Judging from what I’ve seen, there isn’t much of a case for being a sexually active gay person. Or a sexually active single person. I guess that’s the breaks.
Judging from what I’ve seen, I have to disagree. So agree to disagree?
I’m still wondering what TomT thinks.
I think that we can agree that we disagree, but not to disagree, since we already do
Late to this conversation, which seems to be waiting for Tom T to weigh in more fully…
Seems to me that, from his conversations on the origin of sin, one might make fair and reasoned guesses as to his position??
My own thoughts have gravitated to the writings of Richard Hays (eg The Moral Vision of the New Testament) where he holds that homosexuality is not part of “God’s created order”. Certain things follow from this of course; most unexpectedly however for the fundamentalist Christian (I dislike these sorts of labels) is that God’s created order also includes the kind of humble self awareness of ones own incompleteness and imperfections before God so that he recognizes that all stand in need of redemption and healing before God. Which is to say he has no particular “standing” to call out another for his sin, when he himself is a sinner.
However, this gets difficult with Tom T’s original settings of ambiguity and indeterminism and so on. If God’s created order WAS such that anything was legitimately allowable and possible, why not homosexuality?? It is simply one more of the possibilities that might emerge in such a setting. This makes no judgement on homosexuality as being “right or wrong” as such, rather suggests that it is simply one more of the manifestations we might expect if the origins of our morality and educated “free choice” really did emerge in the milieu of ambiguity and indeterminism that Tom has suggested.
The problem (well, one anyway) for this dynamic which emerges from Tom T’s suggestions, is how on earth does one arrive – from this milieu of not “knowing” WHAT is “right” (ie God’s “ideal”) – as God’s intended “order”?? Are we merely arriving at a kind of pragmatism – ie what works? This is a very interesting pathway to follow, because, according to much Christian thought, the way that “works” best is the way of love. Well, I’ve known, and know, homosexuals who comprehend love – and exercise it too – far better than do I. What then of the supposed “wrongness” (ie outside of God’s order) of the love offered by a homosexual??
Tom T is quite right: it gets very complicated – and from more than just a relational standpoint. One things for sure though: as Universalists, we all agree that all sinners – be they prideful, or gluttonous, or envious, or homosexual, or lustful, or, oh well, go ahead and fill in the list as you wish – will eventually be reunited with their creator God forever. So who will require the “fires” of hell for purification of those characteristics that disqualify them from paradise? Is it gays? or is it those who have yet to learn to love properly? Is it the prideful (including those who are proud they are not homosexual)?
All of which tells me that we Universalists (OK, we believers in Universal Reconciliation…) should have much to offer the Christian, and the evangelical communities. I just don’t see it thus far; do you?? The exquisite beauty of UR is that it is able to easily envision (not because of our works, but because of the grace of God) salvation for all. Yet it retains the doctrine of hell; that place of preparation and remediation for those who’ve not really measured up in this life. Is God really making these decisions on the basis of loving homosexual vs. prideful hetero?? That seems to disgrace (and confound) the entire conversation – doesn’t it??
What might be the common denominator of those who find themselves in hell – needing some additional time to learn what they have failed to here in their time on earth? Are they there because they are homosexual? Or because they do not earnestly desire the salvation of all? (I personally like this one!) Or maybe because they have failed to discern just how rich and full and all encompassing the love of God truly is? A moments consideration grasps that God brings home those who share His vast heart of love; I think He saves first those who will best welcome the rest home to be with Him forever; and homosexuality fits here – how??
My God: lets not devolve into the business of “sin stratification”. You believe something is wrong? By all means avoid doing that then; and leave the conviction of sin for another between that person and God. God is in the business of saving. Who can believe that more than a Universalist??
The only question, as I now view things, is: how best may I participate with God in what He is about?
We can go with just exegetical arguments, which I’m still inclined to conclude define homosexual acts as immoral. We don’t need to open up a full review and debate all the passages. I’m willing for the sake of argument to call it a draw.
In that case, my next step would be to argue from ‘nature’ (or ‘teleology’, ‘design’, etc.). Assuming homosexuality is a natural sexual orientation, and going with an evolutionary history of human origins and development, how would we account on evolutionary grounds for the existence and survival of a homosexual orientation? Evolution, as I understand it, prunes characteristics not best suited to the survival of the species. Heterosexuality is certainly a must here. It’s survival value is maximal. It’s the only natural means of propagating the human race. But homosexual propagation? It is, strictly speaking, unnatural (where ‘natural’ means what evolution favors because of it survivability value, or something like that; you get the point). Homosexual sex has no survivability value whatsoever. It’s impossible to account for it on evolutionary grounds. On the contrary, as a sexual orientation it’s counter-productive; it undermines the survival of the species. It contributes nothing to the survivability of the human race. It’s one thing to say, “Well, evolution permits a diversity of aesthetic taste in music and art, etc. We all enjoy ‘music’ per se, though we enjoy different types of music. Similarly, we all enjoy ‘sex’ per se, just not all the same type of sex.” But the argument doesn’t work for me. ‘Sex’ is THE means of species-propagation, not some leisurely activity that admits a diversity and still obtains its goal. Sexual orientation directly bears on the survival of the race, unlike orientation of tastes in music or art.
Still, I’d love to see a secular, evolutionist account for homosexuality.
What of identical twins (exact same genes), one of whom is gay and the other of whom is straight? Wouldn’t that undermine the geneticist’s argument? I don’t see how it wouldn’t. If sexual orientation is invariably determined by genetics, then how can identical genetics (in identical twins) determine contrary sexual orientations?
Then I’d argue ‘theologically’ as I have that homosexuality is less than beautiful in that it fails to instantiate where it might a diversity in unity and unity in diversity at the very point where embodied life is most pleasurable and most reflective of the divine order.
Other than those three sources (exegesis, nature, and theology), I don’t have anything to contribute.
I think I could agree that while homosexuality is not God’s ‘intention’ for human being, human being sometimes ‘becomes’ what God did not intend it to be in ways that do not reflect our free volition. An example. I understand that kleptomania is (or can be) an inherited ‘condition’. But shoplifting laws still apply. We do not on account of this condition condone a kleptomaniac’s taking of whatever they wish. An individual with kleptomania has to learn to exercise control and live in the world as best she can.
Likening homosexuality to kleptomania will doubtless be offensive to homosexuals. I don’t mean to offend. I’m really just honestly trying to find answers. I don’t know how to rule out homosexuality being a physical depravity of some kind just because it’s offensive to consider. But I don’t know how to establish such a thing either.
Perhaps sexual orientation is determined by a matrix of influences (genetic, environmental, social, etc.). That makes sense, but it sure becomes difficult to account for identical twins raised in the same home with the same loving parents and friends—i.e., with a minimal difference of influences—one of whom emerges as gay and the other who emerges straight. Perhaps ‘personal preference’ is ONE of the determining factors?
And then you have people who are Bi. They enjoy straight sex and gay sex concurrently. Or others who were straight for a time and then gay for a time and then back to straight. What’s up with that? Are they genetically confused? Genetically under-determined? More often than not the gay community (contrary to their genetics arguments) just wants free, experimental sex, orientation-less sexuality. Pure physical pleasure, via as many ways as possible, is what it’s about. Sheer hedonism.
Lastly, I get SO hurt and grieved by so-called fundamental Christian groups who parade at funerals and memorial services with signs that say “God Hates Fags” and the like. I don’t want to have anything to do with their brand of Christianity. If I have to eventually drop the label “Christian” because it no longer communicates, then I’ll do so.
Haven’t got time to post more than a link to a brief response to the above.
I think the reference to observed homosexuality in animals is pertinent.
Also don’t forget that even Christians commit acts that are against God’s laws EVERY DAY - unless anyone here wants to make the claim that they have gone a whole day without sinning
The Christian who thinks a bad thought against a brother is as guilty as the homosexual. Just remember Jesus constantly berated the religious not the prostitutes.
Yes, Jeff, I agree. I sin. I sin daily. I need God’s grace to help me recognize where I miss it and always come back to the Cross.
So I’m hearing you say homosexuality IS sin, then. Your point is just that this doesn’t justify a judgmental attitude on anyone’s part, for everybody has SOME sin they’re struggling with. Am I understanding you rightly?
Tom (TGB), you ended one of your posts with:
This is such an admirable and bridge-building paragraph, and I applaud you for it.
Unfortunately, in the same post you also wrote:
More often than not? How do you figure? I’m sorry, but that seems like such an unfair generalization. By and large, IME, I don’t think gay communities (plural) are all that different from straight communities. Some are prudes, some are promiscuous, some are celibate, some are reserving sex for a lifelong relationship, etc.
Aside from that, I want to briefly discuss the kleptomania analogy. Same-sex eroticism (SSE) per se does not involve harming another person, but theft does. The self-sacrificing love that gay persons often have for their spouses cannot be compared to the desire people have to steal. It’s great that you did not desire or intend to offend anybody, but with all due respect to you, the kleptomania analogy is very poor.
There are similar difficulties involved when people compare homosexuality and SSE to alcoholism or gluttony. Those are likewise bad analogies. Actually, it seems to me that it’s difficult to compare SSE to most sins. If SSE is sinful, then it is an odd sin in the sense that it (in a per se sense) does not necessarily involve harming other people or oneself. In contrast, adultery, gluttony, lying, etc. are harmful (to others and/or oneself). But SSE per se is not. On the contrary, SSE often bonds SS couples together, which in turn makes them happier, more productive, more compassionate and comparing, etc. In a nutshell, there are indeed good-fruit-bearing SS relationships, but there are no good-fruit-bearing affairs or physical expressions of alcoholism. The fact that SSE relationships often bear good fruit is one reason why some become skeptical of the idea that such relationships are always immoral.
Of course, one still needs to deal with theology, exegetics, etc. I may go into that, although honestly, I’ve also lost the interest I once had. I started this thread because I was (and am) curious about Tom Talbott’s personal opinions, though I suspect that he would (understandably) rather not answer.
That being said, I want to address some of your other points.
Out of curiosity, what do you mean by “natural”? Also, are you familiar with the neurohormonal theory of the development of homosexuality? If so, what are your thoughts?
I’m not saying this is definitively the case, but homosexual genes (those genes that increase the odds of people becoming gay) may be favored/ selected because they can help prevent overpopulation crises. Homosexuality is not enough to totally prevent such crises (because it only takes a few straight men to impregnate many women), but it may be an aid. So perhaps natural selection favors silent gay genes that become activated/ expressed in certain pre-natal hormonal environments, and when activated, result in reduced sexual interest in the “opposite” sex – which would then help reduce the risk of overpopulation. That’s possible.
I’m also not ready to say that God did not intend homosexuality. Some very thoughtful Christians have made some interesting points on this question, including (but not limited to):
The now-deceased Catholic Priest Gareth Moore in his book, “A Question of Truth” (2003)
The anthropologist Patrick Chapman in his book “Thou Shalt Not Love” (2008)
The founder of the Gay Christian Network Justin Lee, who wrote an article that I provided a link to earlier in this thread
(All of which, among others, I highly recommend)
Sexual reproduction is a must, but heterosexuality is not. Bisexuality would be efficient. Homosexual behaviour is well known in over 400 species of animals (in otherwise non-pathological populations), and in some cases it is much more frequent than in humans, and yet those species are nowhere close to extinction. In some cases, animals form life-long same-sex pairings! It’s fascinating. For an exhaustive (though also incomplete) discussion of animal homosexuality, I recommend the book “Biological Exuberance” (1999) by the biologist Bruce Bagemihl.
Neither does sex between infertile opposite-sex couples, but we would never condemn such relationships. Anti-evolutionary does not necessarily equal immoral.
Also, while it is true that OS (hetero) intercourse has survivability value, too much of hetero intercourse is detrimental. What is needed is balance. Likewise, while it is true that too much* SS* intercourse is detrimental to a specie’s survival chances, it’s also true that some SS intercourse is either neutral or beneficial (homosexuality may help reduce overpopulation as I suggested earlier). Again, what is needed is balance. Likewise, too much non-reproductive OS intercourse is detrimental, but some is neutral. Balance.
It means that homosexuality is *not completely *genetic, but that is not the same as saying that homosexuality is psychosocial (which I think would be irrelevant anyway, and I’ll try to explain why in a moment). Something can be physiological without being genetic. For example, handedness and hair color both vary among identical twins, but nobody thinks those traits are psychosocial.
The concordance rate of homosexuality among identical twins is still higher than in non-identical twins, and the concordance rate among non-identical twins is higher than in non-twin siblings. Genes do play a role in (at least some cases of) homosexuality, though they are not the whole story.
I would also say that something can be psychosocial without being pathological. Homosexuality does not appear to be a mental illness, so I don’t think it matters all that much if it turns out that homosexuality is psychosocial.
Also, perhaps it’s best to say “homosexualities” – perhaps different gays are gay for different reasons.
I’m not sure that erotic relationships are supposed to reflect the divine order. But if they are, why assume that erotic relationships must involve different genitals before they can be “beautiful” and “most reflective of the divine order”? What about persons who are anatomically neither male nor female? What about persons who are both?
Perhaps relationships reflect the divine order if they bear good fruit?
I think the neurohormonal theory covers this fairly well. But I also think that a trait’s origins are irrelevant to its moral permissibility (or lack thereof).
the very best wishes to you
Hi Tom - I am not saying that from my worldview it is sin - only from the Christian perspective - but you are correct in the rest of your statement i.e. the judgemental attitude.
What I see from my limited perspective is that some Christians fixate on the sins of non Christians in a way that I don’t see Jesus or the Apostles doing from the Bible texts. Both Jesus and Paul berate the religious for their hypocrisy but not the pagans for their lawlessness (sexual or otherwise). I don’t mean that Christians must condone or collude or celebrate behaviour in others that they believe is sinful - I see jesus and Paul calling all to repent and turn 180 degrees away from sin - BUT as I said before - whereas there are verses and verses of Jesus’s detailed criticism of the Scribes and Pharisees there is not one verse that tells us how he castigated the prostitutes with whom he chose to spend time or berating a prominant local Roman for holding orgies.
Paul, likewise, says unequivocally that fornication, homosexuality etc has no part in the Kingdom of God - but the only people given a rocket for doing it are the Christians to whom he is writing. In the same way when Paul is talking to the Greeks the Bible records him encouraging them by virtue of the fact that among all their pagan gods they have a statue to the unknown god who he equates with the God who raised Jesus from the dead rather than telling them that they are nasty people for having other gods.
It can be difficult to put these points over without laying myself open to a charge that I am advocating anyone should be able to do anything they want including rape and murder. That’s not what I am saying. I am trying to say that Christians should remember that under the law a person breaking the least of the commandments was considered as guilty as if they had broken them all. Big sins in others are easy to point the finger at - small sins in oneself go undetected but are just as effective at keeping one out of the Kingdom.
In the story I told above about my homosexual housemate I omitted to say that at the time we were both professing Christians. Although I wasn’t struggling with homosexuality like he was (and believe me in later years he poured out his soul to me about the heartbreak in that struggle) I also struggled against sin (envy, jelousy etc…) - he was no more guilty than I was in God’s eyes.
Thanks for the helpful reply. I’ve read the pro/con articles by Justin and Ron. I love irenic, informed, open-minded debate wherever I find it. It’s SO good to see. And I have to admit to having been overseas in the Muslim world for so long I just don’t know mainstream American Evangelicals that well to know whether or not they’ve addressed the gay question and put it behind them. But it came up among in convo among some European and British Evangelicals a couple years back and I remember them saying the issue was still unaddressed and out in front of them. I’ve resettled in the States it looks like, so I’m more concerned about this issue. It just didn’t make appear on the radar for me where I was overseas.
I’ll try to respond to the substance of your last post, Pat, when I get a chance. But let me apologize for any offense that got communicated in my “more often than not” comment. I see how that unfairly generalized. I only meant to generalize over my own limited experience and exposure to the gay community. I’d be happy to learn that my experience is quite limited. Justin’s article was, for example, amazing to read—agree or not.
Let me run for now.
This is the case for my wife and myself - when I met her 26 years ago she had already had a hysterectomy and so we both knew from the outset that we would be childless,
Got home from Iraq last night for a few weeks of leave. Whew. Everybody is still asleep this morning so I thought I’d punch out a few more lines, Pat, before I got going.
The kleptomania analogy (and again, I didn’t mean any offense here either) wasn’t intended to show or prove anything about the morality of same sex relations per se. The point was just to say that one can inherit a condition generally deemed to be immoral, and that therefore proving that gay orientation really is inherited or genetic (which I’m guessing is still part of the debate?) doesn’t prove it IS morally acceptable (as I have heard some gays argue—“It’s not my choice, I was born this way, therefore it’s morally OK.”) You may be very right about the difference between kleptomania being ‘harmful’ and gay sex not being harmful. In that case, you’re just agreeing with me that what’s inherited isn’t automatically morally acceptable, right?
The point of my opening trinitarian argument attempts to establish a certain ‘harmfulness’ to gay relations, if ‘harm’ can include goods unperceived and so unachieved, the harm that obtains in failing to be all you can be. In other words, there may be partial realization of created beauty and relational intimacy reflected in gay sex (in as much as it’s a good thing for any two human beings to seek intimacy and to sacrifice for one another), but there may be an equal degree of the beauty and goodness God intends for human sexuality that is nevertheless NOT realized, and can’t be realized, in gay sex. In that sense one might say gay sex is harmful. (Again, I’m just floating this out for discussion, not claiming to ‘know’ that it’s the case with SSR.) By its very nature its form prevents it from ever being a reflection of trinitarian love. See what I mean? I might be wrong of course. The analogy might be a horrible one. But it has a certain appeal to those of us who believe everything about created being can and ought to (and is intended to) reflect the triune life and love of God, and to extend that gay sex—though it does achieve a level of personal intimacy on one level and isn’t overtly harmful in the way kleptomania (and other sins we agree upon) obviously is—fails to reflect in its embodied form the trinitarian love that God desires to see throughout creation, to that extent it would be harmful.
Actually, people get that wrong- He convicted the prostitutes of their sin as well: “go and sin no more”!
Cool. And No rush Tom; take your time
All the way through I’ve said that Jesus and the apostles didn’t condone sin - I’m saying more words are recorded in the NT concerning the sin of the jewish religious leaders and the new christian churches than the mass of the people
The releant phrase was ‘constantly berating’ not ‘only berating’ and wasn’t the ‘sin no more’ remark made to the woman caught in adultery? If she had been caught again after that do you think Jesus would have said ‘Oops! you’ve had one let off-so now let’s get some rocks’? By the law she should have been stoned remember but he doesn’t use hellfire language to her like he does to the scribes and Pharisees.
The Samaritan woman by the well is living in sin and has had a very shady past that Jesus tells her all about, then he goes on to tell her that God will be worshipped neither on the mountain nor in Jerusalem - but he doesn’t harangue her for her lifestyle - he just offers her the living waters.
Both of these women come up against the source of everlasting life and so of course are changed by that (these are stories loaded with meaning after all - not straight history as we know it). We hear nothing about how many of the tax collectors, prostitutes and publicans repented it’s just not recorded but I doubt Jesus stopped eating and drinking with those who didn’t turn around
So again I say I’m not condoning or condemning homosexual behaviour but merely pointing out that the Gospels and the rest of the NT focus on the shortcomings of the religous (Jewish and emerging Christian) than the unwashed masses (of course if this is about Christian homosexuals then Paul would give them short shrift I agree ). But homosexuality is no blacker a sin (if it is a sin) than making a private phone call in one’s employer’s time and on his/her phone it’s just easier to whip up a crowd for the stoning.
“…and to extend that gay sex—though it does achieve a level of personal intimacy on one level and isn’t overtly harmful in the way kleptomania (and other sins we agree upon) obviously is—fails to reflect…”
It should read “…and to the extent that gay sex–though it…”
Just wanted to be clear.
Thank you for being so open and honest. I’m sorry you’re feeling so heavy. I wouldn’t want to be the casue of pain or misunderstanding. And I really just want to think and live and relate biblically and in unconditional love. I don’t believe I need the truth on this issue to be one thing and not the other. I hope I’m being as honest as I can when I say I’m prepared to accept whatever is the truth about these questions.
Blessings to you in Christ, Buddy. Thanks for your prayer.
One of the hardest things about being a Christian has been obeying the command of God to be abstinent. I have chosen to remain single (though I don’t rule out marriage in the future). I practice abstinence in the matter of sexual relationship. Please realize the depth of this commitment (to have no sexual contact, period). But it has, I believe, brought much joy as I feel God’s approval of my obedience. I know that abstinence from contact is possible and healthy. Do not believe what the culture says, that we must have sexual relationships or our lives are not fulfilled. That’s a lie from hell…
It is believed in some Eastern circles that celibacy actually produces a higher level of spiritual power in the individual who practices it.