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

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The contemporary Biblical debate over homosexuality is one reason (of many) that I'm beginning to think sola Scriptura (and even the Via Media of Anglicanism) may not be enough to settle the question. Don't get me wrong-- from what I see, the Bible itself is clear on the sinfulness of active, practiced homosexuality, but there are enough radically different interpretations of the relevant verses that I just don't know anymore if sola Scriptura is sufficient for this debate.

Now, I can already hear my Protestant mentors saying, "Well, of course, we don't read and study the Bible in a vacuum. We learn about the context and culture in which the verses were written, and we apply that knowledge to our exegesis." However, the problem is that different Biblical scholars do that exact thing, when it comes to the verses about homosexuality, and they still come to radically different conclusions.

When I see these deep disagreements about the sinfulness (or non-sinfulness) of practiced homosexuality-- even, now, among evangelical Protestants (who, until fairly recently, were agreed on the issue), it causes me to think that, quite likely, "the Bible alone as the final authority" is not even what God intended for Christians.

Via media was never intended to be an aggressive theological artiface, but more of a worship and polity compromise. Heh, as long as one uses it as such, it works fine. Staking out middle-of-the-stream positions on all theological issues and crisises today is just playdough, really. If one folllows the crisis in the Anglican Communion between the Global South and the "western" provinces, you see what I mean.

Secondly, many of us are coming from quite different positions, not only in our walks with the Lord, but as students of the Church, the scriptures, and theology. One or two here are professional theologians, at least two are ministers. One could possibly be, were he not married with children. Others have had progfessional ministries in the past. On top of that is the thing that has bothered me for some decades now which is the gap between what one learns in grad school and seminary and what what seems to learn from the pulpit, whether from expository preaching today, or simple homilies. It is a credit to this community that we are all somewhere in that gap and seem to be discussing in that gap. It is also a bit of a challenge to nail down absolute conclusions there as well. The provisional aspect of truth in a fallen world makes both for fun and frustration. For me, I am challenged by the laundry list/ Nathan-like trap arguments right now. This POV seems a more plausible introduction to the next 14 chapters of Romans. Still, great give and take here.

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Darryl A. Armstrong wrote:

: Woah! My brain just exploded a little. Four years of steady debate back in my school days around that verse and that line of thought I don't believe ever even came up!

Whoa, really?

That mis-use of Revelation gets even more interesting when you consider that Revelation was one of the last books to be accepted as canonical.

And now I'm getting flashbacks to the ex-girlfriend of mine who quoted "In the beginning was the Word" from John's gospel as though it were a statement about the Bible, rather than a statement about Jesus as the embodiment of the divine Logos.

Christopher Lake wrote:

: Actually, in my moving away from Protestantism, this is one of the factors steering me away from Eastern Orthodoxy and towards Catholicism. In studying Orthodox writings, it appears that, until fairly recently, EO condemned artificial contraception just as strongly as the Catholic Church and pre-1930 Protestantism. It is only in the last half of the 20th century that I see any openness in EO circles to seeing artificial contraception as licit within the marriage bed. Contrary to how most might view it, I see that as a point for Catholicism, not against it (speaking as an increasingly unsettled Protestant here).

Huh. Well, as long as this one topic doesn't take priority over other, considerably more important matters, such as how one deals with the papacy or the atonement or various other things...

: I do think that the Bible calls all non-heterosexuals (and single hetero's, like me) to chastity. It definitely ain't easy, but from what I see, it is the path of obedience commanded in the Bible.

FWIW, I agree, and one of the interesting questions that almost never gets asked in these discussions is whether those who accept same-sex relationships would hold gay couples to the same standard of chastity that straight couples have generally been held to, i.e. would we expect gay couples to refrain from sexual activity before they marry? It seems to me that the vast majority of pro-gay Christians have generally accepted that gay couples should be allowed to shack up, with rites and ceremonies deferred to some point down the road (assuming they happen at all) -- and this, of course, raises the question of whether those same Christians would be just as permissive when it comes to heterosexual relationships.

MattPage wrote:

: On another front, various ones of you who take the traditional position on these passages have often said that this passage just lists homosexuality as one of many areas of sin, that the passage places it on the same level as gluttony etc.

FWIW, as far as this particular passage is concerned, I think my own line has been that Paul depicts same-sex attraction as a CONSEQUENCE of sin, rather than as a sin itself, per se. That may be a legalistic distinction, but the effect of Paul's rhetoric (those who do this deserve that, and those who do that deserve this) is to put homosexual activity in the "deserve" category rather than the "do" category. Homosexualty, as Paul describes it here, is a punishment for some other sin, rather than the sin that is being punished, per se.

That still reflects a rather negative view of homosexuality, but I think it's possible to say BOTH that Paul makes a somewhat big deal of homosexuality in this passage AND that he doesn't elevate homosexual behaviour above other sinful behaviours.

: By the way, it seems to me that what none of those of you who take the traditional take on this passage have done is explain why hugely committed, faithful Christians today (who most definitely don't reject God in order to worship idols) who despite years of prayer and repentance still have these same desires that Paul so clearly describes as being a result of rejecting God.

I think someone else addressed this already, but to me it seems clear that Paul is speaking of humanity (or the Gentile subset of it) as a corporate entity, rather than describing the life and mindset of every single individual.

M. Leary

: *And this movement from God's wrath in a present sense (Romans 1) to God's wrath in a future sense (Romans 2) would have been a big deal to Roman Christians, steeped in Roman imperial thinking that had no conception of a future eschatology, but was resolute in celebrating the present and the past. Paul pointing Roman citizens towards something eschatological, something that would happen to them in the indeterminate future, was something that would have been hard for them to wrap their heads around.

Wow, this is a GREAT point.

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1 - It's from a letter Paul wrote to the Romans, he didn't know it was going to become part of our Bible, and he probably wrote it as part of an ongoing conversation of sorts that he was having with them. That we don't have their bit is quite an inconvenience and means it's all too easy to forget, but essentially even though this is now part of our Bible and by working out what it meant to them we can work out what it means to us (hence "universal reach"), we have to start with what it meant to them. (Just re-read that and it sounds a bit patronising - sorry it's not meant to, but for me I always try and unpick things to the original message to the original audience and go from there). And here it seems very much that Paul is responding to some communication to them. SO far so much conjecture, but that's how I see it!

I'll have to look at it carefully later, but my gut recollection is that Romans is NOT a response letter from Paul - Rome was a church he did not found, and that he had not yet visited. He wrote the letter to the Romans fairly universally, to show his Gospel-cred PRIOR to a hoped-for visit. Again, I could be wrong on this, but that's my recollection of the book.

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Darryl A. Armstrong wrote:

: Woah! My brain just exploded a little. Four years of steady debate back in my school days around that verse and that line of thought I don't believe ever even came up!

Whoa, really?

That mis-use of Revelation gets even more interesting when you consider that Revelation was one of the last books to be accepted as canonical.

What reminded me of it was the preacher on Larry King who was arguing the opposite side on Friday's Jennifer Knapp interview. He mis-used the verse.

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I'll have to look at it carefully later, but my gut recollection is that Romans is NOT a response letter from Paul - Rome was a church he did not found, and that he had not yet visited. He wrote the letter to the Romans fairly universally, to show his Gospel-cred PRIOR to a hoped-for visit. Again, I could be wrong on this, but that's my recollection of the book.

Well yes and no.

It's not a response letter in the way that 2 Corinthians is. And it's seemingly true that Paul did not found the Roman church, and indeed that he hadn't visited it before this letter, and that he was, perhaps, writing to boost his Gospel-cred prior to his visit.

But it's a leap from their to say that the letter is written "fairly universally" and to imply that there has never been any communication (directly or indirectly) between Paul and the church(es) of Rome and it's going even further to say that it is "NOT a response letter". Verses 1:8-13 suggest, to me at least, that there is at least some kind of communication going on. He at least knows enough of them to be constantly remembering them, praying for them, planning to visit etc.

ON the other hand, if Paul is seeking to ingratiate himself to the Roman church, then the Nathan-esque trap we've been discussing is not exactly the best way to go about it.

Romans is a great summary of Paul's thought, no doubt, but to consider it to be THE summary, or a contextless place of writing seems flawed to me, even if the importance of that context is less than with other letters. I appreciate that might not be what you're saying, (sorry) but I don't think we can ever overlook the immediate context, and Darryl's post has reminded all of us how easily that can and often is done.

Matt

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I don't know that Paul would have had to "boost his cred" with the Roman church all that much.

For one thing, it seems the church was (co-)founded by Paul's old friends Aquila and Priscilla, who had originally lived in Rome before Claudius expelled all the Jews from Rome in the AD 40s; Aquila and Priscilla ended up meeting Paul in Corinth, and then at some point (presumably after Nero became emperor in AD 54 and allowed the Jews back into Rome), they returned to Rome while Paul went in the other direction, back to Jerusalem.

For another, the epistle ends with Paul rattling off a long-ish list of names of people that he wants to say "hi" to -- and he describes a number of them as "kinsmen" or "fellow-prisoners" or "beloved", which suggests that he has close personal ties to them.

No doubt there were local converts who knew ONLY these people listed in Romans 16 -- no doubt there were local converts who had never met Paul himself -- so it stands to reason that Paul would want to address them in some way. But unlike, say, the church in Antioch, where Paul kept butting heads with figures like James, Peter, Barnabas and others whose apostolic roots ran much deeper than his, the church in Rome would almost certainly have looked up to Paul as a sort of elder statesman.

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FWIW, I finally got around to watching the complete Larry King/Jennifer Knapp interview on YouTube. Jennifer gets her turn at bat, as well as Bob Botsford and Ted Haggard. It's pretty much a bust. That whole debate made me grateful for the informative and diverse exchange of ideas at A&F, in this thread and countless others over the years.

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FWIW, I finally got around to watching the complete Larry King/Jennifer Knapp interview on YouTube. Jennifer gets her turn at bat, as well as Bob Botsford and Ted Haggard. It's pretty much a bust. That whole debate made me grateful for the informative and diverse exchange of ideas at A&F, in this thread and countless others over the years.

Yeah, Larry King did not ask very strong questions, and noone gave very meaty answers. Botsford gave the typical canned responses about really caring about gay people and stating Knapp is just justifying her sin. Knapp gave short, guarded answers that were not remotely illuminating as to how she arrived to where she is at now. Haggard gave nice, inoffensive answers. It was not stellar viewing.

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FWIW, I agree, and one of the interesting questions that almost never gets asked in these discussions is whether those who accept same-sex relationships would hold gay couples to the same standard of chastity that straight couples have generally been held to, i.e. would we expect gay couples to refrain from sexual activity before they marry?

I'd have to say that if someone made that argument, I would be tempted to find it more compelling than the arguments one more often hears.

The trouble is, assuming for a moment that one was trying to support that argument with Biblical texts alone, that the argument seems to require a peculiarly selective reading of those texts. I.e., it requires that one read Lev. 18, Rom. 1, etc., in ways that would allow for at least certain kinds of homosexual relationships, while simultaneously reading other texts in ways that don't allow for sex between unmarried consenting adults who really love each other. I'm not sure that there is a truly consistent hermeneutic that would result in such a reading. Or is there?

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mrmando wrote:

: I'm not sure that there is a truly consistent hermeneutic that would result in such a reading. Or is there?

Beats me. My own commitment to chastity was buoyed by two things: [a] all the non-biblical arguments in favour of saving yourself for marriage (and I heard a LOT of them as I was growing up, many of which made sense to me with or without my Bible), and the belief that, a C.S. Lewis puts it in The Screwtape Letters: "mere copulation . . . makes 'one flesh' . . . [and therefore,] wherever a man lies with a woman, there, whether they like it or not, a transcendental relation is set up between them which must be eternally enjoyed or eternally endured."

Personally, I don't see how it's even POSSIBLE for two men or two women to become "one flesh" with each other. As SDG put it, the male and female sex organs join together in a sort of "super-system", but you can't quite say the same thing about two penises or two vaginas coming together. So if you see marriage and all the institutions thereof as a way of "protecting" the sacred, transcendent aspect of heterosexual sex, then there may not be anything quite as sacred or transcendent to "protect", as such, when it comes to homosexual sex. In which case "waiting for marriage" might not be quite so crucial, there, apart from the fact that having multiple sex partners has its own social and psychological perils.

Of course, if gay couples want to argue that the sex between them is just as unifying, transcendent and sacred as the sex that makes a man and a woman "one flesh", then we're back to the question of whether the chastity rules that apply to het couples should apply to gay couples as well -- and if not, then why not.

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Of course, if gay couples want to argue that the sex between them is just as unifying, transcendent and sacred as the sex that makes a man and a woman "one flesh", then we're back to the question of whether the chastity rules that apply to het couples should apply to gay couples as well -- and if not, then why not.

Yes the sex is just as sacred, transcendent and fun. No there shouldn't be a difference between how things are applied to opposite or same sex couples. We might not agree about what the proper threshhold is.

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FWIW, I agree, and one of the interesting questions that almost never gets asked in these discussions is whether those who accept same-sex relationships would hold gay couples to the same standard of chastity that straight couples have generally been held to, i.e. would we expect gay couples to refrain from sexual activity before they marry?

I'd have to say that if someone made that argument, I would be tempted to find it more compelling than the arguments one more often hears.

So what did you think I was arguing for?

Just for the record, then, I would say that I'm almost entirely convinced think that sex between a gay couple is only acceptable within a committed monogamous relationship that is akin to marriage. I phrase it like that because in this country you can't legally get married if you are gay, you can only have a civil partnership, (and if you're lucky you might find minister somewhere who will bless if for you in public).

I accept it's difficult to build a cast iron case for that based solely on scripture, but that's mainly because the case for no-sex outside of (and particularly before) marriage is not that strong within then Bible. In my own pre-marriage years I too was mainly convinced of chastity by the two arguments Peter raised, as well as the fact (unusually for me) that this was the almost universally accepted view across churches of all denominations. (There's a slight caveat there with couples living together, but I think you get my point...).

Incidentally that very literal take on the one flesh argument cuts both ways. If sex is about more than uniting bodies symbolically then it seems to me that it should be done very frequently, and not just for procreation (I know that 's SDG's argument rather than yours, but still...). And of course there is a unifying of sorts in gay male sex because it's not, as you say, "penis to penis" (which sounds like they are having sword fights) as much as, well, y'know.

But in any case I don't know that this is quite how the "one flesh" thing is meant to be taken. It harks back to women being created using man's rib does it not? That in itself might be an argument against my overall point, but I don't therefore see the idea of one flesh being as much as about sex, just life as one, symbolised in physical unity.

Matt

Edited by MattPage

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FWIW, I agree, and one of the interesting questions that almost never gets asked in these discussions is whether those who accept same-sex relationships would hold gay couples to the same standard of chastity that straight couples have generally been held to, i.e. would we expect gay couples to refrain from sexual activity before they marry?

That is an interesting question, considering the book of Wisdom (which Paul borrows heavily from in creating this myth of sin in Romans 1) has verses like this to say about chastity: "For the fruit of noble struggles is a glorious one..." and "Better is childlessness with virtue; for immortal is its memory: because both by God is it acknowledged, and by men." I think Paul's conception of celibacy in the Corinthian correspondence was really influenced by this much older Jewish idea that chastity/celibacy was the God-designed place to deal with difficult sexual issues.

(And, coincidentally, Wisdom also references sexual perversion as a religious practice: "For while they celebrate either child-slaying sacrifices or clandestine mysteries, or frenzied carousals in unheard-of rites" and "unnatural lusts." Yet another discrete historical vector for Paul's description of sexual perversion in Rom. 1.)

Edited by M. Leary

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...But it's a leap from their to say that the letter is written "fairly universally" and to imply that there has never been any communication (directly or indirectly) between Paul and the church(es) of Rome and it's going even further to say that it is "NOT a response letter". Verses 1:8-13 suggest, to me at least, that there is at least some kind of communication going on. He at least knows enough of them to be constantly remembering them, praying for them, planning to visit etc.

What Christian in Paul's day could NOT know at least something about the church seated at the center of the world's government of the day? Certainly what apostle could not know? Obviously Paul knows somewhat of their situation, and he certainly knows some people in the church. But I think "fairly universal" is a great way to describe Romans, when compared to Paul's other letters. That's not to claim that it is context-free - NOTHING is context-free. But in Romans moreso than in any of Paul's other letters, Paul is seeking to systematically set down his understanding of the Gospel.

ON the other hand, if Paul is seeking to ingratiate himself to the Roman church, then the Nathan-esque trap we've been discussing is not exactly the best way to go about it.

I wouldn't say ingratiate, but I would say he was trying to lay out the bones of his understanding of the Gospel, as an introduction to his thinking and preaching.

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That's not to claim that it is context-free - NOTHING is context-free. But in Romans moreso than in any of Paul's other letters, Paul is seeking to systematically set down his understanding of the Gospel.

Isn't that kind of where the waters get muddied here a bit, though? The specific concern that is addressed by the epistle were controversies between Jewish and non-Jewish Christians in Rome, made worse by Claudius' expulsion of all Jews (including Christian ones) from the city. Their return after his death in 54 would have re-opened a lot of these questions that hadn't really been resolved in Rome. Paul's direct explanation of his gospel is actually the framework of a charter for lasting unity between these two groups, which 9-11 make very clear. In this context, the specifics of Romans 1 become even less important in the scheme of things.

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If we allow the Biblical witness to suggest its meaning, then we are forced to admit that the "one flesh" imagery in scripture is decidedly grounded in the union between male and female. It starts in Genesis, and continues whenever that imagery is drawn up. But yes, the "one flesh" identity is very, very much about sex. It's why sex determines marriage, and why marriage can be annulled if sexual consummation has never taken place.

I've never looked into the Catholic Church's teaching on annulment. Is there any specific place in the scriptures they draw this argument from, or is it built on the "one flesh" imagery?

After reading some of the arguments about birth control earlier in this thread, I decided to go back and read some of the arguments that Fundamentalism uses (and I did find the Fundamentalist arguments as absurd as I do the Catholic arguments). The following quotes are from a book my great grandfather, John R. Rice, wrote in 1945, The Home: Courtship, Marriage and Children. The copy I have of this book, from 28 years later, says over 350,000 copies had been sold by that point. I don't know how many have been sold to date, but I have met several people my parent's age who tell me they raised their families by this book. He is arguing here both against birth control, and, by the same token, of the sin of having small families - 3 kids or less. These quotes may serve to amplify the argument about traditions besides Catholicism arguing against birth control.

"Then a Christian husband owes it to his wife to have children, and a Christian wife owes it to her husband. The selfish woman who does not bear children, or who has only one or two or three, cheats her husband and deprives him of the joy which should normally be a Father's. ...Actually, homes without children are likely to be unhappy homes, likely to end in divorce. And married people who have no children are likely to become self-centered, unhappy and querulous old people with little to live for and little opportunity to be a blessing to the world."

"Any man should think very seriously before falling in love with, and marrying, a girl who is an only child. She will be spoiled and selfish, will want her own way, will not be a good risk. Any girl should think very seriously before falling in love with, and marrying, a young man who is an only child. He is very likely to be inconsiderate, self-centered, and spoiled. His mother is very likely to interfere in his life after he is married. Marriages of those who are the only children more often end in divorce than the marriages of those who come from large families."

"...It is not very often that an only child becomes great and famous."

"It is a calamity for any child to be reared without brothers and sisters. It is a calamity for any man and woman to have only one child, so likely to grow up spoiled and self-centered and frustrated and unhappy."

"Must we leave it only to Catholics to have large families and propagate their faith? Should illiterate people provide the big families of the world? Why should not those who are real Christians set out to obey the command of God in multiplying and replenishing the earth?"

"The simple truth is that ordinary people do not have the character and moral gravity to decide how many children would be right and proper and happy. The thing that only God Himself should decide is often decided wrongly, you may be sure, when left in frivolous and worldly hands."

"God always provided for the baby He sends if people trust Him and do right. Honest, hard-working, virtuous families always had room for another baby when God sent it."

"Every harlot can understand the viewpoint of the woman who wants mating without children, but I do not see how decent Christian woman can endorse such a viewpoint. Marriage is intended to result in children. Having children is one of the principle reasons for a home."

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I've never looked into the Catholic Church's teaching on annulment. Is there any specific place in the scriptures they draw this argument from, or is it built on the "one flesh" imagery?

Annulment has nothing to do with "one flesh"-ness. (Paul says that a man who has recourse to prostitutes becomes "one flesh" with them.)

The idea a putative marriage being in fact illicit and dissoluble, after which the parties are free to remarry, is connected with Matthew 5 and Matthew 19 ("except for porneia"). See my earlier post.

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Just to clarify, when I referred to annulment, I wasn't referring to the Catholic sense of annulment, but to generally-held laws and statutes. In many places, you can be granted an annulment by the state for non-consummation.

Yeah, I thought that might be the case, but I figured I'd answer Stephen's question anyway.

Still way, way too busy to really jump back into the thread, alas ...

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@ Ryan H.: Those quotes from your grandfather's book are just... well. [:runs away screaming:]

I wouldn't condone every jot and tittle, but I certainly wouldn't run screaming, myself. :)

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Interesting note about your great grandfather, Stephen. Rice was an influential guy in fundie circles. The woman who brought me to faith in Christ had a vast collection of his old booklets and issues of "Sword of the Lord" back in the 80's (i think that was the name of it... a newspaper, if memory serves) I recall his photo on those books and booklets, vividly.

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@ Ryan H.: Those quotes from your grandfather's book are just... well. [:runs away screaming:]

I wouldn't condone every jot and tittle,

Haha!

but I certainly wouldn't run screaming, myself. :)

I'm with e2c here. I'm an only child, so I take a little insult at being told I'm a bad husband and father because of that - and I'll never do anything great or famous.

What does this have to do with homosexuality again?

:)

Edited by Darryl A. Armstrong

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I'm with e2c here. I'm an only child, so I take a little insult at being told I'm a bad husband and father because of that - and I'll never do anything great or famous.

Understandably so. Likewise, when I talk about the advantages of being raised by a mother and a father and the corresponding disadvantages of a single parent household, I'm always careful to emphasize that this doesn't mean that a heroic single parent can't do a better job raising children than a average married couple. Still and all, there is a meaningful statistical correlation of two-parent households with advantaged children.

With only children, OTOH, I'm not aware of any actual evidence that shows a disadvantage, and I've heard claims of evidence to the contrary. I'm not convinced that there's no correlation of only-child-ism with disadvantage ... but it's not something I would argue (though I'm struck by anecdotal examples in my own sphere of observation).

What does this have to do with homosexuality again?

Fertility is good! :)

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I'm with e2c here. I'm an only child, so I take a little insult at being told I'm a bad husband and father because of that - and I'll never do anything great or famous.

What does this have to do with homosexuality again?

:)

Well, I think the discussion became a little broader about 200 posts ago. I find myself in agreement with others in this thread who have mentioned that they think the Catholic argument against homosexuality is pretty cohesive and thought out. I would say the same, although not quite to the same extent, about the older Fundamentalist argument. The problem is that I just don't buy many of their premises. The modern popular Evangelical argument, on the other hand, doesn't have a leg to stand on, in my opinion. (See, for example, Nezpop's mention yesterday of the pastor on Larry King who used the verse from Revelation about not adding or removing a word to prove he was right about the issue.)

e2c, maybe you'd enjoy his book most often namechecked in conversations about Fundamentalism, Bobbed Hair, Bossy Wives, and Women Preachers, published in 1941?

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I accept it's difficult to build a cast iron case for that based solely on scripture, but that's mainly because the case for no-sex outside of (and particularly before) marriage is not that strong within then Bible.

I'd say the Biblical case for chastity outside of the confines of marriage is very strong indeed.

Lets hear it then.

But in any case I don't know that this is quite how the "one flesh" thing is meant to be taken. It harks back to women being created using man's rib does it not? That in itself might be an argument against my overall point, but I don't therefore see the idea of one flesh being as much as about sex, just life as one, symbolised in physical unity.

You say you don't know what "one flesh" signifies and then proceed to offer your own definition, so I'm a bit confused.

Not sure if you're genuinel confused or just being rhetorical, but if its the former please allow me to explain. I didn't say "I don't know how the "one flesh" thing is meant to be taken", I said "I don't know that this is quite how the "one flesh" thing is meant to be taken". I should probably have written it more clearly. Something like "I don't think that is how it is meant to be taken".

FWIW it was partly a tacit acknowledgement that this is a weak point in my argument.

: If we allow the Biblical witness to suggest its meaning, then we are forced to admit that the

: "one flesh" imagery in scripture is decidedly grounded in the union between male and female.

I disagree, or at least it assumes it, but that isn't the same thing as ruling other things out.

It starts in Genesis, and continues whenever that imagery is drawn up. But yes, the "one flesh" identity is very, very much about sex. It's why sex determines marriage, and why marriage can be annulled if sexual consummation has never taken place. Paul decries prostitution in 1 Corinthians 6:15-16 precisely because of that uniting category of sex, citing the "one flesh" argument...

For clarification, when you say sex do you actually mean "penetration", because sex is, I would argue, about a lot more than just penetration.

The other problem with your take on "one flesh" is that where does it leave you with respect to rape? The Torah is fairly consistent here, rape is sex and therefore the rapist would be forced to marry the person he raped and pay the bride price for her.

Now I'm assuming that no-one here is arguing for that, but that seems to me to be the most consistent option with what you are arguing for. I think mystical union is more complicated than that and indeed that is perhaps why it's called "mystical" union - you can't just reduce it to the question of whether penetration has occured.

At any rate, one thing I am continually reminded of throughout this discussion and/or debate is that there is positively no space in the scriptural text ever made for a same-sex marriage. ...it exclusively defines it in terms of male coming together with the female. Thus, arguments for homosexual marriage do, seemingly, have to create a new space for it.

The same could be said of the computers we are using to discuss this, or of the prawn sandwich I had for lunch.

Even more difficult, perhaps, is that from a Christian perspective, homosexual marriage almost always has to be viewed as a less-than-heterosexual marriage. It falls into the "not as God planned it" category, and most of the Christian arguments for homosexual marriage (which still regard the Biblical witness) have tended to fall on the "they can't help who they are" sort of bend. That, too, is bothersome, particularly if we are seeking to allow married homosexuals in our churches to feel full validity and blessing. If there is a pro-homosexual argument that counteracts this apparent "less than" issue, I'd love to read it.

I'd be interested to know whether you have ever discussed this issue with anyone before, because I can't imagine there are many Christians in favour of homosexual Christian marriage, or even just homosexual Christians having sex that would still consider it less than God intended, precisely because of the problems you highlight.

My response would be to question how much we really know about how "God planned it". There's the common argument about "Adam and Eve not Adam and Steve", but if you take that view then you are also saying that single people are equally problematic. And then of course there's the question as to how literally we should take the idea of there being an Adam and Eve.

What Christian in Paul's day could NOT know at least something about the church seated at the center of the world's government of the day? Certainly what apostle could not know?
Yes, and by the same argument what Apostle could not know about the immorality of significant parts of Roman society?

Obviously Paul knows somewhat of their situation, and he certainly knows some people in the church. But I think "fairly universal" is a great way to describe Romans, when compared to Paul's other letters. That's not to claim that it is context-free - NOTHING is context-free. But in Romans moreso than in any of Paul's other letters, Paul is seeking to systematically set down his understanding of the Gospel.
I actually think we pretty much agree on this, but even so there's no reason to think either that Paul would avoid using examples, or that he would avoid using ones that were particularly pertinent and relevant to them.

Matt

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e2c, maybe you'd enjoy his book most often namechecked in conversations about Fundamentalism, Bobbed Hair, Bossy Wives, and Women Preachers, published in 1941?

THAT'S the one! I remember, Stephen, when we first "met" and I found out about our "similar" pasts, referring to something I'd seen of his. It is this book. I think you are right about publication, though I saw a printing slightly younger. With all due respect to your forebears, I must say that the photo on the frontice piece of the edition I saw gives the lie to much that you quote above. Obviously, there was no bobbed or even cut hair on anyone but J.R.R.'s head. However, no one in the picture seemed happy at all. As a puckishly "radical" evangelical feminist at the time, it seemed to me that the photo contradicted the implications of the title and table of contents as well. I was stunned at the seemingly forelorn sobriety of the family. I confess to having been more than willing, at the time, to be so stunned and to read what-have-you into the photo though. This memory is +/- 30 years old and quite clear today.

To all others, please forgive the digression.

Edited by Rich Kennedy

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