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

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The Miami New Times now tells the story behind the story, and apparently the reporters behind this story, prior to capturing Rekers and the rentboy on camera, spent a week "studying screen captures of [the rentboy's] emails — including the itinerary of his trip with the minister — sent by a friend he once entrusted with his passwords."

Christianity Today now has its own story on the scandal, too, but it's mainly a digest of the existing news coverage, leavened with official written statements from Rekers and one or two other evangelicals. They also mention only the current rentboy, and not the friend of Haggard's who claims to have been hired by Rekers back in 1992. (And I must admit, I love the response that another reporter got when they checked with Rekers and/or his people for a comment on the 1992 allegations: "Professor George Rekers has never been to the Hyatt Regency Hotel at O'Hare Airport in Chicago." Really? Like, REALLY? That's the only detail in the allegations that you want to dispute? Hoo, boy. Nope, nothing suspicious HERE.)

Oh, and there appears to be some confusion as to whether Rekers is married or divorced. The Miami New Times says divorced. Christianity Today says ... well, it quotes Rekers as referring to his "wife", but does that necessarily mean that they are married, technically speaking?

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The CT article gave Rekers a freebie on this outrageous quote:

"I confessed to the Lord and to my family that I was unwise and wrong to hire this travel assistant after knowing him only one month before the trip and not knowing whether he was more than a person raised in a Christian home," Rekers said. "I also confessed to the Lord and to my family the sin of thereby putting myself into a vulnerable situation where I tragically became subject to false allegations."

False allegations? He didn't know anything about the travel assistant other than he was raised in a Christian home? :lol: It was established the very first week of the scandal that "Lucien" only advertised on the gay site Rentboy and that his private profile could not be accessed via a random Google search. It's also being reported that Mr. Rentboy only removed the more salacious, sexual descriptions (including penis size details) on his profile page after being hired by Rekers. There are screen captures out there of Lucien's Rentboy profile and it pretty much tells the whole story.

And why does Rekers now need a team of spiritual counselors to help him sort out the sin of "putting yourself in a vulnerable situation"?

The stupidity and hypocrisy of this is dizzying.

Edited by Greg P

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A Catholic Bishop and student of Pope Benedict XVI wants the Church to rethink its position on homosexuality and committed gay relationships.

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A Catholic Bishop and student of Pope Benedict XVI wants the Church to rethink its position on homosexuality and committed gay relationships.

No, no, no. Silly MSM.

But what did Cardinal Schönborn mean by the reference to eudaimonism? He tried to explain it to the journalists. The Church attempts to lead men to their ultimate happiness, which is the vision of God in his essence. Moral norms are meant to do that; they have that as their end or purpose. The norms themselves are unchanging. However, our approach to obeying them is gradual and our efforts are a mixture of success and failure. This means that while certain moral norms are absolute, that is, they hold in all circumstances without exception, our approach to obeying them may be halting and imperfect. This is commonly referred to as “the law of gradualism” and is opposed to “the gradualism of the law,” as if the law itself were somehow variable.

This is the context for the cardinal’s saying: “We should give more consideration to the quality of homosexual relationships,” adding: “A stable relationship is certainly better than if someone chooses to be promiscuous.” This does not at all mean that the cardinal was advocating or even suggesting that the Church might change her teaching that homosexuality is a disorder and homosexual activity is always a grave evil. It is always grave, but there can be gradations of gravity—or, to call it by its true name, objective depravity.

Let's not forget Cardinal Schönborn was the editor of the Catechism of the Catholic Church. (CCC on homosexuality)

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: . . . but there can be gradations of gravity—or, to call it by its true name, objective depravity.

Forgive this silly interjection, but reading this, I suddenly want to see someone write a song or poem that rhymes these two words.

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No, no, no. Silly MSM.
That's an awful lot of explaining by Father Fessio. I'd prefer Cardinal Schönborn clarify his own statements.

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No, no, no. Silly MSM.
That's an awful lot of explaining by Father Fessio. I'd prefer Cardinal Schönborn clarify his own statements.

Me too. That doesn't change my confidence that anyone who thinks there's any chance Cardinal Schönborn is actually going to support a fundamental rethinking of the Church's moral teaching on homosexual acts is going to be gravely disappointed.

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First, this is another fantastic thread. It has a little weirdness in it from time to time, but it also seems to touch on some of the deepest and most significant questions on the subject. Second, I can’t help bringing out a few points and questions that I was hoping would have been taken further as I read the thread.

We know Jesus was familiar with Leviticus; he quoted from it. Isn't his silence on this particular topic, then, somewhat more likely to be an endorsement of the Levitical teaching, rather than a refutation of it?

No. Absolutely not. As I understand it, it is a fairly established doctrine in Christianity that silence on the part of Christ, or even better, silence on the part of Special Revelation does not allow for specific conclusions to be necessarily so. Where Special Revelation is silent, that is when we turn to General Revelation instead.

One of the first things that gets taught in the Greek classroom is what we call the "root fallacy," because it hinders the process of correctly learning even basic vocabulary. Like I said, it is worth at least getting you bearings in current discussion about these issues in Paul, there is some great stuff out there that doesn't have to rely on oddball lexicography. I would be happy to whip up a quick bib for you.

Yes. Please do whip that up. Between Justin Lee and Rachel Held Evans, there are a large number of us who are being asked to consider a large number of hermeneutical claims, specifically in regarding to Genesis 19; Leviticus 18:22, 20:13; Romans 1:26-27; I Corinthians 6:9 and I Timothy 1:10.

Many Christians have gone over this before, but I think a larger and larger number of believers (who take the traditional literal interpretive view of Scripture) are now starting to take a closer look at this for the first time.

Without meaning to be insulting to anyone here, my own personal view is that at the end of the day there are really only two completely consistent points of view here: [1.] Darrel's [hat tip smilie], and [2.] mine (along with Jim, Peter, etc., i.e., the Catholic/Orthodox view). Everything in between -- all forms of Protestant opinion that attempt to retain certain aspects of traditional Christian morality while discarding others -- ultimately amounts to staking out untenable ground on a slippery slope. Discussions like this tend to bring this out, in my view.

I am fascinated by this assertion, partly because it entails the possibility of eventually convincing me. However, as I’ve been attempting to steep myself in the conservative tradition lately, I’ve come across this idea that the conservative (whether in theology or politics) is going to (1) be the defender of traditions, always giving them a presumption in their favor; and (2) recognize that we cannot simply ignore changes in history. Isn’t it possible to hold tradition in the highest of esteem and to seek to preserve as much of it as is possible, while still acknowledging that there are still some things that the past did get wrong?

Or, I suppose another way of putting this, without idolizing progress, aren’t there points in history where the church or society figures out how to be even more logically consistent to its own doctrines and principles? This does not mean that some doctrines and principles aren’t unassailable. But, in the spheres where General Revelation is more of a guide that Special Revelation, I think the conservative can admit that there is still intellectual work to be done.

I'm taking this thinking on tradition and adaptation from examples like the following because I think, in at least a limited sense, it also applies to theology:

Now it does not follow that an unquestioning acceptance of received opinions and long-established usage will of itself suffice to solve all personal and public problems. The world does change; a certain sloughing off of tradition and prescription is at work in any vigorous society, and a certain adding to the bulk of received opinion goes on from age to age. We cannot live precisely by the rules of our distant forefathers, in all matters. But, again to employ a phrase of Burke’s, the fact that a belief or an institution has long been accepted by men, and seems to have exerted a beneficent influence, establishes in its favor ‘a legitimate presumption.’ If we feel inclined to depart from old ways, we ought to do so only after very sober consideration of ultimate consequences. Authority, prescription, and tradition undergo in every generation a certain filtering process, by which the really archaic is discarded; yet we ought to be sure that we actually are filtering, and not merely letting our heritage run down the drain.

- Russell Kirk, “Prescription, Authority, and Ordered Freedom,” What Is Conservatism?, pg. 31

Yet if the only form of tradition, of handing down, consisted in following the ways of the immediate generation before us in a blind or timid adherence to its successes, “tradition” should positively be discouraged. We have seen many such simple currents soon lost in the sand; and novelty is better than repetition. Tradition is a matter of much wider significance. It cannot be inherited, and if you want it you must obtain it by great labour. It involves, in the first place, the historical sense, which we may call nearly indispensable ...; and the historical sense involves a perception, not only of the pastness of the past, but of its presence; the historical sense compels a man to write not merely with his own generation in his bones, but with a feeling that the whole of the literature of Europe from Homer and within it the whole of the literature of his own country has a simultaneous existence and composes a simultaneous order. This historical sense, which is a sense of the timeless as well as of the temporal and of the timeless and of the temporal together, is what makes a writer traditional.

- T.S. Eliot, “Tradition and the Individual Talent,” The Sacred Wood: Essays on Poetry and Criticism, 1920, pg. 28

One other essay in The Sacred Wood deserves mention: ‘Tradition and the Individual Talent’, in which Eliot introduces the term that best summarizes his contribution to the political consciousness of our century - ‘tradition’. In this essay Eliot argues that true originality is possible only within a tradition, and that every tradition must be re-made by the original artist, in the very act of creating something new. A tradition is a living thing, and just as each writer is judged in terms of those who went before, so does the meaning of the tradition change, as new works are added to it. Briefly, it was this literary idea of a live tradition that was gradually to permeate Eliot’s thinking, and form the core of his social and political philosophy.

- Roger Scruton, A Political Philosophy: Arguments for Conservatism, 2006, pg. 193

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16 pages? Sorry I don't have time for 16 pages. Could someone summarize the discussion for me?

I guess it's cause I don't see myself, or anyone for that matter, as the definitive voice of what the Bible is saying that at the end of the day the fact that there are differing interpretations on this leaves me with only one moral choice; that of admitting that I don't know the answer, and thus cannot condemn. Maybe someday one interpretation will prove to me its rightness, but for now, neither side has.

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16 pages? Sorry I don't have time for 16 pages. Could someone summarize the discussion for me?

I don't mean to sound snarky, but I don't think this thread can be neatly summarized. There's just too much of it, and it goes in too many directions.

Sixteen pages isn't really as bad as it sounds.

Edited by Ryan H.

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16 pages? Sorry I don't have time for 16 pages. Could someone summarize the discussion for me?

I guess it's cause I don't see myself, or anyone for that matter, as the definitive voice of what the Bible is saying that at the end of the day the fact that there are differing interpretations on this leaves me with only one moral choice; that of admitting that I don't know the answer, and thus cannot condemn. Maybe someday one interpretation will prove to me its rightness, but for now, neither side has.

Being new to the thread myself, and then having taken the time to read it over the last couple of days, I can recommend it as being both worth reading and that this is an issue that is important enough to take the time to consider closely and carefully. This thread is full of Scripture, doctrine, theology and philosophy, and in fact, it explores some questions more deeply than a couple of the books I've read on the subject have.

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16 pages? Sorry I don't have time for 16 pages. Could someone summarize the discussion for me?

I don't mean to sound snarky, but I don't think this thread can be neatly summarized. There's just too much of it, and it goes in too many directions.

Sixteen pages isn't really as bad as it sounds.

Amen. The rewards of a thread like this come from careful, patient reading, listening, and rumination. Any worthwhile exploration of a topic like this can't be reduced to a paraphrase.

Monty Python missed an opportunity here for their Life of Bryan Sermon on the Mount scene: "I'm in a hurry. Can somebody just give it to me in a sentence or two?"

Edited by Overstreet

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Alright, I'll get back to you all a month from now wink.png

While I'm reading, soaking in, studying, etc. you guys can read these. (oh, looks like morgan1908 beat me to it on the first page.)

And while you're on it, read George Macdonald's sermon titled 'Justice.' always a good, worthwhile read. Has nothing to do with homosexuality, but since you guys don't seem to mind taking the time to read really long convoluted things, I find myself a ready audience to thrust it upon. And yes I've read the whole thing myself, and loved it.

sorry for my snarkiness, just...as a person who has been around the block on many forums, I know exactly what 16 pages on a thread means, what's in it, and such, and no I don't think I have the time to read through all that. But I'll give it a try, might skim most of it though.

Edited by Justin Hanvey

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It is more or less inherent to Protestantism to be open to cross-examining and rejecting a previous consensus in almost any area.

And, after thinking over what I wrote, I have a third question. I am Protestant, but I don’t think Christian history, tradition and consensus is open to rejection in any area. But I do think there are some areas that are open to adjustments. Some of the thinkers I am taking this idea from are Catholic. Does Catholicism, or Eastern Orthodoxism for that matter, allow for the change within or replacement of some traditions? It seems that Anglicanism certainly does.

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Sitting in a waiting room with my iPhone. I'm surprised to see this thread resurrected…I thought it was part of the locked "faith matters" forum.

Anyway, there's a limit to what I'm willing to take on typing with two fingers…but I'll give this one a shot.

First, this is another fantastic thread. It has a little weirdness in it from time to time, but it also seems to touch on some of the deepest and most significant questions on the subject. Second, I can’t help bringing out a few points and questions that I was hoping would have been taken further as I read the thread.

We know Jesus was familiar with Leviticus; he quoted from it. Isn't his silence on this particular topic, then, somewhat more likely to be an endorsement of the Levitical teaching, rather than a refutation of it?

No. Absolutely not. As I understand it, it is a fairly established doctrine in Christianity that silence on the part of Christ, or even better, silence on the part of Special Revelation does not allow for specific conclusions to be necessarily so. Where Special Revelation is silent, that is when we turn to General Revelation instead.

Actually, there's an intermediate position. When it comes to extrapolating where Jesus would have stood on issues he doesn't explicitly discuss, we aren't limited to what the Old Testament says, and whether Jesus can be presumed to agree with the OT unless He specifically disagrees, or vice versa. We can also appeal to Jesus' religio-cultural milieu as a second Temple era Jew.

Judaism in Jesus' day certainly included diversities of opinions, beliefs, practices, and emphases on many subjects. On some subjects, however, there was widespread or even essentially universal consensus. And Jesus' teaching, while like many rabbis and prophets before him, included elements of radical critique of Judaism, as well as unprecedented elements of redefinition and reinterpretation, was nevertheless a critique and reinterpretation of Judaism from within, not from without.

In other words, Jesus did not appear in a cultural vacuum, nor was the OT the sole precedent for his thinking and teaching. This is the essential fallacy of so much heretical and nonsensical teaching, such as the Mormon interpretation of Jesus and his God. The Mormon attempt to expunge or mitigate the strong monotheism of eg. second Isaiah may or may not be persuasive if you read the Bible in isolation; it falls completely apart as soon as you learn the first thing about the actual historical milieu of Jesus and the apostles. The idea that Jesus believed anything remotely like the Mormon idea of God is crashingly ahistorical nonsense of the first order; it requires one to completely de-Semitize the Lord, to conclude that he was simply not a believing Jew in any meaningful sense.

Something similar is true of attempts to expunge the broad strokes of traditional sexual morality from the Bible. One may contrive in the privacy of one's study to read isolated passages of scripture in this or that way; one cannot escape the basic shape of first-century Jewish sexual morality, or how all Judaism of Jesus' day saw acts such as fornication, adultery and homosexual acts in light of Torah.

So far as I am aware, there is no meaningful diversity of opinion or ambiguity to help us here; no cultural wiggle room for reinterpretation and the like. There is simply the Jewish understanding or the rejection of it.

Of course Jesus did radically transform as well as reinterpret essential aspects of Jewish faith and praxis, or at least the NT interprets him as doing so. However, this does not justify taking Jesus our of his religio-cultural milieu, or considering anything in the Jewish worldview, however fundamental, to be up for grabs.

Without going into further detail, something like that seems to me what would be required to cast into doubt the basic shape of Jewish sexual morality, and to suggest, with no evidence whatsoever, that on so basic a point of morality Jesus rejected the universal understanding of his people. On the contrary, everything we see in his teaching indicates that he accepted the basic shape of Jewish sexual morality, and modified it only to radicalize it, to make it more exacting and absolute, to make less concession to human weakness and impulses.

That's all for now.

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Anyway, there's a limit to what I'm willing to take on typing with two fingers…but I'll give this one a shot.

I'm impressed! It would take me days to say all that via a phone keypad.

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Anyway, there's a limit to what I'm willing to take on typing with two fingers…but I'll give this one a shot.

I'm impressed! It would take me days to say all that via a phone keypad.

:) Combination of elegant Apple design, fast fingers and a slow doctor.

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J.A.A. Purves said:

:Some of the thinkers I am taking this idea from are Catholic. Does Catholicism, or Eastern Orthodoxism for that matter, allow for the change within or replacement of some traditions? It seems that Anglicanism certainly does.

I think one of the differences in Anglicanism is that it also has roots in the old Celtic Christian tradition. It has some roots there, and some in Catholicism, which leads it to having some similarities with Eastern Orthodoxy.

So, for instance, when Anglicans started having women clergy this would have gone against Catholic roots but not against its Celtic roots. So in a large sense this isn't a change or replacement.

One can also see this concept in other areas of Anglicanism.

As to the whole gay marriage debate I don't think Anglicanism is as interested in following cultural norms in the issue as much as it is interested in wrestling with what new scientific data is telling us about such things, and from there wrestling with what the Bible and tradition have said about it.

So there is room for change and replacement in this matter. But what one finds in Anglicanism is that some people are coming away from these questions with the desire to change their views of marriage, while others are saying something different, wanting to stay close to the traditional view.

Anglicans in North America are divided about the matter, while Anglicans outside North America are by and large sticking to the traditional view. I know that in Canada there has been fear of a church split amongst Anglicans because of the issue. But, so far at least, this has been avoided.

Edited by Attica

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I'm gonna reply to some things as I go through these...apologies if I am simply repeating what others have said. If I am feel free to ignore.

First off I'm a sola scriptura person, but I'm not one that thinks we, any of us, have the capability or knowledge to figure it all out. That being what I accept as truth, all commentaries, arguments, etc. one must - should take with a grain of salt. I know those like SDG and Peter might disagree with that based on their personal Catholic/Orthodox stances, and thus there will always be that disconnect there when discussing things like this. But I don't believe God has appointed any one man/body to provide all Truth to. I think we are required to seek out Truth (even if ultimately never able to fully find it, still able to see some facets of the diamond of truth) because this engenders relationship and communication with God in everyday life. In other words I think it's part and parcel of the Christian faith to, like Jacob, continually wrestle with God. And as such, few things I hold dear and true, as ultimate convictions. God is Real, Jesus is Real, Jesus is God, Jesus came to save me from my sins and invite me into relationship with Him. These are the only beliefs I hold dear. My own personal Creed you might say. Upon these things hinges a lot, but they are my safety net so to speak, as I explore the rest.

As far as I understand Paul did invent the word Arsenokoites, and there are two reasons given for this...one is that he was hearkening back to Levitical laws, and two that he meant something entirely different than a homosexual. SDG brought up pedophilia which is kind of ironic since in the day and age Paul was speaking to, a lot of Romans and Greeks were engaging in that very thing. And some even interpret Romans 1 to be not only speaking to temple prostitutes but the act of pedophilia as well, specifically venerated Greek and Roman teachers and men in power who made "lovers" of their male slaves.

People discussed the choice or psychological issue. And while I both affirm and agree with possible arguments for the psychological aspect of it, I think some of those same arguments fall apart when faced with the reality that man homosexual stories come from people who were raised in perfectly normal families where no abuse, or anything happened.

There is still so much about the human body we don't understand, so I don't know if we can unequivocally say the genetic possibility has been completely ruled out.

All that though leaves one with a question...what is inherently immoral about a consenting adult relationship? Even if it's based on psychological issues. Or maybe it's not even that but where should the State stand on this issue? I do think these are two very different arguments, and while I believe one can affirm the immorality of something, they shouldn't then require a law against it UNLESS it is to the detriment of society. As far as I can tell homosexuality is NOT detrimental to society. In fact on issues of overpopulation, etc. it might even be beneficial.

That's all for today. And like I said, if I am repeating anyone, feel free to ignore. I still have 13 pages to go.

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First off I'm a sola scriptura person, but I'm not one that thinks we, any of us, have the capability or knowledge to figure it all out. That being what I accept as truth, all commentaries, arguments, etc. one must - should take with a grain of salt. I know those like SDG and Peter might disagree with that based on their personal Catholic/Orthodox stances, and thus there will always be that disconnect there when discussing things like this. But I don't believe God has appointed any one man/body to provide all Truth to. I think we are required to seek out Truth (even if ultimately never able to fully find it, still able to see some facets of the diamond of truth) because this engenders relationship and communication with God in everyday life. In other words I think it's part and parcel of the Christian faith to, like Jacob, continually wrestle with God. And as such, few things I hold dear and true, as ultimate convictions. God is Real, Jesus is Real, Jesus is God, Jesus came to save me from my sins and invite me into relationship with Him. These are the only beliefs I hold dear. My own personal Creed you might say. Upon these things hinges a lot, but they are my safety net so to speak, as I explore the rest.

I can work with all this. I wouldn't put it all this way myself, but there's overlap between this and my method and beliefs.

To be human is to be finite and fallible. Uncertainty is built into the human experience. We never possess Truth in itself. There are ways by which we seek to approach truth. Some are more reliable than others, or better suited to certain types of inquiry; some we approach by faith, others by reflection, pure insight, logic, trial and error, experimentation, etc. Always, however, we retain our critical faculties; we engage in a dialogue with the object of our inquiry as we attempt to understand it better. We never stop thinking and questioning.

As far as I understand Paul did invent the word Arsenokoites, and there are two reasons given for this...one is that he was hearkening back to Levitical laws, and two that he meant something entirely different than a homosexual. SDG brought up pedophilia which is kind of ironic since in the day and age Paul was speaking to, a lot of Romans and Greeks were engaging in that very thing.

In the first place, I am aware of no evidence of pedophilia or pedophilic acts properly so-called (i.e., involving prepubescent children) being socially acceptable at any time in the classical Greco-Roman world. Presumably you are thinking of ephlebophilia or pederasty, i.e., adultadolescent relations.

Even when and where such same-sex relations enjoyed some measure of acceptance, there was generally some awareness of decadence or shamefulness. For instance, even when or where where it might not be considered shameful for a Roman freeman to take a slave or a boy in place of a woman as a sexual parter, it would certainly be shameful for a Roman freemanto play the female part in a sexual encounter. Such a role was only for slaves or non-emancipated youths (as you seem to acknowledge). I am aware of no evidence of social acceptance for homosexual liaisons between Roman freemen of equal status, neither able to impose himself on the other.

Furthermore, and this is crucial, at no time were such acts ever considered acceptable in Jewish society. Not just from the Bible, but from other sources, we can sketch a picture of the basic shape of Jewish sexual morality in Jesus' day, notwithstanding various permutations and varieties of opinion as may have existed. Sex was permissible only in marriage, and marriage was only between a man and a woman. Sex between two men was an offense against God. All Jews in Jesus' day took this for granted as their religio-cultural milieu. This is what Jesus and all his followers, including the apostles, would have been taught growing up, as part of their faith.

Now, not all aspects of Jewish religious culture are considered normative by Christians today, or even to have been normative for Jews under the Old Covenant. Jesus criticized erroneous aspects of Jewish religious culture, and reinterpreted or transformed others. Jesus demonstrated freedom with respect to certain aspects of his culture, for example, sharing table fellowship with social pariahs, speaking with women and Samaritans as equals, etc.

But other aspects of Jewish religious culture Jesus took to be divinely revealed, to reflect the Jews' status as God's chosen people and God's pedagogy of his people. And with respect to Jewish sexual morality, all the data suggests that Jesus broadly accepted the basic shape of Jewish sexual morality, modifying particular aspects only to radicalize and reinforce it.

There is still so much about the human body we don't understand, so I don't know if we can unequivocally say the genetic possibility has been completely ruled out.

Nor am I clear what a genetic disposition to homosexual attraction would be supposed to show. For instance, it appears that there is a genetic disposition to alcoholism; there may well be a genetic disposition to pedophilia.

All that though leaves one with a question...what is inherently immoral about a consenting adult relationship? Even if it's based on psychological issues. Or maybe it's not even that but where should the State stand on this issue?

I will pass on the first question for now. On the second question, I will pass on whether homosexual acts should be outlawed, and content myself with arguing that the overriding sociological reasons for the state's interest in marriage extend only to what is properly called marriage, i.e., the enduring union of a man and a woman, and that homosexual relationships fall well outside that state interest, and should not be treated as equivalent or interchangeable in marriage law.

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Darrel Manson wrote:

: I'm impressed! It would take me days to say all that via a phone keypad.

No kidding!

SDG wrote:

: Combination of elegant Apple design, fast fingers and a slow doctor.

I think the fast mind is a more important factor here than the fast fingers. I've got fast fingers, but I would never write at that length without an interface that allowed for ease of self-editing.

: I'm surprised to see this thread resurrected…I thought it was part of the locked "faith matters" forum.

This thread was created in April 2010, almost a year after Image bought Arts & Faith. The old 'Religion' forum was locked when Image bought A&F, but this thread is in the 'Faith Matters' forum, which was created in June 2009; see Greg's announcement here.

J.A.A. Purves wrote:

: Does Catholicism, or Eastern Orthodoxism for that matter, allow for the change within or replacement of some traditions?

Depends what you mean by "traditions". In Eastern Orthodox circles, there is disagreement between churches as to whether they should follow the Old Calendar or the New Calendar -- so if a change as trivial as *that* is resisted in some quarters, you can only imagine how resistant the Church would be to changes in moral theology or whatever!

Broadly speaking, though, I think the Church would be open to new revelation on some level, but it would always have to cohere with the revelation we have already received. And a change to our understanding of sexuality would probably be the sort of thing that could only be resolved at an ecumenical council -- but organizing and ratifying one of those would be a thousand times more complicated than, say, passing an amendment to the American constitution.

I will say that, on a purely cultural level, the Orthodox are probably less likely to be swayed by scientific arguments than Protestants or even Catholics are. Modern science is essentially an outgrowth of western, Aristotelian thought (analyzing things and breaking them down into their particulars), whereas the Orthodox church has a more eastern, Platonic bias (emphasizing the ineffable forms to which we all aspire), so any argument in favour of homosexuality that boiled down to genetics or whatever would probably be shrugged aside. Which actually kind of bothers me, because I do think the science is something we should all be *aware* of, even if we don't think it necessarily carries any moral weight in this case.

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There is still so much about the human body we don't understand, so I don't know if we can unequivocally say the genetic possibility has been completely ruled out.

Nor am I clear what a genetic disposition to homosexual attraction would be supposed to show. For instance, it appears that there is a genetic disposition to alcoholism; there may well be a genetic disposition to pedophilia.

Wow, here we go again. I reread this 16-page thread last night in its entirety... Love me some A&F.

Just to offer some clarification on "genetic disposition" with alcohol-- Some recent research points to the possibility of genetic weakness in the areas of the brain governing self-control -- alcohol may just be the easiest, most readily available vice for such individuals.

In regard to scientific research on homosexuality, would conclusive findings (if they are discovered) ever change your mind on the topic or cause you to rethink your religious position?

But more importantly, your equating homosexuality with individual behavioral proclivities is bogus. The homosexuality "debate" in this country primarily involves the issue of innate orientation and identity , not personal habits, addictions or behavioral preferences. Sexual orientation is at the core of our identity and is present with all of us long before we even know or care what sex is. It's not an adolescent or adult preference about what "turns you on". It's a fundamental instinct that governs how a person views themselves in the world.

Edited by Greg P

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Just to offer some clarification on "genetic disposition" with alcohol-- Some recent research points to the possibility of genetic weakness in the areas of the brain governing self-control -- alcohol may just be the easiest, most readily available vice for such individuals.

That is not a complete account, as far as I know. For instance, alcoholism has been linked with the CREB gene, which is "involved in the process of alcohol tolerance, dependence, and withdrawal symptoms." It's not just a matter of problems with self-control.

In regard to scientific research on homosexuality, would conclusive findings (if they are discovered) ever change your mind on the topic or cause you to rethink your religious position?

I can't see why it would. I can't imagine what scientific outcome would contradict what I believe on this point.

What I believe, grounded in my understanding of natural law and human nature, is that homosexual acts are a distortion or perversion of human sexuality, and thus harmful to integral human well-being, which includes spiritual well-being. My understanding is also that human nature has been corrupted by the effects of original sin, leading to disordered appetites. That the disordering of our appetites has or might have some genetic component is not a surprising or challenging idea. (If it were, it would be no less challenging to discover a genetic component to "weakness in the areas of the brain governing self-control," since theologically one of the classical manifestations of concupiscence is weakened will.)

I suppose I can say this. I can imagine a possible set of scientific findings that would pose a challenge to my worldview, if not necessarily refute it: if it were to be conclusively shown that the phenomenon, experience or etiology of same-sex attraction per se has some fundamentally different status than ephlebophilic or pedophilic attraction.

Obviously acting on pedophilic attraction may well have a different moral status from acting on same-sex attraction, from the perspective of the ethic of adult consent. With respect to the roots of attraction in nature or nurture, though, and the extent to which they are or are not reasonably described as an "identity" or "orientation," I suspect they are more or less comparable. That one is stigmatized and pathologized while the other is not I'm inclined to ascribe, not to objective measures of health or pathology, but solely to the ethic of adult consent -- and I think the incipient movement to rehabilitate the experience of "minor-attracted people" has a stronger relative case than might be suspected (a fact often obscured (for many reasons I really, really hesitate to write this, but there is something to it) by the sometimes exaggerated demonization of pedophiles as monsters or predators).

At this point it looks to me like the growing weight of evidence and expert opinion favors my view. Minor-attraction is as much an "orientation" or "identity" as same-sex attraction, even if our culture still maintains, due to the ethic of adult consent, that those with pedophilic attraction must not act on their inclinations, while those with same-sex attraction can.

That said, it's certainly possible that new scientific discoveries could tip the scales the other way, establishing pedophilic attraction as fundamentally different from same-sex attraction. So, yes, if that happened, it would be a challenge to my worldview.

However, if it doesn't, if the momentum in favor of viewing minor-attraction as an "orientation" continues, then even if society continues to tell minor-attracted adults that they must not act on their inclinations, wouldn't that be a challenge to your worldview?

In that case, it would seem to follow that just because something qualifies as what we now call an "orientation," that doesn't mean one has a moral right to the fulfillment of the desires or attractions that go with that "orientation." Same-sex attraction doesn't pose the same moral issues as pedophilic attraction -- but in principle there could be other moral issues; the mere "status" of being an "orientation" doesn't turn moral objections to acting on attraction into a "phobia," or a bigoted or unreasonable opinion.

But more importantly, your equating homosexuality with individual behavioral proclivities is bogus. The homosexuality "debate" in this country primarily involves the issue of innate orientation and identity , not personal habits, addictions or behavioral preferences. Sexual orientation is at the core of our identity and is present with all of us long before we even know or care what sex is. It's not an adolescent or adult preference about what "turns you on". It's a fundamental instinct that governs how a person views themselves in the world.

From my point of view, as the arguments above suggest, this is largely arguing about words. The notions of "orientation and identity," at least as they've been used and overused in contemporary discourse, have become political slogans, not objective descriptions of reality. Sexual identity is male or female, not L, G, B, T/T, Q/Q, U, X, I, A, O or "straight."

Edited by SDG

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: Combination of elegant Apple design, fast fingers and a slow doctor.

I think the fast mind is a more important factor here than the fast fingers. I've got fast fingers, but I would never write at that length without an interface that allowed for ease of self-editing.

Wow, I don't know what to say. smile.png Except that I'm treading pretty familiar conceptual ground here, which makes it relatively easy to plot a course in advance.

Broadly speaking, though, I think the Church would be open to new revelation on some level, but it would always have to cohere with the revelation we have already received.

Interesting. The Catholic stance on public revelation is essentially that it's over: "The Christian economy, therefore, since it is the new and definitive Covenant, will never pass away; and no new public revelation is to be expected before the glorious manifestation of our Lord Jesus Christ" (Dei Verbum 4, quoted in CCC 66).

On the other hand, God is God and he can do whatever he wants, and "is to be expected" leaves the door open in principle to the possibility that new revelation could happen -- though not one surpassing or contradicting the revelation in Christ. So I doubt there is any essential disagreement here.

And a change to our understanding of sexuality would probably be the sort of thing that could only be resolved at an ecumenical council -- but organizing and ratifying one of those would be a thousand times more complicated than, say, passing an amendment to the American constitution.

No kidding. And that's prescinding from the question -- open, so I understand, in Orthodox circles -- whether the East-West schism would have to be healed before a truly ecumenical council would even be thinkable.

I will say that, on a purely cultural level, the Orthodox are probably less likely to be swayed by scientific arguments than Protestants or even Catholics are. Modern science is essentially an outgrowth of western, Aristotelian thought (analyzing things and breaking them down into their particulars), whereas the Orthodox church has a more eastern, Platonic bias (emphasizing the ineffable forms to which we all aspire), so any argument in favour of homosexuality that boiled down to genetics or whatever would probably be shrugged aside. Which actually kind of bothers me, because I do think the science is something we should all be *aware* of, even if we don't think it necessarily carries any moral weight in this case.

Since you've spoken so frankly here, I feel that I should reiterate, what I believe I've said many times before: that my deep appreciation for Eastern Christianity often extends to a preference for the characteristically Eastern approach to spirituality, theology, liturgy and so forth over against the characteristically Western approach, and that on many points I am inclined to be more critical of my own Western heritage than I am of the East.

That said, I've also noted that there are a couple of respects in which, while the Western Church may currently be in the early stages of recovering from the opposite failings, there are characteristic failings in the Eastern experience that I do not envy. One of them is the one lamented by the great 20th century Orthodox writer Father Alexander Schmemann, in a quotation I've cited before:

Since the Orthodox world was and is inevitably and even radically changing, we have to recognize, as the first symptom of the crisis, a deep schizophrenia which has slowly penetrated the Orthodox mentality: life in an unreal, nonexisting world, firmly affirmed as real and existing. Orthodox consciousness did not notice the fall of Byzantium, Peter the Great's reforms, the Revolution; it did not notice the revolution of the mind, of science, of lifestyles, forms of life... In brief, it did not notice history.

I love that quotation, not because it is such an incisive critique of a tradition with which I obviously have a point of contention, but because of the enormous integrity it speaks, and the great personal cost at which Fr. Schmemann's brutal honesty clearly came, in light of the unswerving fidelity to the tradition he so unsparingly criticized. His example inspires me; I hope I can be brave enough to be half as frank about the failings of the Catholic world while being half as faithful to my own tradition.

Edited by SDG

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FWIW, as far as "scientific" stuff goes, the one major thing that has always given me pause -- ever since I first learned about it over 20 years ago -- is intersexuality, i.e. the fact that some people are literally born with features of both genders (or switch genders during puberty). Once the clear distinction between male and female breaks down at that level, you begin to wonder if it might break down on other, subtler levels as well.

I alluded to this several years ago in our thread on The Crying Game, but for a more detailed discussion around this, check out the archived thread on 'Philosophy of sexuality', which began in May 2002 with an exchange between SDG and me. Oh, and for a bit of historical context: that thread took place nearly a year before I first visited an Orthodox church; at the time, I was something of a "post-evangelical" -- but I see that I quoted two Orthodox friends of mine on the subject of contraception, so I was already "in dialogue", as they say, with members of that church by that point.

There are something like five pages in that thread, and I've only had time to skim the first page, so I'll just caution that some of our debates back then could be fairly, um, robust at times, and obviously some of us may have changed our views in the past eleven years.

SDG wrote:

: Interesting. The Catholic stance on public revelation is essentially that it's over: . . .

Interesting. I thought I was channeling some vague memory of something *you* had said in one of our earlier discussions!

: And that's prescinding from the question -- open, so I understand, in Orthodox circles -- whether the East-West schism would have to be healed before a truly ecumenical council would even be thinkable.

Well, we had a Fifth, Sixth and Seventh ecumenical council after the Oriental Orthodox churches rejected the Fourth, so there's no reason we *couldn't* have our own Eighth council some day. :)

Oh, and thanks for that Fr Alexander Schmemann quote. He is highly regarded in the churches I've attended, and I think the priest who received me into Orthodoxy might have even studied under him back in the '80s.

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