How does God feel about Homosexuality: Revisited

My buddy Steve placed this comment at the bottom of a posting from a while ago.  I figured we could bring the conversation up top here.  This is what Steve had to say:

  1. so I said I would comment from a study of these words from the bible. I think the best way to do so would be if you’re interested in throwing out one particular verse and allow the discussion go from there. There are many words that describe “sexual immorality.” There is a general term that covers all fornication (sexual immorality). A biblical definition of what makes sex immoral is a good requirement. There are specific terms that specifically refer to men committing sexual immorality, women committing sexual immorality, a married person committing adultery, the active male in homosexual relations, the passive male in homosexual relations (or being soft or cowardly), those who engage in orgies or sex in excess, all of which are in the context of sexually immoral. There is a word that describes “sex with strange flesh.” Perhaps even in this biblical discussion, one would have to work through the definition of “natural” and “unnatural.” Does having a seemingly biological draw towards homosexuality make it natural? I’m sure a discussion of Old Testament law versus New Testament grace will come up as well as I believe one can’t deny Leviticus 18 in describing what’s unclean, perverse, an abomination, iniquity deserving punishment in the context of sex for the nation of Israel in following a holy God. And if we’re going to hold to Leviticus 18 as a standard of living, must we also follow the rest of the code?
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jeffsdeepthoughts

The stories that speak to our soul begin at a home where things are good. Cinderella is happy with her father. The three little pigs have grown up and are ready to move on. Bilbo Baggins knows his shire. Adam and Eve walk with God in the garden. My story isn’t much different. There was a time and a place where it was so good. There was a community for me. And there was joy. We were filled with a sincere desire to do what God wanted us to do. We possessed explanations and understandings that went a certain distance. We offered security and tradition and laughter. For a lot of years, that was enough. I have this sense that it was also necessary. I have this surety, now, that it certainly wasn’t everything. There were some things that became increasingly problematic as time went by. There was a desire to package things up so very neatly. Sunday morning services were efficient and strategic. Responses to differences of opinion were premeditated. Formula began to feel more important than being real. A real desire for everybody to be one of us, but also a real sense that there is an us, and there is a them. They carried a regret that it has to be this way, but deeper than this regret was a surety that this is how it is. I began to recognize that there was a cost of admission to that group. There were people who sat at the door, collecting it. Those people wished they didn’t have to. But I guess they felt like they did have to. They let some people in, and they left others out. There was a provisional membership. My friends did possess a desire to accommodate people that are different… But it would be best for everyone concerned if they were only a little bit different. I did make many steps forward in this place. Before I went there, there were lies that I believed. Some of the things that I learned there, I still hold on to. But that place is not my home anymore. Those people are not my community anymore. There were times it was hard. I am engaged in a different community now. And I am working hard at finding a place in many different places now, embracing many different kind of families. I don’t always get it right. I am trying and I am learning and I am moving foreward. I have this sense that I am not alone in these experiences. I believe that we are tribe and we are growing. We are pilgrims, looking for a new holy land. Perhaps we won’t settle on the same spot of land. But if you’ve read this far, I am thinking that we are probably headed in the same general direction. I have begun this blog to talk about where my journey is taking me. In every space, we find people who help us along. And maybe we can get to know each other, here. We embrace ideas that provide a structure for the things we believe, and perhaps we can share these too. Maybe we can form a group, a tribe, a community, if we can figure out a way to work through the shadow of these kinds of groups, if we can bigger than the us-and-them ideas that have caused so much trouble in the past. As important as they are, I think the very nature of online interactions will lend itself to something equally powerful. I am stumbling onto these practices that my grandfathers and great grandfathers in the faith engaged in. I am learning about these attitudes and intuitions are so different than the kinds of things we call doctrine today. I don’t know about you, but I am running out of patience, and even interest, in conversations about doctrine. I hope that maybe you’ll share a little something about where your journey is taking you, and maybe our common joys and challenges might help each other along, and we might lift each other up. Thanks for doing this journey with me.

4 thoughts on “How does God feel about Homosexuality: Revisited”

  1. Thanks, Steve. I had a sense you’d have some useful insight in this area.
    I’m curious if you clicked the link posted by Vance in the original post. I found it quite enlightening.

    One of the things that was pointed out in that article is this:
    One of our most common explanations for how we determine what parts of the OT we ought to follow is that there are these different categories of old testament law. Many Christians today say that we’re still bound by the moral components of the law but not the other components.
    According to the writer, The problem with this is that it’s an extra-biblical criteria. Neither the OT nor the NT has these categories or differentiates between the moral aspects of the law and the other aspects of the law.
    It might be that this guy is wrong. But his case strikes me as at least plausible.
    It seems like starting with the NT side-steps this whole question. If something in the NT clearly prohibits homosexual activity then it’s clear that homosexuality is wrong.
    So I guess the question becomes:
    Which of the words you referred to are in the NT verses which are generally understood to prohibit homosexuality?
    The guy in the above-mentioned article is much more informed than me, what do you make of his argument against the standard interpretation?

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  2. The Torah law simply tells us what is sinful, but because we are grafted into Israel through the pierced body of Jesus and not Jews according to the flesh, we can only approach the Torah law, and each other, through the Jesus we have confessed.

    Homosexual activity is prohibited in the New Testament by the apostles, but there is nothing explicit against such activity, or the causes of it, in the gospel words of Jesus. It’s as if He didn’t regard it as anything requiring special comment. On that basis neither should we.

    Homosexual acts are prohibited by both Old Testament (which includes punishments for them) and New Testament (which reserves judgment and punishment to God). In neither testament is there a condemnation or even a mention of homosexuality as an actual condition, such that you can define a person as a homosexual as to his nature rather than as to his activity. The question then becomes: Is homosexual activity a result of a condition which makes a person a homosexual? Or is it a surrender to a temptation (or to fantasy, to put it in non-religious terms) which has acquired (in the individual) the nature of a besetting sin (or a psychological disorder)? There is a practical outcome dependent on how this question is answered.

    Modern society does not allow the second possibility but insists on the validity of the first, defining human nature by the activity, which thereby removes the perpetrator of homosexual activity from culpability, by ascribing it to his condition or nature.

    On this basis has arisen every “gay” initiative for acceptance in society, ignoring the obvious, that even without “religious” objections to it, homosexual activity is immoral, that is, it frustrates the use of human sexual organs in deviation from their natural function. Whenever the obvious function of a part of the human body is supplanted by a contrary function, disorder follows upon disorder, and destruction follows, irrespective of “religious” sensibilities.

    In Orthodox Christianity, for example, homosexuality is considered a function of ascetic struggle for certain individuals, just as alcoholism or a wide variety of disorders of the soul are for others. They do not define the individual, but are viewed as aggressions against the individual, obstacles to be overcome in the process of “working out” his salvation, “with fear and trembling” (that is, trusting not in himself, but in God, for strength and victory).

    The degree to which non-Orthodox Christians are often distracted by this problem demonstrates how they are still living in the kingdom of this world, trying to explain, define and defend their “faith” in language and categories of thought that are essentially alien to the Biblical world view, otherwise known as “the mind of Christ.” It’s important to understand this, and to return to living within the Word of God, taking all thoughts captive to Christ, in whom is the only freedom possible on this earth.

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  3. Thanks Ramanos. I appreciate your thoughts.

    It’s interesting to attempt to explore these things in a non-religious context because, as you seem to recognize, the fact that Christ prohibits an action doesn’t impact people who don’t recognize His authority.

    I think that I have a lot to learn from a variety of sources. Orthodox Christianity is certainly one. In this particular case, though, I there are two obstacles I see to accepting what you have to say. If you’d care to reply I’d certainly be interested in reading what you have to say. Maybe these objections will indicate that there is something I’m not getting and you’ll be able to correct me.

    Issue #1) In your view is there any difference between a person who has a vasectomy (or who uses birth control) and someone engaged in homosexual activity?
    If the problem with homosexuality is that it can’t lead to offspring, then it seems like condoms and vasectomies are also no-no’s.
    On the other hand, if the deviation is that we’re meant to be heterosexual then the whole argument strikes me as a bit circular.

    Secondly, I apreciate your observation that Jesus was silent on the issue. But the challenge for me is this: whereever Jesus has spoken I’m quite happy to disregard whatever the world tells me. For that matter, whenever an issue is explicit I’m happy to assume that apparent knowledge that comes from other places must be mistaken.
    Scripture, in this case, is silent on the issue, though, and the world has some pretty convincing scientific evidence.
    Homosexual behavior can be observed in the wild and even be caused in rats. Autopsies of gay men have turned up a gland in the brain where the cells are smaller and more densely packed than in straight men.
    (This post is a follow up to an earlier one called “How Does God Feel About Homosexuality?” I went into more details on these issues there but will happy to recap if you prefer.)

    It seems to me that it’s consistent with this data to argue that Homosexuality is immoral and is a birth defect… But I think it’s much more difficult to argue that it’s not a condition at all.

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  4. I am not a wise man, or a seer, or a great bible scholar, so what I have to say is probably not worth considering from your point of view, and I can certainly accept that.

    Your issue #1 has other aspects which you also fail to mention, but from what you do mention I can see that you are not coming to your point in quite the same way I am coming to mine. The sex organs are designed to work in tandem to hopefully produce offspring on a biological level. That is what they were made for. Anything else they do (except, of course, other sexually related functions such as producing hormones to regulate the body) are secondary aspects. The majority of sexually active people are not, however, indulging in the sex act to produce offspring. That was true of me at a younger age as well: Sex was most meaningful when conception of a child was the object, but only somewhat less meaningful when engaged in as a means of interpersonal communion on an emotional and physical level with my spouse. If I were coming to my conclusions about the issue of homosexual acts in the same way as you are, I would have to say that from the natural argument then, all sex acts that did not have as their object the procreation of offspring are therefore immoral, because they frustrate the natural use of the organs. I do not, however, approach the issue in that manner. I am still going on the basis of scriptural truth, using the natural argument as a corroborating commentary. (There are some Orthodox thinkers, especially among the ancient fathers, who take exactly this line; witness the Desert Fathers, for example, where sexual relations with one’s spouse are solely for procreation, and when once the desired number of offspring is satisfied, sex acts no longer occur between man and wife. There are Orthodox fundamentalists to this day who practice this kind of abstinence.)

    But returning to this thought in your issue #1, from the scriptural point of view, homosexual acts are prohibited in old and new testaments, though not by Jesus, who does not concern Himself with any laws at all except the fulfillment of the “two commandments” to love the Lord, and to love one’s neighbor. Scripture also prohibits sex acts with an animal. Except for the case of Onan spilling his seed so as not to do his duty to his deceased, childless brother, and of course the prohibition of adultery, there’s not much else in the old testament. Except for fornication, that is, sex acts outside of marriage, there’s nothing else in the new. One of the biggest issues but most suppressed in the area of sex acts is masturbation, which the Church has usually identified (though wrongly) with the sin of Onan, and called sinful, though there too, I would dispute that the act is in itself sinful: it is the circumstances that surround it that can be considered sinful, but the act itself is neutral, being a bodily function. For example, homosexual acts are in reality never anything more than a form of masturbation with another person who happens to be of the same sex. But similar acts with a person of the opposite sex, especially if that person is one’s spouse, acts that by no stretch of the imagination are intended for procreation, are not prohibited. From mulling over ideas such as these, it’s easy to see how the issue takes on a ambiguity and vagueness that challenge the simple directives of the commandments: “Thou shalt not lay with a man as with a woman.” Ultimately, despite all our reasonings, we are forced either to believe and obey, or not.

    Possibly falling in the category of your issue #2 (but I’m not sure) is the argument that some people are “born gay.” This, of course, flies in the face of what I wrote in my original comment, that from an Orthodox point of view, there is no such thing as a homosexual, but there is homosexual temptation: some people are just bothered by this desire, but it is not “part” of their nature. Modern scientific psychology cannot accept this, and I don’t expect them to. Still, this is the normative Christian response to this problem, again witness the Desert Fathers and other Orthodox authorities ancient to modern. One point I haven’t mentioned that is part of the Orthodox attitude is that God does not create us with a birth defect that He then legislates against. Birth defects are a consequence of living in a sinful world, a world that is in the power of the evil one because Adam ceded his lordship over it to satan. So, on the physical level we have challenges such as birth defects, diseases, and death itself. On the psychic (soul) level we have temptations of various kinds, the introduction into our “nous” (a Greek technical term translated, lamely perhaps, as “mind”) of “logismoi” (again Greek, something like “thought particles”) which darken, defile and distort our view of reality, producing in us “phantasia sataniki” or deception and causing us to live in a world of unreal desires and expectations, that we can only justify by departing from the Word of God.

    Ask any Christian who also believes himself to be a homosexual and see if he is not at least partly familiar with the rudiments of this struggle. In Orthodoxy, this is an accepted principle, that God allows us to be tempted in order to reveal us to ourselves in either the glory of His creation of us, or in the shame of our unwillingness to suffer the process by which He remakes the broken icons that we are, using these temptations as a sculptor uses his chisels and hammer. Either He will show us the masterpiece hidden in the rough slab of stone, or else, if we resist the blows and cuts, we will show ourselves as a hopeless heap of rubble. Sorry to have to descend into metaphor like this, but as I asserted at the beginning of this comment, I am not a wise man. Others better by far you will find, if you want good discussion, than me. I would recommend the great contemporary Greek theologian, Bishop Hierotheos of Nafpaktos (http://orthodoxwiki.org/Hierotheos_(Vlachos)_of_Nafpaktos), author of many excellent works, such as Orthodox Psychotherapy.

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