Gay Rights, Not Wrongs

30 Aug, 2013

bible0406As I’ve been writing about my expanding understanding of, and relationship with, the LGBT community, many have wanted to know how I reconcile Bible passages that seem to be very clear on the matter.

I reviewed a book by Michael Camp, who has a similar evangelical background to me, and in one chapter he addresses the passages that are attributed to the theology around homosexuality. I appreciated his work and it resonated with other writings I had seen and work that I had done. So when asked to provide some Bible study on the matter instead of trying to regurgitate it all myself I turned to Michael (who has become a friend) and asked him permission to print this section of his book. Not only did he agree to share his work but he also said he would enter into discussion and help answer questions that people have.

I encourage you to read the following treatise with unbiased eyes. Good inductive Bible study requires laying aside preconceived ideas and allowing the text to speak as it did to the original readers, and as meant by the original authors. If you don’t understand the origin, you’ll never know how to apply it to today – or even know if it is meant for today.

The Bible says it and that settles it,” isn’t really an honest approach to scripture, and it certainly isn’t one that Christians are consistent about. We are required to ask the hard questions of the text, and this usually means that there won’t be quite as many black and white answers.  For me this particular study brings up some pretty significant questions. So when we get to point of application, if it ends up we’ve condemned those that God loves and has no condemnation for, well then we’ve got some explaining to do.

The following text is part of Michael Camp’s book, Confessions of a Bible Thumper, Chapter 10, Gay Rights, Not Wrongs. It is used by permission from the author. All rights belonging to the author remain.

Gay Wrongs

In the evangelical world, most things are already settled. There aren’t many gray areas. The Bible is the Word of God, you must be born again to go to heaven, and Jesus is definitely coming again. And of course, homosexuality isn’t just sinful, it’s an “abomination.” My indoctrination into evangelical theology taught me that well.

As a heterosexual man who couldn’t comprehend how two men could be sexually attracted to each other, it wasn’t hard for me to accept this teaching. I had a little harder time accepting the condemnation of female homosexuality. Okay, a lot harder time. Admittedly, the thought of two lesbians getting it on is an enticing turn on, at least for most heterosexual guys I know. Yet nature does appear to favor heterosexual couples; they are the only ones who can reproduce through the sexual act. Until my encounter with Mel White and the testimonials I found on the Internet, I had no reason to doubt the standard evangelical fare about homosexuality. I really hadn’t thought it through.

So I delved into another Bible study project. My first lesson was a reminder. Sound exegetical studies insist that the Bible can’t mean today what it never meant to its original audience. The key to interpreting the Bible for modern readers is putting it in its proper context—both cultural and literary. “The Biblical text does not come to us in the form of timeless axioms.”[1] The texts were created in a particular time-space environment. To understand the Bible, the reader must put himself or herself in the original situation in which it was written as much as possible. I especially understood this in recent years after studying the phenomenon of Bible abuse.

Starting to study homosexuality, I immediately noticed the bias of evangelical authors. Most of them made blanket statements against all homosexual acts. But the truth, I discovered, was not so cut and dried when taken in the context of when and why passages on homosexuality were written. Liberal authors helped me see this.[2]

As we have learned in an earlier chapter, biblical authors related their ethics concerning sex to property rights. Certain sexual liaisons were wrong because they violated another’s right to their property, e.g., a family, father, or husband had a right to demand sexual exclusiveness for women who “belonged” to him to ensure a family’s lineage wasn’t mixed with an outsider’s blood. If one’s culture is not concerned with pure family lineage, then sexual exclusiveness for women is not important.

Regarding sexual ethics, another phenomenon I had not considered was Israel’s purity code, which defines animals, people, and actions, as either clean or unclean. Although every culture has a purity code (to Americans, e.g., eating insects is unclean, whereas for Africans, it’s not), Israel’s was particularly important. It was one of the principal forces that kept Israel separate from the pagan nations surrounding them. Purity means avoiding dirt. The Holiness Code of Israel[3] specified the dove as clean and the pig as unclean (dirty); a woman with no discharges as clean and one who is menstruating or recently given birth as unclean; a man with no discharges as clean and one with a recent semen discharge as unclean; a healthy man with rights of descent to the priesthood as clean, but one with an injured body part as unclean; the act of sewing one fiber into cloth as clean, but combining two varieties as unclean; planting one type of seed into a field as clean, mixing varieties of seeds as unclean; meat drained of blood as clean, meat that wasn’t as unclean.

It was complicated but had a particular rationale. People who are partially leprous (actually not just with leprosy but a variety of skin diseases) are unclean, but one who is totally leprous is clean![4] It is the attention to wholeness that counts. A person should be of a single kind and hue, not have blotches or blemishes mixed with healthy parts. Or have discharges mixed with none. Or be dedicated to both the true God and idols. Or intermarry with non-Israelites. There should be no mixing of kinds.[5] “This is the reason for the condemnation of homosexual acts [by men], as the phrasing of the rules makes clear; the offense is described, literally, as a man lying with a male ‘the lyings of a woman’ (Leviticus 18:22; 20:13). The male who fulfills the ‘female’ role is a combination of kinds and therefore unclean, like a cloth composed of both linen and wool…”[6] The man in the “male” role is participating in this unclean act.

Understanding the purity code of Israel puts a new light on the issue. If one’s culture or convictions are not concerned with purity the way Israel defined it, then the admonitions associated with that code are not morally binding. For instance for Israel, not only was male homosexuality an “abomination” (toevah in Hebrew) but so was having intercourse with a woman while she is menstruating (the penalty for such an act is for the couple to be cut off from their people).[7] For that matter, so was eating pork and a host of other unclean foods![8] Why are we evangelicals so concerned with homosexuality and couldn’t care less about these other “detestable” things? I pondered. And why do we ignore other purity rules? Because we view purity differently, I realized. Evangelicals have no purity concern with female discharges and thus no problem overlooking the command and penalty about having sex during menstruation. Nor with the penalty for eating certain foods. To be consistent, shouldn’t we lighten up regarding the command about male homosexuality? I also wondered why is only male homosexuality addressed in the purity code? Lesbianism is not addressed in the entire Old Testament!

In the context of purity, toevah (translated abomination or detestable) refers to something that makes one ritually unclean.[9] For the Hebrews, these were any defiling behaviors that the surrounding pagan nations practiced. Israel was commanded to set themselves apart from these nations by following a specific code. I knew from my own study of the New Testament that Israel’s code of conduct was not relevant to Gentile believers or Jews under the new covenant. For instance, Jesus had declared all foods clean,[10] and as we learned earlier, Paul had vehemently argued that believers in Jesus were “no longer under the supervision of the law,” had been “released from the law [the written code],”[11] and in fact, Jesus “was the end of the law.”[12]

Jesus taught purity of the heart, not physical purity. The new way of being right before God was by following Christ’s one law of love, denying one’s selfish nature, and being led by the spirit, not obeying a set of laws and stipulations.[13] Was it possible to fulfill Christ’s law of love as a practicing homosexual? Certainly one could do so and ignore other purity laws. Why not stipulations against homosexual behavior originally directed toward ancient Israel?

Finally, there was the question of what types of homosexuality were common in the culture in which the Holiness Code and purity rules were written. My study led me to determine there were only two types: homosexual rape, often inflicted by soldiers to humiliate prisoners of war,[14] and shrine prostitution, referred to many times in the Old Testament.[15] This type of prostitution entailed male or female prostitutes servicing worshipers of foreign gods, particularly the god of Baal.[16] These were the kinds of behaviors the pagan nations surrounding Israel practiced. If the original authors and audience of the Holiness Code had only these types of behaviors (exploitive and idolatrous homosexuality) in mind when homosexuality was mentioned, then modern readers misinterpret Old Testament admonitions against homosexuality. This was a revelation for me.

I then turned my attention toward the New Testament passages that supposedly referred to homosexuality. The first one is in the book of Romans, where Paul speaks in the context of idolatry. Here are the verses immediately before the controversial passage:

For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles. (Romans 1: 21-23).

The people Paul is talking about were not glorifying God or giving Him thanks. They were worshiping false gods and graven images made to look like humans or animals. Historical studies revealed that this type of idol worship was common throughout Israel’s history and into the first century. Paul continues:

Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised. Amen. Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural ones. In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed indecent acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their perversion. (Romans 1: 24-27).

Again Paul is referring to people who “worshiped created things rather than the Creator.” These people go beyond worshiping idols to doing something that is sexually impure, that entails women and men exchanging natural sexual relations for unnatural ones. It sounds like the passage is referring to homosexuality. But the critical question is what was Paul thinking about when he wrote this, and what did his audience perceive when they read it? Were they thinking about homosexuality the way we view it or something altogether different?

In the city of Corinth, where it is speculated Paul was when he wrote this letter, there was a temple dedicated to Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of love, beauty, and sexuality. One method of worshiping this “idol made to look like a mortal woman” was through fertility rituals, including having sexual intercourse with her priestesses. At one point, this Corinthian temple had 1000 sacred prostitutes living on its grounds.[17] When Paul talks of “women exchanging natural relations for unnatural ones,” I realized it is far more likely he is referring to women who dedicated their life to sacred prostitution, and not to lesbian women in general. The context supports this argument. Lesbian women can still worship God and give thanks to him, whereas Paul was speaking of women who were committing blatant idolatry.

Of the many varieties of idol worship in the Greek and Roman world, Cybelene worship in Corinth, Athens, Ephesus, and Rome included castrated male priests who would have sex with other men as an act of dedication to an idol.[18] Again, I realized that this religious context meant the likelihood was high that Paul was thinking of these male priests (and probably others referred to in the Old Testament as male prostitutes and part of the fertility rites of Israel’s pagan neighbors) and not homosexual men in general. The evidence was overwhelming that Paul wasn’t addressing homosexuality across the board but the abandonment of natural sexual activity for unnatural activities that included the recruitment of cultic priest and priestess prostitutes, idol worship, and castration of males. “Paul condemns the ‘unnatural’ act of abandoning true worship of God and using sex in worship of idols, and pursuing such treatment of others as degraded them through exploitation and violence.”[19] This was another world-rocking revelation.

The most shocking discovery for me was when I learned that the word translated “homosexual” in our modern Bibles is incorrect! When it is used in the Old Testament (typically in modern or paraphrased versions), the passages can’t be referring to all homosexuality because, as mentioned, only male homosexuality is addressed as part of a purity rule in the Holiness Code.[20] The fact that female homosexuality is not mentioned at all in the Old Testament is remarkable. If God was so against all forms of homosexuality, why doesn’t the Old Testament condemn lesbianism?

Secondly, the one word in the Greek New Testament commonly translated “homosexual,” is the word, arsenokoitai (I Corinthians 6:9), which is rarely found in ancient literature and whose meaning is uncertain.[21] To translate it “homosexual” without at least including a footnote about its ambiguity is irresponsible. When scholars analyze its use, they conclude it’s unlikely it refers to homosexuality across the board but rather to some type of sexual exploitation that could be homosexual but not necessarily so. It is more likely that arsenokoitai—literally meaning male bed—refers to men who engage in economic exploitation by sexual means, i.e., rape, coerced prostitution, or pimping.[22] The English word homosexual wasn’t even coined until the early 20th century and never appeared in the Bible until a 1946 Revised Standard Version.”[23] Prior to that, arsenokoitai was translated “abusers of themselves and mankind” in the King James Version.

As I studied the cultural setting of the New Testament, I discovered another common form of homosexuality of the day was pederasty—the oppressive male-initiation practice in the Greco-Roman world of men having sex with young teen or pre-pubescent boys. Although I remember a few Bible commentators mentioning shrine prostitution when discussing passages like Romans, Chapter one, I have no recollection of any evangelical pastor or teacher mentioning pederasty in all my years in the church. If pederasty was common in the Greco-Roman world, then certainly New Testament writers like Paul would probably have referred to it.

Pederasty was sometimes consensual and sometimes forced. There were brothel houses filled with young boys, whose existences were devoted to being the passive partners in pederast relationships with a man. Beautiful boy youths were sometimes castrated to prolong their feminine-like features. The most famous example was when the Roman Emperor Nero castrated his slave-boy Sporus, dressed him in women’s clothing, and married him.[24] In the instances when it was forced, it is likely the exploitive man would have been called arsenokoitai.

Another term that is often associated with homosexuality in the New Testament is malakos (translated “male prostitutes” in I Corinthian 6:9-10 in the NIV). Scholars are certain this term means something like our term “effeminate.” It is sometimes associated with male homosexuality but not always. Other uses in Greek literature reveal that it primarily means a male who is “soft,” overly feminine, or controlled by women, and could even mean laziness or cowardice.[25] One commentator makes a strong case that the combination of terms, pornoi (from the term we discussed earlier porneia, which one scholar translates harlotry), malakos, arsenokoitai, and another term translated “slave traders” found in lists of behaviors that Paul condemns in I Corinthians and I Timothy refers to the practice of pederasty. The young boys are the male prostitutes (pornoi or malakos), the men who “bed” them are arsenokoitai, and the ones who gain economically are the slave traders.[26] In fact, the New Jerusalem Bible translation supports this view. It translates malakos as “catamites,” a term that refers to the boys kept by a pederast.

The overwhelming conclusion of this study was that the verses normally used by evangelicals to condemn both male and female homosexuality are talking about certain forms of homosexuality common in biblical times into the first century. They are not talking about consensual homosexual relationships not associated with temple prostitution or exploitation. In other words, the Bible doesn’t address the modern concept of gay and lesbian relationships based on one’s sexual orientation. The Holiness Code condemns male homosexuality (not female) on the basis of obsolete purity rules within cultures where soldiers raped men as a way of humiliating their enemy and Baal worshipers dominated males sexually during sacred orgies. The New Testament condemns exploitive sexual relationships and those associated with idolatry. If this is the conclusion of the best biblical scholarship, why are evangelicals still insisting gays and lesbians repent of their sin and transform into practicing heterosexuals or remain celibate? Why do they cast scorn on the LGBT community?


[1] Philo Thelos, God is Not a Homophobe (Victoria, British Columbia: Trafford Publishing, 2004), 7.

[2] I discovered liberal authors weren’t the diabolical demons I had imagined. Many of them both critiqued conservative theology while defending the Bible as relevant. On this and other subjects, four examples are William   Countryman, Jack Rogers, Bart Ehrman, and Garry Wills. While Countryman critiques literalist, inerrant views of the Bible, he recognizes powerful lessons in scripture and the general historicity of Jesus and the Gospels. Rogers is actually an evangelical Presbyterian with a high view of scripture who changed his view on homosexuality. Although Ehrman exposes the human elements of composing the Bible, including copyist errors (and ultimately became an agnostic for other reasons), he maintains this helps one make more sense of the Bible. Historian Wills reveals the Bible is not altogether historically accurate but fully believes the reality and power of the life and message of Jesus.

[3] Found primarily in the book of Leviticus.

[4] Leviticus 13:12-13

[5] L. William Countryman, Dirt, Greed, and Sex: Sexual Ethics in the New Testament and Their Implications for Today (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1988), 25-26.

[6] Ibid. (Countryman), 27.

[7] Leviticus 18: 19, 26, 29

[8] Leviticus 11:4-45

[9] Jack Rogers, Jesus, the Bible, and Homosexuality: Explode the Myths, Heal the Church (Louisville, Kentucky: Westminster John Knox Press, 2006), 72.

[10] Mark 7:19

[11] Romans 7:6

[12] Romans 10:4

[13] Romans 7:6 and Romans 8

[14] Philo Thelos, God is Not a Homophobe (Victoria, British Columbia: Trafford Publishing, 2004), 28.

[15] Particularly in I and II Kings

[16] Justin R. Cannon, The Bible, Christianity, and Homosexuality, (Justin R. Cannon, 2009), 12.

[17] Rodney Stark, Cities of God (San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, 2006), 50.

[18] Ibid (Rodney Stark), 92.

[19] Philo Thelos, God is Not a Homophobe (Victoria, British Columbia: Trafford Publishing, 2004), 58.

[20] Some conservatives claim the story of Sodom addresses homosexuality, hence the popular notion that the term “sodomy” refers to anal intercourse. See L. William Countryman, Dirt, Greed and Sex, page 31 to learn why this is not the case.

[21] Tony Campolo, Speaking My Mind (Nashville: W Publishing Group, 2004), 67 and Jack Rogers, Jesus, the Bible, and Homosexuality: Explode the Myths, Heal the Church (Louisville, Kentucky: Westminster John Knox Press, 2006), 73-74.

[22] Ibid. (Jack Rogers), 74.

[23] Justin R. Cannon, The Bible, Christianity, and Homosexuality, (Justin R. Cannon, 2009)

[24] Philo Thelos, God is Not a Homophobe (Victoria, British Columbia: Trafford Publishing, 2004), 62.

[25] Ibid (Philo Thelos), 85-87.

[26] Justin R. Cannon, The Bible, Christianity, and Homosexuality, (Justin R. Cannon, 2009). 4-6.

Pinging is currently not allowed18 Responses

  1. Bill Burns says:

    I try to stay out of these online discussions because they seem to be largely fruitless. However, I have an issue with people writing books that go out to the mass market and project an aura of authority that is essentially undeserved. Sadly, I think this book (or at least the part you've quoted) is a great example.

    'So I delved into another Bible study project. My first lesson was a reminder. Sound exegetical studies insist that the Bible can’t mean today what it never meant to its original audience. The key to interpreting the Bible for modern readers is putting it in its proper context—both cultural and literary. “The Biblical text does not come to us in the form of timeless axioms.”[1] The texts were created in a particular time-space environment. To understand the Bible, the reader must put himself or herself in the original situation in which it was written as much as possible. I especially understood this in recent years after studying the phenomenon of Bible abuse.'

    He's certainly correct about this point, but then he goes on to cite work that clearly dismisses the scriptural contexts in which the Levitical prohibitions took place, and seems to also narrowly interpret the passages in the New Testament to references to pederasty rather than to homosexual sex. It seems that a full reading of the historical context might include a look at the Talmud, which gives a fuller understanding of just what was being condemned, and also a reading of the early Church Fathers, who likewise made it very clear what they were talking about. They were certainly not talking about the homosexual identity as people think of it these days, but they were most certainly talking about homosexual acts (consensual or not).

    No, the strictures against homosexual acts in the OT are not of the same type as the ritual purity laws concerning the mixing of dairy and meat or of eating pork. The scriptural context itself testifies to this. You can read Leviticus 18 and 20 yourself to see what the strictures are. To conflate the moral and ritual law in Leviticus is a gross distortion of precisely the contextual reading this writer claims to seek and also a distortion of the message Paul communicated rather clearly in his letters. While he obviously excluded Christians from the ritual laws of Judaism, he continued to hold them to the moral laws. This point was not missed by the Church Fathers. The moral law stands. The ritual law, for Christians, was set aside. Jesus Himself doesn't set aside the moral law. He forgives the adultress and says, "Go and sin no more," but He does not say that adultery (one of those other transgressions from Leviticus 18 and 20) is not sinful.

    Rabbinic Judaism and early Christianity taught that sex was ordered to procreation and that uses of it outside of that aim were forbidden and, ultimately, prone to idolatry (not people having ritual sex, but people seeing sex as the highest good). Both Orthodox Judaism and Apostolic Christianity (Catholicism and eastern Orthodoxy) have always held this position, which is why the acts themselves are the focus. The desires and the love relationships people have are not the issue, and no one should be treated as less than a child of God because of their inclinations.

    You wrote:

    "So when we get to point of application, if it ends up we’ve condemned those that God loves and has no condemnation for, well then we’ve got some explaining to do."

    We have no right to condemn people because we are not their judge and cannot see into their hearts. We have every obligation to condemn actions that are harmful, if for no other reason than to help others avoid a lot of pain and suffering. Hate the sin, and love the sinner. After all, we're all sinners. My sins are simply different than yours or anyone else's.

    • Chad Estes says:

      Bill, you said, "We have every obligation to condemn actions that are harmful, if for no other reason than to help others avoid a lot of pain and suffering," but not everyone would see these actions as harmful, nor as creating pain and suffering in their relationships.

      Regulating sex to procreation, while I acknowledge that this has been held in high esteem in various church backgrounds, is also a dangerous view in my estimation as it misses an amazing, beautiful, and pleasurable experience that sex can be. As far as I can tell Song of Solomon is erotic as hell and has nothing to do with having sex for the purpose of getting pregnant.

      • randallphelps says:

        For the record, "ordered to procreation" does not mean or imply that all sexual relations are intended for procreation. Bill refers to a church teaching that aligns sex to the laws of nature. To think that the Catholic Church, or Bill, say that sex is only for procreation is a misunderstanding of both the teachings of the church and of scripture, as you have pointed out in the latter case, Chad.

  2. areelius says:

    So for 2000 years, the greatest scholars and linguists nearly universally found the Scriptures to mean the same thing. The values laid down for the followers were applied to life in the same way, and those values are what put the teachings of Christ in a category by itself. Now, a few liberals have decided that the greatest minds in history, got it wrong and were practicing a religion of hate and bigotry.
    If you don't like the values that have been universally lived and handed down for millennia, write your own holy scriptures, and save yourself the disgrace of attempting to refute real bible scholars whose work has stood the test of the centuries.

  3. Gary says:

    This "us" and "them kind of mentality shows I am right and they are wrong. No dialogue is possible. I find this sad and frustrating, because it does show a lack of love.

    • Chad Estes says:

      I so agree, Gary! It is obvious that so many of us approach this issue with the division firmly in place. It could be quite different if we saw a circle that enclosed us all. I think this is what we are up against.

    • Michael Camp says:

      Gary, I also agree one hundred percent. I found the "us vs.them" attitude prevalent in evangelicalism. We are all susceptible to it, including myself, and should strive to "agree to disagree agreeably" rather than write people off.

  4. Michael Camp says:

    Thanks, Chad, for posting this, and for everyone engaging with the content. It's always good to hear the variety of responses to my spiritual evolution on such issues.

    Bill, thanks for your thoughts. I make no claim to be an authority on the issue, only that I examine authoritative historians, theologians, and scholars, whom I cite, and as an individual believer, come to my own conclusions. Too many of us, I believe, just accept what the "authorities" say, without thinking for ourselves. I questioned evangelical "authorities" and discovered others outside the movement I often found more credible.

    I agree with you about ensuring we are in "scriptural context" and that we should take into account the church fathers. On homosexuality, I found, among others, William Countryman (Dirt, Greed, and Sex) did an excellent job of this regarding Leviticus, the Holiness Code, and purity rules and does show the rationale for tying seemingly "moral behavior" strictures together with ritual purity laws, e.g. male homosexual acts, sex with a woman during menstruation–both are unclean acts but the latter is ignored in modern circles.

  5. Michael Camp says:

    Bill, (continued) As for the church fathers, my own study of them revealed how some were much more harsh and others much more progressive than most 21st century believers are led to believe. We are free to question the authority of each one. Frankly, many of them got it terribly wrong–e.g. Augustine on unbaptized babies, original sin, some say on penal substitutional atonement, etc. and Tertullian on Eve's greater guilt and view of women. Others like Origen and Gregory of Nyssa were surprisingly progressive with their universalist beliefs. We should take them all into account, but the historical church, the fathers, and many movements have been wrong on women and slavery and more, in the past, so a fresh look today is warranted on this issue, I believe.

  6. Michael Camp says:

    Areelius, thanks for weighing in. For your comment, "So for 2000 years, the greatest scholars and linguists nearly universally found the Scriptures to mean the same thing," I just flatly disagree and believe the historical evidence is just the opposite. You might find some areas of general agreement on some issues (maybe you were arguing just for homosexuality?), but there are many, many things where there have been huge, profound disagreements throughout history. Eastern vs. Western Christianity, the church fathers I cite above, and of course the myriad denominations and divisions we have today.

  7. Michael Camp says:

    (Sorry for the many posts–it wouldn't let me do one long one). My contention is that we've had disagreements before and are free to revisit theological positions. For homosexuality, we (the church) have been wrong before on blacks, slavery, and women, and may very well be wrong today on universal condemnation of homosexuality–and not just "a few liberals" say this, but many with a high view of scriptures have changed. Homosexuality (and heterosexuality) that harms or exploits others or engages in idolatry, shrine prostitution, etc., is undeniably wrong, as the scriptures attest, but the question about gay and lesbian believers in loving, committed relationships that harm no one should be open to evaluate under Christ's one law of love.

    • @Paleoism says:

      As probably the lone atheist that is a regular reader here, I read through this discussion with great amusement.

      I agree, 100% with Michael Camp's observation that the church was wrong about blacks, slavery, women, etc., and I know the reason.

      The Bible is man made. It reflects the culture of those that wrote it.

      In the Bible, genocide and rape and murder are all condoned when it's in the interest of those writing at that period of time.

      King David, murderer, thief, destroyer, adulterer, bandit, but yeah, God's cool with him, so no worries.

      His son, marries hundreds.

      His grandson splits the kingdom.

      And on and on. It's one long story of death and justification.

      Then Jesus comes along, and yes, I'm going to call out Chad on his interpretation of the "dog" passage.

      There is no way to put a good light on this, although I'd say great try and very good rationalization, but there is no way to not see Jesus as a zealot for Judaism and purity to the law.

      If you don't quote Paul, who added his commentary later, it's obvious that Jesus taught that the Jews would rule, the law would stand forever and he'd be on his thrown (back from the dead) before all his followers died.

      Since he didn't come back as promised, Paul (and others) changed the plain meaning of what he said to mean something else (actually, check that, Paul also taught clearly that Jesus was coming right back, thus his "better not get married statement".

      I'll leave my above statement unedited because it shows even my own bias in mistranslating scripture to "fit" what I think it said or should say.

      Logical conclusion to all this is that Christianity is a myth. And I don't say that lightly, 37 years as a true believer…

  8. Michael Camp says:

    @Paleoism, Michael Beverly, I sympathize with you. There's intellectual and scriptural dishonesty among traditional Christians. But I don't think it's fair to look at the Bible in black and white—to either accept it 100% or reject it wholesale because of problematic passages. Traditionalists claim it is internally consistent. It's not. Nor is it uniform. So why is anyone obligated to judge all of it based on some of it? For every evil passage, I find ten more good and inspirational. Look at the prophets (OT and NT) siding with the weak and poor and condemning the corrupt. By the way, God wasn't okay with David–a prophet rebuked him for murder and stealing one's wife.

    Many progressive theologians insist Paul and Jesus' message is consistent. In my book, I make that case. Also on the return of Christ, not everyone is a futurist. You're right, people ignore the fact the "church" thought he would come back soon. But reading Josephus and history shows there's an historical case he did… figuratively, as the cosmic imagery of the OT language Jesus used fits to a tee. Not literal clouds, nor presence, but a spiritual "appearance" and sign of judgment on the corruption within Israel. [Gotta read my book :-) ]

    Finally, even Bart Erhman squashes the myth theory. What do you think of his book on this? Traditional modern Christianity, I believe, is a myth, but the Christ of history and his teachings has much historical evidence and moral reasoning on its side. I sympathize with you, Michael B, but I think there's a middle way that's truer to the evidence. Thanks for weighing in.

  9. Sharad Yadav says:

    Hi! Read this with great interest and made some comments to a friend about it, so I thought I'd weigh in a bit:

    There was a period of time I was doing a lot of reading on these issues and had come across some of these points before; so I dug out a post from a blog archive of my own (when I used to blog, mostly as therapy) – I wonder what you'd think (http://greensoylent.blogspot.com/2007/01/few-antitheses-on-same-sex.html). But the basic idea was that I think the Biblical authors had a logic about sexuality that was actually more fundamental than property rights and the holiness code – one that actually stood behind that language, but didn't depend on it (evidenced by the fact that I think the New Testament authors continued that logic while dropping the holiness code) – and that's the logic of worship and idolatry. Here's another post about sexuality that spells out a little bit of what I mean by that (http://greensoylent.blogspot.com/2007/01/sacred-sexuality.html), but the point is that Israel's holiness code and legal structure was built off the presumption that it was to be a nation characterized by the unique worship of the one true God. Exclusive monotheism in the context of a covenant relationship was the heart of what the law was trying to display. Sexuality is built from this logic – the difference in the sexes displays God's holiness (his otherness); therefore anything that resembles "sameness" and tries to wash out the differences is prohibited (cross dressing, heterosexual sex that avoids vaginal contact), etc. The exclusivity of a sexual relationship displays God's covenant love; therefore anything that resembles idolatry, i.e. passion or loyalty outside the singular commitment is prohibited (promiscuity, adultery, etc.). This is the logic that Paul picks up in Ro. 1 (and this is the connection to idolatry he wants to make – he connects homosexuality to "worship of the creation rather than the creator" who is holy and unlike his creation). This deeper logic behind the biblical portrayal of sexuality stands behind all of the old and new testament teaching on the subject, from my view. I'd also probably protest the idea that the ancient world was unfamiliar with committed loving relationships between same sex couples of equal power and status (I took Greek in college from a delightful man who was gay, getting a degree in classics and went to great pains to show the historical continuity of gay relationships in the West) – but the former points are the bigger ones for me.

    But with all that said, I don't think Christians should lobby the state to outlaw same-sex marriage. I think there are good reasons to actually be for it, even as a Christian who doesn't think it's Biblically permissible. So that's a separate issue. And I don't necessarily think the first issue that should be confronted with a gay friend or neighbor is their homosexuality – or that gay people couldn't participate in the life of the church before having come to the point in their journey where they accepted my view on the subject. But I'd probably teach a view of sexuality that would raise these points and gently challenge our gay friends not just with this understanding about sexuality but with some counter-cultural teaching on topics surrounding our views on sexuality (like our view of romance, celibacy, happiness, consumer relationships, etc.)

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