BIBLE -- Reply to Terry Gray

John W. Burgeson (
27 Aug 96 11:47:12 EDT

Terry -- you wrote, in part: "I wonder if we are at the fringe of what is
relevant/useful/edifying etc. for this discussion group. How exactly is this
discussion a faith/science (broadly defined) dialog? I'm willing to be
instructed and perhaps being instructed on this point will result in a more
focused exchange.

Already at the ASA meeting 6 weeks ago, numerous people complained about the
value of this discussion and its appropriateness for this forum. Being somewhat
libertarian-minded, I determined not to say anything in the hope that the
discussion would come to some closure and that we would move on to something
else. However, it hasn't, and I fear that the widespread interest in this
discussion group is somewhat at risk."

Several comments seem to be in order.

1. You (Terry) call the shots. Call it quits & that's how it will be. That's
only fair. You do the work.

2. I don't see this at "at the fringe" at all, though I know some others do.

3. I see it as parallel to, in many ways, the debates over the age of the earth,
the reality of macro evolution.

4. I see it also as parallel to the debates over racial issues, segregation, Jim
Crow laws, etc.

5. In all of the above, both Scripture and "science" have something to say.

6. I am unsurprised about complaints at the ASA meeting. I've had a couple
e-mails of like substance.

7. I've also had several e-mails from people supporting my stand (which is NOT
one of condoning sin, but only one of trying to be very careful in defining it)
who say they will not speak out for various reasons.

8. I'd not like to see the value of the discussion group be at risk over this
issue. But I have not been able (so far) to find a better group, one in which
most, if not all, members share a common Christian committment. I am on another
group where that commonality is not present; it is not terribly edifying.

9. I'll try your "subject" category; I picked "BIBLE" as this one. But it goes
beyond that.

10. I really appreciate your work to make the reflector available.

11. What we, as Christians, hold in common is very precious. What we may differ
on, particularly on the "gay" issue, is certainly secondary. We (all Christians)
need to dialog on our differences if we ever expect to get even to the place
where we may disagree! (Thanks to Carter's recent book, INTEGRITY, for that
concept). Otherwise, we either dismiss or demonize those whom we hear say
something we don't believe in!

12. One more time, Terry, I'll state the question (as best I can) that seems to
me to be primary:

"Considering ONLY homosexual acts performed by consenting adults in privacy and
in the context of a committed long-term loving relationship, is Scripture silent
or is there a clear explanation in Scripture that this is, in God's eyes,

Scientific answers to this question are interesting, but secondary. IMO.

a. Helmaniak says "no," many Christians agree; I know some, personally.
b. Schmidt says "yes," many Christians agree; I know some, personally.

Many Christians in category a. (but hardly all) have given the matter little
There are probably some like them in category b, but, I suspect, not many.

Carter, in INTEGRITY, defines three steps:

1. Discernment of what is right.
2. Acting on what is right.
3. Saying that one's actions are based on one's discernment of what is right.

He uses, at one point, the Greek play ANTIGONE as illustrative of step 1. The
king "knows" what is right and therefore performs a moral error in acting
without sufficient reflection. So many Christians "know" gay acts to be a sin,
without any investigation of their own. Schmidt, BTW, is clearly not among
these; he has done his homework and gives well-reasoned arguments for his
position. As does Helmaniak. At the conclusion of Helmaniak's book he says (I am
paraphrasing) "If one wishes to declare gay acts (speaking ONLY of the narrow
definition above) as morally wrong, he must do so on other grounds than that of
what the Bible teaches." Schmdt thinks he has done this; he also cites
"science" arguments. My reaction to both books is included in the reviews, so
I'll stop there. BTW, several folks have requested these reviews from me -- no
problem, just send me an e-mail of request. I think they also exist on the web
site somewhere as part of this thread.

Back to the three steps. At present, having studied this subject for about a
year (not a primary focus study), I discern (step 1) that dialog is a "good
thing;" I am acting (step 2) by finding internet places where it appears
appropriate; and I am saying (step 3) that all this is happening because I
discern it as morally right to do. Back in the 60s my wife and I were involved
in the Civil Rights movement, much for the same reason. I have been in churches
where "love the nigger; he can't worship here" was explained from the pulpit.
(Pardon the use of the explicit vulgarity; a softer word with the same meaning
just does not exist). If gay acts (again, within the tight definition above) are
really sinful (Schmidt may be right), then the "love the sinner, hate the sin"
copout is not going to be sufficient. If Helmaniak is right, we are doing a
monstrous injustice to a minority within our community.

Sorry -- I got to preaching there. I'll stop.

Peace. And thanks for the perspective.