I am going to try to turn this discussion to a more profitable topic
Iain brings up that is within the "science- -religion" area proper to the asa
list & to which the asa could make a real contribution by engaging in some
serious study with a minimum of preconceptions. I refer to homosexuality. The
topic has been discussed ad nauseam in recent years, but often without adequate
attention to either theological or scientific concerns or to the way in which
theology should take science into account. I first respond on a couple of
points of preliminary relevance.
> However, I sense in todays world there is a tendency, even among Christians
> to pick and choose the things we like and reject those we don't like.
The "pick & choose" syndrome is a serious problem. But it shouldn't be
confused with serious study of the Bible which concludes that some traditional
interpretations of scripture are inadequate & that others are more appropriate
either to the intention of the biblical writers or to the nature of the real
world. That is not the same thing as just saying that parts of the Bible should
just be ignored.
> (1) If I recall correctly, some months ago, there was a thread of discussion
> on this list as to whether we can construct a theology based entirely on the
> New Testament, and leaving out the Old. The conclusion was reached, I think
> that you couldn't do it, but the very fact that the discussion took place
> seems to imply that many people would rather do without the Old testament.
> Someone even went as far as to ask the question about what possible use or
> relevance the first three chapters of Genesis had. I'm frankly astonished
> that such things can be considered - and again, this has little to do with
> whether you take Genesis literally or not.
I initiated this thread, which was more or less speculative thread, &
labelled as such, with a more limited scope. My question was whether an
adequate doctrine of creation could be formulated from the NT alone. The
intention was not to get rid of the OT! But if Christ is the center of
Christian faith & creation is "through him" and "for him" &c, one ought to be
able to begin the discussion of creation christologically. The OT should not be
abandoned, but it is to be read in light of the New.
This is relevant to the discussion of homosexuality. Jesus' attitude as
portrayed in the gospel is often one of breaking down divisions between people
which are, or seemed to be, imposed by torah:
Jew/Samaritan, clean/leper, men/women - & most importantly, righteous/sinner.
It's legitimate to ask if this may have some importance for our attitude toward
homosexuality. N.B. This does NOT show that homosexuality is OK! An argument
from silence (Jesus never condemned homosexuality so he must have approved of
it) is of course logically invalid. But it is theologically invalid to cite OT
passages that call male homosexual behavior an "abomination" (with fine
disregard for the fact that eating shellfish is in the same category) & think
that that settles the matter.
(Yes, I know that there are NT passages which do deal with
homosexuality, most importantly Romans 1. & no, I don't think the relevant OT
passages should be ignored.)
(3) Though it's politically incorrect to draw attention to such things,
> many Anglican clergy are talking about having gay marriage services.
> Apparently here's another bit of the bible (OT and NT) that is supposedly no
> longer relevant to today's society.
The following questions - theological, ethical, and scientific - need
to be dealt with in a thorough discussion of this topic. I refrain at this
point from including my own answers. (Some may wonder why I make a point of
distinguishing between male & female homosexuality but a little reflection on
the relevant biblical texts makes it clear that male & female homosexuality are
not dealt with symmetrically. It also takes only elementary science to show
that boys & girls are different.)
Note also that I have capitalized part of question 9. This addresses a
crucial theological question about science-theology dialogue which extends well
beyond this topic.
1. What does the Bible says about God's intention for creation in
connection with human sexuality?
2. Does the Bible say anything positive about homosexual behavior
(i.e., expressions of genital sexuality?)
3. What were the reasons, in the context of the biblical writers, for
the biblical condemnations of male homosexual behavior?
4. What were the reasons, in the context of the biblical writers, for
the biblical condemnation of female homosexual behavior?
5. Do some persons have a "homosexual orientation" which they have not
(To avoid undue verbiage, the way I have posed some of the following questions
assumes the answer to this to be "yes." If not, some changes in the following
are needed & some questions become irrelevant.)
6. If the answer to 5. is "yes," is this orientation hereditary (which
may mean, but is not limited to, genetic), formed by environmental influences,
or a combination of the two?
7. Is there a realistic possibility of genuine "conversion" of an adult
person of homosexual orientation to a reasonably happy heterosexual lifestyle?
8. Repeat questions 5 and 6 for the concept of "bisexual."
9. Questions 5 through 8 have been been about the knowledge of human
nature which can be gained scientifically. DOES THIS SCIENTIFIC KNOWLEDGE HAVE
TO BE TAKEN INTO ACCOUNT IN DEVELOPING A CHRISTIAN UNDERSTANDING OF CREATION AND
AN ETHIC THAT IS APPROPRIATE TO THAT UNDERSTANDING? IF SO, TO WHAT EXTENT AND
10. Does the Bible, explicitly or implicitly, recognize the concept of
sexual orientation, as distinguished from sexual behavior?
11. Do biblical condemnations of homosexual behavior apply also to
12. Do biblical condemnations of homosexual behavior have the same
significance for persons of homosexual orientation that they do for
heterosexuals or bisexuals who choose to engage in such behavior?
13. Is homosexual orientation "contrary to nature?" Is homosexual
behavior? In either case, why or why not?
14. Are traditional heterosexual attitudes toward homosexuality
primarily formed by religious concerns or are they primarily a matter of taste -
i.e., gut reaction?
15. Is the possibility of committed, loving, one-to-one relationships
between male homosexuals realistic, or is promiscuity connected in some basic
way with male homosexual orientation?
16. Is the possibility of committed, loving, one-to-one relationships
between female homosexuals realistic, or is promiscuity connected in some basic
way with female homosexual orientation?
17. Should the civil authority give legal recognition to some sort of
union between homosexuals? If so, should they be consider "marriages?"
18. Should the church give ecclesial recognition and blessing to some
sort of union between homosexuals? If so, should they be consider "marriages?"
19. Should the church knowingly accept non-celibate homosexuals as
members "in good standing"?
20. Should the church knowingly ordain non-celibate homosexuals?
George L. Murphy
"The Science-Theology Dialogue"
This archive was generated by hypermail 2b29 : Thu Aug 09 2001 - 10:57:36 EDT