The New Christians

The New Christians


Comment of the Day

posted by Tony Jones

A fine dissent from Mike to my still-debated post, How I Went from There to Here: Same Sex Marriage Blogalogue:

I think the conclusion from this is that you have “caved to the
mushy inclusivity of pluralized nothingness” from the simple basis that
you have provided no theological reasons in support of your stance at
all. The only reference to any content in the bible is found in your
statement

“I’ve always thought that all persons should be afforded the same
rights and no one should be discriminated against. But I also knew that
the biblical prohibitions to homosexual sex should be taken seriously.”

Which shows that your opinion is not a biblically supported
position, at least not as you see it; but, that your sense of everyone
has rights and should be included and not made to feel left out,
somehow over rides the authority of scripture. That your wisdom and
convictions of right and wrong are superior to those of God. Your use
of the phrase ‘fully human persons’ also puts forward the idea that how
Christians act toward GLBTQ people is directly tied to our approval of
their actions. Do I agree with homosexuality…no, but I also do not
see gay people as sub-human people or treat them as inferior or
diseased. Jesus did not treat sinners as sub-human or say that they
don’t deserve human rights, but at the same time he did not condone
their sin, or make allowances in right and wrong to accommodate
opinions and beliefs contrary to God’s truth. Homosexuality is a sin
just as is any other that people struggle with, why should this one be
given special privilege among Christians, that we should embrace it?

You close saying that you now believe that “GLBTQ can live lives in
accord with biblical Christianity (at least as much as any of us can)”
., but you have yet to offer one biblical reference supporting how this
is possible, and so we are left with the conclusion that this decision
has been made completely based on your own desire to make everyone
happy and have everyone fit in as opposed to based on what God teaches
us in the scriptures.

My closing argument as to why this conclusion is false, is not
because the bible says it’s a sin, because as you pointed out we all
struggle with sin and are not perfect, so why should homosexuals be
viewed differently from you or I? The reason is the condition of the
heart, there is a difference between struggling with sin, and actively
taking part in it. If some one is in a homosexual relationship or
marriage, they have said to the world, this is who I am , this is how I
am living, and this is what I think is right. And to God they have
said, I know you think this is wrong and I don’t care, I am doing this
anyway, I am actively rebelling against you, and I am proud of it.

How can some one who is actively rebelling against God in their
daily life be living according to biblical Christianity? How can
someone who has embraced a lifestyle of sin (any sin) recognize their
sin problem and come to Jesus in repentance for their sin while they
hold the view that it is in fact not wrong. And if they do not see the
true nature of their sin, then they also cannot rightly accept Jesus
because they have not actually recognized why they need him.



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Larry

posted January 7, 2009 at 9:19 am


I can’t help but notice that Mike doesn’t include any Biblical material in his criticism of you for not using any Biblical material!



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Jim

posted January 7, 2009 at 9:25 am


I think Mike articulates well the concerns of many on the ‘anti’ side of this debate. I have been wrestling with many of the same thoughts that Mike brings to light. As I have followed this conversation my question remains similar to Mike’s, “How do you read the Bible?” Now like many, I have had to flush much of what I believed down the toilet in the past few years and start from scratch. I have seen the Bible with new eyes which in turn changed my life significantly. The area of homosexuality has been a hurdle I just can’t seem to get over. I want to understand the hermeneutic of the on the ‘pro’ side of this argument because I believe that is the foundation of this division. It seems like thats where this conversation is going with the previous post on weaknesses. Thanks again Tony for not being afraid of this conversation, it is edifying the church.



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cp

posted January 7, 2009 at 9:43 am


“And to God they have said, I know you think this is wrong and I don’t care, I am doing this anyway, I am actively rebelling against you, and I am proud of it.”
I would like to ask Mike to imagine how he would be/act differently if he decided not to be heterosexual for a day. Our sexuality is not something we “do”, it is who we are. Sexual identity is not an act of rebellion.



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Jeff

posted January 7, 2009 at 10:35 am


Jesus tells us that we are to love each other. Jesus does not say how that love is to be expressed and does not himself say that any expressions are prohibited. Why can it not be expressed in a manner that gives physical and emotional pleasure to the people involved? There are two commandments. We are to love God and to love each other. How we express our love to each other seems irrelevant.
What is sexual conduct? Is it different from loving conduct? Does the fact we are stimulated in some manner by the demonstration of that love make that love a sin? If love becomes “sex” when there is a physical component, what is the purpose of the physical component? Is sex as designed by God solely to produce children? If so, any other “sexual” contact which cannot produce children, or is not intended to produce children, must then be sinful. What of those who use birth control? What of those who have had surgical procedures done to prevent childbirth? What of those who have been rendered sterile by some illness or physical distortion. Is sex always sinful to them because it has a physical component that cannot produce children? Sex for fun is without love and seems to be a sin, and as such promiscuity is sinful.
The term “homosexual” is nowhere found in Scripture, though I agree some descriptions of sinful behavior can be interpreted as a type of homosexual behavior. I am simply not convinced that the descriptions are directed against all loving physical relationships between two people of the same sex. I think the difference is whether the conduct constitutes a demonstration of “love”. Sexual addiction and promiscuity are certainly sinful whether homosexual or heterosexual. Pedophilia and incest are not demonstrations of “love” in any respect. Such conduct is abusive and oppressive to oneself and others.
By my reading, Paul, in Romans, simply says that abusive and deceitful behavior is sinful. Paul goes on to say that the saving act of Jesus Christ changed things and that even these abusive and deceitful sinful behaviors are covered by Jesus’ sacrifice. I would not say that this passage makes those deceitful and abusive actions no longer sinful. Such actions are to be abandoned. However, it does not say that such conduct is unforgivable or bars these people from the Kingdom if they continue to struggle. They are forgiven! If they do it again, they are forgiven again! Was Jesus’ death insufficient in some way? But if the behavior is in fact a mutual and equal loving relationship, I do not read Paul as calling such demonstration of love sinful. It just seems to me that God might not condemn a relationship based on commitment and love just because the manner by which the love is expressed is unattractive or unappealing to some.
If we find that sexual orientation is genetic, such that it is not the choice of the individual, what do we do with the theology that rejects the homosexual community for their un-chosen actions? If sexual orientation is genetic, these people were created that way. If they were created that way, how can they be condemned? Gays might be described as similar to people with other genetic differences. Many deaf people have no problem being deaf. There is a culture for them where they are not only happy, but also thriving. This culture has its own rich language, history, songs, traditions and a strong close-knit feeling. That Jesus healed the deaf does not make deafness sinful, nor does it require the deaf to get Cochlear Implants so they can hear.
I think that these people are welcome in the Kingdom regardless of their genetic circumstances. God looks at the heart to find faith in the saving action of Jesus Christ, and does so with all people of all varying genetic makeup.
I also recognize that Jesus stated that marriage, as he defined it, is between a man and a woman. It appears that two people of the same sex cannot be married as that institution is defined in scripture, but it does not say some other covenantal relationship is not possible. Why would we preclude a legal relationship between consenting adults that allows for health care benefits and inheritance?
I am not so bold as to say that I am certain of my views. These are discussions we need to have. As I said yesterday, (Your Name – oops) we must try to find God’s will for us by discussing these issues prayerfully and with openness to the actions of the Spirit. God is merciful to all those who seek him. Christians need to keep talking and praying about this issue so at least we can stand before God and tell him we did our best to get it right, even if in the end we are wrong.



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J.Random

posted January 7, 2009 at 11:17 am


“And to God they have said, I know you think this is wrong and I don’t care…”
…Unless they *don’t* believe God thinks it is wrong. There are other views of the Bible than “Divine Rulebook For Today” that one can subscribe to and remain a faithful Christian.
Paul waived God’s “everlasting covenant” of circumcision; Jesus abolished all the OT dietary laws and gave new teachings about divorce. There is a proud tradition in Christianity of saying “that was for then; this is for now” as the Holy Spirit leads people into truth.



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Drew Tatusko

posted January 7, 2009 at 2:22 pm


The issue is not just how one reads the text, but what one does with it. Even if we can come to a consensus on how to read a text, it does not mean by necessity that we will do exactly what the text says, especially with regard to the development of what are often alien social structures in the Bible – especially to Western cultures. Consensus is a far enough stretch that we need to abandon.
I would never suggest that a development of social structures in the West that look identical to those accepted and endorsed in the Bible is a good idea. Thus, some other theoretical apparatus needs to be recognized that mediates what we do with these texts. Certainly understanding what love of neighbor and God means in the various cultural contexts of this age is necessary. Christians do this already, but I fear that much of it is assumed based on traditional structures rather than critically engaged. Because of this, “issues” like same gender love fall prey to assumptions rather than honest engagement with arbitrary social structures that are as mutable as those we find in Scripture itself.
One aspect of postmodern criticism is the notion that symbols that inform social structures often become reified. Evidence of this is often symbolized with the phrase “I am convinced” without thinking that even deep-felt convictions can, and should, change. We do this with how we think we should act upon what we think the Bible says. But if we are reifying these structures, then we are committing idolatry – the worst offense in all of Scripture. Thus, criticism of social norms can lead to more robust understandings of purity within religious communities as these systems change over time.
The entire issue is about purity and social norms within religious communities; not hermeneutics, rights, etc. That should be no surprise if one reviews that ideas of purity form the fault lines upon which sects develop. That this is creating sectarianism within the church on an increasing scale is now sadly self-evident. But to say that the social structures of a 1st century Jew or Christian Gentile should be those of our own is patent absurdity and will result in arbitrary inconsistencies (as it clearly has given that we have already rejected many of those structures in the West). The alternative is to discover why many of these norms have been rejected, even those clearly endorsed in the New Testament, and why we should keep or reject others. The answer lies in the function of the norm, not the theological assertions for or against it which tends to infused with traditional arbitrariness rooted in feeling and taste rather that rational engagement.



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Raycol

posted January 7, 2009 at 3:34 pm


For a different view, interested readers can visit http://www.GaysAndSlaves.com to see why the Biblical condemnation of homosexual practice does not apply today. Note especially the no-harm test.



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Panthera

posted January 7, 2009 at 4:15 pm


Either we accept what science has shown us, that homosexuals are normal or we don’t.
If we want to pretend that homosexuals, like me, are engaged in sinful behavior, then how do we as 21 century Christians deal with all the other proscriptions? You can’t have it both ways – reject the NT writings which you dislike and the oppress me with the ones which may or may not object to my relationship.
My committed, monogamous, life-long marriage (outside of the US) .
Which brings us to a rather touchy point. Why this unceasing focus on sex? Is that the only reason for heterosexual marriage? Are women so worthless to fundamentalist/conservative/literalistic/followers-of-ancient-creeds Christians?
Why are you afraid to recognize all the supporting, caring, loving friendship and bonds in our relationships?
Another problem. Now that we have conclusive evidence that homosexuality is innate, how do you pick and choose which aspects of the natural sciences you want to reject? We already had the flat earth argument, which is quite biblical.



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Drew Tatusko

posted January 8, 2009 at 1:42 pm


@Panthera
I would not say the evidence is conclusive yet that it is innate, but it seems to point that direction. It is a reasonable hypothesis to make at any rate.
What we do know is that the confluence of environmental and biological factors tell us quite clearly that is is not chosen (in most cases). Now some may choose to make their orientation different that it ought to be (both gays who try to be straight and straights who try to be gay and are usually bi at the end of the day). But that alone does not count for the reality that orientation itself is not chosen.
What is clear is that the more we learn from objective sources (not NARTH, Americans for Truth and the like) the more we are learning the degree to which orientation is not chosen.
My issue is that even if it is chosen, the civil authorities have no business telling people who they can love and marry. Churches can still do what they need to for their social identities to remain intact. Pushing their social identity onto everyone else is an affront to personal liberty which the government is supposed to protect, not infringe.



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panthera

posted January 9, 2009 at 10:16 am


Drew,
I guess the difference in our views is based on how current we are on well-done research. Europe is considerably ahead of the US on this.
But we have no argument there and I am genuinely in awe of your range of knowledge.
One side note, there is considerable evidence that it is possible to torture someone enough, as the fundmentalist Christians do in their treatment centers, that they lose the ability to form loving bonds. But there is no evidence that a homosexual can be made heterosexual.
If we accept the Kinsey scale (I don’t, but never mind), then sexuality lies across a spectrum. This is often mistaken to mean that the majority of people are somewhere in the bi-sexual range. This is not true. The majority of people are heterosexual. A smaller number – depends on whether the studies are done by scientists or fundamentalist Christians – but in any case somewhere between ‘a vanishingly small number under 1%’ and 10% of the population are homosexual. The genuinely bi-sexual are what is left. I suspect the very few cases of people who are able to switch between gender of their sex partner at will fit into that category.
In any event, you are right – even if sexuality were a choice (and it is not), then there is still no basis for treating us as sub-human.
Most alarming of all is the manner in which these fundamentalists have succeeded in taking the US back to a pre-enlightenment era in so many aspects of medicine and the natural sciences.
We can debate the theory of evolution, it is a decent working hypothesis but the moment it is disproved, I am so out of there. Doesn’t bother me a bit. Until then, I will teach it and use it.
Same for the age of the earth.
Same for global warming. A true conservative would think, ‘hmm, let’s see. If I am wrong about this and we only end up reducing our waste of energy and release of noxious elements into the air we breath, then that is still less action than continuing to waste resources. The argument of the fundamentalists has nothing to do with being conservative, everything to do with knee-jerk hatred of rational thought.



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JenRunyon

posted January 9, 2009 at 1:55 pm


Is this blogalouge ever gonna happen?



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Shawn

posted January 9, 2009 at 8:22 pm


A lot of these comments in response are good and well thought out, but most don’t seem to be addressing what the post really gets at: that the pro-ssm (or the inclusion) stance seems to have little basis in the scriptures.
J. Random’s comments about Paul and Jesus contextualizing OT commands are helpful, but I disagree a bit. I think Paul and Jesus went about contextualizing (or “waiving” or “abolishing”) some OT commands in the right way. They looked to scripture and reasoned that the scriptures on the whole no longer support those commands: sort of a “spirit of the law” argument.
I love that “proud tradition in Christianity of saying “that was for then; this is for now” as the Holy Spirit leads people into truth.” I just am not yet convinced it applies here.
Props to Tony for posting such a strong voice in opposition though and props to others for working this out. Obviously it’s an issue that won’t be leaving us any time soon!



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