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Theses on Sexual Identity and Christian Ethics

This series of theses should not really be taken as a response to Kim Fabricus’ list of propositions on same sex relationships. While that brought the issue to the surface in recent discussions, these are thoughts that I’ve had floating around for a long time and hopefully will lead to a more substantial and lengthy piece of theological reflection on this contentious question.

I don’t have any theses about the importance of civil dialogue between different sides, hating the sin but loving the sinner, or any other such statements that often come close to being throwaway lines. What I hope these theses offer are some constructive theological points from which more authentic theological discussion might be derived. That all should be dealt with graciously and that dialogue is essential, I simply take for granted, as I think all should.

  1. Any discussion about the ethical viability of homosexual unions must be placed within a distinctly theological framework, specifically on the basis of the Christian doctrines of the Trinity, Christology, and the Sacraments. To allow such a discussion to take place on the basis of an previously determined ontology of freedom and liberation is to circumscribe the discussion within a politics foreign to that of the church. Put differently, to frame the discussion of homosexuality in terms of the liberation of homosexuals for sexual fulfillment, is to eliminate the possibility of a truly theological discussion. If ‘oppressor’ and ‘oppressed’ are predetermined at the outset (as is often the case in gay liberation theology), there is no possibility of conversation in any real sense.
  2. In the Christian tradition, the church has univocally affirmed two paths for Christians to take in regard to sexual activity, celibacy and the sacrament of marriage. The theological question that is at the core of the issue of same sex unions is, given a properly theological (i.e. trinitarian, christological, and sacramental) definition of marriage: Can a union between two persons of the same sex be theologically understood as falling within that definition?
  3. A theological position which maintains that the restriction of sexual activities by the church is oppressive and deprives persons of their “full humanity” assumes that our sexual identity and attractions are the center of personal identity. Christian theology must explicitly reject such a sexually-centered definiton of human identity. For Christians, our identity does not primarily lie in our sexuality, let alone our affectional orientation, but in Christ and his body. Our “full humanity” is established, not by sex or marriage, but by baptism! Eucharistic communion, not sexual intercourse is the ultimate form of “erotic” communion. It is within the sacramental practices of the church, not sexual intercourse that we come to fulfillment as persons in Christ and no one is impoverised or diminshed by lacking a sexual partner. To say otherwise is essentially to call those who embrace the Christian vocation of celibacy less than fully human.
  4. Given this frame of reference, the burden of proof is on those who would argue for a revised understanding of the sacrament of marriage. For proponents of the full inclusion of same sex unions within the church to make their case, they must show theologically how the Christian understanding of marriage has “theological room” for non heterosexual unions. It is precisely this constructive theological project that has scarcely been taken on by homosexual Christians. The core of this issue does not revolve around New Testament hermeneutics, though that question is not unimportant. The essence of this question is ecclesial and theological. Any resolution that will come can only come from constrictive theological reflection.
  5. Sexual identity is far more complex than the polarities of homosexual and heterosexual and the common language of biological determinacy allow for. If we take seriously a Christian theological anthropology in which the self is formed in and through relations with the other we must acknowledge that sexual identity, like all other facets of our being is not a static given, but a dynamic reality which is “always-already” imbedded in and shaped by a network of social and political relations. This understanding of the construction of sexuality is widely shared and is championed by many gay scholars.
  6. One of the greatest social influences that has contributed to the construction of contemporary sexual culture in the west is consumer capitalism. In a culture shaped by the market, sexuality is commodifed and objectified in accordance with the reigning ideology of consumer preference. Above all, in a market economy, sex is conceived as something to which one has a right. Thus, the suspension or regulation of sexual practices by a narrative which claims to supersede that of the market is regarded as oppressive, dogmatic, and archaic.
  7. A Christian understanding of sexuality and sexual practices must, by definition reject the capitalist construction of sexuality. Sexual satisfaction is not something to which any of us have a right by virtue of our affectional orientation, sexual drive, or perceived relational needs. Christianity affirms that the call of Christian discipleship requires all who would follow Christ to die to themselves, take up their cross and follow Jesus. Jesus does not promise us fulfillment on our own terms, he promises the way of the cross and resurrection. Jesus’ lordship and his call for us to submit ourselves to his body supersedes any and all of our felt needs for sexual fulfillment.
  8. Christians whose practices, sexual or otherwise which bring about a sundering of communion within the body of Christ for the sake of another agenda cannot be considered to be operating by the Spirit of God. The movement of the Holy Spirit in the church is towards and for unity. To be sure, movements of dissent within the church have their role (i.e. the Reformation), but such movements, if they are indeed the work of God’s Spirit must take place within a broader vision of catholicity and the ultimate aim of unity-in-difference within the body of Christ. The question is, do Christian proponents of homosexual inclusion manifest this vision of catholicity and unity, or is there another agenda that carries the day for them?

32 Comments

  1. R.O. Flyer wrote:

    Halden,

    I just wrote a long comment and it all disappeared! Damn computers and technology!

    Thanks for your thoughts. I’ll try to re-comment soon.

    Damn…

    Wednesday, January 31, 2007 at 8:49 pm | Permalink
  2. Halden wrote:

    I’ll look forward to it. Damn computers indeed!

    Wednesday, January 31, 2007 at 8:53 pm | Permalink
  3. Paul Dubuc wrote:

    Well stated. Thanks. It put a fresh perspective on the subject in front of me.

    I enjoyed reading some of your reviews on Amazon.com. Your profile led me here. I’ll be back. Thanks again.

    Thursday, February 1, 2007 at 3:42 am | Permalink
  4. Matt Wiebe wrote:

    You said: A theological position which maintains that the restriction of sexual activities by the church is oppressive and deprives persons of their “full humanity” assumes that our sexual identity and attractions are the center of personal identity. Christian theology must explicitly reject such a sexually-centered definition of human identity.

    This is definitely a major problem, and a good insight. We’re so caught up in our cultural value of “freedom” (meaning nobody can stand in the way of my self-gratification) that we fail to see this.

    I’m still approaching this topic tentatively, but this is great food for thought.

    Thursday, February 1, 2007 at 4:29 am | Permalink
  5. Halden wrote:

    Matt,

    Thanks. I hope I’m also approaching things tenatively. I do stand by the conviction that we must reject the way that sexuality is constructed by capitalism. I think that has a bearing on the homosexuality discussion, but I don’t think that conversation is over yet. Maybe it hasn’t even truly begun.

    Thursday, February 1, 2007 at 9:27 pm | Permalink
  6. bobby grow wrote:

    Good post.

    Hey I’m a graduate of Multnomah, both the bible college and seminary; I worked for Frost for a couple of yrs as his TA (graduated from sem 03)–good to find another Multnomahite out there–I have you linked.

    Thursday, February 1, 2007 at 9:45 pm | Permalink
  7. Halden wrote:

    Thanks for the link. I’ve returned the favor. And based on your blg title, you’ve definitely studied under Ron Frost! :)

    Thursday, February 1, 2007 at 9:59 pm | Permalink
  8. chris wrote:

    Halden,

    this is the best theological discussion on sexual identity I’ve seen on a blog to date. Of course Karl Barth “Man and Woman” (Church Dogmatics, A Selection, Gollwitzer, WJK, 1994,pg. 194-229)is better, but hey, its still good.

    -Chris

    Friday, February 2, 2007 at 10:30 pm | Permalink
  9. a. steward wrote:

    Halden –
    Good post! I’m glad to see you talking about an issue whose commentators mostly leave me unsatisfied and/or frustrated.
    I certainly aggree with what you said here:

    “Our “full humanity” is established, not by sex or marriage, but by baptism! Eucharistic communion, not sexual intercourse is the ultimate form of “erotic” communion.”

    Reading Stanley Grenz’s Sexual Ethics brought to my awareness that the New Community is a locus of affective sexuality. It also seems that Bonhoeffer’s discussion in Life Together about our only true access to eachother being through Christ is a related starting point for combatting this ego-centered emphasis on genital sexuality. Also, what do you make of Hays’ treatment of issue’s non-central but important question of New Testament hermeneutics in The Moral Vision?

    Sunday, February 4, 2007 at 8:25 pm | Permalink
  10. Franci wrote:

    Hi Halden!

    HAPPY 25th Birthday!

    I read the post… and will process and then comment as is my way. On a merely surface level, I appreciate the fact that you are addressing Christianity and Sexuality.

    Peace!!

    Monday, February 5, 2007 at 5:16 am | Permalink
  11. Halden wrote:

    Adam,

    I think Hays’ discussion is one of the best and most accesible ones in the arena of New Testament interpretation.

    There are other books that do similar work to his on homosexuality, but I do find his the best.

    Monday, February 5, 2007 at 4:33 pm | Permalink
  12. Jon Trott wrote:

    Halden,

    Very provocative post. As someone searching for new (and more deeply true to Scripture?) ways to discuss homosexuality and indeed sexuality itself, I appreciate the attack on capitalism’s influence on sexuality. I also appreciate the note that viewing sexuality as a dynamic continuum rather than something “static” (which both the “left” and “right” sides of the conversation tend towards) is key.

    I once spoke with two outspoken lesbians (we were sitting at a political rally for the 46th Ward Chicago alderwoman, Helen Shiller, whom we all liked very much). And they discovered I was from a “Christian community” with fairly vanilla evangelical credentials.

    Their next question: “Do you think we’re going to hell?” Argh. I think I told them something along the lines of, “No one elected me God last time I checked.” But that wasn’t very satisfying to them… or me.

    I went into a long explanation, some of it painful to all of us (the hard reality that Scripture seems to offer no room, either by example or teaching, for same-sex partners being recognized in Christian marriage). But I also discussed sexuality as something no two persons are likely to experience in the same way.

    I explained my own background as being one where, though heterosexual desire was the norm, I had before becoming a believer experienced same-sex encounters. Further, I found in myself little of the instinctive revulsion toward the male body as erotically charged that other males I know do experience. Thus, I suspect — purely on the level of what is potentially erotic to me — that I am somewhere in the heterosexual side of the middle. Nor has that continuum been one that has never moved.

    This is an important idea. It opens up the possibility that sexual “traveling” from one orientation to the other can (whether or not it always will) occur. And as I pointed out to my new lesbian acquaintances, that traveling could be from the hetero to the homosexual side just as it could be from the homosexual to the heterosexual.

    As I thought about all this, it reminded me of the group most of us leave out of the equation. And that is the group of folks who, while once in both desire and experience were far to the gay end of that spectrum, have as part of their encounter with Christ moved in what they believe to be obedience toward a heterosexual orientation. This process, neither instant nor simple, deserves more recognition and credit. Many groups of “former gays” have banded together under the umbrella of Exodus, International, which despite James Dobson’s (and other right-wing spokespersons’) over-involvement in my opinion, offers some very convincing evidence that desire for male, female, both, or neither, is *not* predetermined or hard-wired into the human heart.

    Sorry this is so long, not to mention incoherent. But I did appreciate your post.

    Monday, February 5, 2007 at 9:58 pm | Permalink
  13. Patrick McManus wrote:

    Halden,

    thank you for your theses. They indeed do provide some good fodder in response to Kim’s own.

    Have you read Joel Shuman’s article on homosexuality in the Blackwell Companion to Christian Ethics, “Eating Together: Friendship and Homosexuality”? It’s quite good.

    thanks again,

    Patrick
    p.s. I briefly responded (after a while) to your comments on my Bonhoeffer post. I’m in the middle of reading for my first comprehensive exam on political/public theology and have not had any time, save for now.

    Monday, February 19, 2007 at 1:31 am | Permalink
  14. Patrick McManus wrote:

    Oh ya,

    damn computers…i’ve been reading Jacques Ellul…he agrees!

    Patrick

    Monday, February 19, 2007 at 1:33 am | Permalink
  15. tim wrote:

    Hello, I am new to your site and late to this discussion. I came across it by chance this morning. In the interest of disclosure, I will tell you I am a gay man. I agree with many, but not all, of your 8 points. First, to divorce the politics of liberation from the theological conversation is both unfair and Biblically incorrect. What may sound like faddish politics to you in truth lies squarely in the Bible’s prophetic tradition of social justice. Your argument betrays your misunderstanding of the gay perspective as well. This is not about “the liberation of homosexuals for sexual fulfillment,” but the equality of homosexuals (and bisexuals and transgender persons), and for full inclusion in the church and society that will enable us to live our full and complete Christian lives, whether we are called to marriage, celibacy or something else. Second, you assume that homosexuals are putting their sexuality at the center of their identity, and we are not — at least no more so than heterosexuals do. In other words, some do, some don’t, but all of that is beside the point. The point is whether homosexual Christians have the same avenues open to them that heterosexuals do — in the church, that includes ordination and marriage. Your comment about a “right of sexual satisfaction” is another indication that you do not fully understand the debate, so perhaps I should close at this point. I do agree, mostly, with your points about the construction of sexuality, but given your understanding, surely you must concede that some people do lie much closer to the homosexual side of the spectrum. And while an individual’s sexual orientation may unfold in stages, there is little anyone can do to change its basic contours, and my question is, why should we? Your entire discussion gives short shrift to the science of sexual orientation, which is another weakness. The physical and social sciences changes our approach to Scripture, as they should — or are you a creation scientist too?

    Saturday, April 7, 2007 at 1:41 pm | Permalink
  16. Halden wrote:

    Tim, thanks for the comment.

    Let me make a couple clarifications. First, on the issue of liberation, of course liberation is part of the prophetic tradition, but the bible does not legitimate liberation tote court. The discourse of gay liberation theology is distinctly different from the discourse of the prophets precisely because so much of the former is primarily determined from the politics of policial liberalism with the Bible and Christian tradition being brought in the back door in the service of anoher agenda.

    As to your other question, about whether homosexuals have the same avaenues open to them that other Christians do (i.e. marriage & ordination), I don’t think that question can be answered in the abstract. As far as the marriage question goes, though what proponents of the full-inclusion view would have to show is that marriage has “theological room” as I stated in my post for expanding the historic Christian understanding of marriage to include same-sex partnerships. This burden, I do not think has been met, though I’m open to being in those theological discussions.

    Now, I think I understand some things better than you give me credit for. These are not academic issues for me, but ones that come out of very concrete experiences in intenional community and friendship with gay Christians. The issues of “rights” is indeed at the center of this debate and I think the church is supposed to have a politics that calls into question the discourse of political liberalism and its insistence on “inalienable rights.”

    I do appreciate your comments and I am not “finished” on this issue. My understanding is still forming and I am conflicted about it, not just as a Christian but I single guy who really wants to be married and have my own “sexual fulfillment”! At any rate, thanks.

    Saturday, April 7, 2007 at 6:10 pm | Permalink
  17. bobby grow wrote:

    Halden,

    when you say “Christian gay”, what do you mean? Do you mean people who once identified with the “gay community intentionally” (i.e. are Christians who struggle with a “past” lifestyle), or people who are actively and consciously trying to be identitied as both gay and Christian at the same time?

    Saturday, April 7, 2007 at 6:59 pm | Permalink
  18. Halden wrote:

    All I mean is that I know Christians who are attracted to members of the same sex.

    Are you trying to ask me if I think that practising homosexuals who idenitify themselves as Christians are genuine? It sounds like that’s what you’re really asking.

    Saturday, April 7, 2007 at 7:19 pm | Permalink
  19. bobby grow wrote:

    Halden,

    I too know Christians who are “struggling” with attraction to the same sex, in fact prior to coming to Christ they would identify themselves as homosexual (cf. I Cor. 6:9-11).

    My question isn’t whether or not there are genuine Christians who are practicing homosexuals, I know there are, just like there are Christians who are practicing kleptomaniacs–we all “struggle” with “sin”. Rather my question is, do you believe it’s possible to be consciously and intentionally gay (i.e. no struggle), and consciously and intentionally Christian [?]–much like the “Metropolitan church” represents.

    Saturday, April 7, 2007 at 7:50 pm | Permalink
  20. Halden wrote:

    I think what you need to differentiate here is “being gay” from actively practicing same sex relations. Being gay is simply something that some people are, regardless of how social or genetic factors contribute to that identity. I have no reason whatsoever to say that gay people can’t be Christians. To even think such a thing seems absurd.

    Now, it sounds like your asking if we can consider someone a Christian who believes same sex relations are not a sin and engages in such sexual practices. That to me is a different question than ‘Can someone be gay and a Christian?’

    All I can say is that It’s not for me to say what beliefs about Christian ethics make one a Christian or not. Some Christians believe that remarriage after divorce is a sin and some do not. Do we dare say (supposing that we believe remarriage to be a sin) that people who have divorced and remarried are not Christians? Or that a habitual drunk cannot be a Christian? I certainly won’t presume to do so.

    Right now I still find the weight of Scripture and tradition forcing me to say that same sex relations are not an option for those seeking to follow Christ. But I can’t say that the presence of certain sins makes or don’t make one a Christian.

    I don’t want to dodge your question, but if I’m trying to answer whether or not members of the Metropolitan church are Christians, I feel like I’m saying more than I’m allowed to say. That’s for God ultimately to decide. He is the judge and not me. All I can say for sure is that I disagree with them on some crucial issues about what discipleship entails.

    Saturday, April 7, 2007 at 10:27 pm | Permalink
  21. bobby grow wrote:

    Halden said:

    Right now I still find the weight of Scripture and tradition forcing me to say that same sex relations are not an option for those seeking to follow Christ. But I can’t say that the presence of certain sins makes or don’t make one a Christian.

    You’ve answered my question here, thank you. But I have a few more.

    Halden said:

    I think what you need to differentiate here is “being gay” from actively practicing same sex relations. Being gay is simply something that some people are, regardless of how social or genetic factors contribute to that identity. I have no reason whatsoever to say that gay people can’t be Christians. To even think such a thing seems absurd.

    I did differentiate, unless you think I equivocate. I noted, maybe not as clearly as I should’ve, a distinction between those who “struggle” with homosexuality, i.e. know it’s wrong (because of the Holy Spirit–)–and those who think it’s right (I used the Metropolitan church as an example of this set). You don’t see the distinction?

    I think the burden of proof is on you, not me, in regard to “being gay” and “acting gay”. Paul in I Cor. 6:9-11 says to the Corinthians:

    9Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders 10nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. 11And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.

    Notice that vs. 11 makes clear that their identity was “previously” defined by certain expressions of an unreconciled heart (past tense). But now they are justified in Christ. The point I’m trying to highlight is the clear distinction between being “in self” and “in Christ”. “In self” we manifest all kinds of sinful “activity” (which includes thought patterns Mt. 5:28). Being gay in mind is merely an expression of an disordered state of being relative to Christ–i.e. it’s surface level or symptomatic of an “idolatrous heart”.

    How can you “be gay” (and I’m thinking in terms of your distinction) and “be a Christian”? This seems like an absurdity to me. “Being in Christ” and “being gay”, ontologically are incompatible in my view. This doesn’t mean we don’t battle the “old nature” (Gal 5:17)–and indeed it is the “battle” that differentiates one from the other.

    Btw, could you clarify what you mean by “being gay” and “acting out in same sex sexual relations”; how is one not related to the other? You said I need to differentiate here (I did as noted above), how do you? Are you saying that an celibent gay person, and someone who “acts out” this predisposition are different at an ontological level? I’m not clear on your distinction here.

    Saturday, April 7, 2007 at 11:51 pm | Permalink
  22. Halden wrote:

    When I say so and so is gay what I mean is that person is attracted to members of the same sex. I think having an attractional disposition says nothing whatsoever about one’s spiritual state. That’s what I mean when I say a gay person can be a Christian. I’ve never used the term “acting gay”, but what I think the Bible condemns is the act of having sex with someone of the same sex.

    The Corinthians passage marks out a lot of sinful practices that we are called away from to be sure. But I don’t think its making an ontological statement. It’s talking about ethics. Paul isn’t making these sins ontological categories, but he’s talking about practices that characterize some people’s lives. For example, how could one ontologically be a drunkard?

    If you’re going to say that this passage means that anyone who is attracted to members of the same sex is not a Christian then you also have to say that anyone who slanders or is greedy is also not a Christian. And frankly, neither you nor I nor anyone else would question the Christian status of a man who faithfully goes to church, beleives in God but is constantly seeking to climb the career ladder and make as good of an income as possible. And yet that is greed, pure and simple. He doesn’t think he’s being greedy, but I would disagree with him on that. So should I say he’s not a Christian or say that we both seem to believe in Christ but have a disagreement about whether or not a certain practice is sin or not? Why would it be any different for the question of homosexuality?

    I think the problem is that you have an “over-realized soteriology” if I may coin a term. I think for you being “saved” means having one’s heart completely re-ordered by Christ, therefore if someone claims to believe in Christ and yet still feels attraction to a member of the same sex (which you take to be a disordered affection), then that person couldn’t possibly be saved. I just don’t think our hearts are so completely transformed as all that. We are a work in progress, being formed by God’s Spirit over time as we “work out our salvation with fear and trembling”.

    I think your disctinction between those who “struggle” and those who don’t think homosexual practice is a sin is part of the problem here. What you’re basically saying in this case is that the only way someone can be a Christian is if they agree with you on whether or not this is a sin. And yet we commonly consider other people as fellow Christians with whom we have very similar disagreements about other disputed sins (I’d refer you back to my example of divorce and remarriage). In other words I think you’re not being consistent about what disagreements about sin you’re willing to allow for among Christians. Why is homosexuality the special case?

    Here’s another example. I am a Christian pacifist. I strongly believe that the gospel calls us to be non-violent, which minimally I take to mean that no Chrisian should use lethal force. Many Christians disagree with me about this (I wouldn’t be surprised if you do). Now, by your logic, I shouldn’t consider anyone in the military who calls themself a Christian to be a genuine believer. And conversely, many Christians would say that it is a sin to not defend the innocent with the use of lethal force, ergo they would say that my position is sinful, and thus that I am not a Christian according to your logic. This whole way of thinking gets us nowhere and obscures the real conversation we need to have about reasoning together and continuing to search the Scriptures to see what sinful practices really are condemened by God. But if we rule out in advance anyone who disagrees with us about sin, we simply shrink the number of true Christians down to those that agree with us, and then there is only a monologue to be had.

    Sunday, April 8, 2007 at 1:55 am | Permalink
  23. bobby grow wrote:

    Halden,

    I agree with you on the I Corithians passage being primarily ethical (I overstated), but ontology in Christ has to have something to say about our ethical expressions–wouldn’t you agree? And the Corinthians failure to operate in light of their “new nature” (I Cor. 1–4)is what Paul is addressing in I Cor. 6 (and the rest of the epistle).

    Halden said:

    I think the problem is that you have an “over-realized soteriology” if I may coin a term. I think for you being “saved” means having one’s heart completely re-ordered by Christ . . .

    and I previously said:

    . . . “In self” we manifest all kinds of sinful “activity” (which includes thought patterns Mt. 5:28). Being gay in mind is merely an expression of an disordered state of being relative to Christ–i.e. it’s surface level or symptomatic of an “idolatrous heart”.

    I’m not sure how this is “over-realized soteriology” [?]. I believe at justification we are given new hearts (II Cor. 3), but I don’t believe that we no longer have “old habits” that we struggle with in the old man. And I don’t believe the sin nature can be repaired, thus the need to count it dead (Rom 8–10). If I’m over-realized, then you’re “under-realized” ;~).

    Halden continued to say:

    . . . therefore if someone claims to believe in Christ and yet still feels attraction to a member of the same sex (which you take to be a disordered affection), then that person couldn’t possibly be saved.

    I didn’t say that, in fact I said the opposite, as my comment above clarifies. I follow some of Frost, not all. It would be highly naive to think what you have cariactured me as believing. I think I have made clear that there is indeed a “struggle”–which implies, for some, attraction to the same sex, post conversion. For others it implies “outbursts of anger”, etc., etc.

    Halden said:

    . . . In other words I think you’re not being consistent about what disagreements about sin you’re willing to allow for among Christians. Why is homosexuality the special case?

    Yes that sounds rather fundamentalist (socially), doesn’t it? Or maybe PoMo (i.e. normative relativism) . . . but I’m neither (although I am fundy, doctrinally). I don’t believe homosexuality is a “special case”–in fact I have argued just the opposite in the past (in the “real world”, i.e. not in cyberspace), and would in the present. But you still haven’t addressed my question, Halden, you have “relativized” it, for sure (your divorce/remarriage point–by the way I think both are plausible possibilities according to scripture)–but you have not “bluntly” answered my query about homosexual Christians.

    I’m not asking you to discern their hearts (ultimately) . . . I’m asking you if you think it’s justifiable for “Christian Homosexuality” to be institutionalized and systematized in ways as the Metropolitan church reflects? And if yes/no, why?

    In fact you already affirmed what I affirm when you said:

    Right now I still find the weight of Scripture and tradition forcing me to say that same sex relations are not an option for those seeking to follow Christ. But I can’t say that the presence of certain sins makes or don’t make one a Christian.

    I heartily agree . . . but haven’t you, as me, closed the door on any fruitful dialogue with “homosexual Christians” by making such a statement (according to your logic)? Our door for dialogue is not by affirming someone’s adultery, theivery, drug usage, or homosexuality it is rather the cross of Christ.

    Halden said:

    . . . But if we rule out in advance anyone who disagrees with us about sin, we simply shrink the number of true Christians down to those that agree with us, and then there is only a monologue to be had.

    Jesus seemed to have some pretty hard and fast distinction on particular sin–esp. empty religion. His approach wasn’t to legitimize certain sins in order to have dialogue; rather He confronted sin (the sick need a doctor, not the healthy) by calling it what it was . . . this created division in some instances, and communion in others (I Cor. 2:10ff). Jesus indeed ate and drank with the “winebibbers and gluttons”, but He never affirmed their lifestyle as legitimate in order to gain a hearing.

    I do follow just war theory (I’m not a pacifist, you’re right), but won’t go into the details why (at the moment).

    I think anyone involved in any sin should have an attitude of humble repentance, Halden, if these folk (whatever the sin might be)aren’t after church discipline is implemented then let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector. . . .(Mt. 18:17c see the context).

    I think you’ve placed yourself on a slippery slope Halden, with no ability to challenge sin (which is unhealthy for the body of Christ I Cor. 12:26). But then again you did, earlier, recognize homosexuality as sin and a dead option for the Christian, according to scripture and some tradition.

    On the over-realized point one more time. I believe in the transformative work of the gospel, but I’m a realist and also recognize an ongoing antikeimai, or opposition, between the flesh and spirit (Gal. 5:17). I believe the answer of the cross (as metynome)more than adequately deals with the question of our corrupt hearts (wholistic person). There is an “re-ordering” of sorts (sanctification), but I don’t see this as nice and neat, nor complete until glorification–which you implied to the contrary.

    Anyway, shalom for now . . . and HE IS RISEN!!

    Sunday, April 8, 2007 at 5:52 am | Permalink
  24. tim wrote:

    Once again, I don’t even know where to begin, and I haven’t much time to write before leaving for church this Easter morning. By the way, I go to an Episcopal Church, not the Metropolitan Church, and thank God there are now more and growing options for gay Christians like me. This discussion continues to ignore the science of sexual orientation. And quoting Paul in Corinthians opens up the whole question of language and cultural translation. There is no way Paul wrote “homosexual offenders” in any language, since the concept of “homosexual” did not arrive until the late 19th century. There is no way Paul discussed homosexual orientation in the way we understand it today. What Paul did understand was same-sex prostitution, same-sex activity in pagan temple rites, etc. For Paul, surely, and for anyone (then and now) who believes heterosexuality is normative, same-sex activity is disordered. But heterosexuality is not normative — the majority does not constitute the norm. All things beings equal — and they are — how does the church justify treating two members of its body differently? A few other clarifications: Homosexuality is not a sin. Many gay people, thank God, do not struggle with our orientation; we struggle with the ignorance of the world. Being gay does not mean a person is sexually active. There *are* celibate homosexuals. Finally, Halden, back to the political question. If the poor unite in a political justice movement, are they somehow unbiblical? How then can you say that about the gay movement? Yes, some gay people seek liberation from the church for the church’s willful ignorance and oppression. Others seek liberation within the church. I do not understand why you insist on removing this kind of liberation from the theological context. Enough for now. Blessed Easter to you all.

    Sunday, April 8, 2007 at 12:46 pm | Permalink
  25. tim wrote:

    Sorry, one more thing. “Weight of Scripture”? Please. We are talking maybe a dozen verses out of 32,000 that might address homosexuality, but again, not sexual orientation as we know it today. There are some things, many things, the Biblical writers just didn’t know about.

    Sunday, April 8, 2007 at 12:52 pm | Permalink
  26. bobby grow wrote:

    Tim,

    I would highly recommend the book:
    Ethics For a Brave New World by Feinberg and Feinberg, check out there discussion on homosexuality. They more than adequately answer the cultural and lexical assertions you have forwarded relative to the “normativity” of homosexuality in the Bible.

    Also, the physiology of “gay sex” (male) argues against it as a “healthy” interaction. It leads to the destruction of essential membrane which contributes to the proper function of the immune system.

    I wish I had more time to engage this issue with you, but I don’t at the moment. I hope you’ll take me up on reading the Feinbergs, and critically think about your assertions in light of the substantial weight of evidence, including lexical, socio/cultural, and physiological which argues against (in my view convincingly)the homosexual lifestyle of any epoch of time.

    Shalom

    Monday, April 9, 2007 at 3:05 am | Permalink
  27. bobby grow wrote:

    Tim

    an afterthought, quickly, you have a more fundamental problem that needs to be addressed, and that is your view of God’s self disclosure. You seem to suggest that scripture was unaware of certain things when it was written. This is presupposed by a view of scripture that is incompatible with scripture’s own view of itself (see II Tim. 3:16). Scripture isn’t just the word’s of men, it’s more than that, it’s the words of God, communicating exactly what He intended through men.God’s moral character never changes, His “moral law” in Leviticus for example hasn’t been abrogated or changed since it univocally reflects His character which is the same yesterday, today, and forever. Your view potentially assumes a “process” view of God which is incongruent with the God that is revealed in the scriptures.

    I hope you’ll reconsider your view of God, it will have a drastic impact on your view of scripture and what it communicates–this change of mind on your part would have life-changing affect on your ontological and axiological viewpoint.

    Monday, April 9, 2007 at 3:15 am | Permalink
  28. Halden wrote:

    Tim, thanks for your continued comments. As to what Paul meant, I am familiar with all the points you make, but I would just say that those points are contested by New Testament scholars and not just the fundies! :)

    And as for your question about the poor I’d say that’s not a fair correlation because the call for the liberation of the poor is cearly present in the Bible itself, while that is not true of homosexuality. On this issue I’d recommend William Webb’s book Slaves, Women, and Homosexuals.

    Tuesday, April 10, 2007 at 5:22 am | Permalink
  29. tim wrote:

    Bobby, if you insist on believing that the ancient purity codes of Leviticus pertain to all of human sexuality for all time, then there is no point in further discussion. Your point on the physiology of gay male sexuality is beyond ludicrous; what do you make of lesbian sex, I wonder? Thank you for the recommended text; there are many I might recommend to you in return, starting with Human Sexuality 101.

    What I don’t appreciate is your condescension. You might reconsider *your* view of God, and ask yourself whether revelation really ceased when the biblical canon was closed.

    Halden, I will check out the book you mention just to see how the counterargument might be made. I am fascinated to know how anyone can argue that first-century writers could have understood anything about the science of sexual orientation.

    Tuesday, April 10, 2007 at 8:05 pm | Permalink
  30. Halden wrote:

    Tim, Webb’s book is more specifically concerned with looking at the relationship between hermeneutics and cultural analysis. For some stuff on on the nature of same sex relationships in greco-roman culture, I’d also recommend Robert Gagnon’s The Bible and Homosexual Practice. Gagnon is a Lutheran and definitely no evangelical. But his rigorous study of this topic is one of the most thorough out there. For something shorter, Richard Hays’ chapter in his book The Moral Vision of the New Testament is also quite good.

    Wednesday, April 11, 2007 at 5:25 am | Permalink
  31. tim wrote:

    Fellas, we could recommend books to each other all day long. I don’t think this is getting anywhere. I resent the implication that, because I disagree with you, I am not well-read. There are questions that you refuse to engage here.

    Wednesday, April 11, 2007 at 6:44 pm | Permalink
  32. Halden wrote:

    Tim, that is certainly not the implication that I wanted to convey. I will openly admit, that while I have tried to expose myself to the pro-inclusion persepective’s writings that I am not as fully well read in thier literature as I’m sure you are. And I would suspect that the same is true of you for the pro-tradition perspective. That wasn’t meant as a slight in any way. The only reason I mentioned more books was because you raised this issue of what perspective, if any the bible has on sexual orientation an the inital book I had mentioned wasn’t really about that. (And, btw I despise the book on ethics that Bobby mentioned, I think its unforgivably flawed)

    What questions do you see me not interested in engaging? I’ve tried in some way to anwer the questions you’ve raised. I don’t think its fair to say that I’m not interested in engaging certain questions. I know this is an intensely personal issue for you, and I appreciate how vulnerable you’ve been in what you’ve written. I’d just add that it’s also personal for me and my discussion of this issue invloves very specific people who I’m in relationship with.

    I’m sorry if this discussion is coming across in an unhospitable way. I hope you can tell from the discussion that Bobby and I don’t have identical perspectives. If you want to continue, please tell me what questions you think I should consider. If not, thanks for the conversation and may God bless us both as we try to follow him faithfully.

    Thursday, April 12, 2007 at 4:16 am | Permalink

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  1. Brian Hamilton » Theses on Sex and Christian Ethics on Tuesday, January 27, 2009 at 6:56 am

    [...] Doerge just posted eight other theses on sexual identity and Christian ethics, more hesitant than Kim’s but not finally decisive. In any case, his hesitations are [...]

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