Jesus Creed

Jesus Creed


Context: Defining homosexuality 1

posted by xscot mcknight

Because of the heated emotions that rise to the surface even in genuine discussions of this topic, I want to begin by saying that in many ways I’m struggling both to discuss homosexuality on a blog and I continue to learn what Christians ought to think and believe and do. Part of the context of our discussion involves learning what it is that we are talking about. Let me simply make some comments, and I open this for discussion. I’ll offer some more comments in the next post.
First, there is no such thing as a “homosexual” as a separable form of being human. Each of us is an Eikon of God. Each of us is unique; each of us bears all kinds of similarities. But, whatever you think, “homosexual” does not describe a “kind” of human being. We have no right to demonize, dehumanize, or denigrate those who are “homosexual”. Too often Christians have simply “labeled” same-sex oriented folks and “othered” them right off the map. I find this incredibly inconsistent with Jesus and as uncharitable and unloving a thing as a Christian can possibly do. Ostracism of an entire group of Eikons is inconsistent with Christian morality. Each of us is an Eikon; we begin there and it is the only place we can begin.
Second, Western legal systems are designed to protect the rights of humans to make their own choices (within limits), but choice is not morality. The right to choose provides the human with the opportunity to choose what is good or what is bad. The preoccupation many have with establishing laws that protect one’s right do x or y does not mean x or y is good or Christian. In other words, a law that permits homosexual behavior does not make that behavior good or right; it makes it within the rights protected by the laws of the land. If our government were to approve homosexual unions that would not to me mean that such unions were right (though some would feel vindicated) but that such unions were legal. [The reverse would also be true.] I find this entire debate about what is legally justifiable in the USA to be a constitutional or legal issue.
If it comes to a vote, we can vote our conscience; if it comes to legal precedent, judges make that decision. I’m not trying to escape an issue, but stating how I see this issue. I could be wrong. I welcome your comments here.
Third, it is irresponsible to overstate the issues. It is true that some homosexuals are sexually wild, but so are plenty of heterosexuals. No one, apart from hedonists, contends that sexual experimentation and unchecked sexual indulgence is consistent with following Jesus. What is being claimed by some is that same-sex unions or marriage, assuming love and fidelity, are consistent with following Jesus. What is not being argued, at least by responsible Christian debates, is that people can do anything they like.
Tomorrow, a few more comments about same-sex orientation.



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Duane Young

posted January 24, 2006 at 7:20 am


I wonder if the source of all the heat and the venom produced by this issue isn’t really a consequence of some second level disagreement that emerges from this debate, i.e., the Christian community addresses not just individual behavior but urges legal prohibition and sanction against the behavior, while the homosexual community not only insists on legitimacy but demands legal protection, ergo approval. It is at this level that the name-calling takes place. It is not just a matter of freedom or license or protection, but a need for justification and approval—failure to approve is felt or experienced as condemnation which leads to hateful responses. A pall is cast over the original issue and debate and fair debate and discussion becomes very difficult.



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Ted Gossard

posted January 24, 2006 at 7:34 am


Scot, I especially appreciate your point about homosexual orientation as not being the definition of who such people are. But that they along with all of the rest of us are fully humans, fully eikons (though cracked like we all are).



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Scot McKnight

posted January 24, 2006 at 8:36 am


Duane,
I think you are absolutely accurate on this. The legal debate is often carried on in terms unworthy of Christian discourse.



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Denny Burk

posted January 24, 2006 at 8:38 am


Which post has the heat and venom? Am I missing something?
Scot, I think you may be conflating two legal questions that need to be distinguished: (1) Anti-sodomy laws, like the Supreme Court struck down in Texas a couple years ago, and (2) Laws establishing civil unions or gay “marriages.”
It’s one thing for a government to permit a certain behavior. It’s an entirely different matter for government to sanction and elevate a certain behavior–especially when that sanction cuts against one of the fundamental institutions of a just society, marriage.
My own view is that civil unions and gay “marriages” distort the sanctity of traditional marriage as defined in the scripture. It’s neither just nor right to foist such unions and their concomitant dangers upon a society.



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Ochuk

posted January 24, 2006 at 9:20 am


Scot,
I have loved your thoughts so far, and wanted to commend you on your clear thinking about the difference between legal-moral.
One issue I hear among conservatives is that the state is to “reward good and punish evil” and “restrain evil” (Romans 13). Therefore, the state should make homosexual unions illegal. What do you make of that? (This is NOT my position, but I was wondering how you would respond to this kind of objection)



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Mark Perry

posted January 24, 2006 at 9:25 am


Scot, I appreciate your distinction that laws allow to “. . . make their own choices (within limits), but choice is not morality.” The difficulty in this issue and many others is determining justice (which you have discussed before) since the choices made do involve morality. Policies are often decided on cost-benefit analysis while legal precedent tends to dictate the constitutionality of policies. Perhaps I’m getting ahead of the discussion, but where should issues of morality come into play?



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Steve Olsen

posted January 24, 2006 at 10:09 am


While I do agree that laws do not legitimize certain behavior, they are a reflection of values. Laws that uphold civil unions or gay marriages so all people can receive equal protection (not special privileges) are based on the value that all people, regardless of lifestyle, are afforded the same rights and protections. And to this I agree. On the other hand, such laws do condone immoral behavior by placing greater value on individual rights. A question to answer is how do we balance these two together.



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john alan turner

posted January 24, 2006 at 10:29 am


More and more it seems to me that governmental legislation is more of a reflection of a particular society’s values, rather than a projection of how that society ought to live. If it is true that government is “downstream” from society, then it is impossible for legislation to say what it ideal; it will simply reveal how society is functioning at that point in time.
Thus, if the government should choose to sanction civil unions, it will not necessarily be saying, “This is how things ought to be”; it will merely be saying, “This is how things are right now”.



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Jamie Arpin-Ricci

posted January 24, 2006 at 10:35 am


Denny said: “My own view is that civil unions and gay “marriages” distort the sanctity of traditional marriage as defined in the scripture. It’s neither just nor right to foist such unions and their concomitant dangers upon a society.”
By this standard, far more than homosexuals should be refused the right to to legalized union/marraige. If we truly want the law to protect the Biblical definition of marraige, then any union between two people outside that context should be refused. It takes little study to see that Islamic and Hindu understandings of marraige are also quite inconsistant with the Biblical definition.
Further, while Christians may be against common law marraige (a clear violation of the sanctity which you refer to), the amount of rhetoric, time and money put into ending THAT is virtually none existant when compared to reaction towards homosexuality.
If we are going to use Scripture in this context, we can’t just pull out gender, while ignoring the rest of what Scripture teaches. Like Scot, I believe these values are covenanted. I believe that marraige, within the context of Christianity, is a sacrament.
Just some thoughts.
Peace,
Jamie



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Tom

posted January 24, 2006 at 10:45 am


Scot-
I appreciate your general approach to this issue and the love and sensitivity you bring to it. On your first point (not ostracizing homosexuals who are, as all humans are, eikons of God), I completely agree. Moreover, I’d say that it’s only on the basis of our bearing God’s image that we’re able to question the morality of any particular behavior. So I agree that all people regardless of their behavior are to be loved unconditionally and affirmed as inherently valuable and significant. I’m just unsure as to how this helps us answer the question of the morality of any particular behavior. At best, our being ‘image bearers’ grounds the meaningfulness of the category of ‘right and wrong’, but I don’t see how specifically tells us anything about homosexuality.
Your second point about the distinction between morality and legality is quite true. They’re not the same. It’s one thing, however, to argue that what is in fact immoral may be made legal by the State, or that what is in fact amoral (the speed at which one drives) and made illegal by the State may become immoral by implication (since we are morally obligated to obey the State in such matters). But this all begs the question about whether or not (and if so, under what conditions) what is immoral ought to be legal. True, the legalized behavior would not cease being immoral. But surely legalizing gay marriage has far wider implications for society which make it a grave concern. I’m not disagreeing with the legal/moral distinction. I’m just wondering how people who DO feel something is immoral decide when it’s proper to engage the State in seeking to make it illegal.
So there are two separate questions: (1) Is homosexuality morally permissible? and (2) if it’s morally impermissible, is it the sort of immoral behavior that ought to be made illegal or is best left unaddressed by the State?
For example, some immoral behavior we make illegal and other immoral behavior we recognize as legal. Child abuse is an example of the former. Pornography is an example of the latter. Of course, one could argue that pornography is best outlawed. But there are other examples that fall under the second category (lust, hatred, greed, pride, selfishness, gluttony [all of which can remain within the secrecy of one’s own subjective experience], but there you have adultery, fornication, and drunkenness—to name a few—that are immoral acts that are NOT illegal; and I don’t see conservative Christians out campaigning to make them illegal).
What about homosexuality? Even IF we argue it’s morally impermissible, there’s still the question of whether or not it’s best made illegal or left to the conscience of citizens. All cultures recognize both categories (the ‘immoral but legal’ and the ‘immoral and illegal’). But here you have two further separate issues: (a) homosexuality itself (the behavior), and (b) homosexual marriage. Assuming for the moment the immorality of (a), there’s still the question as to whether (a) ought to be illegal or not. I personally would strike down sodomy laws and make (a) legal. What two people consensually do in the privacy of their own bedroom is between them and God. But (b) is an entirely different issue with far wider implications for society. Does it follow that because we wouldn’t outlaw the private exercise of a specific immoral behavior (whatever that behavior) that we have no grounds upon which to argue we shouldn’t enshrine it at the core of our culture (i.e., in our fundamental understanding of marriage and family is found)?
On the other hand, if we were to conclude that homosexual behavior is morally permissible behavior, then there’s little reason to object to the legality of either (a) or (b).
Tom



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Denny Burk

posted January 24, 2006 at 10:56 am


Jamie,
Thanks for the remarks.
However, we have to see that marriage (in the Genesis 2:24 sense) is a pre-covenantal institution. In other words, the union embodied in the primeval Genesis narrative precedes both the fall and the remedy introduced in Genesis 3:15. It would be very difficult biblically speaking to say that marriage is a “sacrament” that only should be recognized as such within the covenant community and that those outside the covenant community can enter in to whatever arrangement they please. Biblically speaking, the definition of marriage applies to everyone, in or out of the covenant.
Moreover, it is important to note that both Jesus (Mt 19:5; Mk 10:7) and Paul (1 Cor 6:16; Eph 5:31) appeal to Genesis 2:24 when they explicate marriage.
Thanks,
Denny



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Jamie Arpin-Ricci

posted January 24, 2006 at 11:04 am


Denny,
First, I would argue that the covenantal intention of God to His Creation “predated” the act of Creation, but that is another issue to argue. Even if you put aside the covenantal argument, my larger point is still left unanswered. Do you believe that all legalized marraige should be within the full definition of what it represents in Christianity? Further, should any marraiges that are not consistant with the full Scriptural definition of marraige be refused?
Peace,
Jamie



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Denny Burk

posted January 24, 2006 at 11:12 am


Jamie,
I guess the short answer is “yes” if you are asking whether biblical marriages always embody a union between a man and a woman. That’s the normative standard in scripture, and it is also the just template for what the state should recognize as marriage.
Thanks,
Denny



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Jamie Arpin-Ricci

posted January 24, 2006 at 11:22 am


Tom,
Wow! Excellently explored. It raises some great questions. While this does not argue for legalization of gay marraige, it does speak to our consistancy: materialism is immoral, yet not only does our society/gov’t/laws not acknowledge it as such, but the system largely promotes and rewards those who serve it most fully.
Sure, there are some laws to limit abuse, but look at such examples as Enron and others. While millions were illegally acquired, in turn defrauding thousands of investors, the consequences for their actions hardly compare to the penalty facing armed robbery suspects. But I am getting off point.
My point is that, while this doesn’t argue to justify the legalization of gay marraige, it should make us stop and consider why we put so much more energy into one issue over others. This should at least tell us that, perhaps, we have another unspoken reason for emphasizing this particular issue.
Again, thanks!
Peace,
Jamie



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Jamie Arpin-Ricci

posted January 24, 2006 at 11:29 am


Denny,
No, what I am asking is, beyond the gender issue (which I tend to agree with you on), should all aspects of the Scriptural definition of marraige be considered when addressing the issue of legalization? Again, beyond its affirmation of male/female union, most Muslim or Hindu concepts of marraige are inconsistant with Christian understanding (especially insofar as the woman’s value or place is concerned). Should this not be taken into account? And if not, why the gender specificity to the exclusion of other Scriptural requirements?
Again, when it comes to Christian understanding of marraige, you and I are likely in the same boat, just so that is clear. Thanks for the GREAT dialogue.
Peace,
Jamie



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Bob

posted January 24, 2006 at 12:02 pm


Dr. McKnight,
Your thesis at the start of this series was How do we make moral decisions. In the original post, you state that the cultural context and legal system are one aspect of that decision making. Here you make a clear separation beween what is “legal” and what is “moral”. (Tom had excellent analysis of how some legal things are immoral and vice versa.)
Does this remove the legal consideration in moral decision-making?



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Kevin

posted January 24, 2006 at 12:10 pm


“Love the sinner, hate the sin.” This is, of course, a statement of the correct attitude. It is the correct slogan. However, I have very strong reservations about whether the people who have been using this slogan to oppose same-sex marriage are actually loving the sinner in more than words. Such an action would require looking into the matter and discovering why these people so desire this right.
Recognition by the government, it seems to me, is largely meaningless. However, without some kind of protection, we will continue to see a man’s ranch being seized upon the death of his partner, a woman’s benefits being denied to her partner after years of police duty, and more. I could go on; there are any number of stories like this, for example families excluding partners of many decades from the funerals of their loved ones.
I think what people who oppose federal recognition of same-sex marriage need to ask themselves is whether these effects are actually “loving”. Certainly love should entail carefully examining the results of different proposed solutions. These are very specific problems that need to be addressed somehow, if not by marriage or “civil unions” then in some other way; and it seems clear that these rights can only be defended by law.



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Denny Burk

posted January 24, 2006 at 12:21 pm


Jamie,
I guess I’m just not sure what specifically you are referring to. No, I don’t think that the government’s role is to convert Hindus and Muslims to the Christian worldview. Is that what you are asking? If not, what specifically about Hindu and Muslim marriage are you asking about?
Thanks,
Denny



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Jamie Arpin-Ricci

posted January 24, 2006 at 1:20 pm


Denny,
Without going into comparative religious discourse, I was simply trying to state what I thought would obviously agreed by most Christians- that our Scriptural concept of marraige is deeply rooted in our understanding of God and His intentions for us in Creation. Since other religions to not share these presuppositions, their concepts of marraige are inconsistant to ours. However, no one seems to think that their marraiges should be illegal.
So, when I hear the argument that gay marraige should not be legalized due to its inconsistencies to a Christian Scriptural understanding of the sacrament, I think it is telling that we put vastly more emphasis on homosexuality than we do on other religious views (not to mention non-religious marraiges, common law marraiges, etc.).
I have yet to be convinced that Scriptural understanding of marraige provides an adequate argument against allowing legalized gay marraiges. I am not saying there aren’t such convincing arguments, nor am I saying that there aren’t other completely unrelated, but more convincing arguments. I am simply saying I have not yet heard them.
Peace,
Jamie



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Denny Burk

posted January 24, 2006 at 1:37 pm


Okay, let me rephrase: Is it okay to come to no conclusion about this matter? Is it okay to leave open the possibility that perhaps the Bible does permit certain kinds of homosexual behavior?



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Scott Baxter

posted January 24, 2006 at 2:07 pm


Scott your opening lines show the grace this subject deserves, I find it hard to enter this discussion from a Christian viewpoint without causing harm on either side. It is a difficult one and I look foward to your gentle exploration.



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wes ellis

posted January 24, 2006 at 3:36 pm


very refreshing approach.



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Ross

posted January 24, 2006 at 4:07 pm


Scot,
I want to have this printed on a T-shirt…
…there is no such thing as a “homosexual” as a separable form of being human. Each of us is an Eikon of God.
Well said



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stu mcgregor

posted January 24, 2006 at 4:24 pm


interesting scot how you are choosing to be a uncharacteristically absent from the comments :)
i think we need to confine the argument a little more. there’s this little statement by Paul that has raised massive issues for me as to how much we are to engage in opposing social and cultural dogmatic shifts.
1 Corinthians 5:12 For what have I to do with judging those outside? Is it not those who are inside that you are to judge? God will judge those outside…
Now this is interesting. really we are talking about what place does the homosexual orientation have within a sacramental community rather than a society that chooses not to answer to God or the scriptures. it’s not that i’m advocating non-involvement in society, but i do think that we should be confining our passions about it to within the body of Christ.
to me this means that we cannot demand society to rescind it’s law changes and go against it’s flow toward legalising civil unions etc, because society doesn’t care what we think anyway and we needlessly set ourselves up in opposition to them. rather we should be focussing on a church response to the issue and here’s the ideal i suppose: if the church deals with it responsibly and appropriately (which i doubt it will if history is anything to go by) then maybe the light will penetrate the darkness.
i may have opened myself up to some flames here…!



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Scot McKnight

posted January 24, 2006 at 4:35 pm


Stu,
Fair enough, but I’m teaching these days and simply don’t have the time to get to commenting on the blog. Somedays I am restricted to posting and then waiting until the evening to comment.
I’m with you on the need for the Church to take care of business “at home.”



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Ron Fay

posted January 24, 2006 at 4:53 pm


What brings the third and final point home to me is the current rulings in Mass. and Wisconsin with respect to homosexual teachers who rape their students getting of with probation whereas a female teacher raping a student gets sent to jail for years and years.
The courts already give extra grace to homosexuals.
On a separate but related matter, an issue Scot obliquely (and unintentionally?) raises is how inolved Christians should be in legislation. My well-though out and defended position is this: I don’t know.



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Jamie Arpin-Ricci

posted January 24, 2006 at 6:14 pm


Ron,
I am not sure I agree with a generalized claim that courts give extra grace to homosexuals. The number of laws and prohibitions that serious limits the rights and freedoms of homosexuals is still quite saddening.
Peace,
Jamie



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bob smietana

posted January 24, 2006 at 6:44 pm


Denny
Why should the state’s definition of marriage match the Scripture’s? Where is it written that a nation’s definition of marriage will be judged as a violation of God’s order? The biblical texts that comment on homosexuality seem all to have religious contexts–not political contexts?
Also, should Christians, using your reasoning, advocating making divorce illegal. Divorce has harmed US society in grave ways, and is rampant among Christians. Shouldn’t we be more concerned about that than gay marriage?
I can understand the position that homosexual sex is out of bounds, from a biblical point of view. But I have a difficulting time understanding obsession that many Christians have with homosexuality. We seem to be worrying about rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic, while most of the world is below decks, going down with the ship. Once we solve the AIDS pandemic, the malaria pandamic, the poverty pandemic, the avarice pandemic (in the US) and general soul sickness of Western culture, then we can turn our attention to gay marriage. Until then, the church has more important things to do



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Maria

posted January 24, 2006 at 7:18 pm


Scot,
While gay-marriage doesn’t make sense to me; who’s the husband, who’s the wife? It does highlight a point that there are individuals who have invested in a reciprocal relationship with someone whom they’re not related to and may want have that close friend make decisions about their health, internment, distribution of property, etc. They may resent the priviledged status the law gives spouses in allowing certain benefits,( i.e. insurance) to be limited to familial relations of the household when they have dedicated much of their lives to the well being of their friend, maybe more so than some married couples. I have known singles, who were not homosexual in any way, live their lives together. I am reminded of native american rituals which symbolically made a non-family member, family, maybe more so. If there were a legal way to do what the native american did then there would be no justification for a “gay-marriage” because a person could obtain all the legal priviledges of marriage without marrying.
It seems to me that persons who identify themselves as homosexual are probably very wounded, since sexuality is a fundamental part of one’s identity. Therefore, it seems that they need a proportional measure of grace. Since grace can only be experienced (and possibly given) when there is confession of one’s brokeness, I rejoice in some measure that persons feel comfortable to come out of the closet. I wish to applaud civil unions to the extent that some are trying to live in a loving monogomus relationship, trying to live as closely to God’s ideal inspite of their own less than ideal nature. I am also humbled by the fact that many of these persons have relationships that exemplify a loving marriage better than those of us who are heterosexual.
At the same time I am aware that the woundedness that causes some to become homosexual also causes them to objectify sex. To the extent that the woundedness predisposes some to rape and child molestation, we need to be wary. The judgement of God on Sodom and Gomorroh and that of the Israelites on their fellow tribesmen came as a result of their societies licensing rape. Society legalizes murder as a punishment for murder or in the confines of war, in fact under those confines most people do not see it as immoral or qualify it as murder. Couldn’t there be equal confines for which homosexuality is accepted as legal and possibly moral?
Maria



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Bryan Hodge

posted January 24, 2006 at 8:24 pm


I’ve struggled to know exactly how much Christians should really be involved in laws created within their culture. I definitely agree with Scot and the others that this is morality for the covenant community to do (and we ought to be concerned about preaching the gospel and preaching this morality to the church), but I also think that it is morality that the unbeliever will be condemned for (i.e., the Canaanites who are wiped out for practicing these different forms of sexual immorality, but were not within the covenant community). So how much should we warn people about that which they will be judged for?
I also wanted to ask Jamie, although I agree with you about the church judging itself, that it seems that you are making an allowance to homosexual behavior that you would not give to other types of behavior. Let me know if I mistook you here. Would you also grant legal privileges to 5 people who want to get married, a man and an animal, an adult and a child, etc.? Our culture condemns these, but other cultures have not and what if our culture turned to accept these and grant them legal privileges? Would you be as excepting? And do you now say how sad it is that people in those relationships don’t get equal privileges as a man and a woman in marriage? I’m just looking for consistency here. Isn’t it really that we as a culture have come to be “trained” that homosexuality isn’t really that bad and that’s why you see the arguments here for it that you would not see for any of the others I mentioned. Remember that any assignment of immorality to the things I mentioned are for the covenant community.



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Bryan Hodge

posted January 24, 2006 at 8:25 pm


sorry “accepting”



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Denny Burk

posted January 24, 2006 at 8:41 pm


Bob,
I think the church has to learn to walk and chew gum at the same time. That is, we have to be able to do more than one thing at once. We have to be able to reach out in concrete acts of compassion, AND we have to be able to speak the truth in love. If the church has to wait until it stamps out disease in the world before it can bear witness to what the Bible says, then we may never be able to share the Gospel again.
Truthfully, I hate divorce. I think that no-fault divorce is one of the blights on our culture. If this discussion were broadened out to include ALL the assaults on marriage, I’d be happy to discuss them also. But Dr. McKnight has set the parameters of this discussion. The topic is homosexuality, and Dr. McKnight set that boundary, not me.
So don’t mistake my remarks as if I’m fixated on this issue. I’ll have plenty to say about divorce if the topic comes up. But for now, I’m trying to focus like a laser beam on this topic.
Thanks,
Denny



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Denny Burk

posted January 24, 2006 at 8:52 pm


Hey Maria,
I have a profound disagreement with something you wrote:
“I am also humbled by the fact that many of these persons have relationships that exemplify a loving marriage better than those of us who are heterosexual.”
According to Paul in Ephesians 5, the “mystery” of marriage is that it is an dramatic, symbolic emobdiment of the union between Christ in the church. Whenever two people of the same sex come together, it’s a tragic distortion of what is supposed to be imaged forth in the union of a man and a woman.
That being said, it is impossible for the union of two people of the same sex to “exemplify a loving marriage.” Marriage IS the union of a man and woman.
Thanks,
Denny



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Scot McKnight

posted January 24, 2006 at 8:53 pm


Ochuk,
You say: “One issue I hear among conservatives is that the state is to “reward good and punish evil” and “restrain evil” (Romans 13). Therefore, the state should make homosexual unions illegal. What do you make of that? (This is NOT my position, but I was wondering how you would respond to this kind of objection).”
Response: I do hear this at times; I do think many Christians see this as the role of the government, and they are entitled to their position. It is impossible for Christians to “vote” on an issue like this and not seek their own moral views to become normative. Laws are not made by votes (so far as I know) and it is important to see that laws are extensions, deductions, etc., for the laws of the land. Since it is clear that Supreme Court Justices’ own moral views influence them when they make decisions that are borderline, many conservative Christians support a conservative-oriented Justice. I would support such a view myself.



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Scot McKnight

posted January 24, 2006 at 8:55 pm


Mark,
Morality influences the Justice (see previous Comment). Morality comes into play always. How can we expect Christians to render judgment about issues and not permit their kingdom ethics shape that judgment? It would be a denial of their faith.



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Scot McKnight

posted January 24, 2006 at 9:03 pm


Bob,
I was not arguing in the opening salvo that each element has the same role, just that each has an influence on our moral judgments. Good points.



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Scot McKnight

posted January 24, 2006 at 9:06 pm


Kevin,
Your points are very good, but I simply do not have the expertise to make a decision about some of these matters. It takes someone who knows inheritance laws to know what to say about these issues.



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Scot McKnight

posted January 24, 2006 at 9:12 pm


Bob,
Nice comments. What becomes politicized and a hugely debated issue is often blown out of proportion to what is important. We’ve seen this so many times.
Further, I’m not always sure the Church is the active agent but a responding agent in some of these matters. Many Christians have gotten involved in this issue only because others are fighting for a view of marriage that is contrary to what they believe. Well, you see what I’m saying here.



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Scot McKnight

posted January 24, 2006 at 9:13 pm


On the Jamie-Denny debate on marriage, and what constitutes “biblical” marriage, I see what they are saying as this: Denny may be suggesting that Christians ought to argue in public and agitate for laws that support the Christian view, and Jamie contends that if we do that, we’d have to be consistent and nearly outlaw marriages that are not Christian.
Is this what I am seeing here?



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Scot McKnight

posted January 24, 2006 at 9:17 pm


At times some are using analogies to same-sex orientation that prejudices the case. I’ll comment on this soon. I ask that we be more respectful in our analogies. (If we use the analogy of murder, etc…)



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Denny Burk

posted January 24, 2006 at 9:21 pm


Scot,
The “Christian view of marriage,” as you put it, is a more comprehensive concept than what I’m contending for here. If anything, I am saying that it is proper for Christians to argue in the public square that marriage is the union of a man and a woman. That is sort of a baseline statement, but it does not encompass everything that Christian would want to say about marriage. For instance, I’m not arguing that Christians should agitate for laws that make wives submit to their husbands as to the Lord, even though I think that is a Christian view.
Thanks,
Denny



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Denny Burk

posted January 24, 2006 at 9:32 pm


Scot,
I’m not sure why you think the analogies prejudice the case? The analogies illustrate that there are no logical reasons for putting any boundaries on the definition of marriage once you abandon the definition as the union of a man and a woman. The floodgates are opened for “marriage” to accomodate an unlimited variety of arrangements once the traditional definition is jettisoned.
I remember when Sen. Rick Santorum made the same kinds of analogies a couple of years ago(as had many others), and people got really offended. But I think his argument was severely misunderstood (and sometimes misrepresented), and I don’t want to see that happen here.
Thanks,
Denny



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Curt Howell

posted January 24, 2006 at 10:08 pm


Maria,
Maria said “At the same time I am aware that the woundedness that causes some to become homosexual also causes them to objectify sex. To the extent that the woundedness predisposes some to rape and child molestation, we need to be wary. The judgement of God on Sodom and Gomorroh and that of the Israelites on their fellow tribesmen came as a result of their societies licensing rape.”
I think we have to be careful to link homosexuality to some specific woundedness. There are over 450 species of animals that have a percentage of their offspring exhibiting homosexuality. In animals this is hard to link to a distant father or dominant mother. I know a Christian psychologist that shows a film at a Christian College demonstating that pregnant female mice that are subjected to certain levels of stress hormones during pregnancy have progeny that are same sex oriented.
I am not sure if you are linking same sex attraction to rape and child molestation but the leading experts on rape and child molestation explain that these behaviors are asexual rather than hetero or homosexual.
The passage on Sodom and Gomorrah speaks to domination and control by heterosexual men. Certainly this is not speaking of homosexuality. How absurd it would be for Lot to offer his daughters to homosexual men. Rape as a form of domination, not sex has been recorded in war, prison and conquest since the beginning of time.



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Denny Burk

posted January 24, 2006 at 10:20 pm


Curt,
That’s an interpretation of Genesis 19 that is growing in popularity, but it’s an incorrect one. Homosexuality is being referred to in both Genesis 19 and in Judges 19.
Thanks,
Denny



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Curt Howell

posted January 24, 2006 at 10:36 pm


Denny,
Marriage has taken many forms throughout history and as recorded in the Bible. Marriage, as practiced, has been more than just one man and one women since creation. There have been eras where men take many wives and many concubines. There have been times marriage was proscribed and times it has been left to the modern concept of love. The Bible asks men who are Christians to think of Christ, a man, as the bridegroom and to think of themselves, men, as the bride. Where does that thought take you? Jesus, in fact, when debating with the sadducees smashes the concept of marriage between men and women in heaven. Certainly the new creation inaugurated in the new adam is not going to take us back to the original creation in the old adam. All these changes in the marriage construct over the course of history have never seemed to be too bothering to God from where I read the Bible. The real issues seem to be about fidelity, promiscuity, care for widows, and women who are unjustly put away. Some of the broader truths we need to address in this discussion might relate to God creating humans for relationship i.e. man was not created to be alone. And, the concept from the New Testament that lifelong celibacy is a gift, not a mandate.



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Scot McKnight

posted January 24, 2006 at 10:56 pm


Curt,
Some of this is overstated and some of it is helpful. Some of it is unclear.
First, you are right that there have been various forms of marriage but probably not as various as you say — including some polygamy that was evidently not immediately pounced on. Polygamy has its own history, and its own dissolution. Is your point that polygamy demonstrates variation of the marriage model and therefore there might be other variations?
Second, the point about Christ and the bride (Church) is metaphorical and is of little use in this discussion. Frankly, I find it unnecessarily inflammatory. Are we to infer that Christ as bridegroom and male Christians as brides is somehow a justification of something else? I don’t find this at all logical.
Third, Jesus’ comment about the resurrection does not “smash” marriage but reveals that heavenly existence transcends marriage. It provides no warrant for marriage being overturned in this life or for any alteration of marriage in this life.
Fourth, it is quite modernistic or postmodernist to turn marriage into just relationship. I agree that God made us for relationship (Embracing Grace makes much of this in my notion of hyper-relationality). But what is also part of that very discussion, which you raise, is that not being alone is resolved by God in God giving to Adam a woman.
I’m not quite sure what you are making of celibacy — is this a point that traditional Christian morality exhorts the same-sex oriented to be celibate, which undermines its being a gift?



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Denny Burk

posted January 24, 2006 at 11:01 pm


Curt,
Ditto to Scot’s remarks in #46. Disregard mine and read his. His are better.
Thanks,
Denny



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Curt Howell

posted January 25, 2006 at 2:02 am


Sorry Scot, I had been working on a couple different things and the send button got pushed on this one before my thoughts got organized, edited and put into paragraphs. I was about to send you a request to delete it when I saw your reply. Thankyou for sorting through the muddle to make your comments so I will briefly try to clarify.
First, my point was that post-fall there were variations. Polygamy seems to not fully describe the breadth of the situation given that there was a hierarchy of wives and concubines depending in some cases on the wealth of the individual. At other times, expectations were placed on women to marry brothers when husbands died, etc. The point was it moved beyond what we interpret as the creation template.
Second, you can scratch this. Some men who have not been raised in the church say they find this metaphor objectionable and cannot relate to it. I was not trying to justify anything with it. Enough said.
Third, I am not suggesting that marriage is “overturned” in this life but it is dramatically altered by the Fall. Heterosexuality is dramatically altered by the Fall. The introduction of divorce is a recognition that all is not as it was meant to be and in some sense alters marriage as it was. My poor choice of the word “smash” meant to convey that the institution of marriage does not seem to continue after we are in our resurrection bodies and gives us a glimpse at relationships that “transcend” gender.
Fourth, I don’t see my thought process redefining marriage as it relates to heterosexuals. By Adam’s testimony and God’s wisdom, woman was the provision for man’s loneliness, but that was all before the Fall. That provision has not changed for heterosexuals and so does not redefine marriage between a man and a woman.
I am trying to minister grace in a fallen world. I assume same sex attraction to be a post-fall phenomenon. As such, I don’t see that God expects his pre-fall provision to meet the need of a same sex oriented person.
So to my comment on celibacy. Paul encouraged singleness for the sake of the kingdom but that doesn’t get much air time today among heterosexual Christians. But it is popular for 97% of the heterosexual Christians to decree celibacy for the 3% of homosexual Christians. I don’t believe it is that simple.



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Dan

posted January 25, 2006 at 3:48 am


Dr. McKnight,
Although I have not been commenting I have been following this discussion with considerable interest. Because of my passions, and the work that I do, I have many friends who are a part of the LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bi, transgendered, and questioning) community. Consequently, as a Christian, I have been thinking/reading/writing/dialoguing about this issue for the last few years. I have several thoughts on this issue but I’ll save them until I know where you are going with this thread. I’m looking forward reading to more!
Peace,
Dan



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bill smith

posted January 25, 2006 at 8:19 am


Jamie,
“The number of laws and prohibitions that serious limits the rights and freedoms of homosexuals is still quite saddening.”
I not sure of all the laws you are referring to but in the case of marriage homosexuals are not granted rights becauese it is assumed that they are not married by definition. They are like singles who are not married. They do not have certain rights that others (married people) have.



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Anonymous

posted January 26, 2006 at 7:56 am


on my mind … » Blog Archive » Homosexuality in Perspective

[...] In the third post of the series, Scot discusses the issue of defining homosexuality. He points out that a person is not really defined by their sexual orientation, and that it is therefore problematic to speak of “a homosexual”; he points out that morality is not defined by law (i.e. just because the law of the land does not prohibit homosexual acts, they are not necessarily moral — they are simply legal; similarly, just because something is prohibited by law, it is not necessarily immoral — the law of the land and the law of God are two different things which may or may not overlap. Finally, Scot warns against overstating issues: some, but not all, persons with same-sex desires are promiscuous or sexually wild, but so are plenty of hetero-sexual persons. [...]



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Ken

posted January 26, 2006 at 7:41 pm


Scot,
I’m a bit puzzled by the effort you’ve gone to about saying that people should not be seen as “homosexuals,” as though this somehow made then sub-human. Certainly, if one used the term with that intent, it would be arguably wrong. Yet, do we not use such nouns based upon acts all the time? Soneone who cooks for a living is a cook. There’s nothing ontologically significant about that per se. Someone who steals is a “robber.” I don’t think most people would use that term to mean that the person is ontologically a robber and not a human. Likewise, if I use the term “homosexual,” it is properly adjecival with reference to the person’s behavior. Are you advocating instead that we cease using such nouns into some circumlocution like “Eikons who, at one tie or another, perhaps but not necessarily on an ongoing basis, commit homosexual acts”?



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Ken

posted January 26, 2006 at 7:45 pm


Tom,
You wrote “I personally would strike down sodomy laws and make (a) legal. What two people consensually do in the privacy of their own bedroom is between them and God.” As Scot is raising the issues of determining both legaility and morality, I want to press you on this. What is the basis of this view? Why consensual? Why people? There is no apparent reason if we set aside the biblical view of marriage that these other factors are relevant. The Mosaic requirement that two people not married to each other having sexual intercourse within a city’s walls must be stoned for adultery suggests pretty strongly that consent is irrelevant to determining morality from a biblical pespective. Why people? Why not animals and people? Why not several people at once? In other words, there is no clear basis in your statement for placing limits? Isn’t the point too that it is before God? So how would one ascertain what is acceptable before God?



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Scot McKnight

posted January 26, 2006 at 8:06 pm


Ken,
It seems to me you are overdoing this. In the use of the term “homosexual” some people (this is indisputable) are judging, other-ing, or flat-out pushing such people right off the map. My point is that homosexuals are Eikons. And I don’t think I’ve gone to any great extent to overdo this. The point was made; that’s all.
Nor would I contest that some do use the term in simple, fair adjectival ways. Not all do; I urge caution.



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gay sex

posted July 20, 2006 at 7:18 pm


hey man, cool site you have there
rock on :)



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