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Sexuality and Christian belief (Was: Homosexuality and the Bible)

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mrmando wrote:

: On a tangent, just how far do you take the "Jesus ministered to fellow Jews" argument? Are there any teachings attributed to Jesus himself (as distinct from common Jewish teachings in Jesus' day) which we might reasonably construe as inapplicable to Gentile Christians?

Hmmm, interesting question. Well, obviously, anything that involved going to the Temple and/or its priests wouldn't apply to Gentiles, but the only quotes in that regard that come to mind are not "teachings" so much as they are instructions that Jesus gave to specific individuals in specific circumstances (such as the lepers that he healed).

Of course, the gospels were written in Greek to a primarily Greek-speaking audience (including Gentiles but also Diaspora Jews), so it's debatable whether the authors/editors of these gospels would have seen any point in holding on to any narrowly Jewish "teachings".

: I think most sola scriptura Christians would say that the NT, not the individual Christian, is the primary arbiter for deciding how to interpret the OT. Catholic/Orthodox Christians would say that there are additional arbiters.

Well, even so-called "sola scriptura" Christians believe there are additional arbiters, even if they say they don't, because the simple fact of the matter is that you simply cannot read the New Testament without doing so through SOME sort of lens. (Heck, you can't even HAVE a New Testament without appealing to later tradition; the Church was over 300 years old before anybody came up with a list of 27 books that perfectly matches the Table of Contents in modern New Testaments. The list of canonical scriptures certainly doesn't appear anywhere within those scriptures themselves.) And so it is that, on the homosexuality issue, we have this debate between two different groups of evangelicals, each of whom appeal to scripture, and each of whom appeal to different historical or social or spiritual or hermeneutical criteria when interpreting scripture.

: : Then again, it also specifies that they shouldn't consume blood, but pretty much nobody complains nowadays if you order your steaks rare or medium rare. So, hmmm.)

:

: Well, both that prohibition and the one against "meat offered to idols" had to do with certain pagan cultic practices regarding animal sacrifice, did they not?

The one against meat offered to idols, yes, obviously. The one against meat that still has the blood in it, no, not so obviously. From the Jewish point of view, the law against eating meat with the blood in it applies to ALL of humanity, and not just to the Jews, because it goes all the way back to the covenant that God made with Noah in Genesis 9. The kosher food laws apply to the Jews only because they are part of the covenant with Moses, and circumcision applies to the Jews (and perhaps the Arabs, too) because it is part of the even older covenant with Abraham, but the law against eating meat with the blood in it goes all the way back to the oldest covenant of all.

: I imagine someone has tried to argue that the "sexual immorality" in Acts 15 also refers exclusively to pagan cultic practices ... I dunno for sure.

Bah. When, e.g., Paul chastises the Corinthians for letting a man sleep with his step-mother, there's nothing "cultic" about it.

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It is all about holding you to your conservative theological views so, yes, consistency is without question the issue. If you told me that you personally confronted gluttonous members of your church regarding their behavior and threatened repeat offenders with disfellowshipping, I would without question tip my hat in respect, despite my personal disagreement. Such a position would be a consistent application of the "sin is sin" belief and as such, worthy of respect.

I have, without question, confronted issues of gluttony among my congregation. I have not had to, as of this point, treat anyone as an unbeliever because of rebellion over gluttony. Or over homosexuality for what that's worth.

I don't think scripture addresses the issue of innate sexual orientation at all.

You mean, aside from the fact that Scripture plainly says that all of us have an underlying, fallen orientation towards sin?

In fact, scripture doesn't address a lot of sexual issues; what to you do with people born with ambiguous genitalia or hormonal, intersex disorders? There are no nice, neat verses for these people, friends. I am not convinced that the anti-gay verses typically cited, speak to the same issue that we are discussing today. In the words of Fee, "Scripture cannot mean what it never meant" and this is a perfect example in my opinion.

Greg, I'm not looking for "nice, neat verses." For what it's worth, you're the one who seems to be saying that if Scripture does not contain a "nice, neat" statement on something, that it says nothing at all about the topic. And be careful citing Fee on this, as he firmly believes that the 1 Corinthians 6 verse emphatically, explicitly, and unequivocally addresses male homosexual behavior.

The position that conservatives are stuck with is that homosexuals have "chosen" this path and that the decision to succumb to homosexuality is a besetting sin no different than lying or adultery and needs to be repented of.

Others have already well addressed this claim. It's not that homosexual desire is a choice. I know far too many precious brothers and sisters who desperately wish that they did not desire intercourse with someone of the same sex to believe that. Homosexual desire is not a choice. Acting on that desire is, to a great degree.

The other thing that has been well addressed by others already is the arsenotokoi question and the fallacy of etymology. I find the argument that Paul may have coined the word himself to be very persuasive. And if he coined it, its etymology DOES have strong bearing.

I hate to say this, folks, but my laptop screen is almost unreadable due to intense damage (not thread-related :) ) and it needs to go in to the Mac Shack tomorrow. I may be out of the discussion for a few days, or even a week. It's not due to lack of interest, nor to fear. It's due to mechanical failure. If the screen can be easily repaired, I will of course be back sooner.

Blessings to all!

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Here's what I wrote a few years ago on the Romans 1:26-27 passage. It was written as part of a broader paper trying to bring some balance to the rhetoric that is often thrown around by both sides of the debate, but primarily for those who had always grown up being told homosexual practice was wrong, hence why it spends more time on one side of the discussion than the other.

This appears to be the clearest denunciation of homosexual practice in the bible, and is the only possible explicit reference to lesbian acts in the bible. To summarise the complex counter arguments that have been raised about the function of this passage in the overall argument of Paul’s letter, the specifics of syntax and grammar, and so on are beyond the scope of this paper, but a number of points can be raised here briefly.

Firstly, the context of these verses is critical. In fact many people simply ignore the opening few words “because of this”, but they are critical. The “acts” that will be described in the following 2 verses are what has happened because they have already “worshiped and served created things”.

Following on from that, it's clear that this passage is actually only talking about Gentiles, whom both Paul, and his (Judaising) opponents agree are unclean. Paul begins his letter by finding common ground with his opponents before moving on to counter their arguments in chapter 2.

Thirdly, whilst Paul’s arguments about “nature” initially appearing to be universal, they must be seen in relation to what he actually means by that term, and how we interpret that elsewhere in his writing. For example, Paul also argues from nature that men having long hair is disgraceful (1 Cor. 11:14)! Elsewhere in this letter Paul contrasts the “natural” Jews with gentiles, who are " wild by nature” (Romans 11:17-24). Some argue Paul’s use of the word is simply synonym for unclean.

Finally, many of the other words used here are far more ambiguous in the original Greek than they are in many modern translations. In some cases words could be either positive or negative the most negative sounding word is consistently chosen. The NIV in particular seems to exaggerate several words.

Putting these four points together it is not inconceivable that these verses be translated

“Because of this (idolatry), God gave them over to dishonourable appetites. For even their women swapped natural relations for those contrary to nature. In the same way the men also left the natural use of women, and their appetites burned for one another. Men committed naked acts with other men, thus receiving in themselves the payment for their error (of idolatry).

(It should be noted that this is only my translation, based on a fairly basic grasp of NT Greek grammar and a Greek lexicon (dictionary). Its aim is as much to offset the bias in the NIV as anything else, but I do also believe it is a feasible translation. )

It should be noted that this translation is hardly politically correct, but what Paul actually seems to be saying is that the Gentiles' idolatry made them unclean, and as a result of idolatry, they engaged in same sex acts.

It can also be argued that since the point is actually being applied to men and women of heterosexual orientation who are engaged in homosexual acts, (and is not referring to men and women who are of homosexual orientation) these verses have no bearing on people who have a homosexual orientation. This will not, however, satisfy those who consider homosexuality to be a person’s own choice. Furthermore, it should also be pointed out that the idea of homosexual orientation is a relatively modern one.

Matt

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Well, even so-called "sola scriptura" Christians believe there are additional arbiters, even if they say they don't, because the simple fact of the matter is that you simply cannot read the New Testament without doing so through SOME sort of lens.

Notice I referred to the NT as the "primary" arbiter, not the "sole" arbiter. Methinks a sola-scriptura Christian would be perfectly willing to admit additional arbiters as long as those arbiters were considered less important than the text itself. Still, that differs from an Orthodox/Catholic POV, which would not want to give the text that kind of primacy.

And so it is that, on the homosexuality issue, we have this debate between two different groups of evangelicals, each of whom appeal to scripture, and each of whom appeal to different historical or social or spiritual or hermeneutical criteria when interpreting scripture.

Indeed, both sides in the debate could benefit from more awareness concerning hermeneutics—both their own and the other party's.

The one against meat offered to idols, yes, obviously. The one against meat that still has the blood in it, no, not so obviously. From the Jewish point of view, the law against eating meat with the blood in it applies to ALL of humanity, and not just to the Jews, because it goes all the way back to the covenant that God made with Noah in Genesis 9.

With your comment about rare steaks, are you suggesting that it's possible from a Jewish POV for meat that's slaughtered and prepared according to kosher rules to lose its kosher status because it isn't cooked enough?

From a Christian POV, surely 1 Cor. 10:25-26 releases Gentile Christians from any obligation to perform due diligence on the "offered to idols" clause of Acts 15, and it seems to me it could be construed similarly concerning the "blood" clause. So I actually needn't offer a cultural-difference excuse for not worrying about those clauses. I have a scriptural excuse! Good thing—I'd hate to think Irish Catholics were sinning by eating a traditional breakfast.

Edited by mrmando

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Be fruitful and multiply! What about the objection to homosex that it is not fruitful in the sense that it has nothing to do with procreation? The traditional notion of sex is that it has two parts, one unitive and one procreative. When the procreative part is removed then the unitive part gets distorted into sex as recreation. Then anything pretty much goes, divorce, adultery, masturbation, homosex, fornication, contraception, abortion, sex with animals, sex with children, sex with dead people. If it floats your boat, go for it.

Ii seems to me the church needs to return to the idea that procreation is the main reason God created sex, to insure that children get the chance to grow up in a stable family. If we take this seriously, the first step for most Christians would be to stop contracepting and have a big family.

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Be fruitful and multiply! What about the objection to homosex that it is not fruitful in the sense that it has nothing to do with procreation? The traditional notion of sex is that it has two parts, one unitive and one procreative. When the procreative part is removed then the unitive part gets distorted into sex as recreation. Then anything pretty much goes, divorce, adultery, masturbation, homosex, fornication, contraception, abortion, sex with animals, sex with children, sex with dead people. If it floats your boat, go for it.

Ii seems to me the church needs to return to the idea that procreation is the main reason God created sex, to insure that children get the chance to grow up in a stable family. If we take this seriously, the first step for most Christians would be to stop contracepting and have a big family.

I have heard pro-gay Christians (or whatever you want to call them... I hate all these labels) concede that heterosexuality IS the ideal, for procreation and other reasons. But that is not the same thing as saying that the Bible condemns homosexuality altogether. Walking on two legs is also the ideal, but the Bible does not condemn wheelchairs and crutches.

To put it another way, I'm diabetic. I believe diabetes is the product of a sinful, fallen world. But I don't believe I'm sinning because I have diabetes.

I'm not sure I agree with the above reasoning, but it does make sense in some ways. I'm going back and forth on this issue BIG TIME, and I'm just trying to stir the pot a bit.

Edited by morgan1098

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Re: sexual orientations, these debates tend to revolve around a gay-straight system of binary opposites, but of course there are other options. SDG has already referred to a different kind of irrepressible desire; less controversially, I would like to ask how bisexuality should fit into the picture here. Should bisexuals be encouraged to limit themselves to heterosexual relationships, since such relationships would certainly seem to be an option for them? Or would those who advocate the expression of homosexual attraction because people have "no choice" in the matter say that bisexuals should be free to follow their desire no matter WHO that desire happens to focus on from time to time?

Matt, thanks for reminding me about the reference to "nature" in Paul's treatment of long hair. It's a point I used to make in the past, but it completely slipped my mind this latest go-'round.

mrmando wrote:

: Notice I referred to the NT as the "primary" arbiter, not the "sole" arbiter. Methinks a sola-scriptura Christian would be perfectly willing to admit additional arbiters as long as those arbiters were considered less important than the text itself.

Well, then they're not "sola" any more. Not that anyone ever really is. :)

: Still, that differs from an Orthodox/Catholic POV, which would not want to give the text that kind of primacy.

Eh? I can't speak for the Catholics, but for the Orthodox, the scriptures absolutely have primacy -- that's why the scriptures are "canonical" (which is to say, they are the "ruler" by which everything else is measured) and other texts are not. Granted, we do not believe that the Holy Spirit ceased to inspire the Church after the last scripture was written -- there were also the ecumenical councils, and then, sometime after the first few councils, there was the formalization of the canon of the New Testament -- but our worship and our theology are very much scripture-centric. (FWIW, I interviewed Fr. Thomas Hopko about some of these issues here; at the time, I had been attending my girlfriend's Orthodox church for about a year and a half, but I didn't actually become Orthodox myself until a year and a half later.)

: With your comment about rare steaks, are you suggesting that it's possible from a Jewish POV for meat that's slaughtered and prepared according to kosher rules to lose its kosher status because it isn't cooked enough?

If that red juice in the steak qualifies as "blood", then yeah, possibly. I don't know; I've never asked any rabbis about this. But I do occasionally hear people say they like a little bit of blood in their steaks, so if it's not just an expression...

: From a Christian POV, surely 1 Cor. 10:25-26 releases Gentile Christians from any obligation to perform due diligence on the "offered to idols" clause of Acts 15 . . .

Well, maybe. We already know, thanks to Galatians, that Paul and James didn't see eye-to-eye on these matters, and there are some who speculate that the happy resolution described in Acts 15 (where men from James go to Antioch with the letter telling the Gentile Christians what to do and what not to do) is just a cleaned-up version of the confrontation described in Galatians 2. (Certainly Acts seems to "clean things up" in other ways, too; e.g., Paul says in Galatians that the "men from James" came between himself and Barnabas, whereas Acts says that Paul and Barnabas split up because Barnabas wanted to give Mark a second chance and Paul didn't want to; in Galatians, Paul is clearly pointing the finger at Barnabas and blaming those who influenced him, whereas Acts describes an entirely different scenario where you can kind of see both sides of the argument.)

In any case, when Paul returns to Jerusalem in Acts 21, he is clearly told by James and the others that he (Paul) has developed a reputation for telling people not to obey the Law, and so they ask him to take steps to prove his commitment to Judaism -- and Paul acquiesces. Indeed, one of the striking things about Acts is how it shows Paul acquiescing to the Jewish believers of his day in ways that you'd never expect the author of Paul's epistles to do (see, e.g., the bit in Acts 16 where it says that Paul circumcised Timothy -- this, despite Paul's constant insistence in his letters that circumcision means nothing!). So there is, admittedly, a tension there between Acts and Paul when it comes to the Jewish Law in general.

: . . . and it seems to me it could be construed similarly concerning the "blood" clause.

Well, now you're going beyond what the text actually says, of course.

: So I actually needn't offer a cultural-difference excuse for not worrying about those clauses. I have a scriptural excuse!

Heh. Except, of course, that your excuse is founded on an EXTRAPOLATION of scripture and not on any specific verse. So, too, with the endorsement of same-sex unions; it is founded on an EXTRAPOLATION of certain scriptures even though there is no specific verse that permits it.

Jim Janknegt wrote:

: Ii seems to me the church needs to return to the idea that procreation is the main reason God created sex . . .

That might be the Western church's main reason for sex, but not the Eastern church's. You were closer to the truth when you said that sex has both a unitive and a procreative aspect. To say, now, that the procreative aspect is THE main reason God created sex, as though the unitive aspect takes a back seat to that, seems to me like a distortion of some sort.

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: Still, that differs from an Orthodox/Catholic POV, which would not want to give the text that kind of primacy.

Eh? I can't speak for the Catholics, but for the Orthodox, the scriptures absolutely have primacy -- that's why the scriptures are "canonical" (which is to say, they are the "ruler" by which everything else is measured) and other texts are not. Granted, we do not believe that the Holy Spirit ceased to inspire the Church after the last scripture was written -- there were also the ecumenical councils, and then, sometime after the first few councils, there was the formalization of the canon of the New Testament -- but our worship and our theology are very much scripture-centric.

For Catholics too. Sacred tradition contains and attests the word of God, but only scripture is the word of God. Only scripture is divinely inspired (authored by God); tradition is not inspired, nor are infallible conciliar or papal decrees. (AFAIK, Catholic theology wouldn't speak of the Holy Spirit "inspiring" the Church, but of animating and guiding the Church; only scripture is inspired or God-breathed.) Only scripture has God as its author; with respect to infallible conciliar or papal decrees he is not the author, only the editor; he does not put truth in, but merely keeps error out. Scripture and tradition together make up the the deposit of faith, but scripture is text and tradition is context. This doesn't mean we can pit scripture against tradition, but they aren't equal in importance.

: Ii seems to me the church needs to return to the idea that procreation is the main reason God created sex . . .

That might be the Western church's main reason for sex, but not the Eastern church's. You were closer to the truth when you said that sex has both a unitive and a procreative aspect. To say, now, that the procreative aspect is THE main reason God created sex, as though the unitive aspect takes a back seat to that, seems to me like a distortion of some sort.

Let's not be too quick to pit East vs. West. The unitive and the procreative" is standard Western lingo. Procreation is not the "main reason God created sex," but it is the purpose of sex. God's "reason" for creating sex includes not only its procreative purpose, but also its unitive meaning.

Edited by SDG

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I've read a solid amount from Christians advocating marriage for homosexuals, but I've never heard anyone address the notion of "one flesh"

This is difficult, as both Paul and the author of Revelation expressly use hetero marriage as a metaphor for the relationship between Christ and the church. I suppose one could attempt to contextualize this to same-sex relationships by reducing the metaphor to one of covenant love or something like that, but Paul's metaphor really is embedded in the traditional Jewish concept of hetero marriage.

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: With your comment about rare steaks, are you suggesting that it's possible from a Jewish POV for meat that's slaughtered and prepared according to kosher rules to lose its kosher status because it isn't cooked enough?

If that red juice in the steak qualifies as "blood", then yeah, possibly. I don't know; I've never asked any rabbis about this. But I do occasionally hear people say they like a little bit of blood in their steaks, so if it's not just an expression...

The law is that all meat must be ex-sanguinated within 72 hours of slaughter by means of proper draining, and the application of salt or other curating chemicals. The red liquid that is found in kosher meat after cooking is not considered blood. Off-topic, but there you go.

That might be the Western church's main reason for sex, but not the Eastern church's. You were closer to the truth when you said that sex has both a unitive and a procreative aspect. To say, now, that the procreative aspect is THE main reason God created sex, as though the unitive aspect takes a back seat to that, seems to me like a distortion of some sort.

And isn't that unitive aspect the basis of Paul's use of marriage as a metaphor for the church? Can this metaphor extend to same-sex marriages? I think this is an important question, as from a Pauline perspective, it not only has to do with the ethics of sex, but the structure of the church and its relationship to the risen Christ.

Edited by M. Leary

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Indeed, one of the striking things about Acts is how it shows Paul acquiescing to the Jewish believers of his day in ways that you'd never expect the author of Paul's epistles to do (see, e.g., the bit in Acts 16 where it says that Paul circumcised Timothy -- this, despite Paul's constant insistence in his letters that circumcision means nothing!). So there is, admittedly, a tension there between Acts and Paul when it comes to the Jewish Law in general.

Yes, it is a mistake to read 1 Cor. 10:25-26 as releasing us from anything, because 1 Cor 10:23-24 radically obligates us to each other in a way that the Law couldn't quite comprehend. I can eat this meat, but this freedom is not the end goal of my salvation. Mutual submission to each other in the local church as a continual embodiment of the Christ event is the real-time goal of my salvation that is a proactive celebration of the eschaton (which is the end goal of my salvation). This social polity is the core sentiment of our freedom from which the already/not yet attitude of the Church radiates.

Paul then bears this alternative ethic out in his later interaction with church leadership. We have freedom from the idea that the Law is our means of salvation and our standard of social interaction. That is a big deal, and this part of 1 Cor is very interested in subverting that second aspect of the law. Our new social polity is one birthed in the Philippians 2 understanding of what the cross means.

(I wonder how this new ethic informs this debate?)

Edited by M. Leary

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And isn't that unitive aspect as the basis of Paul's use of marriage as a metaphor for the church? Can this metaphor extend to same-sex marriages? I think this is an important question, as from a Pauline perspective, it not only has to do with the ethics of sex, but the structure of the church and its relationship to the risen Christ.

I think so too, and this is a point Darrel and I pursued in one of the previous threads.

Man and woman in coital union form in a sense a teleological unity. The joining of individual reproductive systems forms a single reproductive super-system, a shared reproductive act in which the individual reproductive functions of each is completed by the other. Even if actual reproduction does not take place or is not possible, it is still an act with a shared reproductive teleology -- a shared act, biologically speaking, of attempted reproduction. The male system attempts to deliver seed into the female reproductive tract, which attempts to receive them so that they can attempt to flagellate around in a quest for an ovum that the vast majority of them will certainly not find, and that may not be there at all, but that it is nevertheless their purpose to seek, and which will be there if it is anywhere to be found.

This is a radically different act than acts that merely juxtapose the reproductive system with, say, the digestive system (at either end), or which involve mutual, separate stimulation of reproductive organs (e.g., by means of toys). With such an act, the teleological unity of conjugal union is not merely possible but forbidden, it is not possible. If the act involves a man with another man (or one man by himself, or with anything or anyone other than a woman, in any other act than coitus), the male organ may still go through the motions of delivering seed, but there is no reception of seed into the reproductive tract in which lies their raison d'etre. What fellowship hath sperm with the digestive tract (male or female)?

"No, but God knows we keep trying." This one-liner from Milk in response to a question about whether two men can reproduce, quoted by Darrel, applies just as aptly to the question "Can two men become one flesh?"

Edited by SDG

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I have heard pro-gay Christians (or whatever you want to call them... I hate all these labels) concede that heterosexuality IS the ideal, for procreation and other reasons. But that is not the same thing as saying that the Bible condemns homosexuality altogether. Walking on two legs is also the ideal, but the Bible does not condemn wheelchairs and crutches.

To put it another way, I'm diabetic. I believe diabetes is the product of a sinful, fallen world. But I don't believe I'm sinning because I have diabetes.

But then you're effectively suggesting homosexuality is a disease of some kind, or at best, a type of psychological disorder. It's an argument that undermines the validity of same-sex romantic relationships, rather than allowing for them; categorizing homosexuality that way would suggest that a cure--perhaps medicinal in nature--should be sought.

Yes, this analogy falls short and I see the danger in equating homosexuality with an actual physical disease. The point was that some gay Christians, at least, concede that homosexual behavior is not God's original design and might even be considered a bit of a physiological "handicap"... but not a sin. See, for example, this argument by a guy arguing in favor of monogamous marriage for gay Christians:

http://www.gaychristian.net/justins_view.php

It's certainly true that God designed our bodies with heterosexuality in mind; that's how new human beings come into the world. I don't think anyone can deny that heterosexual sex is the way our bodies were built to function. But does that mean that using our bodies in any other way is sinful?

God designed our ears and mouths so we could communicate - we listen, and we talk. Every culture on earth communicates this way. But some people are deaf, maybe because they were born that way or maybe because of something that happened to them. Either way, they can't communicate the way the rest of us do, so they have to improvise with what they have. Most deaf people today use sign language to communicate, and even though that's not what our hands were designed for, it gets the job done. None of us would call that "sinful."

The argument that "you shouldn't do that because that wasn't God's design" is really more of an excuse than a real argument. If anything becomes sinful just because it wasn't part of the original design of creation, we'd have to condemn wheelchairs, makeup, open-heart surgery, bicycles, acrobatics, pre-packaged foods... well, you get the idea.

Edited by morgan1098

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And isn't that unitive aspect as the basis of Paul's use of marriage as a metaphor for the church? Can this metaphor extend to same-sex marriages? I think this is an important question, as from a Pauline perspective, it not only has to do with the ethics of sex, but the structure of the church and its relationship to the risen Christ.

I think so too, and this is a point Darrel and I pursued in one of the previous threads.

Man and woman in coital union form in a sense a teleological unity. The joining of individual reproductive systems forms a single reproductive super-system, a shared reproductive act in which the individual reproductive functions of each is completed by the other. Even if actual reproduction does not take place or is not possible, it is still an act with a shared reproductive teleology -- a shared act, biologically speaking, of attempted reproduction. The male system attempts to deliver seed into the female reproductive tract, which attempts to receive them so that they can attempt to flagellate around in a quest for an ovum that the vast majority of them will certainly not find, and that may not be there at all, but that it is nevertheless their purpose to seek, and which will be there if it is anywhere to be found.

This is a radically different act than acts that merely juxtapose the reproductive system with, say, the digestive system (at either end), or which involve mutual, separate stimulation of reproductive organs (e.g., by means of toys). With such an act, the teleological unity of conjugal union is not merely possible but forbidden, it is not possible. If the act involves a man with another man (or one man by himself, or with anything or anyone other than a woman, in any other act than coitus), the male organ may still go through the motions of delivering seed, but there is no reception of seed into the reproductive tract in which lies their raison d'etre. What fellowship hath sperm with the digestive tract (male or female)?

"No, but God knows we keep trying." This one-liner from Milk in response to a question about whether two men can reproduce, quoted by Darrel, applies just as aptly to the question "Can two men become one flesh?"

Thanks for that very clear explanation. As always, you say things I wish I could say but can't. You have a gift of clear thinking and explanation.

Edited by SDG

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Thanks, Jim. (Oops, didn't mean to edit your post, I meant to make a minor adjustment to mine.)

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It also ignores that in Christian theology, sexual consummation is a highly unique act of human expression which on some mysterious level spiritually bonds two human individuals together, making them "one flesh," and thus demands a kind of special treatment; sex cannot be equated with such regular processes of the body, such as eating or hearing.

Absolutely. Which makes things even more difficult for people who are attracted to the same sex and yet also take the Bible seriously. Honestly, if I was in that situation I think I'd be less afraid of judgment/rejection by "the church" than I would be angry at God for not giving me the desire or ability to participate in that sort of a spiritual union. I'd be asking, "What have I done to deserve this?"

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If that red juice in the steak qualifies as "blood", then yeah, possibly. I don't know; I've never asked any rabbis about this.

Aha! So you were reaching. Thought so.

I don't know whether you eat meat, Peter. But assuming that you do ... can you (or any Christian carnivore reading this who doesn't have a Jewish or Muslim background) tell me with a straight face that you make a habit of inquiring about its source, in order to ensure that you do not violate the "offered to idols" and "blood" clauses? What's the Orthodox position on this? Or, SDG, what's the Catholic position on black pudding?

I could always start buying meat exclusively from the local halal butcher, if anyone thinks I'm sinning in buying it from Safeway.

Well, now you're going beyond what the text actually says, of course. ... your excuse is founded on an EXTRAPOLATION of scripture and not on any specific verse. So, too, with the endorsement of same-sex unions; it is founded on an EXTRAPOLATION of certain scriptures even though there is no specific verse that permits it.

So? There's no specific verse that lays out the doctrine of trinity either. It's extrapolated. In fact, if I read you correctly, you'd say that prohibition of same-sex unions is also based on an extrapolation that actually can't be supported from a strict sola-scriptura POV. Which is part of the reason you eventually became Orthodox.

BTW, I wasn't suggesting that the Orthodox and Catholic churches don't affirm the primacy of scripture ... merely that "primacy" means something different in an Orthodox or Catholic context than in a sola-scriptura context.

Yes, it is a mistake to read 1 Cor. 10:25-26 as releasing us from anything

It clearly does not "release" us from the obligation to avoid sacrificed meat ... but it does seem to release us from fear over the consequences of violating that obligation inadvertently. We're clearly still not meant to violate it knowingly.

Edited by mrmando

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SDG wrote:

: Only scripture has God as its author; with respect to infallible conciliar or papal decrees he is not the author, only the editor; he does not put truth in, but merely keeps error out.

Ah, thanks, that's a useful distinction. I'm not sure how much difference it makes, but I like it just the same. :)

: Let's not be too quick to pit East vs. West.

Can I at least pit St. John Chrysostom vs. St. Augustine? :)

: Procreation is not the "main reason God created sex," but it is the purpose of sex. God's "reason" for creating sex includes not only its procreative purpose, but also its unitive meaning.

Hmmm. I'm not sure I agree. I think fostering the unity within a couple is very much part of the purpose of sex.

And since "meaning" is a subjective or intersubjective thing, rather than an objective thing, whose perspective do you have in mind when you refer to the "unitive meaning" of sex? The couple's? If so, then I'd say there's no significant difference between a couple that has sex with a unitive MEANING and a couple that has sex for a unitive PURPOSE. God's? Well, okay, but surely he intends for us to share in these meanings. He doesn't just create male and female because they look kind of good together from his point of view, without any regard for whether the male and female are consciously participating in a unitive activity. The unitive aspect of sex is a very practical matter, is what I'm saying, and not just some theological abstraction.

: Man and woman in coital union form in a sense a teleological unity. The joining of individual reproductive systems forms a single reproductive super-system, a shared reproductive act in which the individual reproductive functions of each is completed by the other.

A "super-system"! I love the way you word this. :)

mrmando wrote:

: Aha! So you were reaching. Thought so.

Uh, no. I'm just taking people at their word when they say they like their meat "bloody". If we want to parse the different meanings of the word "blood" and how they are understood according to different cultural and religious systems, I guess we can do that. But I do find it interesting that this is a subject that virtually no modern Christian even THINKS about.

: I don't know whether you eat meat, Peter. But assuming that you do ... can you (or any Christian carnivore reading this who doesn't have a Jewish or Muslim background) tell me with a straight face that you make a habit of inquiring about its source, in order to ensure that you do not violate the "offered to idols" and "blood" clauses?

Uh, I'm not too worried about idols in our society. And I don't see what "blood" has to do with the "source" of the food. Either it's in there or it isn't, and you can always cook it out. (Same with other things that may or may not be in the meat. I am now flashing back to a scene in Richard Linklater's Fast Food Nation where Greg Kinnear says he's seen evidence that there might be bits of fecal matter in the meat that Bruce Willis distributes, and Willis tells him to "cook the meat" and to stop trying to make the world so impossibly "safe" all the time.)

: What's the Orthodox position on this?

I don't know if there is any "Orthodox position" on this, but I do know that, in some Orthodox circles at least, there is a strong movement towards organic foods and local foods and crunchy-con style stuff like that. (Coincidentally, Rod Dreher, the guy who coined the term "crunchy con", became Orthodox himself a few years ago.) The church that I attend has its own garden and, as of a few weeks ago, its own chickens running around the backyard and laying their own eggs. (This is in Vancouver itself, and NOT in one of the more rural suburbs.) No doubt this movement is stimulated partly by the fact that we Orthodox spend a few months out of every year living like vegans (or trying to), during Lent and so on, so we are constantly in contact with alternative food sources and whatnot that people like me wouldn't ordinarily spend a whole lot of time with. But it's not a particularly doctrinal thing.

: I could always start buying meat exclusively from the local halal butcher, if anyone thinks I'm sinning in buying it from Safeway.

FWIW, my wife and a few others have indeed talked about buying kosher meat precisely as a way to minimize our contribution to animal cruelty and so forth. Though I don't know that our budgets would allow for this, yet.

: So? There's no specific verse that lays out the doctrine of trinity either.

Quite so. (And note, by the way, that the Church formalized the doctrine of the Trinity BEFORE it formalized the canon of the New Testament.)

: In fact, if I read you correctly, you'd say that prohibition of same-sex unions is also based on an extrapolation that actually can't be supported from a strict sola-scriptura POV. Which is part of the reason you eventually became Orthodox.

Well, I didn't become Orthodox because I was looking for sturdier ground on which to oppose same-sex unions; if anything, I was a bit worried about letting down my post-evangelical friends in that department (and in other departments, such as where the ordination of women is concerned). But I WAS looking for sturdier ground, period, yes.

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I don't know whether you eat meat, Peter. But assuming that you do ... can you (or any Christian carnivore reading this who doesn't have a Jewish or Muslim background) tell me with a straight face that you make a habit of inquiring about its source, in order to ensure that you do not violate the "offered to idols" and "blood" clauses? What's the Orthodox position on this? Or, SDG, what's the Catholic position on black pudding?

The Catholic view is that, as per Mark 7 and parallels, all foods are clean, and under the authentic interpretation of the law given by Christ Old Testament dietary laws are no longer in force.

In Acts 15, it appears that the Jerusalem council is making pastoral provision, in a given local situation, for Gentile believers to avoid flagrant violations of purity code regulations that would give scandal to Jewish believers. The items mentioned, blood, things strangled, meat offered to idols and porneia all appear in Leviticus 17 and 18 (porneia is the term used here in the LXX).

Porneia, in this context, refers to marriage within set degrees of consanguinity or affinity (incest). These set degrees of incest are not necessarily forbidden by the moral law; they are restrictions of the Jewish "Holiness Code." The Jerusalem council thus does not here speak against sexual immorality per se, but counsels against marriages that would be considered scandalous by Jewish standards. (As for meat offered to idols, St. Paul himself tells us that this is a non-issue for Christians.)

BTW, the term porneia is also used to refer to incestuous unions in 1 Corinthians 5, where St. Paul specifically clarifies that the sort of incest in view here is not merely the sort forbidden by the Jewish Holiness Code, but the sort that is unthinkable even to pagans: "It is reported that there is porneia among you, and such porneia as is not even named among the Gentiles, that a man has his father's wife."

(Catholic opinion views this as the relevant sense of the term in Matthew 5 and 19, when Jesus forbids divorce and remarriage under pain of adultery, "except for porneia." This seems not to mean that divorce and remarriage is permissible where there has been some kind of sexual immorality, but rather that divorce and remarriage is permitted only if there has been an illicit union, a union that is porneia. Only this fully satisfies the disciples' shocked reaction, which would not make sense if Jesus' teaching were merely proximate to that of the Shammei school, and of the absence of the porneia clause in the Markan and Lucan parallels.)

So, um, what were we talking about? Acts 15 doesn't really tell us anything about fundamental moral obligations per se, except for the debt of charity.

: Let's not be too quick to pit East vs. West.

Can I at least pit St. John Chrysostom vs. St. Augustine? :)

:lol: Sure, why not? And even East vs. West, I only said "Let's not be too quick." (We can also pit Chrysostom against Basil and Nazianzen and Augustine against Ambrose and Jerome, and early Augustine against later Augustine. At the end of the day let's try to have some love and understanding. :))

Hmmm. I'm not sure I agree. I think fostering the unity within a couple is very much part of the purpose of sex.

I'm not sure there's a substantial issue here behind the words. There is a biological dimension and a unitive dimension. I'm not sure that the scope of the word "purpose" is worth quarreling over. Certainly I don't mean to imply that the unitive aspect is "not practical" or "a theological abstraction" or something.

: Man and woman in coital union form in a sense a teleological unity. The joining of individual reproductive systems forms a single reproductive super-system, a shared reproductive act in which the individual reproductive functions of each is completed by the other.

A "super-system"! I love the way you word this. :)

Thanks! That was off the cuff, I was trying to come up with some way to expand on the idea of "system" and that's what occurred to me.

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Uh, no. I'm just taking people at their word when they say they like their meat "bloody". If we want to parse the different meanings of the word "blood" and how they are understood according to different cultural and religious systems, I guess we can do that. ... And I don't see what "blood" has to do with the "source" of the food. Either it's in there or it isn't, and you can always cook it out.

For once I am fairly certain that you're getting something wrong. According to both the OT and kosher rules, the issue is how the animal is killed and prepared before cooking (which is what I mean by "source"), not whether it's cooked to the point where it doesn't ooze any red liquid. If it's improperly killed, then it ain't kosher no matter how much you cook it; if it's properly killed, then my understanding is that you can cook it to your own preference for "doneness."

The point about Orthodox crunchy-con tendencies is appreciated; I do think it behooves Christians to think about food issues with respect to things like gluttony (see tangent earlier in this thread) and responsible stewardship, even if we don't consider ourselves bound by Jewish dietary restrictions.

But I WAS looking for sturdier ground, period, yes.

The idea of sturdier ground is what I'm trying to get at by talking about different ideas concerning primacy of scripture.

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This is a radically different act than acts that merely juxtapose the reproductive system with, say, the digestive system (at either end), or which involve mutual, separate stimulation of reproductive organs (e.g., by means of toys). With such an act, the teleological unity of conjugal union is not merely possible but forbidden, it is not possible. If the act involves a man with another man (or one man by himself, or with anything or anyone other than a woman, in any other act than coitus), the male organ may still go through the motions of delivering seed, but there is no reception of seed into the reproductive tract in which lies their raison d'etre. What fellowship hath sperm with the digestive tract (male or female)?

The fact that these rules about sexuality and the proper reception of seed were largely formulated my men, who themselves never experienced coitus-- or any other form of sex for that matter-- is a bit humorous to me. With all respect to Catholics, there are many more of us who believe that the conjugal union is less about mechanics and more about the mutual sharing of love, physical affection and sexuality.

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The fact that these rules about sexuality and the proper reception of seed were largely formulated my men, who themselves never experienced coitus-- or any other form of sex for that matter-- is a bit humorous to me.

When did I say anything about rules formulated by anyone?

With all respect to Catholics, there are many more of us who believe that the conjugal union is less about mechanics and more about the mutual sharing of love, physical affection and sexuality.

"Many more of you"? Really? I wasn't aware that traditional morality had become such a minority view.

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Walking on two legs is also the ideal, but the Bible does not condemn wheelchairs and crutches.

To put it another way, I'm diabetic. I believe diabetes is the product of a sinful, fallen world. But I don't believe I'm sinning because I have diabetes.

Diabetes is a malfunction of the pancreas. Are you saying homosexuality is similar?

Also, the thought about two versus one leg raises an interesting point. There are like four or five verses that say Jesus healed everyone or all who came to him. Jesus instructed his disciples to pray for earth to become like heaven. Charismatics take this as literally. I'm involved in a laity-led healing prayer ministry and have personally seen legs grow, diabetes cured, teeth realign, deafness cured, and heart disease completely reversed.

I do not have any gold teeth, but I have a half dozen friends who do. I struggled with this when I first saw it, but it is very difficult to deny the power of the Holy Spirit when a close friend has two molars and a bicuspid completely turn to gold.

I'm a Christian universalist, so I'm fine with letting people live their lives, and most people (Christians included) operate so far outside the bounds of the Spirit, regardless of their sexual activity, that I don't see any fruit from harping on someone being gay. Alas, if it is not ideal in the same way that having one leg instead of two is not ideal, and if God does still act through humans as he did through Jesus and his Apostles, then that raises an interesting question on this subject.

Edited by Michael Todd

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When did I say anything about rules formulated by anyone?
I thought your statement reflected the historic Catholic position. If I'm wrong, forgive me.

"Many more of you"? Really? I wasn't aware that traditional morality had become such a minority view.
I am not rejecting "traditional morality", I am rejecting the notion that-- even between husband and wife-- seed must be properly placed in the birth canal in order for a couple to experience acceptable conjugal union.

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When did I say anything about rules formulated by anyone?

I thought your statement reflected the historic Catholic position. If I'm wrong, forgive me.

Well, the bit you quoted there (about the raison d'etre of seed being to try to fertilize an egg) was simply a bit of biological teleology (what else is seed for?). I wasn't talking specifically about "rules formulated" by anyone, Catholic, celibate or otherwise. Certainly I believe that historic Catholic teaching is consistent with biological teleology, but neither the celibate hierarchy nor the Church generally invented biological teleology ... or traditional sexual morality for that matter.

"Many more of you"? Really? I wasn't aware that traditional morality had become such a minority view.

I am not rejecting "traditional morality", I am rejecting the notion that-- even between husband and wife-- seed must be properly placed in the birth canal in order for a couple to experience acceptable conjugal union.

Make up your mind, friend. :)

Edited by SDG

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