Thanks, George, for your usual insightful comments on my post.
"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
That exploration of the issues, preferably w/o heat, and maybe with some
light, is what I'd like to see. I've had offline emails which are very
much otherwise; generally I use the "delete" key on them w/o a response.
GM: 3. What were the reasons, in the context of the biblical writers,
for the biblical condemnations of male homosexual behavior?
JB: 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.
GM: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.
All these are good reasons. I have a fourth one. Perhaps -- just perhaps
-- the Lev verse is added in by an overzealous scribe/priest, and was
never God's will, even for the ancient Hebrews? I have in mind some other
"strange" verses in that book, like the one forbidding the husband to
embrace, or even touch, his wife for two weeks after childbirth. The pork
thing I can understand as a health rule.
GM:"5. Do some persons have a "homosexual orientation" which they have
not voluntarily chosen? I didn't mean to imply "not many." My
"some" distinguishes a subset of all persons, not of all homosexual
I was more concerned with how others might read it than not understanding
what you meant.
GM:"8. Repeat questions 5 and 6 for the concept of "bisexual." 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?"
This is a serious and a good question, and I have no answers. The breath
of human morphology and sexual orientations is vast. It has taken me
nearly five years to finally take a position on only one subset of
homosexual people -- I happen to know several couples which fit this
definition, and I'm not acquainted with those who "cruise the gay bars."
Can we draw a line? That is really the question I wrestled with. I
conclude, of course, that we can draw a line -- that line means to not
call a sin what I am reasonably persuaded God does not call a sin --
adult long term loving domestic relationships. The number of such
relationships between two persons of the same sex may, indeed, be small,
but even if it were a set of one, the argument applies. Is there an
expectation of more? I don't know. Are there some today, in spite of
society's knee-jerk reactions? Of course.
GM: 9. Questions 5 through 8 have been about the knowledge of human
which can be gained scientifically. 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?
Again, a probing question. I think science, on this issue, must always be
Focusing on your last sentence, I think both are needed, but that
scripture must trump if a conflict is perceived. In this case, of course,
I think it specifically does not include the cases of interest.
GM: 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? 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
I perceive, as I am sure you do, and probably everyone here does, that
cases b. and c. above are definitely proscribed by scripture.
GM: 13. Is homosexual orientation "contrary to nature?" Is homosexual
behavior? In either case, why or why not? 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.
I believe I remember Helmaniak addressing that issue in his book.
GM: 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?
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.
I disagree that such is "the question." Assuming for argument that 90% of
all male homosexuals are not interested in a committed domestic
relationship, the 10% remaining are still a class we must think about,
recognize, and support.
GM: 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, not. "
That's probably true, but irrelevant as far as my own position is
concerned. Like the "lost sheep," it would only take one instance.
GM: 19. Should the church knowingly accept non-celibate homosexuals as
members "in good standing"? 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.
Yep. That's why it is important to settle the main question first. Then
this one follows naturally.
John Burgeson (Burgy)
(science/theology, quantum mechanics, baseball, ethics,
humor, cars, God's intervention into natural causation, etc.)
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