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The Bible Does Not Affirm Homosexual Sex or Homosexual Marriage

A response to the preaching video from Matthew Vines

Okay, yes this post is ridiculously long. But, you can now find it broken down into manageable sub-topics by clicking <here>, rather than needing to wade through the original post below.

In 2012, a youtube video began circulating through cyberspace and then was featured in news reports (some accused of being unbalanced), claiming to demonstrate that the Bible ultimately supports homosexuality and same-sex marriage, even for Christians. The video is found in various locations, including here http://matthewvines.tumblr.com . Many who view the presentation, including sceptical Christians, seem to be swayed into accepting the reasoning as legitimate. The arguments within the video are apparently not new, and are very similar to previous summaries, eg from Bruce Lowe a decade earlier, and to Five Uneasy Pieces – a book released just one month earlier. (The presenter has subsequently been criticised for saying that his approach of promoting a theology of homosexual relations not being sinful, is new. It’s not a new). Gagnon reportedly says that the arguments were refuted years prior to the filming. So is the presentation as balanced and reliable as it seems? The following critical analysis concludes that there are significant flaws in the presenter’s logic and theology, and that the content of the presentation is contradicted by leading Biblical scholarship, by historical records and by modern sociology.

Avoiding false assumptions about my angle

Before proceeding, I should clarify to avoid false assumptions you may have, based on the fact that Im critiquing homosexuality in the context of Christianity. Due to all the accusations people make about perspectives such as this one, the clarification will take the next 5 paragraphs!

Homosexuality feels natural for some

I dont deny the authenticity of the deep emotional pain that the presenter describes as arising from being gay and trying to be a devoted Christian. I agree it’s difficult to be same-sex attracted to the point that such people have statistically much higher rates of suicide, and I sympathise with this pain. This article does not dispute that. Neither do I claim that homosexuals should simply turn straight. I realise it’s not that simple (ref-2, ref-3, ref-4, ref-5), that it’s more than just about sex and that psychiatrists, while not unanimous on the issue, have by and large concluded that sexual orientation cant be reversed, and they even say the same in regards to a sexual orientation towards children (ref-2, cf). Nor is this article seeking to establish what the that the Bible says about homosexuality is fair. Rather, this article is largely academic; just about the question of whether the Bible actually sanctions homosexual sex and same-sex marriage.

Christianity is not simple and it’s not simply about being nice

Most people tend to think of the god of the Bible as being benevolent and advocating benevolence. On a simple level, they perceive the Bible to advocate a happy, positive, caring life. So if something makes you happy and appears to cause no harm, they would tend to assume that the Bible would support that. But it’s not that simple. The Bible prescribes some very specific requirements for those who wish to follow Jesus, and in some cases, those requirements have no obvious link to happiness. Sure the Bible advocates many broad principles which tend to result in a happy community, eg loving your neighbour, and not being proud or selfish. But it’s a big book, advocating many principles, with some of them being quite specific, and some of them requiring a degree of unhappiness. For example, in Matthew 19:16-30 we see Jesus saying it’s difficult for rich people to gain access to heaven, and that he asked his rich followers to sell their possessions and give to the poor. Some were not happy about that. And in 2 Corinthians 1:8-9, one of the early Christians detailed that at times they experienced great pressure and despair. And in 2 Timothy 1:10-11 that same person says they suffered for the sake of pleasing god.

Being a Christian does not necessarily mean being happy

As the presenter in fact pointed out, the Bible does not tend to promote the idea that following it will make you happy. Rather, the Bible states that followers will experience “joy”. In the Bible, joy is an emotion that relates to uniting with god, an emotion that you can supposedly experience even in tough times. IE in James 1:2, it says that Christians should consider it to be a joyful experience to face difficulties. And in Hebrews 10:34, it says that Christians at that point joyfully accepted the loss of their property. Along those lines, you might ask whether the god of the Bible requires gay people to joyfully accept that they cant act on their sexuality.

Being same-sex attracted is not itself sinful

Another pertinent point is that contrary to what a minority of people think, and contrary to what Matthew seems to imply here, most theologians and church ministers do not consider being same-sex attracted to be a sin (EG). To be sexually attracted to anything, is simply to be tempted (James 1:15), and even Jesus was apparently tempted (Matthew 4:1-11, Hebrew 4:15). Those who describe homosexuality as a sin, are usually referring to engaging in homosexuality, either mentally or physically, eg homosexual lust or homosexual sexual behaviour, rather than simply to homosexual attraction.

Spreading hate?

There is an increasing tendency in society, to label people who oppose certain things, as “haters”. Often this label is applied very selectively. Countries that disallow smoking in the workplace, tend not to be called ‘haters’, despite that discrimination. Universities and Colleges that dont admit low-achieving students are not called ‘haters’, despite their discrimination. But churches who say their congregants cant engage in homosexual sex, are sometimes called ‘haters’, even if they are otherwise polite and pleasant in their conversations and dealings with homosexuals. Unfortunately, there are some conservative Christians, who are haters. The reality is, most people find it hard to follow a moral code without holding a sense of negativity towards the elements on the ‘immoral’ list. However, hatred towards homosexuals is unbiblical in light of the Bible requiring Christians to love their neighbours whether those neighbours are Christians or not. Various individuals in the fray do say that most Bible-believers are not hateful. Likewise this website neither advocates hatred towards homosexuals, nor does it support it. The video presenter is wrong to imply as he does here, that those who believe homosexual sex is sinful, naturally seek to oppress and “destroy” same-sex attracted people. Statements from various churches (EG1, EG2, EG3, EG4) of an Evangelical nature, and people like Dan Cathy and Pat Robertson appropriately declare they believe that persecuting homosexuals is sinful itself. And the head of the Anglican church has expressed sorrow for past poor treatment of GLBTQ people. But even if persecution isnt involved, some still claim that saying anything negative about homosexuality leads to a negative social climate where homosexuals commit suicide. This claim is overly simplistic. Unfortunately sometimes human beings commit suicide, whether they are gay or straight, and whether they live in the more GLBTQ-affirming cultures or not. The experience of people such as EricJames Borges, who eventually became very involved in a GLBTQ*-affirming environment, yet still committed suicide, suggests that reasons for suicide are multifaceted and not necessarily based on discrimination. Personally, I have a number of gay friends and our friendships are without friction, so long as we dont talk religion…

Opening comments incorrect about homosexuality matching heterosexuality

Ill now run through the video, from beginning to end. Early in the presentation, the presenter states that the homosexual has the same needs, desires and “identical” quality of love as the heterosexual. He offers little foundation for this statement though, so the viewer simply has to hope that the presenter is basing his statement on reliable sources (NB there is questionable information out there EG2EG3, EG4, EG5, EG6EG7EG8, EG9, EG10Ref.11, Ref.12, Ref. 13, Ref. 14, sometimes even from supposed Christian leaders!) But in fact the presenter ignores statistically determined differences in average relationship longevity (Ref. 2, Ref, 3), monogamy (Ref. 2, Ref. 3) even if married, average number of sexual partners (Ref.2), tendency to “hook up“, desire to marrymortality rates  compared to heterosexuals (I previously included intimate partner violence (Ref. 2), in this list, but I now note that reports on this vary, perhaps geographically). Gay men sometimes acknowledge that their approach to relationships tends to differ from heterosexuals. Statistics indicate higher rates of violence from a partner and the higher number of sexual partners, for homosexuals of his own generation even at highschool level. By not acknowledging these differences, the presenter is either knowingly misleading the viewers, or he’s revealing that his knowledge of human sexuality is only superficial. His angle differs from other academics such as author of gay literature, Dennis Altman, who has reflected (FODI marketing, 2013) on gay marriage by stating “If the mobilising issue for the gay community is the right to emulate the traditional family with marriage and children, homosexual identity has been sacrificed for social acceptance.”

The structure of the video presentation

The presentation could be logically divided in three; firstly the presenter talks about principles in the Bible which he feels are inconsistent if homosexuality is a sin. Then he talks about what the Old Testament (ie the earlier part of the Bible – pre Jesus) says about homosexuality, and then finally he talks about what the New Testament (the later part of the Bible – Jesus and beyond) says about homosexuality.

The first section of the presentation: cherry picking from Genesis and misinterpretation of the fruit parable

When the presenter begins to focus on the Bible, he lists what he calls two “major problems” with the traditional Christian position on homosexual sex. The first passage he raises is Matthew 7, which he claims states that a valid teaching will result in “good fruit” ie good results. He says that teaching that homosexuality is sin, results in bad ‘fruit’, in this case “emotional and spiritual devastation, and to the loss of self-esteem and self-worth.” But the presenter misrepresents what the parable states. It doesnt state that the fruit test is specifically intended for determining whether teachings are valid. In the parable, the producer of bad fruit is discarded. This parable is a test of the validity of the being that produces the fruit. It’s saying that if a prophet produces “bad fruit”, then you can recognise that they are a false prophet, and not a good source of guidance. It’s about validating the source of the teachings, rather than the teachings themselves. If the fruit test is misapplied to teachings as the presenter does, you could derive the faulty argument that any teaching that produces problems must be false, eg you might conclude that teaching that hell exists, is a false teaching because it makes people depressed, or teaching that Jesus is the only way to heaven is false because it makes followers of other religions angry. But no, this passage is about prophets rather than about teachings. So what would be good examples of good fruit and bad fruit? Unfortunately it’s hard to say. Some have suggested that bad fruit would include the division and non-acceptance that can occur within a congregation when a teacher says that homosexual sex is sinful. But this interpretation conflicts with passages such as Matthew 10:34-36 where Jesus is quoted as stating his teachings bring division, and it contradicts with passages such as John 8:11 where Jesus is depicted as not accepting of sin. The fruit of teaching that gay sex is okay for Christians, seems to often be that gay male churchmembers will tend to engage in casual sex (ref. 2, ref. 3) despite knowing that this is contrary to the standard Christian position. However exactly what good fruit might entail, I will leave you to decide.

Furthermore, the presenter’s claim at this point that teaching that homosexual sex is sinful, and results in “emotional and spiritual devastation, and to the loss of self-esteem and self-worth” does not align with the broader message of the Bible. Certainly, Jesus’ limiting the options to either life-long heterosexual marriage or the life of a eunuch, is spelled out as difficult to accept by some (Matthew 19), as are some of his other teachings. Records indicate that in the 2nd century, at least some were interpreting the reference to eunuchs as including men who are not attracted to women (ref. Clement of Alexandria) and the interpretation that the term includes homosexuals, is shared by some today (EG2, EG3). And there is nothing in the Bible that implies that same-sex attracted people or eunuchs have no worth. In fact one eunuch is described in the Bible as an “important official” (Acts 8:27) who is warmly welcomed into the church, as were repentant eunuchs in the Old Testament (Isaiah 56). In any case, looking inwards for your sense of self-worth is an unchristian act. A Christian is supposed to let go of their own desires and pride, and instead, put their hope in God working through them rather than in their own abilities (2 Cor. 12).

In building his argument that the Bible has elements that conflict with the idea that homosexual relationships are sinful, the presenter then points to Genesis 2:18, where it states that it is not good for man to be alone. The presenter claims that teaching that Christian homosexuals must remain single rather than having homosexual relationships, is a contradiction of that Genesis passage. But the presenter is cherry-picking the sections of the Bible that suit his desires. Verse 18 is part of a broad narrative that continues on to describe how god made a female partner for man, and at verse 24  it says “That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife …” Genesis 2 raises a problem (man being alone) and then offers a solution (uniting with a wife). The presenter wishes to embrace the problem as valid, while rejecting the solution. Is it reasonable to embrace one verse, but not the whole passage? It’s easy to understand the presenter objecting here, with him saying that the solution of verse 24 doesnt work for him, since he’s not attracted to women. Well, this would appear to be addressed in the New Testament. In Matthew 19:3-11, it is raised that marriage may not be suitable for everyone. At this point, Jesus then responds by referring to eunuchs, including those who are “eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven.” This Matthew 19 passage is rather open to interpretation, but one possible straight-forward interpretation might be that if marriage to an opposite sex partner is not going to work for you, consider staying single. Affirmation for being single is also given in 1 Corinthians 7:8, so long as being single does not result in you burning with passion. Burning with homosexual lust is addressed later in the video and in this response, but based on the additional passages I have raised, I suggest the presenter is incorrect to imply that advocating being single, is to contradict the Bible overall.

The illusion of knowledge

The second section of the presentation: The Old Testament – it isnt entirely irrelevant, and there is no clear contradiction

In the second of the 3 parts, the presenter covers the key relevant Old Testament scriptures. People often quote from the Old Testament to condemn homosexual sex, mainly because the wording is quite clear. EG Leviticus 20:13, which states in the NIV translation “If a man has sexual relations with a man as one does with a woman, both of them have done what is detestable.” The presenter recognises that the relevant Leviticus passages mean what they state. As Gagnon has written, “… rabbis used the phrase miskab zakur (“lying of/with a male”), drawn from the Hebrew text of Lev. 18:22 and 20:13, to refer to homosexual intercourse”  (The Bible and Homosexual Practice: Texts and Hermeneutics, Abingdon Press, 2001, p.315).

The presenter does a good job of explaining why we cant draw strong conclusions about homosexuality from the story of Sodom. He then accuses those who hold to the traditional interpretation of scriptures on homosexuality, of contradicting Genesis 2:18 where it says it is not good for man to be alone. But is this a contradiction? No. The presenter is using a straw-man argument. Although being in a same-sex relationship may be sinful, that doesnt automatically mean that being single is “good” – it just means it’s better. Later in this post I’ll point out how the New Testament illustrates singleness as not necessarily ‘bad’ either. But since the current topic is Genesis, we should note that standard Christian understanding is that after God described the creation as good, Adam & Eve sinned by eating the apple in Genesis 3, causing corruption in the world, and the perfection of the way the world works is understood to no longer exist (Romans 8:20). A sexuality without perfect options, fits in to naturally to that framework, ie living in a ‘fallen’ and imperfect world.

The presenter then moves on to basically argue that the other relevant key Old Testament scriptures are no longer applicable to Christians, because those scriptures are from the old Jewish Law, which the New Testament states no longer applies (Romans 10:4, Hebrews 8:13 etc). On the surface, the presenter seems to be correct. However, although the old law no longer applies as a method for salvation, there is still some evidence that it is still to be ‘respected’ in some regard. For example Romans 3:31 says it’s not “nullified” and 1 Timothy 1:8-10, it says that “the law is good if used properly.” That Timothy passage also lists a variety of purposes of the law for Christians. One of these purposes is specifically in regards to … “sexual immorality”! So according to the New Testament, sexual issues matter. And there are various laws (but not punishments) from Leviticus which are still considered valid, eg laws not to lie or steal, and laws urging to love your neighbour (Levitucus 19) and laws against specific sexual practises that are illustrated as remaining in place the New Testament (EG Lev. 18:8 / 1 Cor. 5). But knowing how to determine which parts of the old law are still relevant, which are not, and the reason for the distinction, seems to be unclear for most Christians, and Im likewise unclear on it, although there are people who claim that they grasp it (eg http://youtu.be/WG3-SNty4Nchere and here). So although the presenter seems to overstate his case, my conclusions on Leviticus remain a little up in the air. The New Testament though, doesnt suffer from this same confusion, so lets now look at that.

The third part of the presentation: The New Testament – firstly Romans 1, questionable assumptions and not regarding the text as authoritative

The presenter introduces this passage by admitting that “… even if a same sex relationship is loving and committed, it is still sinful. That is the traditional interpretation of Romans 1:26-27.” He then basically makes 2 broad points about this passage. Lets look at them one at a time:

1. He claims that the verses that mention homosexual sex are in the context of a narrative about idolatry, and that the pattern of the broader message (swapping honouring god for honouring idols) likewise applies to the references to homosexuality. IE he says the passage is referring to heterosexuals who swapped that sexuality for acting homosexually instead. The presenter claims that because they were heterosexuals, this behaviour was unnatural for them, and therefore sinful. While the content of first half of the video appears fairly logical and reasonable to your average Christian, fatigue can settle in for the viewer by this point and so it can be easy to miss that various elements that appear to be conjecture, suddenly start getting presented as though they are undisputed fact. EG this claim that Romans 1 only refers to heterosexuals behaving homosexually. How do we know that this verse is talking of individuals who stopped having heterosexual sex and started having homosexual sex, rather than of people who engaged in homosexual sex their whole lives? Or from the other perspective, how do we know that the accusation of “abandoning natural sexual relations” was not in the sense of abandoning what people in general normally do? According to GagnonBernadette Brooten, a lesbian New Testament scholar, disagrees with the presenter on this point. The presenter’s interpretation is not an argument that is explicit in the text, and not one that people interpret naturally. But if the presenter is wrong on this point, his argument about this verse collapses.

Also, the presenter states that the author of Romans 1 “speaks only of … casual [sexual] behaviour”, but the presenter offers no proof for this interpretation. The author of this article, who appears to take a middle ground on the issue, disagrees with the presenter on this point, as does the gay-relationship-affirming author of this article. The presenter also claims that Romans 1 would not be referring to homosexuals as presently defined, because sexual orientation of gay people is “permanent”. But he neglects to consider the variability of sexual orientation of teenagers or that many homosexuals/bisexuals (but not all) from recent decades follow a pattern of marrying someone of the opposite sex, having sexual relations with them, but then deciding they are gay, abandoning heterosexuality long-term for homosexual relationships instead (EG1, EG2, EG3 or this study). And the reverse happens too, EG LGBT “person of the  year” Kerry Pacer eventually entering heterosexual marriage. And it’s been found that statistically, older people are less likely to identify as GLBT than younger people. Even Alfred Kinsey, several generations ago, believed that sexuality is not always fixed for life, as has been confirmed by recent research too. The semi-common reality of shifting from heterosexual sex to homosexual sex is not “casual behaviour”, but seems to fit with the Romans 1 description. And again, if Romans 1 is not about casual behaviour, the presenter’s argument crumbles. (Apparently he made much the same mistake in his 2014 book.)

The presenter attempts to reinforce the argument that the author of Romans one believed homosexuals to be heterosexuals with excessive lust, by claiming that his interpretation matches understandings of homosexuality at the time the New Testament was written. He quotes Dio Chrystostom of that era, to illustrate an argument that homosexual behaviour was perceived not as an orientation, but as an excess of lust that anybody may experience. Indeed, based on the excerpt, Dio Chrystostom did appear to believe this for males. But if you read the entire presentation from Dio Chrystostom, you notice several things. One is that the context of the section the presenter quotes from, is of how sexual immorality arises. It was not the intention of Dio Chrystostom to explain whether homosexuality is an orientation, or to distinguish whether it is practised by some males or all males. Those familiar with citing from external sources know that if you quote someone and are not citing their main point, the basis of your citation is much weaker than if you were citing their main point. This is because when people try to make a point they often use only simplified or one-sided illustrations in support. IE their supporting arguments are often true in the original context, but are less likely to be balanced if removed from that context to be applied broadly. A second point, is that the presenter misrepresents the meaning a little by abbreviating the quote and not including surrounding sentences. In the sentence before the section quoted, Dio Chrystostom states “But the further developments, I presume, are perfectly evident, since we see so many illustrations.” On the one hand, he says there are many illustrations, but on the other hand, he says “I presume”, as though, there is a degree of uncertainty. So was he sure of his statement? And another part of the except which was missed by abbreviation, states “… and will turn his assault against the male quarters, eager to befoul the youth who will very soon be magistrates and judges and generals …” Yes the original is referring to pederasty; to sex with youthful males, rather than to homosexual sex in general. And Dio Chrystostom was Greek. The author of Romans however, was Jewish – a close, yet different culture.

So were Dio Chrystostom’s perceptions of homosexuality shared by all, or were there others of that era with differing understandings? Yes, historian Flavious Josephus, also lived in the first century and being Jewish, is more likely to have shared the same cultural perspectives as Paul, the writer of Romans 1. In Against Apion, Book II (section 25), Josephus wrote in the context of a section about marriage, that a relationship between males is rejected by Jewish society. Given that the context of section 25 is marriage, it seems likely to me that Josephus was referring to a marriage-like relationship between males. That the possibility of such a relationship is raised by Josephus, suggests that Jewish people were aware of the concept of men who wanted such relationships. The concept of a man marrying a man was later also raised in the Jewish Babylonian Talmud of the 3rd to 5th centuries, where it states (in Chulin 92a, b);

Ula said: Non-Jews [litt. Bnei Noach, the progeny of Noah] accepted upon themselves thirty mitzvot [divinely ordered laws] but they only abide by three of them: the first one is that they do not write marriage documents for male couples, the second one is that they don’t sell dead [human] meat by the pound in stores and the third one is that they respect the Torah.

And there were others in the first century who mentioned homosexual behaviour. Philo for example, wrote a lengthy description in The Special Laws IIIcited below. One of the presenter’s favourite theologians, later cited this text as authoritative (Bible, Gender, Sexuality by James V. Brownson, chapter 11) -

“Moreover, another evil … has made its way among and been let loose upon cities, namely, the love of boys, … which sin is a subject of boasting not only to those who practise it, but even to those who suffer it, and who, being accustomed to bearing the affliction of being treated like women, waste away as to both their souls and bodies, not bearing about them a single spark of a manly character to be kindled into a flame, but having even the hair of their heads conspicuously curled and adorned, and having their faces smeared with vermilion, and paint, and things of that kind, and having their eyes pencilled beneath, and having their skins anointed with fragrant perfumes … and being well appointed in everything that tends to beauty or elegance, are not ashamed to devote their constant study and endeavours to the task of changing their manly character into an effeminate one. …  the man who is devoted to the love of boys … pursues that pleasure which is contrary to nature, and since, as far as depends upon him, he would make the cities desolate, and void, and empty of all inhabitants, wasting his power of propagating his species … At all events one may see men-women continually strutting through the market place at midday, … And some of these persons have even carried their admiration of these delicate pleasures of youth so far that they have desired wholly to change their condition for that of women, and have castrated themselves and have clothed themselves in purple robes …”

Clearly at least some of these men, those who were “devoting their constant study and endeavours” to becoming effeminate to the point of castration, or not being at all procreative, had no interest in being heterosexual. Craig Williams seems to have referred to the same subculture of people in his 1999 book, describing them as “ever conspicuous” in the early Roman Empire, so it makes sense that the wider community would be aware of them.

Certainly it’s easy to believe the presenter’s claim that the people of that era considered homosexuals to have excessive lust – there are people today who still (ref. 2) believe this to be true, based on the sexual focus and even sexual addiction of many homosexuals. But excessive lust and inclination towards one’s own gender are two different types of desires, and it’s not clear that the author of Romans was not aware of this, especially since others of previous generations were apparently aware, EG Plato (Laws, 1.636c). For the presenter to claim that people of that culture generally believed that dedicated homosexuals as described above, were heterosexuals with excessive lust, is difficult to believe.

However, by 2013, the presenter was promoting the book Bible, Gender, Sexuality by James V. Brownson. In chapter 11 of that book, Brownson states that there is evidence of ancient people grasping the concept of sexual orientation. Brownson writes

“… an awareness of a “natural” orientation toward same-sex relations is attested in some Greek and Roman sources. The myth of human  origins presented in Plato’s Symposium (189C-193C) assumes such a view …”

The presenter mandated the reading of Brownson’s above book, for his students at the 2013 Reformation Project. So does this mean that the presenter subsequently ate his words?

Furthermore, does the presenter’s original claim that people would believe that anyone could be “inflamed with lust” for members of their same sex and abandon heterosexual relations, sound sensible? Many (but not all) heterosexual men today would laugh at such a suggestion being valid. So why would men of the New Testament era accept that this as being how all human beings work? A good friend of mine is clearly heterosexual and non-religious, and tells me that he once tried gay sex, but didnt enjoy it, and that he is disinterested in ever doing it again. He’s a perfect example of an open-minded person who would still laugh at Matthew’s perception of ancient understandings on this. The idea that people of the first century believed that any and all heterosexuals could be “inflamed with same-sex lust” AND abandon heterosexual relations, is a rather unlikely suggestion.

We should note too, that the presenter’s basis for claiming that homosexuality was thought to be an excess of lust for heterosexuals, and that Romans 1 would therefore not be referring to homosexuals as currently understood, is based on materials from outside of the Bible. To embrace the argument that the author of Romans believed homosexuality to simply be an excess of lust on the part of heterosexuals, is to say that Paul did not understand that homosexuals are not heterosexually attracted. IE it’s to claim that people who authored the Bible did not understand the reality of human sexuality. That claim  brings into question the standard Christian notion that the entire New Testament was “god breathed” (2 Timothy 3:16), ie that god guided the authors in what they wrote. That level of doubt is not be a new position; it’s Biblical liberalism. But that’s not the angle that the presenter is generally coming from. In the presentation he generally treats the Bible as authoritative, but not Romans 1. And if Paul doesnt know what he’s talking about here, is it reasonable to take the rest of the epistles as authoritative, especially on matters unseen such as the afterlife? Why does the presenter even bother treating the Bible seriously at all? He’s being disingenuous, especially since he has claimed that his arguments conform to “the highest view of the authority of Scripture.” He finishes his presentation by claiming that the Bible does not condemn committed same-sex relationships, when in actual fact, his argument is partially based in a position of believing that what the Bible states doesnt matter, because the writers didnt know what they were writing about. His low regard for the authority of Scripture is further revealed his more recent work; The Reformation Project, where the Statement of Faith refers to the Bible as the Word of God and as inspired, but makes no mention of it being inerrant, or as being of ultimate authority.

2. The presenter goes on to make another point about Romans 1. He claims that the descriptions of homosexual lust and sex as being ‘unnatural’ and ‘shameful’, have the same meanings as used in 1 Corinthians 11 where they refer to hair length for men, and that both passages are culturally specific. IE that homosexual sex, and long hair for men are both only unnatural and shameful for the cultures that were initially addressed; the Christians in Rome and in Corinth respectively. Well, at present my knowledge of the Greek language is too limited for me to comment directly on the meaning of the Greek words, although others who are more familiar, disagree (ref. 2, ref.3) with the presenter’s claim. But I do know that in the 4th century, Christians were using a word meaning ‘nature’ to describe homosexual sex as sinful, and they were basing their case on the laws of Leviticus, not on local cultural mores. The Apostolic Constitutions 6, sections 27-28, state in part -

“… For He that made them at the beginning made them male and female; and He blessed them, and said, Increase and multiply, and fill the earth.” If, therefore, the difference of sexes was made by the will of God for the generation of multitudes, then must the conjunction of male and female be also acceptable to His mind.
But we do not say so of that mixture that is contrary to nature, or of any unlawful practice; for such are enmity to God. For the sin of Sodom is contrary to nature … For the practisers … endeavour to make the natural course of things to change for one that is unnatural … these things are forbidden by the laws; for thus say the oracles: “Thou shalt not lie with mankind as with womankind.” “

We should note also, that when the presenter quotes from Romans 1, he includes only part of the passage. In the NIV translation, verse 28 starts with the word ‘furthermore’, continuing the passage through to verse 32, which states “Although they know God’s righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them.” If verses 26 & 27 mean what the presenter claims, then what decree is verse 32 referring to? But if the meaning of verses 26 & 27 is the standard interpretation, the answer is fairly obvious to me – Leviticus.

And not only does he downplay what comes after verses 26 & 27, but also what comes before. Ponder verse 25, which states in part; “They exchanged the truth about God for a lie, and worshipped and served created things rather than the Creator”. This could be a very good description of an active homosexual who seeks to replace the truth of the Bible. IE they exchange the truth about God (IE a well translated Bible) for a lie (EG a translation that conforms to the presenter’s manipulation of the Greek), in order to lustfully worship members of their own gender, rather than to worship the creator. This is what the presenter is doing. He’s saying the goal that is most important to him is to not be a single man all his life. He’s worshipping the idea of being able to enter a gay relationship. He places that goal as a higher priority, than a straight-forward honest interpretation of the Bible, and accordingly, he exchanges the truth about God, for a lie, in order to achieve his goal.

The presenter’s argument for Romans 1 just doesnt fit well, even when historical considerations are made. The passage makes much more sense if it’s simply saying that homosexual lust and sex are not permitted for any Christian.

The second New Testament passage: 1 Corinthians 6:9 – an incomplete argument and poor knowledge of history

Here the presenter focuses on the Greek words that are often translated into English as referring to homosexuality. For this passage, those Greek words are ‘arsenokoites’ and ‘malakos’. He says that the “somewhat ambiguous translations in the King James [Bible] are consistent with how these words were actually translated into English for hundreds of years: some kind of immorality or abuse, but specifically what kind was never stated. This changed halfway through the last century, when some Bible translators began connecting these terms directly to homosexuality.” From this statement, you might conclude that until mid last century, English-speaking Christians did not perceive this section of the Bible to refer to expressions of same-sex activity. But this is not the case. Various bible translations and bible commentaries prior to the 20th century, described the Corinthians reference as sodomy, which was widely understood to mean sex between males, eg John Gill’s Exposition of the New Testament (18th c.) and the very popular Notes by Albert Barnes. My own amateur attempt at translating John Wycliffe’s 14th century wording “thei that doon letcheri with men” from 1 Cor. 6:9, would be as “men that commit adultery with men”, so it’s fairly obvious that many centuries ago, a similar perception of meaning was there.

In regards to the Corinthians passage stating that homosexuals will not inherit eternal life, the presenter says it would not be relating to homosexuals as homosexuals are identified in our modern world, because homosexuality was not recognised as an orientation in that era. He states that modern “terms and concepts regarding sexual orientation are completely alien to the biblical world” and that “the concept of sexual orientation is very recent; it was only developed within the past century”. But this claim contrasts with the above quotes from Josephus and Philo. We should note also records from the 5th century talk of being “consumed” by the practise of same-sex sex (Justinian I, Novel 141) suggesting it was a focus for some. And also that Clement of Alexandria in c. the second century, in Stromata, Book III, perhaps indicates that exclusive same-sex attraction can be inborn; “Some men, from their birth, have a natural sense of repulsion from a woman; and those who are naturally so constituted do well not to marry.” Additionally, if you Google “Sifra Leviticus” you can quickly find claims that same-sex relationships were actually recognised thousands of years ago, and that the Jews of the Bible knew about them. Likewise there are records of homosexual relationships in ancient Greece. Robert Gagnon provides further similar refutation here including forms of ancient same-sex marriage. Technology and customs change as eras pass, and certainly understandings become enhanced, but for the presenter to claim that the Bible writers were not familiar with as aspect of human nature as organic and basic as variations in sexual attraction, is a huge departure from standard Christian understanding of the New Testament. It doesnt require fancy computers or complex statistical analysis to work out that there are variations in sexual attraction within the human race – it just takes a confidant like a priest, to whom a range of people confess their inner thoughts. For the presenter to have apparently devoted two years of his life to this topic, and yet seem so naive, suggests superficiality to at least some aspects of his study.

The presenter also claims that there was no word for ‘gay’ in the original Greek or in Latin languages. This claim is in contradiction with what other gay activists have said, eg as per the website gaychristian101.com . But whether there was or wasnt a specific word is not essential. Language can usually accommodate that situation fairly well, by using a phrase or a description instead.

The presenter also writes off the Corinthians passage due to its use of the Greek word ‘arsenokoites’. He tells us that in Greek, ‘arsen’ means ‘male’ and ‘koites’ means ‘bed’, “generally with a sexual connotation”. But states that various factors “indicate that this term referred to some kind of economic exploitation, likely through sexual means.” He offers no appeals to authority for this one-eyed conclusion. To a large extent, he simply expects us to take his word for what would actually appear to be his preference for a translation that suits his views. Few Bible translators seem to agree with him that this is the likely meaning in Corinthians (eg http://www.biblestudytools.com/lexicons/greek/kjv/arsenokoites.html), so why should we? And according to this well-referenced webpage, the translation of the word as something along the lines of ‘buggery’ is historic. Interestingly, the presenter does not mention a dominant theory on how the word arose. New Testament professor Richard B. Hays wrote in The Moral Vision of the New Testament, p.382, that the Greek Septuagint translation of Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13 is translated to English as: ‘Whoever lies with a man as with a woman [meta arsenos koiten gynaikos ], they have both done an abomination.’ (Emphasis mine). The professor comments that St Paul appears to have taken the verb form of the Greek and derived a noun form of ‘arsenokoitai’. If this is the case, then 1 Cor 6:9 is referring to the same thing as those Leviticus passages!

Disputes over the meaning of this word and others are not new. The Letters section of this website includes correspondence to and from the International Bible Society from over ten years ago, suggesting mistranslation of these passages in the NIV Bible. But subsequent versions of the NIV Bible now translate the passages as even more clearly referring to homosexual sex being sinful, than previously, and without any indication that it involved economic exploitation. Use of the word ‘homosexual’ in Bibles has also gone to court for alleged mistranslation, but as far as I know, there has been no success from such litigation. Yet these borderline conspiracy theories about mistranslation to ‘homosexual’, continue.

There are also perhaps undertones of conspiracy when the presenter talks of a “shift in translation” from the King James version to more recent translations in relation to the relevant New Testament passages. Although the presenter looks into these changes, he fails to mention the fact that in certain times past, certain words were considered outside the realms of polite conversation. The King James translation promotes this approach in Ephesians 5:3 “But sexual immorality and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints. Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk ” Under such an approach, is it surprising if the King James version appears to gloss over the topic of homosexual sex?

The presenter also says the meaning of another Greek word used here, ‘Malakos’ is ambiguous. However, having said it’s ambiguous, the presenter then makes a jump in logic by simply stating that it wouldnt apply to homosexuals. Why not? Well the presenter says that such an interpretation “simply doesn’t hold up under scrutiny.” What scrutiny? We are not given any other than his claim of ambiguity – IE we are simply asked to take his word for it. Is his “scrutiny” based on his earlier flawed interpretations of Matthew 7 & Genesis 2? Others such as Robert Gagnon and Matt Moore do think it holds up under scrutiny. But having made this seemingly arbitrary statement that the word is not referring to homosexuality, the presenter goes on to make the questionable claim that “There is no contextual support for linking this term to loving, faithful relationships.” However, if the definition of the word in this context is men having sex with men, then of course a faithful homosexual relationship would tend to be sexual and therefore would be linked!

The third New Testament passage: 1 Timothy 1:10 – yet another incomplete argument

When the presenter moves on to the 1 Timothy passage, he again invokes his earlier (doubtful) argument about the Greek word ‘arsenokoites’, as that word is also used in the Timothy passage. IE he claims that most translators are wrong to believe that this is a reference to homosexual sex as understood in our modern world. Again, why should we trust the presenter over the professionals? He then moves on, leaving this 1 Timothy passage behind. But we should note also that although English translations of this passage tend to refer to homosexuality being “contrary to sound doctrine”, the passage also lists other behaviours as being contrary to sound doctrine. These behaviours include “sexual immorality” (NIV). Yes, the Bible does indicate that some sexual behaviours are okay and some are not. It would seem that the presenter would prefer to ignore this though, opting instead for a late 1960s approach of “if it feels good, do it” (I note that society seemed to turn away from that degree of liberalism soon after the 60s though, deciding by the mid 70s that a more conservative approach was better).

The presenter’s flawed conclusions 

Having made the above oversimplifications, jumps in logic, and one-sided readings from the 1st century, the presenter then proceeds to ignore these flaws in his final conclusions. EG he states that the “only place in Scripture where male same-sex relations are actually prohibited” is in Leviticus. But critical thinkers would notice that he actually hasnt provided sufficient rationale to his audience to be confident of this. He then states that “The Bible … certainly does not condemn, loving, committed same-sex relationships.” But obviously if those relationships are sexual, then he’s also yet to prove this assertion either. So should his unsubstantiated claims be believed? We should keep in mind that as even Rachel Held Evans has written, (and others have echoed) “Matthew … isn’t exactly a biblical scholar”. And indeed he humbly referred to himself the same way in the introduction to his 2014 book. He is neither a seasoned historian, nor an revered expert in the original languages of the Bible. Rather he is a philosophy student who has read Boswell etc and doesnt necessarily have a well rounded perspective.

The presenter’s excessive emotion and idealism

The presenter then proceeds to attempt to guilt-trip those who interpret the Bible to portray homosexual behaviour as a sin. He says such a view is an “…absolute condemnation that was never intended. But you are also striking to the very core of another human being and gutting them of their sense of dignity and of self-worth.” However, a homosexual would only be ‘gutted’ if he or she primarily defines themselves by their sexual orientation, and if people are unkind about it. The presenter’s statement is incongruent with studies that have found that “LGBT rights” are not always the top priority even for gay men themselves. The presenter also contradicts research such as that cited by Melissa M. Wilcox, PhD, in LGBT Studies and Queer Theory (2006); 

“Interestingly, religion in general has not been shown to have a simple connection to internalized oppression, and even attendance at LGBT-specific religious organisations does not seem to result automatically in differing levels of self-esteem from those who attend other religious organisations or those who do not attend at all.”

The presenter says that to consider homosexual relationships sinful, perpetuates a “heartless notion that homosexuals will always be unloved and alone”. He ignores the fact that many same-sex attracted people have historically and contemporarily actually entered heterosexual marriages (EGEG2EG3EG4), sometimes to a spouse who was similarly oriented, and had families. Admittedly these marriages sometimes fail, perhaps increasingly so as homosexuality is more socially accepted. But we should acknowledge that being alone as priests are, is not the only option, and it’s not worse than the trials and tribulations that the Bible tells Christians to expect. We also need to consider St Paul’s portrayal of being single as being the optimum path and that there are gay Christians who are at peace with this approach and who point out that singleness does not necessarily mean loneliness. And of course the truly sincere Christian, would note that they are following Jesus, who is reputed to have been single for all 33 years of his life.

We should also keep in mind that the desire of young gay males, to find a handsome life-long partner with whom they will live happily ever after, is not uncommon, but tends to be short-lived. The presenter, being only 21 at the time, seems to be idealistic, and in fear that he will live his whole life unable to realise his dream. But he probably doesnt realise that his desires will likely change. Research by Jack’d has found that gay men aged under 26 are much more likely than those aged over 25 to intend to enter a gay marriage. And a survey from the CDC found that most sex between males in the USA (who congregate in a gay community) is with a ‘casual’ partner rather than with a relationship partner. Like most gay males, whether Christian or not, once he has a partner, he’s likely to eventually feel sexually restless (ref2, ref3, ref4), and chances are that the intended monogamy would not last long. Some eventually conclude that expectations of a gay utopia, were false (EG, EG2), and a few find themselves so dissatisfied (ref2) with homosexual relationships, that they decide to go straight instead. In say, ten years time, he’s likely to have reached the same conclusions of many same-sex attracted Christians of years gone by; that homosexual monogamy tends to be an unrealistic expectation.

No Biblical Support

The presenter is preoccupied by the idea that “There is no biblical teaching about sexual orientation”, concluding that same-sex relationships do not contravene Biblical teaching. But time and again, in both Testaments, from the second chapter of the Bible, right through to the epistles, the Bible presents only heterosexual relationships as normative. Jesus himself in passages such as Matthew 19:3-11, and Luke 14:26 portrays Christian relationships only as heterosexual and makes no provision for homosexual relationships. The same is true of other sections of the New Testament, eg 1 Corinthians 7, which frames heterosexual marriage as suitable for “every man” and “every woman”. Ephesians 5 is another example where no room is allowed for same-sex marriages when it says “each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.” This statement is made despite the practise of homosexuality amongst the non-Christian Greek culture at the time. If Jesus felt that it is okay for a Christian man to have a husband, why would he portray a Christian man’s spouse to only be a wife? Even the presenter agrees that the Old Testament declares same-sex relations sinful. Accordingly you would expect that any change in policy for homosexuals, would be explicitly stated in the New Testament. It’s not. Homosexual sex is only biblically denied, never affirmed. And if homosexual sex is sinful, then relationships involving homosexual sex are likewise without Biblical support. The presenter prefers to hide behind elaborate pseudo-intellectual excuses to avoid what the Bible plainly states.

Around one year after the video was first made available on the internet, this web page was posted. The presenter is quoted here saying;

“What frustrates me so much about a lot of the literature on this subject is that it will say something diminishing toward the Bible at the very beginning. Like, “Well, the Bible says a lot of things that we think are strange.”
And the moment you say things like that, you are putting forward a very different view of the Bible than the people you’re trying to engage with. And so they stop listening instantly. And you’re not going to get anywhere.
And they feel disrespected. They feel like you are attacking their faith and that you’re attacking the text through which they allow their lives to be shaped and from which they gain their understanding of God.
So I just felt like there were not good resources on this issue. I felt I needed to create a new resource on my own. And having grown up in this conservative atmosphere, I felt that I understood the cultural and social politics of these communities. And I felt that I could maybe bring along other people with me.”

This seems a little manipulative to me. Like he’s separated himself and is talking of ‘them’ rather than ‘us’.  And it feels like his primary goal is to advance the gay cause, rather than to advance the Gospel, and that he’s simply packaged his message in such a way to try to make it compliant with and palatable to the cultural language and ethos of conservative Christendom. He knows how to talk the talk, but as we have seen, he doesnt consider St Paul’s Scriptures to be fully authoritative, so he’s not entirely walking the walk. And he’s coming from an educational institution that reportedly has a hook-up culture, even amongst heterosexuals. Does he actually practise the largely conservative Biblical perspective that he implies in the video?

Many people who watched the video were initially convinced by the arguments presented. Some have promoted the video on other websites, sometimes furthering confusion, EG this one which at  the time of me writing this, refuses to display my feedback in their comments section. Even Dan Savage promoted the video in his column. By mid April though, Dan appeared to acknowledge that the Bible does not in fact support homosexual sex. Matthew’s original home church (here?) largely didnt buy Matthew’s arguments either. In May, a general conference was held by the United Methodist Church (Matthew’s video was recorded at a United Methodist Church), and despite Matthew’s input (ref.), the conference also decided to retain their official position that active homosexual behaviour is incompatible with Christian teaching. One month later, the Southern Baptist Convention voted likewise. Initially some described the video as “scholarly”, but later, even some LGBT-affirming sources have admitted that it’s not. By the end of the year, the top search result on Google for the search terms “Matthew Vines”, was a page refuting his presentation. And around 18 months after the video was released, one of the biggest names in Christendom in regards to the gay topic; Alan Chambers, even after going through a huge redevelopment of his approach in ministry to GLBTs, was still saying that the Biblical model for relationships is heterosexual.

Many now consider the video presentation to be fundamentally flawed and heretical (EG1, EG2, EG3, EG4, EG5, EG6, EG7, EG8, EG9, EG10, EG11, EG12, EG13, EG14, EG15, EG16, EG17, EG18, EG19, EG20, EG21, EG22, EG23, EG24, EG25, EG26, EG27, EG28). Even one or two secularist have joined the critics, as has at least one guy who is same-sex attracted. Some of the critics (EG, EG2, EG3) have challenged the presenter to a public debate, but tend to report that he doesnt reply. One critic says the presenter blocked him on facebook rather than engaging in reasoned dialogue. And at least one blogger seemed to find the video humorous. A little more than 6 months after the release of the video and after much of the publicity and reaction had died down, liberal Christian communities such as Huffington’s Religion section and CToBM, both of whom promoted the video, were promoting articles such as this one, which stated that “It is utterly futile to imagine that the biblical writers would be pleased with the concept of men marrying men or women marrying women …”. The liberal-leaning MSNBC also said much the same and Australia’s ABC also expressed a conservative leaning on the topic. Such reports indicate that the video did not result in a watershed change of widespread opinion, even amongst liberals. At the end of the year, the pro-gay Huffington Post recognised Matthew’s ability to get attention by including him in their list of 30 Most Compelling LGBT People Of 2012, but despite his plans for revolution, Matthew’s presentation was not listed in their 51 Hottest LGBT Stories Of The Year. And a little over a year after the video was released, a poll from the Barna Group reportedly found that the percentage of evangelicals who believe that marriage should be defined as the union of one man and one woman, had increased over the last 10 years.

Some Christians shrink in the face of this issue, ultimately deciding not to weigh into to it, and claiming that it’s not their place to judge. But it seems to me that in terms of what is permitted in churches, Christians are actually required to judge. 1 Corinthians chapter 5 indicates that sincere Christians should not associate with those who call themselves Christians but who are seriously corrupted by sin, specifically those in sexual sin (note this does not apply to associating with non-Christians). And in Revelation chapter 2, the indication is that Christians are required to not tolerate teachers who lead others into sexual sin. Christians are supposed to “judge correctly” (John 7:24) and to encourage other Christians to be holy (Gal 6:1-5, James 5:19-20, Titus 1:13) rather than ignoring the sin. Christians are not supposed to judge non-christians though (1 Cor 5:12) or to be judgemental hypocrites (Matthew 7:1-5). Those who cite Matthew 7:1-4 to claim that Christians should not point out others’ sins, tend to ignore verse 5, which encourages us to help others avoid sin.

The presenter of the video was a student at Harvard University. By chance, Ive come across the contrasting story of another man from Harvard University, as mentioned towards the end of this video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CIw6ngIqaD0&feature=player_embedded

Gay and troubled? If you are in the US, you can call the Trevor Project for help, on 866-488-7386. TheTrevorProject.org

Source material / further details: 

  • Alpha & Omega Ministries’ 5 hour audio critique of the video (incl. misleading references to immutability)
  • Robert Gagnon speaking on relevant themes at GROK Radio
  • Maka Nagasawa’s written critique of the video
  • Dr Greg Bahansen’s response to similar claims from pro-gay leader John Boswell
  • Bobby Conway’s 2012 1 hr loving video overview of homosexuality (incl. misleading references to immutability)
  • Dr Howard Batson’s response to similar claims from Bruce Lowe (incl. possibly inaccurate statements about St Paul’s understanding)
  • Sexegesis, an Australian Evangelical book that responds to the recent book Five Uneasy Pieces.
  • Answers to the broader questions about homosexuality, from Christopher Yuan
  • Ron Belgau’s theological analysis of homosexuality
  • William Witt’s The Hermeneutics of Same-Sex Practice: A Summary and Evaluation

30 Comments on “The Bible Does Not Affirm Homosexual Sex or Homosexual Marriage”

  1. Stephen J March says:

    Very full and clear reply to Vine’s video. Helpfull to see some of the weaknesses of his argument made clear.
    Thanks

  2. Phil Groom says:

    As for me, I would say that any argument that the Bible affirms homosexuality is pure fantasy; but I am far from convinced that the prohibitions on same-sex activity that we find in the Bible carry the weight that those arguing against marriage equality want them to. As well as being few and far between, they simply do not address LGBT relationships as we see them today.

    It is not good enough to argue, as some do, that something is wrong simply because the biblical writers condemn it: we must ask why they condemn it. And when we apply that principle to these questions, we find a more coherent understanding. As I have argued elsewhere, the underlying issue in sexual relationships is faithfulness v/s unfaithfulness; this lies at the core of the biblical message: God seeks faithfulness from and amongst his people.

    To prohibit gay marriage is to put gay people into a Catch-22 situation: the church tells them that they must remain celibate because they are not married; then tells them that they may not marry because they are gay. This is a systemic abuse of power by the church that I, for one, simply cannot see Jesus endorsing.

    In endlessly raging against homosexuality to the point where much greater biblical concerns such as injustice, greed and poverty are effectively sidelined, the church is guilty of the same hypocrisy that its Lord identified amongst the religious leaders of his own day: straining at gnats whilst swallowing camels.

    • stasisonline says:

      Phil, thanks for your comment.

      In regards to the website that you mentioned separately, it provides little detail in relation to homosexuality unless you make a purchase, so Im going to regard it primarily as marketing, and I dont intend promoting it at this stage.

      My post on which you placed this feedback, was intended to detail why I think the prohibitions on same-sex activity that we find in the Bible do address gay & lesbian “relationships as we see them today”. So you are disagreeing with my post. Okay, thanks for dialoguing!

      You imply that you support “marriage equality”. I assume that you dont really mean that. You seem reasonably intelligent, so Im going to assume you dont mean that children should have equal access to marriage as adults, and that polygamists have equal rights to marry as many partners as they wish. Im going to assume you were actually referring to same-sex marriage.

      You claim that we must ask why the Biblical writers condemn same-sex sex. Well, if there are answers available, then yes I support asking the question. But if there are no clear answers, I suggest Christians cant simply ignore a command due to not knowing why it was issued. Yes, I think the Bible upholds faithfulness as a positive attribute. Perhaps this is why it does not support homosexual relationships? As detailed in the links on this post, eg http://www.nytimes.com/2010/01/29/us/29sfmetro.html?_r=1 homosexual relationships are known to be generally much less monogamous/faithful than heterosexual relationships, even in a gay marriage situation.

      When you describe the church as abusing power, I suggest you are really accusing God and the state. The church are simply seeking to implement what they perceive from the Bible. Yes the church are involved, but it’s the state that currently set the marriage laws – it’s them who have primary power. I dont relate to how you cant see Jesus endorsing discrimination when it comes to marriage. Your position seems to be one of perceiving Jesus advocating equal access and general freedom. Why would you feel this way in the face of the records such as Matthew 19:8-12. Jesus made marriage less accessible than it was for the Jews, but you feel he would support liberalisation? Furthermore, as I pointed out at the end of the post, the gospels portray Jesus as giving a model for how a marriage relationship is comprised. You seem to be disagreeing with his own words?

      To some degree, I think you have a point about the church focusing on homosexuality too much. I dont believe they are “raging against it” though, and your point is minor, especially in the current context where there is disagreement about what the Bible states on the matter. In order to practise a religion, it’s useful to know what the religion stands for! If the question of homosexuality was not at all clear in the Bible, I think you would be right – Christians should move on. But in actual fact I think the evidence is fairly clear, and as such the church certainly needs to talk through what it believes. It’s crazy how at present there are some churches public stating there is nothing wrong with homosexuality, while others proclaim it’s a particularly dark sin. That contradictory message would be highly confusing for non-Christians. But are you truly sincere in that criticism Phil? Ive now seen your feedback on at least 3 blog sites, in all cases advocating for a liberal position on homosexuality. If you feel that Christians should be focusing on other things, why are you not following your own advice?

      Thanks again for your time.

      • Phil Groom says:

        You imply that you support “marriage equality”. I assume that you dont really mean that. You seem reasonably intelligent, so Im going to assume you dont mean that children should have equal access to marriage as adults, and that polygamists have equal rights to marry as many partners as they wish. Im going to assume you were actually referring to same-sex marriage.

        Please do not be disingenuous, Stasis. You know full well what the term marriage equality refers to, so I’d encourage you to do yourself and your conversation partners a favour by refraining from such perversity. When you refer to marriage do you find it necessary to spell out that you are referring to a relationship between two consenting adults? Of course not. Then why do you suddenly set that understanding aside when I refer to marriage equality?

        To clarify my usage, however: I use the term marriage equality because that is what the discussion is about: it is not about same-sex marriage but about equal access to marriage regardless of gender.

        Next up, the church’s abuse of power. When I say the church, I mean the church, the Christian community, not the state, not God. Here in the UK the only reason the state doesn’t simply open up marriage to all (again, you know precisely what I mean, so please don’t play childish wordgames over my use of the word all) is because of the backlash it would face from religious groups, of which the most belligerent by far here is the church. I and many others, albeit at present in a minority, perceive God as having moved on, if in fact God ever was opposed to same-sex relationships; you already have my views on the core issue of faithfulness which, in my reading of scripture, has ever been God’s concern, so I won’t run through that again.

        And here in the UK, the church is indeed raging against homosexuality: you have only to listen to the news bulletins or read the papers to hear the strident voices of unJesus railing against gay relationships — Cardinal O’Brien, ‘Anglican Mainstream’ and ‘Christian Voice’, as they call themselves, to name just few — in their antipathy towards the UK Government’s intent to allow same-sex civil marriage. Consider the so-called ‘Coalition for Marriage’ and its petition: rarely before, if ever, has a petition against something garnered so much support, collected so many signatures, in its attempt to ring-fence the church against something that has no bearing on the church.

        As for me: this is a matter of injustice being perpetrated by the church against a minority group. That is why I take my stand, as one small attempt to redress the balance. Am I overly focused on this matter? Possibly so at the moment, in response to the church’s current obsession; but rather than make your assessment on the basis of a handful of conversations we happen to have shared, perhaps you’d care to visit my blogs or find me on facebook or twitter, where you’ll find a much broader range of topics in view?

      • stasisonline says:

        Phil, yes I could easily guess what you meant by ‘marriage equality’, but most who embrace the term “marriage equality”, exclude those who prefer, for example, a polygamous option, and since they do not in fact stand for full equality, they use a misleading term. When you say equality, you only mean equality based on sexual orientation. If you insist on the term ‘equality’, a more honest phrase would be “marriage equality for homosexuals.” If the two sides of this debate are to engage in meaningful dialogue, to be fair they should mean what they say, as adults usually do.

        Im not in the UK, so to judge whether Christians there are generally “raging” against homosexual activism, is not easy for me to do. The BBC (http://www.bbc.co.uk/religion/religions/christianity/cofe/cofe_1.shtml ) indicates that over a million people attend church weekly in England though, so if only around 400,000 signatures have been collected, Id say the petitioners are actually not trying their best.

        Ive been to your blog before, but I will explore it more thoroughly. If you are happy to mean what you say, Im happy to continue the dialogue. But I suppose the scope is big, and it would be best to narrow the focus. Debating whether the church is or isnt “railing”, for example, probably doenst get us far in the end, does it. Should we discuss whether or not the Bible indicates same-sex marriage is okay for Christians?I recall your thoughts about faithfulness, but I suppose you acknowledge there is more to it than that?

  3. Hi Stasis online,

    I would have preferred to contact you directly, but I could not find any details on how I could do so.

    Your comment was not ‘simply deleted’, it was in a list to be moderated as it did not comply with moderator guidelines: It did not tangibly add to the discussion or dialogue, therefore was unproductive.

    It went to moderation at 2AM my time, so I have only now investigated the comment to see who the author was. If you had put the link into your comment your post on the subject, then it would, of course, have remained, as it does indeed add to the necessary discussions around the issue.

    Awaiting your permission, I Would like to reinstated your comment, with an added link to this page in it.

    RHD

    • stasisonline says:

      Hi Scott, and thanks for your message. My recollection was that my feedback to your blog was displayed immediately and later removed, but my sincere apologies as I take your word for it that I was wrong about that. I have now removed a posting on this blog that referred negatively to your blog not displaying my comment.

      I happy accept your offer to reinstate my comment, along with a link to this article.

      Best regards.

  4. Sloan4FaithAndFairness says:

    Stasis,

    I appreciate your sincere in-depth discussion on this subject and the time you have taken. As a Bible-believing Christian, Matthew Vines did an excellent job of approaching the traditional interpretation of the Bible on the subject of homosexuality with decency and respect — and his well-researched findings are far more thorough and scholarly than many I have heard on either side of the topic.

    Even if you don’t agree with his conclusions, I think his approach at least makes clear that there are multiple Christian, Bible-based approaches to this subject matter. It is not a matter of Christians on one side, and secular equal rights supporters on the other. There are Christians who are straight and gay, who support equal rights for all, and whose scholarly in-depth analysis has discerned that a traditional reading of the Bible does NOT necessitate a blanket prohibition of lesbian and gay committed relationships nor of full equality for everyone under the civil law. No one theological view owns one side of this issue or the other.

    In your posting on this topic, some of the citations regarding and characterizations of the lives of gay and lesbian Americans are not scientifically or sociologically accurate. (I’m sure this is not deliberate, and we may deal with these another day.) Since the heart of this discussion is about theology more than sociology, I wanted to focus on some of the Bible verses you referenced.

    You refer to Matthew 19:3-11 and assert that Jesus “Makes no provision for homosexual relationships” but in that passage he was answering a question about whether a married man and woman can be divorced — so he was responding to a heterosexually oriented question that was specifically about whether a presumably straight married man and woman can get a divorce.

    More importantly, it doesn’t seem to make sense that Jesus being totally silent on loving, committed lesbian and gay relationships should somehow carry more theological weight than Jesus expressly stating a prohibition against heterosexual divorce: “I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another woman commits adultery.”

    Should the express prohibition against many cases of heterosexual divorce (or remarriage following divorce) carry less weight than the NON-prohibition of lesbian and gay long-term relationships? Should heterosexual divorce be against the law except in cases where “sexual immorality” can be proven, and that otherwise, if a straight married couple gets a divorce, should the man be guilty of adultery if he later remarries?

    With regard to civil marriage under the civil law — and based on the very Bible passages you cite — there is a stronger Christian case to be made against a straight couple divorcing than against a gay couple marrying.

    Later in Matthew 19: 23-24 and the surrounding verses, Jesus is very explicit about wealthy people having a very hard time getting into heaven.

    Based on your posting, you seem to be saying that silence from Jesus about gay people means Jesus would have wanted to legally prohibit marriage for gay people. But Jesus expressly condemns many instances of heterosexual divorce, and expressly states that there are pretty long odds against the rich getting into Heaven.

    So why should the silence of Jesus on the subject of homosexuality speak louder than his actual words on heterosexual divorce or on the fate of the eternal souls of the wealthy (or on any other subject that he actually spoke about)? And if the silence of Jesus on the subject of homosexuality has any meaning that we can discern, who are we to declare that his silence means condemnation rather than consent?

    Next let’s look at Romans 1:26-32

    “…They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; they have no understanding, no fidelity, no love, no mercy. Although they know God’s righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death …”

    Paul’s enumeration of this litany of sins here appears barely a couple of sentences after the disputed passage in Romans that so divides Christians in their beliefs about lesbian and gay people.

    Paul’s language here is very clear (unlike his language earlier, on which there is NO theological Christian consensus about whether or how his admonition referred to all or any loving committed lesbian or gay relationships between two consenting adults who are actually, naturally lesbian or gay).

    Among the sins in Romans 1:29-32, Paul refers to “greed” and he speaks of people who are “full of envy” and “strife” and “deceit.” He speaks of “gossips” and “slanderers.” He speaks of those who are “insolent, arrogant and boastful.” He speaks of people who “disobey their parents” and people who have “no fidelity, no love, no mercy.”

    And Paul refers to “God’s righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death…”

    So why is a verse that may or may not refer to homosexuality deemed more important, more eternally binding on humanity, than those very next verses that much more clearly state that it is the people who have NO love, the people who have NO mercy, the people who disobey their parents, or are greedy, or insolent, or unfaithful, or envious — that it is those people who deserve death?

    If the numerous sins Paul lists in Romans 1 were all literally prohibited today as capital offenses, would that not make for an awful lot of executions?

    These are just a few of countless examples of how, of the tens of thousands of passages in the Bible, it seems many Christians interpret it selectively — even those who claim to be taking it literally, despite its many translations and interpretations.

    This brings us to a larger point.

    People of faith and good will, including good Christians, differ on matters of equal rights for all Americans and ending discrimination based on sexual orientation.

    I believe strongly in religious liberty for all and equal rights for all. These two fundamental American values go hand in hand. Faith and fairness go together. So each church should be free to abide by its beliefs with regard to the marriages of its parishioners, and whether it will recognize the marriages of lesbian and gay couples. This is already the case in the six states that have ended government discrimination in the issuing of civil marriage licenses for lesbian, gay and straight couples. There is a strong religious exemption in those states that applies to same-gender marriage so churches do not have to recognize them — just like churches are not compelled to perform or recognize interfaith marriages, or the marriages of other faiths, or divorce, if they do not wish to do so.

    With regard to CIVIL marriage, and with regard to all other matters of equal rights for all Americans under civil law, we should be able to agree. Whether the issue is ending discrimination in employment (such discrimination based on sexual orientation is still legal in 29 states), or in housing, or in access to civil marriage, or in anything else under civil law — all Americans should have equal rights. The law should protect all Americans equally from discrimination, regardless of whether we are straight or lesbian or gay; Christian, Jewish or any other faith; and no matter what our gender or race. Despite our sincere differences of belief, we can unite to advance these fundamental American values of freedom of religion and equal protection under the law.

    I appreciate the depth and sincerity of your posting, Stasis, and your openness to a civil conversation on this topic.

    Sincerely,

    Sloan

    • stasisonline says:

      Hi Sloan,

      Thanks so much for the time and politeness that you have invested in sending me considered feedback. Thank you also for holding off on the scientific/sociological aspects initially, as you have already placed a lot on the table.

      I apologise in advance if my response is painful. I tend to be a very literal thinker and I struggle in conversations with that use non-specific terminology. EG different people interpret terms like ‘equality’ to mean different things, so my responses to such greys might seem pedantic or perhaps annoying. An example that stuck me in your message was the word ‘scholarly’. This can simply mean “study”, but im going to assume you mean quality study/knowledge.

      You raise many points, so in the hope of simplification, Im splitting my reply into two halves.
      In your second sentence you describe Matthew as “a Bible-believing Christian”. Yes, his presentation does largely suggest this to be the case. But he seems to step outside the type of Evangelical approach that Im familiar with, perhaps the standard Evangelical approach, when he reviews Romans 1. Im referring to how he basically says that the author didnt know what he was writing about, and that we therefore need to disregard it to some degree. So Bible-believing? Not in the classic sense, and only to some degree. Also in this sentence you complement him on being decent and respectful, to which I agree. Then you finish the sentence by claiming his findings are well researched. Well I agree that he’s spent some quality time looking into it, but I found his presentation one-sided (as I suppose many of us naturally are), so Im not sure whether he researched both sides of the debate, and accordingly I need to hold my judgement on whether his findings were broadly well researched.

      In your second paragraph, you suggest that even if not agreeing with Matthew, it’s obvious that there are “multiple Christian, Bible-based approaches to this subject matter.” Well yes, as with many of the various incompatible doctrines held by differing churches and denominations, it can be said that contradictory doctrines can all have their foundations in the Bible. But while acknowledging this, I dont believe that all such doctrines are of equal worth or that all of them are valid. I think a doctrine is more valid if it is broadly reflective of currently applicable scripture, than if it’s only reflective of a small number of isolated scriptures and is contradictory to other scriptures. And so I disagree with your assertion that “There are Christians who are straight and gay … whose scholarly in-depth analysis has discerned that a traditional reading of the Bible does NOT necessitate a blanket prohibition of lesbian and gay committed relationships”. Certainly there are Christians who have reached such a conclusion, but Im yet to see broad evidence that their analysis is ultimately scholarly or thorough.

      In regards to Matthew 19:3-11, yes Jesus was responding to a heterosexually framed question. But despite this, his response was quite broad. Rather than just answering their specific question in a yes/no fashion, he illustrates what marriage meant to him, including how because God created two genders, they come together in marriage. He didnt say in verse 5 “a straight man will … be united to his wife”, rather he expressed a normative marriage design by saying that “because the Creator made male and female, a man will … be united to his wife.”
      We also need to remember that the Jewish culture that Jesus was largely dealing with, considered homosexual sex to be sinful. And so given the above facts, I dont think it’s balanced to state that Jesus was “totally silent on loving, committed lesbian and gay relationships”. He’s not recorded as having talked about homosexual relationships specifically, but that is quite different to being “totally silent”. I think Jesus spoke by implication on same-sex marriage in Matthew 19:3-11, ie it was outside his model of Christian relationships. Furthermore, I think if he disagreed with the prevailing Jewish regard for homosexual sex, he would have been recorded as having said so. We should note also that Christians generally dont simply regard the Gospels as their guidebook – Christians also regard the rest of the Bible as inspired and relevant.

      I agree with your suggestion that the prohibition of divorce carries at least the same level of theological weight, as doctrines on homosexual relationships, if not more weight.

      Ill respond further in the next message.

    • stasisonline says:

      Sloan, the following is part 2 of my reply to your first message –

      You imply that my post on which you have commented, is primarily about whether civil law should allow same-sex marriage. That is not the case. The post is primarily about whether the Bible sanctions same-sex relationships and marriage for Christians. I have other posts regarding the civil law aspects.

      Your question of whether divorce should be illegal, did make me ponder. There is some value in government discouragement of divorce, but it’s a multifaceted issue, and ultimately I think divorce shouldnt be illegal. I conclude this partly because I dont think Jesus’ intention was for us to set up civil laws to enforce all Christian principles, and partly because I think there would ultimately be greater community frustration than benefit. Having said that, you would then say, that if Christian principles are not supposed to be enshrined in law, why not have same-sex marriage. My response to that is that if the democratically-appropriate majority want same-sex marriage, then it should proceed. But because of associated implications, I dont think a Christian should support such a law change. I do think that same-sex couples deserve legal and civil recognition of their relationships though, and accordingly I favour a civil union or similar distinction to marriage.

      In regards to Romans 1:29-32, you suggest that it’s saying that those who commit the later sins in the list deserve death, but that active homosexuals are not listed as deserving death. Im not convinced that such a distinction exists. You ask whether if the death penalty was accordingly pursued, whether it would mean a huge number of executions. Yes, of course it would! You then comment that Christians implement Bible passages selectively. Well, Im guessing that you have reached a conclusion about this passage that most Christians dont share. Im guessing that you think that the passage is a Biblical instruction calling for the death penalty to be carried out. This is not how it is interpreted by those who are well versed in what the Bible says overall. Briefly, Ill just say that the Bible is not a single message that stands for all time to all people. Rather it contains sections addressed to different audiences at different times, eg Old Testament and New Testament. Pre-Jesus there were different doctrines, as per the Old Testament, to the new doctrines that Jesus brought. Romans 1, is generally thought to be referring to the death penalty that was spelled out in the Old Testament, but which Jesus did away with using God’s gift of grace, and his sacrificial death. So Romans 1 is generally understood to mean that as sinners we deserve death for committing those sins, but because of grace, harsh religious punishments no longer apply, and if we are repentant, we can even be forgiven entirely. So do Christians incorrectly implement the Bible selectively? Yes, to some degree, as per the divorce example you cited. But if you have a good understanding of the Bible, you would see that truly dedicated Christians are really not as arbitrarily selective as it may have appeared to you.

      I agree that those who have Christian faith cant turn their back on fairness. Fairness is a cousin to love, and Christianity considers love to be a top priority. But in terms of equal rights and freedom for all, there is a conflict unfortunately. We both generally agree that in terms of civil law, people should be legally free to practise their religion, and to exercise their sexuality. But the reality is that the finer details reveal that it’s just not possible to keep everybody absolutely happy. Civil laws that have been established here and there to provide homosexuals with rights and protection from discrimination, do sometimes restrict religious people from faithfully following their religion. And likewise people faithfully following their religion sometimes have negative impact on homosexuals. The pretty picture you paint of everyone having rights and therefore being happy unfortunately is not entirely practical. With this particular tension, awarding more rights to one group, means a reduction in rights to the other. Homosexuals have increasing legal rights in the western world, whereas the rights of religious liberty to believe that God does not endorse homosexual practise, seem to be shrinking. It’s seems increasingly there are legal restrictions being set up in Europe and elsewhere against religious teaching that homosexual practise is sinful. If within your lifetime, we reach the point where churches that teach this traditional view are prosecuted, and traditional translations of the Bible are banned, I hope that you will stand by your words, IE “I believe strongly in religious liberty … for all.”

      Im happy to continue this dialogue, if you like.

      Thanks and best regards.

      • Sloan4FaithAndFairness says:

        Thanks for the reply to my posting, Stasis. I would indeed like to continue this discussion if you would, as there are a number of points you raise that are worth addressing. I’m pretty busy over the next week or so, so I won’t be able to get to everything right now, and I’m going to hold off on the Bible verses for the moment as I’d like to address them in greater depth later on.

        For now I did want to address the concern you seem to be expressing that one group of people is seeking rights at the expense of another. That is NOT in reality the case. For example, laws that prohibit job discrimination based on sexual orientation expressly apply to straight and gay people equally — just like laws against religious discrimination in the workplace protect people of all faiths equally. They put nobody’s rights ahead of anyone else’s.

        In America it has been illegal for nearly 50 years under the Civil Rights Act of 1964 for most employers to fire employees from their jobs solely based on religious discrimination. For example, Christians can’t fire Jews just for being Jewish or practicing Judaism, and Jews cannot fire Christians just for being Christians or practicing Christianity. It works both ways, so there are no “special rights” for one religious group over another. There are equal rights.

        And in all of those decades, the religious liberty of churches in America has not been diminished one bit. In fact, religious liberty arguably has been strengthened, for as Americans we know that regardless of our faith, we are free to practice our religion without fear of having no protection from religious discrimination in the workplace. And because of commonsense religious exemptions to that law, churches of course do not have to hire rabbis and synagogues do not have to hire priests. The balance that you fear may not be possible has already been achieved under civil law — and it has been the law of the land for nearly half a century in America with regard to religious discrimination.

        Likewise, Congress will one day pass the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) so that federal law will then protect Americans — straight and gay alike — from unfair sexual orientation discrimination in the workplace. When that bill passes it will strike a similar balance and have a strong religious exemption as well. Until ENDA passes such discrimination remains legal in 29 states. In the meantime, in the 21 states that have already included sexual orientation in their statewide laws against discrimination, religious liberty remains alive and well and a similar harmony between faith and fairness has been achieved. Churches are not legally compelled to ordain lesbian ministers or hire any gay or lesbian employees or change their teachings in any way. Some churches will hire gay people, some won’t, according to their denomination’s theological beliefs. That will always be the case, as it should be. And at the same time, the majority of everyday hard-working lesbian, gay, bisexual and straight Americans in those 21 states don’t have to worry about having no legal recourse if they lose their livelihoods to discrimination if their employer doesn’t like their sexual orientation.

        I do indeed stand by my values that we must support both religious liberty for all and equal rights for all. I have in the past, and I will in the future. And no one — at least not in the U.S. — is proposing restricting the right of anyone to preach their beliefs that homosexuality is or is not a sin. Laws against job discrimination, or hate crimes, or housing discrimination, or discrimination in the issuing of civil marriage licenses, or any of the other areas of law that relate to being full and equal citizens, are there to protect everyone from discriminatory acts (such as being fired from your job because you are gay or straight, Christian or Jewish). Pastors are free to preach about whatever theological viewpoint they may hold — that is what America is about, enshrined in our laws and in our Constitution — and that is not something that you see diminished the states that have passed non-discrimination laws that include sexual orientation.

        The reality is that straight Christians and gay Christians, indeed all human beings of all faiths, just because we are all human beings, deserve equal rights under the law AND religious liberty as well. This as a “both/and” issue that too often gets misunderstood as an “either/or” issue. Faith and fairness truly go together when examined closely and clearly. And we must be careful not to assume that it is only opponents of equal rights whose religious liberty interests are at stake. There are plenty of people of all faiths including plenty of Christians who support equal rights — both straight and gay — who deserve having their own religious liberty interests and their own equal rights interests protected.

        There are many other points you touch on that are worth addressing, so I hope to check back in when I can. There is a lot we may find each other in agreement on and a lot we will likely continue to disagree on. But I leave you for now with this thought: You need not change your sincere religious beliefs about sexual orientation in order to act on your sincere religious beliefs in fairness, nondiscrimination, religious liberty and equal rights under the civil law for everyone.

        Thanks again for engaging in this conversation and I hope you are having a great day.

        All my best,

        Sloan

      • stasisonline says:

        Hi Sloan, and thank you for continuing to dialogue. I appreciate your pleasant tone and goodwill.

        In case I have not been clear already, let me clarify that I believe the Biblical directive to love your neighbour means to love everybody, including your homosexual neighbour. This means wanting the best for others and not discriminating against them … except in cases where any such discrimination is ultimately for good, much like how we discriminate against children driving, in order to provide safe roadways for all. I think a good Christian should encourage others to likewise be good Christians, but if those others decide to pursue a different direction, then the Christian should continue love them and support them anyway, at least within reason.

        I disagree that in this context, rights awarded to one group are never at the expense of the other. At a superficial level, I see your point, but you need to consider the reality of the details of implementation. I accept the example in your analogy, ie that laws that prohibit employment discrimination based on sexual orientation expressly apply to straight and gay people equally. Im not familiar with the details of ENDA, but lets consider the concept of that law outside the specifics of how ENDA is presently defined. Certainly it’s easy to imagine that homosexuals will be happy with that law, because they are protected from discrimination by way of employment. But how will conservative Christians feel about the law? If you are a conservative Christian school principal at a school with students from predominantly conservative Christian families, and you have the job of hiring teachers, and you believe that the Bible teaches that homosexual sex is sinful, you may feel it’s best to hire only celibate homosexuals as teachers, but you might be happy to hire either celibate or non-celibate heterosexuals. If you were a conservative Christian parent, you might feel the same way about who teaches your children, and imparts values to them. But if you were to pursue such a discriminatory employment policy, you could be in breach of employment law. IE that law could impede the practise of religion in that case, and my example is just one out of many. For most devote religious people, their religion is not just about what they do in church, it’s an ideology that permeates their whole lives including their interactions with those who dont share their religion.

        You cite the US 1964 Civil Rights Law and it’s provisions against religious discrimination in employment, and you claim that under this law, religious liberty has been strengthened rather than diminished. Ive pondered this briefly, and my guess is that you are right about that. But if we use this as an analogy to same-sex marriage, I suggest that parallel result would be a strengthened liberty of sexual orientation, yes for both heterosexuals and homosexuals, rather than a strengthened liberty of religion. As per my example above, I suggest that the result would be greater liberty for all in one area (sexual orientations), but impeded liberty in another (religious practise).

        You write that 21 states have already included sexual orientation in their state-wide laws against discrimination in employment, and you claim that religious liberty remains alive and well. I agree that there is a degree of religious liberty remaining, but if any of those states have anti-discrimination laws as per my illustration of the school principle above, then I point out that those anti-discrimination laws would have impinged upon religious liberty to some degree.

        Thank you for standing by your values that we must support both religious liberty for all. You write that no one — at least not in the U.S. — is proposing restricting the right of anyone to preach their beliefs that homosexuality is or is not a sin. I disagree with you there. There have been increasing calls to restrict the freedom of speech of those working in education (http://edition.cnn.com/2012/05/11/us/nebraska-coach-anti-gay-comments/index.html and http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2147142/Outrage-social-studies-middle-school-teacher-posts-Facebook-gay-murder.html), and this is likely to extend to other fields if it doesnt already. In future decades, my guess is that the state will discriminate against potential foster parents who believe that homosexuality is a sin, against nurses, against managers, and ultimately against most who sincerely hold to that traditional Biblical understanding. It comes back to that old saying that “all men may be equal, but [the under the law] some are more equal than others”. If there is a solution that truly guarantees religious freedom at the same time as truly guaranteeing freedom of sexual orientation, Id love to hear about it.

        I hope that your upcoming busy period is not too taxing for you, and I look forward to further discussion if or when you are able.

        Best regards.

  5. I stopped by to read your article in response to Matthew Vine’s video and got caught up in the conversation that grew in the follow up posts. I would like to offer my thoughts regarding the concerns raised in your last post regarding how the laws preventing discrimination based on sexual orientation restrict religious freedom.

    First I would like to tell you a bit about myself,which might offer some insight as to my beliefs and thoughts regarding this subject. In my youth I was a member of the Methodist Church and in those early years the various pastors assigned to the church were I guess you might say purely good and comfortable. In my early teens there was a pastor assigned to the church that was absolutely inspirational in no uncertain terms. Sadly from that point forward after he was moved to a different church, the remaining pastors assigned to my church until I became an adult were offensive to all I had learned before, one actually called me a streetwalker for arriving late to a youth group meeting. Another decided to start his own church and rip off the small town farmers while he and his wife had matching continentals, and her always in furs. If that was not enough…and you are not going to believe this..but it’s true…my sister through marriage became David Koresh’s aunt for a number of years. I saw so much that completely opposed my early biblical instruction that I could not accept the examples of Christianity that I was seeing and lost my faith. About 10 years ago I became active in online debates primarily regarding civil rights issues,which I would thoroughly research before offering my contributions. Of course many civil rights issues also are tied in with religious belief’s so I was forced to include the Bible in my research..and over time I started to find what I had lost reading the bible beginning to end on my own and researching other historical texts that were tied to the history of the biblical time periods, the church and the Bible.and as I enthusiastically dug into my re-found faith the admonitions in the Bible to beware false prophets really came crashing home to me, I lost my faith because I placed my faith in the hands of others believing that their vocations imparted them with an infallible and deeper understanding of the Bible than an average untrained person such as myself could ever comprehend.but I was wrong. I have come to the conclusion that the only way to truly safeguard oneself from the influence of false prophets is to read and learn for yourself.

    Well that is a bit longer than I intended but…now you know. I will create a new post to get back to my thoughts regarding your post as stated in my initial paragraph as this one has become so lengthy.

    • stasisonline says:

      Hi Kathy, and thanks for your thoughtful and respectful posts. You’ve had a roller-coaster experience of faith! But your rough experience is consistent with the experiences of those we read about in the Bible, confirming that for many of us life is messy and not plain sailing, whether we are Christians or not. On the bright side, I think the storms of life do tend to lead to more balanced perspectives and the ability to see various points of view, so perhaps you are in fact lucky! I certainly agree that there is danger in placing all your faith in a small number of pastoral leaders, since they are fallible like the rest of us. But extending beyond that, I think there is likewise danger in placing your faith entirely in narrow ideological groups, eg thinking that only the Presbyterians are right, or only the Southern Baptists are right, or only Republicans are right, or only those who hold to Civil Rights ideologies are right.

      In saying that though, of course there are also dangers in being too independent, as we perhaps saw in your sister’s nephew David Koresh. It seems to me that the best approach for a healthy perspective, is to be in community (Heb 10:25), submitting to wise elders who watch over you, where they in turn submit to God (1 Pet 5) and each other, and where all are humble enough to admit their failings (Jam 5:16), watching that they do not slip in the the ever-present temptation to take on a prideful assumption that they are necessarily any more holy and infallible than other churches (Rom 12). But a healthy middle-ground is hard to find, huh.

  6. I do support anti-discrimination laws regarding gender or sexual orientation along with other gay rights issues, hopefully the following will help you to understand the reasoning behind my stance.

    Core to the Christian belief system is the acceptance of Jesus as the Lord our God who came to use in human form to offer us salvation, and provide a living example to guide us, and teach us how God would like us to live our lives and fulfill our purpose here.

    Holding that belief and reading the bible..the whole bible it follows a path of growth and enlightenment.

    The old testament follows man from the biblical beginning,in some ways akin to the path that child and parent follow as the child grows eventually to adulthood. God is at times vengeful, merciless, fearsome and terrifying, and it was in these times that God instructed absolute and total intolerance of homosexual sex, along with many other things, he instructed that people be stoned to death for various failings, and even instructed us to kill non-believers in Deuteronomy 13:6-10

    In the new testament God in the form of Jesus guides us down a different path. While his disciples are still bound by the laws and commandments handed down before in their personal lives, the laws of the old testament regarding the judgement of others were handed down by God to form and maintain order in his newly formed Nation and with the coming of Jesus this was no longer needed nor desired as part of his new Kingdom.

    From this point on Jesus instructs us that it is not for us to judge others, in Matthew 7 he refers to the person finding fault in another as a hypocrite, he teaches against condemnation, persecution, and so on. Instead he teaches us to reach out to people, with love, compassion. He does not teach us to avoid sinners, or turn our backs on them. He instructs his followers to follow these teachings and his example, to gently lead those who have not yet accepted him, as he himself lead them, to him and his kingdom.

    From Romans 2:

    1 You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge another, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things. 2 Now we know that God’s judgment against those who do such things is based on truth. 3 So when you, a mere human, pass judgment on them and yet do the same things, do you think you will escape God’s judgment? 4 Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, forbearance and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness is intended to lead you to repentance?\

    The story of the adulteress he also addresses the issue of passing judgement. Sure he told her not to sin again but his message was delivered with kindness and salvation not with threats of hellfire and brimstone. He saved her life, he did her a kindness and did not judge her, and his actions were more likely to gain her trust and returned love and potentially prevent her from sinning again. In a nutshell, he set the situation up in a way that there was a better chance of her changing her life of her own free will, and that is what he wanted.

    The bible does not instruct us to force people who have not accepted HIM, to act on the outside as if they do under penalty of pain and against their will.to shield ourselves from exposure to sin. The bible in fact teaches quite the opposite.

    Mark 2:15 – 17
    15 And it came to pass, that, as Jesus sat at meat in his house, many publicans and sinners sat also together with Jesus and his disciples: for there were many, and they followed him.

    16 And when the scribes and Pharisees saw him eat with publicans and sinners, they said unto his disciples, How is it that he eateth and drinketh with publicans and sinners?

    17 When Jesus heard it, he saith unto them, They that are whole have no need of the physician, but they that are sick: I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.

    Christians were not instructed to deny or restrict a non-believer’s ability to sin, they were instructed not to commit those sins themselves. The Lord knows we humans are not perfect, that even the best will falter and stumble somewhere along the way, thus we are given a life time to find our way to Christ. He expects his followers to reach out and help guide those who have not found their way to him yet with kindness, love and compassion, but most importantly while he wants all of his children to be able to accept his gift of salvation, he wants them to come to accept him willingly, that their faith be genuine and pure.

    Opposing the implementation of laws intended to protect this group of people from the harmful effects of discrimination and in some venues bullying. especially if done so in the name of Christ might restrict their ability to commit some level of sin but restricting their ability to sin will not save them In fact supporting the continued acceptance of allowing others to inflict pain both physically and emotionally on this group of people in the name of Christ more effectively pushes them farther away from accepting and believing in Christ, separating them further from salvation, in opposition of what He wishes.

    Another long one but I feel what I have to say is important so I will create a new one to wrap this up

    • stasisonline says:

      Thanks Kathy. We agree on so much, but Im sensing from your feedback that you perhaps did not read the majority of what Ive written here? EG your comment that “Christians were not instructed to deny or restrict a non-believer’s ability to sin, they were instructed not to commit those sins themselves.” I generally agree and Ive basically stated this already on this blog. I dont think my post claimed otherwise? Likewise, you wrote that “The story of the adulteress [Jesus] also addresses the issue of passing judgement. Sure he told her not to sin again but his message was delivered with kindness and salvation not with threats of hellfire and brimstone.” True, but have I threatened hellfire and brimstone?

      You wrote that you “do support anti-discrimination laws regarding gender or sexual orientation along with other gay rights issues,“. This is good! You probably dont support a complete elimination of this discrimination, otherwise all bathrooms would be gender-neutral. Likewise, although I dont support a complete elimination of discrimination. Like you, I oppose unnecessary discrimination.

      Where we possibly differ most is on the topic of human judgement of the sin of others. I agree with your Bible citations. But the topic of human judgement is complicated, and I suggest your reply only presents one side of what the Bible says about it. What it says on this topic is perhaps genuinely open to some interpretation. I believe your citations from Mark 2, Romans 2, etc refer to prideful judgements. IE those references are saying that belittling someone for their sin is hypocritical and wrong when done by someone else who also sins. I agree with that. And I dont think my posts in this blog contravene that policy. However, there is a difference between belittling/condemning someone and pointing out that their behaviour is sinful. Your citation of John 8 illustrates this, where Jesus says to the woman that her sin is not acceptable, and at the same time he does not condemn her. Mark 2, Romans 2 cannot mean that a Christian must never point out or criticise sin in other Christians. In fact, Christians are told to point out the sin in other Christians and to react to it (1 Cor. 5, Rev. 2 etc). You probably have a good point about it being inappropriate for Christians to condemn non-Christians for their sin. But that it not what this blog post is about, or what the video is about. The topic at hand is whether the Bible affirms homosexuality and same-sex marriage for Christians. Already this blog post and the replies are too long, and if we stray from the topic, this will only get worse.

      Finally in this reply, you refer to civil laws;
      Opposing the implementation of laws intended to protect this group of people from the harmful effects of discrimination … will not save them“. Agreed. I didnt claim otherwise. But this page is not about civil laws. As per the title, this blog post is about whether the Bible affirms homosexuality and same-sex marriage. You also continue this legal theme in your next reply. Although I accept the thrust of your response (IE separation between church and state), discussion of civil law is getting off topic. Im not a lawyer, and this page is not about civil law. Id prefer to keep this page to its stated topic, and so accordingly Ive decided not to display that particular reply from you here.

      Thanks again for your input!

      • Oh no none of the points you questioned were targeted at any of your posts,they were there as to further explain my views. I do agree with you regarding Christians being instructed to point out and admonish the sins of other Christians

        I am sorry for posting off the original topic of this page. As I read down through the posts following your main topic I was intrigued with the last posts where the subject shifted to the balance between anti-discrimination laws specific to sexual identity and freedom of religious expression.thus the focus of my posts. I have to admit I have come across many discussions regarding this topic,all of them being quite divisive and heated (much like my reference to fire and brimstone). The tone of your posts were more encouraging of actual discussion and I was a bit over enthused with the concept of sharing my views with another
        Christian who might actually think about what I had to share and offer counter points.

        I should not have been so presumptuous flooding your page a I did the very first time I came across your site, and I apologize for that, and delving so deeply into the civil aspects as I did. Please forgive me for that.

      • stasisonline says:

        No need to apologise Kathy. I appreciate your willingness to discuss and explore. I also realise it’s easy to assume that those who believe homosexual sex is sinful, are all equally judgemental. But just as not all gay men are particularly promiscuous, not all conservative Christians are particularly condemning. I do welcome feedback and discussion, and am happy to be challenged. You may find some of the other posts on my blog are more aligned with angles you wish to discuss.

        Best regards.

  7. I thank you for the opportunity to share my belief’s. I hope that my lengthy posts did not come across as confrontational, self righteous, or in any way offensive. The were forged only of good will.

    • stasisonline says:

      No, not at all! Thanks so much for your good will Kathy. My replies are likewise in good will. I look forward to further discussion with you, if you wish.

      Best wishes.

  8. ooh says:

    The Bible may not affirm homosexuality, but it permits these forms of marriage:

    http://bobcargill.files.wordpress.com/2011/10/biblical-marriage.jpg

  9. Bohemia says:

    I do not think your criticism — and much of it seems valid — allows one to conclude that Jesus would condemn homosexual relations no matter the circumstances.

    The weakest part of your argument seems to rest on the assumption that Jesus would have mentioned homosexuality explicitly if it was in any way acceptable. That is a huge assumption, especially when Jesus was addressing marriage, which was most of all a legal union with the main purpose of legitimizing and protecting children (a concern not applicable to gays).

    In an imperfect world, do we not at times have to chose the lesser of two evils? And in an imperfect world, is not such judgment partly subjective?

    I do not see how you can be certain that Jesus would tell Cristian gays today that any homosexual relation is mortal sin. I think he would consider it a sin, but possibly a lesser sin than living a life of self-hate and emptiness.

    “But I say unto you, That whosoever shall put away his wife, saving for the cause of fornication, causeth her to commit adultery: and whosoever shall marry her that is divorced committeth adultery.”

    Does this not imply women can be forced to sin (but not that they can prefer the bigger sin)?

    “The one who can accept this should accept it. ”

    Does this not imply some level of subjectivity in deciding what is the right path? IF a gay man is unable to accept the life of eunuch, why is he to be damned?

    It seems to me that living as an eunuch by choice was clearly not approved by the Old Testament, yet no doubt is acceptable for Cristian gays according to Jesus. How can we be certain gay civil union would be judged a mortal sin by Jesus?

    I understand skepticism regarding homosexual relations being acceptable, but I do not see iron-clad Cristian argument damning them no matter the circumstances.

    • stasisonline says:

      Thanks for your feedback Bohemia. You wrote “How can we be certain gay civil union would be judged a mortal sin by Jesus?” To some degree, I see your point. IE there is nowhere in the Bible where Jesus explicitly states that gay civil unions are sinful. I think in passages such as Matthew chapter 19, He portrays them as sinful by implication, but he still doesnt specifically speak against them.
      But there are many things that we have no record of Jesus speaking against. As far as I recall, we have no record of him stating it is sinful to to cheat in school exams or to undertake mass murders, or to key your neighbours car. But despite there being no record of him declaring those examples as being sinful, Christians generally still consider them to be sinful. Why? Because they are violations of principles detailed in the New Testament, IE principles to love your neighbour and to be honest. Likewise, although the Bible does not explicitly say that a gay civil union is sinful, it would be a violation of Biblical depictions of Christian relationships as being heterosexual.

      I hope I dont sound rude, but if you are a sincere Christian, the focus of what you have written seems odd. You remind me of someone on a strict diet who is saying there is nothing wrong with having lots of unhealthy food in their kitchen. Although it’s true that having lots of unhealthy food nearby is not a violation of the diet, it’s clear that it’s a danger because the dieter is likely to actually eat it. Likewise, while the Bible doesnt explicitly declare same-sex relationship structures as sinful, anyone who has such a relationship is in danger of having gay sex. And we do have multiple instances in the Bible of gay sex being declared sinful. So a Christian who wants to please God is going to want to avoid gay relationships in order to avoid gay sex.

      The verse you quote about causing adultery is from Matthew chapter 5. Other translations, such as NIV translate it to state that divorce would “make her the victim of adultery”, which sounds to me like a more sensible translation. I doubt that such women would be judged by God for that.

      Yes, you are right that sometimes you have to choose between the lesser of two evils. There are cases in the Bible where Jesus is shown to choose the lesser of two evils, eg Mark chapter 2 where he choose between doing some “work” on the sabbath, or leaving his friends hungry. But 1 Corinthians 6 seems to me to list gay sex as a particularly definite sin, since it means loosing salvation. Could it ever be the lesser sin? I dont agree that anyone only has a choice of gay relationships verses self-hate and emptiness. Clearly self-hate and emptiness would be horrible and I doubt it would be God’s will. But I also doubt that a same-sex relationship is the only solution, especially given that most elderly gay men are single … perhaps like eunuchs even? Keep in mind also that although young gay men often tend to perceive that not following their desires is like closing a door to happiness, many others who have tried it have reported they found no lasting satisfaction in it, eg http://moorematt.com/2012/07/08/dear-gay-kid/

      I read a lot, so perhaps I know more than a lot of people, but please be aware that I still dont have all the answers.

  10. Sally says:

    Excellent commentary. Thanks for writing this. Often people think that the Bible is wrong or irrational or out of date for apparently condemning gay Christians to a life of celibacy. But that actually goes for straight Christians who are not married too. Of course it is not easy but if you are comitted to following Christ, you’ll find yourself having to do a lot of things that are unnatural or uncomfortable. Of course most people, Christian and otherwise don’t really follow that nowadays but are we any happier or more fulfilled? Are our family lives any better?

  11. jakekc says:

    This only applies if you take at face value what the canonical gospels and Paul say. A lot of things in the Bible attributed to Jesus may or not have come from him.

    • stasisonline says:

      My blog does take the orthodox Christian position that the Bible is “God breathed” (2 Timothy 3:16) and is an inerrant and accurate record. This is largely the stance that Matthew Vines takes. And I think that is what Christianity is about. I mean, you can make arguments either way about whether the Bible is reliable, but a component of the conclusion comes down to faith. Faith is the central component of being Christian, with Christianity teaching that those who do not exercise faith, do not get to heaven (Mark 16:16). If the Bible isnt reliable, what is Christianity? If the Bible isnt reliable, you can inject all sorts of things into Christianity. You can say; “paedophiles cant change their sexual inclinations, therefore God made them that way, therefore it’s Christian to engage in paedophillia, and unchristian to judge them.” If the Bible is not a reliable guide, Christianity can be whatever you want it to be, and the name ‘Christian’ becomes meaningless.

  12. Craig says:

    Totally sick of this debate. All I know is that I’m gay. I was brought up in the church and despite all the smoke screens of “God still loves you, We still love you, We still respect you and we don’t discriminate against you” all I came to know is that I was inferior, inherently bad and would never have the freedom a heterosexual would have in this world. I still believe in God. I believe that a sexual relationship should be monogamous. I disagree with some of the behaviour that does occur in the gay scene. I don’t believe that promiscuity is good or healthy for yours and others mental, emotional and physical health. I think that beyond the differences in sexual attraction that homosexuals should be accountable to the same ideals that a heterosexual relationship adheres to. But I know that if you look at any other group of people that have been oppressed, treated with contempt and given no helpful and real support you will see the same type of behaviour. Be it the poor, those who faced racial discrimination, etc After 33 years of dealing with depression on and off throughout my life and isolation caused by the views of the church of which I’m still part I finally went to counselling. And it was there that I saw the face of God for the first time in years. My counsellor told me I was okay, that gay was okay and that God loved me exactly as I am. No sermons in the church I have been involved in ever show me the face of God that clearly. Fragments of his face for sure but not all of his radiant glory shining his love down on me like I saw in that counsellors office. And then I saw his face once more when I was to find that another man who grew up in the same church as me was gay. The things he has done for people. The love he has for those in his community. The way that God’s love shines through him ever so brightly. And it still would if he were to take comfort in finding a partner to share his life with.

    If we are going to put bible verses out there how about this one.

    “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, Luke 4:18

    But I suppose that doesn’t count for gays. You can give me all the excuses you want but they will all leave me feeling and believing the same thing. I’m inferior, inherently bad and that Jesus’s didn’t come to set me free. If God is love, this is not love.

    I will finish here because it’s just getting me down knowing that there are still those who darken the hearts of innocents with their words of death and condemnation, in whatever guise that may take, and hide the face of God from those he loves.

    Maybe it would be worth looking also at this piece of scripture.

    “The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons. 2 Such teachings come through hypocritical liars, whose consciences have been seared as with a hot iron. 3 They forbid people to marry and order them to abstain from certain foods, which God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and who know the truth. 4 For everything God created is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, 5 because it is consecrated by the word of God and prayer.”

    Timothy 4:1-5

    But then I know that everyone will have their own interpretation of this as with the rest of the Bible. For now to those who view homosexuality as evil. Please stop interfering with my ability to receive the life giving love of God and his wonderful son Jesus.

    • stasisonline says:

      Craig, I hear your pain. I hadnt noticed that Timothy 4 passage – very interesting about the marriage question. I hope you can continue to move into happiness. I know church people are often flawed, as all people are. In church circles, often due to lack of general comprehension about whether orientation is a choice, homosexuals are often treated like the lepers in the Bible. It doesnt make sense that you feel like youre a sinner and that straight people are not, despite the fact that we are all sinners (Romans 3:23). I think it’s essential to distinguish between sexual orientation and sexual activity. The Bible says nothing about gay orientation being sinful, yet church people often treat even abstinent gays as tainted. There is probably little I can say that would make you feel better. But thankfully we dont have a god who is unable to empathize. Jesus’ life was difficult and included the suffering that we experience (Hebrews 4:15). God doesnt love sin, but he does love you.

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  14. David says:

    Dear Stasis,

    A simple note to sincerely thank you for posting the above writing. Equally, the questioning and comments from others is really good to see, which allows for us all to further test, examine and learn what our one true God actually says about this topic in His letter to us, the Bible. Stasis, my personal view (for the little it is worth, I am simply a random young adult, for some context on me..) is that you have done this in a thoughtful, well researched, biblically accurate and subsequently honourable way, from a Christian point of view.

    To me at least, it remains unclear why some people comment that this an overly conservative or traditional Christian view. It is simply the clear view outlined in God’s message to us, after a thorough review of scripture. My sense is that Christian principles are over time showing less overlap to changing modern culture, and as a result, a view of “conservative” springs forth with respect to the Christian view point outlined here. We need to be honest with ourselves, does the Bible speak to us, or do we speak to the Bible? How do Christian’s form their views in life? Has God’s message in the Bible changed today relative to 20, 100 or 200 years ago, or not? Have we as mankind found new wisdom that we did not have 20, 100 or 200 years ago to interpret the Bible? I really don’t mean for these questions to be condescending in any way given their simplicity (apologies if so, I’m trying to frame for all readers here) but do think they are relevant starting points.

    As a general comment, while standing for God’s Righteousness can at times appear to be more challenging across many of the countries we live in today, we should all as Christian brothers and sisters take great heart and hold steadfast (“trust and obey, for there’s no other way”) in His amazing Love and Grace for ALL mankind. This includes examining the scriptures, rather than the desire of our own hearts which I would think we would all admit can be fickle through time on certain issues, should curly questions arise where we seek a Godly response. What an awesome reference book God has given to us, His creation, for no cost at all, remarkable really!! ;)

    There’s likely insufficient space for me here to go into detail into the political aspects mentioned above (i.e. what the interface of anti-discrimination laws and freedom of religious expression will look like in years to come) other than to mention I agree that it will be an increasingly relevant topic, based on the well documented trends of the last 10 years within western countries, where I am more familiar, and the ongoing political intents. The approach I try to take today in such circumstances that require it (consistent with the scriptures) is of showing God’s Love, the fruits of the spirit, as we explain when appropriate why the Christian belief, underpinned by an ultimate message of sacrificial Love, is as it is. We are not ashamed for standing for God’s Righteousness. Delivery is key, and I agree with past messages here who have felt the church has not always done this in a truly loving way. This is a highly credible point, and a good reminder for all of us to consider moving forward in our interactions. It is amazing how these conversations have often led to great opportunities to share God’s Truth, His Word, leading to positive outcomes (To God be the Glory!).

    In closing, and apologies to those who are reading to hear only commentary around views on what the Bible teaches on homosexuality (Stasis has done this for me, thanks) I just wanted to share these 2 verses, for encouragement for us all in our journeys through this life:

    “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths.” Prov 3: 5-6.

    “Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, Nor have entered into the heart of man The things which God has prepared for those who love Him” 1 Cor 2: 9.

    If you’ve made it this far, thanks for reading, and all the best ;)

    Regards
    David


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