Open? Yes! Affirming? No.

I’ve been running into a lot of comments from friends across the blogosphere lately, revolving around the issue of how the church should respond to homosexuality today.  I write this response with trepidation, because I have a hunch it’ll upset many of my more “liberal” friends with about the same level of fervor many of my other writings upset my “conservative” brethren.  However, I feel we have got to cut to the chase on a couple important points that I do not see showing up in these dialogs.  The most important is this:

If we insist that the church should be affirming of gay unions, we better come clean and admit that we’ve decided that Biblical Christianity has nothing left to say regarding sexuality in any form.

Why do I say this?  Well, first of all, because the arguments I hear in favor of “affirming” gay unions in the church are based, not on scripture, not on the teachings of Jesus, but on the generic concept of compassion.  LGTBQ (Lesbian, Gay, Transgender, Bisexual, and Questioning or Queer–depends on who’s translating) individuals are often marginalized, subjected to discrimination, even victims of violence in our society–this is unarguably true.  Jesus came to minister to the marginalized and love them (also true).  Therefore, the argument goes, the church should stop teaching LGBTQ behavior is immoral, welcome these individuals into full fellowship, and even bless their lifestyles and unions in the church.  Problem is, that “therefore” involves a quantum leap that is incompatible with New Testament discipleship.

First of all, let me be clear:  violence against any person–including violence motivated or excused by that person’s sexuality, gender identity, or our perception of the same–is always, in all contexts, wrong, and we in the church should be first in line to oppose it.  We see this truth throughout the life of Jesus and the teachings of the apostles.  When Christians are even slightly on the side of defending anti-gay violence and persecution, we are to that extent guilty of active blasphemy.  As with any other form of violence and oppression, we ought to be known for our active opposition to anti-LGBTQ violence.

Nevertheless, while scriptural guidance on sexuality may not be as clear or comprehensive as a Bible-lawyer might wish, the evidence we do have is pretty one-sided, and it weighs heavily in the direction that sexual activity outside the bounds of a one-woman, one-man marriage is proscribed for the Christian.  I’ve gone into this in some detail before so I won’t repeat it all here.  In short, however, marriage (or perhaps I should say “holy matrimony” to distinguish from the civil definition which is frankly none of our affair) is the union in which “a man leaves his father and mother and [is] joined to his wife, and the two become one flesh.”  That sanctified union is not available to a man joining another man, nor a woman to a woman, and that union is the sole basis in which sexual relations can be a holy and God-blessed thing.  Sexual relations in any other context–whether straight or gay is beside the point–are adultery or fornication, both forbidden to the believer.  Wes Hill stated it well (I recommend you read his entire message here):

…although many people find themselves, through no fault of their own, to have sexual desires for members of their own sex, this is not something to be affirmed and celebrated but is, rather, a sign that we are broken, in need of redemption and re-creation. Gay people are not uniquely broken—that’s a position we share with every other human who has ever lived, or will live—but we are, nonetheless, broken. And following Jesus means turning our backs on a life of sexual sin, just as it does for every other Christian.

There are many who suggest that the New Testament writers never considered same-sex unions when they wrote about marital fidelity, because they were in a conservative culture that would not have even thought about it.  Any reference to the sexuality of Greek and Roman culture seems to me more than sufficient to put this idea to rest.  Jesus, Paul, and the rest were perfectly familiar with same-sex relationships in the broader culture.  As I wrote in the post I linked above, I do not think many of the texts people often interpret to condemn homosexuality–e.g. 1 Cor. 6:9–are as clear as the fundamentalist might wish (for an interesting read on these passages, though I disagree with his ultimate conclusion, see this article by Dale B. Martin; his error is to fail to engage the broader questions of marriage and adultery in the N.T.).  It is not that somehow “gay adultery” is somehow “worse” or “more perverted” than the straight kind.  It’s just still adultery.

But adultery is not OK and should not be “affirmed” by the church.

So am I being “unloving” here, as the Dale Martin article above (and many of my Facebook friends) would suggest?  Well, let’s think about that.  The presumption seems to be that the “loving” thing to do, is to encourage everyone to fulfill their sexual desire with whomever they desire.  After all, if (as seems to be the going theory) sexual orientation is an innate characteristic and not a lifestyle choice, everyone should have the right to follow their innate urge to seek pleasure in a mutually-fulfilling physical relationship.

Of course, implicit in the notion of “orientation” is that our human impulses are God-given and therefore right.  I don’t see how anyone can take the New Testament seriously and still buy this contention.  Scripture teaches us that human impulses tend toward depravity in essentially every area of life, from economics to violence to sex.  Romans 1:18-32 is a pretty good compendium of these “orientations,” only a few of them sexual, but sexuality definitely figures among them.  Paul seems to be suggesting that God essentially said “you want to screw up my creation, then here, feel what screwed up is really like!”  Our “orientations,” both sexual and otherwise, are corrupted.  They need to be redeemed, not fulfilled and honored.

The drive to “affirm” gay unions seems to me to be an attempt to lift out the one issue of same-sex attraction and somehow separate it from all the other ways in which fallen humanity expresses its sexuality.  I can see neither a Biblical nor a logical rationale in which to affirm the gay union without also choosing to condone polygamy/polyandry, pedophilia, multiple divorces & remarriages (“serial monogamy,” it’s sometimes called), and on and on, just so long as both (all?) parties consent.  In such a setting, matrimony as a construct becomes somewhat irrelevant outside of whatever secular benefits it may convey.  We really come down to the same situation C.S. Lewis described so well in his essay “We have No ‘Right to Happiness’,” part of the collection God in the Dock (see the full text of the essay here).   While Lewis was primarily arguing that people’s perceived happiness was no excuse for abandoning the marital commitment, he also stated that at the root was the notion that somehow

… sex [is] to be treated as no other impulse in our nature has ever been treated by civilized people. All the others, we admit, have to be bridled. Absolute obedience to your instinct for self-preservation is what we call cowardice; to your acquisitive impulse, avarice. Even sleep must be resisted if you’re a sentry. But every unkindness and breach of faith seems to be condoned provided that the object aimed at is “four bare legs in a bed.”

Which brings me back to the claim I made at the beginning of this post.  If we are going to continue teaching in our churches (and I hope we are), that God cares about about sexual purity, monogamy, the sanctity of the union of matrimony, and how husbands and wives ought to behave toward each other, upon what basis are we going to make those claims?  If the New Testament standard is to be discarded or reinterpreted away with regard to same-sex unions, how then can anyone claim it speaks with any clarity or authority about any other aspect of sexuality?  Either all of it matters, or else be honest and admit that none of it is relevant any longer.  I see no logical or hermaneutical basis for any in-between.

What do I mean in practice?  That’s where the title of this post comes in.  The church’s doors and hearts should be open to anybody who’s interested in seeking or learning about Jesus.  No one is required to accept his lordship in order to hear about him, or to experience the love of his people–and this is as true for people whose moral shortcomings are in the sexual area, as any other.  As Wes Hill asked in another important post you should read, “Will the Church shelter and nourish and humanize those who are deeply lonely and struggling desperately to remain faithful?”  I sincerely hope so.

But we must never confuse love with affirmation.  The church has no business blessing gay unions, any more than it ought to be blessing divorces  or multiple marriages.  And it most certainly ought not to be placing into leadership anyone who is engaged in *any* form of adultery.

I do not claim that any of this is easy.  Celibacy is a tough choice for the gay and the straight.  I find the various claims of people having been “cured” of same-sex attraction to be as questionable as most gay-rights activists do.  Frankly, this isn’t unique to sex.  An awful lot of addicts I’ve known have struggled to some degree with their addictions for many years after going clean.  While the call of Christ is to live a new life, the painful reality for many is that their old life keeps rearing its ugly head for a really long time…sometimes a lifetime.  We remain in a fallen world, even as we seek to live in the Kingdom of Christ.  Redemption is most assuredly a process that will not be completed for any of us this side of the grave.  But never–not for one moment–dare we suggest that the old life was all right after all.

27 thoughts on “Open? Yes! Affirming? No.”

  1. Bishop Craig Bergland

    No credible scientist today believes that sexual orientation is a choice. That having been said, the concept of sexual orientation simply didn’t exist in biblical times. The standard Paul, for example, applied to determine what was “natural” was majority practice. For that reason many people have been persecuted by the Church throughout history, including left handed people. Surely we wouldn’t argue for returning to that practice.

    The truth is that in biblical times the State had no role in marriage. Today it does, and with good reason. Just as men in biblical times issued their wives a writ of divorce and had no obligation to support them, men today often fail to adequately support their families after a divorce – even in the presence of a support order. I don’t believe it would be prudent to argue that the State should remove itself from the marriage business.

    What we are left with is the reality that the Church is not the authority in who may and may not be married. The question that remains is whether scripture has anything to say about sexuality today. My answer would be that is has very little to say. Scripture reflects a pre-scientific understanding of reproduction that saw the woman’s role as that of a passive incubator for the very active deposit of what we today understand to be both sperm and egg by the male. I don’t believe it’s wise to endorse a sexual ethic based on a faulty reproductive understanding, but perhaps some would.

    A sexual ethic that sees the sum total of a woman’s value in her ability to provide a first born male heir is hardly something we would want to endorse today, nor would we want a woman who was either divorced or widowed to be consigned to a life of prostitution because no man could be certain – again, given their primitive understanding of reproduction and the gestational period – that any child she would bear would be his child. Would that be the biblical sexual ethic you are endorsing?

    Finally, since Paul was kind enough to endorse only missionary position sexuality and patriarchal enough to offer that a woman should not refuse her husband, biblical sexuality is not only rather boring but also rather rape filled by contemporary standards.

    The Bible does, however, have much of a timeless nature to say about what love is and about how human being should treat one another. Jesus’ Great Commandment sums that up rather concisely. The truth is that everyone is our neighbor – even LGBT persons. It is really a splendid example of stretching the biblical record to suggest that the eight verses most often used regarding sexual behavior between two males is about sexual orientation. An honest, unbiased reading of the texts reveals they are about cultic prostitution, the worship of fertility gods, and ritual purity codes. Paul’s condemnations, as I mentioned about, are based on what he believed was “natural,” which was majority practice. Interestingly, what is natural for someone of heterosexual orientation would be to have sex with a person of their same gender.

    I have always found it ironic that conservative Protestantism has rejected the practice of clerical celibacy as in the Roman Catholic Church, but seeks to enforce it on the LGBT community. The argument against the Roman practice has often been that celibacy is a gift and shouldn’t be made a requirement – unless, of course, you happen to be gay.

    Perhaps most damning of all, the issue of homosexuality is one that the Church seems to continue to tie its future to. Seeing its influence in American culture slipping away and seeing the culture war as all but lost, conservative corners of the Church continue to beat the drum about homosexuality. Eight verses of scripture. There are over three thousand verses about helping the poor, feeding the hungry, caring for widows and orphans, and while there certainly are some feeding programs out their the political agenda of those supported by conservative Christianity is generally opposed to social programs including food stamps, universal healthcare, fully funding education, medicare, and social security.

    Why all this attention to the things about which Jesus was silent while steadfastly ignoring what he spoke about? Why all the interest in peeping into people’s bedrooms and seeking to control what happens there? I would suggest it is precisely because males can point to their wives and insist that they aren’t homosexual. Of course, we have had plenty of high profile example of married male pastors who are gay to disprove that theory, but hope springs eternal. In our heart of hearts, however, we all know – including me – that we don’t love enough, that we don’t reach out to the less fortunate and the disenfranchised enough (in fact, the Church seems to love adding to the ranks of the disenfranchised), we don’t provide the assistance to the poor that we should. Rather than confront our own failure to live out Jesus’ teachings, we spend our time lashing out at the LGBT community because we believe they are sinners.

    Can you say, hypocrites?

    1. Dan Martin Post Author

      Bishop Craig, thanks for stopping by.

      With all respect I would suggest your comments don’t respond to my post. The “eight verses” you refer to do not make my case…go see what scripture I used. As I pointed out in my post, “love” is not synonymous with “affirmation of current behavior” for someone’s sexuality (gay or straight) any more than “love” would lead us to encourage an addict to continue using.

      You have forthrightly stated “The question that remains is whether scripture has anything to say about sexuality today. My answer would be that is has very little to say.” I disagree, but at least you’re being honest.

      But seriously…Paul only endorses the missionary position? I never caught that…where? LOL

  2. Steve K.

    Dan, you didn’t respond to Bishop Craig’s arguments based on science, which BTW is also the revelation of God, IMO. Bishop Craig’s assessment of the view of sexuality in Bible times (e.g., women were just incubators, etc.) is all right-on, and that’s significant. You have to figure out a way to reconcile modern science with Scripture or, do what you just did, which is to completely ignore it and continue to go back to selective interpretations of parenthetical thoughts pulled completely out of the context of Scripture. Sadly, most Christians are happy to do that and ignore science and biblical scholarship about the context and culture of the Bible altogether. Good luck with that!

    1. Dan Martin Post Author

      Actually, Steve, “reconciling modern science with Scripture” presumes something I don’t accept, and that is that science and Scripture successfully inform the same subjects. I consider Craig’s “scientific” argument no more valid than the argument some fundamentalists make on the other side, that says evolution (even theistic evolution) must be wrong because we have to have a literal Adam in order for the doctrine of original sin to work. (I oppose the doctrine of original sin on other grounds, but they are not science-based, they’re Bible-based).

      Nevertheless, let me address the invalid argument. It is absolutely true that the perspective on reproductive biology that informs the Old Testament in particular, is clearly not what we now understand from biology (and I was a biology major, so I’ve actually studied this stuff). But that really doesn’t inform the questions of sexual morality at all. For example, can you give me a science-based reason why a straight, married man should be faithful to his wife? And no, sexually-transmitted disease won’t hunt…I used to be an STD investigator and I know how to prevent that. If you’re going to make any claims of sexual morality at all (other than that there IS no moral issue in sex), you’ll have to resort to something other than science to make it.

      Second, I do not dispute that it appears from current research (which is far from settled by the way) that some people are probably born with a predisposition toward same-sex attraction. This is not a new concept, even if we now give it the label “orientation.” I know–personally–some straight people who would argue (and they’re likely right) that they have an inborn predisposition to desire multiple female partners. Some evolutionary biologists say that male promiscuity is a natural evolutionary desire to promote one’s own genes in reproduction. None of these scientifically-supported facts or theories have anything really to do with the question of sexual morality as defined within the context of the Church. As I pointed out in my post before, Paul in Romans 1 listed many different “orientations” that people have…many of them at least part inborn, I suspect…and still called us to live differently than what our “orientation” might demand.

      Finally, the fact that some may be born with a same-sex attraction may very well be, as Wes Hill (himself gay though celibate) said in the article I quoted in my piece, born that way because we live in a broken world. THIS IS NOT A PERFECT ANALOGY, SO DON’T MISUNDERSTAND ME: but my son was born with Down syndrome, which gives him certain limitations and disabilities. Though I deeply love my son for exactly who he is, that does not mean I believe that God created him to have an intellectual disability…that happened as a result of a flawed biological process (meiotic nondysjunction of chromosome 21) taking place in a fallen world. I DO NOT SUGGEST THAT HOMOSEXUALITY IS EQUIVALENT TO MENTAL RETARDATION, I only bring this up to say that not all humans are born “as they ought to be.”

      For all these reasons, I hold that the “scientific” argument in favor of homosexuality, while it may be fine for the secular world, has absolutely nothing of value to offer to the church in its consideration of morality.

  3. Ruth Martin

    The writer of the previous comment displays an amazing ignorance of both Scripture and historic culture. Ever since Plato — and likely before — the Greek culture accepted, and even admired, same-sex activity. (Plato proclaimed it more noble than heterosexual behavior!) And Biblicly, there are many more than “eight verses” which call for deliberate changes in “lifestyle” — starting with ALL kinds of selfishness. (Although the word is not used, I am quite sure that would include insisting on the “affirmation” of our errors!)
    Interesting too that the writer dignifies himself with a hierarchical title, which Jesus explicitly forbade.
    Your essay is excellent, Dan, and, I believe, faithful to the New Testament. We are called to help and support one another in learning and practicing a changed life — no matter how the particular need for change is identified or labeled.

  4. Steve K.

    Dan, but you and I, in our heterosexuality, can just limit our sexual activity to one partner within the confines of marriage. But your message — and the message of the Church, based on your interpretation of Scripture — to all homosexuals is, either: a) Never have sex ever – for the rest of your life; or b) Become a heterosexual.

    Can we agree that being straight isn’t required for salvation? So why do we insist gay people become straight in order to be “faithful” to God? Homosexuality may be a result of the “brokenness” of the world, post-Genesis, but, Dan, we are NOT going back to the Garden of Eden! To continue to suggest this is absolutely backward-looking theologically.

    My theology is deeply shaped by Galatians 3:28, “There is no longer Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male and female. For you are all one in Christ Jesus.” Or, in Jesus’ own words (Matthew 22:30, Mark 12:25, Luke 20:34-36), “At the resurrection people will neither marry nor be given in marriage; they will be like the angels in heaven.”

    If there’s no longer male or female, if at the resurrection we are “like angels,” how can there be homosexual or heterosexual in Jesus Christ? in the kingdom of God?

    You’d have to insist, based on some other passages of Scripture (which ones??), that in the kingdom of God there are gendered bodies having heterosexual intercourse in order to insist that gay people in this life should become straight. Sorry, it simply no longer makes theological or biological sense to me.

    Just for the record, though, my views on sexuality are deeply nuanced, so I would defend the right of Wes Hill or anyone to remain celibate or to seek to change their orientation if that is their decision, based on their theology or otherwise deep conviction. I just think it’s a very unhealthy decision for the vast majority of LGBT people, who should be accepted — and accept themselves — just as they are, just as they have been created to be. “Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart” (1 Sam. 16:7).

  5. Dan Martin

    Steve,

    If you browse around this blog where I’ve written about salvation, I think you’ll see that I do not consider the commitment–or abandonment–of any particular “sin” to be the issue at all. So to that extent, I would certainly agree that heterosexuality is not “required for salvation,” though I would say re: salvation you’re really asking the wrong question.

    Let me add a third category to the question in your first paragraph. The church has taught, and I believe, though we don’t always follow through well, that the Biblical model would say that STRAIGHT individuals who do not marry, for whatever reason, are *also* expected to remain celibate for the rest of their lives…so this is not primarily a gay/straight issue.

    I hope you are not saying that Galatians 3:28 gives us the “freedom” for absolute, unbridled sexual license. That cannot be what Paul was thinking. As for Jesus’ “neither marry nor be given in marriage,” remember Jesus was responding to a trick question of the Pharisees; nevertheless he’s talking about a post-Resurrection scenario that I suspect we don’t understand in a whole lot more ways than this.

    But remember what I actually said in my article: The church should welcome and minister to gays equally as straights. What the church cannot do Biblically, is affirm or bless gay unions, or affirm or bless *any* sexual contact outside the bounds of marriage. This does not mean that gays cannot be saved, any more than straight adulterers, alcoholics, thieves, or whatever else. It *does* mean that the standard of discipleship (a much bigger concept than “salvation” sets the bar higher than society’s.

  6. Steve K.

    Dan, you say, “The church should welcome and minister to gays equally as straights.” But the reality is they do not. This issue is heavily weighted against the LGBT community and always has been. That’s the result of heteronormativity in our culture and it’s the same in our churches. Your view is biased because of this, just like everyone non-gay person trying to do theology today.

    Of course, Galatians 3:28 isn’t about “license.” It’s about how should we then live? Why are Christians always trying to look for where the line is? That’s a horrible way to live, frankly. But I understand because that’s the way I was taught growing up too. Why not try to live into the already-but-not-yet kingdom of God here and now? That’s a whole different perspective, looking up with a hopeful vision than always looking down and asking “where’s the line?!? where’s the line?!?”

    I believe the church can — and should — bless and affirm gay unions, just as much as straights. That’s precisely where we need to be treating everyone equally. “The bounds of marriage” is such a telling turn of a phrase. Certainly you know the history of “marriage” and how culturally defined it is and always has been? As my wife (who is a clinical sexologist) would say, “Please show me the ‘biblical marriage’ that I should base my own marriage on.” The fact is there is no model marriage in the Bible. To suggest that is to suggest that the Bible is a sex manual, rather than the story of God.

    I’m afraid your standard of “discipleship” isn’t only a higher standard than society’s, it’s a higher standard than the God of the universe. Because as much as you’d like to make my position about “cultural accommodation,” it simply isn’t. My position is based on God’s revelation in Scripture and in nature.

    You may have 2,000 years of church history on your side of the argument, but I have all of eternity on my side. Thankfully, society IS changing and becoming more just and more equal for all people, but sadly the Church is not leading the way. Instead, the Church (as evidenced by your argument) is digging in its heals and pointing backward, rather than embracing God’s preferable future, where there is neither male nor female, gay nor straight, for all our equal in the eyes of God.

    I think you’re on the wrong side of history and the future of God, Dan. I know you’ll disagree, and that’s OK. I believe God (and Protestant Christianity) is big enough for that too. Thanks for considering my thoughts here. I appreciate the chance to interact and discuss these important things.

    1. Dan Martin Post Author

      Steve, first of all, thank you for interacting with me on this discussion. I do not look for this blog to be an echo chamber for only those who agree with me. Actually, I rather suspect if you look around at the non-sexuality topics here you might find some common ground, but here we clearly will continue to disagree.

      I would have let it go on that note, except by your claim that your “position is based on God’s revelation in Scripture and in nature.” I can’t comment more than I already have on the nature side of the equation, but with respect your Scripture needs further examination…and I say this because I think the means by which one arrives at a claim of scripturality are at least as important as the claim itself.

      For starters, let’s look at your challenge “Why not try to live into the already-but-not-yet kingdom of God here and now?” I actually agree with the concept of inaugurated eschatology, as again I think you would find elsewhere on this blog. I certainly agree with your statement that constantly asking “where’s the line” is the wrong question, as I’ve evidenced here. But what do you mean in terms of sexuality? You quoted Jesus’ “at the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage,” (though interestingly he said “at the resurrection,” not “in the kingdom.” But taking that at face value…do you therefore mean that we should not marry? You’re married…you just described your wife. You’re advocating for same-sex couples to marry. How’s that inaugurating the resurrection if we won’t be marrying in the new kingdom? Should all believers be celibate and unmarried? Anthropologists have a phrase for groups like that: Extinct In One Generation (actually, they have a single word too: “cult,” but I digress).

      Second, you appeal to Galatians…and now we’re talking Paul’s words, not Jesus’. That difference matters in terms of precedence, I believe (for more see this article). However, you can’t have one part of Paul without the rest. If Paul’s “neither male nor female” is to be lifted out of context as you have done (the context is our unity in Christ, not our marital or sexual choices), then you better be equally willing to take Paul’s “unnatural relations” comments at the end of Romans 1 with equal weight. No fair trying to have it both ways!

      You may well be right that I’m on “the wrong side of history.” Martin Luther King notwithstanding, I would say the arc of history bends pretty decisively away from the Creator, only shifting toward him under duress. But your claims for God’s way and eternity require a better foundation than you have laid. They may be well informed by your experience, your friends, your wife’s professional training. You absolutely have a right to those claims. But the ties to a Scriptural basis, at least as you have presented them so far, are unsupportable.

  7. Susan

    Dan,

    How do you think the teen and young adult LGBT community, which has a suicide rate 4 times greater than straight people of the same age, can be given hope when your interpretation is basically one of hopelessness? How would you “minister” to them about God’s love when they are so obviously excluded from experiencing the kind of love that 99% of humans desire? And not because of a lifestyle choice they made, for if that were the case, then I must tell you I never made a choice to be straight…did you?

    I’m sorry if I sound harsh, but the fact is that this intolerance / inequality contributes to these suicides and I don’t understand how that can be reconciled by me, you or to God the Creator. Why can’t we allow God to be the judge when the stakes are so high?

    1. Dan Martin Post Author

      Susan,

      I guess the real question would be, if *anyone,* straight or gay, bases their hope on whether or not they have sex, we’re looking at a problem. One that needs to be ministered to, not rationalized away as not a problem after all.

      As to the deep loneliness many LGBT feel, I am sure it’s real and profound. That’s part of why I pointed the readers to Wes Hill’s commentary above. Wes quite appropriately calls the church to be the loving family for those whose brokenness leaves them in this painful position…and as I have said before, I think of several straight friends of mine who find themselves in the exact same boat…for whatever reason, they have never been able to find a person to whom to give their lives. We need to be their family, not baptize their affliction.

      1. Dan Martin Post Author

        Adding to this comment…as I think about it, what you may be describing is a symptom of the seriously over-sexualized nature of our society at large. Sex isone thing we do that expresses a variety of feelings (only sometimes love, unfortunately), but in contemporary society it has grown into this massive definition of who we are. I submit the force that’s leading to the suicidal tendencies you describe, is the same one that leads to anorexia and body image issues among so many young women, results in 13-year-olds dressing like sluts, convinces boys that if they aren’t getting laid they aren’t manly, etc. It’s not just gay people who have been fed a distorted, overgrown myth regarding sex, and it’s not just gay people who suffer from the delusion that we are what we screw.

  8. The Deliberative Heretic

    Actually, I think Dan is really, really mad that certain people cannot do certain things.

    So why not take away the rights of all of those who’s identities are of the minority of society to make all people more equal? His is the case of “taking away” to make people equal, “excluding”, rather than “including”. Inclusion is God’s Way, it is a much Higher Way, and it is a difficult thing for some to understand, it requires being of a single mind where ALL people are equal, even in spite of their differences and diversities.

    What Dan doesn’t understand is that we don’t reach equality by subtraction in God’s economy, we reach equality by inclusion.

    This really has to do with Dan’s own state of mind.

    https://www.facebook.com/notes/the-deliberative-heretic/a-double-minded-man-will-be-unstable-in-all-of-his-ways/255493444482313

    1. Dan Martin Post Author

      Deliberative, I would only add one comment to Ben’s response…I have never talked about anyone’s “rights” in secular society, other than my comment at the outset of my post repudiating violence against them. My issue is not with rights…it’s what can and should (or cannot and should not) be blessed within the fellowship and teaching of the Church. Different. Subject. Entirely.

  9. Ben Bajarin

    Deliberative Heretic, what we have to wrestle with is what an obedient life surrendered to God looks like. We have the right to choose to dis-obey God so now the question is what kind of obedience does he look for and how in this subject matter does it apply to sexuality.

    I read your essay and my concern is that your argument is based on making the text relative. I agree with the elements of the Old testament that we realize were climactically resolved in Jesus Christ, there for the OT represented God progressively revealing himself until the final moment of full realization in Christ, hence Hebrews 1.

    To say the text has nothing to say about sexuality, or systemic evils in culture, etc is incorrect.

    I agree with Dan that the question has to be rooted in what is sin and what is not sin. We are all in the process of healing.

    We can debate until we are blue in the face whether or not sexual orientation is created, or influenced highly by culture or unfortunate circumstances during a child’s upbringing.

    The issue is what is sin and what is not. We must also honestly look at the text in order to strive for truth about how to obey God in its fullest. That inevitably makes all kinds of people uncomfortable but we need to take obedience to God seriously.

  10. Susan

    Tell me, Dan… is it the marital union of homosexuals that is sinful? Is it the sex? Is it the love? Is it the attraction?

    There are homosexual couples who do not engage in sex. Is that acceptable? What about the holding of hands? The glances? At what point does being open to homosexuals transform to “affirming of sin.”

    Nothing is as black or white as you suggest, in my opinion, so if you are drawing a line in the sand, please be clear as to where that line is. I would be interested to know at what point you determine sin… the attraction, the companionship, the outward signs of affection and so forth. I would also be interested how you would minister your belief in a hopeful way to LGBT young adults.

    It is very easy to assert one’s point, but I think it is important that you consider how to apply that assertion to a demographic that has a higher than average suicide rate.

    Your thoughts on this could prove helpful not only to you, but to LGBT who may read your post and to others who read your post, looking for guidance on how to handle the issue.

    Thank you in advance for your thoughtful consideration and for sharing your approach.

    1. Dan Martin Post Author

      Susan, my writing in general on sin and salvation ought to make clear that drawing lines between “sin” and “not sin” are not my point…in particular because the next question among most is “is it a sin that’ll send me (or him or her) to hell?” Discipleship is not lines in the sand, it’s footprints on a path.

      My point in this essay was that it is wrong for the church or individual believers to “affirm” gay marriages/unions/sexual contact as holy and blessed by God.

      I realize you want clearer answers than that…but in all honesty I think those answers can only really be determined in fellowship with individuals. I do think that same-sex or any other extramaritalsexual activities–intercourse, mutual stimulation, etc (I can get clinical but choose not to) are wrong. I think a lot of folks of all orientations would testify (I can myself) that some of the other closeness can make the temptation all the harder to resist, even if the closeness itself is not overtly wrong…it depends on the people and the circumstances. I also think that everyone needs physical touch that demonstrates love, and that one of our problems is that we have so intertwined the ideas of love and affection and sex that we have a hard time realizing there’s such a thing as genuine, non-sexual love. I have had gay friends that I, as a straight male, still embrace warmly when we haven’t seen each other in a while. Neither of us is under any illusion that anything sexual is going on, but both of us know full well that a genuine affection is being expressed. Not only is that not sin, I think it’s very right.

      But there are things that Christians, individually and collectively, ought not affirm. That is the point of my post.

  11. Steve K.

    Dan, I’m sure you’re right that we agree on far more than we disagree. But we disagree pretty acutely on the subject of homosexuality.

    Just to respond quickly to your two points:

    1) “Do you therefore mean that we should not marry? You’re married…you just described your wife. You’re advocating for same-sex couples to marry. How’s that inaugurating the resurrection if we won’t be marrying in the new kingdom? Should all believers be celibate and unmarried?”

    Good question. Yes, I am married, and my marriage in this life is in no way a sign or foretaste of God’s kingdom. That’s precisely my point! Your theology rests on marriage between one man and one woman being a divine symbol of God’s ultimate reality — and it’s simply not. Thank you for proving my point.

    2) “you can’t have one part of Paul without the rest.”

    The Galatians 3:28 and Romans 1 aren’t in conflict at all for me. One is describing the future reality in the kingdom (as it should be), and the other is describing the present reality of the culture and situation Paul was describing and addressing at the time.

    You concluded, “the ties to a Scriptural basis, at least as you have presented them so far, are unsupportable.” Just stating the obvious here, but this is a discussion in the comments on an obscure blog post. This is not (and never will be) a conclusive, definitive theological debate. I appreciate the dialogue, but frankly you haven’t made the most convincing argument from Scripture either. At least, I’m still not convinced.

  12. Dan Martin

    Your theology rests on marriage between one man and one woman being a divine symbol of God’s ultimate reality — and it’s simply not. Thank you for proving my point.

    Huh? My “theology” rests on no such thing. All I said is that God has clearly defined marriage as between one man and one woman, and Jesus re-affirmed that. No “ultimate reality,” no “now” and “hereafter,” simply there’s something marriage is, and something it is not.

    Likewise Galatians and Romans. You can superimpose any extrabiblical timeframe on them you want, I suppose, but it’s not in the text.

    Fair enough…neither of us really thought we were going to convince the other, but I think it’s reasonable to say we’ve got some clarity on where each other stands. Cheers!

  13. Greg Leekley

    Susan, I wanted to enter the fray here in response to what I hope was a sincere question about how to give these young adults who are struggling a lasting hope…and it is a rare opportunity for me to agree with Dan hahaha, sorry, its just that I’m usually more conservative.

    At great risk of seemingly compounding the problem before elevating the solution let me just reference Jesus’s words in Matthew 5:27-28:
    “You have heard that it was said, ‘YOU SHALL NOT COMMIT ADULTERY’;
    but I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.

    The reason I wanted to highlight this is to try and refocus the issue away from the idea of a physical list of do’s and don’ts and boil the issue down to it ultimately being a heart issue for us all. If we don’t help young adults solve the real heart issues, the behavior changes or lack of changes don’t really matter and will only compound their problems.
    In our pressing on to the mark we must be careful not to draw the target around the arrow when other options feel or seem hopeless.

    The good news is of course that God loves us, but only His love can satisfy the real depth of our souls. We will wrestle with flesh this side of heaven but the real issue is to first be set apart and consecrate our minds, hearts and soul to Him with all our strength as He is worthy and our first true love. Biblical marriage is meant to be a symbol of His relationship to His body: the true and still-hidden church. The fact is, those young adults will not find the peace they desire in another person without first finding it in the fullness of Him. Refocus their hope and life on the One Who can actually make a difference and make sure they are aware that they are in a spiritual war zone taking hits at the moment. We are not called to a battleless existence but to victory, His victory. Is there any form of love greater than His? Is there anyone who will love them as much as He does and will? Is there anyone who is more concerned than you for their future? Then get those young adults focused on Him and under good biblical discipleship, anything else is a mere Band-Aid of behavior without a change of heart that only He can provide and will fail them and make them worse off in the long run.

    As to the Galatians verse, let’s be careful as to what it is and is not saying. There is a big difference between unity and uniformity. The issue Paul is addressing is the fact that gentiles are included in the Abrahamic covenant that has blossomed into the New Covenant of Messiah. Not that gentiles who believe are now Jews and Jews who believe are now gentiles, but rather Jew and Gentile are united by FAITH…why…because we can both be united to Him. Once the wall of separation in the temple came down and the veil was torn, we ALL now have direct access to the one Father and therefore are united and equal IN HIM! (Ephesians 2:11-16 and 4:4-6) In Him (made possible by His sacrifice and now filling of His Spirit), the believer’s body is now the temple and must be set apart and consecrated unto Him. His grace is our sufficiency as we live a life in the spirit that mortifies the flesh…but it is impossible to do if we focus on the flesh and the behavior good or bad (like moving chairs around on the deck of the Titanic)…we do the very thing we hate as the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak, and so many young adults are saying like Paul in Roman’s 7:23-25 “oh wretched man that I am, Who will set me free from this body of death?” The answer for them and us all is found in Romans 8.

    What they need to be told?…
    The Bad News:
    • We are at war
    • That warfare includes not merely outside agents, but our corrupted flesh
    • This side of heaven we are called to fight the good fight of faith in this war but we can’t do it alone and we fail often and fall down and get bruised.
    The Good News:
    • The victory is certain because He has overcome!
    • His motive for dying in the flesh was and is His crazy love for YOU!
    • He desires to fill the void in your heart in a way that ONLY He can.
    • He promises that NOTHING can separate you from His love, including your past or future sin, BUT He demands that He be made Lord of your Life…
    • Not because of ego, but because He IS GOD and it’s the best thing for you as He is LOVE and is completely LOVE motivated.
    • Take you eyes off everything and everyone else not pointing you to Him and renew your mind daily (yes our mindset can literally be renewed over time) and trust His grace is sufficient as you walk with Him now as your first true love.
    • He will renew, restore and reward you and share everything including His glory with you in the fullness of time…it hasn’t even entered your heart how great that will be (1 Corinthians 2:6-9).

    Will it be bumpy, yes, will the fallen world cut you, yes, will it be all out warfare, yes, BUT the more you let Him fight by filling up on Him, the stronger you will grow. We were not made to fight this fight alone. He alone is faithful so live by His Spirit and not the flesh by feeding the inner person and starving the flesh by giving it no attention to the good or bad while you build your spiritual muscles. Find others to walk and fight beside. We discover it is a truly abundant life that is truly counter-cultural and counter-intuitive but eternally real, lasting and satisfying.

    Galatians 3?
    • Is about being in Him.
    • If you are in Him then He has bought you and paid for you will a heavy price, and what your flesh desires is no longer the point.
    • Flesh, not governed by the Spirit, in any form – even good works out of pride, let alone some form of extra biblical sex – is not productive but part of being fallen in our flesh.
    • It is not about the behavior but the heart. Heart issues can be clearly surfaced by some behaviors and kept hidden in others. Some outward behavior seems just fine but God knows the heart. Even within the traditional marital bed, couples could be merely satisfying their own fleshly desires without really becoming one out of real concern for their’ spouse, I get it, doesn’t make it right in the heart.

    We are ALL born fallen in the flesh and have our thorn in the flesh in some form or another be it alcoholism, sexual addiction, pride, money/gambling, fame, power, and then list goes on…

    Please forgive any and all preachy tones; I hate hastily written one-sided, no-break communication about this stuff. The older I get the more I realize it is all about Him and that that is actually a good thing.

  14. Robert Roberg

    Dan,
    if we are judged on our sex lives no one will be saved. So I don’t judge gays, but as one who has changed his life because I want to be faithful to Jesus and wrestles daily with sexual impulses, I know that I am called to repress and not express my desires.

    You are correct if the church affirms gay sex they must confirm, incest, pedophila, man/boy or man/girl love, woman /boy and woman girl love, and bestiality.

    1. Dan Martin Post Author

      I think we’re on the same page, Robert, but I’d like to qualify your statement “if we are judged on our sex lives no one will be saved.” I think this needs a bit of nuance in that we in the church have taught the concept of “judgment” in a less-than-biblical manner. We will all be “judged” on what we teach/do/choose, but not all judgment leads to condemnation. For a more comprehensive overview of the distinction, may I point you to my Mom’s word study on judgment.

  15. Jimmy Joe

    Dan,

    you say your liberal friends might get offended, but they really shouldn’t be.

    You clearly do not care if governments sanction same sex marriage, and I assume all the legal entitlements that go along with it. I don’t really see what a liberal person would have to quibble about with that statement.

    And in reference to the discussion about biblical interpretation, Jesus did address it. homosexuality was prohibited in the Old Testatment, and Jesus was not there to change one jot of the old laws.

    If you can’t see this you are cherry-picking to suit your own morals and beliefs, not what is proscribed.

    If God wanted this changed, he would change it, oh wait, didn’t you do an article on that too…..

  16. JM Smith

    This is a VERY well-written piece. Well said.

    What is baffling to me is the extent to which those claiming to be proponents of “loving” and “compassionate” theology seem ready to abandon such concepts when they encounter people who disagree with them.

    I believe a biblically balanced position (such as the one you present in this post) is harder to hold than either a Fundamentalist or Liberal position because it draws fire from those on both sides.

    Props to you for holding the tension. I try to do likewise in my own discussion of this divisive topic (which you can read at http://jmsmith.org/blog/two-methodists-discuss-same-sex-relationships-and-scripture/ )

    Blessings from the Dojo,
    JM

    1. Dan Martin Post Author

      JM, I appreciate your affirmation, and also the link to your blog. I would also link to the article you originally wrote, as I think it’s even better than the dialog with Chad which you posted. I was actually intrigued to see your statement that the Foundry church was opposing “official UM doctrine on the incompatibility of same-sex sexual relationships and Christian sexual ethics” with it’s stance of blessing same-sex unions. I guess I relied on anecdotal evidence, but I have seen so many UM churches flying rainbow flags, and the one I visited had a brochure on its open-and-affirming stance in the pew rack, so I assumed that affirming must be official UM policy…one of several reasons I’ve never considered a UM church when looking for a fellowship when my family has moved.

      You express the tension well in your article and post. One trivial addition I might offer on Chad’s tangential reference to Paul’s attitude toward women…in 1 Tim. 2:12, Paul says “I do not permit women to teach or have authority…” I find that choice of pronoun very interesting, because when Paul makes a universal statement, he doesn’t tend to qualify it with his own personal authority. It’s possible to take that too far, but it’s food for thought.

  17. Larry Haron

    Dan, I’m reminded of a quote by a friend of mine who was a GSU faculty member: “We’re all deviants. It’s just a matter of degree.” (and I would add… “and inclination.”) Do I win anything for posting the briefest of comments?

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