I comment here on Burgy's responses to some of my "20 questions," in
part to clarify what I was getting at & in part to carry the discussion
further. Though some of my statements may seem argumentative, my aim at this
point is not so much to debate as to press for further exploration of the
issues. The fact that I don't say anything about a particular question or
response doesn't mean that further discussion wouldn't be profitable.
John W Burgeson wrote:
> George posed 20 questions, all of interest; not all of equal importance.
> I would assert that all need dialog. Having seriously studied these
> issues for several years, and having a position that what is sin in the
> eyes of God is necessarily not a "good," (philosophically speaking), and
> also having the position that scripture, properly interpreted, has to be
> the standard by how we judge that question, I'll comment on the 20.
> 3. What were the reasons, in the context of the biblical writers, for
> the biblical condemnations of male homosexual behavior?
> What I have read (about the LEV verse) was that the taboo was related to
> the requirement for the achievement Hebrews to differentiate themselves
> from the clans outside.
I don't think that God simply sets down arbitrary rules, like 3
strikes and you're out or the knight's move in chess. Thus we can ask why
condemnations of homosexual would have made sense in the culture of ancient
Israel or the early church & why they may or may not make sense today. The
reason Burgy gives may be part of the story, but I think we need to be more
specific. Reasons I have heard presented are:
a) the existence of male homosexual prostitution in some pagan
b) concern about emissions of body fluids, about which there are a
number of Levitical regulations, and about "spilling of seed," and
c) the fact that prisoners of war were sometimes subjected to
It is worth noting that none of these would seem to be germane to the
question of female homosexuality. I have never heard of lesbian religious
prostitution, though I suppose it could have existed.
5. Do some persons have a "homosexual orientation" which they have not
> voluntarily chosen?
> (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.)
> The word "some" may be misleading; it implies "not many." All I have read
> says that a homosexual orientation is involuntary in "most" cases.
I didn't mean to imply "not many." My "some" distinguishes a subset
of all persons, not of all homosexual persons.
> 8. Repeat questions 5 and 6 for the concept of "bisexual."
> I'll skip that one. I really don't know.
I pose the question for a reason more important than the relatively
small number of people considering themselves bisexual might suggest. A
little attention to what is going on in mainline denominations will show that
what is often spoken of now is not simply "gay and lesbian persons" but
"sexual minorities" which includes "gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered
persons." Genuinely transgendered persons raise unique issues (some noted in
a recent post by Judy Torunchuk) which I won't try to address here. But a
demand for inclusion of non-celibate bisexual persons by the church obviously
raises questions about how seriously any expectation of committed one-to-one
relationships, call them marriage or anything else, is being taken. (See my
comment on #15 below.) To put it bluntly, can we draw a line anywhere?
> 9. Questions 5 through 8 have 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 HOW?
> I think the answer here is a clear "yes." If "science" can show that the
> condition (not the activity) is inherited, or developed by others, and is
> not, generally, a "lifestyle choice," then that has to play a part. On
> the other hand, if Jesus had just said, "Boys, hear this. ALL same sex
> sexual activity is an affront to God and should be avoided," then
> scripture would prevail. But He did not say that, as far as the record is
> concerned. Even Paul did not say that. Paul did condemn certain
> perversions, and that's fine. but he did not address the case being
While scientific findings are certainly important here, I erred in
limiting this question to them rather than the broader category of
"experience" which includes the specialized aspect of scientific observation
& reasoning as a special case. One thing I had in mind was the following.
I don't feel that I can argue with adult persons who say that their
experiences have brought them to understand themselves as homosexually
oriented. But such persons sometimes go on to say "God made me this way" -
i.e., it was God's intention that he or she be homosexual. & this is a quite
different matter. There are lots of things about the world that we don't
want to simply identify with God's will. Admittedly this gets us into the
very difficult problem of how God is to be understood as the creator who is
involved with everything that happens without making God the cause of evil -
"the most difficult problem in the science of Theology" (Schmid).
Nevertheless, some things are opposed to God's will. & are we to determine
what God's will is from our experience or from revelation?
> 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?
> In conversations with friends and acquaintances who are homosexual, I
> understand them to take those specific passages very seriously indeed.
> But I cannot speak for them, and they are not really a very
> representative subset of the homosexual population.
Maybe I wasn't clear here. Do biblical condemnations of homosexual
activity apply in the same way to
a. two persons of homosexual orientation who are in a committed one
to one relationship with
b. a person of homosexual orientation promiscuously involved in such
activity with numerous
casual partners, and
c. a heterosexual who for one reason or another has decided to
From your responses to other questions I think I can guess your answer to
> 13. Is homosexual orientation "contrary to nature?" Is homosexual
> behavior? In either case, why or why not?
> Observations on animals have shown that homosexual activity is not
> uncommon. One cannot say anything about their "orientation" of course. If
> the condition is inherited, it is difficult to think why it would be
Paul does refer in Romans 1:26-27 to "natural" (ten phyiken chresin)
and "unnatural" (ten para physin) relations. But what did he mean? We need
to be careful about reading later concepts of "natural law" &c into this.
> 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?
> Case studies indicate that it is realistic.
Again, I should have been clearer - especially since this is a
crucial question for determining the response of the church. Certainly such
relationships exist for some male homosexual couples. The question is though
whether or not it is realistic to think that such relationships are either
desired by, or possible for, most male homosexuals. There is at least a
vocal minority part of homosexual culture which sees any attempt to make
"monogamy" normative as an aspect of heterosexual oppression and which
celebrates promiscuity. ("If you call me promiscuous, you're just saying
that I'm getting more than you" one of my colleagues was told in a
discussion.) & there is a considerable amount of anecdotal evidence - but
beyond just scattered anecdotes - that suggests that promiscuity is a very
common aspect of male homosexuality.
Now it may be that the situation would be different if society as a
whole approved of open homosexual unions. & we also have to admit that there
is a vast amount of heterosexual promiscuity in our culture, both premarital
and adulterous. Nevertheless, permanent heterosexual commitment is not rare.
I would very much like to see the case studies you refer to. If the
kind of commitment we're talking about is a real possibility for a
significant fraction of male homosexuals, I think that many Christians would
be prepared to recognize some type of homosexual union, even if they are seen
simply as the best way to deal with a less than ideal situation. But if not,
Here I have been careful to refer to "male" homosexuality. Again,
anecdotal evidence suggests that such relations are more likely to be formed
with lesbian couples. But this needs to be studied too.
19. Should the church knowingly accept non-celibate homosexuals as
> members "in good standing"?
> Absolutely. Why would it not?
It's not just a matter of saying, "Well, we're all sinners." We
should admit to membership a known thief who was penitent, even if we knew
that there were circumstances which might make it hard for him to resist
stealing in the future. It would be a different matter if he said, "I intend
to keep on stealing." IF homosexual activity is a serious sin then a person
who intended to engage in that activity would be in the same situation. But
of course it's the IF there that's crucial.
George L. Murphy
"The Science-Theology Dialogue"
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