• Two Methodists discuss same-sex relationships and Scripture

Two Methodists discuss same-sex relationships and Scripture

In response to my article on Foundry UMC’s recent decision to allow recognition of same-sex sexual relationships on its premises and by its clergy, I’ve had a number of interesting comments (some civil, some antagonistic, some just plain silly) sent my way. However, my fellow North Carolina UM blogger, Chad Holtz, pastor and student at Duke Divinity School, expressed disagreement with my article and I would like to address his points since he is someone I respect and our discussion has the potential to illuminate this divisive issue from our generation’s perspective within the UMC.

Here is the discussion from my Facebook posting of the article, along with my response to Chad’s questions. (I’ve invited Chad to respond on his blog and when he does I will post a link to it so that Disciple Dojo readers can follow along!)

Chad: JM – I think Gagnon is wrong on this on pretty much all fronts. I also find it dangerous ground to speak so surely of that which God does or does not “endorse.” Using this Bible this way has led to all sorts of abuse – slavery being j…ust one of them. While I’m not sure yet if Foundry is doing the best thing, I don’t think they are going against God. Perhaps conservative Christians, but the two aren’t the same.

JM: Chad, I can’t see how you could say Gagnon is wrong on “pretty much all fronts” unless that’s shorthand for “I don’t like him very much”; is there a serious scholarly engagement of his work where it is refuted decisively (or even attempted)… that I’m missing? If so, I’d be interested to know of it.

However, forget Gagnon for now. Richard Hayes (as I’m sure you know!) comes to similar conclusions. Is he wrong on all counts as well?

The question that is at the heart of any discussion withing the church on the issue of same-sex behavior and the acceptance/rejection of it, in my opinion, is this:

“What exegetical and hermeneutic principle allows one to say that same-sex sexual relationships are allowed by God?”

I know the emotional arguments and the arguments from a ‘Scripture-as-less-than-accurate’ approach, but when there is no tension within the canonical record regarding an ethical issue (in this case, the act of same-sex sex; not the treatment of or love for those who struggle with it–that is a separate issue), how can one say that God has not spoken to it? As I point out in the post, when it comes to other social/civil rights issues (such as slavery), Scripture itself presents at the very least a canonical development or tension that alerts the reader. When it comes to same-sex sexual relationships, as Hayes has demonstrated quite well (in “The Moral Vision of the New Testament”), there is no similar counter-witness within Scripture. I’m unaware of any argument in favor of same-sex sexual relationships among those who take Scripture as Inspired and Authoritative that is not based on emotion, eisegesis, or a combination of the two…If there were ANY counter examples in actual Scripture that spoke of same sex sexual relationships as acceptable (as there are for women issues) you would have a point. But there aren’t. Scripture is unanimous in its prohibition of same-sex sexual relationships. That’s why Christians of all denominations and traditions have held to this, despite differing on so many other issues, until the last half century when it became culturally fashionable to reinterpret and revise history to accommodate the acceptance of such relationships.

Chad: JM,
No, I don’t like Gagnon. And while I have tremendous respect for Hays, and love Moral Vision (apart from one chapter), I think he’s wrong on this count (and from what I know of Hays, he’s open to that possibility).

Scripture has nothing …to say about “same sex relationships” as we know them today. Not a word. All 6 times it comes up in the Bible they are unanimously about cultic worship, abuse or rape. None of them have a loving, mutual relationship in sight.

I find it untenable to take a stand on the idea that just because a “counter example” is not given in Scripture then the one interpretation you land on regarding those 6 passages must be universal in nature. It really undermines the authority of Scripture and here is why: It suggests that every jot and tittle in the Bible has universal implications, meant for all times and all places, EXCEPT for those places where the Bible contradicts itself. IOW, Paul’s admonition that women remain silent in ALL the churches is universal for all times and all places (normatively) BUT, since we have an example of a woman speaking in church, THAT particular command is contextual, not universal. It sets the Bible up as some systematic book that actively seeks to confirm what is universal and contradict what is not. And then we are left to sort through this “encyclopedia” to figure out which is which.

The point is – even if there were not an example of a woman speaking in church, I would hope we’d come to the conclusion through the Spirit’s leading that Paul’s words were contextually construed and meant for a particular time and space. The issue is more murky with slavery, since slavery is upheld all throughout Scripture and nowhere is it said to be sin to own slaves. So for the church to now take a stand against slavery in all forms is really to go against the moral world of the Bible – the same one you try to construct when it comes to homosexuality (which again, has nothing to do with same sex relationships).

What, exactly, is “sinful” about a loving, committed, same-sex relationship? Can anyone tell me what it is about this that makes it sinful, apart from just saying, “God said so”? In other words, we can no doubt come up with all sorts of reasons why murder, adultery, incest, lying, stealing, lust, etc are “sinful” which don’t rely solely on “God said so.” So what is it about a same sex loving relationship that is “sinful”?

JM: Hey Chad, thanks for at least admitting your personal feelings about Gagnon. I can sympathize because I don’t like the way he comes across in speaking or popular writing…but his work in “The Bible and Homosexual Practice” and “The Bible …and Homosexuality: 2 Views” (w/ Dan O. Via) has yet to be refuted in any serious manner that I’m aware of (but again, please share if you’ve come across anything that does). If you haven’t actually read those two works in particular I would strongly encourage you to as they (along with “Moral Vision” and William Webb’s “Slaves, Women & Homosexuals”) lay the foundation for this issue in its entirety, particularly the hermeneutical questions that you raise.

Chad, I’d like to move this discussion to my blog and answer your two posts above there. Then, if you like, you can respond on your blog and I’ll link to it so that both of our readers can share in this discussion. I think it would be very fruitful for people to hear two UMs discuss this issue with open disagreement and challenging one another in a spirit of honesty and charity (Chris, feel free to comment on it, but we both know that your debate style doesn’t lend itself to this type of interaction!). What do you think, Chad? I’ll share the link here when I post it and then you can respond whenever you have time…as I remember the life of the seminarian not being exactly full of free time to blog! :)

BTW, Paul never told women to remain silent in all the churches. He said that God was a God of order in all the churches. Here’s how we know this: http://www.examiner.com/methodist-in-national/ladies-does-the-bible-tell-you-to-zip-it

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  1. Ralph Davis

    A serious ethical conundrum comes up when we deal with sexual ethics in other areas besides homosexuality, which most theological liberal Christians still agree with us about. Incest for example. It was widely practiced and accepted in the ancient near east. We even see evidence of this in the patriarchs of scripture: Abraham before he was called by God, married his half-sister. Full brother/sister marriages were standard among the Pharaohs of Egypt (the birth defects from perhaps contributing the fall of dynasties?) and the Semites living in Canaan worshiped brother/sister gods who were also husband and wife…

    In fact, scholars looking at the context of the Levitical “holiness code” (Leviticus 18) in the section about sexual ethics, see it as a negative listing of standard Ancient Near Eastern practices….which the Israelites were strictly forbidden to imitate.

    Back to the (yes unsavory) point about incest. Nowhere in the New Testament is incest openly condemned. Paul does condemn it indirectly in I Corinthians–when it was actually a kind of technical incest (a man was evidently sleeping with his step-mother). THE go-to place in scripture, however where we know incest is immoral–and contrary to God’s will–is Lev. 18.

    Incest was used culticly (as has virtually every sexual practice) in ancient pagan idol worship, but that’s not the condition of condemnation–the practice itself was condemned. One can envision a consensual adult non-abusive (and with one partner sterile) incestuous union. SO WHAT??? Any and all incest is condemned as an “abomination” (meaning akin to the worst of all sins….idol worship).

    Here’s where the problem becomes–if critical Christian thinkers want to disregard the commands in Lev. 18 about HOMOSEXUAL PRACTICE –as simply being against cultic (idol worshiping) or abusive (master/slave, adult/child) relationships, then logically, since they are part of the same list, in context, the same line of argument should go for incest (or bestiality, for that matter). I. e., if Lev. 18 allows for homosexual practice, it allows for incestuous, and beastial practice as well.

    Liberal critics should be aware of that, and to be consistent should therefore be total sexual libertines (and a few are). Happily most are not, but, they stumble on their own arguments.

    Of course Lev. 18 actually does clearly condemn incest, bestiality, AND homosexual practice–in all forms and contexts.


    Comment by Ralph Davis on October 1, 2010 at 7:23 pm

  2. jm

    Yes, Ralph, but this is when one begins to hear the argument shifted from hermeneutics to pragmatism. They point to beastiality and (rightly) observe that it is not two humans (which is valid and which is why I never equate the two–particularly since it has the effect of likening people with same-sex attraction to animals! There’s no place for that in the discussion, I believe).

    However, the incest point is evaded by pointing to the supposed intrinsic psychological harm that accompanies incest. Since such harm does not (it is argued) intrinsically accompany same-sex committed relationships, they are not sinful. This is where the shift from Biblical ethics to pragmatic ethics takes place–albeit unintentionally or unknowingly.


    Comment by jm on October 1, 2010 at 7:35 pm

  3. Ralph and JM-
    The shift you speak of JM should not be dismissed just because it is a shift. It has validity. You do the same thing when you argue for women’s ordination rights or even their right to speak in church. If you don’t think you do, argue that position with a Southern Baptist. You’ll be seen as someone who doesn’t take the clear universal commands of Scripture as truth but elevate a few narrative assumptions where women did this or that (and all of them have good reason, such as Deborah had to lead men since no man would do it, etc) over and above Paul’s clear didactic teachings (I’m sure you’ve heard that before).

    The question Ralph raises is worth pondering: What of the ethical/moral world of the Bible? Should we use it as a matrix for our own? Should we just transport that moral world into our own? I don’t think any of us would really want that (or think it to be what God desires of us). In Deut the woman raped was required to marry her rapist after he paid a dowry for her. This was to make the family unit “normal” and, most likely, to ensure the woman at least had a man to care for her and her bastard child rather than be left to die because she is now “unclean.” Polygamy was “normal” but today it is not. Did God change or did we?

    In fact, this whole notion of marrying out of a free choice made in love is foreign to the Bible. Marriage was arranged and was done for economic reasons – not out of love. And Paul seems perfectly fine with counseling a young man to marry the woman he lusts after to make their sexual unions “normal.” Would you guys counsel a member of your youth to marry the girl he lusts after? I’d hope not.

    All this to say the moral world of the Bible is not our own and it is a mistake to try to make it as such. But thanks be to God we are not left orphaned but have the Spirit of truth to LEAD us. Perhaps if we listened, we too would be able to say, “It seems right to us and the Holy Spirit” that we should not count the homosexual loving relationship as outside God’s kingdom.


    jm Reply:

    Chad, I’ll share more in my response, but I disagree with a few of your interpretations of the passages you mention here (i.e. The passage is not about “rape” but rather “seduction”, etc). We may agree that Scripture does not prohibit women from teaching men, but our reasons for doing so are not the same, I’d imagine (I’m not a typical Egalitarian). My discussions with Complementarian friends is not centered on pragmatic arguments, nor on a change in Biblical ethics, as many Egalitarians (and you yourself) seem to accept. I’ll clarify more when I post.


    Comment by Chad Holtz on October 1, 2010 at 7:58 pm

  4. Ralph Davis

    I see your point, jm, and it illustrates the real dividing line on the homosexual issue–as on so many issues–is that of the authority of scripture. Is it our base and measure of ethics, or just in an advisory capacity? Or to put it in a way Wesley would know, do we really believe:

    HOLY Scriptures containeth all things necessary to salvation: so that whatsoever is not read therein, nor may be proved thereby, is not to be required of any man, that it should be believed as an article of the faith, or be thought requisite or necessary to salvation.

    (Article VI of the Anglican “Articles of Religion”)


    Comment by Ralph Davis on October 1, 2010 at 8:18 pm

  5. Ralph Davis

    The Deuteronomy marital laws were a part of the CIVIL law of ancient Israel. While crude to us today, they were as timely and just (or moreso) than any other forms of law in the ancient world. None-the-less, as part of the CIVIL code of ancient Hebrew law, they have never been seen as a basis of moral codes for Christians.

    Lev. 18′s sexual ethics have though, historically, been recognized by the Church universal, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit–who is consistent with His word–as part of the universal and continuing MORAL code Christians are bound by. Either you must say that for 2000 years Christians have been totally ignorant and confused (and are still that way, since well over 2/3 of Christianity believe this way yet) ….(and we’re SOOO much smarter, and wiser now, just since the 1960s….) or the Holy Spirit is capricious, and has changed His mind…. What was once, equated with incest–and an abomination as bad as idolatry–is now a wonderful blessing of the gay Holy Spirit….

    Paul was well aware of consensual non-abusive homosexual relationships…the Greco-Roman world was full of such examples. Yet Paul, the Pharisee….AND Christian, along with the Jewish world of his day, clearly called the very act of homosexual sex–both for men and women–a serious evil, just as had the Law before him. Romans 1 leaves no doubt, for those who accept the authority of God’s word.

    As to comparing the polity issue of women in Church leadership, to basic sexual ethics, is a misnomer. I do personally know pastors and theologians who sincerely and firmly object to womens’ ordination on the basis of the New Testament–and they do NOT put it in the same category as confusion on something as basic as sexual ethics. One is an order of magnitude more foundational than the other.

    Ethics follow theology. The theology of not acknowledging the supreme and final authority of scripture has led to the incredibly sad and rankly evil prospect of churchmen calling evil, good, and good, evil.


    Comment by Ralph Davis on October 1, 2010 at 8:48 pm

  6. Jay H

    I’d like to know the 6 passages on homosexuality that Chad referred to so that I know I am on the same page.


    Comment by Jay H on October 1, 2010 at 9:05 pm

  7. Ralph,
    I’m not arguing the civility or justness of those laws in their day – I agree they were rather progressive (if only we would be as much!) :)

    I find it interesting how you tidily dissect the civil from moral law within Torah. Try to tell that to an orthodox Jew living in ancient Israel.

    Paul may or may not have been aware of same sex mutual, loving relationships. Can your prove it either way? Let’s say he did, which I’m willing to grant (though doubt). He’d be acting as a faithful Jew who still had scruples about cleanliness and patriarchal views of marriage and relationships which would not sit well with the idea of feminizing another male through homosexual intercourse.

    The bottom line is this: How is a same sex mutually committed relationship destructive to self or others? How does it suck life from one as opposed to give life? How does it diminish that “joy” which life in Jesus is meant to bring (John 15:11). Is denying a human being who is born with same-sex attraction a life where they can love and be loved the “abundant life” Jesus came to bring? How does that aid in human flourishing?

    As to your insulting slurs (gay Holy Spirit) and condescending attitude ( leaves no doubt, for those who accept the authority of God’s word), please find a better way to communicate. Some would say such an attitude is every bit an abomination to God and antithetical to a life in the Spirit as what you seem to think homosexuals are.



    Comment by Chad Holtz on October 1, 2010 at 9:13 pm

  8. Jay H –
    I cover each of the 6 here: http://chadholtz.net/2009/08/07/homosexuality-the-clobber-verses/


    Comment by Chad Holtz on October 1, 2010 at 9:22 pm

  9. Ralph Davis

    For someone who sincerely believes the Holy Spirit is leading one to the idea that homosexual sex is healthy, happy and normal, and God-pleasing, using the word “gay” with the Holy Spirit should be no slur at all.

    Your argument here too, has no basis in the authority of the bible, so, you are showing that you yourself look to pragmatic, non-scriptural arguments over and above holy Scripture. I don’t mean to be insulting or condescending, merely accurate and honest.

    The psychological or social argument is incredibly weak…as one can probably find fairly happy, well balanced–but none-the-less quite twisted, self-destructive, and fallen persons in any neighborhood on earth. Happiness is no measure of holiness, in fact the Beattitudes would seem to teach something very different than that.

    Any psychologist or counselor will tell you that an undue proportion of their clients struggle with homosexual orientation. Virtually every measurable self-destructive area, substance-abuse, alcoholism, physical-abuse, sexual-abuse, pedophilia, and other areas, have disproportionate numbers of homosexuals among them. Does this mean persons who suffer homosexual orientation are extra-bad people? NO. It does mean they tend to be extra-troubled–as sexual orientation is a deep issue. Scripture tells us ALL of us are sinners, ALL orientated from birth to rebel against God, to self-and-other-destructive behavior–which is why Christ came to die for us, and rose from death, giving us a hope and a future–in overcoming, not accommodating, sin.

    Bottom line is that the solution is Christ, known through the Bible, whose Holy Spirit enables us to overcome our inborn self-destructive tendencies….and that’s for ALL kinds of people, those who struggle with homosexual orientation, or not.

    What would you tell the person who suffers from a sexual orientation I’d assume you’d acknowledge as destructive, like toward multiple partners? Wouldn’t you want them to abstain…..and work on their deep issues, in counseling and fellowship, feeding on God’s word, dependent on the Holy Spirit for strength? What makes homosexual orientation an exception to that?


    Comment by Ralph Davis on October 1, 2010 at 9:55 pm

  10. “For someone who sincerely believes the Holy Spirit is leading one to the idea that homosexual sex is healthy, happy and normal, and God-pleasing, using the word “gay” with the Holy Spirit should be no slur at all.”

    It’s offensive, Ralph, in the same way a white person calling a black person the “n” word is offensive to black people. Apparently your argument would be, “Since they say it, why can’t I call them one?”

    As for homosexual sex being healthy, happy and normal and God-pleasing – maybe it wouldn’t be for you. But it is for the gay person.

    And actually, my argument is deeply rooted in the Bible – ALL of it (not just 6 verses pulled out of context). If you read my article on my blog titled The Six Clobber Verses you would see that.

    But besides all of that, attacking someone who disagrees with you by essentially saying “I love the Bible more than you!” is childish. When was the last time you used that and a Christian responded with, “You know, you are right – I hate the Bible’s authority and am trying my best to get out from under it”? While I disagree with you and think you are using the Bible wrongly, I don’t doubt that you take it as authoritative. Try to offer others who see this differently than you the same grace, ok?


    Comment by Chad Holtz on October 2, 2010 at 12:44 pm

  11. Chris McCauley

    JMS, I would like to respectfully disagree that there is a shift from “What the Bible teaches” in the Christian sense, to “What is harmful” in the humanist sense. You seem to be setting up a dichotomy between these two concepts as if they are opposed to each other, and I don’t believe that they are.

    The argument you seem to be making is “Yes, homosexual acts don’t cause harm, but the Bible tells us not to, very clearly, so we can’t.”

    You seem to be arguing that there is some sort of requirement for us to do (or not do things) outside of this rubric of help/harm.

    I think that’s false. Rather, it’s the golden rule that must be upheld, and the purpose of all of God’s laws, all of Paul’s pronunciations and all of the Levitical code is contained in that law.

    Any admonition in the Bible TO DO or NOT TO do something is aimed at the golden rule, and that rule is to love your neighbor as yourself. (to help your neighbor and yourself and not to harm your neighbor or yourself).

    For instance, God commanded the sabbath so that people could love God, and love each other, to put aside work for a while and concentrate on those two relationships.

    In Jesus’ time, Jews took the law literally and ignored the purpose of it and claimed that you couldn’t heal on the sabbath. But that of course is ridiculous, because the whole point of the Sabbath is to love neighbor and love God. So of course it’s permissible to heal on the sabbath. The mosaic law is SUBORDINATE to the true Moral Law. The Mosaic law was AIMED AT achieving the Moral Law.

    I believe that Paul, and in Leviticus, there were very VERY good reasons for injunctions against homosexuality, those being that prostitution is harmful to oneself and others (it is the opposite of loving yourself), and that using homosexual acts to worship, say Hermes, was injurious to the loving relationship with God.

    If you want to say that homosexual relationships or sexual acts are somehow injurious to love of self or love of others, that’s an argument that can be made. Of course, you will have little data to stand on as the idea that a homosexual relationship is NOT injurious to self or others is a universally accepted fact in Psychology.

    But to argue that something DOES NOT violate the golden rule, but is somehow “wrong” is logically impossible. The reason Paul wrote against homosexual acts is because he thought they WERE harmful, and considering some of the practices of his day (pederasty, pedophillia, homosexual rape, homosexual slavery, homosexual god worship) it’s easy to understand why he did (as all these forms of homosexual practice DO violate the Moral Law).

    But to say that all homosexual acts, or all homosexual relationships are morally wrong, IRRESPECTIVE of whether or not they violate Moral law, simply “because it says so” in the Bible, is logically untenable.

    Perhaps at the time Paul wrote he thought that all homosexual acts WERE harmful, and perhaps he REALLY DID mean all homosexual acts. We know now however, that this isn’t true, that IF that was what Paul meant, he was wrong! Some homosexual acts are NOT harmful to self or others. As well as the fact that many homosexual relationships are very loving and committed relationships.

    Saying that the Moral Law is to love self and others, and the fact that a homosexual relationship can BE loving self and others means that there’s nothing wrong with it at all, in fact, there is everything right with it.

    We are not contradicting God or the Moral Law simply because we are contradicting Paul. Our circumstances have changed, and we no longer have a Roman culture of homosexual rape or idol sex worship.

    And Jesus, in contradicting Moses, wasn’t contradicting the Moral Law either. In Moses’ time, he allowed for divorce to prevent the greater harm of (sometimes physical) conflict that would happen when you are in close proximity in tents in the desert. It was better for the tribe to have a divorce than for people (who were living in close quarters and with their families) to have tribal conflict, which could threaten their very survival.

    However, in Jesus’ time, when Jews lived in the city, the reason Jewish men wanted a divorce was so that they didn’t have to care for their children and so that they could have multiple sexual partners, and leave their former wife destitute.

    In Moses’ time divorce served the moral law, but in Jesus’ time divorce was used to perpetrate evil. In the same way, Paul’s injunctions were used in his time to keep Christians away from pagan sacrifice, prostitution, rape and pedophilia.

    Now, in our day, Paul’s injunctions are being used to keep two loving people from being in a loving, committed relationship. Paul’s words are being used to foster hatred against homosexuals, to ban all homosexual marriages, and to engender acts of violence and hatred against homosexuals.

    ANY word in the Bible, any word at all, is being said to foster the purpose of the Moral Law: To love God and to love neighbor. That’s WHY the Bible was written!

    To look at a loving homosexual relationship and say “A loving homosexual relationship is wrong.” is outright BIZZARE! The whole purpose of the Moral Law is LOVE!

    Nothing is wrong that is loving!

    So to sum up, to set up a dichotomy between “What the Bible commands is wrong” and “What is harmful to self and others is wrong” is to completely misunderstand the Bible.

    There are no rules or laws in the Bible that are mishappenly placed by fiat! All of the rules are there to get us to love God and neighbor! there are not two sets of moral rules: those that god commands/those that cause harm.

    It is all ONE rule, the Law of Love.


    Comment by Chris McCauley on October 2, 2010 at 5:06 pm

  12. Ralph Davis

    Chad: My discussion is limited to this page. Your argument here, and I have to assume on your own page too, on scripture is that we are just too far removed from the bible and its world to understand it, or to apply it rightly. You yourself used the term “orphaned” to describe our relationship to that poor, unintelligible, ancient set of books written in a far-off land …. but happily, you argued, the Holy Spirit APART from the bible leads us into all truth….

    Please don’t try to prevail in this discussion by pretending its about name-calling either. I used the word “gay” which you well know is a polite term used by homosexual and non–in a sarcastic way, which if you truly believe the Holy Spirit of God blesses homo-genital sex, you really should have no problem at all with. The Apostle Paul, the prophets in scripture, and Jesus Himself routinely used sarcasm in their arguments… and considering I’m sure you go along with those who try to paint those of us with the 3000+ year-old accepted biblical world view on sexuality as “bigots,” on the same moral level as KKKers, lets man-up and brush hurt feelings aside.

    My argument here is that the Holy Spirit works in complete accord with, in, over, around and under (to borrow the Lutheran sacramental phrase) the words He inspired in the bible without contradiction. He bridges the cultural/time gap in understanding and application, working through thorough diligent study of the cultural and linguistic context of scripture. Post-modernism is wrong–we CAN know things for certain, even from ancient texts. Our own context does affect interpretation and application, but continuity in human nature and language does persist–and communication from the dual-authoriship (human and Holy Spirit) of the biblical text across the centuries is possible.

    Yes, I do accept there are 3 kinds of commands or law within the Old Testament:
    1) Civil, having to do with the administration of civil law of the ancient theocratic kingdom of Israel (long gone, even in Jesus’ day, therefore not binding on us).
    2 )Ceremonial, having to do with the ancient religion/cult of Israel, sacrifices and blood laws, including Kosher regulations (also not binding on Christians, as fulfilled in Jesus sacrifice on the cross, and made officially non-binding by the Apostolic Church as seen in the book of Acts, esp. Ch 15, the Jerusalem Council) and finally
    3) Moral, having mostly to do with personal ethical-including sexual behavior, summarized in the 10 Commandments which encompass love of God and neighbor—to which all Christians are responsible to STILL obey. These moral-law parts of the OT include the Lev 18 holiness code….which is the primary reason you and I know for certain that things like bestiality or incest are absolutely wrong…. and why I fully accept that homosexual behavior–regardless the context–is also absolutely wrong. There are no double-standards in God’s moral law, what’s right is right, what’s wrong is wrong, independent of the person, or their particular pattern of orientation to sin.

    This 3-fold understanding of Old Testament law is not new, by any means, but, unfortunately is often neglected by professors and teachers who don’t hold a high view of scripture. Some parts of the law are, admittedly difficult to discern as to being civil, ceremonial or moral, however, historically–the sexual regulations have been THE least controversial, with virtual unanimity amidst the scholars of thousands of denominations–split on all kinds of other issues.

    On sexual behavior for example, my views from scripture are nearly identical to that of the Roman Catholic or Eastern Orthodox churches, even though we differ greatly on a number of other issues.

    Here’s a 1530s Protestant understanding of the 3 types of OT commands: “Although the Law given from God by Moses, as touching Ceremonies and Rites, do not bind Christian men, nor the Civil precepts thereof ought of necessity to be received in any commonwealth; yet notwithstanding, no Christian man whatsoever is free from the obedience of the Commandments which are called Moral.” (from Article VII of the Anglican “Thirty-nine Articles”)

    Justification is accomplished by Jesus on the cross, and sanctification is a work of the Holy Spirit in us bringing us to mature into a holy people–measurable by our obedience to His moral law….seen in the Old Testament, through the lens, as it were, of the New Testament.

    Jesus made clear He didn’t come to abolish the OT law, in spite of some popular Christian ideas that He did. Jesus’ work did abolish the POWER of the law to condemn us to Hell….in that His perfect life and righteousness is applied to us, when we trust Him in faith. However, after we believe, and are “saved” to use the popular term, we are saved to be holy and to do something…and that is to gratefully please the One who alone saved us.

    The way we know the content of our love for God and others is pure, is by reflectively looking to God’s law….one reason why many older Churches will have the 10 Commandments up in the front of the chancel….. in that our walk as Christians, maturing in Christ, needs the guidance of God’s Moral Law in His word, the bible.

    “You shall not commit adultery”, the 7th Commandment, in the Hebrew mind was expansive…covering ALL forms of sexual sin, not merely a man or wife cheating on their spouse. Jesus even took it further, showing it even covered our sexual fantasies…. Definitely amidst the Jewish scholars, and subsequently in Christian ones, it covers homosexual practice too….which is without any exception whatsoever, forbidden in scripture. Therefore to those of us for whom this is obvious, limp-wristed liberal theology, which wants to bless sexual perversion, is very really “blessing” adultery….

    6 verses? Fewer verses there about incest or child beating…..are you promoting those too? Number of verses is no argument as to the seriousness of an offense of God’s Law.

    The objection is raised that no example of homosexual behavior in scripture was consensual or loving or based on mutual commitment. The ancient forms of homosexual behavior the bible dealt with, we are told, were abusive, master/slave, or adult/child.

    First off, the text doesn’t say that….(Lev 18 simply describes and proscribes the sexual acts, not the context of them) and 2ndly, SO WHAT? Prostitution in biblical times almost invariably involved abuse and idol worship too….does that mean that non-abusive, non-idol worshiping prostitution is just fine? No…the context of why someone has sex outside of marriage isn’t addressed, for good reason, as human nature being what it is, we rationalize away all kinds of sinful, selfish behavior.

    How many people in your city are engaging in extra-marital affairs are TRYING to hurt someone? Probably not many….most affairs are based on a loving mutually committed relationship ….JUST to someone other than whom was made the marital vows.

    Just to be clear, the REASON someone like myself or others who hold the bible as our highest authority get so upset about those pastors or religious leaders who are confused about sexual ethics, is that we believe you are teaching that sexual sin, real ADULTERY is just fine….and such sin, if clung to and unrepented of, leads people away from Jesus, and LITERALLY into the gaping jaws of Hell.

    Jesus warned that it would be better for us to have a millstone tied around our neck and thrown into the ocean, than to lead His little ones to sin….so BECAUSE you are a leader, is exactly why I am so hard on you.


    Comment by Ralph Davis on October 2, 2010 at 5:55 pm

  13. Chris,
    That is one of the most succinct description of the problem along with a thoughtful, biblical way forward as I’ve read. I wonder if you wouldn’t mind sharing that on my blog under a post I put up this morning as a means to further this discussion? It can be found here: http://chadholtz.net/2010/10/02/questions-about-elephants-and-gay-sex/



    Comment by Chad Holtz on October 2, 2010 at 6:42 pm

  14. “Chad: My discussion is limited to this page. Your argument here, and I have to assume on your own page too, on scripture is that we are just too far removed from the bible and its world to understand it,”

    Sorry, but for the moment I stopped reading at that point. You couldn’t be more wrong. Perhaps you should familiarize yourself with the biblical arguments that affirm same sex relationships rather than assuming so much.



    Comment by Chad Holtz on October 2, 2010 at 6:44 pm

  15. Chris McCauley

    Please do so Chad, I’d appreciate it.




    Comment by Chris McCauley on October 2, 2010 at 7:43 pm

  16. Chris McCauley

    Ralph: Chad doesn’t seem inclined to comment as it seems he disagrees with your characterization of him as “out of touch” with ancient texts. But I will engage your arguments.

    >There are no double-standards in God’s moral law, what’s right is right, what’s >wrong is wrong, independent of the person, or their particular pattern of >orientation to sin.

    I wholeheartedly agree with this point.

    >the 7th Commandment, in the Hebrew mind was expansive…covering ALL >forms of sexual sin

    This just isn’t true. Ancient Hebrew attitudes towards sex are not dogmatic, puritanical and expansive. Rather, they were specific and contextual. Ask any Rabbi. I did. Puritanical Anglo Saxon Protestant sexual ethics, and Jewish sexual ethics are not the same thing. One look at Song of Solomon is enough to convince anyone that the ancient Hebrews had a love of sex and sexual acts of all kinds.

    >I’m sure you go along with those who try to paint those of us with the >3000+ year-old accepted biblical world view on sexuality as “bigots,” on the >same moral level as KKKers, lets man-up and brush hurt feelings aside.

    A. I don’t agree that your view has been universally accepted for 3000+ years. Christian attitudes toward homosexuality have waxed and waned over the past 3000 years. For instance, same sex marriage under Christian Roman Rule was legal: AFTER the empire had converted to Christianity as the official religion. There was also same sex marriage in the Catholic Church in the early middle ages Boswell documented this very well. So your attempt to claim that your personal view is identical to the historical Christian view is false, Christian attitudes about homosexuality have changed, weaving in an out over time.

    B. People who are for equal rights for Homosexuals (such as myself) DO view you as opposing human rights! While this doesn’t make you a member of the KKK, or make YOU PERSONALLY a bigot, the policies are nonetheless opposed to equal rights. Treating homosexual as sinners or homosexual acts as a sin contributes to the oppression of homosexual persons, in just the same way that claiming “interracial marriage is sinful” is injurious to human rights.

    >Moral, having mostly to do with personal ethical-including sexual behavior, >summarized in the 10 Commandments which encompass love of God and >neighbor—to which all Christians are responsible to STILL obey.

    Couldn’t agree more.

    >First off, the text doesn’t say that….(Lev 18 simply describes and proscribes >the sexual acts, not the context of them)

    Yes, it does. It mentions that these acts were performed for a false God and mentions Molech BY NAME.

    Lev 18
    1You must not do as they do in Egypt, where you used to live, and you must not do as they do in the land of Canaan, where I am bringing you. Do not follow their practices.

    In other words, God is prohibiting these customs because they were practices used in foreign lands to worship foreign Gods.

    Lev 18
    21 ” ‘Do not give any of your children to be sacrificed [a] to Molech, for you must not profane the name of your God. I am the LORD.

    All of these practices were prohibited by God because they were used to worship Molech, or were used to worship an Egyptian God, as mentioned in verse 1.

    >Prostitution in biblical times almost invariably involved abuse and idol >worship too….does that mean that non-abusive, non-idol worshiping >prostitution is just fine? No.

    But that’s because Prostitution violates the commandment you have outlined above: It is not loving of self or neighbor. Prostitution causes serious psychological scars, loss of self esteem and other multiple psychological maladies, not to mention the destruction of self which comes with being riddled with STDs. Prostitution is a destructive act.

    >How many people in your city are engaging in extra-marital affairs are >TRYING to hurt someone? Probably not many….most affairs are based on a >loving mutually committed relationship ….JUST to someone other than whom >was made the marital vows.

    No, all people who engage in extra-marital affairs are hurting someone: they are lying because they have taken an oath NOT to have sexual relations with anyone else, forever. By breaking that promise, they are lying: this hurts both them, their wife, and the person they are cheating with. Affairs are VERY hurtful. Ask anyone who’s been cheated on.

    >Just to be clear, the REASON someone like myself or others who hold the >bible as our highest authority get so upset about those pastors or religious >leaders who are confused about sexual ethics, is that we believe you are >teaching that sexual sin, real ADULTERY is just fine….and such sin, if clung to >and unrepented of, leads people away from Jesus, and LITERALLY into the >gaping jaws of Hell.

    And I would respond that, rather, it is you who are leading people to sin in that you are claiming something is a sin when it isn’t. You have two people who love each other, and you are saying that they shouldn’t love each other. That you want to abolish that love and destroy it because it is evil.

    But, I respond that this kind of love (between two people of the same gender) isn’t evil. It isn’t adultery, and it isn’t sexual sin. It is a good and loving act, just as two people of different races getting married is a good and loving act, two people of the same gender getting married is also a good and loving act.

    >These moral-law parts of the OT include the Lev 18 holiness code….which is >the primary reason you and I know for certain that things like bestiality or >incest are absolutely wrong…. and why I fully accept that homosexual >behavior–regardless the context–is also absolutely wrong.

    The reason Beastiality and Incest are wrong is that they are injurious to love, and the reason Homosexuality is not wrong is that it is NOT injurious to love.

    Bestiality is a form of sexual slavery, because an animal cannot consent (doesn’t speak English and is of the intelligence of a human child), and thus, all Beastiality is really rape of an animal. It is injurious to the psychology of the animal and injurious to the person committing it, because they are committing the evil action of rape.

    Incest is wrong because it is injurious both physically and mentally. Physically in that the offspring from such a union is horribly maimed, and psychologically in that we know for certain that there are terrible psychological consequences and many psychological illnesses are a direct result of such action.

    Homosexuality however, was once thought to cause similar psychological harm. However, it does not. Thus a homosexual union can be based on mutual egalitarian intimacy and love, rather than being something harmful.

    In the end any act must be judged by the Law of Love: does it hurt the law of love or fulfill it. And as such, I say that homosexual love does fulfill the law of love, unless you can demonstrate that it causes some harm to self or others.


    Comment by Chris McCauley on October 2, 2010 at 8:54 pm

  17. Chris, I couldn’t have said it any better. I agree on all counts.
    Thanks for taking the time to do that. I am in the middle of sermon prep while carrying on similar conversations on my blog and FB page – thankfully among people who don’t just assume someone must hate Scripture because they disagree with them. I admit I grow weary of engaging such people and have found it to be a monumental waste of time….usually.



    Comment by Chad Holtz on October 2, 2010 at 9:29 pm

  18. [...] began the discussion on his blog  HERE and followed that up with part 2 HERE.   If you haven’t done so already I invite you to [...]

    Pingback by Same-Sex Relationships Discussion Part 1 : Dancing on Saturday on October 4, 2010 at 9:33 pm

  19. Liz

    JM – I have read through most of the comments but not all and hope I am not saying something that has already been said but I wanted to point out something that I feel is very important.

    I believe you are going about deciding what to approve of and what to disapprove of completely backwards. You ask “What exegetical and hermeneutic principle allows one to say that same-sex sexual relationships are allowed by God?” I believe that the burden of proof is on the oppressor – not the oppressed. In other words I don’t believe that people in loving, committed same sex relationships have to prove that their relationship is approved of by God. I believe that the burden of proof has to be on the one who wants to oppress that relationship. So IMO the question should be “What exegetical and hermeneutic principle allows one to say that same-sex sexual relationships are NOT allowed by God?”

    Every exegetical and hermeneutic princliple that is used to say that same-sex sexual relationships are NOT allowed by God has failed to hold up under scrutiny. The proof has too many holes in it. At the very least someone could say those arguments MAY point to the conclusion that same-sex sexual relationships are NOT allowed by God but at the same time should admit (if being completely honest) that another interpretation is very possible when one looks at original language and historical context.

    My own conclusion is that the evidence is insufficient therefore it is unjust to attempt to or encourage the oppression of loving committed same-sex sexual relationships.


    jm Reply:

    Liz, your choice of rhetoric is effective, but disingenuous in that you declare opposition equals “oppression.” This then shifts the debate before it even begins from a neutral or fair starting point. Are you similarly concerned with beginning from the side of other sexual relationships with are “oppressed” by the church such as polygamy, adult inter-family sexual relationships or loving, committed open marriages? Proponents of all of these have throughout history claimed to be “oppressed” or “misunderstood” by society in general (i.e. the recent polygamist compounds from which children were removed by social services despite no claims of abuse, etc.).

    Also, when you say “Every exegetical and hermeneutic princliple that is used to say that same-sex sexual relationships are NOT allowed by God has failed to hold up under scrutiny. The proof has too many holes in it.” I must strongly (but lovingly!) disagree with you on this. Traditional exegesis of the same-sex prohibitions throughout Scripture have not in any way been disproved in a convincing manner. If this were the case, the majority of Biblical scholars wouldn’t maintain that the passages do in fact prohibit same-sex sex in general (as even many of the currently-writing same-sex proponent scholars admit–again, see the link I provided above for a catalog of this).

    I believe any honest discussion must at least concede that the view which proponents of same-sex sexual relationships are proposing is still a minority view among not only the Church as a whole, but also within the world of Biblical scholarship. Debates cannot be won by assertion to the contrary and it’s important the we strive to be as modest in our claims as possible.


    Comment by Liz on October 5, 2010 at 5:06 pm

  20. Liz

    ooops – I should NOT have said “at the very least” in the second paragraph – I should have said “the most someone should say about thos arguments…”


    Comment by Liz on October 5, 2010 at 5:17 pm

  21. [...] Click here for the response to this (part 1). [...]

    Pingback by What Does the Bible Say About Same-Sex Marriage? « Jeff Figearo's Blog on October 14, 2010 at 5:53 pm

  22. [...] both of us are committed to the authority of Scripture.  (You can follow the discussion beginning here, and continuing here, here, and here.)  Chad is currently taking a sabbatical from blogging (quite [...]

    Pingback by James-Michael Smith's Disciple Dojo – JMSmith.org » Humanizing the same-sex discussion on October 19, 2010 at 6:18 pm

  23. [...] Two Methodists Discuss Same-sex Relationships and Scripture (Part 1) [...]

    Pingback by Disciple Dojo – JMSmith.org » Speaker ridicules, curses at teens in the name of…tolerance? on April 30, 2012 at 12:46 am

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