Saturday, November 04, 2006

Haggard Resigns in Disgrace

The full story was posted on MSNBC 16 minutes ago. And it is a shocker. Ted Haggard has resigned in disgrace. The Church's Board of Overseers report is as follows:

“We, the Overseer Board of New Life Church, have concluded our deliberations concerning the moral failings of Pastor Ted Haggard,” a statement from the church said. “Our investigation and Pastor Haggard’s public statements have proven without a doubt that he has committed sexually immoral conduct.”

You can now read the entire story at

You will notice that the Board does not merely say he was guilty of drug use or the like. And frankly we do not need to know more. There was apparently enough clear and compelling evidence and this Board took action to resolve the crisis. I am sure this will not end the news cycle of this story, but there are some more points that need to be made at this juncture.

Firstly, we all need to have healthy relationships with both men and women. Not just with men and women we are related to, but with men and women in general. I do not in any way agree with the advocacy of gynophobia any more than I do with homophobia in the Church. The idea that 'men are weak and women are temptresses' is frankly at a minimum a caricature of both men and women. Some men are like that, and some are not. Some women are like that, and some are not. And furthermore, some become like that in moments of weakness in their lives when they are not normally that way at all. I quite agree that pastors need to know themselves and their own weaknesses, but frankly the good question-- where is the grace of God in your life? Where is your belief that greater is he who is in you, than any of the temptations you face?" If you are really saying that nature regularly trumps grace in your life, then its time to get out of the ministry.

If the Body of Christ wants its ministers to be whole, then they need to help them to nurture normal friendships with both brothers and sisters in Christ. We are supposed to be a family, not simply support physical nuclear family units. Indeed, according to Jesus the primary family unit is the family of faith-- go back and read what Jesus says in Mk. 3.31-35, or what Paul suggests in 1 Cor. 7 at various places. We must learn to be healed and whole persons together, not privately and separately, since we must together work out our salvation with fear and trembling. This is a deeply personal matter, no doubt, but it is not a private one-- at all.

In a context of normal Christian relationships and friendships, then a minister has a ring of protection around him or her, that will help them to be real in all their relationships and accountable. More on this anon.

For now pray for Ted Haggard, his family, and his church. This is only the beginning of a difficult time for them all.


Bill Barnwell said...

How sad this whole thing is. This apparently confirms most of the "worse of the worst" allegations. A couple random thoughts: I do find it interesting that many Christian commenters that I've been reading have only referenced the drug allegations in passing. Meth is a heavy and serious street drug. I find it hard to believe that Haggard never did any other drugs and then suddenly woke up and decided he wanted to try cyrstal meth. That certainly does not fit the pattern of the average user or experimenter.

The other angle here that really is bothering me is Haggard's denials which were clearly full of holes by yesterday. First he denied knowing the guy or ever meeting him (even coyly asking the reporter "What did you say his name was?"). Then the next day when it came out there were voice mails being anaylzed, his story changed. He went from not knowing the guy to getting heavy street drugs from him and a massage. His further explanation seemed convoluted but I really wanted to believe him. Apparently that denial was also untrue. I can understand him not wanting to tell the world about all this, especially with his family right there, but it would have been better for him just to have said nothing rather than lie with a botched cover up. A simple "no comment" or even "I'll be happy to address this further when the facts come out" would have been sufficient. The lies might even do more to erode any credibility he had left because the whole world was able to watch and hear those lies, whereas the salacious stuff happened behind closed doors. Right now I'm concerned for his mental condition and for what this is doing to his family.

None of us should gloat or cast stones here, even though we should obviously oppose this kind of behavior. The church acted swiftly and justly. This man and his family need prayer (and his accuser), healing, and a loving base of support. Put yourself in his position. You messed up, you lied, your life has been ruined as you know it, and the whole world now scorns you. All that is bad enough. People turning his back on him and the family would just be rubbing salt on an open wound. For the rest of us, prayer needs to be followed by our own repentance, both individually and corporately, for we all fall short to varying degrees of what the Scriptures have called us to. A sad and humbling weekend for evangelicalism.

Rainsborough said...

My guess:
Haggard fell not because he's a pastor without social support, but because he's a gay man who never should have married a woman. In a better world, he wouldn't have.

The world today on that score is good deal better than it was say in 1986, when the Chief Justice declared that "to hold that the act of homosexual sodomy is somehow protected as a fundamental right would be to cast aside millennia of moral teaching." As Justice Kennedy more recently observed, "To say that the issue in Bowers was simply the right to engage in certain sexual conduct demeans the claim the individual put forward, just as it would demean a married couple were it said that marriage is just about the right to have sexual intercourse."

The Court and the country have come a long ways in a decade and a half. If they'd been there when Mr. Haggard came of age, maybe this sad episode wouldn't have occurred, and so many lives have been so blighted.

José Solano said...

Haggard's sexual sins and his straight face lying are not illegal (remember Clinton), but his drug purchases and drug use are. Will there be a criminal investigation into his criminal conduct as there was with Washington D.C. mayor Marion Berry who solicited prostitutes and bought cocaine? Let's wait and see.

Matt said...

I was once in a ministry class that a more seasoned minister was taking. He mentioned that he didn't think a minister should make close friends with people in the congregation as that made things to complicated if things got tought. I just thought that was really sad and disheartening.

Ministers certainly do need more support than they get on average. Thank you for your thought provoking post. God bless

Johannes said...

Rainsborough, you mystify me. Are you suggesting that a more liberal culture would have permitted Haggard to take up a homosexual lifestyle and so avoid his living a lie? This would, in your view, have been good so that Haggard could be a happy homosexual.

Unfortunately, the acceptabilty of homosexuality is determined by God and not be democratic vote, so even was homsexuality "acceptable" to society, Haggard would have remained on the outer of God's law.

You appear to be implying that Haggard was forced into marriage by a repressive society when his deepest identity was that of a homosexual.

I think that to define someone by their genital desires is a trivialisation of human beings.

Haggard was created in the image of God and has a duty to image God to the world. This is even more true since he has sought a position of great prominence in the church, to become the face of God to the world.

Haggard chose to have sex outside marriage, he chose to have sex with men after he chose to marry and to promise fidelity.

He is simply a sad liar and sex cheat.

He is not at all a victim of a repressive society.

Haggard has victimised his family and church by his ruthless pursuit of personal gratification.

Marc Axelrod said...

Rev. Haggard's last sermon on Sunday October 29th was on 1 Samuel 16, why God decides to remove people from leadership and replace them with others. Before the sermon, he prayed for God to expose lies and deception. That prayer got answered really fast ....

Ben Witherington said...

Wow Marc, thanks for sharing that. How sadly ironic.

Sometimes I see why Origen did what he (he made himself a eunuch--literally), so he could remain continent and serve God

Jesus did say that if there was a member of your body that offended you, you should get rid of it,rather than go to Hell!


Marc Axelrod said...

You're welcome. If you go to ITunes, you can download all the recent New Life Church Podcasts. My jaw almost hit the floor when I heard the October 29th service. Almost every sentence seemed to anticipate the week's events.

I came away from this podcast believing more than ever in the judgment of God. You should download the october 29th service if you still can.

And I agree: We need to pray for Rev. Haggard to be completely restored and rehabilitated. I was just reading today in Jeremiah 30-33 about how God promised to do that for Israel and Judah, even after what they did.

Rainsborough said...

I take it to be a fact of nature, a fact about God’s creation, if you will, that one out of twenty-five or so human males have sexual desires for relations with men, not women. This seems to me rather odd, and I have no ready explanation for it. But it does seem to be a plain fact.

As I understand the evidence (twin studies, autobiographical accounts, comparisons between repressive and acceptant societies, failures of attempts at reorientation, child development) the nature of these men’s desires isn’t wicked, for it isn’t chosen. It’s a discovery men make about themselves, usually as they enter puberty. It’s something that they and we have to live with, and accommodate as best we can.

I’m not sure precisely how it should be accommodated. I am sure that every human being deserves recognition and acceptance for what they are.

Some men are pedophiles, I hope not so much by nature as by unfortunate and remediable circumstance. In any event, they cannot be permitted to express their sexuality as they’re wont to, if only because children aren’t capable of consent.

Homosexual relations between consenting adults it seems lack nothing essential that’s to be found in heterosexual relations. (The possibility of procreation is the obvious candidate for a distinguishing feature, but many heterosexuals are sterile, incapable of procreation.) Nor so far as I can see do homosexual relations necessarily have some additional feature that makes them intrinsically wrong.

It seems to be a feature of God’s construction of humanity that some men are sexually inclined toward other men. I can’t see why their proclivities shouldn’t be accommodated. And I can see that not recognizing and accepting these men for what they are wounds and demeans them. And it results in situations like Mr. Haggard’s and his wife’s and children’s.

I hope this serves to make my views less mystifying.

Donn said...


Yes I heard the same thing about Haggard's sermon the previous week.


I agree that Haggard's lying made the whole thing much worse. After watching the first TV interview I said he's telling the truth. When it turned out he was lying, I said here is a man that is an expert at looking innocent when he is actually guilty. Like other comments about using "hard core" drugs, this type of lying only comes through experience and practice. Very sad.

José Solano said...

Of course we realize that no church takes that cut your hand off, pluck your eye out passage literally and Origen's self-mutilation has been duly condemned. I think it generally refers to cutting off relationships with harmful friends or excommunicating offending, unregenerate members from the church. It does also imply taking strong corrective action with one's own offensive behaviors and it certainly has its direct application to Haggard's actions.

As for his sexual preferences, he could easily be bisexual and/or just a general adulterer. People have all sorts of inclinations for which they might like to say "my gene's made me do it." Concupiscence is a human problem that most people struggle with but we must take responsibility for our actions. Today, rather than confessing sins people just love to justify them.

José Solano said...

Of course we realize that no church takes that cut your hand off, pluck your eye out passage literally and Origen's self-mutilation has been duly condemned. I think it generally refers to cutting off relationships with harmful friends or excommunicating offending, unregenerate members from the church. It does also imply taking strong corrective action with one's own offensive behaviors and it certainly has its direct application to Haggard's actions.

As for his sexual preferences, he could easily be bisexual and/or just a general adulterer. People have all sorts of inclinations for which they might like to say "my gene's made me do it." Concupiscence is a human problem that most people struggle with but we must take responsibility for our actions. Today, rather than confessing sins people just love to justify them.

José Solano said...

Sorry that message came out twice. I thought it had rejected my "word verification." It rejected this also but I'm sending it again.

Guy Barry said...

Shouldn't we be looking to restore the man

Johannes said...

Rainsborough, your further explanation of your presuppositions makes your post less mystifying to me.

I disagree with where you are coming from so I doubt that much useful synthesis could occur by entering into prolonged discussion here.

Let me just address a couple of your points. First you seem to accept that 5% of men are gay by nature/birth/genetics and that gayness is therefore a creation ordinance.

However, from a christian perspective, gayness, if it exists, is part of fallen humanity, like other types of lust, pride, envy etc etc.

To go back to the beginning, God created the cosmos.

The creation was good.

The creation featured male and female in partnership, this was also good.

Man fell, sin entered the cosmos etc.

Sexual sin was the first cab off the rank with the whole concept of nakedness being the first manifestation of man's awareness of his separation from God.

Sexual sins abounded throughout the old testament and are clearly designated sin. This same emphasis contnues in the new testament, not the result of prudish christian preoccupation with sex but rather a response to fallen man's pre-occupation with sexual self gratification.

Secondly, you state that not recognising gay men for what they are wounds and demeans them.

I agree, but in the opposite way.

Gay men are like all other men in sinfulness. They should be accepted as sexual sinners who struggle with their temptations.

Gay christians are like thieving christians, lying christians, lusting christians etc etc.

They (WE) are all christians with a variety of besetting sins that need prayer, grace and support to foster repentance and sanctification.

Saying to a gay man that his gayness is a special, inborn part of him is in fact to hinder all of the above.

Saying to a gay man that not only is his gayness part of his God-ordained self but that he is also a courageous witness for defying the narrow bigotry of fundamentalists is to separate him from God.

How can a sinner seek forgiveness if all around people are tellimg him his activities are fine, in fact God ordained?

By preventing an awareness of sin, you risk preventing the salvation of sinners.

All of this is a long way from poor old Haggard, I will pray for him and his family, his church and fellow believers. Also for the male prostitute who now has such a distorted view of the people of God and, consequently, of God.

Pax Vobiscum

Ben Witherington said...

The search for a gay gene has produced nothing thus far, though it may yet be found. The person to interact with on this particular issue is Rob Gagnon of Pitt. He knows all the medical and ethical literature and the Bible and has written the very best book on this subject The NT and Homosexual Practice. In one sense the issue is moot as to whether someone was born that way or not. We were all born fallen human beings with fallen desires. That's just a theological fact. And no one sinner group should be singled out as more reprehensible than others. The question is-- are we going to baptize our sin and call it good and of God? My answer to that is-- no, not ever, whatever the sin may be. I do not buy the argument that nature out weighs grace. One can always behave better with the help of the Lord. Read 1 Cor 10-- about no temptation overcomes you that God cannot provide an adequate means of escape from.


Ben W.

Brett said...

I also find Richard Hays chapter on homosexuality in his book, The Moral Vision of The New Testament, very helpful. More specifically, his exegesis of Romans 1 is, I believe very strong.

The question for us believers, I think, is not necessarily the biological aspects of acts (i.e. alcoholism, etc.) but as Dr. Witherington suggested, the Theological.

Mark said...

We seem to be ignoring the elephant in the room. Yes, TH lied, and his involvement in gay sex is offends many in the Chrisian community and beyond. But what gets me is that this fellow was using his powerful church to influence secular politics, especially with regard to legislation on societal treatment of gay. One very easy conclusion to reach is that, despite his life of duplicity, he was using the phenomenon of gays in America as lightning rod to attract money, power and attention to himself. And that this technique has been adopted with enthusiasm by the Republican party.

Brett said...

Mark Said:
"he was using the phenomenon of gays in America as lightning rod to attract money, power and attention to himself. And that this technique has been adopted with enthusiasm by the Republican party."

It seems to me The Replubicans are not the only ones who use societal issues to draw power, money, and attention to themselves. Many across the aisle are doing the same thing with the issues of stem cells and abortion.

My point is, the culpability of drawing power, money, and attention has been adopted with enthusiasm by both parties.

My thoughts about what the societal response to homsexuality should be is still developing. Not so much because I want to segreagate a large population. In fact, I think for all intents and purposes, homosexuals should have the same legal rights as Heterosexuals. My problem is kind of a slippery slope problem. I do not want myself as a Christian who thinks homosexuality to be contrary to Scriputural teachings to be forced, legally or otherwise, to bless those marriages. I hope this RANT makes sense.

Rainsborough said...

For purposes of argument, I accept the authoritativeness of scripture, and will argue on those grounds.

I’m pleased to note that Jesus apparently did not regard homosexual conduct as a central concern, orr at least nothing he might have had to say about it has come down to us. I doubt if there was markedly more or less homosexual conduct in Capernaum c. 30 than there is in Wilmore or Orlando today. Yet among Jesus and his first followers, there seems to have been rather less concern about this conduct than among the Christians of Wilmore and Orlando today.

But homosexual conduct was a matter of concern to Paul. His views on this I assume were those of nearly every Jew of the time (Jesus probably included), and were inherited as part of the Torah so central to every Jew’s life (Paul’s included, though he did reject the validity of the law regarding diet, circumcision, and Sabbath observance).

I assume then that the controlling text, the crux of an argument from authority, is to be found in the Torah, and that the crucial provision in particular is that found in Leviticus 18:22, transliterated by my linguist betters “V’et zachar lo tishkav mishk’vey eeshah toeyvah hee.”

I notice that this prohibition is located among many others, including some regarding eating birds of prey, eating shellfish, cross breading livestock, picking up sticks on the Sabbath, planting a mixture of seeds, and wearing a blend of wool and linen. To some of these offenses the strongly condemnatory “toyevah” is also applied; some of them are punishable by death. Yet they’re many of them not taken as seriously by us today as is 18:22. There may be good reason for that; it may well be that the sixth-century Jews also took 18:22 more seriously than other provisions. But if my conduct is to be kept with the confines of scriptural limits, I at least have some fairly fancy footwork to perform.

Much of Leviticus is given over to prohibitions aimed at avoiding ritual impurity. So I can’t be sure but that this verse might say “Ritual anal sex between two men in a pagan temple is toyevah.” This interpretation would limit its reach much more than did Paul and does many a Christian today.

I might also take 18:22 to mean something like “You must not have sexual intercourse with a male as one has sexual intercourse with a woman.” But then it might be that of the two major activities gay men engage in (if I understand correctly what goes on between them nowadays), only one is prohibited. A certain fraction of gay men would not have crossed the line described by the Israelite priests who assembled Leviticus late in the 6th century.

I should note also that nothing said in Leviticus 18 reaches the behavior of females. Lesbians seem to have escaped entirely the strictures Christians today would apply to homosexuals.

Whatever the particulars of 18:22 and whatever its importance, I doubt if anyone does not grant precedence to 19:18, “You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against any of your people; but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the Lord.” Cf. Mark 12:31 & par.And just possibly to 19:14,“you shall not revile the deaf or put a stumbling block before the blind: you shall fear your God: I am the Lord.” No one would dispute the greatness of the commandment to love our neighbor.

This command must encompass not treating those who engage in homosexual conduct with intolerance or disrespect, and must include making a place in society for them where they can live with dignity and without fear. Or so I understand it.

Rainsborough said...

Maybe I should have added that both the two types of activities engaged in by homosexual males are more frequently engaged in by heterosexual males and females. I'm not sure what follows from this so far as scriptual prohibitions are concerned, but (sociologists say) it's a fact and it might be pertinent to determining how we're to apply 18:22 in today's world.

Rainsborough said...

"I am guilty of sexual immorality ... I am a deceiver and a liar. There is a part of my life that is so repulsive and dark that I've been warring against it all of my adult life," Haggard said in the letter, which was reads by a church overseer during a Sunday morning service.
"... from time to time, the dirt that I thought was gone would resurface, and I would find myself thinking thoughts and experiencing desires that were contrary to everything I believe and teach," he said.

Dark, dirty, repulsive desires, welling up from deep within all his adult life.

The irresistibility of these desires, their unwantedness, I don’t doubt at all. Are we then to regard them as comparable to the desires of a pedophile? Why? Do Christian principles require that every man who experiences within himself such desires must think that at the core of his soul lies—dirt?

Rainsborough said...

I know, I know, I've become like the guest who can't figure out it's way past time to leave. But I wanted to say Amen to the wise words coming from a good heart of Dr. Campolo.

Jeffinoh said...

Woo hoo, Tony C.! Dr. Campolo is always a voice of reason, and I hope many hear his words re: Ted Haggard.

The biblical/theological arguments re: homosexuality are all over the internet and will never be resolved on this thread. I happen to believe this:

One of the primary reasons people don't 'get' homosexuality and are able to dismiss it is that they're straight (duh, huh?!) In other words, it doesn't get to bat as a theological issue even when they THINK they're discussing theology.

The worldview and social construct of evangelicalism requires the standard anti-gay position (no matter how lovingly it's stated), so it is highly unlikely evangelicals will look at this issue objectively unless they are forced to do so for very personal reasons.

Virtually none of the persons affected by the above-stated orientation and worldview will see how their beliefs are pre-determined. And that goes for pre-eminent theologians and biblical scholars just as much as it does for everyday evangelicals.

I love evangelicals. Most of my family and friends are evangelicals. I used to be one myself. But I'm tired of people who've never had to do the hard work of wrestling with both their sexual orientation and their soul making decisions for others. No problem re: theology -- everyone is entitled to their beliefs -- but civil liberties are another matter.

I pray for Ted Haggard - for his wife and children - and for God to miraculously intervene in the hell they must be experiencing. There's a long road ahead for them, and very few marriages survive that depth of betrayal coupled with the dilemma of a being a 'mixed-orientation marriage'. I also pray that Ted will repent for the damage he has done to lesbian and gay persons throughout this country and especially the state of Colorado. May God be merciful to Ted, and may he experience peace and fulfillment in this life that he has yet to experience.

Brett said...

Jeffinoh said:

"The worldview and social construct of evangelicalism requires the standard anti-gay position (no matter how lovingly it's stated), so it is highly unlikely evangelicals will look at this issue objectively unless they are forced to do so for very personal reasons."

Can anyone straight, gay, liberal, evangelical, etc. look at this issue "objectively?" In fact, what is meant by "objectivity?" Can it be obtained? We all look at the world around us through certain lenses. It is when we realize which lenses we are looking through that we start sifting through our own biases.

I do agree with the statement that civil liberties are another matter. However, they cannot be the only matter. Theology not only informs my views of society, i.e. social justice, equality, civil rights, but also my views of humanity, i.e. the fall, sin, and the need for all to know the freedom of the Gospel (which is, I dare to say, the most important.)

David Johnson said...

"I love evangelicals. Most of my family and friends are evangelicals. I used to be one myself. But I'm tired of people who've never had to do the hard work of wrestling with both their sexual orientation and their soul making decisions for others."

There is a certain offensiveness in that. And it doesn't proceed from the fact that you look down on people who insist that homosexual activity is sinful but who've "never wrestled" with the desire to have sex with someone of the same gender and the desire to affirm the truth of the Bible. It is offensive in that it demeans the struggles of those who are alcoholics who insist that being drunk is wrong; those who are addicted to pornography but insist that looking at porn for sexual kicks is wrong; those who have struggled with their sexual orientation and continually maintained that homosexual sex is wrong; those who have to struggle tenaciously against selfishness and pride, knowing that such things are not Godly (i.e., they're wrong). Why, the whole of the church, all the Christian people in the world, are supposed to be in recovery from self-centered sin! But we never struggle with sin, do we?

" is highly unlikely evangelicals will look at this issue objectively unless they are forced to do so for very personal reasons."

The very fact of being forced to look at an issue for "very personal reasons" almost totally eliminates the possibility of objectivity. It is these "very personal reasons" that define subjectivity.

Rainsborough, why is it that when people wish to combat the Biblical case against homosexuality, they always point to the "context" of Leviticus 18:22? Are you arguing that bestiality is moral? That is condemned in verse 23. Are you arguing that adultery is moral? That is condemned in verse 20. Are you saying the child sacrifice is moral? That is condemned in verse 21.

"I should note also that nothing said in Leviticus 18 reaches the behavior of females."

So, the words "nor shall any woman give herself to an animal to have sexual relations with" are not about the behavior of females?

David Johnson said...

On a further note, I'm amazed at how quickly people talked about the "hypocrisy" of Ted Haggard. The nerve, to struggle with homosexual sex and insist that marriage is for a man and a woman and that homosexual sex is wrong! It's almost like a porn addict who campaigns heavily against porn and against the continuing coarsening of society with regard to sex BECAUSE he struggles so mightily against such things. Are we honestly supposed to think that the man struggled with a lust for power and money, too, simply because he was such a forceful advocate against that which he struggled with?

The man might well be called a hypocrite if, by his behavior, we could KNOW that he doesn't believe what he has preached about homosexuality. But a man can just as fervently believe that what he struggles with is wrong as he can believe that what he doesn't struggle with is wrong. In fact, someone who is relatively un-tempted by certain things is generally not as powerful in preaching against those things as someone who genuinely struggles with them.

The fact that that this man struggled with drug use and homosexual activities is truly sad, whether he was a leader in the evangelical world or not--but it's not unheard of for people to struggle with such things. That he chose to deceive and lie to keep those deeds of darkness in the dark is also sad--but it's not unheard of for people to do such things. If your deeds are dark, it will feel better (in the short run, at least) to you if they remain "in the dark." Are we surprised when a child runs away from his daddy after he's done something for which he knows daddy will spank him? Doesn't the very nature of things teach us that people will do evil to keep their evil deeds hidden (think about King David)?

People have gotten all over Mr. Haggard's confession, saying it's rubbish, that they believe it's insincere, that it doesn't mention God or Jesus Christ. Were we expecting Mr. Haggard to write a letter to his congregation or "to whomever it may concern" that was basically a rehash of Psalm 51 ("against you, and you only have I sinned")? To me, that would be the most insincere, Pharisaical (think Matthew 6) thing to do; it would be parading his "confession and penitence in his relationship with God" before the world for the sake of looking like a spiritually sincere and contrite individual.

dancingphil said...

Hi (first timer here),

I wonder if an issue worth looking at here is how individual pastors are put on a pedestal.

I'm based in the UK, and it seems to me that there are a lot of huge churches in the US that build up around charismatic leaders (John Piper springs to mind). These leaders are often great men, but for so many people (12,000 in the case of Haggard's New Life church) to depend so wholly on a single person seems unwise--even wrong?--on some level.

Another issue is how we deal with people who sin. There seems to be a detachment between the acknowledgement that people sin, and how Christians react when we see the evidence for it.

Just my two pennies' worth...

Ben Witherington said...

There is something to the line from Shakespeare "Me thinks he protesteth too much." It is often the case that a person who is struggling against something himself will be the most vehement condemner of it. And now with his own letter of admission that Ted has had these struggles throughout adult life, we see a living example of what happens. Ted doesn't want to be this way, but there is a part of him that drags him in that direction. At least now he seems to be honest and contrite about the situation. But where does he go from here? One conventional answer is "let him be who he truly is". From a Christian point of view that's not a good answer. He needs to be his best self and not succumb to his worst self. Human personality is complex, and there is absolutely a tension in the genuinely Christian life between flesh and Spirit (as Gal. 5 makes so very clear). This is not the same as the tension described in Romans 7 which has to do with a pre-Christian condition. The difference is this-- the Christian by the grace of God has power over conscious sin. The Christian by the power of the Spirit is not in bondage to sin, however much there may be sinful inclinations. In fact that is exactly what the term 'flesh' means in Paul when it is used in a moral sense-- sinful inclinations, not a sin nature. The sin nature passed away at conversion ("If anyone is in Christ they are a new creature...").

In my view is what needs to happen now for Ted and his family is first of all some serious counseling. If there are any more ghosts in the closet they need to be given their exit papers now. And a group of his friends need to begin walking with him in the right direction, encouraging him to be honest with himself and others every day. But again being honest is never enough-- he needs also to be well. He needs to live into being his best self. This will require the body of Christ being the body for him.

Finally, I quite agree with the comment about pedestal issues with our first time U.K. commentor. Part of the problem however is that we are dealing with patriarchy and we are dealing with sin and we are dealing with American success syndrome and ego and sychophants and a host of enmeshed mess. I think one thing that could help is a total redefintion of what counts as success, from a Christian perspective.

More anon,


dancingphil said...

Ben, I can't help but agree with your point about how struggles are part of the Christian life as Galatians 5 illustrates--against my expectations, I've found it a real encouragement to know that's the case.

Rainsborough said...

Rainsborough, why is it that when people wish to combat the Biblical the Biblical case against homosexuality, they always point to the "context" of Leviticus 18:22? Are you arguing that bestiality is moral? That is condemned in verse 23. Are you arguing that adultery is moral? That is condemned in verse 20. Are you saying the child sacrifice is moral? That is condemned in verse 21.

What I'm saying is that (a) the Levitical (is that a word?) condemnation of homosexuality seems to resemble the Levitical condemnation of practices we do, all of us except for a few orthodox Jews, find acceptable and (b) that homosexual conduct, or certain forms of homosexual conduct, aren't wrongful as bestialty, adultery, and human sacrifice are.

There is no Biblical case (evidence, argument) against homosexuality. There's only a conclusory condemnation.

"So, the words "nor shall any woman give herself to an animal to have sexual relations with" are not about the behavior of females?"

Quite right--I should have said that lesbian behavior isn't condemned there. I stand corrected.

Bill Barnwell said...

Rainsborough, lesbianism is very clearly called out as sin in Romans 1:26. The phrasing of "In the same way" in v. 27 which addresses male homosexuality shows that lesbian homosexual acts are what's being condemned in v. 26.

José Solano said...

Several commentators, including Dr. Witherington, have accurately made the distinction between the justification of sin and struggling with sin in the fallen human condition.

I just wish to address the comment that I often hear expressed along these lines: "I’m pleased to note that Jesus apparently did not regard homosexual conduct as a central concern, orr at least nothing he might have had to say about it has come down to us." (Rainsborough)

This is sort of the argument from silence. Jesus said nothing about zoophilia either. What he clearly stated were the grounds for human marital relationships. "Have you not read that He who made them from the beginning made them male and female . . . and the two shall become one flesh." (Mt. 19:4-5) No one would have posed to Him such ludicrous questions as may people have sex with their own gender or with an animal? The Sodomite condition was fully understood and condemned by the Hebrews. They asked him about marriage and divorce because those were issues of contention.

It is Paul who encounters homosexual behaviors among the Gentiles and addresses the problem in no uncertain terms: ". . . the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust for one another, men committing what is shameful, and receiving in themselves the penalty of their error which was due." (Romans 1:27)

As Christians it is imperative that we protect the institution of marriage within the church and in society in general.

Alison said...

Jose, my thoughts exactly. When people say that Jesus never commented on homosexuality or gay marriage, I wonder if they've even read the gospels. That passage is pretty clear to me. Jesus goes on to say that this is the way it has been since the beginning of time.

Rainsborough said...

"His [Paul's] views on this I assume were those of nearly every Jew of the time (Jesus probably included)"

What are families for, what is marriage for? One purpose is to induce the male of the species to settle down and behave himself. But even more important is to secure for children caretakers who are committed to their well-being, which requires that both the parents stick together and devote themselves to that care.

Divorce, abandonment, and out-of-wedlock birth aren’t good for children. They rank high among the most grievous afflictions of western societies today. But obviously these are problems in heterosexual relationships, and would fester whether anybody was a homosexual or not.

Gays and especially lesbians today more and more seek to gain entry into the institution of marriage. In Massachusetts they’ve succeeded. So also in Belgium and the Netherlands. Gays and lesbians in most jurisdictions in the United States and elsewhere, the marriage issue aside, have rights of adoption. Is it the case that child welfare in say Belgium has deteriorated in the slightest because homosexuals wed there?

What we must do is arrange our society so that our children are well cared for. A prime imperative in this regard is making sure that adults don’t take on the responsibilities of parenthood until they’re ready, and another is for more parents to become inclined to put their children’s happiness ahead of their own. How we treat the minority in our midst who are homosexual has nothing to do with how we treat our children.

Matt said...

i find it interesting that after rainsborough makes the statement, following his discussion of the levitical passage, that "There is no Biblical case (evidence, argument) against homosexuality. There's only a conclusory condemnation," both of the next 2 posters referenced romans 1:26-27.

then, after this seemingly clear scriptural statement is brought up, rainsborough no longer appeals to scripture in his next post.

is this because paul's words in romans are a little harder to get around?

however, though rainsborough's appeal to jesus' non-stance on the matter of homosexuality is an argument from silence, thus proving nothing, i do agree with richard hays, who says that based on the amount of biblical material concerning each topic, it would seem that issues of economic justice or violence are far more important matters than homosexuality.

what if all the energy spent by evangelicals crusdaing against homosexual practice was instead spent on bringing economic justice to the millions who need it across the world?

anyway - just some thoughts.

matt varnell

Jeffinoh said...

Good idea, Matt.

However - it seems clear to me that the millions of dollars spent by evangelicals to crusade against homosexual practice is spent primarily for reasons of politics and power. That in itself is an injustice, so I don't expect evangelicals to suddenly become more concerned about the weightier concerns of scripture and start re-directing their dollars.

I appreciate Tony Campolo's scathing commentaries on church politics in re: to homosexuality. His position is that church bodies and parachurch ministries use the unchosen plight of LGBT persons to play power games.

I've lost confidence that evangelical politics are about anything other than that - who has the most influence and power. Homosexuals are the enemy now that Communism no longer elicits fear among Americans.

Neil said...

The Leviticus passage is quite clear when taken in context. Leviticus 18 contains many moral laws, and they are sandwiched by strong statements that the Israelites are not to behave like the pagan Caananites did (the Israelites are about to displace them and take over the land). Read the beginning and end of the chapter and you'll see what I mean.

God did not expect the Caananites to follow the ceremonial laws, but He did expect them to follow the moral laws written on our hearts. The Caananites had committed the offenses noted in Leviticus 18 for hundreds of years, so God was judging them.

Re. the notion that this wouldn't apply to lesbianism, consider that the Bible often uses examples with one sex but the principle applies to both (see Proverbs, which were primarily written to a boy). And, of course, there is Romans 1 to deal with.

Re. the energy spent "crusading" against homosexual practices and how it could allegedly be better spent: This isn't just about picking on a sin that isn't a temptation for many of us. Yes, some people may grandstand on it and that isn't productive.

But look at how this issue is destroying parts of the church. Holding to pro-GLBT theology requires minimizing the accuracy and authority of scripture. Some people like to claim that homosexual behavior is condemned in "only" six passages or so, but they forget that 100% of the verses describing God's ideal for marriage involve one man and one woman and that 0% of verses display homosexual behavior in a positive or even benign way. This isn't as complicated as people like to make it seem.

Gordon Hackman said...

Dr. Witherington,

Thanks for your thoughts here. I especially appreciate your observation that the church, not the nuclear family, is first family and that we need to learn how to develop healthy relationships between members of the opposite sex. I wonder if an overly sexualized view of male/female relationships and an over glorification of the nuclear family is at least in part responsible for producing some of these bitter fruits in the pastures of evangelicalism.

Rainsborough said...

Just what does a literal, naive reading of Romans 1:26b yield? In the RSV, "Their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural." Obviously a lot hinges on just what "natural relations" means. But I've seen it suggested that it might mean that women assumed too aggressive or dominant a role in their relations with men, and I don't see why this construction is precluded.

I doubt if Paul favored lesbian behavior. But is it clear that he here condemned it?

Bill Barnwell said...

Rainsborough, it's very obviously what he is talking about when male homosexuality is condemend "in this same way" in the very next verse.

Rainsborough said...

Bill Barnwell, you're absolutely right. I didn't do my homework,--wrote from the office. Here at home I discover E.P. Sanders saying "In ... Romans 1:26-7, Paul condemns both male and female homosexuality in blanket terms and without making any distinctions."

Sanders also says, as I should have recalled, that Jews condemned homosexuality "lock, stock, and barrel. This is emphasized in the Bible (for example, Lev. 18:22) and repeated in subsequent Jewish literature."

I hardly want to go up against the combined force of Barnwell, Witherington and Sanders.

I did my best to make the author of Leviticus and the founder of Christianity tolerant fellows, but failed.

Joe Camarda said...

While the search for a gay gene has indeed thus far yielded nothing, the search for other species in the animal kingdom that clearly display homosexual behavior has been quite fruitful.

So while not advocating natural theology / philosophy in stating that that which is normal is normative, I will say that we should consider the fact that some animals (particularly primates, wouldn't you know it) do display gay tendencies. (And when I say gay tendencies, I don't mean two males holding hands or kissing. I mean stuff they would never show on National Geographic Television.)

I confess at this point that I've really made no lasting contribution to this blog since most evangelicals will brush away my point with the "all of creation is fallen because of sin" argument. Only remember, the whole "fall" argument is nothing more than a story some swear as being historical, while proof of homosexual animals is clearly documented and scientifically researched.


Jeffinoh said...

You make a good point, Joe. Non-gay-affirming Christians have a whole stock of pet answers and theories to bolster their unwavering belief that you cannot be a faithful Christian and a 'practicing' homosexual. Scientific evidence and theory are approached with 'how can we discredit this?' rather than 'what can the natural world teach us?'

Neil said...

The "gay animal" thing would be funny except that people actually take it seriously.

Yes, your male dog may try to hump another male dog. He may also try to hump your leg, the coffee table and who knows what else. To equate those behaviors with what Biblical, normative human behaviors should be is a bit of a stretch.

Even if behaviors are natural, that doesn't make them moral or wise. We do all sorts of things naturally (greed, anger, lust, etc.) that aren't moral.

José Solano said...

I know about bonobos chimps having sex with just about anything that moves. They are incestuous pedophiles also.

I understand that black widow spiders eat their mates after they have mated

It's a jungle out there.

Matt said...

Rainsborough said:

“I did my best to make the author of Leviticus and the founder of Christianity tolerant fellows, but failed.”

To me, this statement, while summing up an agreement with the traditional reading of the leviticus and romans passages re: homosexual practice, also condemns that reading as intolerant. That may be a popular view with some people, but it actually begs the whole question in my opinion. If in fact the traditional scriptural view of homosexual practice is intolerant, unloving, etc., then it should not appear in scripture. However, based upon the evangelical view of the inspiration of scripture, all scripture is God-given, good for teaching, tolerant (in the sense that all human beings are loved by God and that all humans are to love one another with the love of Jesus), and loving (in the sense that God wants the best for us, not something that is second-rate or a distortion/perversion of the truth).

Perhaps the real debate needs to take place on the topic of theories of Scripture. Because a lot of these postings seemingly add up to equal this: either ‘this is in the Bible but it’s wrong’ or ‘this is in the Bible; thus, it’s right’

Jeffinoh said:

“Non-gay-affirming Christians have a whole stock of pet answers and theories to bolster their unwavering belief that you cannot be a faithful Christian and a 'practicing' homosexual.”

Well isn’t the opposite just as true? Isn’t there a whole stock of pet answers/arguments, just as readily employed, by those who affirm gay practice?

Again, perhaps an analysis of scriptural authority from people’s various viewpoints would be more useful. For instance, evangelicals do not scorn all science but are rather committed to a certain theory of scripture in which biblical ethics cannot be trumped by what we may or may not observe in nature. This doesn’t make evangelicals naive or stupid; they are simply holding true to their belief about how truth is ultimately revealed in the world (through biblical revelation and in the person of Jesus Christ), just like the naturalist thinks truth is revealed through nature and what we observe about it.

Rainsborough said...

"evangelicals ...are .. committed to a certain theory of scripture in which biblical ethics cannot be trumped by what we may or may not observe in nature."

Among those so committed is Ted Haggard. As a consequence he regards himself, or a large part of himself he cannot extrude, as dirty, dark and repulsive. He prostrates himself in shame.

I suppose, despite his weaknesses, still he appreciates and honors the requirements of biblical ethics.

I can't help but hope he's got biblical ethics wrong.

Matt said...

in the case of a heterosexual male or female, the bible is very clear: no sex outside of marriage. yet there are heterosexual persons that greatly desire to be married, who, for various reasons, cannot find a partner to marry. in such cases, they must maintain a life of abstinence. and yet they may have an intense desire for sexual intimacy; is this desire within them "dirty, dark and repulsive?" no - but since it cannot be expreesed in the proper context, biblical ethics require abstinence.

it is much the same with homosexual sex. there is a need or desire for love and sexuality and intimacy in homosexual behavior that is indeed right and natural; however, since that need has been distorted and is now oriented towards the same sex, again not a proper context for a sexual relationship, according to biblical ethics, abstinence is required.

in the case of ted haggard and others, i do indeed believe that a homosexual orientation is a result of Sin at work in the world; however, this belief need not make one feel ashamed or worthless as a person - to let it have such an effect is to confuse one's identity with one's sexuality. they are not the same.

José Solano said...

Matt, I think you are thoroughly correct but the only problem I perceive with Rainsborough is that she doesn't like the ethics of Jesus or biblical ethics in general, particularly in the area of sexual ethics. "I did my best to make the author of Leviticus and the founder of Christianity tolerant fellows, but failed." Or, "I suppose, despite his weaknesses, still he appreciates and honors the requirements of biblical ethics.

I can't help but hope he's [Haggard} got biblical ethics wrong."

She doesn't want Haggard to feel shame or disgust for his homosexual activities. No need to repent or demonstrate contrition for such practices? She hopes there is some higher ethics that agrees with her and what she imagines is "natural," something that justifies humans acting like bonobos chimps.

(Please forgive me if you are a "he." I can't tell by your name.)

But Rainsborough, how do you interpret these straightforward and clear biblical passages? Your statements betray a certain sarcastic tone. I don't really mind sarcastic wit. It can be effective at times. But what are you really thinking about the ethics of Jesus and Paul?

You do have one very important point. Jesus is not as tolerant as many people imagine He is. Even a superficial reading of the Apocalypse and many other Scriptures should make it clear that there will indeed be "weeping and gnashing of teeth." This should scare the hell out of us. This is not a softy, feel-good sermon. This is more like the Spiritual Exercises of Ignatius Loyola.

Jeffinoh said...

When well-intended folks like Matt compare the situation of homosexually-oriented persons to that of heterosexuals who are yet without a partner, I'm struck by the obvious difference. Single straight adults can and should exercise sexual restraint as they wait for a potential husband/wife to materialize in the future. The comparison is obviously faulty since Matt (like others) is saying that there is no hope for future fulfillment of emotional and physical longings with a person similarly oriented. To me, this fits with the other 'pet answers' and theories I referenced earlier (and Matt, I consider 'pet answers' to be about someone ELSE's situation. Homosexually-oriented persons speaking from their own experience and theology about their own situation is something else.)

I agree this discussion (like similar debates on the web) comes down to differing perspectives on the nature of scripture. Viewing the Bible as inerrant, for example, MAY lead to different conclusions than if the Bible is seen as the unfolding story of God's activity recorded imperfectly by imperfect persons (I say MAY since I know several inerrantists who are gay-affirming.) I still contend, though, that the primary issues at play in these conversations are other than theological. References to chimps, humping dogs, and pedophilia in this discussion reinforce my belief that willful ignorance trumps a desire to listen and learn from those whose experience of life is not that of the majority.

Matt said...

this discussion may be over, but my point was simply that both homosexual persons and non-married heterosexual persons fall under the same traditional christian sexual ethic of abstinence. so why should homosexual persons receive preferential treatment and get to have sex outside of its God-given context?

also, while i agree that i cannot see this issue as a gay person, that doesn't necessarily mean my views are pet answers. taken stricly, if one can't speak about someone else's situation, then no one has a right to critique anything anyone else does because no one shares anyone else's experience. less extremely, this is like saying my views concerning other races besides my own are necessarily "pet answers." let views be evaluated on their own merit, instead of pre-determining their validity based on the life experience of the person holding said views.

Jeffinoh said...

Matt, if you can't see why a stated sentence of lifelong abstinence for LGBT persons seems quite different than temporary abstinence for others, maybe you can try to understand why most gay Christians support same-sex marriage. On one hand, conservatives are saying "be abstinent apart from marriage!" and on the other they're shouting "no marriage for YOU!" Apart from theological arguments (Christians disagree theologically on this matter), does this not seem both ironic and unfair?

Rainsborough said...

“But what are you really thinking about the ethics of Jesus and Paul?”

First of all, I think it’s a kingdom ethics. Jesus proclaimed that, before his listeners tasted death, they would see the son of man coming in the clouds with great glory. Paul identifies this son of man with Jesus, and—the earliest word we have—instructs the Thessalonians that “we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord will by no means precede those who are asleep. For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air.”

This is the central tenet of Jesus’s and Paul’s kerygma; this is the context in which their ethical instruction must be placed.

Second, I’m not quite sure how ascetic Jesus, there’s some evidence that cuts both ways. But I’m sure that Paul was ascetic, and thought it best to emulate himself and not attach oneself to this world and be consumed by this-worldly desires, but instead to position oneself to be concerned with the new creation God’s action would through Jesus soon bring. But Paul also saw clearly it was better to marry than to burn. He was realist enough to accept that not everybody could be like him, and hence they didn’t have to be. Marriage was quite all right.

Third, I’ve reluctantly come to conclude that Paul (who says as much) and Jesus (who probably—[but not absolutely certainly--we’ve no record of what he said; most of my readers much more than I are prepared to hold that Jesus so to speak wrote new law] condemned homosexual conduct. It would be quite surprising if they, as Jews, did not.

Fourth, looking at the stress laid upon it and later attempts to wiggle out from it, I’m confident that at the center of Jesus’s ethical teaching lay a family-values concern. He absolutely forbade divorce. Paul tried a little to wiggle out from this one, but it was the word of the Lord and he knew it. (In regard to both divorce and celibacy as an ideal, our Roman brothers can readily cite chapter and verse.)

Fifth, the world of our towns and cities differs profoundly from the world of Capernaum and Magdala and Thessolonica and Corinth. Age of marriage, length of life, chances of dying young, reliability of contraceptive means, role of children in the home and the society—just the start of long list of profound differences between there and then and here and now. My own family/sexual ethic is “pedocentric”: it puts children and securing their well-being first. It’s primarily from that standpoint that I would evaluate rules of conduct and design institutions like marriage and the family.

So if you want to label me as believing in situation ethics, I’d accept the label to this extent.
1. I think it’s relevant when it considering the ethical teachings of Jesus and Paul to put them in the context of what they believed as to the imminence of the coming of the kingdom of God.
2. I think it’s relevant when trying to construct a good life for the children of our society to consider profound and extensive differences (as well as the enduring similarities) between a first-century agricultural and slave-based society and a twenty-first-century industrial and urbanized society.

Most important: I have no doubt that at heart of the gospel as taught by Jesus and by Paul stands love. I Cor. 13; Mark 12:31. And I readily admit that I believe that all too often those most possessive of the label Christian have treated members of their community who have transgressed against rules of sexual conduct in a harsh and unloving, not to say cruel, way, and so also those in their community and without who are homosexual. Both Jesus and Paul were intolerant of sin. But their hearts went out to the sinner, and they found it hard to resist embracing them and were loath to condemn them. We might all learn from their example.

José Solano said...

Dear Rainsborough,

Thank you for your thoughts. Unfortunately you've gone all over the place with your comments and have answered the question only by recognizing that yours is a situational ethics perspective and that for you the teaching of Jesus and Paul lack any universal application in the area of marriage and sex. I don't think so.

Now unfortunately I must run to teach classes and then attend a conference this weekend so I might not be able to respond in more detail for a while.

Robert Campbell said...

Dr Witherington,

You wrote,
"In a context of normal Christian relationships and friendships, then a minister has a ring of protection around him or her, that will help them to be real in all their relationships and accountable. More on this anon."

I cant wait till you get to this.

Barna's recent pole reveals,
a majority of pastors (61%) admit that they “have few close friends.”

This is such an important topic

Neil said...

Jeffinoh, the "willful ignorance" is on the part of those who don't like what the Bible says about homosexual behavior. I like gay people and have no problem being friends with them. I would have been inclined to grant them whatever they wanted if the Bible said it was permissible. But it doesn't, which means that ultimately it will be bad for them.

There is nothing ironic or unfair about the position of being against "same-sex marriage" (a great example of an oxymoron). Here's the principle: God's decree is for no sex out of a one man / one woman marriage. Bad things happen when this rule is broken. No irony there.

It seems that some people think the Bible is inerrant except for the verses on homosexual behavior. But they ignore the fact that 100% of the verses on God's ideal for marriage involve one man and one woman.

Jeffinoh said...

Neil, you obviously see this topic in sharp black and white. I don't. I have no problem whatsoever if you or others hold different beliefs. I disagree strongly with some of the theology expressed here about homosexuality, but I am only concerned about the consequences of those beliefs for those who believe differently. I am a Christian and I am an American citizen. I do not expect my specifically Christian beliefs to be accepted by all Americans. Also, I most definitely do not expect to impose my specifically Christian beliefs about behavior on those who are not Christians, or on those Christians who do not agree with me.

Neil, do you really believe that it is OK to not 'grant' your gay 'friends' equal status simply because you have beliefs about marriage that others do not share? I truly wish that the U.S.A. would recognize that Bush and others who talk about the 'sanctity of marriage' are imposing the religious beliefs of some on to all - and get out of the marriage business all together. Then issue civil partnerships to all couples regardless of sexual orientation, and let churches and other religious bodies decide for themselves whose relationships they will bless. I don't see that ever happening (it's immeasurably harder to undo laws than ammend them), which is why I support same-sex marriage efforts.

My kids's generation will probably have no issues with same-sex marriage laws. In the meantime, though civil partnerships will create a second-class status for LGBT couples, I welcome that as a next step.

Neil (and others), is it just the word 'marriage' that troubles you? Or would you gladly extend the hundreds of legal rights and responsibilities of marriage to LGBT couples if such legal partnerships were called something other than marriage?

Neil said...

Jeffinoh, thanks for breaking the issue down a bit. I think that helps the dialogue.

With respect to "rights" for gays, there are certain things I have no problem with. They should be able to visit their partners in the hospital, for example. That shouldn't be a gay-specific right though. I just figure that if you are in the hospital then you should be allowed to let anyone you want visit you.

The same goes for estate issues. Gays should be able to leave their estates to partners without tax consequences. But I think that all death taxes are ghoulish, so that isn't a gay-specific issue either.

Those are examples, but hopefully those help. I think if we could solve a few of those for gays it could help them without radically changing a several thousand year old institution.

I think you have the "imposing belifs" thing backwards. I'm not imposing any religious beliefs on anyone. Marriage has always been a union of a man and a woman (see This is not a new concept. The GLBT lobby has brainwashed some people into thinking it is a civil right and THEY are trying to impose their beliefs on me. Marriage is the union of a man and a woman, so "same-sex marriage" is an oxymoron: "The same-sex union of a man and a woman."

Why does the government get involved in marriages anyway? Because children are usually involved. Since gays can't have kids naturally, why would the government have any interest in regulating those relationships?

If I were black I'd be seriously ticked off that the GLBT lobby has co-opted the civil rights language for their issue.

Keep in mind that "same sex marriages" don't just modify "marriage" to mean something a little different. They change it to mean that marriage is NOT the union of a man and a woman. There is no reason to be against polygamy, "marriages" of animals and humans, etc. once you say it isn't just for a man and a woman (unless, of course, you want to impose your religious beliefs on others).

Yes, I'm against civil unions for the same reasons. Why should the government be involved in a gay relationship? And if they get civil unions then "marriage" will be the next domino to fall.

You are right - gay civil unions and/or marriage will probably happen eventually. That doesn't mean I have to vote for it. God couldn't have been more clear in the Bible that sex outside of a one man/one woman marriage is bad for us. Communicating that message is a loving thing to do, and it isn't imposing your beliefs on others.

Jeffinoh said...

Well... some scattered thoughts, and then I'll try to bring it back to the topic of this thread.

Re: "Marriage" --

Language definitions change over time, and the Bible certainly doesn't present a clear or consistent picture of marriage. 21st century marriage in the United States is far from point-for-point analogous to OT or NT marriage. I probably won't convince you that that's important, but it's relevant to my understanding of all of this.

I'm not sure what the biology of parenting has to do with prohibiting same-sex marriages. Adoptions by same-sex couples are no different legally than adoptions by straight couples. Their children need the same protections and social benefits that come with having parents who are married.

The slippery slope argument about marrying multiple persons, animals, etc. gets used a lot. LGBT persons are usually baffled by that, since they are just normal folks who want to marry one person they love - like anyone else. Unless it can be proven that my friend Betty marrying her long-term life partner Joyce will result in our government sanctioning the marriage of humans and horses, this seems like a ridiculous and ultimately unjust argument.

The current prohibition against same-sex marriage is perceived by many as unjust since it is based on an immutable trait - sexual orientation - which the scientific community largely agrees is a human variation, not a pathology. I am completely aware how that statement would disturb people on any number of levels, but I don't believe there is adequate reason to prevent granting all legal privileges given by our government to mixed-gender couples. I am absolutely convinced this is a justice issue, and I base that primarily on my understanding of sexual orientation and the need for all persons to be able to form a healthy, committed relationship supported by all means, including legal.

My partner is black and sees a clear parallel between the civil rights movement and the current efforts for LGBT rights. We are grateful for straight allies in the African American community, including Coretta Scott King, who also see that connection.

Neil, you and I disagree that this is a matter of straights imposing their lives on gays. Fair enough. It's true that the future will figure this all out for all of us. For now, though, the life of Ted Haggard reminds me that most of us can barely control our own lives, let alone control the lives of others. Unfortunately for evangelical Christians, the Haggard scandal has reinforced the belief of many in the LGBT community that the persons working against their hopes for legally-sanctioned relationships are pitifully dishonest and unworthy of respect. Because I love Jesus and want LGBT persons to be IN the church, not outside, I hope that better days are ahead for all of us.

Neil said...

"The current prohibition against same-sex marriage is perceived by many as unjust since it is based on an immutable trait - sexual orientation - which the scientific community largely agrees is a human variation, not a pathology."

Sorry, you lost me there. Immutable trait? Largely agrees? So you think the Bible isn't clear but science is? Your reasoning took a major step backwards.

1. GLBT behavior has not been proven to be immutable. I have read many things about relationships and/or abuse being major correlating factors. If that is the case, these folks need healing, not encouragement to persist in physically, emotionally and spiritually destructive behavior.

2. Even if it is natural, then that doesn't make it moral. I can provide as many examples of that as you like (greed, lust, anger, etc.)

". . . pitifully dishonest and unworthy of respect."

Yes, Haggard is a big hypocrite. But whether he is a hypocrite or not has ZERO bearing on whether God has deemed homosexual behavior to be a sin. And if you stereotype all orthodox Christians as pitifully dishonest and unworthy of respect then you are guilty of prejudice and discrimination.

I want GLBTs in the church also, just like I want all sinners to come to repentance and follow Christ. But you do that by showing them the law, not hiding it from them.

Neil said...

P.S. re. the "ridiculous and ultimately unjust argument" about slipper slopes: It isn't a slippery slope, it is a cliff. Once you say marriage isn't just between a man and a woman, the burden is on you to explain why it is "just" for one man / one woman or two men or two women. After all, who are you to deny loving, committed, sexual relationships between two men and a woman, or relatives, or any other combination?

Your adoption analogy doesn't apply; that is the exception, not the rule.

Neil said...

"Language definitions change over time, and the Bible certainly doesn't present a clear or consistent picture of marriage."

Sorry for all the posts. I'm done after this. I couldn't let this comment pass, as it highlights the unorthodox views of the pro-GLBT groups.

There is nothing unclear or inconsistent about marriage in the Bible. Does polygamy exist? Yes, as do a lot of other historical facts with violations of God's moral law. But the definition of God's ideal is completely consistent all through the Bible, from Genesis on. Note Jesus' words on marriage (e.g., Matthew 19:4-5 “Haven’t you read,” he replied, “that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’ and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’?) and any other references to marriage by Paul and others.

Matt said...

"Matt, if you can't see why a stated sentence of lifelong abstinence for LGBT persons seems quite different than temporary abstinence for others, maybe you can try to understand why most gay Christians support same-sex marriage."

my point is that for some heterosexual persons the sentence of abstinence is also not temporary - b/c some people never find a suitable partner.

in such cases, the biblical ethic is the same for both homosexual and heterosexual. so if we're not going to change the heterosexual one, why change the homosexual one?

i understand that under the traditional church ethic at least a heterosexual person has the hope of one day being married, and that the homosexual person does not even have this.

however, hope is not the same thing as actualization, and i think that there would be a lot of personal agony for a heterosexual who wanted to be married but could not find a partner to marry.

anyway, perhaps my point is that the traditional biblical sexual ethic is not just difficult for homosexuals to abide by; it can also prove difficult for heterosexuals. is it exactly the same? no. but similar? i think it is.

so it is not that straight evangelical Christians are always giving pet answers to pain they never have to deal with; in the scenario i have described, such persons would have to deal with a very similar pain.


Matt said...

another thought:

while my earlier posts do reflect my theological views on this subjsct, i do not necessarily think Christians should be expending energy trying to create laws that forbid homosexual marriage.

there are a lot moral laws in the bible, and the culture will agree with some and disagree with others. we cannot legislate all of them. i don't hear too many christians arguing for anti-divorce laws. or anti-anger laws. or anti-greed laws. you get my point.

nor does the church seem to be as hard-nosed on those types of sin. however, i do think the answer, for the church, is not to lower the sexuality bar but rather to raise the bar in other areas.

would a gay christian be satisfied to have the legal right to marriage and yet still perhaps be excluded from a community of believers on theological grounds? i don't know. but i think that for christians the questions of how we deal with this issue within the church are more important than how it is being dealt with in larger society.


Neil said...

"however, i do think the answer, for the church, is not to lower the sexuality bar but rather to raise the bar in other areas."


Rainsborough said...

"Why does the government get involved in marriages anyway? Because children are usually involved. Since gays can't have kids naturally, why would the government have any interest in regulating those relationships?"

In most jurisidictions, gay and lesbian couples have an established legal right to adopt children, many thousands have. There they are, in a household, being cared for by a couple that cannot be married.

Would these children benefit if the couple who's caring for them could marry?

That's the policy question that we face.

Of course, we could also reverse the policy of allowing gay and lesbian couples to adopt. Would that be in the interest of the children they care for now and might in the future?

Rainsborough said...

"GLBT behavior has not been proven to be immutable."

Here are five good reasons (stolen from Richard Posner) to think it is.
1. Ask any gay (or lesbian?) you know whether they chose to be attracted to members of their own sex or merely discovered they were. Or look at the evidence in autobiograhies or biographies. Did they choose to be gay or discover (often to their chagrin and dismay) that they were?
2. Look at the failure rate of any program that tries to convert homosexuals to heterosexuality. (Look hard, don't take every claim at face value.)
3. Compare tolerant societies like the Netherlands to intolerant ones like our own. Why is the incidence of the homosexuality the same in both?
4. Look at studies of the correlation between "sissified" behavior (or tomboy behavior) in early childhood and the post-pubescent emergence of homosexual behavior. Are these kids choosing to be deviant at age six or seven or eight?
5. Look how much more likely it is that an identical twin (monozygotic--same "gene set") if he is gay, will have a brother who is as well, as compared to the weak correlation between fraternal twins (genes differ the usual way).

Rainsborough said...

"Even if it is natural, then that doesn't make it moral. I can provide as many examples of that as you like (greed, lust, anger, etc.)"

What homosexuals, consenting adults, do in their bedrooms is the same two things lots more (in absolute numbers) heterosexuals do. (Some of them, as they see it, so as to conform to biblical strictures on their behavior.)

Does God forbid these "behaviors" alike in all cases? What moral difference does the gender of the parties engaged in these transactions make? Should heterosexual married couples who engage in these behaviors have lesser rights than those who don't?

Neil said...

Rainsborough, your list of 5 is weak and ignores the correlation of those who were abused and became homosexual.

God forbids those behaviors between unmarried people and people of the same sex. I was pointing out that many things come naturally to use that are wrong, so even IF homosexual orientation were natural, that doesn't make it moral. So even if you had a list of 10 and even if you were right, that wouldn't make it moral.

José Solano said...

Dear Rainsborough, Thank you for lining up Richard Posner's rationale for the immutability of homosexuality, it makes it so much easier to refute one by one.

1. Not choosing has nothing to dowith genetically pre-determined homosexuality. We do not choose our concupiscent state. We can choose not to act on our lusts. Does the pedophile "choose" a sexual orientation towards children?

2. The failure rate is much higher among pedophiles and probably among adulterers than among homosexuals. Recidivism is also extremely high among criminals. Does that mean it's pre-determined and immutable?

3. Is the incidence of pedophilia higher in the Netherlands. We know that historically the "incidence" of homosexuality was much higher in ancient Greece than it is in any country today. Almost everyone in the army during a certain period was engaged in homosexual behaviors. And incest was much higher in the Polynesian islands a couple of hundred years back. Is incest genetically predetermined. Freud certainly thought there was a genetic component. Remember the Oedipus complex? Does that make it justifiable and immutable?

4. As for your "sissified" , this only indicates that we have introverts and extraverts in all societies and that the more sensitive introverts are often put down by parents and other kids because they have other interests than football, etc. They come to believe what their parents and other kids have been calling them and go downhill from there. This has nothing to do with any innate and immutable homosexuality.

5. The actual studies of twins, which I have studied, really demonstrate that it is not genetically predetermined. You would need to have 100% correlation among identical twins rather than 50%. If one identical twin has blue eyes then the other one always, 100% of the time, has blue eyes. There happened to have been a high correlation of incestuous behaviors among identical twins also but not more than 50%. This indicates that something else is happening environmentally rather genetically among identical twins.

I'm afraid that, like so many other people, you've bought into the whole propaganda story the media and homosexual organizations have been pushing through soundbites for too long.

Jeffinoh said...

Wow, interesting discussion. I would have chimed in yesterday, but my partner and had our commitment celebration all afternoon/evening with family, friends, and church folks. :-)

I intentionally used the word 'immutable', knowing it would cause a stir if anyone was still reading this. While it can be technically claimed that immutability has not been scientifically proven, it is certainly true that it has not been disproven.

Whose scientific evidence do we pay attention or assign credibility to? There are 'experts' on both sides. Because I once spoke strongly against homosexuality, I have copies of many studies 'proving' there is no biological/genetic connection. I've now read many studies that show the opposite. Yes, I believe the gay-supporting science is more credible and, well, 'scientific', but that is my opinion.

It's interesting to me that the primary scientific study put forward by ex-gay practitions for mutability (e.g. ability to change sexual orientation) is the 2002 study by Dr. Robert Spitzer. It is used continually to proclaim that "Change is Possible!" Spitzer himself, however, frequently refutes the likelihood of mutability. He has said that perhaps 3% of gay persons have an orientation malleable enough to allow some (likely small) degree of change. He is strongly opposed to ex-gay groups using his study to promote false 'hope', let alone limitation of civil rights to LGBT persons.

I recommend Ex-Gay Watch ( as a good place to review the many ex-gay personalities and scientific studies. This is from a gay-affirming perspective, of course, but it's mostly written by former ex-gay evangelical Christians.

Typically, non-gay-affirming Christians shift at this point to the argument that the lack of ability to change doesn't change the requirement to fight against one's inclinations and embrace celibacy. For those not gifted with life-long celibacy that is beyond problematic, but of course that is every individual's responsibility to figure out on their own before God.

My ex-gay journey lasted over 20 years, and in retrospect it did far more harm than good. Therapy, prayer, medications, exorcism, etc. etc. did nothing to shift my orientation one iota. Among the many, many ex-gays I met along the way, I do not know anyone who has given consistent testimony over considerable time that their orientation has changed even one bit - except for those few individuals how are paid ex-gay practitions and thus have a strong vested interest in that belief.

José Solano said...

Dear Jeffinoh,

People have all sorts of temptations to deal with. I cannot compare the temptations that I suffer necessarily with the temptations that someone else suffers. What we have in common is the work that we must do on ourselves, through God's grace, to overcome these temptations to sin. The adulterer is tempted and must often spend a lifetime working against his/her temptations.

The terrible problem that we are encountering today is that people who are driven by temptations, that is, people who have not "chosen" to be tempted, are deciding to stop struggling against sin, stop praying for help against sinning, and have rather opted to justify their sins and their sinning. We don't like to confess our sins, we prefer to justify them. This approach leads to terrible heresies that spread, confuse and mislead masses of people right into the ever gaping jaws of that roaring lion that walks about seeking whom to devour.

We are all sinners. It is through confessing ours sins that we obtain mercy. But how can we obtain mercy if we justify our sins? It is so easy to justify our sins.
The Bible is quite clear on the varieties of sin, the diversity of sinful life.

We must sincerely pray for Haggard in his struggle. Maybe everything he has said against sinful pursuits was his way of not justifying his sins.

May God bless you in your struggle.

Rainsborough said...

1 & 2. I readily grant we can choose not to act on our “lusts.” But I believe that one organization that has based itself on the principle of celibacy has not been highly successful in abiding by the principle. Nor is this in the least surprising. Obviously sexual desire has to be among the strongest known to men and women. Those who don’t act on the desire because it isn’t strong don’t transmit this behavioral tendency to the next generation. The issue is whether homosexuals must be expected to be celibate or to act as if they aren’t homosexual, whether their sexual orientation, though central to their identity as persons, is (at least if acted upon) morally reprehensible.
As I’ve said, pedophilic desires may also be genetically based. I don’t know, I hope not, but they may be. Regardless, it’s not permissible to act upon them.
In my view, however, homosexual desire isn’t morally distinguishable from heterosexual, and is not less morally permissible. You believe otherwise, but the issue needs to be resolved by evidence and argument.
Prisoners who are steered into jobs immediately after their release have a markedly lower recidivism rate than those who aren’t. That suggests, as I’m confident a lot of other evidence does too, that criminal tendencies are not highly heritable.
3. Yes, when men are thrown together, they exhibit homosexual behavior. But when women are available, they prefer them.
It may be that in Greek society (generally as well as in the upper class) and Polynesia two centuries ago the incidence of homosexuality was higher than it is in America. It’s hard to know, both because “homosexuality” isn’t easy to define, and because the data is hard gather—even today, and much more reaching back in time. Anyway, today in modern industrial societies the data seems to suggest a fairly uniform incidence of homosexuality.
Freud’s theories generally don’t seem well supported by evidence.
4. The type of behavior I referred to as “sissified,” the behavior reported on in earlier retrospective studies and observed in later cross-time studies, shouldn’t be confused with introversion. And it does correlate with post-pubescent homosexuality.
5. Seldom in twin studies does the behavior geneticist find a 100% correlation. But if she finds one much higher among identical twins than among fraternal, she rightly thinks she’s struck gold: has strong evidence of high heritability.
I find your closing comment, that I’ve bought a propaganda “story” peddled by the media and homosexual organizations, insulting. Unless I lied outright, what I said was based on my reading of Posner. I didn’t lie, and I resent your implication that I did. Further, I know, as you couldn’t possibly know, that my beliefs about the roots of homosexuality are not at all derived from the propaganda of homosexual organizations. I’ve never read or heard that “propaganda”—never visited the website of a “homosexual organization,” never, to the best of my recollection, read anything about the sources of homosexuality published by such an organization. Your remark was ad hominem, false, presumptuous, and gratuitously disparaging. It violates both standards of civil discourse, and, I should hope, Christian discourse.
I thought about dropping the previous paragraph, because I imagine your conclusion was pretty much a throwaway line and not well considered, maybe not seriously intended, and because many readers may think I’m making a mountain out of molehill. I’ve left it in because I think these kinds of comments poison the well, and are far too frequently read and heard in public discourse today, and they should be called. (Also because Dr. Witherington’s blog has been largely free of such comments, and I hope it remains so.)

Jeffinoh said...

Rainsborough, you're in good company. It's typical, I think, for some conservative evangelicals to accuse gay-affirming Christians of 'buying into propaganda and media.' I really don't think from their perspective they can see a world existing outside their evangelical world where reasonable people can think and discuss and come to conclusions different from their own that aren't 'propoganda.' After twenty years of sincere ex-gay efforts, I spent an intensive year re-evaluating my life and everything I had been taught to believe as an evangelical re: homosexuality. I immersed myself in both sides of the issue re: science, scripture, theology, psychology, etc. while searching my soul and praying constantly for guidance. When I finally made the decision to come out, my closest friend's response was "you've just bought the propaganda from the media" and I never heard from him again. One of the things that distresses me most from my long association with evangelicals is the commitment by many (not all, certainly) to positions and ideologies rather than the pursuit of truth above all else.

Matt said...

Rainsborough and jeffinoh make some good points, particularly about the tendency of some evangelicals to exhibit less than Christ-like behavior when dealing with this issue.. Concerning evidence for or against homosexual practice, i still think it comes down to readings of scripture and theories of scripture. As far as exegesis goes, i think there is good exegesis and bad exegesis, thus making argument possible and necessary. However, when it comes to theories of scripture, i think it gets harder to go by the evidence in favor of various theories. If one believes that the bible’s traditional sexuality ethic is still binding today, how is that disproved? Equally, if one believes that it is not, how is one disproved? It seems like we’re getting down to first principles which can only be justified by saying something like “i’m taking the traditional position of scripture on faith” or “i’m taking a gay-affirming position because, despite what the bible may say, i cannot believe that love between two mutually consenting gay people is wrong.” This is not to say that gay-affirming Christians cannot base their convictions primarily on scripture in this matter. I’m sure many do with sincerity. However, i believe that the best exegesis of the relevant scriptural passages will result in the conclusion that the bible condemns homosexual behavior as sin. What we choose to do with this conclusion is another matter, not one easily decided nor easily debated. Thankfully, for the most part, the discussion here has been kind and without ugliness. That is essential, for we must remember that what binds us together – our faith in Jesus – is larger than what separates us, even if our differences are very real and very problematic.

José Solano said...

My sincere apologies to those who may have taken my words as an ad hominem attack. They certainly were not intended that way. I think that my mistake is in addressing them personally at all. I should have anticipated that they might feel licensed by this to launch a vitriolic series of ad hominens, finding excuse to make a "mountain out of a molehill." It reminds me of the vicious attack on the Pope by Islamic extremists for his particular choice of words.

As an antiwar Mennonite, when I see this, I immediately call for a cease-fire and ask that we address the substance of the discussion.

The substance really focuses on two issues: What the Bible says about homosexual practices and what conclusive evidence there is to claim that homosexuality is innate and immutable. My position is that the Bible categorically condemns homosexual practices and that there is no conclusive evidence for claiming that homosexuality is genetically predetermined and immutable.

The latter is a myth that has been spread by the media and varied propagandists that unfortunately too many people have bought into. The myth has well served the political ends of the propagandists. Objective examination will reveal that there is no conflict between science and the biblical understanding of human behavior. With God's help we can control our sexual practices. When we fall we repent and try again, for a lifetime if necessary. We all struggle with our concupiscence in our fallen state and suffer from what might be called our innate propensity to sin. We should know who will deliver us from this "body of death."

I wish you God's peace.

Jeffinoh said...

From what I wrote earlier today before Mr. Solano's post:

"It's typical, I think, for some conservative evangelicals to accuse gay-affirming Christians of 'buying into propaganda and media.' I really don't think from their perspective they can see a world existing outside their evangelical world where reasonable people can think and discuss and come to conclusions different from their own that aren't 'propoganda.'"

See what I mean? Please give us a little more credit for being able to think on our own.

José Solano said...

When people accept unproven assumptions about genetically predetermined and immutable homosexuality then they have "bought" into this common myth. It is possible that Haggard, though perhaps struggling with homosexual desires and drug dependency did not buy into the myth and proclaimed his opposition to homosexual practices loudly and clearly.

As I have mentioned, this may have been his way of not going with the common trend of justifying sinful behaviors. It is possible that most pedophile priests did not try to justify their form of concupiscence with any alibi about "my genes made me do it."

Jeffinoh said...

Re: immutability and 'myth'... Using that logic, is it OK to say that mutability is a myth based on propoganda from ex-gay and right-wing media outlets since it is likewise unproven?

I have no strong opinion re: the genetic or environmental basis of homosexuality, though I tend to believe it's a combination of both.

I'm still astonished with the idea that 20 years of personal experience in the ex-gay world, including extensive knowledge of ex-gay personalities... and claims... and failures... and several years now of intensive study and pursuit of truth using all available resources can be dismissed as 'buying into common myth.' Mr. Salerno, you seem to be demonstrating my point that anything other than towing the standard evangelical line is considered bowing to homosexual propoganda.

I have a great deal of sympathy for Ted Haggard, but the idea that his anti-gay activism somehow commends him as true to his conscience rather than revealing his deceitful power-mongering seems absurdly generous to me.

José Solano said...

Well, I think I've done as much as I could under the circumstances to be clear. I'll have to leave it to those so-called "standard evangelicals," wherever they are, to take it from here.

Thank you.

Jeffinoh said...

Matt - I appreciate the tone of your post and agree that differing understandings of scripture and biblical interpretation are at the heart of our discussion - and our differences - here. We probably all read this blog since we want to know what a pre-eminent biblical scholar has to say about current events. People disagree with one another in most of the discussions here, but the 'divide' on this topic has a lot to do specifically with the nature of scripture. Since I do not hold to infallibility let alone inerrancy, I am open to all possibilities re: science and human nature, believing that the Bible is a pre-scientific collection of writings that may not speak directly to current issues. Having received two degrees from Asbury Seminary, I'm aware of how that perspective is likely viewed by the majority of readers here. My point is that I will never allow any dogmatic understanding of a particular scripture passage to cut off intellectual inquiry.

Jose Solano - I pressed you on a few things because your responses were feeling like "God said it, I believe it, that settles it" instead of a real conversation. I'd still like to know how since neither mutability or immutability has been scientifically proven, immutability is proclaimed as a myth based on propoganda, and mutability is to be accepted as fact.

Matt said...

obviously, understanding the bible to be a "a pre-scientific collection of writings that may not speak directly to current issues" will likely have an effect on one's view of the traditional church ethic concerning homosexuality.

however, i feel that the greatest danger in viewing the bible in these terms is what it could mean for the resurrection of Jesus. while the bible is in some ways pre-scientific in that it lacks understandings we have now, the bible is not non-scientific.

people of Jesus' time were not taken in by resurrection propaganda because they were so used to hearing about dying and rising gods that it was easy to believe. no, the majority of people, then as now, believed that dead people stay dead.

even for those jews who did believe in the resurrection, it was not expected to happen to one person in the middle of time.

anyway, this may seem like an unrelated tangent, but this is why i see more naturalistic frameworks of biblical interpretation (for lack of a better description) as a great danger, for they can cut at the root of our christian faith, which i believe to be God's demonstration of the Messiahship and Lordship of Jesus through his resurrection.

jeffinoh, i too think that we must not "allow any dogmatic understanding of a particular scripture passage to cut off intellectual inquiry." however, as n.t. wright pointed out in his historical Jesus research, when certain scriptural things do not seem to make any sense, one can still choose to hold to the inerrancy principle, assuming that perhaps we just haven't figured out yet how they make sense. in his work, living with this tension ultimately resolved itself in a portrait of Jesus that incorporates all of the biblical material but is also intellectually credible; in fact, his Jesus is just as distasteful to conservatives in some areas as he is to liberals in others.

i am not saying, jeffinoh, that you do this, but it seems to me that some people allow a dogmatic understanding of their experience or of science to also cut off true intellectual inquiry.

Rainsborough said...

A serious question: as the foregoing discussion shows, many of us find the statement in Lev. 18 that homosexual conduct is toevah to have the force of law or something like that. That is, it’s to guide our conduct and shape our thinking about homosexuality.

Yet it’s not altogether clear from this passage just exactly what regarding homosexual conduct as toevah implies as to what is to be DONE. It leaves open whether we can shake the hand of gay man or rent him an apartment or hire him as a teacher.

In contrast Lev. 20:13 tells us as members of society if not as individual actors just what we are to do to “a man [who] lies with a male as a woman.” We are surely “to put [them] to death.” (A somewhat milder punishment than for the man who “takes a woman and her mother also,” who “shall be burned with fire.” 20:14). This sounds quite explicit. If it’s toevah of this sort, the punishment is death.

If 18:22 is to guide our conduct, why not still more the more explicit 20:13?

Matt said...

i would say that it is because in Jesus and in the new creation, the death penalty no longer applies to any offence within the community of faith (in so far as Christians are to administer that penalty; God still retains the right to kill).

the most extreme punishment in the NT carried out by people is that of exclusion from the community.

thus, while i think the ethic itself concerning homosexuality carries over from old to new testaments (and into our own time), the OT punishment (death) does not.


Rainsborough said...

Mt 5:17-19, 272-28; 8:4; 23:2-3; Jn 7:19-23; Acts 5:1-11, 25:11; Romans 3:31; 13:1-4 Rev. 13:10 are among the passages that bear on these issues.

Patric said...

I believe that we must have compassion on the Christian who has same sex orientation. I have known several dedicated Christian men who have had to face this issue in Christian College and at the seminary I attended (Asbury!).
One man is out of the ministry now because it was very difficult being a single man in the role of a pastor. Even though celibate, he found people talked about him not being married and not dating. Christians can be very cruel in their evaluations of people who are not married.

I do know many ministers who cheated on their wives with heterosexual affairs and are still in the pulpit today. Gordon MacDonald had an affair and yet is pastoring churches later. He has written a book about his restoration and healing after this slip up. I wonder if he would have been welcomed if the affair was with a man?

I listened to the entire service when Larry Stockstill announced the resignation of Rev Haggard. I couldn't imagine what is would be like to handle a situation like this. Praise God, that Larry Stockstill was compassionate and very sensative to Rev Haggard, and the congregation. A real word of healing came that day. I was so blessed by the sermon and the evidence of Christian leadership that understands the grace that Jesus extends to hurting people. I believe that healing will come to New Life Church and I pray that the Haggards will have healing in their lives and they can lead whole lives in the near future.

The more I live the more I realize we all have feet of clay and if were not for God's grace and Jesus Christ's willingness to forgive none of us would be worthy of eternal life or stand for Him without blemish.