Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Jesus lives; is Christianity a corpse?

The title derives from Jeff's deep thought, but this post is about homophobia in particular (some shallow thoughts upon which made the Philosophers' Carnival this biweek, although the following was inspired by some words of Obama's (via Parableman's discussion of them), which seemed reasonable (and certainly not homophobic) but which reminded me that I would reject any hypothesis (e.g., that one should take the whole Bible seriously) that implied that I ought to be anti-gay—I wouldn't have to reject it, insofar as I'm not gay (although I guess that, even if I was, I could just accept that I was in a fallen state), but since my conscience informs me that homosexuality is not wrong (however unattractive it may seem (and I do have homophobic tendencies)), hence any such hypothesis would seem wrong (I've yet to find any doctrine strong enough to withstand gut instincts (although I might just be too fallen to have a fully functioning conscience about such things)))...
......Recently I've been contemplating the content of the concept of Creation, the idea that this universe (and its people) were deliberately Created (that we are kept in being by the relatively almighty and all-knowing, and transcendentally immaterial person who made us up ex nihilo in He/r image), and the most useful metaphor that I've found for Creation is, well, some blend of our compositions (musical, poetic, prosaic and so forth) and our dreams: God is, to some degree, according to such analogical interpretations of "Creation" (and how else should we interpret that word?), to this world as we are to our dreams (and if we're made in He/r image then such an analogy would make sense, would even be sound insofar as we allowed for our being finite, where S/he is infinite etc.). So, the question arises, what is the metaethical content of that metaphor (for Creation)?
......After all that intro, what follows is surely far too weak (so it needs your comments!); but just as our physics would (on the posited view of Creation) be describing nothing more immutable than the stuff of (this episode of) this divine paradream (so to speak), for all that we do not, of course, regard it as variable, not in our day to day lives (cf. my comments here), so it would be apposite for our ethics to be similarly sensitive, for all that we should not ordinarily regard it as flexible (of course (e.g. homosexuality was never wrong, I feel))—we naturally project our ethics onto everything (as we project our percepts onto objects, seeing them as coloured), but surely our morality should adapt as society evolves, especially when such changes are divinely inspired (the eating of pigs, disloyalty towards the king, the emancipation of women and so forth). And would other sorts of sapient creatures (apes, dolphins, angels and so forth) have to have a morality like ours, in order to be good? Probably there is a continuum of ethical law, from God's own definition of the Good, to local conventions within He/r paradreams. And it strikes me that even those Christians who are anti-gay would, many of them, allow for the possibility of an acceptable incest (in order to retain the literality of Genesis) on such grounds as that our biochemistry might, in those days, have been less corrupted.

43 comments:

Barbara said...

How can you substantiate this sentence "but since my conscience informs me that homosexuality is not wrong" when scripture says:
"Thou shalt not lie with mankind, as with womankind: it is abomination. Leviticus 18:22"

JCHFleetguy said...

Whew!! Reading that reminds me of some discussions I had on acid 30 years ago :-)

My first question: are you even open to discussion? It seems by some comments that there are areas that are just closed: reminded me that I would reject any hypothesis (e.g., that one should take the whole Bible seriously)

Of course, I do not know what you meant by seriously there. Believe every word? or believe it is worthy of consideration and prayerful meditation?

Certainly I take the Bible very seriously. Reasons for that can be seen in my post on "Loving God with all Your Mind" - the Bible is the "anchor" in which I test what I believe God is revealing to me.

You seem to present your conscience as that anchor for you: my conscience informs me that homosexuality is not wrong

or perhaps societies "evolving" morality: surely our morality should adapt as society evolves

Neither of these ideas necessarily freaks me out. I believe in natural moral law - so I believe our consciences are a general revelation to all of mankind. Now, as a Christian I think I have been given a specific, and higher, revelation from God that I am required to follow as well - but they shouldn't conflict.

However, I think we have two levels of conscience - a deep conscience or Synderesis; and a surface conscience, or Conscientia. I would posit that homophobia that you have a tendency to (along with basically the rest of the world for all times) as the first - and the one that informs you that is wrong as the second. The first doesn't err, the second does. There are some reasons the second does, and therefore requires something to be tested against (scripture for me):
1. insufficient experience
2. insufficient skill
3. sloth
4. corrupt custom
5. passion
6. fear
7. wishful thinking
8. depraved ideology
9. malice

So, I do not trust my conscience without testing it against something I know is God's will and revelation.

However, you are missing the point I think. Although scripture tells us that whatever our conscience, emotions, and desires tell us about homosexuality - we are not to have homosexual sex, it does not tell us to be anti-gay; and certainly not afraid of gays (homophobic). Read what I wrote on homosexuality if you like.

I have concentrated here on "conscience" because I think it is an untrustworthy gauge of God's will - and if we disagree on that basic philosophic point the rest is meaningless.

JCHFleetguy said...

Oh, missed one point at the end: I think the general revelation to mankind that homosexuality is wrong is the content of Synderesis - and the reason that gays have been killed and abused all over the world in all times.

It is the higher revelation of scripture that tells us that we must love our neighbor - and even our enemy - as ourselves; and treat each human - gay or not - as imago dei and loved by God. We therefore ignore our first instincts and emotions about homosexuality and obey Christ instead.

Annette said...

Your comment made your whole post make more sense. Whew... :)

Love the sinner, hate the sin is basically what you seem to be saying ... but in a less trite, more real manner. Weigh one's feelings against the truth of scripture.

Works for me. :)

Doctor Logic said...

JCHFleetGuy,

But why should I do what God wants?

What if God wants me to do something I consider immoral?

Indeed, why should I be good at all? As far as I can tell, I ought to be good because it will make me feel better to be so.

If God's goodness does not concur with my own perception of good versus evil, then why should I want to do God's good? If God wanted me to murder a child, I'm in for some serious conflict. I might well consider it more good to disobey than to collaborate and commit murder.

Due to the is-ought problem, every moral conclusion rests on unprovable moral axioms. Those moral axioms can only be supported by how we each feel about them or their conclusions.

That is, if morality has any formal rule structure, then we determine that structure by fitting it to the data points of our own internal moralities. For example, the Golden Rule ("Do unto others...") is a rule we get by observing patterns of behavior that make us feel like good persons. If someone were to reject this, we would try to convince them they were wrong by giving them examples of situations in which they would feel subjectively uncomfortable.

So how can scripture possibly trump the thing I used to define good and evil in the first place? If I sharply, subjectively disagreed with scripture, it would be odd (or perverse) for me to conclude that I ought to be subjectively evil and do what God wants.

Enigman is illustrating a point quite well (whether he intended to or not): believers create God in their own image. For me to believe in a good God, I have to harmonize my interpretation of scripture with my own subjective morality. If I cannot do that, I must either find new scriptures, go New Age, or become an atheist.

JCHFleetguy said...

doc

You have no reason to do what God wants. Doing so requires an attachment to vocation rather than "being true to yourself" instead.

Christian ethics are not pragmatic, and they are not based on what we believe does the most amount of good; or what makes us feel the best about ourselves. They are not based upon us being the arbiter of morality. They are as far from utilitarian as you can get. They are not consequentialist or teleological. They are deontological; or perhaps more accurately graded absolutist.

The orthodox Christian position is that you're attached to your "self" - and that that "self" lies to you in order for you to satisfy it first. Now, if satisying your "self" is your primary duty - as it seems you propose - then of course Christian ethics will seem foolish. We just stand on opposite ends of the ethical universe - and frankly I have no belief I can argue you into placing your "self" in a subservient position to something greater than you and outside of yourself.

However, Enigmania says he is a Christian. Are you? If so, then the number one commandmant (on which everything else hangs) is love God with your all - and love your neighbor as much as you love yourself. And Jesus defined what that love meant with:

Jesus replied, “If anyone loves me, he will obey my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and take up residence with him. The person who does not love me does not obey my words. And the word you hear is not mine, but the Father’s who sent me.

Or, as quoted here by me, we obey God because:
* We know benefit incurs obligation;
* We recognize what is intrinsically worthy of our gratitude, and to pay such a debt ennobles us.

Or, we love God, and obey Him, because He is worthy and it is the least we owe to Someone to whom we can never repay what we owe.

Indeed, the first foundation of every ethical system is to give to others what you owe them; and what is their due.

Now, all of that is avoiding the first question: is our conscience a trustworthy arbitor of right and wrong - and I have presented above 9 reasons our conscience can lead us wrong. So, your first task is to prove your conscience is trustworthy; and that you do not fail in your moral reasoning in any of those ways

Enigman said...

Hey, thanks for the comments (incidentally I've similar thoughts about Obama on Abortion, which are presented for correction as comments on Think Wink's post on that issue)...

Jchfleetguy, re Reading that reminds me of some discussions I had on acid 30 years ago, yeah, sorry about my style; in my defence, being alive in a world created by God is more dizzifying than acid (or so I imagine:-)

Anyway, I am open to discussion - although my gut instinct is that homosexuality is not bad, just unattractive (to me), I know that I might be wrong about that; and another gut instinct of mine is to take as much of the Bibe seriously (in either of your senses) as possible, whence my dilemma (which your comments help me with, thanks).

Certainly the words of the Bible are unlike the words of a fellow creature, so they require some unusual interpretation. And as for missing the point, well, I meant to miss that point (good as it is); I was wondering if there really is a very clear moral instruction from the Bible as a whole to the net effect that gay sex is sinful today? (Thanks for the link to your thoughts on homosexuality btw.) That is, I am asking, is it the content of Synderesis; and why?

My conscience tells me that, before I plump for being anti-gay-sex because the Bible tells me to be, or alternatively for having to pick and choose which bits of the Bible to believe, I should ensure that I'm not just letting myself interpret the apposite bits of the Bible in the standard way because of my own homophobia, or because I'm too lazy to imagine another interpretation. Re your 9 points, my instincts against being anti-gay-sex pass them, I think (since I'm not defending my own preferences), but I have my doubts about the standard interpretation (at least so far as I know it) passing 1, 2, 4 and 6...

Doctor Logic said...

JCHFleetGuy,

No, I am not a Christian.

* We know benefit incurs obligation;
* We recognize what is intrinsically worthy of our gratitude, and to pay such a debt ennobles us.


Well, I would argue that we don't know either of these things. What we know is that they "feel right." We have simply devised a general rule that matches up with our feelings most of the time. If anything is known here it is merely our own moral feelings. It remains my belief that Christians follow God because they feel they ought to, and because, in their conception of God, God is subjectively worthy as far as the rule is concerned.

However, if a man learns (from his religious authorities) that God wants something he regards as subjectively unjust, then either God forfeits worthiness in his eyes (and God is rejected outright), or the general rule has to be revisited, or else he will reinterpret God to be worthy (and find an alternative Christian authority).

Enigman said...

Barbara, substantiating that sentence was not my aim, but this seems apposite; e.g. why is Lesbianism allowed? And would you, Barbara, ignore the ending of Lev 20:13? I would note that it might be (for all I know, at present) that Lev 19:36 & 37 clearly state that only those brought out of the land of Egypt are being told to obey such commands: I am the LORD your God, which brought you out of the land of Egypt. Therefore shall ye observe all my statutes... Some emphasis on the word "therefore" there, for some reason?

Jeff said...

As long as we're all linking to our thoughts on homosexuality, I'll throw mine out:
http://jeffsdeepthoughts.wordpress.com/2007/11/23/1-topic-im-wrestling-with-god-over-homosexuality/
Here's a brief summary of the points I mention in that post that seem most salient here:
Overall, I think it's exactly right to suspect that this is a much more complicated issue than it appears.
Some folks claim that the levitcal instructions are sufficient for us today. But the truth is that nearly all of them pick-and-choose which portions of the Old Testament that they follow. Most people who use this (and a few others from the Old Testament) wouldn't kill their kids for disobedience, they wouldn't stone a Wiccan, they wouldn't own slaves from neighboring countries, and they wouldn't exile a neighbor who has a skin rash.

Paul mentions actions in the New Testament which often get translated as homosexuality. There is tremendous debate about whether or not this is an appropriate translation.
I am no expert on dead languages. But my overall sense is that the people who enter into the debate wanting the word to mean temple prostitution walk out of the debate deciding it means temple prostitution (and not homosexuality) On the other hand, The people who walk in presuming the word is appropriately translated as "homosexuality" end up drawing this conclusion. In other words, there's not a real debate going on. There is no chance of discovery because both sides appear quite entrenched and act as if they are decided before the evidence even makes it to the table.
It's worthwhile to notice that Jesus clearly and specifically condemns divorce. Yet somehow we manage to welcome divorcees. We don't tell them that we hate the sin of their divorce even while we love them. We don't typically ask divorcees to repudiate their "sin" of divorce and get back together with the person they were once married to. We owe an explanation for why the double standard with homosexuality.
Brian McLaren had some fascinating things to say on the subject in the final book of his "New Kind of Christian" trilogy. (The book was titled, I believe "The last word and the word after that.") Anne Rice, writer of the Vampire Lestat and now a Christian also has some interesting things to say on her website.
Finally: a question that's maybe none of my business. But I'll ask it anyway. Jchfleetguy noted that you (Enigman) implied your a Christian. If you did I missed it. I was sort-of curious... Do you consider yourself a Christian? You seem intruiged by the person of Christ, certainly. I was curious if you consider yourself a Christian, though.

Enigman said...

Jeff, many thanks for that comment; it was extremely useful. Yeah, I'd say I was a Christian (I submitted this post to the Christian Carnival, which is why JChfleetguy so-thought)... I was raised Methodist, but dropped out of that because I hated singing badly (as I do) or pretending to sing (a sort of lying, in Church) and just standing there clearly not even trying (which was worse than singing badly). I stayed a theist (mostly because of a dream I had had, about a heavenly person appearing in the sky, who had a marvelous quality that seemed obviously alien to my own mind, whence it was not like a dream, and obviously not mundane, a quality that to me seemed like a proof that there was a God of some kind) but became agnostic about doctrines (perhaps because I was then more aware of my epistemic deficiencies wrt them) although I naturally retained a fondness for the story of Jesus. Then I saw the Light, literally (much as in that dream, e.g. it had that same unusual quality), and amongst other things I noticed that it seemed OT in some way, which I took to mean that I should be a Western Monotheist. After a few years thinking about it (during which the world seemed very different, naturally), I decided that it was probably not an angel (since there was no message) but Jesus (appearing to me as a heavenly Light), and so I do now consider myself a Christian; of no particular denomination, whence I'm now thinking more properly about how I should think about the words of the Bible.

Enigman said...

jchfleetguy, my conscience is not my anchor; I'm not even sure I have an anchor, but must rather rely on the goodness of God! For you the Bible is an "anchor" but surely you have to interpret the Bible, for it to be more than ink on paper, or shapes or sounds?

To me (and I'm not saying that I'm definitely right about this, just letting you know where that question was coming from), 2 Kings (e.g. 8:26 and 24:8) and 2 Chronicles (e.g. 22:2 and 36:9) indicate relatively clearly that one cannot rely on one's natural interpretation of any passage from the Bible. For all one knows (for all that the Bible itself makes explicit), it may just be that one has failed to put 2 and 2 together.

Indeed, perhaps that is the message of such passages! If someone read those books and saw no contradiction, but believed in the words as he naturally read them, then surely he would have misinterpretted some of the Bible; and since that would be wrong, so as one reads the Bible, knowing that one has not studied all the possibly apposite aspects (original languages, the present works of the living Word, the ways in which uninterpretted passages might affect those that seem straightforward, and so forth), how can one be confident that one is not wrong; how can one's readings be an "anchor"?

Jesus is changing the ways of the world, and even Paul said that he saw through a glass, darkly; so suppose that Jesus told someone today that gay sex was not morally wrong (suppose He told him that via his heart, via his conscience). You may believe that He would not, but that is just what I'm questioning. My "anchor" may be that I (know that I) do not know that He could not. It seems to me that, invaluable as the Bible is (as a record of divine revelations), one has, as a matter of logical necessity (in view of the nature of language itself), to test each passage against, at the very least, other passages, and probably (why not?) the living God (?)

JCHFleetguy said...

Where to start:

Doctor Logic:

We will just have to remain friends :-) and agree to disagree. I will certainly never agree that ethical and moral systems are based on what we individually "feel". We can generally look at ethical and moral systems all over the planet and see that indeed those two "rules" are seen as right - and then not followed. As C.S Lewis talks about in the first five chapters of Mere Christianity, the very fact that this is based on a generally accepted "ought" that "isn't" has profound implications.

I do not know exactly what you mean by "religious authorities" - I only recognized God as an authority as revealed in His word; and that only spiritually discerned and opened up. If I believe God is asking me, through His Spirit, to do something I believe is immoral - and that request does not conflict with His word - then I may have to re-examine myself as well: my morality may be bent. If God, through His Spirit, is asking me to do something that I think is immoral (or moral) that conflicts with His word - then I am listening to a spirit that isn't God.

General to all:

I do not really consider the Levitical instructions to be generally binding on Christians - especially gentile ones:

Non-reconstructionist Christians generally divide these laws into three classes: moral, civil and ceremonial law, and generally believe that most Old Testament laws are no longer binding on Christians.

[Incidentally, the Whosoever article linked by Enigman says this isn't mentioned anywhere in the Old Testament - of course it isn't. I will be happy to argue its basis in continuing revelation: the New Testament.]

So, I would not agree with Barbara that Leviticus 18:22 has any bearing on the issue of a Christian view of homosexuality. Paul didn't anchor his view there - but in Genesis 1:27-28; 2:18; and the general:

The language "against nature," by the way, was typical in Jewish and Graeco-Roman texts to distinguish between cross-gender and same-sex sexual relationships and goes back at least to Plato. In every text it is used as a negative reference. To live "naturally," on the other hand, was to use objects, including one's own body, in the ways intended for them in creation.. -- Walter Taylor

Again, if one wants what I think is the best analysis of the New Testament verses on homosexuality - the only important one being Romans 1 - then this article by Walter Taylor is the best I have seen (user: jchfleetguy; password: 4885392). Once logged in you can also read this companion article on the Old Testament by Terence E. Freitheim. Since these are the two men who the ELCA turned to for research as they discussed this issue - I think their expertise has some weight. So, deal with Romans 1 - not Leviticus 18. I do like shellfish.

Now, my opinion of the flow of Romans 1:18 - 2:3 is best seen here.

Enigman

If you haven't, or haven't recently, read Mere Christianity - then before we really discuss deep conscience you need to read the first five chapters. The basis of natural moral law is in what rules seem common to humankind. The idea that homosexuality is "against nature" is common in every ethical and moral system on the planet - until the current era in the west when Enlightment thinking has made us believe we are gods. Bonus reading will be The Abolition of Man by C.S. Lewis.

Again, however, the general revelation of deep conscience is overlayed by the specific revelation to Christians. How exactly do you derive the "goodness of God"? Folks talk about the "love of God" and the "goodness of God" trumping the Word of God (witness Obama on the Beatitudes trumping Romans 1). Jesus promised that we would have the Holy Spirit as our helper in discerning the meaning of scripture - that and the many wise counselors advised by Proverbs. [You may have noticed I have a few resources I can bring to bear ;-)]

As to interpretation, what is your point here [see the beginning of the Taylor article on ways scripture can be viewed]:

2 Kings (e.g. 8:26 and 24:8) and 2 Chronicles (e.g. 22:2 and 36:9)

My general take on inspiration and inerrancy is here. As Carl Palmer suggests:

So, if you are one of those people who do not know whether they can really trust the Bible - then you need to deal with that first. Do not primarily read the Bible if you do not trust it. Carl has spent time in the Bible for 30 years preparing to teach others - and he has yet to find a mistake. There are a few things he cannot quite understand and a few things that are beyond him; but he has yet to find proof that the Bible is full of errors - that is just not true. So, for those that are not certain, this is where you need to do your work and engage your mind.

It is not God that wants us to check our mind at the door. I asked Carl for the 6 books he mentioned in the sermon and he sent this list. So, he and I would agree - this is your next job:

I'm now thinking more properly about how I should think about the words of the Bible.

May God guide you in that.

Enigman said...

Jchfleetguy, re the goodness of God, your wish for me (at the end of your last comment)? I don't understand what the word "derive" is doing in such a context, though. Re the 4 verses, my point lay in the supposition that someone was reading them in the obvious way..

Two and twenty years old was Ahaziah when he began to reign; and he reigned one year in Jerusalem. And his mother's name was Athaliah, the daughter of Omri king of Israel. So, our hypothetical reader believes that Ahaziah was 22 years old etc. All very straightforward, apparently. In all times and cultures, 22 years was 22 years; and even the word "reign" is straightforward. At most times and in most cultures there have been kings and queens (and Jesus Himself spoke of them, not unfavourably). So anyway, our hypothetical reader reads on...

Jehoiachin was eighteen years old when he began to reign, and he reigned in Jerusalem three months. And his mother's name was Nehushta, the daughter of Elnathan of Jerusalem. Again, this seems completely straightforward (18 years etc. and another king, unsurprisingly in this book) so our reader reads on; but it would be a very exceptional reader who noticed, amongst all the apparently straightforward passages, that the following cannot be read in such a straightforward way...

Forty and two years old was Ahaziah when he began to reign, and he reigned one year in Jerusalem. His mother's name also was Athaliah the daughter of Omri. ...and so on to... Jehoiachin was eight years old when he began to reign, and he reigned three months and ten days in Jerusalem: and he did that which was evil in the sight of the LORD. My point was just that unless such obscure discrepancies had been pointed out, a typical reader might believe 22 years, and then later, 42 years, and not even notice the inconsistency (if there is one).

A typical reader might be expected, at least AD, to be concentrating upon other aspects of the Bible, because the falsity of 22 = 42 is not obviously important here. As you say, more important nowadays is Romans 1. Now, Romans 1:29 seems to say (straightforwardly) that even just debating such things is wrong, so maybe you should stop reading now! But we are not in Rome (and even Mussolini is long gone), so I shall continue...

So anyway, Paul was fallible, of course, as was Peter, as were all the Saints, as were the copyists... So, if we believe all that Paul seems to be telling us (at least when it is congenial, when it need not be examined too closely), if God would not have allowed one of Paul's mistaken beliefs into our Bible, then why would He have allowed copyists' errors to remain uncorrected? (It is surely no special effort for God to perform what we creatures would call a miracle, in such a divine cause.) That was my point; more or less...

I'm not saying that Paul was certainly wrong, my point was not so specific (which is why I left it largely unspecified); maybe he was, of course (you've yet to say why not), but maybe he was right, then, but was then speaking to Romans, much as Leviticus spoke to the Jews. Ethical laws change (that was the point of this post), and the world of the Romans was not our world...

So what, aside from circular reasoning from the anti-gay-sex conclusion (and natural laws that don't seem to apply to, e.g., monarchies in this modern age; or do they?), makes gay sex exceptional? After all, could I not deduce, from the passages above (together with an assumed anchorage in the Bible), that 22 = 42 sometimes? Or can you reduce mathematics to logic and thus conclude that 22 = 42 is logically impossible? But then, can you show that the infinite God is bound by our Logic? These are deep questions!

According to W. K. Frankena (Ethics, 1973: 28), "what ultimately makes an action right or wrong is its being commanded or forbidden by God and nothing else." Now that makes sense, given Monotheism; so again I ask, what of the living God? Would you limit Him to act within bounds set by your reasoning about the traditions of pagans, and ancient decisions about Scripture (wise as its words are)?

I think the Bible contains many layers of meaning, for all sorts of people; I think that that follows from the nature of God (as revealed in the Bible). I don't think that such things should be reduced to lowest common denominators (within rigid denominations) in order to obtain far too easily a false air of wisdom. (I think that we must all rely upon the kindness of God, eventually :-)

JCHFleetguy said...

If you read the post on inspiration then you know the contention is that there were clear gauges in the early church about what was inspired, and not - and I do not think copyist errors actually fall into mix. However, has God allowed those errors to exist? The Bible we have today is better than, and closer to the autographs, than the one we had a 100 years ago. What discoveries will make it better in the future? As one of the best text critics of the 20th century said (paraphrase): "No important doctrines of Christianity are threatened by disputed passages". He believes the Bible has been driven back very close to the autographs. However, this is something you need to research and convince yourself of.

The example from Kings and Chronicles is the kind of example those who want to argue about inerrancy like to bring up: even if it was an error - what would it mean for doctrine? Anything? And in this particular case we ancient witnesses that do not conflict - older witnesses than the ones on which your translation rests. Again, our current knowledge is better.

Derive? How do you "know" what falls into the "goodness of God" and what doesn't? How is the nature of God revealed to you?

As to Paul, if all we had was one passage in Romans that was not tied into the entire underlying theology of the Bible - you could have a scissors moment. However, Paul rooted his argument in Romans very deeply in the Jewish and Christian understanding of God and our natures. Read Taylor again. And, you can only refer to scripture as "circular reasoning" if you do not believe it is revelation - after all, there is no "reasoning" that trumps the revelation of God.

We are going to dance in circles now - so I will just say that I hope God blesses your search for truth.

I said...

Well, we don't have to "dance in circles," as you put it... I don't derive the goodness of God, and I never said that I did (maybe my words were unclear)... You seem to think that your reading of the text is not an interpretation, that is all (as far as I can see). That's fair enough, perfectly natural if philosophically unsophisticated (there's more to my starting point than the first 5 chapters of Mere Christianity would indicate), but in my opinion false. Still, if you don't take yourself too seriously, you won't go too far wrong, I'm sure.

JCHFleetguy said...

uh - no:

You seem to think that your reading of the text is not an interpretation,

reading the ads at the grocery store involves interpretation, but somehow we still get milk and eggs. I just do not attach the importance to this that post-modern folk do. Language is language, words are words. Especially when we are talking about the New Testament, we have tons of folks who wrote within a 100 years who spoke the same language and lived in the same cultural mileau in order to have an idea - where things are vague - what the language and context was.

And frankly, most of the New Testament just isn't that unclear. And, before you accuse me of philosophical unsophistication you will have to do a better job of engaging natural moral law (which, of course, I gave you more than 5 chapters of Lewis to deal with)

See - we are starting to dance; and there is no reason too. I have been in the position you are in now for about 11 years - I have been digging at this for awhile. From your comments, I do not think you have been coming to grips either with your position on homosexuality, or scripture, as long as me - nor do I get the impression that this is as real an issue for you as it is for me.

This has been a real pleasure - I look forward to more of your posts on the Christian Carnival; and would welcome your comments on my stuff at Brain Cramps.

Have a great Easter.

jeff said...

It seems like there's a point that's been overlooked among all this. If I'm understanding Enigman correctly, one of the things he's asking for is "Why would God declare homosexuality sinful?"
The orthodox answer is that God created sex to be experienced between husbands and wives.
Women and men began as one on a literal reading of the first account of humanity's creation in Genesis. I think maybe the act of sex is a brief return to this original state, man and women reunited.

Having tossed that into the mix I think I'll muddy the waters a bit and add that the argument that heterosexuality is the natural state of creatures is an oversimplification. We can actually cause homosexuality in Rats (by subjecting the mothers to long term stresses while the rats are in utero; the adreniline resulting from the stress supresses testerone during devolpment. When the male rat grows up it's quite likely to mount other male rats.) and we observe homosexuality and bisexuality in primates and certain birds.

JCHFleetguy said...

Jeff

That is a different topic. There are a couple of issues:

First, I use natural in two senses, and really (IMO) so does Paul in Romans. You cannot 'give someone over' to something that isn't there. There is "nature" as God intended, and our "natural selves" - which is not as God intended. So, I agree homosexuality is "natural" at least in the second sense. A great discussion of that struggle is in Romans 7:15-25

Second, you have already presented that you have created an "unnatural" state by intentionally subjecting the mother to undue stress. Since the orthodox belief is that not just man is fallen and depraved, but nature itself is fallen and depraved - this kind of "natural" homosexuality doesnt stand outside of orthodox theology that this change to the rat in utero is simply a result of nature gone bad.

Next, we are created imago dei with th ability to recieve, and obey, revelation. We have all sorts of natural inclinations - greed, lying, rebellion, gossiping, etc (see the rest of the list from Romans 1:) - that we are called to "capture" for Christ. So, even if it is natural for human beings - obediance to God may require restraining it. After all, loving God with our all and our neighbor as ourselves is not a natural act for anyone on the planet - yet we are called to do the impossible anyway.

Further, as imago dei - we are not equal to rats, parrots, etc. Black widows eat their mates, but I would guess you are not going to certify that as a natural act for human women

Lastly, if those rats do not "get over it" they will not breed, and those traits will not be passed on. It is not a trait that makes the species successful - it's only positive may be to keep animals damaged by stresses in the womb from mating and weakening the gene pool. Again, an example of the brokenness and imperfection of nature.

Lastly, one argument against Paul is that they did not know loving long-term gay relationships is the 1st century. Indeed, homosexual was not even a word until about 1860. That is a common argument: Paul didn't even know about the kind of gay relationships we see today.

However, that argument cuts both ways. What is it about the brokenness and stresses of modern industrial society - with its alienation and aloneness - that brought homosexuality out of a type of sex act in the 1st century to a different type of thing needing a different type of term in 1860. If homosexuality is caused, as the latest idea goes, by a faulty hormone bath in utero - is that faulty hormone bath a result of the unnatural stresses of modern society. Is that God's plan?

and then i said...

jchfleetguy - er, no (to that last question, see below, but also to your question to me:) you began to dance in circles! I "will have to do a better job"? Why? I brought up a parallel with monarchies, and you have chosen to ignore that, that is all. Anyway, issues relating that directly to natural moral law are actually dependent upon the relationship between physics and ethics (that I posted about) in a created world of responsible creatures (and there is obviously more evidence that that which the Bible describes violates the laws of nature, than that homosexual acts violate natural moral law (which seems to include our duty to have a king to obey (one could interpret such passages as any valid political authority but (i) are kings even valid? (ii) why is gay-sex different? (iii) does the Bible indicate that anything other than monarchies are valid? etc.))).

(Sorry for the complex form of that (!!!) it's no worse than logic, really ;-) Now, I am not in the position you clearly think I am in; for what it's worth, I've been thinking about this issue, within a wider context of theism and society, for about 30 years (during which time I've had a few gay friends, so I do take it seriously, not just academically). (More generally, I take thinking seriously, as part of Prudence, rather than academically.) Maybe you could re-read what I believe you have misinterpretted? You do say, of Jeff's points, "That is a different topic," and it really isn't. I know what I wrote on (physics and ethics in a Created Cosmos), and Jeff's points are apposite (to my post, if not to your comments, apposite as they were in their way).

Your response to Jeff's point was, in my opinion, a bit weaker than you seem to think it was; and as evidence for that assertion (about appearances), I offer the following... Another argument against Paul, or rather, against the standard conservative interpretation of the apposite passages by Paul, is (as I've mentioned above) that Paul was doing a specific job, within the context of the pagan Roman Empire. That job no longer exists (imagine taking a grocery-list from one day's shop and turning it into a guide to living, applicable to all people; imagine that we have a situation that looks a lot like that, and then think about where the burden of proof would lie, even after many years of trying to keep to that supposed guide (especially then, after all those failures))... but hey, your last two paragraphs are on topic:

Was Paul even talking about the same sort of thing? In a descriptive sense he was (same-sex sex-acts) but in the apposite (normative) sense it is not so clear. Was Paul saying that such modern relationships should not contain that physical side? That is not (as your final paragraph illustrates) so clear... is that God's plan, you ask; but is it God's plan that the Fall should have led us to having sex within Christian marriages? Surely if the Fall is at all true, then our laws of nature and our natural moral laws are both (i) variables (and would certainly be expected to have varied over the last 2 thousand years, to some extent) and (ii) not exactly God's plan. In short, your "cuts both ways" reply does itself cut both ways (and the burden of proof still lies with your interpretation, however familiar and commonplace it is).

C. S. Lewis said...

If you like to put it that way, Christ offers something for nothing: He even offers everything for nothing. In a sense, the whole Christian life consists in accepting that very remarkable offer. But the difficulty is to reach the point of recognising that all we have done and can do is nothing. What we should have liked would be for God to count our good points and ignore our bad ones.
Mere Christianity (1952: 116)

JCHFleetguy said...

Enigman:

First, natural moral law and the laws of nature really have no connection - I do not at all believe in natural theology.

Why would you think natural moral law implies monarchy? I am not sure you can make a case from scripture that even the higher revelation in the Bible requires monarchy. Certainly, I would make no such case.

Indeed, the only argument in scripture about "form of government" would be the prophetic message as Israel demanded a King rather than direct rule by God through the Judges - and that message was that a King would abuse the shit out of the Hebrews.

Stepping to "what we cannot know" - general revelation to all of mankind - how does that say we "must have a King"? So, I am lost here:

(i) are kings even valid? (ii) why is gay-sex different? (iii) does the Bible indicate that anything other than monarchies are valid? etc.))).

you will have to re-frame this because I see no way scripture says Kings are valid - other than God/Christ as Sovereign. As to:

Another argument against Paul, or rather, against the standard conservative interpretation of the apposite passages by Paul, is (as I've mentioned above) that Paul was doing a specific job, within the context of the pagan Roman Empire.

Based on what? You can reject Paul or agree with him - but he drove this argument much deeper than the specific sexual practices of the Roman empire - especially coupled with the "laundry list" in verses 28 on.

Now, the argument is true that Paul could care less about the practices, sexual or not, of non-believers. His arguments were always to the obligations and duties of Christians. For instance, his primary argument about the importance of sexual purity in another letter is that we are the temple of a living God and we shouldn't sully that temple or involve the resident Christ in sexual impurity. That is an argument, as all his arguments in all of his letters were, aimed at believers alone.

In Romans, he expects non-believers to be "given over" to the myriad items listed at the end of Chapter 1. It is a given. It is natural for them. It is what God has left them to as a socio-historical punishment for the historic idolatry of the human race. It had nothing to do with Rome per se.

He expects believers to step outside that nature - but not to forget where they came from. Indeed, salvation from that nature is what the rest of the book of Romans is about - to which Romans 1 is nothing more than a preamble.

Enigman said...

Thanks for the dance (very nice reply I thought) and all its facts and thoughts, but first, since the post was explicitly about homophobia, maybe I should say a bit about why I didn't say it was about gay-sex-acts. The first comment (by Barbara) called gay-sex-acts "abomination," and many would sympathise with that, but might those be fallen intuitions? After all, the essence of Christianity is counter-intuitive, at least to begin with; and compare the following scenario: A loveless marriage, with no possibility of children and (say) no possibility of divorce, but the two agree to let the other see others (insofar as it is up to them to allow that); and each does fall in love with one other person. Are our intuitions about that scenario that such sex-acts would be abominable? I suspect, in general, not; and if not then perhaps we should be enhancing Christian marriage, to include loving long-term gay relationships (which would be a relatively small shift for us nowadays, compared to the changes of the early Church).

The idea that marriage must be between one man and one woman is not a particularly Chriatian one, but is rather more general, and can be defended on materialistically evolutionary grounds - and as for that essential connection between marriage and having children, married gays could adopt and raise children (and are seen to be no worse at that than many, many godless couples). Now, if you have homophobic intuitions (as many do) you may be wondering why we should bother to think about that (given Leviticus), but that would be unChristian - cf. how wanting to bash those who offend you, without thought, but with a pleasing sense of success, is also natural, but unChristian. We could of course tolerate secular or civil partnerships (as Obama would), especially given the traditional Christian priority of celibacy (although homophobia would get in the way even of that), but my concern as a Christian is that we are putting gays off from being Christians but even such liberal attitudes (to what is Caesar's and what is God's).

Jeff's point about divorce was therefore spot-on, I think (although JCHFleetguy's points are apposite and reasonable). We do seem to react differently to divorce and to homosexuality, as though it was homophobia that was the issue, not marriage. As for "natural moral" law, as revealed by pagan and other societies, that is an uncertain indicator, that is all. If the world is fallen, it is a very unreliable indicator. Gays seem to get a relatively good deal in Christian societies already; maybe that is an indication that gay marriages are not an abomination in the eyes of our Lord, the living Jesus.

Enigman said...

(oops... last line of second paragraph: last "but" should've been "by")

To clarify: Suppose I accepted your interpretation of Romans (and I don't nearly know enough of such things), even so, might it not be that ethical laws have changed? That is, might it not be that Paul was absolutely spot-on, in the way you describe, but that his ethical advice (not his vital Christian message, but the almost incidental ethical content) is no longer true - because a divine command theory of ethics is essentially correct, and because ethics has changed slightly (in specific ways that cohere with the central message of Jesus) over the last 2 thousand years of the successes of Jesus in His world, as He has acted through the Church (or something along those lines, of this view of Creation)?

(re Kings, that most of historical Christendom would have disagreed with you, was mostly my point)

...bias said...

Perhaps Jonah 3 pertains?

Jesus said...

Give to him that asketh thee, and from him that would borrow of thee turn not thou away. Matt.5:42
But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses. Matt.6:14
And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother's eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye? Matt.7:3
And he that taketh not his cross, and followeth after me, is not worthy of me. Matt.10:38
...Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to me. Matt.25:45

JCHFleetguy said...

Enigman

Rome (and Greece) certainly had a different view of homosexuality than Judea and Jewish culture. Jewish culture was not into homosexuality at all.

Roman and Greek cultures had no problem at all with homosexual acts. Indeed, n not insignificant number of men felt their wives were worthy of little more than breeding stock - and believed the only equal relationship with something of beauty was pederastic - with young boys. However, even gay marriage wasn't unknown: Nero married a man and installed him as his Empress.

On the other hand, Jewish men were divorcing their wives and leaving them in dire financial straits essentially for no reason. Christ and Paul certainly elevated marriage way above both the Roman and Jewish conception. Paul then cranked it up a huge notch - while feminists rag on him for being misogynist, his message on the meaning and intent of "one-flesh" relationships was an attempt to raise the position of woman way up at that time. Just the idea alone that wives had control of their husbands bodies to do with as they wished sexually is radical now.

So, the whole idea of "one-flesh" relationships and what God wants those between Christians to show the world is entirely the point of marriage for a Christian.

However, we agree (I think I caught this) that by appearing to make homosexuality the worst sin (that honor goes to pride) or even the worst sexual sin (that honor goes to adultery) or even a greater sin the the rest of the "laundry list" in Romans - that gays are being driven away from Christ and the Body of Christ. Since we somehow recognize that only the action of Christ redeems us from the other sins - we should recognize that the way to deal with homosexuality is to bring folks to Christ; and that is difficult if we overblow the importance of homosexuality as a sin.

As to hearing the voice of God and following it - I agree. Now we have come full circle to how all of this began - how do you test that it is God's voice, and not one of the other "principalities and powers" or your own selfish nature, that you are listening to?

Enigman said...

...by its fruits? (no pun intended :-) but basically, it just seems obvious to me that homosexuality is in itself harmless - e.g. there are clearly some gay Christians who are good people, for whom gay-sex is no worse than sex between married Christians who can't have children (and anyway, shouldn't Christians be too irresponsibly giving everything away to have children? ;-) ...and people who aren't gay aren't attracted by openly gay behaviour (quite the converse, naturally), so there's no danger there.

I don't see how it could be my selfish behaviour (e.g. I'm not gay and I'm not interested in politics) but that's an epistemic possibility for you, of course. But an attempt to raise the position of woman way up at that time is quite consistent with attempting to raise the position of homosexuals at this time; so I wonder if gay men weren't sacrificed slightly (relatively slightly) in Paul's day, to make Christianity more palatable (cf. how unimportant civil democracy seemed to be, given how important we take it to be nowadays)...

...or maybe ethics has changed. But I don't really know that many apposite details, to try to change your mind; I'm mostly just wondering (relatively selfishly) if there's something that I've overlooked (maybe the "one-flesh" theory of sex has served its purpose, and is now no more valid than the waters-above-the-firmament theory of rain), but it does seem to me that if any Christian in the world looked at an exceptionally attractive person of the opposite sex and thought wow, they really are attractive, then God would understand, and a loving relationship is surely better than that (as you say :-)

Enigman said...

(incidentally, being a mathematician this does impress me: My wife and I are one flesh; and we each, and as a duality, have a relationship with God. Therefore, we comprise another triune relationship that mirrors the Trinity for the world. ...although for my mystical tastes, it seems a bit too Kabbalistic to be true ;-)

Enigman said...

(the Kabbalah? you may be wondering; but note that we have gone, not in circles but towards some interpretation of an intrinsically obscure metaphor (obscure? Well, all men are, in some ethically apposite sense, of one flesh in Adam) within the context of such passages as Matt.19:10 (His disciples say unto him, If the case of the man be so with his wife, it is not good to marry.), passages that seem to indicate, no more obscurely, but more directly (since Matthew and not Romans) that there is no such thing as a specifically Christian marriage anyway ;-)

Jeff said...

I get a giddy little buzzed feeling pondering the metaphor you begin,but then continuing:
Not only do man/wife/God form a trinity, but the church is described as both the body and the bride of Christ... Given the first metaphor, these two actually complement each other; by marrying Christ the church in fact becomes his body as husband and wife are one flesh.
This is not to mention the whole Christ-in-me and yet me-in-Christ conundrum...

Barbara said...

"Barbara, substantiating that sentence was not my aim, but this seems apposite; e.g. why is Lesbianism allowed? And would you, Barbara,substantiating that sentence was not my aim, but this seems apposite; e.g. why is Lesbianism allowed?"

I don't believeLesbianism is allowed. God made Adam, took a rib from him and made Eve for a helpmate; he didn't make a man for a man, or a woman for a man. He then told them to replenish the earth. No combination of man/man or woman/woman can ever replenish naturally.

" And would you, ignore the ending of Lev 20:13? "

Perhaps in OT times, they were put to death. But, in the NT, we are under a better covenant. They are forgiven when they come to Christ. But, they are to give up the abominable lifestyle.

"I would note that it might be (for all I know, at present) that Lev 19:36 & 37 clearly state that only those brought out of the land of Egypt are being told to obey such commands: I am the LORD your God, which brought you out of the land of Egypt. Therefore shall ye observe all my statutes... Some emphasis on the word "therefore" there, for some reason?"

The OT is the NT concealed and the NT is the OT revealed. The Lord didn't come to do away with the law from the OT.

Matthew 5:17-18, "Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil. For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled."

We can't pick and choose what we believe and what we don't. Jesus said he was 'the way, the truth, and the life' and that 'my Word is truth'.

Barbara said...

Enigma, you also said that this explanation of Leviticus seemed to be relevant. Of course, it would, for a gay lifestyle. That is an online magazine for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender "Christians".

It goes on to say that Churches have banned the Holiness code, no longer binding on Christians of today. In other words, do what you want - doesn't matter; God is going to let you in anyway. :(

...and then thusly was THIS said...

Thanks Barbara. You say that we cannot pick and choose what to believe, but I'm left wondering where it's written in God's law that Lesbianism is wrong? More importantly, where is it written that homosexuality is so especially abominable that Christians should argue for anti-gay-sex legistlation - or indeed, should regard homosexuals as any more abominable than Christians who either (OT) eat pork, or (NT) do not give to anyone who asks anything that they ask for? I did especially write this post because I was hoping that someone (perhaps your kind self, Barbara?) might enlighten me about that (and I'm sure that Whosoever say some dubious things, don't we all? ;-)

and this said...

(incidentally upon pork-eating as an abomination)

In other words, what I said...

...was, Within what sort of interpretation was St. Paul reading those words (of the Word) that you quoted (Matt.5:17-8), when he said that we could do otherwise (than as God's law had allowed) as Christians? What makes you think, Barbara, that his interpretation would be forever unable to accord the same new position to same-sex sex-acts as to those other, previously unclean acts?

St. Paul's position, in those early days of the Church, was very clear (e.g. that ethical laws can change, in a Created world) but for all that the Bible says, same-sex sex-acts may have become, since then - over a period of time much longer than that which separated St. Paul from the Word - no worse than eating pork is (i.e. a matter of taste). If there is any prima facie evidence that they have (e.g. as the Spirit helps us to overcome our innate homophobia in this Fallen world) the question becomes, Why do some people think that they cannot have?

After all, if the Word meant His instructions on such things to be complete after, not His own words (up to the Gospel of John) but St. Paul's (and others, up to the Revelation to John), to be added to no further as the Word progressed in His world, then how odd that He never mentioned it, considering its importance...

Jeff said...

As I grapple with all this, one of the things I keep coming back to is the idea that Adam and Eve begins as one figure; women are created from Adam.
To engage in heterosexual sex is to return to this primordial form. This is not true of sex acts with the same sex. Regardless of whether there is specific scriptural condemnation of lesbianism, it does not fufill the function that appears to be intended.
Enigman, you make the observation a while ago, that marriage is a bit of a mircocosm of the trinity itself. There is more true when man and woman are almost literally one; it is an echo, it harkens back to the Garden itself, when we existed in a nearly perfect community.
It might be worth thinking about God's covenant with Abrhaham here. One of the first steps God takes in restoring his broken community with humanity is entering into an agreement with Abraham.
There's a gross and fascinating process that's part of God's covenanting with Abrhaham. All these animals are torn in half and Abrhaham walks down a path between the halves of the creatures that have been torn in two. (Wouldn't it be interesting to see this in a made-for-children cartoon?)
The only meaning I can find in all this is an incredibly graphic lesson about the importance of covenants (such as marriage) and a foreshadowing of the idea that those who covenant together are in fact joining their flesh. They can try to un-covenant themselves, but this would be just as silly as an organism cutting itself in half, right down the middle.

Enigman said...

Jeff, that observation (microcosm etc.) was not mine but was lifted from JCHFleetguy's post on wives submitting to husbands... My take on such poetry (a man and his wife are a lot unlike Adam and Eve really, and even more unlike parts of the Trinity, although sexual ecstasy within a marriage made in Heaven, so to speak, may well be akin to a religious experience) is that it is probably fine, for communicating fuzzily some deeply obscure aspects of reality, but it should not be used as evidence against same-sex sorts of loving and long-term relationships ever being on a par with marriages.

Maybe such may be made in Heaven (maybe some such pairs are put together by the God of Love, on their path to salvation) and after all, the true Christian may well renounce marriage, in this fallen world, and instead join a religious community (and that community would probably be same-sex, so there must be other, equally poetic ways of looking at human love in God's world). I try to keep an open mind about such things (e.g. how you read Jesus's words about letting no man separate whosoever God has put together depends on what you assume about that putting together, e.g. by anyone so-ordained within Catholicism? Why not? Etc. etc.)...

Incidentally, I've just recalled that there was also a Prussian post on this topic recently.

JCHFleetguy, I've enjoyed your thoughts (here and on your blog) and upon reflection I note that my conscience does not so much tell me that same-sex-acts in particular are not abominable, as that in general I ought to ensure that I'm not just reading my own homophobia into the Bible (a kind of error that would only be made easier by lots of other readers so-doing). I think that politically we could be more tolerant of gay marriages, if we do not know for sure that they are abominable in the eyes of Jesus, and that religiously the metaphysics of sexual love (fortunately not its phenomenal meaning) is quite generally rather obscure; but I am certainly prone to change my mind about things in the face of fresh argument and data...

Enigman said...

...Jeff, I note that the halves of those animals were same-sex halves; and soldiers in combat are also of one flesh (in a very real and also, in this fallen world, poetically apposite sense), as are citizens of the world... and I wonder about unhappy marriages, or those that are technically happy, but are really sad sexually - more symbolic of Paradise than a deeply loving same-sex relationship? And what if divinely intended sex was in many of the most important ways more like fallen gay sex than fallen straight sex? Or indeed, what if that second Creation story was just a profoundly meaningful myth; or was speaking literally of something, but in doing so was just using the heterosexuality as a prop, as dramatic furniture within that narrative? There being various equally coherent interpretations, I note that we should build upon rock and not sand. If proper sex is potentially deep and meaningful, that does not in any way imply that same-sex sex is not, in its own way, similarly so. What might imply that is such Script as Leviticus 18:22; but then, are whales fish, or is it simply that we fish them?

Enigman said...

Jeff, I've just got around to reading your post on this - vgi, and the comments were well worth reading; and incidentally Galatians 3:28 (...there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ ;-)

enigMan said...

Incidentally, re the 'one-flesh' defense of the religious superiority of heterosexuality (which would not in itself imply the abominableness of homosexuality, of course), if such a view had much beyond a poetic meaning, then what would it have to say about semi-identical twins, for example? They are very much of one flesh but sex between them would not be imagined to be any better for that reason (quite the contrary).

who was it who said...

The gay rats indicate, I guess, how homosexuality could be a natural aspect of reproductive sex within the context of natural selection, but then so might be all sorts of infidelities and their outlawing; and that is not a very Christian context. Still, those who argue that homosexuality is wrong at least in part because it is unnatural are in a surprisingly weak position; and even if they speculate about what would have been natural in Paradise, we would not have had to kill to eat or defend ourselves or others then.

...bias said...

Suppose the prohibition was on sodomy (e.g. a man lying with a man as with a woman) - that being obviously dirty (to straights anyway) and actually unhealthy (if you don't know what you're doing) would explain why it was outlawed along with other ways of being dangerously unclean. But that would not make homosexuality wrong, or mean that marriage should not nowadays be extended to include such couples - even if we are Christians: Even granted that St. Paul was right to retain the prohibition in ancient Rome (when sodomy would have remained unhealthy, and children and slaves were especially at risk), why would we not be right to drop it nowadays (now sodomy need not be unhealthy)? After all, since we want God to judge us wisely, so we too should judge only after hearing all the evidence.