Homosexuality: Four Arguments for Affirming Same Sex Marriage, Part 4

gay christianWe’re considering Richard Beck’s post at his Experimental Theology blog summarizing four arguments for affirming same sex marriage. He did not endorse or advocate these arguments.

4. Love and Liberation

The fourth argument for [a pro-gay marriage (or pro-GM)] position regarding same-sex marriage is a direct appeal to the Golden Rule: Love your neighbor as you love yourself.

In some hands this appeal is a simple appeal to love and compassion in embracing our shared humanity as beloved children of God in affirming same-sex marriages. 1 John 4.8: “Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.”

In other hands, the appeal is for justice, often informed by a biblical and prophetic appeal to liberation theology: God’s preferential option for those who are oppressed and suffering. Following the Hebrew prophets and Jesus’ Nazareth Manifesto (Luke 4.16-21), the Bible must be read as “good news” for those who are suffering in the world due to hate, violence, oppression and marginalization. As it says in Romans 13.10: “Love does no harm to a neighbor.”  …

[Y]ou can make the appeal for compassion and justice (Argument #4) more compelling and urgent by citing statistics about gay teen suicide and homelessness.

Of the four argument, this is the one hardest to refute. To me, the first three aren’t really serious theology. They are rationalizations.

But this one is different. Now, it’s tempting just to announce that love isn’t the point, truth is! However, God is love. That’s how he presents himself. And that’s the truth. And so I always recoil at attempts to set truth and love in opposition to each other. No, when they appear opposed, we’ve likely just not done enough homework to fully understand one or the other or both.

(1 Jn. 4:16 ESV)  16 So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. 

On the other hand, the love that God is is not a Pollyannish middle school, romanticized world of unicorns and glitter glue. This same God who is love sends the damned to gehenna. He allowed the Romans and Babylonians to defeat his elect people and impose unspeakable suffering on his children — very sinful children, but children nevertheless. God is not just love but God is tough love.

That is, the wrath of God is a doctrine that runs from Gen 3 to Rev 22. Even while promising us a new heaven and new earth, eternal bliss with God forever, God says,

(Rev. 22:12-15 ESV)  12 “Behold, I am coming soon, bringing my recompense with me, to repay each one for what he has done.  13 I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end.”  14 Blessed are those who wash their robes, so that they may have the right to the tree of life and that they may enter the city by the gates.  15 Outside are the dogs and sorcerers and the sexually immoral and murderers and idolaters, and everyone who loves and practices falsehood.”

“Sexually immoral” could be translated “fornicators.” As the word was used by Jews and Christians at the time of the writing of the Revelation, it unquestionably includes homosexual activity. “Dogs” likely refers to homosexual prostitution, typically associated with the worship of pagan gods and so especially repellant to God’s people. (See, for example, Paige Patterson, Revelation, ed. E. Ray Clendenen, The New American Commentary, (Nashville, TN: B&H, 2012), 39:382–383.) Therefore, fornication picks up other forms of homosexual activity, not just prostitution or idolatrous practices.

The God who is love damns fornicators, including those who participate in homosexual acts. And here we have to repeat a point made in Part 1: The scriptures condemn homosexual conduct, not homosexual people. In that world (as in ours), some heterosexuals engaged in homosexual relations, as did heterosexuals. Therefore, it was the sex act that is condemned, not the orientation.

Therefore, the endless debates about whether homosexual orientation is a choice are pointless theologically. I don’t know whether alcoholism is a “choice” (I rather doubt that anyone would choose such a life), but drunkenness and addiction to alcohol are sinful regardless of your genetic disposition. And that means that for some people being sober is much, much harder than for others — and their genetic nature is not their fault. Nonetheless, they are call be scripture to lives of sobriety and self-control — even if it’s difficult and even miserable.

I don’t think that means God is unsympathetic to the difficulty of the command. The fact that some find resisting alcohol harder than for others is surely known and felt and understood by God and taken into account in his grace — but sobriety is still the command.

Just so, I know people who struggle to control their tempers, who’ve had anger-management issues their entire lives. It may well be genetic. The command to control one’s rage remains even for those for whom it’s very difficult — nearly impossible.

No one ever pretended that the Christian life would be easy or not require sacrifices. In fact, the scriptures are plain that it will cost us everything. We are to love God with our with all our hearts and with all our souls and with all our minds” (Matt. 22:37 ESV). That means all of who we are — body and soul, flesh and blood. Our entire beings are dedicated to God. (Indeed, the likely reason God required the Jews to be circumcised was to reinforce that their sexuality was given over to God.)

So how do we reconcile all that with the love of God? What is it about banning homosexual acts that is driven by God’s loving nature?

I confess that I’m not entirely sure. And that leaves me with two choices.

  • I can seek to overrule the very plain teachings of scripture (and despite all the books published arguing otherwise, the scriptures remain very plain) with my personal sense of what God’s love ought to be; or
  • I can seek to better understand God by understanding why his teachings on homosexual sex are loving.

That is, I can judge the scriptures or I can let the scriptures judge me. The Christian must submit to the scriptures —

(1 Jn. 4:6 ESV) We are from God. Whoever knows God listens to us; whoever is not from God does not listen to us. By this we know the Spirit of truth and the spirit of error.

— even if means martyrdom —

(Rev. 2:10b NET) Remain faithful even to the point of death, and I will give you the crown that is life itself.

It has often been noted that if gay Christians may not enter into homosexual marriages, they will be forced to live lives of loneliness. The same is true of many heterosexual Christian men and women who have not found a mate to marry. They must live abstinent lives. However, not all are miserably lonely. In fact, I find many single Christians who prefer the single life to the married life — or find great contentment in their singleness.

There is, of course, a difference in that single heterosexuals have hope of finding a marriage partner — and many single people desperately wish to be married. I understand. And I’m not here offering easy, pat answers. I don’t have them.

But I do know that Judaism and Christianity have rejected homosexual activity for over 4,000 years, without exception. And I’ve read the arguments of both sides, and the pro-gay marriage arguments have yet to persuade me. (And it’s not like I’m afraid to take a non-traditional position.)

As Americans living in the post-modern age, we feel that we have a right to be happy. We think the deal is that we believe in Jesus, get baptized, and God makes us happy. But happiness is not part of the promise. (As a chronic pain sufferer, I’ve thought about this a lot.)

For some reason, we skip all the passages about suffering as a mark of Christian living. In fact, one of the most prominent teachings in the NT is that we should suffer as Jesus suffered. It’s a doctrine I don’t much care for, and I’d happily explain it all away — if I could do so and remain an honest commentator.

Consider —

(Matt. 16:21-17:1 ESV)  21 From that time Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised.  22 And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, saying, “Far be it from you, Lord! This shall never happen to you.”  23 But he turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me. For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.”  24 Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.  25 For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.  26 For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul?  27 For the Son of Man is going to come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will repay each person according to what he has done.  28 Truly, I say to you, there are some standing here who will not taste death until they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom.” 

(Acts 5:38-42 ESV)  38 So in the present case I tell you, keep away from these men and let them alone, for if this plan or this undertaking is of man, it will fail;  39 but if it is of God, you will not be able to overthrow them. You might even be found opposing God!” So they took his advice,  40 and when they had called in the apostles, they beat them and charged them not to speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go.  41 Then they left the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonor for the name.  42 And every day, in the temple and from house to house, they did not cease teaching and preaching that the Christ is Jesus.

(Rom. 5:2-5 ESV)  2 Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God.  3 Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance,  4 and endurance produces character, and character produces hope,  5 and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.

(Rom. 8:16-18 ESV)  16 The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God,  17 and if children, then heirs– heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.  18 For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.

I’m just getting warmed up. I could fill pages and pages with NT passages that promise Jesus’ followers a life of suffering. (Jesus and the apostles evidently failed to understand how to market his message to consumers.)

There is, of course, a good reason to endure the sufferings —

(Rom. 8:18-25 ESV)  18 For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.  19 For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God.  20 For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope  21 that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God.  22 For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now.  23 And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.  24 For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees?  25 But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience. 

I apologize for so many lengthy quotations, but context matters — and we’re not going to get this with pithy proof texts. We have to dig in and grasp the flow of Jesus’ and Paul’s teaching. Please take the time to read the entirety of the quotes.

Ultimately, while the Christian life provides joy and even abundant life, our reward is after death. Sometimes, if we’re lucky, we get to live in an age and at a place where Christians are not persecuted and where the cost of following Jesus isn’t very steep — but these are exceptional times and places. It’s far more likely that following Jesus leads to suffering and even martyrdom — as a matter of history, and the NT pulls no punches.

So this doesn’t mean we get to make each other miserable just because, but it does mean that no one said the Christian life would be easy or even that God’s goal is that we be happy today.

The goal is joy, not happiness — and joy comes from believing the promises of the afterlife.

(1 Pet. 1:6-9 ESV) 6 In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials,  7 so that the tested genuineness of your faith — more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire — may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.  8 Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory,  9 obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls. 

So we have to be careful of the dread “Baptist bookstore effect” — not to pick on Baptists, but they own all the Christian bookstores in this part of the country. We love to buy plaques and refrigerator magnets that rip God’s promises horribly out of context — and so we immerse ourselves in promises of being lifted on wings of eagles and God’s wonderful plans for us — as though the OT prophets were speaking to my needs for emotional fulfillment today rather than the fate of God’s chosen people over the millennia. And so when life doesn’t go to suit our tastes, well, it’s God’s fault.

Thus, when the question of what God’s love should produce in my life, the answer is heaven on earth — right now. Of course. That’s the deal.

But it’s not.

Profile photo of Jay Guin

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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9 Responses to Homosexuality: Four Arguments for Affirming Same Sex Marriage, Part 4

  1. David Himes says:

    the Golden Rule: Love your neighbor as you love yourself … that is not the final word the Text has to say on this matter.

    In fact, in one sense, the Golden Rule can be seen as a relatively selfish standard. After all, if I’m very hard on myself over one particular issue, does the Golden Rule justify me treating you equally hard on that matter?

    In John 13 and again in John 15, Jesus changes the reference point for love. Jesus “commands” that the standard for love is not how you love yourself, but rather, “as I (Jesus) have loved you and gave my life for you.”

    I struggle every day, seeking to envision how Jesus loves in the face of all the stuff I’m responsible for … and the stuff others are also responsible for.

    Thank God for his Amazing Grace, Love and Forgiveness

  2. Christopher says:

    Jay wrote:

    Therefore, the endless debates about whether homosexual orientation is a choice are pointless theologically. I don’t know whether alcoholism is a “choice” (I rather doubt that anyone would choose such a life), but drunkenness and addiction to alcohol are sinful regardless of your genetic disposition. And that means that for some people being sober is much, much harder than for others — and their genetic nature is not their fault. Nonetheless, they are call be scripture to lives of sobriety and self-control — even if it’s difficult and even miserable.

    Generally a good post, Jay, but I must take exception to this part. You’re being very sloppy here. Despite what I have suggested might be the cause of SSO (an established theory, by the way), and what others may have suggested, you seem to lean towards the idea that it is genetic – without any real scientific evidence for believing that.

    You seem to like music. Well, Stevie Ray Vaughn’s story is pertinent to a discussion of alcoholism. His father was a mean drunk who would beat everyone. One day, at the age of eight, Stevie took a drink of his father’s booze and didn’t stop drinking until he was in thirties. Just how is his habit genetic rather than environmental? Find the YouTube video of him talking about this in one of his last interviews.

    Lastly, the implications of this idea are very serious. You’re basically allowing for the possibility that God condemns behavior people really can’t help (if SSO is genetic). You’ve already agreed that the age of accountability is twenty, at which point people start making choices that count. If people cannot change their orientation because it is genetic, then that is a handicap unlike any other. Instead of being of a physical or mental nature, it is an inbred inducement to sin sexually one’s entire life with no remedy through marriage as heterosexuals have. You’re saying that God did not mean for all people to go forth and multiply. You’re saying that God is not really sovereign. Why should anyone believe in such a God, whose creation has run amuck to the point that genetics affects people’s chances of going to heaven?

  3. Alabama John says:

    There are children born with addiction to many things from their mothers, like drugs that are common today in them at birth. Many never overcome that addiction and die because of it.
    Sexually, there are even some born with both male and female sexual organs and in those someone makes the choice to have one or the other removed. Don’t know how that choice making is done or at what age. If young, it would be terrible to be the one that made the wrong choice for them.
    I imagine they would wait a while to see if their actions are to be toward those of a male or a female to help guide the removal.
    Many strange things affect us humans that we cannot help and that is why God will do the judging in his wisdom of each of us individually based on our life and its ups and downs and the availability of His wishes and commands and also our mental ability to understand.
    I thank God that we will not be the judge.

  4. Dustin says:

    Thank you Jay. Your writing shows how you wrestle with this issue. Your thoughts on suffering really need to reflected upon more in the CoC tradition. I think Catholics have really done a great job of teaching that suffering is a part of life and that this is where you meet God, especially through the lives of the saints. As M. Scott Peck writes in “The Road Less Travelled,” “Life is difficult. This is a great truth, one of the greatest truths. It is a great truth because once we truly see this truth, we transcend it. Once we truly know that life is difficult-once we truly understand and accept it-then life is no longer difficult. Because once it is accepted, the fact that life is difficult no longer matters.”

    Fr. Richard Rohr sent out an email today from his new series, Bias from the Bottom, which discusses those who are at the bottom-“those with mental and physical disabilities, minority groups, LGBTQ folks, refugees, prisoners, those with addictions–anyone who’s “failed” in our nicely constructed social or economic success system–can be our best teachers in the ways of the Gospel.” The text for his thoughts come from 1 Corinithians 1:27. He is an excellent teacher, well respected by even Protestants, including the CoC tradition. He, like Richard Beck, provides food for thought but from a Franciscan point of view-especially in his ongoing Bias from the Bottom series.

    Christopher- You ask excellent questions. I appreciate your comments here. I never thought that same sex attraction was genetic in anyway until a Ph.D in Biology took me to the university library and brought out several volumes that discuss this in humans as well as animals. That being said, science can never really prove anything, only disprove something. In regards to God’s sovereignty, Greg Boyd and Richard Beck are two great sources that speak from a different perspective than traditional Protestant definitions. Both of their works can be found online for free if you would like to hear their different views.

  5. Christopher says:

    Dustin wrote:

    Christopher- You ask excellent questions. I appreciate your comments here. I never thought that same sex attraction was genetic in anyway until a Ph.D in Biology took me to the university library and brought out several volumes that discuss this in humans as well as animals.

    Thanks, buddy. I find your comments to be both thoughtful and well reasoned. I generally am distrustful of a lot of what passes for “science” these days. In medicine and climatology in particular, you see often see correlation being equated with causation. And I hardly need to point out how incredibly unproven evolutionary theory is. When I reseached the matter a few years ago, the only “studies” done on homosexuality in the animal kingdom referenced on Wikipedia were those done by two homosexual researchers. Caveat emptor. Worldview does affect perception.

    As is sometimes said, if it’s not reproducible, it’s not science.

  6. Johnathon says:

    “We think the deal is that we believe in Jesus, get baptized, and God makes us happy. But happiness is not part of the promise.”
    “The goal is joy, not happiness — and joy comes from believing the promises of the afterlife.”

    Jay,
    I suspect you are confusing pleasure for happiness and are seeing far more daylight between happiness and joy than actually exists.

    Also, I think a discussion of what the Love of God actually is would be helpful. I was raised in a progressive Church of Christ and the only thing that I can recall the church trying to teach with any sort of intentionality and regularity was that God loves you. And this is a good thing to teach, maybe even the best thing. However, I am afraid they fell far short of the mark (and I suspect many churches do as well) for they never taught what it means for God to love you, what the Love of God actually is. I suspect most christians think the Love of God is merely affection, friendship, or passion, or some combination thereof. When in fact it is something much more.

  7. Profile photo of Jay Guin Jay Guin says:

    Christopher wrote,

    Lastly, the implications of this idea are very serious. You’re basically allowing for the possibility that God condemns behavior people really can’t help (if SSO is genetic).

    Seriously? Consider —

    * We are commanded not to be addicted or drunk. If someone is genetically predisposed to alcoholism, it’s still a sin to be drunk or addicted. We are accountable for our actions, even if our genetic make up makes obedience more difficult.
    * I know of no one who suggests that abstinence is impossible for anyone — gay or straight. Why would you think that being genetically gay makes abstinence impossible whereas being genetically straight presents no such problem?
    * But God’s grace is granted explicitly because of our accountability.

    (Rom. 5:20-21 ESV) 20 Now the law came in to increase the trespass, but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, 21 so that, as sin reigned in death, grace also might reign through righteousness leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

    Our awareness of God’s will makes us all the more accountable — and so God gives us all the more grace — indeed, grace abounding. The legalist would say that because we know God’s law better, we are held to higher standard and given LESS grace, because we shouldn’t need more grace. But God is the ultimate realist — and he knows how we struggle to obey. Therefore: grace abounding.

    Does that mean God grades on a curve? Indeed. Does that mean God takes into account our innate weaknesses, fallenness, and brokenness? Absolutely. Otherwise, why would we need grace at all? Does that mean that he’s a little more lenient for the person whose genes make obedience harder than for others? I have no doubt.

    (1 Jn. 2:1 ESV) My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.

    (Heb. 4:15-16 ESV) 15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. 16 Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

    The Heb passage is particularly fascinating. The fact that Jesus was tempted and did not sin would seem to make him unsympathetic, but the writer concludes the opposite: Jesus knows how hard obedience is, and so he gives us the mercy and grace we need. And what we need differs from person to person.

  8. Christopher says:

    Jay wrote:

    Does that mean God grades on a curve? Indeed. Does that mean God takes into account our innate weaknesses, fallenness, and brokenness? Absolutely. Otherwise, why would we need grace at all? Does that mean that he’s a little more lenient for the person whose genes make obedience harder than for others? I have no doubt.

    Yes, seriously. You are bending your theology to suit unproven pronouncements of men, it seems to me. If you have proof that SSO is genetically determined, please point me to the test validating that hypothesis so I might reproduce it. Or have you proof that it is not caused by environmental factors, such as imprinting? Otherwise, you are building a case that, in my view, need not be built and, for a lot of people, raises serious philosophical questions. The blindness of the man in John 9 was a physical handicap. My best friend’s SSO is, as he sometimes bitterly describes it, is a SPIRITUAL handicap – something that greatly increases one’s odds of being condemned in the end. He tells me very few gays escape the vortex of self loathing, shame, hopelessness and duplicity SSO represents. And, because some agenda driven “scientists” claim it is genetically determined, you seem ready to make our God into a deistic being who will, in the end, straighten out what He could or would not straighten out when people were alive on earth. Yet if sexual imprinting happens in humans as it does in say, falcons, aren’t we doing those suffering with SSO a huge disservice by not scientifically investigating that possibility? Because what is learned can be unlearned. Just because worldly “scientists” are not investigating this doesn’t mean it’s not worth investigating. As I pointed out in another post, immunotherapy was discovered in the 19th century but ignored until recently. Why? Probably a combination of stupidity and greed. There’s no money in cures. Only in palliatives.

  9. Johnathon says:

    “I don’t know whether alcoholism is a “choice” (I rather doubt that anyone would choose such a life), but drunkenness and addiction to alcohol are sinful regardless of your genetic disposition. And that means that for some people being sober is much, much harder than for others — and their genetic nature is not their fault.”
    It is a choice in the sense that, with the exception of those who were made alcoholics by abusive adults, alcoholics become so because of the choices they make. Regardless of their genetic disposition people will not become alcoholics unless they choose to drink. I have family members who are alcoholics, it is very possible that I am genetically predisposed to be an alcoholic. But I am not an alcoholic because, even though I have served alcoholic beverages to my guests on occasion, I have never drank enough alcohol to become drunk, I’ve only drunk enough to satisfy my curiosity as to the taste of certain beverages. As a teenager, knowing it was possible I was predisposed to become an alcoholic, I decided I had enough vices and did not need to add alcoholism to them. And, hopefully I never will.
    I suspect homosexuality may work in a similar manner. Some people may be more genetically predisposed to become homosexual than others. With the exception of people who are sexually abused as children, people who are genetically predisposed to become homosexual may not do so unless they make certain choices.

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