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Arguments for same-sex behavior: outlines and inadequacies
The Anglican Communion Institute ^ | 6/17/2005 | Dr. William G. Witt

Posted on 06/19/2005 8:26:15 AM PDT by sionnsar

It is only within the last generation that affluent Western Christians have suggested that same‑sex sexual activity might be morally permissible.  The unanimous consensus of the previous Christian tradition (Roman Catholic, Orthodox, Protestant and Anglican) has been that homosexual activity is immoral, condemned by both Scripture and Church tradition. The vast majority of critical biblical scholars continue to recognize that the plain sense reading of the biblical texts prohibits homosexual activity, and that Scripture endorses only one per­missible model for sexual activity: exclusive life-long commitment within heterosexual marriage.

            Given the historic Anglican commitment to the primacy and sufficiency of Scripture, it would seem difficult to make a case from an Anglican perspective  for the approval of same-sex activity, for the blessing of same-sex relationships, or for the ordaining of practicing homosexual clergy.  Those who attempt to make such a case necessarily  have to address the question of biblical authority.  How one attempts to reconcile the endorsing of same-sex practices with the authority of Scripture will depend, first, on whether one recognizes that Scripture prohibits same-sex activity, and, second, how one responds to Scripture’s teaching.


            The first and probably most prevalent position held by those who endorse same-sex activity might be called “selectivism.”  This position recognizes that Scripture condemns same-sex sexual activity.  Despite this prohibition, its advocates insists, same-sex sexual activity is morally permissible.  In short, the Bible is mistaken in what it says about homosexuality.

            There are variations on this approach, running from those who are rather straightforward in their rejection of what Scripture teaches to those who try to articulate a more nuanced stance.  The more radical are willing to write such things as: “[W]hile the Bible might ‘contain everything necessary for salvation,’ it also contains a lot of other junk, some of it plainly destructive and dangerous. . . . [P]erhaps Paul is condemning homosexuality . . . Paul was wrong about a number of other things too.”[1]   Retired Bishop John Spong wrote many years ago of Rescuing the Bible From Fundamentalism.  His most recent book is entitled The Sins of Scripture.[2]  Michael Hopkins, the President of Integrity, recently stated, “The Bible and the Church have both been wrong. The Holy Spirit is teaching this to us.”[3]

            The more radical advocates of same-sex relationships owe much to precedents set by feminist theology. They state that the Bible and Christian tradition are inherently “heterosexist.”  Advocates say that one must approach Scripture with a "hermeneutic of suspicion.”[4] Salvation consists in overturning oppressive heterosexist hierarchies.  Sometimes, Jesus’ opposition to the religious and political leaders of his time is held up as establishing  precedent for gay political activism. As do AIDS activists who engage in public protest, it is said that Jesus “acted up.”[5]

            A more nuanced Selectivism is distinguished by a more restrained rhetoric rather than a difference of methodological approach.  Moderate  Selectivism suggests that the Bible should be seen as a “foundational document” or a “religious classic” rather than a normative authority.  The Bible sets the basic agenda for Christianity because of its relation to Christian origins.[6]  It asks the basic questions, and should be respected as a “serious statement” about what it means to be Christian.  Nonetheless, the contemporary Christian may well find him- or herself in disagreement with biblical texts.  There is an inevitable subjectivity involved in appropriating biblical authority, since it is acknowledged that the criteria that one uses to evaluate the texts itself lies outside the text, in one’s own “contemporary experience.”  It is acknowledged that certain biblical materials are accepted as authoritative and others are not because they “fit the experience” of the one doing the selecting.

            Selectivist approaches inevitably involve a two-step process in the interpretation of Scripture.  The first step is an identification of elements in the biblical text that can no longer be considered authoritative.  Thus, it might be argued that the Bible reflects the cultural background and social values of the time during which it was written. The biblical writers wrote in a patriarchal environment in which women were subordinate, and slavery was approved.  The purpose of biblical sexual prohibitions was to buttress this system of power and subordination.  Property concerns were paramount.  It was important to be able to identify one’s offspring insofar as property passed down through the male line.  Homophobia is simply one example of the less enlightened social ideals of that time, reflecting the concerns for domination and control of sexuality that were dominant in the wider culture.[7]

            In the second step, it is argued that there are countervailing positive themes that compensate for these undesirable limitations found in Scripture, and it is these themes that provide the legitimation for the Church’s approval of same-sex activity. For example, it is argued that themes of liberation from oppressive structures are an important part of the biblical message.  The Bible calls us to embrace whatever leads to liberation and self-fulfillment.  Affirmation of same-sex activity can be endorsed as  part of this liberating agenda.

            There are differences among Selectivists  both as to what needs to be dispensed with in Scripture, and also as to which parts of the biblical message still have contemporary relevance.

            One approach focuses on political or social liberation from oppressive societal structures.  Another approach we might call “Experientialist” Selectivism appeals to religious experience. A well-known retired American bishop writes that the heart of the Bible is a message about a timeless and non-linguistic religious experience that comes down to us wrapped in two thousand years of cultural baggage.  To recover this experience for ourselves, we must get past the cultural baggage.  Once we get past the baggage, we find an experience of love and self-acceptance—the courage to be one’s true self. Sexual liberation is somehow connected to this experience of love and acceptance.  Acceptance of homosexual activity is a way of embracing Jesus’ message of self-affirmation and self-acceptance that are part of the original experience.[8]

            A more sociological Selectivism suggests that there is a contract between two ethics in the Bible, a holiness/purity ethic and a compassion/love ethic. Much of the material of the Old Testament and of the intertestamental literature endorses an ethic of taboo and purity.   It is suggested that Jesus rejected this purity ethic to advocate an ethic of love and compassion.  A New Testament ethic consistent with Jesus’s own example recognizes restrictions in sexual behavior only for violations of sexual property–fidelity in sexual relations that do not harm others–not rules about sexual purity taboos.  Proscriptions against homosexual activity are part of a purity ethic, and have been superseded by this ethic of love.[9]


            Contrary to the Selectivist approach, which recognizes forthrightly that the Bible condemns same-sex activity, a  second type of attempt to justify same-sex activity could be called “Revisionist” in the sense that it tries to revise the traditional interpretation of Scripture concerning homosexual activity.  Revisionists argue that it is a misunderstanding to say that the Bible prohibits all same-sex activity.  To the contrary, Scripture does not condemn loving committed same-sex relations, and loving committed relationships are the only kind of sexual relationships the Church is interested in endorsing.  What was condemned by the writers of Scripture was either exploitative same-sex activity, pederasty, or cult prostitution.[10]

            In support of this position, two contradictory arguments  appear.  Sometimes it is claimed that the biblical writers knew nothing about long-term committed same-sex relationships, and so could not have condemned them.  The only homosexual relationships of which the biblical writers were aware were the ritual homosexual prostitution characteristic of biblical Israel’s Canaanite contemporaries or the exploitative pederastic practices of pagan Hellenism.[11]

            Conversely, it is sometimes argued that the biblical writers did know about long-term committed same-sex relationships, and did not condemn them.  For example, Naomi and Ruth. Jonathan and David, Jesus and the disciple “whom he loved,” are sometimes held up as examples of just such positive same-sex relationships in the Bible.[12]

            A variation on this argument tries to split the difference between these two claims about the biblical writers’ knowledge of homosexuality.  The biblical writers generally thought of homosexuality in terms of pagan practices, and it is these practices they condemn.  Nevertheless, there were exceptions of positive same-sex relations in ancient Israel and the New Testament Church, but, these examples were largely suppressed by a homophobic culture.  However, reading between the lines, we can recognize such positive examples in Ruth and Noami, Jonathan and David, and others.

            The Revisionist hermeneutic emphasizes that only a handful of biblical texts speak negatively about same-sex activity, and claims that even these have been misunderstood.  The proscriptions in Leviticus 18:22, 20:13 condemn not committed loving same-sex activity, but perhaps homosexual cultic prostitution.  The Sodom story (Gen. 19) condemns not homosexual activity, but inhospitality.  The accounts of creation of man and woman in Genesis 1 and 2 are not prescriptive accounts of normative sexuality, but are merely descriptive and etiological.  They say something about why the ancient writers believed that the two sexes exist, but nothing about normative sexual morality for today. 

            In the New Testament, it is said, Jesus never mentioned homosexuality.  He certainly did not condemn same-sex activity.  It is suggested that Paul in Romans 1:18-32 is condemning either Gentile  pederasty or heterosexuals who abandon their “natural” heterosexuality and engage in homosexual relations that are not unnatural in themselves, but are unnatural for heterosexuals.  Paul is not speaking of those with a same-sex orientation, because for them homosexual activity is natural.  He is not referring to lesbianism, but to some other kind of deviant female sexual activity.  In 1 Cor. 6:9, malakoi and arsenekoitai are unique Pauline words whose actual meaning is unknown.  There is no reason to believe they refer to people in positive committed loving same-sex sexual relationships.  They may refer to cultic prostitution or pederasty.[13]

 Ecclesial Dispensation

            Both the Selectivist and Revisionist approaches have serious problems. The first approach is politically untenable and the second exegetically so. No church that hopes to keep the average worshiper in the pew can do so by embracing the arguments either that the Bible is a document of oppression or that it cannot be trusted in its moral assertions.  The second approach fails as well because  the vast majority of bib­lical scholars, both historically and recently, concede that the plain sense reading of the biblical texts prohibits homosexual activity, and that Scripture endorses only one per­missible model for sexual activity: exclusive life-long commitment within heterosexual marriage.

            Thus those who want to change the Church’s historic position but who do not want to admit that they are simply jettisoning the authority of the Church’s canoni­cal Scriptures are in an unenviable position.  In recent years a third position has ap­peared, one that recognizes that the plain sense reading of Scripture prohibits same-sex activity, yet nonetheless also insists that the Church can still endorse something that violates the plain sense reading of Scripture, and in doing so can still somehow be faithful to the teaching of Scripture.  The argument takes the form: although the Scriptures prohibit same-sex activity, nonetheless, the Church is free not to be bound by these proscriptions in the same way that it has recognized that it is not bound by other prohibitions in the Bible.

            The most superficial example of this approach has become so commonplace that it is often referred to in shorthand as the “shellfish” argument.   Advocates point out that the Bible prohibits the eating of shellfish or the wearing of mixed-weave fabrics, or some other prohibition usually found somewhere in the Mosaic law. Yet we all eat shellfish and wear mixed-blend clothing.   Such an observation ought to be inexcusable for Anglicans who should be aware of Article 7 of the 39 Articles, which distinguishes between those precepts of the Mosaic Law that refer to rites, ceremonies, and civil law, and those precepts that are moral.

            Other regularly mentioned examples include slavery, usury, Sabbath-keeping, divorce, blood consumption, women’s ordination.  In each case, it is held that the Scriptures prohibit or command a certain activity that at some time the Church has seen fit to declare non-binding.  Accordingly, there is nothing to prevent the Church to declare that prohibitions against same-sex activity are no longer binding. 

            A more sophisticated version of this third approach can be found in the New York Episco­pal Diocese’s “Let the Reader Understand,” a small pamphlet that has received wide circula­tion.[14]  A more developed form of the argument appeared in an unpublished article by Tobias Haller, one of the authors of the NY pamphlet. “Let the Reader Understand” takes its starting point from Art.7 of the 39 Articles, which distinguishes between those precepts of the Mosaic Law that refer to rites, ceremonies, and forms of government, and those precepts that are moral. Also referenced is  Anglican Divine Richard Hooker’s distinction between the “positive laws” given by Moses and the “moral” precepts found in the Ten Commandments. (Laws III. 11.6).  There is also an appeal to the Biblical precedent found in Jesus’ setting aside the dietary laws of the Old Testament, and in the New Testament church’s decision to admit Gentiles into fellowship.  “Let the Reader Understand” mentions permission of slavery and prohibition of blood consumption as examples of biblical laws that were subsequently set aside by the later Church.

            The conclusion drawn by the document is that the Church has the authority to set aside either positive biblical commandments or negative prohibitions that it considers no longer binding.  In the document’s own words: “[I]t is insufficient simply to condemn those things that are condemned somewhere in Scripture, or to approve those things that are somewhere approved . . . [T]he Church has come to oppose or forbid acts mandated or tolerated in Scripture, and to allow acts or behaviors forbidden there.” 

            The deciding principle for the Church’s decisions in this regard is said to be the Great Commandment or the Summary of the Law.  LRU states that “[t]he Church has authority to set aside or ignore its own decisions, even when these decisions are recorded in Scripture, and based upon other Scriptures to which divine mandate is attached. It does this by deciding that the divine mandate was temporary, allowing the law to lapse through disuse, or by interpreting the law in a new light.”  The document claims that it is particularly the local or national church that has the right to make these decisions about which biblical prohibitions are binding or may be set aside,  claiming for a local diocese the authority to set aside the moral teaching of the universal Church, and the Scriptures.  One cannot help but ask where this principle could lead. Would the local church be free to set aside non-moral principles as well, e.g., the Nicene affirmation that the Son is homoousios with the Father?  Could a national church or local diocese decide to add contemporary materials to the canon? Or omit material from the canon that did not conform to contemporary sensibilities?  Is it logically possible that the Scriptures could continue to  be morally binding in anything they teach, since the local church is free to absolve itself of having to obey any moral commands that conflict with the values of contemporary culture?

 Non-biblical Arguments

            Besides approaches that at least attempt to take into account the biblical material, there are appeals by those who approve of same-sex activity that do not address the biblical prohibitions at all.  They may be used in conjunction with one or another of the above approaches, but these approaches are characterized by a theological position that decides independently of biblical considerations  that same-sex activity is acceptable, and then either modifies or reinterprets the biblical teaching in light of this prior endorsement.  Rather than addressing the biblical prohibitions, or reinterpreting them, these approaches base their case on some theological principle or argument arrived at independently of what the Bible actually says about the morality of sexuality, whether heterosexual or homosexual.

            The first of these appeals might be called “Enthusiast.” The claim here is that  God is doing a new thing in the Church.  The Holy Spirit is leading the Church into a new understanding of what it means to be the Church.  It is sometimes claimed that the inclusion of practicing homosexuals in the Church is parallel to Gentile inclusion in the early Church in which at first only Gentile had been members.  As the Holy Spirit led the apostle Peter to admit the Gentile Cornelius to the Church (Acts 10), and had led the Council of Jerusalem to realize that Gentiles did not have to keep the Mosaic law to become Christians (Acts 15), so, it is claimed, the Holy Spirit is leading today’s Church to recognize that those who practice same-sex activity should be welcomed into the Church as well.[15]

            Parallel to the above argument is an appeal to inclusivity.  The theological basis is often a doctrine of baptism, understood as something like a  membership card.  Former Presiding Bishop Edmund Browning’s motto –“There can be no outcasts in the Episcopal Church”–has become a mantra of a doctine of “inclusivism.”  It is suggested that for the Church to forbid same-sex sexual activity is to deny the baptismal rights of homosexuals.  Advocates note that the Baptismal Covenant in the 1979 American Book of Common Prayer commands us to seek Christ in every individual–this must include gay men, lesbians, and transsexuals as well.  Advocates often appeal to Jesus’ table fellowship with sinners as providing precedent.[16]

            In this regard, acceptance in the Church of those who practice same-sex activity is also  viewed as a civil rights or justice issue.  Just as the American Church had to overcome slavery during the nineteenth-century American Civil War, and to recognize that racial prejudice and mandatory racial segregation were morally offensive during the 1960’s civil rights struggle, as well as the 1980’s struggle against apartheid in South Africa, so now the Church must overcome homophobia—irrational prejudice against gays and lesbians.  It is a requirement of the promises made in baptism that practicing homosexuals be admitted into the Church, their relationships blessed, that they be ordained as clergy.  As it is sometimes said, “If we are not going to ordain gay Christians, then we shouldn’t baptize them.”  It is claimed as well that the refusal to openly acknowledge homosexual Christians in the Church is a matter of hypocrisy.  There have always been gay laity and clergy, but up until now, they have had to live lives of deception.  By openly blessing their relationships and ordaining them as clergy, the Church is simply being honest about what has always been the case.

            As the above appeal is often rooted in the rhetoric of Civil Rights, coupled with it is a characterization of the disagreement over Church approval of same-sex  activity  as a primarily political issue. Opposition to homosexual activity is claimed to be part of a reactionary right-wing political agenda, just one element in a cultural and political  backlash against the recent progress won by minorities, including women and racial minorities.  Acceptance of gay rights and approval of homosexual activity is part of a progressive struggle for human rights and dignity.  As there were those in the Church who resisted the earlier struggle for Civil Rights and equality for racial minorities and women, so, regrettably, there are those who resist the current struggle for Civil Rights and equality for those of homosexual orientation.  Nonetheless, there were those in the Church who were at the forefront of the earlier Civil Rights movement, and so it is today.  As Martin Luther King, Jr. was a hero for those in the Civil Rights movement of the 1960’s, so Bishop V.Gene Robinson is viewed today.

            Variations on the theme of inclusiveness appeal to diversity, pluralism, and tolerance as well. Advocates claim that to be opposed to the right of those of homosexual orientation to fulfill that orientation by entering into committed unions is to oppose difference and otherness.  It is to reject the right of people to be different from oneself.  Denial of sexual diversity is the same kind of irrational prejudice that lies behind xenophobia or racism—an example of uncharitable intolerance.  To embrace homosexual activity is to embrace cultural diversity and the  richness of a multivaried culture in which differences are celebrated rather than distrusted or feared.

            Implicit in the notion of same-sex orientation is what is sometimes called the “Politics of Identity.”  People are said to derive their sense of worth and their moral standing from the groups with which they primarily identify—groupings of class, race, sex (male or female).  Thus only those who know themselves to be homosexual can make moral judgments about the morality of same-sex activity.  Those who know themselves to be homosexual in orientation know that homosexuality is natural for them.  Those who have come to know gay people know that the only way they are different from heterosexuals is the people they love.  The 1998 Lambeth Conference committed the Church to enter into dialog with people of same-sex orientation.  This must be understood to mean acceptance of their own self-understanding.  Those of homosexual orientation do not choose to be that way, and it is cruel and unjust to demand that they embrace celibacy as the only alternative to engaging in same-sex activity.  The implicit assumption here is that all people have an inherent right to sexual fulfillment.

            Sometimes an appeal is made  to the Protestant Reformation.  The Reformers realized that mandatory celibacy was an unfair burden to place on the clergy.  Fairness demands that we not expect of those of homosexual orientation a celibacy we would not expect of heterosexuals.

            Occasionally, appeals to identity are reinforced by quasi-scientific claims.  Advocates often clam that modern scientific studies have demonstrated that homosexual orientation is genetically determined.  As much as 10% of the population is said to be irreversibly homosexual.  The American Psychological Association has declared that homosexuality is not a mental illness.  Accordingly, to be opposed to homosexuality is to be scientifically backward, but also to condemn people for being that which God made them to be. 

            The politics of identity can also take the opposite stance, however.  Claims to any kind of enduring sexual identity are rejected as examples of restrictive “essentialism.”  Rather, people must be free to make sexual choices, and  identifying onself as a person who engages in same-sex relations makes a political and theological statement.  Moreover, the suggestions of heterosexual Christians that homosexuals should restrict themselves to long-term exclusive same-sex relationships is itself rejected here as a case of heterosexism–an attempt to impose the values of heterosexual monogamy on a community that neither needs nor wants them.[17]


            If the so-called biblical approaches fail insofar as they do not adequately take into account what Scripture actually says about sexuality, these latter attempts to find reasons for the Church to approve of same-sex activity fail insofar as they do not take the biblical material into account at all.  If theology as understood historically is faith seeking understanding, that is, critical reflection on the subject matter of revelation as witnessed to in Holy Scripture and Church tradition, then these latter approaches are not properly theological.  Although both Scripture and Church tradition have much to say about  the place of human sexuality in God’s intentions for humanity in creation, redemption, and eschatological beatitude, these latter approaches studiously avoid discussing this.

            Rather, ignoring the plain sense reading of Scripture about same-sex sexual activity, they tend to make their case in one of two ways. First, there is  an overarching appeal to such values as love, compassion, tolerance, diversity, inclusiveness, justice—all understood as abstractions, divorced from the concrete particularities of biblical doctrines and practices.   The Bible commands us to love everybody, to love our neighbor as ourselves.  To love homosexuals, then, means in the eyes of the advocates of same-sex unions,  to allow those who experience themselves as and who identify themselves as gays, lesbians and transsexuals  the freedom to pursue the same happiness that heterosexuals would expect for themselves.  To be just towards homosexuals demands extending to them the same rights that we would extend to others.  To be tolerant and inclusive of homosexuals necessarily implies that they be allowed full privileges in church and society.

            However, insofar as they are abstractions, appeals to values of love, justice, or inclusiveness are vacuous.  For Christians, the meaning of notions of love, justice or fellowship (koinonia–certaintly a more appropriately Christian value than “inclusiveness”) receive their normative meanings  from the context of the biblical narratives of God’s creation of the world and humanity, his election of Israel, and God’s redemption of sinful humanity through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  We cannot know what love means apart from the cross of Christ, with its implicit message not only of redemption and transformation, but also of judgment on human sin.[18]

            Second, the arguments are appeals to analogies.  Some of the analogies are drawn from outside the Church’s context–for example, appeals to the secular political language of right and left-wing power politics, or to tolerance and inclusivity.  Others are based broadly on analogies to biblical or theological concerns, for example, comparisons to Gentile inclusion in the Church or to the baptismal covenant.

            By definition, analogies contain both an element of similarity and an element of dissimilarity to that to which they are being compared.  Bad analogies fail because the dissimilarity is too great and the similarity superficial.  Any theological appeal to analogy that ignores or contradicts fundamental teaching of Scripture immediately raises suspicions of dissimilarity, but the positive appeals to the arguments for approval of same-sex activity are also weak.

            The tendency to categorize the current theological disagreements in terms of analogies drawn from secular political categories is erroneous because it is a category mistake.  Politics deals with penultimate issues, specifically the manner in which human beings live with each other in society.  Christian faith is concerned with ultimate issues, namely humanity’s relation to God and God’s purposes for humanity.  While Christian beliefs certainly  have implications for our relations to our fellow human beings—including the social relations of civil life, economics, war and peace, and other political matters—to reduce the theological to the political is to engage in a form of idolatry, elevating the creature to the status of the Creator.  To the contrary, Christian political theology finds its center in the claim that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the exclusion of all other lords.

            Subverting Christian faith to contemporary political agendas also confuses social realities that need to be kept distinct.  The sphere of the state and the government is not the same sphere of sovereignty as that of the church.[19] Nor is it the sphere of the family or the work place.  What is permissible in one sphere may be quite out of order in another.  So the civil government might well have an interest in the prevention of certain kinds of discrimination in the workplace or housing against persons who identify themselves as gay or lesbian without implying either that the Christian Church should recognize same-sex sexual activity as holy or worthy of blessing, or that  the family should agree that there is no inherent value in preserving heterosexual marriage as the only morally permissible context in which to harness the energy of sexuality and to raise children.

            From a Christian perspective, the correct approach is to assess current political disagreements in light of the norms of the gospel—the good news of salvation in Jesus Christ—rather than vice versa.  To characterize differences between Christians in terms of the political categories of left and right reflects a cultural captivity of the churches to a secular agenda.

            Similarly, appeals to Gentile inclusion or the baptismal covenant reflect a simplistic and distorted notion of Christian discipleship that was addressed a half century ago in concerns about “indiscriminate bapism.”[20]  Baptism does not only mean that one is admitted to the Christian Church, with all rights and privileges pertaining thereto.  Baptism is not a membership card. It demands conversion. When one becomes a member of the Christian community by baptism, one’s identity, including one’s previous story, has now to be reformed by incorporation into a new story, the story of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, and the story of the community composed of disciples of Jesus. The historic connection between baptism and the recitation of the Apostle’s Creed points to the confessionally narrative basis of the Christian identity endowed in baptism.  Baptism not only includes one in the Church, but distinguishes between the Church and the non‑Christian world as well.  Contrary to the language of “identity politics,” baptism means that one now has a new identity, formed by one’s death to one’s previous life,  and a union with the resurrection life of Christ that brings one into the new identity-forming community of the Church (Rom. 6: 1-4; Gal. 2:20).   The Church’s story is not the world’s story, and in becoming disciples of Jesus, Christians have to renounce the world’s story.  The goal of Christian baptism is not to be inclusive, but to follow Jesus, and the way of Jesus is the narrow way, not the inclusivist way.

            Similarly, the semi-scientific arguments fundamentally misconstrue the nature of Christian ethics–apart from their questionable assumptions about a general consensus in the scientific community concerning genetic causation of human proclivities or desires.  The scientific claim cannot be that same-sex sexual behavior is genetically determined.  Arguments for physical or psychological determination of human actions are not scientific, but philosophical or theological. Science is incompetent to provide guidance on what is at heart a metaphysical question.  The claim being made then must surely be that same-sex orientation is physically hardwired.  But an orientation is a desire, and the Christian moral tradition has never claimed that the rightness or wrongness of moral action is determined by the strength of our desires.  The proponents of same-sex union may well be correct that people do not choose do have same-sex desires.  In this sense, they are correct that the disagreement is about love–specifically, what we do with our various loves.  The classic Christian tradition (as represented by such figures as Augustine, Thomas Aquinas and Richard Hooker) agrees that we do not simply choose our desires; rather, it is our desires that enables us to choose our actions.  But one of the fundamental features of growth in the life of grace is learning to sort out our desires. Not all the actions to which our desires prompt us are worthy of pursuit.  Illicit desire pursued repeatedly creates habits, and, as Augustine remarked–“The law of sin is the violence of habit.” Augustine, Conf. 8.5(11).  The development of character is a matter of learning which desires should be pursued, and which not. Grace gives the moral freedom to love what we ought to love, and to distinguish properly between true and false loves.

[1] Robert Williams, Just As I Am: A Practical Guide to Being Out, Proud and Christian (NY: HarperCollins, 1992), 39, 53.

[2] John Shelby Spong, Rescuing the Bible from Fundamentalism: A Bishop Rethinks the Meaning of Scripture (San Francisco: HarperCollins, 1992); The Sins of Scripture: Exposing The Bible’s Texts of Hate To Reveal The God Of Love (San Francisco: HarperCollins, 2005).

[3] “Church, it is time to move on,”

[4] The original inspiration is Elizabeth Schussler Fiorenza, Bread Not Stone: The Challenge of Feminist Biblical Interpretation (Boston: Beacon Press, 1984).

[5] Robert Goss, Jesus Acted Up: A Gay and Lesbian Manifesto (San Francisco: HarperCollins, 1992).

[6] Robin Scroggs,”The Bible as Foundational Document,” Interpretation: A Journal of Bible and Theology (January 1995) 49(1): 17-30.

[7] Bernadette Brooton, Love Between Women: Early Christian Responses to Female Homoeroticism (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1996).

[8] These themes are echoed repeatedly in the books of John Shelby Spong.

[9] L. William Countryman, Dirt, Greed and Sex: Sexual Ethics in the New Testament and Their Implications for Today (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1988); Marcus Borg, Jesus: A New Vision (San Francisco: HarperCollins, 1987); Brooton, Love Between Women.

[10] John Boswell, Christianity, Social Tolerance, and Homosexuality: Gay People in Western Europe from the Beginning of the Christian Era to the Fourteenth Century (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1980).

[11] Robin Scroggs, The New Testament and Homosexuality: Contextual Background For Contemporary Debate (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1983).

[12] Tom Horner, Jonathan Loved David: Homosexuality in Biblical Times (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1978); Theodore W. Jennings, The Man Jesus Loved: Homoerotic Narratives From the New Testament (Cleveland: Pilgrim Press, 2003).

[13] Scroggs, New Testament and Homosexuality; Boswell.

[14] “Let the Reader Understand: A Statement of Interpretive Principles by Which We Understand the Holy Scriptures,”; Tobias S. Haller, BSG, “Who’s in charge: Judging the Scriptures,”

[15] “We believe these to be theologically sound decisions as the Episcopal Church works to be open and receptive to the work of the Holy Spirit in our midst. . . [W]e are determined that this church maintain its openness to the workings of the Holy Spirit in its decision making, notwithstanding any negative and condemnatory words brought to the Primates' meeting. We believe that it is precisely this openness to the Holy Spirit that is the mark of the faithful Christian progressive.” An Open Letter regarding the Meeting of the Primates called by the Archbishop of Canterbury. From members of the board of the Episcopal Church Publishing Company (ECPC) October 9, 2003;

[16] “If Gene Robinson has been baptized, then what is all the fuss about? Is not Baptism THE sacrament of inclusion, the sacrament that opens the door principally to the Supper of the Lord and then secondarily to the other five minor sacraments: confirmation, marriage, ordination, unction and penitent reconciliation?” J. Fletcher Lowe, Jr., “Gene Robinson: A Debate Based on Misplaced Theology.”


"I believe that this General Convention, meeting in Minneapolis, decided that although all of us are not in agreement, most of the Bishops and Deputies of the Episcopal Church supported Canon Robinson's election because it seems to fit into the demands of the Baptismal Covenant, and the teaching of scripture about this loving God of all creation who sees everything created as good." Right Reverend John Palmer Croneberger, Bishop of Newark, September 2003.

[17] Advocates of gay inclusion in the church who resist demands for exclusive monogamous commitment include the late Robert Williams, Episcopal theologian Carter Heyward, Roman Catholic Andrew Sullivan.

[18] “We can recover the power of love only by insisting that love’s meaning is to be discovered in the New Testament story of Jesus–therefore, in the cross.” Richard Hays, The Moral Vision of the New Testament (HarperSanFrancisco, 1996) 202.

[19] The term “sphere-sovereignty” originates in the political thought associated with the school of Dutch Reformed Calvinism associated with Abraham Kuyper and Herman Dooyeweerd.  It has parallels to the principle of “subsidiarity” found in Roman Catholic papal social encyclicals.  For a discussion, see David T. Koyzis, Political Visions and Illusions (Downers Grove, IL: Intervarsity Press, 2003).

[20] Church of England Liturgical Commission. Baptism and Confirmation. London: SPCK, 1959; Church of England Theological Commission appointed by the Archbishops of Canterbury and York on the Relations between Baptism, Confirmation and Holy Communion. The Theology of Christian Initiation. London: SPCK, 1948.

TOPICS: Mainline Protestant

1 posted on 06/19/2005 8:26:16 AM PDT by sionnsar
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Speak the truth in love. Eph 4:15

2 posted on 06/19/2005 8:26:45 AM PDT by sionnsar (†† || Iran Azadi || (Airbus A380)^: The BIG PIG)
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To: All
Well Said
RatherNotBlog, 6/18/2005

I have criticised the Anglican Communion Institute from time to time, and not gently, either. However, although I believe that when they are wrong, they are very, very wrong, I also think that when they right, they are very, very right.

The ACI has published a piece by William Witt that is very, very right, and I heartily recommend it.

OK, read it now? Then I will only add that there are just two areas that Dr. Witt does not address as fully as I would have liked.

One is the eschatalogical error behind the “shellfish” argument. Dr. Witt rightly points out that this cannot stand in the face of Article 7 of the Thirty-Nine Articles. However (although he does speak to this to some degree), the real problem with all of the supposed moral flaws of the Old Testament, whether shellfish or slavery, is that Gospels and St Paul clearly see such Mosaic legislation as rooted in the temporary condition of fallen humanity, while they ground sexual ethics in the original purpose and eventual redemption of creation itself. There is a bibilical logic here, so to speak, of which the supporters of same-sex “unions” seem at times to be simply oblivious, or that they reject in favor of a gnostic view of sexuality.

The other is the idea of “development.” It has been explicity suggested that permission of homosexual relations comes under the heading of the “development of doctrine,” and the name of Newman himself has been invoked (by none other than Tobias Haller himself). Apart from the extreme irony of invoking Newman in defense of an innovation, it is forgotten by those who use the idea of “development of doctrine” that Newman’s argument presupposed an infallible authority to sort out legitimate evolution from theological error, or true development from corruption. How many of those who promote same-sex “unions” as an example of “development” want any of the infallible authorities (Orthodoxy, Rome, sola scriptura, etc.) currently on offer? And if they don’t want any of these, what alternatives do they suggest?

However, these are but minor cavils (and I have my own space to pursue them, after all). Altogether, a job very well done.

3 posted on 06/19/2005 8:34:46 AM PDT by sionnsar (†† || Iran Azadi || (Airbus A380)^: The BIG PIG)
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To: sionnsar


4 posted on 06/19/2005 8:39:28 AM PDT by Tax-chick ("Children don't need counting, because whatever number you have, you never have enough.")
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To: sionnsar
Dennis Prager, Way Judasim Rejected Homosexuality
5 posted on 06/19/2005 9:46:09 AM PDT by onedoug
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To: sionnsar
The first and probably most prevalent position held by those who endorse same-sex activity might be called “selectivism.” This position recognizes that Scripture condemns same-sex sexual activity. Despite this prohibition, its advocates insists, same-sex sexual activity is morally permissible. In short, the Bible is mistaken in what it says about homosexuality.

This is quite possibly the most ridiculous and heretical argument that I have ever heard. If people start saying the Bible was wrong about homosexuality, then what comes next? To begin to marginalize sinful actions will open the floodgates to every perverse and immoral behavior imaginable. I have heard the argument that we eventually dismissed Biblical teaching on slavery, but this is not true; scripture acknowledged the existence of slavery, and while it may not have condemned it, it certainly didn't condone it.

This moral relativism is designed to take mankind to the point where people will begin to view the Bible as an outmoded and unrealistic book. The secularists want to totally destroy Judeo-Christian culture and replace it with a modern day Sodom and Gomorrah. Spong is a heretical zealot who has an agenda that is anything but Christian, but what frightens me the most is the fact that he has an audience.

6 posted on 06/19/2005 10:08:39 AM PDT by wagglebee ("We are ready for the greatest achievements in the history of freedom." -- President Bush, 1/20/05)
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To: sionnsar

People just want to justify their own sinful behavior. It's fallen human nature.

7 posted on 06/19/2005 10:26:43 AM PDT by Unam Sanctam
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To: sionnsar

Great article. Thanks for posting it. Witt very clearly sums up the various themes running through ECUSA. Liberation theology, radical "feminism", homosexual agendas, etc. As a seminary student, I cringe everytime I see "hermeneutical". I understand it to mean that we judge by our own experiences and desires.

8 posted on 06/19/2005 11:29:16 AM PDT by SuzyQue (Remember to think.)
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To: All

This was an interesting article.
People should read I Thessalonians where it says that those that reject the standard of sexual purity reject God and His spirit that gave this standard.

9 posted on 06/19/2005 1:19:59 PM PDT by xachthegreat (Read I Thessalonians)
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To: wagglebee

As prophesy states the latter day will be as the days of Noah.

10 posted on 06/19/2005 1:56:09 PM PDT by Clay+Iron_Times (The feet of the statue and the latter days of the church age)
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To: Clay+Iron_Times
 *   Welcome to FreeRepublic   * 

11 posted on 06/19/2005 2:41:51 PM PDT by sionnsar (†† || Iran Azadi || (Airbus A380)^: The BIG PIG)
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To: sionnsar
The scientific claim cannot be that same-sex sexual behavior is genetically determined.

Even if it ever is genetically determined, it is still sin. I'm genetically predetermined to sin, lust after sinfull flesh and lie, but God still requires that I repent and seek Him for forgiveness.

12 posted on 06/19/2005 5:07:33 PM PDT by aimhigh
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To: anselmcantuar


13 posted on 06/20/2005 5:51:07 AM PDT by BelegStrongbow (St. Joseph, protector of the Innocent, pray for us!)
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To: sionnsar

Thank you very much

14 posted on 06/21/2005 9:26:03 PM PDT by Clay+Iron_Times (The feet of the statue and the latter days of the church age)
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