Sunday, 5 July 2015

40 answers on same-sex attraction and the Bible

Matthew Vines posted 40 questions to Christians who believe that people of the same sex cannot get married.

Below are the questions; a couple of comments about the them. Some are written from the perspective that homosexual behaviour is a morally acceptable therefore they can be difficult to answer without addressing or rejecting the assumptions behind the question. Further, I don't buy into the concept of gay Christian. The term gay is used to identify those who have sexual desires toward those of the same sex. But we don't say diabetic Christian, or covetous Christian, or vegan Christian, or lusting Christian. Christians who struggle with wrongly-directed sexual attraction should not define themselves by their inappropriate desire.

1. Do you accept that sexual orientation is not a choice?

I think that sexual desire is a complicated situation. Men who desire other men do so to varying degrees. It is hard to know why this is always the case but it seems that sexual abuse by other men and lack of father input can contribute to this. This may mean an absent father or a soft father, especially in the context of a domineering mother. Other actions within the child's life such as a lack of redirecting desire or an encouragement toward same-sex desire can make things worse. Same sexual activity,even experimental in those who do not have much same sex desire, can intensify desire. That is, both actions by the person and actions by others, especially in formative years, can strongly influence later desire. There may also be intrinsic qualities, such as effeminacy, that contribute.

2. Do you accept that sexual orientation is highly resistant to attempts to change it?

I think it can be in some circumstances. It depends on the strength of the underlying desire, the age at which it is addressed, the behaviour already engaged in, and the degree to which the environment encourages and discourages such behaviour. It can also be very difficult when there are significant spiritual issues that are not addressed.

3. How many meaningful relationships with lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender (LGBT) people do you have?

How does one answer this and why is it relevant? And what do you mean by meaningful. For years it was pushed that 10% of the population is gay. This was unlikely to be true and shown to be false. Figures closer to 1% were more likely though I think this may rise as it becomes more culturally acceptable and somewhat trendy. Assuming 1% of the population are gay may suggest that 1% of my meaningful relationships would be with gay people but that's not how it works. I have greater or lesser meaningful relationships with people of various careers and ages and religions depending on my job and age and religion. As it is I don't exactly know because I don't know who is gay. Unless someone is vocal about their sexuality or demonstrates overtly gay stereotypes I do not know that they are gay. I have known people for several years before finding out that they are gay (openly so). On balance of probabilities, most people I know are heterosexual. Of the 10 I work most closely with 1 is gay.

4. How many openly LGBT people would say you are one of their closest friends?

Again, why is this relevant? And why would it be likely that I have close friends that are gay. My closest friends are Christian, yet the number of Christians in society is much lower than the percentage that are my closest friends. Some good friends are highly skewed careerwise. Friendships are not random. Men have more male friends. Policemen have more police friends. If I have say 10 good friends there is no reason to suspect that at least one of them would be gay, especially if my friends are more likely to be Christian.

5. How much time have you spent in one-on-one conversation with LGBT Christians about their faith and sexuality?

Faith? As much as they wish to talk about it. Sexuality, not a lot, but then I don't talk about this a lot with my friends either. And some gays are more than happy to tell me far more about their proclivities than I really wish to listen to.

6. Do you accept that heterosexual marriage is not a realistic option for most gay people?

No I do not accept that, at least for those who wish to follow Christ. While this question requires a post of its own, I think that marriage between a gay man and a woman, or a gay woman and a man can be useful depending on the reasons, and so long both parties are aware of the other's struggles. If the issue is companionship then (heterosexual) marriage may be appropriate as most men can find companions in either men or women. If the issue is sexual desire then many gay men can perform sexually with a woman even if they do not desire a female in a sexual manner.

7. Do you accept that lifelong celibacy is the only valid option for most gay people if all same-sex relationships are sinful?

I think that unmarried gay men should avoid sex just like all unmarried men and women. I also think the term celibacy is unhelpful rhetoric. Chaste is the expectation.

8. How many gay brothers and sisters in Christ have you walked with on the path of mandatory celibacy, and for how long?

I have walked the path (in as much as it is appropriate) with a single woman for many years; she would like to be married and is not and is therefore not sexually active. I have encouraged a Christian who struggles with attraction to men to hold onto God's grace in his struggles. I know of men married to women who struggle with attraction to other men and who struggle with this at times. But again, why is this relevant and why is every Christian expected to both know and walk with multiple Christians who struggle with homosexuality?

9. What is your answer for gay Christians who struggled for years to live out a celibacy mandate but were driven to suicidal despair in the process?

Press into Christ. And address the issues that make suicide seem like an option.

10. Has mandatory celibacy produced good fruit in the lives of most gay Christians you know?

Chaste behaviour leads to less problems than unchaste behaviour in Christians. I don't see why this should be different for those who are gay.

11. How many married same-sex couples do you know?

I deny that same sex couple can ever be married. The concept is oxymoronic. Further the issue is the same as #3 and #4. If it matters, I have worked with a a few females who have longish-term relationships with other women, one of whom would call herself married. Many gay men I meet are highly promiscuous.


12. Do you believe that same-sex couples’ relationships can show the fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control?

I believe a relationship could show that. Any relationship between 2 people, married or unmarried, friend or acquaintance, could exhibit patience for example. But this is not really what the fruit of the Spirit means. Rather it means that these (love, joy, etc.) are qualities that the Spirit is developing in those in which he dwells. Unbelievers can exhibit some of these qualities in various measures. I don't believe that the sexual aspect of same-sex couple's relationship is one that is revealing the fruit of the Spirit. Such sexual behaviour is a fruit of abandoning God.

13. Do you believe that it is possible to be a Christian and support same-sex marriage in the church?

Yes and no. My concept of salvation is such that people can believe a range of things including unorthodox ideas. A person may be a Christian and misguided about this. If they have been a Christian for some length of time and this issue has been addressed and they do not come around to understanding that marriage is between men and women they may not be Christian. If they have gone from thinking that marriage is only between men and women to thinking people of the same sex can get married then they may not be Christian or may have abandoned the faith. If they are in a position of leadership in the church and they advocate for same-sex marriage then they are a wolf in the church and should be removed.

14. Do you believe that it is possible to be a Christian and support slavery?

Yes.

15. If not, do you believe that Martin Luther, John Calvin, and Jonathan Edwards were not actually Christians because they supported slavery?

Not applicable, but note also what it means to be saved.

16. Do you think supporting same-sex marriage is a more serious problem than supporting slavery?

Yes. Much worse. One must also distinguish between the institution of slavery and the slave trade.

17. Did you spend any time studying the Bible’s passages about slavery before you felt comfortable believing that slavery is wrong?

I don't believe it is always wrong. The Bible condemns kidnapping (Deu 24:7) and the slave trade (1Ti 1:10). It does not condemn owning slaves, though freedom is better than slavery (1Co 7:21). It seems ironic that you seem to think slavery is wrong and not homosexuality given that both appear in the same vice list: the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and sinners, for the unholy and profane, for those who strike their fathers and mothers, for murderers, the sexually immoral, men who practice homosexuality, enslavers, liars, perjurers.

18. Does it cause you any concern that Christians throughout most of church history would have disagreed with you?

It concerns me that moderns don't understand these distinctions.

19. Did you know that, for most of church history, Christians believed that the Bible taught the earth stood still at the center of the universe?

While I don't hold to geocentrism for our planet within the solar system, the idea that our planet and solar system is near the centre of the universe is not an unreasonable assumption. It also has some empirical evidence depending on one's interpretation of red-shifts. The church held to the idea of geocentrism as much as the surrounding un-churched culture. It did so partly based on the teachings of Aristotle and Ptolomy. It was Christian scientists who challenged this belief based on their strong Christian convictions. They were opposed by those within the church who were married to the pagan ideas. Kind of opposite to the current situation.

20. Does it cause you any concern that you disagree with their interpretation of the Bible?

No. It delights me that faithful Christians (such as Kepler) thinking God's thoughts after him made such strides in understanding  the natural world.

21. Did you spend any time studying the Bible’s verses on the topic before you felt comfortable believing that the earth revolves around the sun?

I am familiar with verses that some have used to defend geocentrism in times past. The interpretation is poor and unwarranted by context. More importantly, although I think the Bible talks to history and facts that are observable, morality is not the same kind of issue. A book can mention the colours of various plants and a person may observe the same plants, but morality is not observed in the same way. Some morality can be observed in the sense of natural revelation, but more is gained from special revelation. Aristotle was wrong in thinking physics could be entirely deduced by logic. Moderns are wrong in thinking that moral knowledge can be obtained via experiment.

22. Do you know of any Christian writers before the 20th century who acknowledged that gay people must be celibate for life due to the church’s rejection of same-sex relationships?

I don't know enough specific writings but am aware that prior to the 20th century the church taught that sex outside matrimony is sinful as was sodomy was condemned.

23. If not, might it be fair to say that mandating celibacy for gay Christians is not a traditional position?

Chaste behaviour is a very traditional position: no sex for those who are not married and  sex only with one's spouse for those who are married. You are trying to create arbitrary categories to legitimise your claim.

24. Do you believe that the Bible explicitly teaches that all gay Christians must be single and celibate for life?

I believe the Bible teaches that men can only marry women and women can only marry men. I do not believe it bans people who are sexually attracted to someone of the same sex from marrying someone of the opposite sex, and in some situations that may be appropriate.

25. If not, do you feel comfortable affirming something that is not explicitly affirmed in the Bible?

Again, arbitrary categories. If people wish to be sexually active they must be married to someone of the opposite sex.

26. Do you believe that the moral distinction between lust and love matters for LGBT people’s romantic relationships?

No. I believe that wrongly directed sexual desire is lust. Expressed desire: behavioural or willful (covetness) towards anyone you are not married to is lust. Expressed desire: behavioural or willful to someone as the same-sex as you is lust. All sexual activity including kissing, petting and sodomy between 2 men is inappropriate desire, that is lust, regardless of their feelings.

27. Do you think that loving same-sex relationships should be assessed in the same way as the same-sex behavior Paul explicitly describes as lustful in Romans 1?

Yes. Sin between 2 people is forbidden even if they both agree to it. Bondage is sinful between a married man and woman even if they both wish to engage in such behaviour.

28. Do you believe that Paul’s use of the terms “shameful” and “unnatural” in Romans 1:26-27 means that all same-sex relationships are sinful?

I believe that all same-sex sexual relationships are intrinsically sinful. "Shameful" and "unnatural" are descriptors of this. There are sins that are not shameful. There are sins that are not unnatural. Paul uses natural (φυσικα) to highlight that the activity is contrary to nature. He probably uses shameful (ασχημοσυνην) because of its connection to nudity, and because the behaviour should make them ashamed but doesn't.

29. Would you say the same about Paul’s description of long hair in men as “shameful” and against “nature” in 1 Corinthians 11:14, or would you say he was describing cultural norms of his time?

It is not completely certain what Paul means here. Samson certainly had long hair as did any Nazirite; and also Absalom. Although "long hair" is the usual translation for koma (κομα), the context is in comparison to women's hair; it may mean "tresses". The point seems to mean that it is unnatural for a man to grow out his hair in order to look like a woman. Thus this passage speaks against effeminacy. And Paul says that this is more dishonourable (ατιμια) than shameful.

30. Do you believe that the capacity for procreation is essential to marriage?

Yes, in the sense that procreation is a design feature of marriage.

31. If so, what does that mean for infertile heterosexual couples?

It means we should mourn with them that they suffer this way in a fallen world.

32. How much time have you spent engaging with the writings of LGBT-affirming Christians like Justin Lee, James Brownson, and Rachel Murr?

Never heard of them. While I believe that such engagement may be necessary in the current milieu for the sake of the church; the idea that one can affirm sin, aberrant sex, and psychologically disturbed positions is antithetical to the Christian faith.

33. What relationship recognition rights short of marriage do you support for same-sex couples?

In terms of their relationship, as opposed to any contract 2 people enter? None specifically, though I expect the courts to honour property issues that have been agreed to such as shared ownership of a house.

34. What are you doing to advocate for those rights?

These are established and are indifferent to sexuality.

35. Do you know who Tyler Clementi, Leelah Alcorn, and Blake Brockington are, and did your church offer any kind of prayer for them when their deaths made national news?

No.

36. Do you know that LGBT youth whose families reject them are 8.4 times more likely to attempt suicide than LGBT youth whose families support them?

I suspect the case is similar for thieves, murderers, anorexics, alcoholics if we compare families rejecting and accepting them. I wouldn't be surprised to see an increased risk for any youth who are rejected by families even those without any vices.

37. Have you vocally objected when church leaders and other Christians have compared same-sex relationships to things like bestiality, incest, and pedophilia?

No. Nor do I see any reason to. One could say that paedophilia is partially non-analogous because of consent issues, but the others are fitting.

38. How certain are you that God’s will for all gay Christians is lifelong celibacy?

Absolutely certain that it is God's will for all people to be chaste. Fornication and adultery are forbidden.

39. What do you think the result would be if we told all straight teenagers in the church that if they ever dated someone they liked, held someone’s hand, kissed someone, or got married, they would be rebelling against God?

And this means what? So I tell the children who earn their money to spend it wisely. Is it somehow wrong that I tell a child-thief that he is not to spend the money wisely but rather return it. If I tell the young married youth to enjoy sex with each other, is it bad that I tell the unmarried youth to abstain. Your question assumes that homosexual acts are morally acceptable. If such acts are sinful the question is irrelevant.

40. Are you willing to be in fellowship with Christians who disagree with you on this topic?

It all depends. People can be mistaken; see #13. I don't think we should attempt to pull up the weeds before time, we don't want to exclude those within the kingdom who are still mistaken in their acceptance of homosexuality. But we should drive away the wolves.

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