heaven as he saw it. Though he did his best to describe it with what words he knew. Same could possibly apply to Paul in this matter of homosexuality. If he was attempting to translate text from Leviticus then he may have struggled some with the translation. I'm not certain or convinced one way or the other.

Anyway, thanks for the thoughts guys.

Anonymous said...

Norm, penis-vagina sex produces something, children. Oral sex and gay sex do not.

pursuegod said...

Good discussion Brandon. I also have not been persuaded by gay-affirming theology. Not because of any need to stubbornly hold to my view (as I am sure we would both be quite fine with a revelation otherwise!). However, I cannot with intellectual integrity accept the arguments. I am simply not persuaded.

Brandon said...

Anonymous, you are right in saying what you do, but we should all keep in mind that sex is not only meant to produce children, but also to be an expression of love.

Karen, same here. :)

PSUdain said...

Isn't reducing it to "Penis + Vagina = Children = OK" a bit (ok--EXTREMELY) over-simplistic, anony.? I mean what about sterile couples? What about elderly couples or post-menopausal women? Does the lack of capability for child production make it wrong? Clearly there's more.

As for sex and relationships, clearly one need not have sex to have a relationship. However that is one of the things that is generally shared in forms of long-term committed relationships. I know people who have been together for years, in fact I know one gay couple who have been together since 1963. If that's not love and commitment, I don't know what is. That's better than a lot of straight marriages these days. So really in a lot of ways, I'd say that if two men can have such a loving relationship, then why would the other (i.e., the physical) portions be off limit?

As for writing based on the Law, well, just look at Acts 11:1-18 (it actually factored into my coming-out story with my Lutheran community here at school, but that's another story for another time).

As our pastor back home put it on Easter, when the passage prior to that one was read (don't recall the specific passage, but all of Acts 10 is devoted to the story), Peter had been among the Gentiles who were following Christ at that time, and had had his opinion about them change. He'd originally seen people who weren't following all the old Hebraic Law. And from that he saw people outside of salvation. But then, as he spent more time, or just took a closer look, he saw something else; he saw the love of Christ and the actions of the Holy Spirit. So, he said if these people show these qualities of love in Christ, then maybe, just maybe that whole Law thing was out the window. Not the "love your neighbor"-based portions, but the purity-code sort of things. (OK, that's a little abbreviated and simplified, but I don't want to go TOO long.)

So maybe, just maybe, if we see a similar love in evidenced in gay relationships (and I have been witness to it) then maybe, like Paul, we should reconsider some of our ideas.

PSUdain said...

Sorry, like Peter, not Paul. Typo!

Norm! said...

Brandon: "'A story that involves a father offering his daughters to be raped, isn't a story about sexual morality.' What do you mean exactly?"

In the story, Lot offered his daughters to the people of Sodom in lieu of his male guests. Certainly, I hope the moral of Lot offering his daughters is NOT that it's better for women to be heterosexually raped than for men to be homosexually raped. Rather, I hope the moral of Lot's offer is that he risked his family to protect his vulnerable guests. This is why some scholars believe the moral of the original story is more about the importance of hospitality than sexual morality.

Also, if you take the story literally, the entire city came out to rape Lot's male guests. If we assume the story is about homosexuality, then the implication is that Sodom was entirely composed of gay men (well, rapists). While I'm sure some gay activists would love to use this story as the first recorded evidence of a gay community :) -- it seems unlikely. (It also raises other questions like: Why would Lot choose to live in a gay community? How did the community repopulate?).

A more reasonable assumption is that the city wasn't entirely composed of gay rapists, but arrogant, selfish people who wanted to humiliate vulnerable out-of-towners.

Brandon: "'If Paul's word choice were so unclear, doesn't that show that he was merely sharing his own understanding -- not divine revelation?' I'm not so sure. I think it could be that he just did a poor job at trying his best to explain something. . . ."

Well, this depends on your understanding of the Bible and interpretation of Paul's writings. Personally, I think Paul's observations are important, I believe they are limited to his era, cultural, and scientific perspective. Certainly, Paul was unaware of the concepts of psychology or sexual orientation. So, I can't see how one can apply Paul's writing to homosexuality any more than we can apply biblical writings to genetic engineering, nuclear war, stem cells, etc.

Brandon said...

Psudain,

Sure is something to think about.

Norm,

I'll agree with you about Sodom, and about why Lot offered his daughters to those men instead, but I do think the fact that those men in the city were out to rape Lot's houseguests WAS about sexual immorality. What else would rape be?

As for nuclear war, I think it's obvious we should value human life enough to not go wiping out so many like that. Not to mention the environmental impact of it. Genetic engineering and stem cells relate to the creation of life, which I for one think should be left up to God. I find it hard not to look at biblical teaching to determine what to think about such things. Dealing with homosexuality, I personally can't just dismiss what Paul or any other writer of the Bible is saying. If I dismiss what he says it becomes too easy to dismiss the rest. Or for others to do the same. Next thing you know the whole book is irrelevent. I think you make a good point about the people back during Paul's time not understanding psychology and science as we do, but I don't think that means what they say or think has any less value.

I would like to ask again, since nobody has given an answer yet, is it possible that the Levitical prohibition against homosexuality could have fallen among Jewish cultural laws rather than God's moral laws?

Norm! said...

Brandon: ". . .but I do think the fact that those men in the city were out to rape Lot's houseguests WAS about sexual immorality. What else would rape be? . . ."

Maybe we'll just need to agree to disagree. However, if the story is about sexual morality then it would seem to imply that heterosexual rape of Lot's daughters is preferable to homosexual rape. That just doesn't make sense to me. From the context of the story, it sounds like hospitality and the Sodom people's arrogance was the true sin. The sexual aspects seemed to have been sensationalized -- even by early believers.

". . . Dealing with homosexuality, I personally can't just dismiss what Paul or any other writer of the Bible is saying. If I dismiss what he says it becomes too easy to dismiss the rest. . . ."

I've never understood all-or-nothing Bible theology. The Bible is a collection of 66+ books written by a variety of authors for a wide-range of audiences, and edited by numerous church leaders. I suppose if someone's faith relies on the notion that the Bible is a singular and complete Word of God, it may be scary to consider the writings individually. However, it seems more reasonable to me to see the Bible for what it is -- early believers' various thoughts about God and life.

". . . I would like to ask again, since nobody has given an answer yet, is it possible that the Levitical prohibition against homosexuality could have fallen among Jewish cultural laws rather than God's moral laws?"

I haven't heard of a sensible way to differentiate which Hebrew commandments apply or do not apply. As witnessed in the New Testament, it's an issue Christians have struggled with from the beginning. Also, since many Christians believe Paul upheld the Hebrew Bible's sex codes, it would be hard to argue the Levitical commandments about sexual relations don't apply.

So, we should all stop spilling our seed and eating shell fish :)

Brandon said...

Well, I'm not sure how eathing shell fish has anything to do with sexual relations, but that may just be me. ;)

Norm, I didn't mean to suggest some of what you thought I might have been implying. I would attempt to explain myself a little better, but I really just don't feel like going through another long and drawn out conversation like that. I think we actually agree on most of these points but just from different perspectives.

Thanks for the input.

Alex Steinert Miles said...

I dun quite get what you are not convinced about. But i would say i agree with what you have written.

One should justify homosexual sex just because a man loves another. The reason being, the act itself, is not loving towards God, which is equally, or not, more important than loving men.

Good job!

Brandon said...

Alex, I was wanting to hear from people who think homosexual relationships are okay and why they think it's okay. I wanted to prod them to attempt to convince me, since I was having a moment of doubt myself. So far, I'm not convinced gay relationships are okay. I'm still leaning toward thinking they're not okay.

I think you prove a good point. Loving God should always be what's most important to us. And if homosexual sex is indeed sin, then to engage in that, even if it is out of love for another man, would not be loving God. That goes along with what I've said before that love does not excuse sin.

God bless.

Jim Jordan said...

Excellent writing and dialog, Brandon. This dilemma is not only with homosexual sex but heterosexual as well. As a married man, I still have to deal with OSA (opposite sex attraction) but through much prayer I made that divorce from recognizing beauty and the urge to desire it for myself. But if I failed and fell in love with a co-worker and I really loved her more than my wife, would God overlook that because of my love for the new girl? The answer is obviously no.

Loving God first constrains us much like the discipline from a parent will keep us out of trouble. Granted, the dilemma is greater for homosexuals because you have to deny what you feel as your only sexual outlet altogether. I admire your courage in not simply taking the easy way out. God bless you.

Brandon said...

Well, I don't know how much I should be admired, but I appreciate the show of support Jim.

And you make a very good point. To be honest with you, I sometimes forget heterosexuals can have some of the same problems. Thanks for bringing that up.

And may God bless you, too. :)

A. Friend said...

“why does God not like homosexual sex?”
-----------------

My question would be: is it any of our business why?

Eve as asked that question about the fruit in the garden and to this day we're all suffering. Maybe she should not have wondered and just listened to God.

God has His reasons. Are we entitled to answers before we must obey?

A. Friend said...

Certainly, I hope the moral of Lot offering his daughters is NOT that it's better for women to be heterosexually raped than for men to be homosexually raped. Rather, I hope the moral of Lot's offer is that he risked his family to protect his vulnerable guests. This is why some scholars believe the moral of the original story is more about the importance of hospitality than sexual morality.
----------------------

Forget the "scholars".
Maybe there was no moral at all. That is just what he did and it was immoral!

That's what he got for staying in such an immoral atmosphere for so long; it affected his judgment.