Homosexuality: Why Does God Declare Homosexual Conduct Sinful? Part 3 (Experience)

gaysurveyRichard Hays is a Methodist and one of the great scholars of Paul of this age. In his seminal The Moral Vision of the New Testament: Community, Cross, New Creation, A Contemporary Introduction to New Testament Ethic, Hays argues that our interpretation of the scriptures regarding Christian ethics should be based, in part, on experience.

Experience, as we have already noted, can claim theological authority only when it is an experience shared broadly by the community of faith. Its primary role is to confirm the truth of the teaching of Scripture, as it is confessed and lived out by the community. We know that our hope is not futile, because we have the experience of “God’s love… poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us” (Rom. 5: 5).

Of course, experience is a notoriously tricky guide: human beings are susceptible to all kinds of illusion and self-deception. That is why claims about experience as a theological authority must always be tested in light of Scripture and through the corporate discernment of the community of faith.

Certainly, the private experience of an individual cannot overturn the theological authority of the New Testament. Are there cases, however, where the church as a whole might acknowledge some new experience as revelatory even against the apparent witness of Scripture?

The paradigm case for such a possibility is found in the story of Peters preaching to the household of the Gentile Cornelius in Acts 10 and 11, and the church’s subsequent acknowledgment that God had given the Holy Spirit even to those who were “unclean” according to biblical norms.

In Part IV of this book, we shall consider some issues concerning which this sort of authority is claimed for experience. Such possibilities cannot be excluded a priori; God is, as Barth would insist, free to act in surprising ways.

It must be stated as a theological guideline, however, that claims about divinely inspired experience that contradicts the witness of Scripture should be admitted to normative status in the church only after sustained and agonizing scrutiny by a consensus of the faithful. Far more often, our experience, ambiguous and sin-riddled, will need to be judged and corrected in light of Scripture, which teaches us again and again not to be conformed to this age but to be transformed by the renewing of our minds so that we may rightly discern the will of God (Rom. 12: 2).

Hays, Richard (2013-07-30). The Moral Vision of the New Testament: Community, Cross, New CreationA Contemporary Introduction to New Testament Ethic (pp. 297-298). HarperCollins. Kindle Edition.

I would argue that experience can sometimes open our eyes to truths we might have otherwise missed. That is, our wisdom and our experience are to be conformed to scripture, not the other way around. But sometimes our experience forces us to take a fresh look at scripture and perhaps find a new, better, truer interpretation.

Thus, when  God saved Cornelius and his household without circumcision, and then God saved Paul’s many converts made on his first missionary journey — again without circumcision — the fact that these converts obviously had received the Spirit forced the apostles and elders in Jerusalem to take a fresh look at the Scriptures, that is, the First Testament. And they found, on a fresh reading, grounds to accept the Gentiles as fellow Christians even if they weren’t fellow Jews.

Is it possible that experience will cause us to decide that the scriptures support gay sexual activity within a homosexual marriage? Well, at this point our experience with homosexual marriage is severely limited. As a nation, the United States has embarked on a social experiment with little basis — other than Scripture — to know how it will turn out. But some early returns are in.

Just today (as I’m typing this), this article appeared: “Sexual orientation in the UK: Half of young people say they are not 100% heterosexual.”

According to a new YouGov survey, 49% of 18-24 year-olds in Britain define themselves as something other than completely heterosexual. The Kinsey scale invented in the 1940s placed people on a range of sexual preferences from exclusively heterosexual at 0 to exclusively homosexual at 6.

In the YouGov study, individuals were asked to put themselves on that sexuality scale. In total, 72% of the British public scored themselves at the completely heterosexual end of the scale, while 4% were at the completely homosexual end, with 19% stating they were somewhere in between – classed as bisexual by Kinsey.

One of the most striking findings of the new study is that with each generation, people see their sexuality as less fixed and more fluid. The results for 18-24 year-olds are particularly telling, with 43% placing themselves in the non-binary area between 1 and 5 and 52% place themselves at one end or the other. Of these, only 46% say they are completely heterosexual and 6% as completely homosexual.

The YouGov results are posted here. That article has this graphic —

bisexuality

So the British have accepted homosexual activity and marriage longer than the U.S. and their culture is much less Christianized than American culture. But it’s only been a few years longer — and yet the impact on the young people of Great Britain is astonishing — surely because the public schools have been working hard there, as in the US, to normalize homosexuality.

What impact will this have on British society? Well, we don’t know entirely. Obviously, it will likely greatly reduce birth rates, and adoptions by homosexual couples will likely increase.

And this leads to a second bit of evidence borrowed from the case files of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision approving gay marriage. Here is the Amicus Brief (friend of the court argument) filed by the American College of Pediatricians. Click the link, read the brief, and make up your own mind.

The gist of the brief is that the objective evidence shows that children adopted by gay couples have measurably worse outcomes than children adopted by heterosexual couples   — and that the reporting to the contrary is dishonest and agenda driven.

So, very early in this social experiment, we’re finding some very worrisome trends. It may be that at the individual level allowing two gay people to marry will in fact make them happier. I really don’t doubt it. But what is the impact on society when gay marriage is widely approved? I think we have very good reason to believe that it will be severely negative.

In fact, already we’re seeing efforts to legalize polygamy, and I really don’t see how the U.S. Supreme Court can impose gay marriage without doing the same for polygamy. Many opponents of gay marriage have argued that pedophilia will soon be approved, once gay marriage is approved. Advocates for gay marriage laugh off the argument, finding it ludicrous and insulting, although that is exactly what is happening. I think it’ll be much easier for the courts to reject pedophilia than polygamy, as in the US, the magic words are “consenting adults.” But the cases will be brought and the arguments made.

I do not much care for slippery slope arguments, or as some say, parades of horribles. But the point is not that we necessarily know how the normalization of gay sex is going to affect society. That point is that we don’t know, and that there therefore is no basis on which to conclude that it will harmless and healthy. That case cannot be made. Therefore, there is no reason to  suppose that our reading of the scriptures is in doubt — just because five of the nine U.S. Supreme Court justices are willing to grant a right to gay marriage. Or the fact that some married gay people speak highly of the benefits of their marriages. Or the fact that some churches are now approving gay marriages. That is not the evidence that truly matters — not even close.

Indeed, it’s easy to imagine any number of possible negative outcomes if we reject the Bible’s teaching on this subject. And how can we possibly claim to know things are going to turn out well when God’s word says not to do this?

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About Jay F Guin

My name is Jay Guin, and I’m a retired elder. I wrote The Holy Spirit and Revolutionary Grace about 18 years ago. I’ve spoken at the Pepperdine, Lipscomb, ACU, Harding, and Tulsa lectureships and at ElderLink. My wife’s name is Denise, and I have four sons, Chris, Jonathan, Tyler, and Philip. I have two grandchildren. And I practice law.
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40 Responses to Homosexuality: Why Does God Declare Homosexual Conduct Sinful? Part 3 (Experience)

  1. Mark says:

    If all a young person sees is heterosexual marriage fail at a rate of 50+%, they sometimes wonder why they should try it too. When divorces cost what they do and can break both people before it is over, pre-nups became popular. Then those were sometimes invalidated. Even odds at the track doesn’t return much on a $1 bet. Some just want someone to love them regardless of the gender of said Partner. Those who don’t find love feel like if some person was lucky enough to find love by a person of the same gender, let them and be glad for them.

    Aside from the generation of old grandparents of whom few are left and who had their issues but stayed married long before the grandchildren came along, seeing a healthy marriage is often a rarity. Also, when any normal human sexual desire was declared to be lust for which the penalty was hell (as said from many pulpits) and the two genders needed keeping apart to prevent anything from happening, normal desire had to be suppressed. When normal mechanisms shut down, alternative mechanisms rise up. Thus, many view homosexual relationships as just as alternative, and gee, no pregnancy risk.

  2. Profile photo of Kevin Kevin says:

    All sorts of problems arise when we legitimize and sanction arbitrary self-identification concepts. Jenner now identifies as Caitlyn rather than Bruce. Although Rachel Dolezal is a 37 y/o Caucasian woman, she now identifies as African-American. What’s next? What do we do with the 45 y/o male, who wishes to identify as a 10 y/o boy because he is attracted to little girls? What are the legal ramifications of this thinking? Should businesses grant time off for gender reassignment surgery? Should the surgery be elective? What about Vince Santiago who was a man, changed to a woman, then back to a man? Under our new healthcare system, why should my tax dollars have to pay for your “gender identity disorder”? Isn’t it ironic that some ObamaCare insurers will pay for a man to have breast augmentation as part of his transgender surgery, but they won’t pay for a female who wants the same augmentation…If you are a woman, it’s cosmetic surgery, which is not covered; if you are a man with “gender identity disorder,” it is covered. Riddle me that one.

  3. rich says:

    I JUST THOUGHT I WOULD LET YOU ALL KNOW THIS IF IT MATTERS FROM YESTERDAY
    Jay
    as a side note..,.
    from 1981 – 2010
    i might of drank 25 times..
    after 2009
    my wife of 25 years and i separated and after a year of separation and divorce and her engagement to a multimillionaire that HAD A DRINKING Problem….
    i went to a psychiatrist and after 10 sessions was told i needed new friends… so off to the bar i went…to shutdown the complete pit of emotional despair i found myself in…i absolutely was lost in the trauma …and thank god for my kids…
    and of course they got married. oct.2010…
    dealing with the alcohol is is easy compared to that pain…
    all i have to do is not drink and repent…

  4. rich says:

    OF COURSE THE DRUGS THE DOCTOR GAVE ME PUT ME INTO,,, WELL ALL I CAN SAY IS,,,, ANOTHER TIME ZONE…ON A DISTANT FAR AWAY PLANET
    I DIDN’T LIKE THAT TO SAY THE LEAST.
    AND THAT OF COURSE IS A COMPARED TO WHAT…
    EVERYONE THOUGHT I WAS PLAYING IN A BALLPARK ON THAT PLANET ANYWAY…

    UP TILL NOW
    THANKS
    JAY

  5. Richard constant says:

    you know what we’re really talking about here is humanism, and of course it makes great sense it’s psychologically comforting it answers the questionS that theology doesn’t speak to and it’s more watered-down form.
    also when theology tries to be specific.
    it does nothing more Than reform. using the same principles of a failed hermeneutic. which are based in rules and traditions that began to be formed in the 3rd century

  6. Richard constant says:

    what I could say I could say The way I look at it today is a slow headed approach to humanism.
    And that humanism just found better way.
    that auto set your teeth on edge.
    let’s just think about some of the things that we’ve been saying over the last 12 14 weeks…

  7. Richard constant says:

    Then of course actually who’s at fault for humanism.
    It would be easy theology
    it has failed to create the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.
    it has failed to define Faith .
    almost to the point of antinomianism.
    and on the other side of the coin is exclusivism.
    if if these low headed wonderful human beings that are just as smart as they can be can not figure out a way.
    It becomes nothing more.
    Then Aristotle and the sophist’s

  8. Doug Mendenhall says:

    “There is no reason to suppose that our reading of the scriptures is in doubt — just because five of the nine U.S. Supreme Court justices are willing to grant a right to gay marriage. Or the fact that some married gay people speak highly of the benefits of their marriages. Or the fact that some churches are now approving gay marriages. That is not the evidence that truly matters — not even close. Indeed, it’s easy to imagine any number of possible negative outcomes if we reject the Bible’s teaching on this subject.”

    There is reason to suppose our reading of the scriptures is in doubt — if it is a clunky, shallow reading that makes no attempt to understand the cultural connotations of the 1st century before applying them simplistically to the 21st. That would be a reason to doubt, not the imagined outcomes, whether they be positive or negative. Perhaps we should attempt to get ahead of the curve and improve the depth of our reading rather than waiting for more outcomes to present themselves.

  9. Richard constant says:

    I guess you could say I just said batter up didn’t I

  10. Richard constant says:

    @doug
    good answer. How do you propose that we do that?
    through exclusivism or antinomianism.

  11. Profile photo of Jay Guin Jay Guin says:

    Doug,

    I’m not sure I follow you. You write,

    There is reason to suppose our reading of the scriptures is in doubt — if it is a clunky, shallow reading that makes no attempt to understand the cultural connotations of the 1st century before applying them simplistically to the 21st.

    Of whom are you speaking? Me? NT Wright? Richard Hays? The church in general? Churches of Christ?

    I mean, I think what you say is true. Yes, we should certainly understand the cultural background of what is written in the scriptures. I’ve actually posted extensively on the topic, guided by such scholars as Wright and Hays, and actually going to the further trouble of finding and reading the original sources in Plato and other ancient authors.

    I’ve respectfully engaged in extensive discussion — in full public view — with those who disagree with me and I read the materials that refer me to. I’m probably far better read on the pro-gay materials than most who argue the pro-gay position.

    I’ve not only invited some of the great NT scholars of our time to the discussion, I’ve gone behind their work to see whether what they say about the ancients is true.

    I’ve also read and considered the writings of those who take the opposite view, such as Rowan Williams and Richard Rogers. And I’ve read and reviewed entire books seeking to find scriptural support for the gay marriage agenda, such as Justin Lee’s book Torn.

    I will shortly post a review on God and the Gay Christian, by Matthew Vines, favorably reviewed by Tony Compalo and Rachel Held Evans. So I’m not sure how to be less clunky and shallow.

    So what else is needed to get ahead of the curve?

    PS — If you go to the Table of Contents widget to the right of the screen, you can go to the Sexuality section and then pull up the articles on homosexuality as a subset and see the conversations and posts that precede this one, along with the discussions in the comments, which have been very helpful to me, and hopefully, to the readers, as well.

  12. Richard constant says:

    I make.
    it a little easier where do we start?
    Doug
    Anyone, anyone, anyone…
    you know sometimes I just can’t help it.
    does anyone remember Sean Penn Fast Times at Ridgemont High.
    Sitting in the classroom.
    😉

  13. Richard constant says:

    Jay I was trying to entertain a discussion about what we have been discussing over the last few weeks
    As a compared to what in general we are leaving behind And taking on this hermeneutic a new Perspective.
    A perspective that I see as one of love based faithfulness
    the drives us away from a failed hermeneutic.
    that specifically will drive us into understanding and realizing what the Spirit is trying to tell us that we are a new creation injoinEd with God through that Spirit enjoined in constant communication.
    with the SOn has he is actively engaged in bringing about the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.
    and this hinge point is so specifically important to our understanding of the words of the Spirit of God that it goes to the depth of what we’ve been discussing which only makes sense from the position that we take which is Jesus the Messiah cursed on the tree.
    Which brings about the promise through the seed of Abraham by faith his Faith. the man and the Faith and the God that Demonstrated true faithfulness to the Father love for us and the father that we are to emulate while walking in this new creation and spread the word of reconciliation.
    while finding a reborn love of faithfulness and the intimacy that that brings about defeating humanism in all other ideas that Satan inspires

  14. buckeyechuck says:

    Jay, another book I would highly recommend is Washed and Waiting by Wesley Hill. It’s the most theologically significant book I have read on homosexuality and Christianity.

  15. Richard constant says:

    oh well now back to the Brits and their study on bisexuality…
    I’ll try to stay in line.
    and that’s not a promise.
    I have a tough time with these boundaries
    I think that be a true statement ?
    Ya think Jay?
    🙂

  16. Richard constant says:

    Oh
    yes J don’t ever entertain the idea that I don’t know that there’s a rhyme to the reason or a reason to the rhyme however that goes.
    you are truly a blessed man JAy
    While mostly I just feel like a one trick pony.
    🙂
    THANK YOU AGAIN
    ALTHOUGH. ..

  17. Bob Brandon says:

    One problem with the argument posed by the American College of Pediatricians; they’re a conservative splinter group that broke off about 2002 from the main professional association, the American Academy of Pediatrics, which has approx. 60,000 members. Here’s AAP’s assessment of research done re. children of gay or lesbian parents over 30 years: http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/131/4/e1374. It does not concur with the American College of Pediatricians.

    One problem with issues – not just this one, but many -is what I would call the paralysis of perspective. One can obtain so many viewpoints that they become overwhelming, especially when a part of the problem is a breakdown of a paradigm of knowledge concerning the matter. Breaking the logjam requires becoming reacquainted with the objective of the research, especially in light of a body – even a large body – on what are regarded as contravening facts. In the case of children, the standard has always been that which is in the best interest of the child with the facts available at the time, even facts one may find distasteful or disruptive.

    It’s not an easy issue to wrestle with.

  18. Tiffany says:

    I found Hays’ chapter on homosexuality to be refreshingly agenda-free. He came at it from personal experience (through a good friend who was gay) and kept the topic focused not only on Rom 1 (where the bulk of the exegetical discussion should be), but on Rom 2 which really moved the conversation from orthodoxy to orthopraxy-where it needs to be. What will be our experience with gay Christians? Live Romans 2. I wish he’d write an addendum (is he still alive???) now that gay marriage is legal though b/c it seemed like his position rested on gay marriage being illegal-or at least heavily weighted there. As a Methodist, he is sitting squarely on his 4 legged stool of Scripture, Tradition, Reason and Experience in interpretation, but I have so much appreciation for that stool when it is wobbly as all get-out as you explained above: “That is, our wisdom and our experience are to be conformed to scripture, not the other way around. But sometimes our experience forces us to take a fresh look at scripture and perhaps find a new, better, truer interpretation.”

  19. Richard constant says:

    @bob b.
    Bob I would put down exactly what I said in 3 posts with the one that started at 10:32 this morning.
    the anthropological theological hermeneutic of ontological talk Have bought their ticket and now they’re taking the ride.

  20. Doug Mendenhall says:

    Jay, I apologize for writing a reply, then disappearing. Busy day. I have not followed this entire series; I merely wanted to make the point as I read your conclusion that it is possible for our reading of scripture to be in doubt, not because of possible outcomes but because of the weaknesses of our reading. That’s not meant as a jab at you, but it is something that remains a concern within Churches of Christ as a whole. Thanks.

  21. Richard constant says:

    Theologians that take this old concept old hermeneutic old perspective.
    Are in a serious world of hurt.
    They think they’re not going to be judged.
    Especially for denying the offense of the cross.
    And watering it down or misunderstanding it to the point of making it ineffectual!
    to say nothing of missing the intimacy of love that the Spirit gives us.
    and driving that home through a fluid hermeneutic paradigm dynamic of cohesive logical thought that only God through the Spirit by the evidence of this new hermeneutic provides through His providence.
    an active intervention for the sake of his body, the Israel of God

  22. Richard constant says:

    By the way my younger by 5 years is Really Gay a vet …

  23. Richard constant says:

    P.s
    And has aid’s and. HIV.
    We don’t talk anymore I lost my temper 10 years ago when my mom died.and there’s a tail behind that dog.

  24. Profile photo of Jay Guin Jay Guin says:

    Tiffany,

    Thanks for the note on Hays’ book. NT Wright routinely refers to it as the best “short” work on the ethics of homosexuality.

    Hays, I believe, recently retired from Duke, but you know that only means he now has more time to write. I doubt that he’s left the business just when he’s gotten quite a lot of recognition not just for this book but for several commentaries and a series of cordial debates with NT Wright.

    I think he gives his answer re the impact of legalized gay marriage here:

    (d) Should the church sanction and bless homosexual unions? No. The church should continue to teach— as it always has— that there are two possible ways for God’s human sexual creatures to live well-ordered lives of faithful discipleship: heterosexual marriage and sexual abstinence.

    Hays, Richard (2013-07-30). The Moral Vision of the New Testament: Community, Cross, New Creation, A Contemporary Introduction to New Testament Ethic (p. 402). HarperCollins. Kindle Edition.

  25. Profile photo of Jay Guin Jay Guin says:

    Bob,

    thanks for the link. Notice what the abstract does not say: that kids of gay parents turn out just as well as kids of straight parents. I know a political document when I see one. “Extensive data available from more than 30 years of research reveal that children raised by gay and lesbian parents have demonstrated resilience with regard to social, psychological, and sexual health despite economic and legal disparities and social stigma.” Resilience? How does one measure resilience and is that the question even being asked?

    The issue isn’t how tough are the children of such relationships, but how well they’ve been raised by their parents. The amicus brief argues that many of those studies are flawed in methodology and that the largest studies, correctly coded, reveal substantial disparities. The ACP document does not address these concerns, does not address sample size problems, and generally reads more like an editorial than actual science.

    The best argument made by ACP is that the problems suffered by children of gay couples are likely due to the stigma of homosexuality and the absence of marriage. Well, half that problem is gone, but the stigma will remain with us for some time in many places — meaning it will be decades before we know how well the kids turn out. And like a number of other politicized issues, in a world where research funding comes from a politicized source (the US gov’t), we may never know the truth of the matter. (My cynicism re the validity of science being done in politicized areas is based on first-person conversations with actual researchers.)

  26. Profile photo of Jay Guin Jay Guin says:

    BC,

    I don’t think I can force myself to read yet another. After my review of God and the Gay Christian is posted (soon), let me know if WW says anything not already covered.

  27. Profile photo of Jay Guin Jay Guin says:

    BC,

    I should correct myself. Just read the summary at Amazon. It’s not like the other books I’ve read at all. I look forward to reading it.

  28. Dustin says:

    Brad East, a graduate of ACU and a current doctoral student in theology at Yale Divinity (also has written a few articles for the Restoration Quarterly Journal), brings another view: he doesn’t know the right answer. Here’s the conclusion to his paper “Confessing Bewilderment as a Theologian: On Tradition, Experience, and the Ethics of Same-Sex Relationships” (posted at his blog Resident Theology:

    “Not only do I understand this argument {the argument that homosexuals should remain celibate or turn their desires to the opposite sex}, I believe it is simple, coherent, and biblical, and it names the experience of Christian friends who experience same-sex attraction. If I were pushed to make a decision on the matter with no room to struggle, I would find myself landing here. So why not claim it as my position? Primarily, the combination of the severe ambiguity of Scripture with the powerful, deeply emotional testimonies from gay Christians who affirm and model the mutual love and respect possible in covenanted same-sex relationships. Furthermore, given the example of the Spirit’s free and creative activity—paradigmatically in leading the early Jewish church away from every known possibility given to them by Scripture and tradition regarding the practices of circumcision and ritual purity—who can say where the wind blows?

    As it stands, because I am not and do not plan to be a pastor, but rather claim the calling of a theologian, I believe that the only faithful option available to me for the time being is to continue to live in the tension of not knowing, of not having an answer (even for class assignments). More than anything, my prayer is for the church: that we find ways to love one another and not to demonize, to welcome and not to barricade, to worship and not to exclude. If God gives even that much grace, it will be enough.”

    I encourage everyone to read the full paper posted here (as well as his other posts):

    http://resident-theology.blogspot.com/2009/12/confessing-bewilderment-as-theologian.html

  29. Profile photo of Jay Guin Jay Guin says:

    Dustin,

    Thanks for the link. Of course, Gary has tried to push me to the agnostic position for sometime now. But I don’t buy the agnostic argument. I understand it — and the feelings behind it. But I can’t get there.

    And I know you didn’t ask for an essay in response, but this is how I think through interesting things.

    I agree with Brad that the Catholic view of marriage is logical but ultimately not dictated by scripture. Hays also agrees that the scriptures never argue from procreation as a necessary end of marriage. Besides, what is our response when a man wants to marry a woman known to be infertile? Does that violate Rom 1? I’ve never heard it so argued. So maybe Paul’s point is simple enough: it’s about God’s design and our fallen condition in respect thereof.

    Brad writes,

    Not only do I understand this argument, I believe it is simple, coherent, and biblical, and it names the experience of Christian friends who experience same-sex attraction. If I were pushed to make a decision on the matter with no room to struggle, I would find myself landing here.

    So that’s fair enough. The logic of the position of Hays and Wright is indeed simple, coherent, and biblical. The opposing arguments that I’ve seen (and I’ve read a great many) are not. These great scholars are important voices in denominations that would love them to take a different position, but their respect for the scriptures won’t allow it. Hays writes of a good friend who is gay, and so the issue hits him very personally. He’d love to take a different stance, but the scriptures won’t allow it — despite all the motivation there could be to take the opposite tack.

    So why not claim it as my position? Primarily, the combination of the severe ambiguity of Scripture3 with the powerful, deeply emotional testimonies from gay Christians who affirm and model the mutual love and respect possible in covenanted same-sex relationships.4

    The “ambiguity of scripture”? I don’t buy it. Brad writes in a footnote,

    Of course, I do not mean the ambiguity of the texts themselves, which are about as clear as possible. Rather, I mean the extremely limited presence of homosexuality at all in the biblical texts, combined with the radical subordination of marriage and family to the call of the gospel, as well as the alternative understanding of the nature of same-sex relationships in the first century context.

    Let’s see —

    * “the extremely limited presence of homosexuality at all in the biblical texts” — and yet every or nearly every every reference to porneos – sexual immorality — includes homosexuality. I don’t have BibleWorks with me — and it counts words very easily — but surely it’s a big number. It’s all one argument (porneos includes homosexuality), but it’s a lot of texts in which the readers of the books written understood the writer to be condemning homosexuality within the scope of the broader condemnation.

    The truth is that sexual morality is a huge issue in the Bible, spoken of repeatedly. Many references are clearly heterosexual, such as God speaking through the prophets to Israel about her sins against her marriage to God. But when individuals are being spoken to, God’s commands regarding sexuality clearly include a prohibition on sexual immorality, which was universally heard and read as including homosexual activity of any kind or motivation.

    In fact, the fact that God pictures his relationship with Israel as a heterosexual marriage means something, given that Israel was led by male kings, male priests, and male elders. Why pick a female metaphor? Why not picture his marriage as homosexual and so allow Israel to be masculine — in a highly patriarchal age? Well, because it was unthinkable. God had no interest in validating gay marriage, even though the surrounding cultures allowed all sorts of homosexual practices.

    In fact, the rabbis banned lesbianism on that rationale — that God commanded Israel not to engage in the practices of the surrounding pagan nations.

    So I see no lack of verses. There are far more verses on sexual morality than lots of other things we consider not the least ambiguous.

    * “the radical subordination of marriage and family to the call of the gospel” — I wish for another footnote. I take it that he is referring to Matt 19 and 1 Cor 7, in which celibate singleness is commended as not only acceptable — contrary to rabbinic teaching — but in many cases preferable. Which is true, and which argues in favor of the more conservative position. In fact, to me, it’s a very strong argument, and our refusal to hear it shows how far removed from Jesus and Paul our evangelical culture is.

    I mean, if we really taught and practiced this, wouldn’t it be vastly easier to find missionaries to send to dangerous places, such as the heart of ISIS? I can’t help but think of Hauerwas in Resident Aliens recommending that, rather than bombing Libya back in the Reagan years, we might have sent 1,000 missionaries. But, of course, who has the heart to send a married man or woman with children (or the potential for children) to Libya?

    Then again, can we afford that many unmarried, highly trained, committed Christians? Well, I’m not sure we’re supposed to do that math.

    * “the alternative understanding of the nature of same-sex relationships in the first century context” — This is, of course, a highly relevant concern, which I’ve dealt with at length in the posts and will deal with further in the upcoming series on Matthew Vines’ book. And it’s a very intellectually challenging question. And yet, I think Hays and Wright have worked their way through those issues. And we know all that we’re going to know in terms of history. I think if we bring a high view of inspiration and scriptural authority to the table, then we can’t conclude that Paul was speaking to a culture so unlike our own that he’s words are irrelevant. There is nothing pointing us in that direction in what he actually said. In fact, I think he was speaking to a culture that ours is likely to become very soon. Except for the pederasty thing. But the idea that men and women will indiscriminately have gay and straight sex seems to be coming down the road — and then we’ll be just like Greece in the early First Century, and the cultural distinction argument will evaporate.

    [There is here a footnote to Rowan Williams, which makes no sense. It really doesn’t help his case.]

    Furthermore, given the example of the Spirit’s free and creative activity—paradigmatically in leading the early Jewish church away from every known possibility given to them by Scripture and tradition regarding the practices of circumcision and ritual purity—who can say where the wind blows?

    First, kudos for using the word “paradigmatically.”

    Second, yes, the Holy Spirit did lead the church away from certain aspects of the Torah. And it was quite unexpected that God would, in effect, go back to Abraham and faith after the Law had been around for so long and with such great impact on Israel. But as I’ve covered in the last few series, it really does make a whole lot of sense — it’s just a lot of sense that wasn’t expected by the Jews.

    How did God make this clear? Well, he poured out the Spirit on Cornelius and his household before they were baptized, so that they spoke in tongues and prophesied. And he gave Peter a vision. And he gave the Spirit freely to Gentiles converted on Paul’s first missionary journey — evidenced by miraculous things. And they held this conference in Jerusalem.

    No one said, “But the Gentile converts are such good and kind people.” It was outright miracles unquestionably from God’s hand that made it happen.

    Moreover, it did not contract Torah. It just didn’t apply Torah to Gentiles. An indirect result was that the Jews realized that they, too, were freed from circumcision because salvation is by faith — but the immediate question was, in effect: is the covenant with Abraham enough to save or must the Gentiles also submit to the covenant with Moses? And this question was a mystery, only revealed by God through the Spirit post-Pentecost.

    So I’m not sure I see a homosexual sex analog here. The fact that God could do this hardly means that he has or that he will. The argument would be that gay Christians, who are sexually active, seem to have the Spirit, just like us sexually active heterosexuals. But does our doctrine of grace not allow this already? Don’t sinners receive the Spirit? Mere receipt of the Spirit only means that you’re saved, not that your sex life is entirely fine with God.

    So we’re committing a category mistake here, I think. The presence of the Spirit reveals salvation, not sinlessness or approval of one’s marriage.

    What would we think if a prostitute showed up in church, proved to be a great volunteer, great counselor, filled with wisdom, etc. Would we declare that God had changed his mind on prostitution? Or that God is gracious in working through someone in need of repentance?

    After all, I’m not arguing that gay people are damned. I’m not even arguing that gay people who engage in gay sex are damned. Only that they sin in so doing — and it’s not the worst sin in the world. But it’s still sin and should be repented of — and those of us who are elders and leaders in the church need to lead the church to be purer, not less pure, and to thereby be better able to hold each other to account in love. We need to raise our game — not lower it — so that we have the moral standing to teach what we believe God desires — and to exert biblical discipline when needed.

    We need to elevate our morality when it comes to heterosexuality and singleness in general. We need to call people to a gospel that bigger than our sexual desires. We need to form community that is not the same as marriage but meets our need for companionship without sex and marriage — which would be very much like heaven, you know. No sex in heaven, but I’m sure there will also be no loneliness and no lack of companionship. And the church should be a foretaste of heaven.

    So the gay marriage issue is a call for change and re-evaluation, but I think the solution isn’t found in bending the rules on sexuality. It’s found in recommitting ourselves to Jesus and his gospel so that our churches become foretastes of heaven — a community where marriage is not needed for happiness and fulfillment because we’re so fully committed to serving our God.

  30. Richard constant says:

    Well said J

  31. ao says:

    Jay & Tiffany,

    Just FYI, Hays did recently retire from Duke, but it’s because he has pancreatic cancer (https://today.duke.edu/2015/07/richardhays). Word is that the outlook is not good. I’d pray for him if you can.

    Peace,
    ao

  32. Monty says:

    There’s really no need to argue or search for the gay gene any longer. The rapidly changing view that the young have of their sexual identity not being nailed down is indicative of learned behavior and not some increasing random gene that associates our sexual identity for us. Bisexuality is as faddish as getting a tattoo. Everyone(it would seem) is experimenting with it. As for me in my late 50’s, growing up there was always that one kid, maybe two at school that you intuitively knew there was something different about them. It was in the way they walked or talked, or some other slight give-away. There was a couple of “butchy” girls-of course more easier to identify. But my 21 year old daughter has had several of her high school classmates in her homeroom(not the whole school)who she says aren’t gay but are dating or have dated the same sex. It’s like the geico commercial, If you are young, “it’s what you do” -you experiment with same sex dating.

  33. Gary says:

    Jay, I realize that none of us are completely objective but I believe we should nonetheless try to be objective in our reasoning. Why would you quote a small conservative splinter group of pediatricians who differ from the large majority of pediatricians without mentioning even the existence of the larger group and their contrary position? This is a problem with many conservatives who quote questionable authorities who espouse contrarian and minority positions as if they were the majority.

    Also, it is a false dichotomy to present adoption by gay parents as an either/or alternative to adoption by straight parents. There aren’t enough adoptive parents to go around. Do you honestly believe children would be better off growing up in our broken foster care system than in the home of two loving gay parents? If you do you’re putting ideology ahead of the welfare of children.

  34. John F says:

    “It must be stated as a theological guideline, however, that claims about divinely inspired experience that contradicts the witness of Scripture should be admitted to normative status in the church only after sustained and agonizing scrutiny by a consensus of the faithful. Far more often, our experience, ambiguous and sin-riddled, will need to be judged and corrected in light of Scripture, which teaches us again and again not to be conformed to this age but to be transformed by the renewing of our minds so that we may rightly discern the will of God (Rom. 12: 2).”

    Such a guideline sound quite similar to a “college of cardinals” working with the “papa”. How long and how deeply have out Roman catholic friends “agonized” before reaching a “consensus of the faithful”?

    In that light, “another gospel” could be ultimately found. Jude speaks of a “faith once for all delivered” and the letters can often be seen as rejecting “digression”, esp 1-2-3 John and the caution from the 7 churches of revelation. Scripture is NEVER to judged / modified / understood in terms of “experience” outside the realm of inspired scripture.

  35. Profile photo of Jay Guin Jay Guin says:

    Gary,

    If you read the brief, the fact that they are arguing against briefs and research written by disagreeing organizations is quite plain.

    Regarding adoption, there are so few American children available for adoption that Americans are adopting at great price from other nations. Corruption is rampant. And even then couples who want a baby often fail to find one or have to wait a very long time to adopt due to the shortage. I’ve spent many evenings in prayer with couples desperate to adopt who couldn’t find a baby after years of waiting of tens of thousands of dollars spent.

    So it’s not as though the demand by heterosexual couples has been fully met and the next choice is the foster system. Rather, adding gay couples as qualified adopters only makes the shortage that much more severe.

  36. Profile photo of Jay Guin Jay Guin says:

    AO,

    thanks for the note. He’ll be in my prayers.

  37. Larry Cheek says:

    Gary,
    Have you found in the scriptures a testimony of how a homosexual couple had reared a child? Was there ever a mention that a child of homosexual parents served God in a capacity like a prophet? Has any individual in scriptures made mention that their parents were same sex couples? We can find references to that type of activity in the nations outside of Judaism, but was it ever tolerated in God’s chosen people?

  38. Gary says:

    Jay, I happen to know quite a bit about adoption having worked with children with special needs for many years and having adopted two of them who likely would have grown up in foster care if my former wife and I had not adopted them. They are both grown now. It is true that there are not enough infants, and especially white infants, for families who wish to adopt infants. But many thousands of children of color, older children and children with special needs are never adopted and grow up in foster care. The first child we adopted came to us when he was five years old with severe ADHD. He had been in over fifteen placements when he came to us at the age of five. When we saw that his brother was stranded in an orphanage we also adopted him. Believe me there are many children who need homes for whom no one is lining up to take.

    More broadly, even if it could be proven that all other things being equal heterosexual parents provide better homes with better longterm results for children than do homosexual parents one truth would trump such a conclusion. All things are never equal. So many factors go into what makes a good home for a child that the heterosexual/homosexual status of the prospective adoptive patents would only be one factor among many. Also, many single parents adopt children. All other things being equal, wouldn’t a gay couple be better than a heterosexual single parent? I think what makes an ideal home for children is in the eye of the beholder.

  39. Gary says:

    So Larry what are you proposing? Should children of gay parents be forcibly removed from their homes and placed in foster homes? And how would you ensure that no gays become foster parents? For men at least it is possible to measure arousal when pornographic images are shown to them. How would you go about it?

    In regard to your questions, would you direct me to the passages in Scripture where we find divorced and remarried parents raising children?Who were the great men and women of God who grew up with divorced and remarried parents? I’m not aware of any in Scripture; are you? Maybe we should also remove children from these homes as well?

  40. Larry Cheek says:

    Gary,
    Children of Gay parents? I guess there are some children that have been trapped into a Gay household, I said trapped because they do not have a voice in the matter. Only in the last few years have the laws of some of the land allowed those unions to be joined in matrimony. The laws of the land as far as I know don’t remove children from homes because of the parents sinful sexual activity as long as the children are not being abused. Even a single parent can continue in the rearing of a child, as long as the child’s needs are being provided.

    Of course, all of your communication is addressing the laws of the land, not what God has addressed. Did you give us any answers from His Word?

    I know that you are aware of the time in history when the Israelite men married foreign wives, what was demanded of them to reconcile themselves back to God? Until you can prove that God has accepted that same sex marriages are his creation than the same answer applies to marriages not supported in scripture as was applied to them.

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