A classic from Joe Dallas Online
Interviewer: Now, Jesus â€“ uh, do you prefer being called Lord?
Jesus: You call me master and Lord, and you say well, f…
I recently came across a poll which found that many people believe that religion offers no benefits to society. Well, this study seems to contradict that:
This post is in response to links to this one: http://anthropologist.livejournal.com/1314574.html which I found cropping up on friends walls on facebook, and then noticed was posted on numerous blogs and forums. That one is similar to a new one found here: http://io9.com/gay-marriage-in-the-year-100-ad-951140108?fb_action_ids=10201784798360900&fb_action_types=og.likes&fb_source=other_multiline&action_object_map=%7B%2210201784798360900%22%3A213350815487451%7D&action_type_map=%7B%2210201784798360900%22%3A%22og.likes%22%7D&action_ref_map=%5B%5D
My response here is in its preliminary stages – Ill add more to it, as I have done to previous posts on this blog.
Have churches wed same-sex couples in past centuries? I dont know for sure, but it wouldnt surprise me if there were some cases here and there. Over the centuries there have been times when most of a given country could not read, and Biblical literacy was low, so it’s not surprising that Christians back then got things wrong here and there. Was it common or sanctioned by people like St Paul? I very much doubt it, firstly because ancient writings identify that homosexuality was not accepted in the Jewish religion or in Christian culture. As such the final sentence of the above post is misleading.
The above posts are based very much on the work of John Boswell. Brent D. Shaw from Fordham University writes a damning report of Boswell’s work here and here, implying “tendentious misreadings of antiquity” and that Boswell read things into the original texts that were not there. Ross Douthat wrote that Boswell was “clearly mistaken” about the nature of the apparent same-sex weddings. And there is another review here. There was even a book written about the impact that Boswell had.
“What one historian or pseudo-intellectual may see as harmless theorizing; another may take as the Gospel Truth from God. Anyway, it can all lead to hell.”
Perusing early Christian references to marriage, suggests to me that it was at that point regarded as a heterosexual institution. EG look through the quotes on this page, and see how it’s referred to as a commitment between a husband and a wife.
I suggest that when most people compare liberal Christian theology to conservative Christian theology, they tend to think of liberal theology as being about ‘heart’ and conservative theology as being about ‘rules’. Liberal Christians will tend to talk about “welcoming minorities”, about “equality”, and often whatever the political left are fighting for at the time. Their basic message tends to ultimately be one of sharing and love and encouraging unified happiness in the present. In the other camp, Conservative Christians will tend to talk about what the Bible says, about traditional family values, and often whatever the political right are fighting for at the time. Their message tends to focus more on enduring the difficulties of life by working hard, by following and possibly suffering under the rules, but then ultimately being rewarded for that. Amiright?
And of course there is value in either of those perspectives. There are also flaws in both perspectives. From a Christian point of view, the conservatives have a valid point when they say that the liberals dont take the rules (ie the Bible) seriously, and likewise, the liberals have a valid point when they say that the conservatives tend to lack loving attitudes.
And from where do these biases arise? Well, I have some theories…
I think conservatives are very much influenced by fear. Fear of slipping into sin, fear of going to hell, fear of having no money, fear of societal anarchy. A conservative is more likely to stay away from those they deem to be big-time sinners; homosexuals, prostitutes, criminals. In the continuum between fearing and avoiding the sinner in order to keep ones self safe from sin, compared to the opposite of loving and befriending the sinner, the conservative is more likely to err towards the former. Fear can be a blessing, and also a curse. Jesus supported the idea of fear though; fear of God and fear of hell. But if a conservative falls in love, or comes to a place of greater security, then for a while at least, the fear reduces, and their location on the continuum shifts. Love casts out fear (1 John 4:18).
And I think liberals are very much influenced by their hearts. They seek to love anyone who they feel might be missing out on societal sharing and caring. In the continuum between fearing and avoiding the sinner in order to keep ones self safe from sin, compared to the opposite of loving and befriending the sinner, the liberal is more likely to err towards the latter. Love can be a blessing, and also a curse. Of course, Jesus is recorded as being a huge supporter of love. But the liberal has a greater tendency to listen to their hearts rather than to the specifics of what the Bible teaches. Paradoxically, the heart actually leads well-meaning people away from a Biblical perspective (Matthew 15:18-20).
Rare is the Christian who is a deep lover of people, but who also fears God enough to truly honour what the Bible states.
Time and again in discussions about the Christian perspective on same-sex marriage and on homosexual sex, people claim that Jesus said nothing about the topic. EG as per the picture on the right, and here and more recently in this meme. But while these claims are kinda true, they are actually misleading. In passages such as Matthew 19:3-11, and Luke 14:26 Jesus portrays Christian relationships only as heterosexual, and the first of those two passages includes Jesus affirming Genesis 2 where marriage is defined as being between a man and a woman.
Gay activists sometimes devise quite intricate ways to cast doubt on the idea that the Bible portrays gay sex as sinful, EG claiming that various original Greek and Hebrew words in the Bible do not mean what mainstream translators tell us they mean. But when it comes to marriage, the Bible is particularly clear about the initial design of the genders involved. In the Book of Genesis, it says woman (ie women) was made from man by taking some of him to create her (Genesis 2:21). The book of Genesis then explains that marriage is an act of bringing those two together again to recreate the original “one flesh” (Genesis 2:24). Jesus affirms the notion of coming together to form one flesh, when he speaks of Marriage in Matthew 19. But two people of the same gender cannot rejoin to recreate one flesh.
It should also be noted that Jesus’ doctrines were built upon those of the existing Jewish religion, which believed that homosexual sex was sinful (Leviticus 20:13) and that the standard model of relationship for Jews was heterosexual. If Jesus disagreed with those doctrines, surely he would be recorded as having said so, especially since he did affirm an Old Testament passage (Matthew 19) which touched on the topic. If Jesus felt that it is okay for a Christian man to have a husband, why would he repeatedly portray a Christian man’s spouse to only be a wife? It’s also notable that Jesus preached against “sexual immorality” (Mark 7:21) and his audience, coming from Jewish culture, would have assumed this to have included gay sex.
Although Jesus is not recorded in the Bible as explicitly describing homosexual sex as sinful (unlike other revered leaders depicted in the Bible), he is presented as advancing a heteronormative approach for Christians. In other words, the Gospels indicate that Jesus effectively said that a Christian lifestyle is a heterosexual lifestyle.
Along similar lines, some claim that Jesus never said “love the sinner, hate the sin.” It’s true that such a sentence cannot be found in the Gospels. But this does not mean it’s unbiblical. The doctrine summaries the New Testament teachings that Christians should hate sin (Romans 12:9, Hebrews 1:9, Revelation 2:6) but still love their neighbour (Luke 10). IE be like Jesus who loved the woman caught in adultery, but he still told her to stop sinning (John 8). And yes, lets remember both parts of the phrase – Christians are supposed to (platonically) love homosexuals.
When faced with criticism of “imposing religious views on others”, even Christians, can sometimes pause to consider whether same-sex marriage should be a legal option for those non-Christians who want it. Various celebrities (EG1, EG2), politicians and others have said that they are Christians, but said that they support same-sex marriage. Unfortunately, these people tend to have a one-sided grasp of what the Bible teaches, perhaps influenced by the gay activists and even some who call themselves Christian ministers or even archbishops who claim or imply that God and/or the Bible in no way oppose homosexuality.
Certainly it’s true that the Bible records do not portray Jesus as forcing others to agree with or comply with his teachings. He advocated certain things, especially love, and he warned of hellfire, but he did not coerce. So then what should the response of a fair-minded Christian be to whether same-sex marriage should be legalised? Some high profile Christians who recognise that gay sex is sinful, still say state support of gay marriage is okay. I suggest that this is a question without a clear answer in scripture, but there are clues there that we can draw from.
The Bible portrays Christian marriage to only be heterosexual and homosexual sex to be sin, but there is nothing in the New Testament that calls Christians to seek political power to establish laws against sin. If a Christian perhaps has a the position of city mayor, it’s not clear that that mayor should rule against same-sex marriage even if most constituents support it. If the mayor was to do so, that action would not align closely with Jesus’ approach, which was to encourage individual’s to follow him one by one, and have their behaviour adjust as an outcome of that religious commitment.
Some Christians do get side-tracked by morality, and come to treat it as the focus of their religion. It’s not. The focus of Christianity is salvation. The ultimate aim is the encourage others to become Christians rather than to just become moral.
However, despite morality not being the apex of focus for Christianity, it’s still a priority. Throughout the Old Testament there are examples of entire regions being judged based on their morality, eg Hosea 4:1-3, not just the town of Sodom. This judgement is portrayed as likely to fall even on those in the town who were being true to the religion. This being the case, it’s in the interest of a Christian to encourage their fellow citizens to comply with Christian morality, in order to avoid sharing in their judgement on earth.
Some people have suggested that when gay people cant marry each other, this results in gay people having more sexual partners. The degree to which this is true, is probably unknown. But statistics indicate that even US highschool students have a higher on average number of sexual partners if they are gay rather than straight. This suggests that when the question of marriage is removed from the factors of influence, gay people are more promiscuous than straight people. And we do know that many married gay couples are not monogamous. But while some claim that getting married hasnt changed their gay relationship, others have claimed that the increasing availability of gay marriage is changing gay behaviour.
The Bible teaches in Matthew 18 that Christians should point out the sins of other Christians to them. Additionally, Ezekiel 3 teaches that if followers do not warn others of their sin, then God holds the follower accountable for this, and that both will be punished.
So is it a Christian duty to speak out against sin? Yes. As far as Im aware, same-sex marriage is not a more severe sin than other sins, and from the Bible it would appear that it’s homosexual sex that is the clearer sin rather than homosexual marriage. But a Christian should not go so far as to support either. A Christian should take a loving attitude towards homosexuals though, and in environments where having no state recognition of a homosexual relationship means that those people suffer, eg based on tax or welfare provisions, then it seems reasonable to support an alternative, such as civil unions, as the Church of England apparently did. At the same time, we need to learn from past mistakes of treating homosexual desires as a sacred cow that cannot be questioned. Certainly Christians should look out for the needs of the oppressed, but marriage is not necessarily a clear way to remove oppression. Some in the GLBT* communities have suggested it entrenches oppression, and others have raised the question of whether same-sex marriage would actually increase a sense of marginalisation amongst the many homosexuals who find themselves unable to find a long-term partner. Also it should also be noted that those who support same-sex marriage still tend to support discrimination against polygamists, so claims of oppression are often hypocritical. It’s also noteworthy that not all (ref. 2) GLBT* people want same-sex marriage legalised.
The catch cry from non-Christians is of course that Christians are hypocrites who cant even follow their own policies. Yes, sadly there is some validity to that claim. But it should be remembered that Christianity is about following God rather than other Christians, who as people are flawed. It should also be noted that statistics about Christian hypocrisy can be misleading.
Also relevant to this topic, is that fact that when a culture embraces homosexuality, that position becomes a stumbling block to Biblical evangelism. Christians who point out the flaws in pro-homosexual propaganda, and show that gay relationships do not mirror heterosexual relationships, may be to some degree engaging in pre-evangelism by helping people perceive the Bible as making sense.
As an update to this post, Ill add a thought about President Obama, who recently said that as a Christian he now supports same-sex marriage. Firstly, I suggest that a truly committed Christian would not be voted in as President in our era. The degree of commitment that Jesus requests to him, is in conflict with the degree of commitment a president needs to make to reflect the wishes of the bulk of the population. I can accept that a president can have a degree of Christian commitment though, even if it’s not full Christian commitment. Based on the reports I read, Obama’s key piece of scripture used to support his decision in favour of same-sex marriage, was the Golden Rule of Luke 6:31; “treat others in the way that you would like them to treat you”. And on a superficial level, Obama’s angle on this makes sense – gay people want to get married, so wouldnt the kind response be to let them be happy? But lets think a bit deeper. Would the Golden Rule principle apply to all sins? Is it generally kind to help others commit whatever sin they are inclined to? Is it ultimately kind to help others sin? Ill let you choose a few sins to use to ponder those three questions. I suggest that if a Christian thinks through the Golden Rule, it doesnt make sense that it extends to the point of helping others sin – that interpretation would lead to you violating most of the rest of scripture. The Golden Rule makes more sense, if interpreted to not mean placing yourself if the other person’s ideology and acting accordingly, but rather simply considering yourself as being in their position, while retaining your own ideology. As a Christian, you dont ever want others to help you sin, so likewise, you should not help them sin. So if they are cold and without a solution, and you have a spare blanket, you would lend them your blanket, on the basis that you would hope they would do the same for you if the situation was reversed. But if they are suicidal and ask you for a full box of painkillers, in following the Golden Rule you dont give them a full box of painkillers, because based on the Christian ideology death is generally best avoided and the loving thing to do is to provide a better solution. Others seem to agree, and one of Obama’s advisors apparently rebuked the president on this point. Some say that theology was not a key reason for Obama’s decision, suggesting it was more about funding and politics per se, but I guess we may never know for sure.
Political support for Obama reportedly dropped after he announced personal support for same-sex marriage. However, at least one young man took Obama’s pro-gay message to heart, although not in a way that Obama intended.
Your feedback is welcome, either in a comment box below, or via the menu under the article title.
Who Is Misrepresenting Who?
Christians Tired of Being Misrepresented (CToBM) are a group of ideologically focused liberals with Christian interests, whose basis lies in affirming homosexuality. They have a facebook page with over 50,000 followers, and they run a blog.
Active homosexuals engaging in Christian practises is not new. Often they will disregard the relevant scriptures about gay sex or will avoid a theological focus in general, while others find elaborate ways to reinterpret the Bible in an attempt to read it as neutral or affirming of gay sex. Even back in the year 1730 there was a report of a minister trying to argue that ‘sodomy’ was not a sin (London Journal, Aug 29, 1730).
At first, it’s easy to get misled into thinking that CToBM are an authentically Christian group, firstly of course due to their name, but secondly by the topics they discuss, which are often related to Christianity. However, on close examination, it’s clear that the Christian connection they have is very selective according to ideology, and more of a theme than a foundation.
On their Our Posture section of their blog, they state that they welcome both Christians and non-Christians. This open-door welcome to non-Christians isnt for the purposes of evangelism though. On their ThisWeBelieve blog page, they explain their unbiblical opinion that they; “… recognize the faithfulness of other people who have other names for the way to God’s realm, and acknowledge that their ways are true for them, as our ways are true for us.” Their Our Posture section also states that those who attempt to debate them using opposing theological positions, risk being banned from the group. IE it’s more important to them that you dont challenge their point of view, than it is whether you are a Christian or not. In March 2013, they wrote a facebook post that ‘concern trolls’ are banned from the page. They defined these as people who say “We agree with you but are concerned for you because you are leading people down the wrong path, or X, Y & Z.” Such people “will be banned without warning.” Likewise in November 2013, an admin posted to facebook that “If you use the phrase “Love the Sinner, Hate the Sin”, in any way you risk being banned.”
The values that they espouse tend to align with the political left wing, and they often repost messages from the Huffington Post, Patheos and sometimes from a group named The Christian Left. Although their facebook wall feed isnt simply a political feed, sometimes their focus is more politically flavoured than religious. This perspective is often framed in the negative, so rather than simply promoting left wing views, they frequently condemn right wing views and those that hold such views. As such, the group serves as one of the clearer examples of a contemporary left-wing based hate group.
But like most so-called hate groups, hating is not all they do. Paradoxically, they also advocate love, primarily for the oppressed. This aspect is actually one that many Evangelical Christians are lacking in, so some “cross-pollination” might be of benefit. However CToBR seeks to distance themselves from standard Christians, preferring to demonise them. On the ThisWeBelieve page of their blog, they write “We have allowed the Christian religion to become captive horde of Bible-worshiping, chorus-singing, homophobic, fundamentalist bullies who have naive answers for all of life’s deepest ills.” In July 2013, they wrote on their facebook wall; “Frank Schaeffer understands the motives behind the Christian Right because he helped to create it in the late 70′s and early 80′s. What is their motive? Money and power.” In October 2013, they posted a quote on their facebook wall, without critical analysis of it, that stated in part ”It is no coincidence that the Tea Party is mostly made up of evangelical white southern Christians of the born-again variety. They are now the collective enemy of you and your children’s future.”
CToBM seem to promote a superficial slice of Christianity; of form without the standard Bibilcal substance (ref. 2 Tim 3:5). EG in January 2013, the facebook page included a post affirmingly quoting Nelson Mandella stating “No one is born hating another person … people must learn to hate …” which is a message affirming love, but contradicting the fundamental Biblical theme that human beings are born with an inherent natural inclination to engage in sins such as hate. Their post on their blog on December 4th 2011, included a youtube clip where John Spong is interviewed. The posting includes no critique of the clip, which features Spong saying that hell is an invention of the church, including the specific statement “I dont think hell exists”. This of course contradicts the Bible, EG where Jesus speaks of it. In the clip, Spong even states “people dont need to be born again”. The last statement could barely be more of a direct contradiction to the Bible, eg John 3:7, where Jesus is quoted as stating “…You must be born again.” In 2013 a CToBM admin posted the following quote on the facebook wall ”Easter need not involve the claim that God supernaturally intervened to raise the corpse of Jesus from the tomb. Rather, the core meaning of Easter is that Jesus continued to be experienced after his death, but in a radically new way: as a spiritual and divine reality.” And without additional comment, the admin simply cited the quote as being “—from The God We Never Knew”. As was indicated in feedback below the posting, this contradicts various Bible scriptures, including John 20 where the risen Jesus says he is more than spirit, and 1 Corinthians 15, where it states “And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith.” As Easter approached in 2013, CToBM admin Jack posted a link on their facebook wall. The link was to blog post was titled “Washed in His Blood My Ass“ and the admin included the citation “As we work our way closer to the Cross this season I invite you to explore Christian theology that does not begin with a God that needs a blood sacrifice to settle the score. I invite you to walk with a God that has shown us what true power looks like – love, compassion and forgiveness. [an excerpt from the article] ~jack”. Yet sacrifice was central to what Jesus life was about. The post almost advocates a hollow Christianity without Christ. It’s as though they are not familiar with Bible passages such as Matthew 5:13 “You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt has become tasteless, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled under foot.”
In the This We Believe section of their facebook page, it states “We consider everyone to be our brothers and sisters, not just those within the Christian faith” and “We don’t accept the idea that there is only one way to God”. This contradicts Jesus’ statement that he is the only way to access God (John 14:6).
In February 2013, a CToBM admin posted this image on their facebook wall, quoting a Rev. Hagler. Someone commented in response that the Evangelical paradigm is not usually understood this way, and a group admin replied in turn, writing “… we have never considered ourselves to be Evangelical – we don’t feel the need to convert everyone to our belief just to love and care for them as they are.” Of course, this attitude deviates from Jesus’ final directive to his followers recorded in the Gospel of Matthew, where he told Christians to go to all the world and make disciples (Matthew 28:16-20). CToBM reiterated this position of disobedience in November 2013, when they posted a link to this article about evangelism to Jews, and described such evangelism as “wrong on so many levels”! And again, in February 2013 CToBM expressed priorities that do not match those of Christ, when a CToBM admin posted on the wall about Christian football player Tim Tebow, writing “Given the sorry trajectory of his underachieving NFL career, Tebow should be more concerned about his weak arm than leading the armies of Christ.” Then in March 2013, they posted a picture of a Bible and of Jesus, with a ‘does not equal’ sign between the two. This contrasts and perhaps contradicts what the Bible portrays in John 1, and is illustrative of the fundamental reasoning of the group. IE CToBM rejects the Bible as the ultimate authority for doctrine. They reject the best guide available for determining what a Christ follower would be. This attitude was reinforced in a post they made to their wall in October 2013, when an admin wrote in part “Those of us who run CToBM see the divinity in Jesus, but are not compelled to worship him in the way Christian theology directs us to.”
In March 2013, CToBM admin Janet posted on the facebook wall an explanation that I had not seen before; “… I created this Page after hearing a gay man share his story, which involved being raised in a Christian home, coming out to his best friend and being rejected, finding hate from the very people he considered family, and how he struggled in his Christian faith. He is a successful youth minister now. After listening to him, my fundamentalist Christian, Religious Right Wing extreme views were blown out of the water. And here we are. …”
Ironically, in mid 2013, CToBM quoted an article on their wall about the pro-life movement, stating “… it is time to be honest in the way that you self-title your movement: the anti-abortion movement. It’s accurate and truthfully describes your agenda. Own it.” Have they not considered whether this approach would apply to their own group?
CToBM exemplifies the sin of people “doing what is right in their own eyes” (Judges 21:25), rather than truly following Jesus. Those who run the group are aware that they are confusing, as per this screenshot mentioning Carrie Underwood, which was on their facebook page on July 1st, 2012. In March 2013, CToBM admin Janet wrote on the facebook wall “We are considered “Not Christian!” all the time by our fundamentalist inquisitor visitors. Most of the time, we choose not to respond. …” Interestingly I found that one of my facebook friends, who regularly posts atheist memes on his facebook wall, and whose references to religion are usually disparaging, is also a member of the CToBM facebook group. So obviously some members are actually anti-Christian rather than even being neutral. On a blog post dated November 27th 2011, CToBM responded to the following comment; “I have a (possibly daft) question: How many people who follow this page/group are actually church-going, living, practicing Christians? Just, I’ve been following this group for over a month, and I’m a tad confused …” Indeed, looking into this group makes you question just who is misrepresenting who.
Quotations from the This We Believe, and Our Posture pages are accurate as at mid 2012.
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. But 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.
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 EG2, EG3, EG4, EG5, EG6, EG7, EG8, EG9, Ref.10!) 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 marry, mortality 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). 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.
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 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-SNty4Nc , here, here 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 Gagnon, Bernadette 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. 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.
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, perhaps 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 homosexuality also. Philo for example, wrote a lengthy description in The Special Laws III;
“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, and it makes sense that the community would be aware of this. 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.
Furthermore, does the 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 infallible, 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, “Matthew … isn’t exactly a biblical scholar”. 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, 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 likewise 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. 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), and a few find themselves so dissatisfied 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.
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. One of the critics has challenged the presenter to a public debate (Gagnon has encouraged a debate too), but the last I have heard is that there has been no reply. Another 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 has died down, liberal Christian communities such as Huffington’s Religion section and CToBM, both of whom promoted the video, were now 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 have 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). 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)
- 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