Homosexuality: Silence and Story

I am grateful to Tony Jones for returning, once again, to engage ch. 9 of Jesus Have I Loved, but Paul?, after first critiquing the chapter last week.

He summarizes my three-fold engagement with scripture:

  1. We can’t run to the OT on this, but need to begin with the NT interpretation of the place of sex within the Christian story.
  2. Jesus is silent on the issue. I take this to be a slight argument against Jesus’ approval of homosexual practice–Jesus was Jew, and where he disagreed with his Jewish contemporaries we’ve heard about it.
  3. This leaves Romans 1 and 1 Corinthians 6 as the principal sparring grounds for our exegetical debates about homosexual practice.

To points 2 and 3, he has this to say:

First, we don’t use Jesus’ arguments from silence to uphold ethical evils such as slavery, racism and rape. So what’s the argumentative force of arguing from Jesus’ silence on homosexuality?

Second, this leaves a couple of verses in the traditionalist camp, hardly enough to exclude one whole segment of society from full participation in the church.

I think that this is a strong counter-argument to a biblicist approach to homosexuality. Having one or two verses in our pockets is not sufficient to create blanket ethical statements for the church. But I’m working from another angle.

Image: digitalart / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Everything we believe and practice as a church has to be integrated into the larger narrative of the God at work in the world through the people of Israel to reconcile the entire cosmos to Himself in Jesus Christ.

In the book, I argued that the larger, redemptive dynamics of that story were sufficient to overturn practices of slavery and of excluding women from pastoral ministry and teaching. This was on the basis of a couple of considerations: (1) the overall trajectory of the story toward social equality and liberation; (2) the indications that inequalities and subjugations entailed in hierarchical relationships are dynamics of a disordered world and therefore subject to redemption; and (3) varied testimony in scripture.

The narrative of scripture undermines the complementarian efforts, for example, to uphold 1 Tim 2:11-15 as universally normative for male-only leadership in the church.

I increasingly feel the weight of the argument that point 1 is a factor in favor of full inclusion of homosexuals in the church.

It was factors two and three that kept me from allowing the trajectory toward freedom and liberation to play a decisive role. What I mean is this: first, whereas the indications in scripture are in favor of subjugation of women and other humans as slaves are distortions of the world as God intended, the narrative within which Paul’s critique of homosexual practice is embedded in Rom 1 is the opposite. There, homosexual desire and practice itself is depicted as an outcome of a world gone astray from God.

Also, there is no counter-testimony on this issue such as there is on so many others such as those pertaining to women in the church or ethnicity and the people of God.

So the bottom line of my response to Tony’s post is that it’s not simply two verses, but how those verses fit within the larger story line of the biblical narrative.

This is why I suggested that a different means of argumentation would have to be offered to convince me that homosexual desire and practice is o.k. within the biblical narrative. One of these is a reconsideration of what the “new creation” looks like that is both making itself felt in the present and toward which we are straining–the new reality that we are to realize in an incipient way within the church.

The second is a compelling work of the Spirit in and among my brothers and sisters (yes, I will call them that gladly) who are practicing homosexuals such that their acceptance by God as they are becomes an undeniable testimony of God that they should be received by the church as such.

To my mind, the call to affirming and embracing is an uncircumcision argument: a plea to recognize that God has accepted and embraced those whom we could never anticipate, based on scriptural exegesis, would be accepted as they are.

Our story has taken any number of unexpected turns. If the embrace and affirmation of practicing homosexuals is one of them, it will be one of those moments that could not have been anticipated beforehand, calling us to reimagine a bit more broadly the place of sexuality in our story.

Based on Tony’s first engagement with my chapter, I think this is where he is, and where I’m not yet ready to go.

To me the issue is less the content of a couple of verses and more the overall narrative withing which those verses find their coherence.

88 thoughts on “Homosexuality: Silence and Story”

  1. The problem, my friend, with the “trajectory hermeneutic,” so favored by my open-minded evangelical brethren, is divorce. What do you do with divorce? (I ask this as a divorced person.)

    1. Not to pick on you Tony but most divorced people I meet are willing to admit that divorce was and is a sin. That doesn’t mean they aren’t happy now or that it wasn’t a necessary decision or that just couldn’t go on married but they are willing to classify that fracturing of a human relationship that was joined by God being broken represents what we consider sin.
      The difference for me (and not Dr. Kirk) is that what is being asked regarding homosexuality is that it not being considered part of this brokenness and sinfulness. If, hypothetically, a gay was willing to say he was engaged in a broken worlds sinful catch-22 but that he couldn’t go and needed a partner I have feeling we would be having a much different discussion. I do understand that this is not really a helpful option in the case of Gay and Lesbian Christians because while a divorce is an actual fracture my and Gay and Lesbians Christians understand their sexuality as being related to their ontology or being. I think The End Sexual Identity was helpful here and I choose to believe the most essentials parts of a person aren’t related to who they love sexually. But because I believe that I think we have other options here then a zero sum game.
      All of that being said, the jury is still out for me on this but that is one way I hear this being thought about.

      1. That was suppose to read “gay man” not just a “gay.” Sorry for the misprint. I am sure that isn’t the only grammatical flaw or other flaw in my post.

      2. There are very few churches that I can think of that require that a divorced person acknowledge divorce as a sin, or that treat a divorced person differently if they fail to acknowledge divorce as a sin. I don’t think it is accurate to say that the church applies biblical teachings regarding homosexuality the same as it applies biblical teachings regarding divorce.

        1. Thanks for pointing that out Wayne. I didn’t mean to imply that things are fair across the board just that we aren’t really comparing apples to apples when we compare divorce to homosexuality. One Christians, even divorced ones, see as sin but part of an imperfect world, the other either entirely sinful or entirely ordained by God. Helpful in the comparison is I don’t think those are our only two options and like divorce we see many different things being played out. When we talk about homosexuality we can seem to think beyond two options.

    2. I’m not entirely clear what the connection/problem is.

      Can we say not that divorce is something that requires forgiveness? Probably from both parties in the actions that lead up to it (though there may be times when the blame falls on one person, such as in the case of abuse), and in the act itself as a breaking of a vow taken before God?

      1. Very few churches would teach that divorce requires forgiveness if it was an abusive or otherwise unhealthy marriage. In fact, in most churches, the nature of the divorce is not even in question and the divorced person is treated as a full and equal member of the church, even eligible to be an active member of clergy, regardless of the circumstances of the divorce and the person’s willingness to repent. Homosexuals are not treated in this way.

        1. There are differences:

          Divorce is a one-time act where those who are in a committed homosexual relationship continue sin and live in sin.

          The bible allows for divorce. The bile does not allow homosexual behavior in any context.

          While I would like to see the church be more outspoken about divorce it cannot be compared to homosexuality.

          1. The New Testament is silent on the matter of healthy homosexual behavior. Conversely, the New Testament is quite clear on the sinfulness of divorce, as well as the sinfulness of greed and excessive wealth.

            Imagine if we applied a consistent reading of the Bible to our electoral politics. None of the current Republican presidential front-runners would qualify, and gay marriage would not be an issue!

            1. That’s not true the NT has much to say about ALL homosexual behavior. There is no such thing as healthy homosexual behavior

              As far as sin in peoples lives, God offers forgiveness with repentance.

                1. Please show me scripturally where God condones homosexual behavior. Until then anyone who claims homosexual behavior is not sinful is living within tautology. I can assert because scripture backs me up! What about you?

                  1. Not going to fill up Dr. Kirk’s blog with this, but I have addressed it thoroughly here. Please don’t bother to engage there either unless you can do better than “the bible says.”

                    1. I guess that’s the difference between you and me. I take Gods word as the authority.

                      I seen all those assertions before and none of them are compelling nor do they show an compete understanding of scripture, science and sociology.

                      Once again just post the verses where God condones homosexual behavior. If you cannot do it then at least be honest about instead of trying to play games and obfuscate.

                    2. Ok, moderator’s time out!

                      Can I ask you guys both to step back a bit?

                      Aric, I’m wondering if you might clarify two things: (1) do you think the homosexuality-forbidding passages usually cited are talking about homosexual desire and/or practice generally, not at all, or with reference to certain particular types of behavior? (2) related: is your understanding that the hermeneutic of love plus Spirit overturns the biblical data on these points? or clarifies what is or isn’t allowable?

                      Frank, I’m wondering how your assessment of homosexuality fits within a larger quest for faithful biblical interpretation. For example, do you think women should or shouldn’t minister in church? On what basis? Are there places where you don’t think we are bound to [literally] follow the Bible’s teaching, such as eating certain foods, marrying people of a given consanguinity, circumcising covenant members, plucking out our eyes, or the like? What makes homosexuality different, for you, than these others?

          2. Frank:

            As someone who was a moderate evangelical and went through divorce I would say that Jesus in both Matthew and Luke made divorce unacceptable. It was Paul’s writing in 1 Corinthians that opened a door to acceptable divorce on certain grounds. To me the real message, the story of the teaching of Jesus and the NT is about grace in a broken world. If I accept grace for me, how can I deny it to anyone else. My Gay and Lesbian friends did not choose who they are they were created by God, how can something created by God be denied the grace and acceptance given to all.

            1. The problem is that God didn’t create homosexuality sin did. So are we all to just accept our sinful nature and live it out?

          3. Frank,

            Jesus’ teaching on divorce found in Matthew 19 is not about a one-time act: what Jesus appears to call the pharisees out on is not divorce per se, but the consequent marrying of another. it is the joining to another person that is adultery, which seems to be the same state that you are describing those in committed homosexual relationships as being in – ongoing.

              1. So what would it mean for a remarried person to admit that what they are doing is a sin? What does repentance look like? If you’re saying above that “those in committed homosexual relationships sin and continue to live in sin” it seems you would agree that this is also true for remarried couples. What does it then mean to say “forgiveness is possible”?

                1. It means forgiveness is possible. The act of divorce requires forgiveness. The act of divorce sets up the sin of adultery. Deal with the divorce, receive forgiveness and live your life moving forward.

                  1. I’m not sure I understand what you’re saying Frank. For clarification, are you saying that if a person confesses the sin involved in their divorce, which has now led to the ongoing sin of adultery with their subsequent spouse, the sin of adultery does not matter, because they have received forgiveness for their divorce, and can “live their life moving forward”?

                    1. Sean I admit that it gets tricky here in this case and I am not sure how to answer that and would love to hear others thoughts on this. Is the adultery, since its defined by the divorce, still adultery if the divorce is forgiven? If forgiveness is sought also for the adultery does this mean that the marriage can continue?

                      But let me ask you this: what would you have this couple do? Separate? Get divorced? Or would you say that there marriage was never valid?

                      I understand where you and some others may be going on this and Daniel may be the best position to respond. All that said, no matter where we land on divorce it in no way would invalidate the sinfulness of homosexual behavior.

  2. When I read Romans 1, I hear Paul condemning “sexual impurity” and “lust”, whether it is straight or gay. I don’t see how Romans 1 would condemn the majority of homosexual desire that is pure and non-lustful, just as it does not condemn healthy heterosexual desire.

    1. But you’re operating under the assumption that there can be homosexual desire that is “pure” and “non-lustful” and that Paul would recognize that too. I don’t imagine Paul would.

      1. And you’re operating under the assumption that there isn’t healthy homosexual desire. How is your position any different from mine? We do know that Paul thought all marriage was a bad idea. Why don’t we teach that?

        1. You’re right that I’m operating under the assumption that there isn’t. But my point is less that there is an assumption at work and more that I think you’re assuming Paul views some homosexual desire as healthy and that doesn’t seem to fit the tone and movement of Romans 1. Paul, as a first century Pharisee and devout Jew would not have found any sort of homosexual expression to holy. Sorry for not making that more explicit.

          Your point about all marriage being bad in the mind of Paul doesn’t hold water. He taught that it is better to be single (for the sake of focusing on Kingdom matters) if you were able to be pure but it was better to be married instead of consumed with lust. Big difference than what you’re saying Paul meant.

          1. If Paul was not aware that healthy homosexual relationships existed, we can not conclude that Paul would condemn such relationships.

              1. I doubt anybody used their sexuality as a form of identity in Paul’s time, whether straight or gay. I’m quite sure healthy homosexual desire existed, though.

                The vast majority of people spent all of their living years trying find enough food to feed them and their children. The very, very small extreme upper-class probably had sex with whoever they wanted to whenever they wanted to, and I doubt anybody cared much or raised an eyebrow whether it was with men or women. That is what they were entitled to do based on their status in society, even the ones where were Christian. I doubt sexual identity was on anyone’s radar; there wasn’t really a concept of “straight” or “gay” in society at that time.

                But I’m quite sure a small minority of people of all classes experienced homosexual desire and most of them responded to it in a healthy way, just like they do today.

                1. So how can you say that Paul was not aware of “healthy” homosexual relationships (I put healthy in quotes because there is no such thing as a healthy homosexual relationship?) I am assuming that you are saying that healthy means committed but correct me if I am wrong about that.

                  1. Richard is the person who said Paul wasn’t aware of healthy homosexuality in his time. I think Paul was aware of it, and wasn’t concerned about it.

                    1. You can’t ask for explicit instruction in the Bible about homosexual identity, any more than you can about social media, because the concept didn’t exist then. But I think Acts 10 “Do not call anything impure that God has made clean.” or Matthew 7 “By their fruit you will recognize them.” provide some good guidance.

                  2. Ok where in scripture does God declare homosexuality clean?

                    And the fruit of love requires the truth, the fruit of peace requires forgiveness which requires an admission of sin, the fruit of joy requires living a life that is pleasing to God which means obeying His word, the fruit of goodness comes from being right with God so God can work fully through you and the fruit of faith requires trusting God even when we don’t understand or agree with him.

                    We have to be careful not to use human, secular and cultural definitions for these fruit and use biblical definitions.

  3. Thank you for your response to Tony’s blog, where I blathered on quite a bit in support of Tony’s post. After reading your response, it’s pretty clear that I totally misunderstood your approach to the Bible, which isn’t too far from my own. I like your emphasis on the overall narrative of scripture toward equality and liberation (which is what I was wanting to say at Tony’s blog, but didn’t say very well).

    What I can’t buy is the idea that homosexuality is a “sin” as a result of the fall. If the fall taints all human beings, then heterosexuality would have to be just as “sinful” as any other sexual orientation after the fall. Why not object to all sex (especially since Paul said it would be “better” to remain unmarried).

    The key question is, “Why is homosexuality a sin?” Is there some moral reason why homosexuality qua homosexuality is sinful? Most people just say it’s yucky, which isn’t really a moral reason, but more thoughtful people say either it’s unnatural or God just objects to homosexuality. But the “natural law” approach rests on an ancient/medieval teleological universe that was overturned in the scientific revolution of the 17th century. Moreover, there are a host of other objections to the “natural” objection: e.g., while the bodies of men and women seem to “fit” together in ways that the bodies of two men or two women don’t, and sexual intercourse “naturally” leads to procreation, body parts can have multiple purposes, including just pleasure. And oral sex between heterosexuals doesn’t seem any more “unnatural” than oral sex between two men or two women. And sex can also be used to express love and intimacy, and not necessarily lead to procreation. (Is sex that doesn’t lead to procreation sin? I sure hope not! If not, then the fact that homosexuals can’t reproduce is no more sinful than heterosexuals who have sex that does not lead to procreation.)

    So if God says it’s a sin, the question is, “Why?” Does God have moral reasons or not? I can’t think of any reason why God would object to homosexuality, unless God is just homophobic and morality is arbitrarily created out of God’s will (i.e., something is right or wrong because God says so, and for no other reason). Since we can’t figure out why homosexuality would be a sin, it seems more likely that the biblical writers are reflecting their own cultural situation, just like they did about slavery. Paul just didn’t go far enough when he said, “In Christ there is no male or female, no slave or free, no straight or gay….”

    So you’re moving in the right direction. I predict that within 30 years, the majority of evangelical Christians will be accepting of LGBTQ persons, just as today they tolerate divorced people as deacons and ministers, celebrate unwed mothers, go to dances, and drink beer and wine in public. Things change.

    1. Regarding the “Why” question… Does the church have a position on that? It’s the old “Euthyphro” argument isn’t it? The “Why” portion seems to be an interesting decomposition product of the overall dilemma. If a person, such as myself, believes that we don’t have to know “Why” and that the “Why” is somewhat irrelevant it has a big impact on the outcome of one’s position.

      But to try to answer the question. My guess is if God does not want homosexual people to have sex he created them that way on purpose and it’s a mark of a different kind of circumcision for a special group of people. [aren't run-on sentences great?]

      1. I think that it’s essential that we have a moral reason for what makes something right or wrong. If we don’t, if morality is nothing but a reflection of what we’ve been taught by our culture, then moral judgments collapse into a relativism where we can’t say that anything is objectively right or wrong. Think of the culture that thinks female circumcision is something good. It’s not enough for them to say “why this is good is irrelevant.” While I’m a moral pluralist (i.e., I think there are many conflicting moral values, and sometimes contradictory judgments can reflect good moral reasoning), I think we can make cross-cultural moral judgments about some matters, in part because I think moral values are objectively the case.

        To be clear, I can’t find a plausible moral objection to homosexuality. The most likely candidate is that it is unnatural (or, against God’s plan), but I think that objection doesn’t withstand rational scrutiny (as I indicated above). So I don’t think God or anybody else has a plausible moral objection to homosexual behavior.

        Of course, I’m assuming that morality and “sin” are two ways of discussing the same thing (where “sin” is a theological category, “morality” is an ethical category). It’s entirely possible that I’m wrong, and morality and “sin” do not entirely overlap, so that (1) there is no moral objection to homosexuality, but (2) homosexuality is still a sin. But if sin is defined as that which separates an individual from God, from others, and from oneself, then I still can’t figure out how homosexuality per se could be sinful. Certainly, if one elevates one’s sexual orientation above God, others, or oneself, then that sexual orientation would be a sin; but heterosexuals could do the same thing.

        So although the traditional Christian answer to the Euthyphro dilemma is that (a) God’s nature is good, and (b) God wills from God’s nature, so (c) God’s commands are good, I still think the concept of goodness must be independent of God; otherwise, how would we know that God’s nature is “good”?

        1. Scot, this is where, being more traditionalist, I part with you.

          I don’t think that God likes things because they’re good outside of God, but because God determines they are good. We know what these things are, in large part, because God reveals them. Not to call upon a theologian, but I find Barth’s pleas against natural theology to be helpful here. The “oughts” of our Christian life are determined, in large parts, by what “is” because of God’s work in Christ.

          There’s a traditional understanding of the place of revelation in this that I need to hold onto that I don’t see reflected in your reasoning.

          1. Yep, here we part ways. Either God’s determination is arbitrary, or there is some property in X which gives God the reason to determine that X is good. Ockham and the nominalists would argue for the former (since there is no limit to God’s power, God can determine anything God wants), whereas the realists and moderate realists would argue for the latter. If there is no reason for God to make his determination that X is good, then we would have to trust that God reveals the truth to us (and we would hope and pray that God wouldn’t have determined that lying is good, since God would lie to us about it.) The nominalist position is possible, but I would argue that it would make any talk of God’s being “good” meaningless, since literally anything (including lying) could be “good” if God determined it.

            On the other hand, if God’s determination isn’t arbitrary, and if I am to be held morally accountable for what I do, I need to be able to understand the same reason that God uses for God’s determination. It’s this reason which is logically independent of God’s determination that matters, and what allows morality to operate independently of religion.

            It could be the case that the trajectory of revelation (culminating in the supreme revelation of God in Christ) is such that believers have special duties that “go beyond” morality in some way. These would be religious duties, however, not moral duties. So if one determines that God really reveals that homosexuality is sin, then that is a religious judgment, not a moral judgment. My advice for anyone who believes that God thinks that homosexuality is a sin is “Don’t be gay.” But don’t expect nonbelievers to buy the claim that homosexuality is a sin when there is no moral reason to object to homosexuality.

            On the other hand, I do like your argument that how we live depends on the entire trajectory of revelation, and I agree that “The ‘oughts’ of our Christian life are determined, in large parts, by what ‘is’ because of God’s work in Christ.” And precisely because of who Christ is and how he treated sinners, outsiders, the marginalized, etc., I find acceptance of LGBTQ persons more Christlike than not.

            1. I would agree that the Church, if it is to follow Christ in any significant way, MUST accept homosexuals. I imagine where you and I would differ on this is what “acceptance” means. In your comment you highlight that Jesus accepted and fellowshipped with sinners and I contend that he absolutely did so without normalizing their sin. Thank you for your perspective and points in this. My thinking has been pushed in a lot of good ways through this dialogue here and on Tony Jones’ blog.

            2. Scot, I wouldn’t say “arbitrary,” but I would say that it is important that the rationales, overall, work in reverse order, from the given to the reason rather than from our understanding of reasons to what the norm should be.

              This is probably why I’m theologically evangelical and/or neo-orthodox more than liberal (not in the pejorative sense of the word, but the more technical definition, tied to late 19th century theological developments, Schleiemacher before them, etc.).

            3. Scot, this concept is straining my relatively untrained mind. I can’t envision a world in which the definition of what is morally good can be disconnect from the nature of God. As the creator, who is above and before all things, the only circumstance which will allow this concept to reconcile in my mind is that moral right and wrong predated God himself, a concept i find unlikely. Can you illuminate me to WHERE a non-relativistic moral system comes from, if not from the nature of God?

        2. Good conversation, Scot.

          I don’t believe there is a knowable objective morality (or objective right/wrong). Somewhere out there, an objective right/wrong exist. I believe it’s defined by God and not independent from Him because I believe God is the creator of all, the unmoved mover, etc. But that objective right/wrong is obscured from us. We know portions of it but not all.

          If this objective morality is obscured then practically it becomes a subjective morality that is particular to a place and time, just as you suggest. Over time our subjective morality ebbs and flows, converges or diverges with God’s objective morality, but it has no impact on God’s objective morality.

          “I still think the concept of goodness must be independent of God; otherwise, how would we know that God’s nature is “good”?”

          Interesting question. I believe in a living God that has interfered in my life. Whatever I can discern of God’s will I want to do it regardless of whether or not I or anyone else thinks it’s good.

          In conclusion, I guess I think you have the “wrong” answer to the Euthyphro dilemma, but, what do I know…

          When it comes to homosexuality, though, I’m not going to argue too much with your position. I’m just not sure enough of God’s will on that issue to pay the price the church has to pay in fighting that argument.

  4. Daniel, I appreciate your careful and considerate discussion ‘of this matter. If I may put forth two point for the discussion:
    1.) There are denominations and churches who will not ordain a divorced individual. The Assemblies of God is just one of them. This is especially the case when the divorcee professed the name of christ orevious to the divorce.
    2.) Divorce is usually a one time action, and thus leads to different issues of further action when one discusses the notions of sin and repentence. I would think most churches would and do accept a person who has had a “homosexual experience” or even previously led a “homosexual lifestyle”. It is the current and future intentions of the individual to continue in those acts considered as “sin” by the community that is the point of contention.

  5. Here are three scriptural considerations for why full acceptance of lgbtq persons fits within the “overall narrative” as you put it:

    (1) the overall trajectory of the story toward social equality and liberation; (2) the definition of “God’s People” expands over time to include persons and groups previously thought anathema; and (3) the ultimate criteria for identifying authentic faith being the fruits of the spirit (eg Gal 5:22-23 love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control)

    Hence we can say that greater equality and liberation is God’s desire and where we identify inequality and bondage even if previously unrecognized we ought to stand against it. We can say there is precedent for including people formerly excluded – even if unanimously and vehemently excluded. Your example of circumcision is right on about that. Finally, we can say the criteria for choosing to include someone is that they show evidence of the fruit of the spirit.

    1. Aric biblical social equality and liberation does not mean freedom to sin freely.

      Also there already is equality and inclusion for all people to be “God’s People”: we all sin, we all are offered forgiveness, we all can turn away from our sin.

      There is no love without truth. Lying to people that homosexual behavior is not sinful is not telling them the truth and not loving.

      1. “There is no love without truth” – this statement is so close to correct that it breaks my heart every time someone uses it. The argument in 1 John from which this idea and the popular proverb “Truth is in order to goodness” come reads slightly different. It goes like this:

        God is love.
        Therefore those who follow God will act with love.

        Problem: Many claim to know the truth about God.

        Question: How shall we know true followers from false ones?
        Answer: They act lovingly

        Your phrase has to be changed to read “There is no truth without love”. Jesus Christ IS the truth, but more fundamentally God is love. Anything we think is true, even if it comes from our sincere interpretation of scripture, must be measured against love and if it falls short be rejected as false. It is not loving to continue to condemn as sinful relationships which God has blessed and which lead to the flourishing of virtue, which are, in other words, love.

        1. It is not loving to allow people to live in sin freely! It is not loving to lie and deceive people. It is not loving to let people live damaging lives.

          1. Agreed, which is why it is urgent that the church quit encouraging people to live in lies and repression of closeted sexuality. It is urgent that we put an end to the abusive treatment of the church against lgbtq persons that has damaged so many lives. It is urgent that we stop lying about homosexuality being a disease, or a choice, or that you can “pray the gay away”.

            1. @ Aric

              Agreed on ending the abuse and the treatment thereof of homosexuals (I’m even all for supporting civil marriages for LGBTQ b/c I’m an Anabaptist).

              The same as the church should love adulterers, murderers, liars, alcoholics, pedophiles, egotists, atheists, agnostics, hindus, buddhists, men, women, slaves, free, Jews, Gentiles, etc.

              Loving someone doesn’t necessitate the movement to not recognize something as sin.

              1. Exactly Richard! Sadly people would rather live the way they think they should live rather than how God intends them to live. I am guilty of this as well!

  6. @Kirk

    I’ll step back. Definitely. Sorry to flood your blog. :D

    To reply to your questions of me:

    (1) do you think the homosexuality-forbidding passages usually cited are talking about homosexual desire and/or practice generally, not at all, or with reference to certain particular types of behavior?
    I think there is a mix. With most of the OT passages I think specific behaviors are usually intended such as temple-prostitution. With almost all of scripture there is a cultural bias that “masculine = dominant/penetrating” thus the submissive partner is condemned not primarily for sexual behavior but for behavior that is seen as un-masculine while the dominant partner isn’t condemned. That this is connected to a poor understanding of gender is further shown by the lack of any mention of lesbianism in the OT. This rigid typology of gender I would discard a la Galatians 3, and due to scientific understanding of gender which proves that it is more complex than that. Paul too relies on cultural conceptions of nature, but his argument seems less about condemning specific acts such as in the OT and more about using what everyone in his audience sees as unnatural as a rhetorical trap for condemning the self-righteous.

    (2) related: is your understanding that the hermeneutic of love plus Spirit overturns the biblical data on these points? or clarifies what is or isn’t allowable?
    I would say that the hermeneutic of love + spirit overturns the biblical data here, or rather that the tidal wave of biblical support for greater equality/love/justice completely overwhelms the sporadic anti-lgbtq comments.

  7. I am very committed to a serious and (what many would call) authoritative reading of scripture. Here are the issues as I see them.

    1. Christianity states that all ethical principles are summed up in “love your neighbor as yourself”. Thus the only truly absolute question about any behavior is: Does this help or hurt the persons involved?

    2. That question isn’t always easy to answer, but time and science are eventually able to answer for us.

    3. There are compelling arguments that Paul was referring to abusive (prostitution, ritualistic, pedophilic) relationships, of the kind often present in idol rituals.

    Do you disagree with any of these?

    1. Micah, I take things a bit differently.

      1. Yes, this is so. But there is also a biblical definition, or texture, of love that is cross shaped. “Love one another as I have loved you: greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.” “This is love, not that we loved God but that God loved us and sent his son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins,” etc.

      I think this complicates things a bit.

      2. I don’t think that time and science will always answer for us. We do have to figure out how to live the Christian story in our own time, which includes a growing scientific understanding of the world around us. But what do we do with the scientific data? That will always be a question for religious people, Christians not excepted.

      3. No, I don’t think there are compelling reasons to think that Paul was referring to abusive relations often present in idol rituals. I had a brief interchange with someone on Twitter about this yesterday. If I found that reading compelling I would feel that the ground for biblical opposition to homosexual relationships had been almost entirely undone.

      But in its Jewish context, what Paul is doing in Rom 1 is much more general, if stereotypical: denial of God leads to idolatry which bears fruit in all sorts of sexual immorality. In the “narrative” of Rom 1, there is an anti-creation story, where the creator is abandoned in favor of the various animals of creation–the echoes of Gen 1 are important. It’s a story of anti-creation, set in motion by the rejection of God and carried on by God “handing people over” to their own desires.

      1. Thank you for the response. I, for one, really appreciate the way you’ve approached this.

        1. I agree that the biblical understanding of love is bigger and more complex than what had been prevalent to that point, or even what is known today. But this does not change its use as a defining and normative principle.

        On the contrary, this is the reason for the Law vs Spirit dynamic, because laws were always limited and subject to expiration (like the Jewish roofing commandments, or the cleanliness, laws according to Jesus). In contrast, a cross-inspired love was a far superior way of directing one’s actions and choices.

        For this reason, the New Testament does not lay out a set of ethical norms. Instead, Christians were entering into “sonship”, getting to see how the family business is run, so to speak. God was revealing his purposes and motivations so that humans could embody those ideals, without requiring God to continue to spell things out.

        So it seems to me that the statement “the law has been summed up in love” is precisely intended to provide a substitute for the understanding of ethical rules.

        3. When Paul narrates the downfall of gentile civilization in Romans 1, he intends to show how the rejection of the creator leads to humans debasing themselves. In their worship of that which is less than human, they become less than human. So he picks an example of acting less than human, an example he must have seen in the world around him. For him, the use of this example depends on it being universally recognized as debasing.

        Paul doesn’t make an ethical argument here. Instead, he reveals something he believes to be harmful to oneself and others both physically and psychologically. And he assumes his readers will feel the same.

        2. The conservative Christian ethical statement derived from Romans 1 has to be that:
        a) Here is something Paul believed to be harmful
        b) We think Paul was right
        c) We want what’s best for you, and we don’t think it’s that.

        If it turns out, through research and broad experience, that the issue under discussion is NOT harmful physically and psychologically, then we have two options. Either Paul was wrong (liberal option), or Paul was not referring to what we thought he was referring to (somewhat conservative option).

        Given the rhetorical nature of what Paul is doing, I’m inclined (though not convinced) towards the somewhat conservative option – that Paul was not referring to what we normally identify, but to specific systemic abusive relationships that would have been known to him and his readers.

        But I would appreciate hearing your argument otherwise.

        Thank you.

      2. How do you prefer to be addressed? J.R.? Daniel? Dr. Kirk? You have so many names!

        I agree with your reading of Rom 1 with the addition that Paul is setting up this stereotypical Jewish argument as a rhetorical trap for his readers. A trap which he closes in Rom 2 when he points out that self-righteousness is worse than all that stuff he said went before. He is not, in other words, constructing an argument against homosexuality in Romans he is using the assumptions common in his audience to prove a very different point. Given that it doesn’t seem to me to bear the weight we want to place on it of deciding what is and isn’t sinful in sexuality.

        Consider this analogy:

        Elephants are disgusting animals. In the wild mother elephants sometimes kill and eat their own young as everyone knows. It’s horrible. God doesn’t approve. Now our society thinks it is better than this because we don’t eat our own children, but we make children in other countries work in horrible conditions to make our iDevices, we’re destroying the environment and sinking the economy in so much debt that we’re mortgaging the future of an entire generation or maybe many generations to come – THAT IS EVEN WORSE!

        Now suppose that through observation and study we learn the truth that elephants don’t eat their children, just as it is clear that worshiping idols doesn’t lead to homosexuality and worshiping God doesn’t prevent one being born gay, that it is entirely natural. Does this new information invalidate the second half of the argument? Elephants don’t eat their children, but we are destroying the future of many children with our lifestyles and that is sin whether the erroneous comparison to elephants stands or not.

        Paul is pulling a Nathan here, trapping David with an analogy. We’ve since learned that Paul was wrong and there is nothing unnatural about homosexuality. It has no connection to idolatry. Frankly I think the rhetorician in Paul would just shrug and say – but I made my point and got David to repent for his sin with Uriah and Bathsheba.

        1. No one has “learned” Paul was wrong, people just decided they didn’t like what he had to say.

          [part of the comment deleted by blog owner]

          There is absolutely nothing “natural” about homosexuality other than it exists along with everything else sin has distorted.

        2. I agree that it is a rhetorical device for his letter but I’m not sure I agree with your conclusion regarding it.

          What I hear you saying is that Paul is using it as a rhetorical device to trap his readers in their judgments against those committing the sort of sin listed in Ch 1 but that ultimately those things aren’t really sins but judging others really is the only sin Paul is concerned with here. Is that an accurate (admittedly simplified and shorter) understanding?

          It seems to me that he’s trying to cause his readers to recognize that they are just as guilty as these other sinners and that God’s kindness has led them to repentance. It still doesn’t make any of the items on that list any less of a sin, it just emphasizes the universality and pervasiveness of sin and the need for all of us to receive grace and be gracious with one another.

        3. Egads, Aric, how are we not on a first name basis yet?! Actually, in my case, it’s third name basis. Please call me Daniel.

          I agree about the importance of the rhetorical function of ch. 1 in relation to ch. 2 of Romans. But I agree with Richard that the force of the argument isn’t that all that stuff previously mentioned really isn’t sinful after all; it’s that those who condemn such practice have equal, if not greater, problems themselves.

          To bring it into our world: I think that the move from Rom 1 to Rom 2 stands in judgment over how tradtionalist Christians have responded to homosexuals in our society and in our churches. But I’m not convinced that it stands in judgment over how they have interpreted the place of homosexuality in the world.

          1. “To bring it into our world: I think that the move from Rom 1 to Rom 2 stands in judgment over how tradtionalist Christians have responded to homosexuals in our society and in our churches. But I’m not convinced that it stands in judgment over how they have interpreted the place of homosexuality in the world.”

            This is why you publish books and I buy other people’s books. Well phrased.

          2. Daniel and Richard,

            I agree that Paul is not saying that all that stuff that went before in Rom 1 wasn’t really sinful after all. I think Paul sincerely holds that that stuff was sinful, but that it matters less than the sin of self-righteousness he is accusing his readers of.

            THEN I go on to say that Paul happens to be wrong about homosexuality. He thinks it is a result of idolatry. If that were the case would we not expect to see it among Pagans/Hindus/Daoists etc.. but not among Christians? Wouldn’t we expect it to evaporate the moment someone came to Christ? Wouldn’t the sea of evidence that there are biological factors involved in sexual identity present a problem for this view? Wouldn’t the widespread occurrence in nature present a problem for us holding that it is contrary to nature?

            Paul was wrong about homosexuality the way I was wrong in my example about elephants. It just isn’t factually true that homosexuality is caused by idolatry. But I don’t think this is a big deal and I don’t think Paul would have thought it was a big deal because he wasn’t trying to write an argument about homosexuality much like Gen 2 isn’t trying to write a treatise on evolutionary biology, and it doesn’t diminish the force of his argument that whatever awful sins you think “THOSE” people are doing if you indulge in self-righteousness then you are worse.

            1. I’m not sure Paul connecting homosexuality to idolatry gets overturned because we/some modern folks recognize biological and social factors thanks to advances in science. Much in the same way that the truth of the Genesis creation account remains even if the mechanics aren’t exactly accurate.

              The biblical narrative that Paul is drawing on connects all sin with idolatry (false conception of the Living God), not just homosexuality. People are greedy because in their hearts they say there is no God who provides so we must hoard, etc. If we can agree that Paul held the original disordering of creation (the kickoff of sin if you will) is so pervasive as to affect the whole of the cosmos (including dna, social order, nature, etc) then sexual disorder would be an expected effect of that, regardless of the actual mechanics of it.

              Now if we don’t hold to an original fall and we think that things are naturally the way God originally intended them to be and wants them to be then we can make the conclusion you’re drawing that Paul was just misinformed and now we know better. This brings us back around to your point earlier regarding a “liberal” vs “conservative” approach to the text.

  8. Perhaps I can ask a slightly different question about love and sin: How can we love one another given the disagreement over whether homosexual practice is inherently sinful? I think we all agree that we need to love people in the LGBTQ community, even if we disagree about what that love looks like. Unfortunately, we can easily turn on each other and fail to love our own brothers and sisters–even the heterosexual ones!–because we understand scripture’s teaching on this issue differently.

    Case study (with apologies to Aric and Frank…and John Doe):

    John Doe is a homosexual who says he has recently embraced the gospel and is following Jesus.

    Aric believes that homosexuality is not sinful, so he embraces John Doe as his brother in Christ without asking him to break up with his boyfriend.

    Frank believes that homosexuality is still sinful, so he embraces John Doe as his brother in Christ but insists that he must break up with his boyfriend.

    Aric thinks Frank is not being loving to John because he’s placing this burden of legalism on him. Frank thinks Aric is not being loving to John because he allows him to continue in a destructive, sinful lifestyle.

    The question of how to love John is a good one. But I wonder how Aric and Frank and the rest of us are going to love one another as well. How does the church look like the church in the midst of disagreements like this?

    Sorry if this question’s a bit too far afield from the current discussion, but it’s one that’s been bugging me. We’re always going to disagree on how to understand the Bible, but historically the church has killed, imprisoned, ostracized, or separated from other believers because of these disagreements. I’m not sure we have the moral capital to discuss the most loving response to John Doe when we can’t love one another.

    1. Hey Will no apology need for me. I think you did a great job bring up an often ignored issue in these discussions.

      If I might modify what you believe I would say?

      “Frank believes that homosexuality is still sinful, so he embraces John Doe as his brother in Christ, walks with him on his journey and encourages him that his current relationship is not the best for him and God has something much better planned while realizing that it may take awhile for John Doe to reach the same conclusion.’

      On topic of your post: Yes we are to love one another as brothers and sisters in Christ but it comes back to what is the definition of love? Is it love to let someone go down the wrong path? Is it love to allow someone to lie and deceive themselves and others? I won’t go so far to say that in every instance Romans 16:17-18, 1 John 4:1 and 1 Corinthians 5:1-13 should be applied but at some point it becomes relevant.

    2. I think your question is being answered very well by this blog. Daniel does a great job of participating and hosting these very conversations.

      You’re right that the church doesn’t have the moral capital to make proclamations on many of these issues, which is why, where disagreement exists charity should reign.

  9. Jesus, not just Paul, said that it is better to remain celibate in Mat 19:10-12. And he says that not being celibate is a forgivable transgression. How is it shown that this does not apply to homosexuality? Jesus does condemn “sexual immorality”, but to declare that this includes same-sex relationships begs the question. The problem in the Temple age was that there was no means of sanctifying a same-sex relationship analogous to marriage; but that’s a problem we can fix, since as the born-again we can enter the Holy of Holies to make our offering (as Hebrews 10).

    The real problem is, why should we single out homosexuality and tolerate adultery, re-marriage, and sexual oppression? Not to mention hunger, captivity, and rage. To focus on homosexuality the way we do is idolatry and hypocrisy.

    …And I don’t understand why Timothy can say that “Adam was not deceived”. He also ate; if he was not “seduced into error” then he must have done it on purpose. But never mind, the point is that ALL are sinners and it is not for us to condemn. Gosh, I wish Jesus had said something like that!

  10. If I can add another question to the mix? For those who believe that sexually active homosexual relationships are sinful, I wonder whether it’s possible to love Jesus and engage in habitual sin of other kinds? For instance, in the ‘sheep and goats’ passage found in Matthew 25, Jesus appears to make hoarding, indifference to the material suffering of others and a basic lack of hospitable love, something that leads to “eternal punishment.” When this is added to Jesus’ teaching in Matthew 5-7, it would appear that should any of us be aware of hungry, cold, unhoused, and lonely prisoners and refuse to share our material possessions, homes and time with them, we are engaged in habitual, daily sin. I have 3 coats hanging in my closet: guilty. A ‘plain reading of the text’ suggests this to be the case. If we are going to call gay couples people living in habitual sin, then perhaps we need to start calling ourselves on our own habitual sin. Which (as already been mentioned in this thread) is perhaps what Paul is saying in Romans 2.

    1. Hey Sean! Great question!

      I don’t think it’s a matter of loving Jesus (although Jesus defines love for Him as keeping Gods commandments.) Habitual sin is a problem for all of us. The difference I see is that my own struggle with habitual sins I recognize and admit as sins which opens me up for forgiveness and transformation.

      As a Christian we all love Jesus as best as we know how and as we mature in Christ our love grows more and more Godly and our self is transformed. And so it’s possible to be gay and a Christian, it’s even possible to be engaged in a homosexual relationship and be a Christian. However to deny that a sin is a sin really imprisons the person from fully developing and maturing.

      All that said I do think we should stop accepting certain sins while focusing on others and all admit that they are ALL damaging and prevent us from living fully in Christ.

      1. Frank,

        If I may ask you a personal question: are you continually convicted by the Spirit of the habitual sin of hoarding, of leaving the unhoused on the streets in the winter, of accepting the death of thousands daily from hunger-related causes? If so, what repentance is the Spirit calling you to? If not, why do you think that is?

        The reason I ask is this: in my own experience, when I have been convicted by the Spirit of habitual sin, “my sin is ever before me” as David might say. No matter what else I may be doing, I am painfully aware of that sin.

        I have brothers and sisters who are in covenanted gay relationships, who tell me they are not convicted that their relationship is sinful. I see the fruit of the Spirit in their lives. They are seeking the Kingdom of God in beautiful ways, pouring their lives out in service of others. They can tell me what sin they ARE being convicted of, and what they are doing to seek transformation. I would say they are maturing in Christ.

        Is it possible that homosexual sex may be a sin, and yet for many GLBTQ Christians, that may not be the sin that is keeping that person from becoming increasingly sanctified? If they are not convicted that this is sin, (while being aware of what sin the Spirit IS convicting of), then am I to take the place of the Spirit and tell them that it is? Rather, am I not to love them as a brother in Christ and walk with them as they seek to repent of the sin of which they are actually convicted? And – if I believe that their relationship is sinful, and therefore harmful – to pray that the Spirit will so convict them.

        Because by sheer weight of scripture, my (our?) habitual hoarding appears to be of far greater concern to God than how my friends express their love for each other physically. So if you are not continually under conviction that hoarding is a sin to the extent that it leads you to repentance, why is it hard to believe that so many GLBTQ Christians are not convicted that their relationships are sinful – and that they may never be, even until the Kingdom comes in its fullness?

        1. No it’s not possible no matter how much you might wish it to be so. Sin is sin and all sin damages. We all sin in ways we are not always consciously aware of. We work on the sins that we do know about but that doesn’t mean that only the acts we know to be sin are the only sins in our lives. The Spirit uses many means to enlighten us about our sins including using scripture and other people.

          It’s not loving to ignore someone’s sin and allow them to live in it. It’s not our job to qualify others sins as being more or less important. After all, all sins are an affront to God so we do not have the right to say some sins are “not that bad” or “less important than others.”

          Btw I am not convinced hoarding is a sin. Having possessions is not sinful. Being greedy is. Also hoarding is often a psychological disorder which can be treated.

    2. If 4% of people are homosexual and 97% hoard it appears addressing the issue of hoarding would be much more important.

      But… I like to talk about this issue, and I expect others as well, not because I care whether or not we all agree if homosexual sex is a sin. I like to talk about it because it draws out some of the different ways we understand God, and I want to understand more. You can’t get into those different ways people understand God talking about hoarding because we all, hopefully, understand hoarding is wrong.

      I don’t know when people should call out others for living in sin and when they shouldn’t. But, I suspect like you, I think calling out anyone for being a married homosexual should be way, way, way, way down the list. One thing that would be closer to the top of that list would be to call out people for ostracizing homosexual individuals.

      1. Why would that be way down on your list? It’s actually two sins, homosexual acts and the distortion of God’s covenant of marriage.

  11. Scripture does not reduce Sin to merely the individual acts of evil that we commit. The Gospel does not deal with Sin at the level my individual acts of evil. Sin is the lethal condition of the heart that we all have equally. It might manifest externally one way in one person, say through gluttony – a reason that God destroyed Sodom (Ez 16:49) – and manifest another way in another person. But it’s all the same condition. We’ll readily fellowship with the unrepentant glutton week after week, but not one who’s Sin manifests in a more “notable,” less respectable way.
    We would do well to recognize the big picture view of Sin that scripture presents. Sin is a (human) family condition that we all share equally (Ezra 9). The glutton is us. The homosexual is us. Given the “right” circumstances, life experiences, shaping, etc, we’re all capable of the same, external manifestations of the internal condition that we all share.

  12. Hey Prof. Kirk! I’m a gay Christian (and pastor of a small church, went to Bethel Seminary) who enjoys and often reposts your blog. And Tony Jones’ as well. I fell in love with it last year when you were doing your series on the Coen brothers and theology. So, here’s something long, but I don’t get to actually hang out and talk with you, and there’s a lot in what you’re writing about to talk about!

    I don’t expect that this is anything you haven’t thought through before, so I’m sure a ton of this is old hat. But for myself, when I was trying to figure out what God thought about me and how I was supposed to live well based on what I’d been given, it was also really important for me to get some revelation that was more than just a thoughtful ethical pattern. I go back and forth on Barth’s idea of revelation, but I also felt that it was important to make sense of it through scripture and through the Spirit. And since God wasn’t answering any direct prayers about my falling in love with dudes rather than ladies, either to take it away or to tell me what to do with it, it was the scriptures I was looking to.

    One of the things that was very powerful to me as I looked into the whole thing for myself was the phenomenon of eunuchs in the ancient world (and indeed, present world, in India). Eunuchs were considered a third-gender people who were “made” or “born,” (just like Jesus says in Matthew), and who were stigmatized in ancient literature as having a predilection toward seducing men. Some of the old sources are quite… crude, and explicit, and none of them very respectful. I think we tend to think of eunuchs as asexual, but that’s not the way that the ancient world thought of them.

    To say that eunuchs were gay men is not quite right… again, they were more third gender than anything. But to talk about the verses in scripture that talk about homoerotic sexual activity as relating to gay people is also only that strong… and is not quite right either. It’s reading modern categories of gender and households and sexual relationships into ancient documents, which came from a place where men often had all the power, where long-term sexual relationships were often more financial/household arrangements than anything, and where a man to have sex with a woman before she was married to him would be destroying at least her financial security if not causing her to be killed or hidden away outright (if it were known).

    This is why the story of the Ethiopian Eunuch was such a big deal for me, and I think restructures a lot of paradigms about the way God works in the world in a way we don’t get much any more, 1900 years removed… much in the same way that the crazy integration of Gentiles into the new faith in a way that made them have to reinterpret all their scriptures to that point, is lost on us. But to have the first really gentile convert into the faith be an Ethiopian Eunuch, a third gender person stigmatized for homoerotic sex and for not-male-ness… that’s a huge story of our faith! It’s central to the Acts narrative! For me, this is that scriptural precedent, that thing that blurs the categories of strict uninterrupted disapproval. This man asks “what is there to keep me from being baptized?” If this were a story about a gay man or lesbian from today that was to be recorded in divine revelation for all time, the prophet should then have said, “repent of your lifestyle.” But he gives no answer! There is nothing to keep him from being baptized.

    I think, from this central story, that it is clear that the bent of scripture and our faith is toward the radical inclusion of gender and sexual categories that previously were considered unacceptable, disallowed from the temple (as the Eunuch would have been), and breaking our concept of what God designed gender for. Gender is not, as the ancient world thought, the idea that “woman is the glory of man, and man the glory of God.” Or that in the beginning, God made Adam and Eve and not a eunuch was to be seen.

    So you said you were looking for (1) an idea of what new creation would look like in light of all this, and (2) evidence of the Spirit’s powerful working in your “practicing homosexual” brothers and sisters. And, what you said above, some sort of scriptural precedent. I see loads of scriptural precedent in the story of the Ethiopian eunuch, chased down by an angel of God, the Holy Spirit, and the prophet on the desert road. As for New Creation breaking in, I see the imagination and creativity of God all through the making of LGBT folk. In the beginning, God created all varieties of animals and humans with different kinds of reproductive organs and hair colors and levels of artistic abilities and passions and sizes of brains and with different handednesses and some with an attraction to the same gender, some opposite, some both, to form all sorts of different romantic relationships, friendship relationships, parental and communal and hierarchical relationships to one another. And in the new creation, men and women, in all their different ways of looking and living, people from all over the world, people both straight and cisgender and LGBT are going to worship God together, to the glory of God, whose creativity and inclusive grace will be only more glorified by all our (mutual, egalitarian, loving) romances and relationships.

    And the little pushes toward the New Creation that we LGBTs have been asked to bring into the world (I think) is obvious in so many ways to someone who knows our community! Here’s just a few: our relationships are naturally organized to be egalitarian, a model that opposite-gender couples have badly needed for thousands of years. Where straight people perhaps image God’s procreative nature, we can do that too… but more often we image God’s profound Adoptive nature, who makes us adopted sons and daughters alongside Christ, and who is the one who cares for orphans and widows and the outcasts. LGBT folk are bound by a common experience in a network that connects us with people globally in a way that other communities can’t imagine. Where strict boundaries exist between straight people of different ethnicities and nationalities, LGBTs are committed to solidarity with one another that is international… something that everyone could learn from, and that we desperately need to see more of. (Not that we don’t struggle with ethnocentrism or nationalism to get there.) LGBT folk are committed to activism, toward making just relationships, are often very “biblical” in understanding the relationships between our political selves and our spiritual selves and our sexual selves, meaning we get that they’re connected. And finally, the primary piece of gay wisdom that is deeply ingrained in our community is in our experience of coming out: that honesty integrates and heals a person, while dishonesty fragments and destroys a person. Coming out, which all LGBTs have to do all the time, is an act of radical honesty that heals us and makes just relationships. All these things are elements of the LGBT community’s unique grasp of God and of what the Kingdom of God looks like that is breaking into the world and which tears down evil structures and unjust relationships and transforms our lives.

    And further, as to needing to see a powerful work of the Spirit in your “practicing homosexual” brothers and sisters… I suggest that if you haven’t seen it, you might not be looking! Everywhere I go, there are lesbians, gay men, transgender men and women, bisexual men and women, who are filled with the Spirit of God, live transformed, healed lives, and reflect that in their relationships, romantic and political and platonic, as well as their own spiritual lives and relationships with God. They glow with it.

    Painfully long post. But I’m not sure how I could have said all that in a bit less without it taking some hours, and I’ve got class to go to. Thanks for continuing to talk about this. I hope that eventually, you’ll change your mind about us and about what God’s doing with us. ‘Cause it’s pretty awesome, and I hate that you’re missing out on it, being such a brilliant writer and someone I love to read regularly.

    1. Seth,
      Thank you for the long post, and the openness of said post. I found your interpretation of the Ethipian Eunuch interesting, but having thought about it more I wonder if it fits the “trajectory hermeneutic” that Dr. Kirk is espousing. It would appear that the trajectory of Acts is one of inclusion. That inclusion is, as you have pointed out, one of including the Gentiles into the people of God. One of the large barriers at this time were Jewish purity laws, in this instance, circumcision. Thus the question would come to mind, not how to include a third gender, but how do you circumcise one who has been castrated? How do you bring someone into the people of God if you can’t circumcise them? How would this consideration change your interpretation?

    2. Seth it’s not correct to say God created anything but male and female. Sin created everything outside of those two clear creations. While you have many good things to say, whatever is based on your opinion that God created people gay or God created a third gender falls apart.

      1. Frank, you have repeatedly in this comment thread imputed the power of creation to sin, which is novel to say the least:

        “Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.” – John 1:3

        1. Aric that is a misstatement. I said and say that sin distorted God’s perfect creation because that’s what the bible says.

          Sin is defined in the bible as lawlessness. 1 John 3:4

          Lawlessness is the opposite of law which is the opposite of Gods will. Lawlessness is a lie where God is truth. Titus 1:2
          Hebrews 6:18

          The bible says sin came through man not God: Romans 5:12

          The bible says there is no sin in God: 2 Corinthians 5:21

    3. Seth the true transformation and proof of the Spirit would be “I have homosexual feelings but I choose to follow Gods plan for my life not my own.”

  13. Hi, I am a 2008 MAT Grad from Fuller and commenting late on this post but have read most of it. I have many thoughts but mainly wanted to bring up Daniel’s “trajectory hermeneutic” as it relates to women and then homosexuality – 1. A problem occurs when applied to parent and child relationship. Our children now going to a liberation stance whereby they are no encouraged to obey or submit to parents? 2. Assumes submission means inequality and yet Jesus submitted to the Father. Does that mean He was less equal to the Father? Thanks for your time.

    1. 1) When we speak of God desiring equality, we are speaking of adults. Children hold a special position in our society, legally, socially, and culturally. We don’t grant children the same liberties and responsibilities that are given to adults.

      2) The contradiction between frequent Biblical references to Jesus submitting to the Father and the core Christian teaching that Jesus and the Father are “of one being” is a contradiction that is way beyond the scope of this debate about homosexuality. This contradiction has been debated by Christian scholars for centuries. I’m sure you can find plenty of discussion about this contradiction if you look elsewhere; whether you’ll find an answer that satisfies you I can’t say.

      1. My main point was that equality with God is not founded on our roles or positions. Each of us has been employed and had to submit to another at some point and yet we are equal in God’s eyes. Applying a “trajectory hermenuetic” to roles in a family, especially when New Testament texts are grounded in the creation story, seems dangerous. Furthermore, it can conveniently override what used to be thought of as clear biblical teaching. I don’t see Jesus’ submission to the Father as contradictory. He had a different role but was equal in His substance and status. Interestingly, with Jesus we find that submitting, or serving another, is “greater” in the kingdom but much of the feminist evangelical influence rejects this. I propose that there are differing roles but equal standing and I would caution the believers about applying secular views of “submission” and “equality” to Scripture.

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