Re: Homosexuality

From: John W Burgeson (
Date: Mon Aug 13 2001 - 11:21:43 EDT

  • Next message: "Re: Evolution of proteins in sequence space"

    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
    homosexual rape.
    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
    persons. "

    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
    highly tentative.

    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
                 one another,
            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
    experiment sexually?

    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.)

    This archive was generated by hypermail 2b29 : Mon Aug 13 2001 - 11:25:07 EDT