Hello everyone. I’m new to the message boards. I recently ended my speculation on Universalism and accepted it to be true. It’s been very freeing, since the death of my grandmother a few years back started this whole journey (I was unsure of her destiny). I am a student in psychology at the masters level seeking to be a clinical psychologist eventually. My undergrad is actually in Religion and I’ve been a youth minister in a Baptist church, though I’m much more liberal than I was then. I will admit upfront that I don’t consider myself part of any movement (such as evangelicalism) per se, just an independent Christian and thus my ID.
Regarding this debate topic which I thought was so interesting I did not go to bed this past night, but stayed up and read the whole thing…lol…, I want to submit some comments from a couple different perspectives on what has been said although I may not do it all in this post. I’ll try and keep with the flow of the recent discussion and we’ll go from there.
First, TBG (I think) began by asking questions in light of his Trinitarian formulation for sexuality. I find logical problems with this argument. First, two people in a relationship of any kind are exactly that – two and not three. Would a three-member relationship not be more reflective of the Trinity? I doubt anyone will argue that, but someone could logically make the argument if we wanted to really “make it fit.” And I think that’s my first point. The analogy is weak and imprecise. We need to remember that while we are like God in many ways, we are not like Him in others. We are not three persons in one essence. We are one person, one essence and two people in a relationship are two persons and essences. Can you be a bit more clear by making the analogy more specific?
Now, regarding the unity in diversity, I think Pat had an excellent reply regarding anatomy. Why is the focus only on that? If you think about it, men and women are actually more alike than unalike. Both have heads, necks, breasts, arms, legs, abdomens, legs and feet. Their internal structures like livers, kidneys and other major organ systems are the same also. So it would seem to me that to say that men and women are opposites and two men or two women are “sames” is highly simplistic. The only way you could get that is by focusing ONLY on genitalia. In fact, the main differences between men and women seem to be related to the purposes of reproduction and child feeding. God could have created us to be asexual in which we each impregnate ourselves and bear children. However, he created us to be sexual so that the childbearing process would take place in the context of relationships, thus the difference in needing a male and a female (who has a body designed for childbearing and newborn nurturing). TGB, what is your response to this? (I’m not saying btw that there aren’t differences between men and women, I just suggest that the differences are dialectal or bipolar and not necessarily distinct categories – much as lancia was pointing out at the genetic level).
Also, a point that Patrick made that was not responded to had to do with other issues that are not physical. What about personality, interests, social intelligence and the like? Should the introvert marry the extrovert? Whether we like it or not, I would suggest the social research shows that we tend to get along better with people who are like us, not opposite to us. Or, as someone said, “First, opposites attract, then they attack!” It’s not that we shouldn’t enjoy diversity and celebrate it, we should, but when it comes to marrying, it seems clear that those who have more in common (not necessarily gender) get along better. Also, you run into a quantitative problem with this position. How much “diversity” should there be before we say, “Now it’s diverse enough.” Do you see what I’m saying? It goes back to what Patrick was alluding to. Diversity in what? There needs to be more precision as to what needs to be diverse before we can really debate particulars.
Also, how would you describe what gay people would be missing out on? You talked about destructiveness as being “missing out on the ideal” or something to that effect. I would argue that all people miss out on God’s sexual ideal as a result of the Fall. Does that mean heterosexual relationships are destructive because they are not ideal? Can you give me an explanation of exactly what heterosexuals experience that homosexuals do not?
To Lancia, I loved your articles on the genetics involved. Someone pointed out earlier (it may have been you) that one of the myths regarding identical twins is that they are exactly the same. It’s true that they may genetically be the exact same, but, as a friend of mine pointed out who graduated with training in biochemistry and has been published in scientific journals, it doesn’t mean that the same genes are “activated” (his word). Since genes simply set a limit (genotype), the phenotypical expression can vary. Also, in a paper I wrote for school, I suggested that the twin studies would actually show a much higher concordance rate if they were measured on the basis of physiological arousal in response to viewing photos of men and women – a method which would be objective rather than subjective such as self-identification. If sexual orientation is bi-dimensional and not bipolar as I suspect, then a person may have differing levels of same-sex and opposite-sex attraction. In other words, if we used this objective method to measure arousal, we may find that identical twins are indeed far more highly concordant as to their respective levels of desire – something that would be missed with something as vague as self-identification. The failure of the psychosocial models to explain homosexuality (as demonstrated in the failure of the “ex-gay” movement) lead me to lean very strongly in the direction of a near total biological explanation for the origins of sexual orientation. I’d be interested to hear your thoughts on this.
I also think there are strong exegetical reasons to reject the idea of prohibition to loving same-sex unions, mostly due to the fact that the hermeneutic used to arrive at the prohibitionist position is the same one that will logically lead you to the pro-slavery, misogynistic position. It’s highly inconsistent, ignores the context of the respective passages, including cultural ideas and the linguistics of the time, and is anachronistic. I’m finally getting tired so I won’t go into detail now (though I will later if anyone is interested), but I’ll leave you with Romans 13:8, 10, which gives us the standard for knowing “right and wrong.” Anything done in love fulfills the law. So if two people are loving each other of their own free will and it can be demonstrated that there is no harm being done, then they’re doing the “right” thing. Anyway, I look forward to interacting more on this topic as well as others. Oh and if something I wrote doesn’t make sense or is unclear, please forgive it since I haven’t been to sleep since Saturday night!!
Tom (P.S. I think actually that the injection of another Tom would be highly confusing since I believe that would make three of us. Oh look a Tomistic Trinity LOL! So, actually you can call me T.J. Peace!)
“Anything done in love fulfills the law. So if two people are loving each other of their own free will and it can be demonstrated that there is no harm being done, then they’re doing the “right” thing.”
I think that this is why we need a “teaching Savior”. How subjective is the idea of whether “harm is done”? Presumably God know more about us than we do. Our reasoning capacities are so marred by self interest that we will tend to interpret “according to our desires”. Let’s look to the teachings of Jesus for an understanding of what is sin, not to our “opinions”!
Roofus, thanks for the reply. I would put forth that your argument about the subjectivity of determining harm would just as much apply to your understanding of the teachings of Jesus:
First, any objective person would admit that there are a variety of opinions about what Jesus meant when he said certain things, so we have to admit that not all the teachings are “clear.”
Second, if our reasoning capacities are so marred by self-interest that we shouldn’t trust them, then how do I know that your very reasoning about how to handle this issue is not itself marred by self-interest? It would seem like your assertion is either self-defeating or meaningless.
Third, how do I know that your interpretation of Jesus’ words is not mired by self-interest? Or, skewed by a subconcious homophobia?
Fourth, in keeping with the second point, it is absurd to say that we cannot know whether harm is being done. Our entire legal system is based on the idea that we can in some way know when harm is being done so as to incorporate laws against harmful acts.
Fifth, if we are going to go to Jesus to find out what sin is and then find out that he no where mentions homosexuality directly, should we conclude that he didn’t think it was sin?
Sixth, the Bible tells us in 1 Corinthians 13 and Galatians 5 what the fruit of love is and we have a clear picture of love in the sacrificial death of Christ. Scripture lays out what love is.
Seventh, even if we didn’t have clear scriptural teachings on love, the New Testament seems to imply when we are commanded to love, such as in the passage I quoted in Romans or in the other numerous places it’s found, that the people receiving the command have some idea of what love is (even if it’s imperfect). Telling people to love their neighbor as themselves implies that I have an idea of how I want to be loved. Again, in contradiction to what you claimed, it would seem that we are not so blinded by sin that we cannot understand real love when we see it.
All of the major medical and psychological associations have come out and declared homosexuality not to be harmful either physically, psychologically, or socially. And many Christians who are gay have testified that they have suffered no spiritual harm from committed, monogamous relationships. Surveys show that relationship satisfaction among gays equals that of heterosexuals which I find it hard to believe would be true if it was so destructively sinful. There is simply no evidence of inherent harm to either party. The only evidence of harm being done is in the way gays and lesbians are treated by people who claim to be Christians (mostly of the conservative type). The rejection that these poor people have to put up with along with discrimination and social stigma is what is truly harmful. Not two people sacrificially loving each other and seeking to meet one another’s needs. If the Bible taught that committed, loving gay relationships were in and of themselves sinful, then we would be able to use the rational minds God gave us to examine these relationships and be able to document ways in which one or both partners are being harmed in order to confirm this fact. Since this cannot be demonstrated by the available evidence, the thinking person should be led to the conclusion that it is not, in fact, sinful.
Hi Jim! Thanks for your comment. To answer your question, I understand sexual immorality to be sex that uses or abuses someone in some way or sexual activity in which harm is caused to one of the two parties (including to yourself). I do not believe that sex outside of marriage is wrong per se. Sex is not right or wrong based on when it happens or who it happens between, but on the basis of motive and demonstrable harm. So, while it may not be wrong to have sex outside marriage, it doesn’t mean it couldn’t. And, likewise, while it may not be wrong to have sex within marriage, it may be! The question is not “are they married?” which is a legalistic focus, but are they being selfish in the way they are having sex. For example, let’s say a husband guilts his wife into having sex with him (perhaps even quoting Scripture to do so) and she consents simply to get him off her back. This sex would not be done in love but out of manipulation and therefore, in this case, marital sex would be sinful or wrong. Some will try to argue that all sex outside of marriage is manipulative and sinful. I just ask them this simple question: Does a man love his partner any less the night before their wedding than he does the night of the wedding? What about if they do it the morning of the wedding before the ceremony? Fifteen minutes before the ceremony? Can you see how this descends into legalism? If it were the other way around and the man was using his partner selfishly in sex the night before their wedding, performing a marriage ceremony wouldn’t suddenly convert sinful sex into righteous sex. So it is the motivation of the heart and the absence of causing harm to one or both partners (love vs. selfishness) that determines whether it’s sinful/wrong and not the legal status of the couple.
This leads me to answer Roofus’s question. I think in the case of sex with animals, none of us would disagree that it would be harmful or traumatic to do that with any animal. No animal God has made should ever be treated like that. Even though we don’t have any problem killing animals to eat them and that certainly does not exactly benefit them (though I won’t go into the ethics of that whole issue), we would never condone torturing, starving, or any other inhumane treatment of any animal. Clearly, then it would be wrong to have sex with an animal since it would be unloving. But your question wasn’t really is it wrong, but would it be wrong if it could be demonstrated that no harm takes place.
Well, let me answer the question with a question. Would it be wrong for a 35 year old man to have sex with a 12 year old girl? Again, we would all agree that it would. However, we know for a fact that God nowhere in Scripture forbade an activity like this outright. And yet we all agree that it’s wrong. How did we come to that conclusion? The same way I came to the conclusion that sex outside of marriage is not wrong. In that example I asked if any harm was being done by it and what was the motive for the act? Most people operate on this assumption everyday on the “obvious” fact that adult-child sex would be sinful (which was not so obvious of a fact in biblical times), but then they don’t apply it on an issue such as premarital sex. Why the inconsistency? When it’s not for personal reasons or keeping tradition, the reason given is the whole “God said it” argument. ***And this gets to the heart of my whole argument on same sex relationships and everything else we’ve discussed: What makes something inherently sinful? ***The way I understand it, righteousness is the opposite of sin. Righteousness is a way of relating. God’s being righteous is God relating to Himself and to His creation “rightly” or “in accord with” his nature. God’s nature is love. Thus, whenever God acts in a loving way toward Himself (within the Trinity) or toward His creation, He is being and acting righteously or “doing the right thing.” The same applies to us. When we act in accordance with God’s nature of love, we are acting righteously. When we do not, then we are sinning.
Now, we know that a 35 year old man would not be relating rightly to a 12 year old girl by having sex with her, because it would not be loving. Love always seeks the other’s good. Since it is demonstrable that a child cannot consent to sex by understanding it like an adult and that it causes harm when children are involved with an adult sexually, then we would say it’s wrong to engage them in the act whether they seemed at the time to want to participate or not. Again, keep in mind, there is no command in scripture that says “Thou adult shall not have sex with a 12 year old child.” My point is that we don’t need a law to tell us that!! It’s not the fact that there’s a law that prohibits it that makes it wrong, it’s the fact that the very act itself is harmful (and thus, unloving). The law is written for the purpose of providing the basis of a legal justification for punishment for the person who would be destructive toward someone like that. It’s not the other way around. The legal prohibition is based on the reality of the destructiveness of the relationship. Like Jesus says, “The Sabbath (law) was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath (law).” You see the Pharisees looked at rules the way most Christians nowadays do. These are the rules that God wants us to keep simply because He said so, as if they were arbitrary. It is such a childish understanding, because they have not matured to the point where they understand WHY God said so. I believe that the New Testament with its focus on love as THE commandment was seeking to mature us as people past the whole legalistic debate about rules that only apply to a person’s behavior and to get us to focus on the motivation that drives the behavior. In this way, the authors could target sin as it really is – both heart intent AND action! This is why Paul could say that a person who lives in love fulfills the law (Romans 13:10). The letter kills, but the Spirit gives life! The commands toward the believer in the NT when they are not personal advice or cultural based instructions are simply descriptions of what love looks like practically. The commands to act and be a certain way are simply specific applications of the Greatest Commandment to love each other.
With that said, then, there wouldn’t be a law against something that truly was loving (Galatians 5:24). So, if it were loving for a 35 year old man to have sex with a 12 year old and this could be demonstrated, then there would be no law against it. And likewise, if it were loving toward an animal (or toward oneself) to have sex with it, then it would be okay (though no less disgusting to me I must admit). It’s precisely because it is not loving toward the animal or oneself that it is wrong and not just because God arbitrarily decided it was.
Tj, thanks for answering my question. Your answer helps me to understand your perspective, which will help me to respond to you. Now I need only time to respond to you with any justice, which I don’t have at this time.
I hope to get back to this and various other discussions on this board when time allows. In the mean time, I will post an relevant article that I wrote. We have some major differences on this topic, which I hope to carefully address in the future.
Jim: Thanks for the article. I read it over last night before I went to bed. I’m very familiar with the line of thought as I used to teach that passionately when I was a youth minister. I’ll wait for your response as I noticed the article was more of a sermon or teaching than it was an argument. I look forward to dialoguing with you on this!
Tom, in rereading what I wrote I did convey the idea that it is always *obviously *traumatic. But I guess you’re right, there may be times where it may not *seem *like it is. Please keep in mind, however, that this is just one reason and example of why I would think it would be unloving – namely, the effect it would have on the animal. But remember that the causing of harm is only part of my criterion.
First, it should be said that just because no visible harm is taking place, doesn’t mean it isn’t happening. Remember the example I gave about the husband and wife where the husband guilts the wife? Well, to that husband, the wife’s deciding to give him sex may appear like she changed her mind, but it’s not that she did, she just didn’t tell him that she was doing it to get it over with. So, while to him it appeared no harm was being done, it actually was being done because the wife felt manipulated, and that is never a sign that love has taken place. So we can’t say that just because it doesn’t appear that the animal is being hurt in some way, means that it isn’t.
Second, in order for a sexual act to be loving between two people each person must be interested not only in their own pleasure, but in bringing pleasure to the other. This leads into the idea of consent. Now, if we recognize that children, who are by far more advanced than any animal are not developmentally capable of consent until they’re somewhere in their teen years, one would be stretching the levels of his credibility to argue that animals are capable of consenting to sex or that they are interested in the emotional nurturance of a human being.
Third, consent is the difference between a mutually agreed upon sexual activity and rape. Furthermore, consider this. Let’s say that you are having sex with your partner and all seems to be going well. Then, as you are engaging in this activity, she expresses to you that she is no longer feeling comfortable about continuing. You express to her that you are only expressing your love to her. She says nothing in return and continues to engage in sexual relations. Guess what? If she didn’t change her mind and really wanted to stop and you didn’t stop, you raped her! The fact that she continued to engage was NOT a sign of consent, but perhaps one of fear of the consequences of rejection or some other retaliation. If she were to testify under oath that she wished at that point to go no further and you did not abide by her wish, YOU are going to jail. Now it’s important to notice in this example that even if the woman continued engaging you in sex, it was not a sign of consent. That’s important because a lot of men get into trouble with the law because they put a move on a girl and the two have sex (i.e. she physically responds) but she really didn’t want it. By law, it’s rape. I think you see my point in this. It is simply not possible to know whether an animal actually desires the sexual activity and so going ahead and engaging an animal in sex without knowing for sure what it desired would undebatably be an act of selfishness.
This response (and indeed this whole question about bestiality) is a category error. We are comparing apples and oranges. Animals and humans are distinctly different. Animals, with a few rare exceptions, have sex only for the purpose of procreation. If a woman who desired a child came to a man and asked if he would sleep with her for the sole purpose of conceiving so that she would be able to bear a child so that she would not go childless the rest of her life and that man agreed to sleep with her knowing full well that he was infertile, that would be unspeakably cruel and without question a very selfish act. Likewise, to have sex with an animal whose only reason for sex is an instinctual drive to procreate, knowing you can not satisfy its desire would be a selfish thing to do.
My argument here of course is assuming that animals ever actually do pursue humans for the purpose of sex. I think it’s possible that any attempt to mount a human being if it ever does occur could just as easily be interpreted as an act of attempted domination by the animal since we know that animals do sometimes do this to other animals (even cross species) and we also know that humans do this to other humans (the point of the Sodom and Gommorah story). Again, there is no way to know for sure, so any who assume are clearly driven by their own self-interest and not the good of the animal. Remember, even child molesters claim that they love the children they abuse and they’re convinced they do. But if they really loved them, then they would refrain from doing anything with them because they are unable to consent. Just because someone claims to love another or feels like they do, doesn’t mean they actually do. Love can be objectively identified. The proof of their motivation is ultimately in their actions in regards to the other person.
Furthermore, the story of Genesis chapter two was that Adam was unable to find a partner that could satisfy his longings for companionship. Had he settled for one of the animals then he would only have been hurting himself (i.e. not loving himself). It was necessary in order for Adam to be fulfilled that God provide him with human companionship – that is, “bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh” (see also 1 Corinthians 15:39). The point is that God provided humans other humans with which to have companionship and eventually to form lasting unions. Anything less than human would be unable to meet our needs and so we would not be loving ourselves nor be acting as good stewards of ourselves (and for those who engage in bestiality for so-called romantic reasons have psychological issues that severely warrant clinical attention – but that’s a whole other post).
God created humans vastly different than the other animals although there are many things that we share in common with them. Our sexual expression shows a rich diversity and is the only sexual expression in God’s creatures that involves real love with its complexity of sensuality, psyche, and spirit that only another human could fulfill. Thankfully, God created other human beings to meet this need (one of many needs for which God provides other people in our lives and us in theirs). Anything less than a “bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh” relationship will not truly satisfy the human soul. Like the alcoholic who falsely believes that his heart’s desires are being fulfilled by his drunken stupor while he becomes less and less human in his self-absorbed prison, those who engage in bestiality only receive the same temporary satisfaction that is able to self-medicate their pain while they lose a fundamental aspect of their humanity by relating to a beast instead of the image of God.
One final note as I end this response. Like I said before, this is a clear example of a category error, a fundamental error in inductive reasoning. But it is more than that. And what I am about to say I’m sure has no bearing on you guys/gals in this forum because I believe that this question was asked in a spirit of genuine intellectual curiosity. But for many people on the religious right, this is simply a guilt by association tactic that is meant to distract from the real issue by attempting to paint committed, monogamous, loving relationships between two human beings as analogous to an obviously disturbed individual’s selfish use of a freakin animal for his own pathological pleasure for the purpose of causing disgust in the minds of everyday people like you and me. It is pathetic, immature, and I would argue sinful to resort to such a tactic as this. This is one of the reasons I am no longer a religious conservative. The measures implemented by these people and the actions I’ve seen them take can hardly be said to be Christ-like in spirit and ultimately are not about helping people, but for the deplorable purpose of gaining political power to force by law their own interpretation of the Bible on everyone else, both Christian and non. It’s an action taken by people that reveals their arguments to be devoid of any solid, convincing scientific, philosophical, or Biblical evidence which leaves them with nothing left to argue with credibly - and they know it! Desperate people do desperate things.
I would like to hear some more commentary from you, my friends, on some of the things I’ve argued in my previous posts. I’ve presented a lot of information with both Biblical and philosophical argumentation and I’ve only gotten a few questions in return. I know that you’re probably busy and I know, for example, that Jim hasn’t got a lot of time right now and roofus said he wanted to take some time to respond as well. The only reason I’m saying this is that a lot of times I’ve been in these types of discussion forums and they turn into a “What about this?” or “What about that?” type of thing where I’m sort of on the defensive all the time and then when I give a response, somebody just sort of lets it pass and brings up another issue without interacting with my response to his previous question and I don’t want to see that happen here. It’s been a great discussion so far and I enjoy stimulating dialogue where we get to interact with all the ideas presented. So, whenever you get a minute, I look forward to your response and remember – no rush!
C. I., I’m not sure a happily married heterosexual like me can be fully objective on this, but I’ll risk taking a feeble stab!
I personally find your argument powerful. Your assumptions about the nature of love, and the decisively foundational place that it should have in our determinations fits my own intuitive sense, and the priorities that seem to stand out to me in Jesus and the NT. In simplest terms, I have a hard time perceiving WHY a homosexual union should necessarily be considered a terrible sin, or less “loving” than a heterosexual one.
Still, I undertand the view of those who want to be faithful to their perception that God can reveal his approach. Anatomy in itself seems to suggest that insofar as we assume the world is ‘designed,’ the normative intention for sex is heterosexual. Then, the Bible’s narrative seems to likewise assume that God’s intentional plan is to unite two opposite gender persons. When the several debated Hebrew and Pauline instincts or references to same-sex situations are counter-cultural, but consistently indicate a negative view, it can seem to buttress the impression that same-sex intimacy is an aberration from what is ‘supposed to be.’
I recognize that it is still logically possible that God’s grace allows for embracing this ‘exceptional’ or statistically non-normative reality. But #2 forces me to press on your central point vs. Roofus,’ and on how sure I am about my ability to ascertain what is harmful. As you know, many like Gagnon certainly argue (perhaps ineffectively or unobjectively) that there is persuasive evidence that such unions are detrimental beyond the obvious potential for harm in heterosexual unions as well. Perhaps my skepticism about my own ability to assess what is truly selfless and edifying leaves me recognizing the possibility that my intuitive perceptions are mistaken , with the pattern of the data in #2 possibly trying to tell us that same-sex unions are outside the ideal intention of the ultimate reality that stands behind the creation in which I find myself.
Frankly, though I am typically torn none of #3 moves me to be anything less than sympathetic to your obvious desire to support and exercise gracious love toward those who find themselves apparently wired toward same-sex intimacy.
For someone like myself who is outside the ‘community of believers’ this kind of debate is very interesting. What always strikes me is the interplay between the believing participants on the continuum from innerrant to not innerrant. Wherever a believer sits on that line there comes a point where a phrases like - 'but it says in ’ or ‘But in God says…’ are used by all involved in the debate (or perhaps even more so… 'But Paul says explicitly in '). I even do it myself
And there’s the rub. To me it seems the New Testament can often be used as ‘handy quick reference to the correct response sin’ just look up the relevant injunction from 2000 years ago and bingo! There’s your answer set in stone. After making reference to the law of Jubilee (which people on this forum seem to have no opinion on no matter how often I bring it up ) and Jesus and the woman caught in adultery - what response do I get - apparrently I’m trying to make God into a big old softy (I seem to remember Jonah being afraid of that too - and look where it got him (dang! I used a biblical reference! pooh!)).
A way back in this thread I posted a modern, true, parable which casts a real, living, breathing, loving, hurting, good and bad homosexual in the role of Samaritan - it was interesting that not one person commented on it.
Of course the Christian can claim ‘I’m just following orders’ pretty much like any other dubious acts by other religions that they feel are supported by their sacred texts. (oops! - I forgot - ours (sorry - yours) are the REAL sacred texts - honest!)
I don’t think it’s so much that as a feeling that when an adherent to a particular religious text finds themselves thinking somewhat differently to it (as in maybe homosexuality - possibly having some pro-sympathies) it is very easy to just quote the rule in the text regarding that thing. That’s why people like Bishop Spong anger so many card-carrying, bible-believing Christians because he promotes a less than inerrant bible which peeps at truths rather than lays them out in stone (literally).
The comeback is always ‘well if some of it is wrong - how can we trust any of it’. taking the mores of Stone age and Roman understanding and applying them wholesale to views based on at least 2 thousand years of advancement in understanding the physical universe just seems to be not using the brains God gave us (hypothetically speaking).
It’s a pity the bible canon hasn’t continued to grow but froze back then - and before anyone says ‘but at the cross everything was complete - there was no need for more’ Then what are Paul’s letters and Revelation doing in there? I know chronologically they are placed by scholars as pre the gospels but they are additions to what happened at the cross (and some say Paul invented Christianity on his own with no knowledge or interest in a human Jesus).
I think a lot of Christians take the injunction in Revelation that nobody was to ‘add or take away’ from that book as if it meant the whole canon of scripture.
Hello Bob, I appreciate your honesty in struggling with this issue. It is not an easy one to grapple with. Let me make a few comments on your responses and then you tell me what you think.
No argument from me on the basis of design. God clearly designed men and women to be sexually compatible. The question is: Compatible for what? The answer seems to be obvious – the purpose of procreation. And since this is a story about the first couple, one would see how logically they would be a man and a woman since any other combination cannot reproduce to move the human race from 2 to what it is today. So, using laws of observation we can conclude from this passage the following things.
God created a male and a female.
The male and the female are sexually compatible beings and are commanded to reproduce.
Now at this point, people then interpret the meaning of the passage as being that God created sex for the purpose of procreation and thus the sexual compatibility of pairing a male and a female. This is the reason given in the text for why a man leaves his mother and father and joins to his wife, that the two might be one flesh. Thus marriage was created and ordained by God to be the union of one man and one woman and it was to be a relationship for the purpose of bringing forth new human beings.
That’s the traditional position and by tradition I mean the historic teaching of the church (at least since the beginning of the domination of the Roman church in the fourth century). However, I believe that this is to wholly misunderstand the point of the passage and I believe there are good reasons why it goes beyond the intent of the author.
It seems to be that the intent of the author was to show why humans mate with other humans and not with other animals. It is an attempt at elaborating the distinctiveness of human beings over and above the other animals. If you’ll notice, it seems to be painfully obvious that the story contained in chapter 2 of Genesis is not the same story as found in chapter 1. Now, even if you are an inerrantist, this should not be a problem as long as you understand these first few chapters to be stories to illustrate a basic point. The point of chapter one was to show that the Hebrew God created an orderly, meaningful, beautiful world with man being the crowning achievement. To press the text into saying anything more than that would be to abuse it since Moses (or whoever wrote it) cannot be said to have cared about making scientific statements about Creation vs. Evolution. This would be to read back a current debate into the mindset of these people which was evidently not there. The issue Moses was dealing with was the supremacy of God in comparison to the gods of other creation accounts.
The final point of chapter one was the specialness of human beings being created in God’s image. It seems to me that chapter two seeks to amplify this point by telling another story that has as its purpose showing that man is a distinct “kind” much like the other groups of animals that were made to reproduce after their own kind. If we approach Genesis chapter two with this context in mind, we see man as being created out of the dust of the ground before anything else was created. God then plants a garden for him to live in and work in. After this, and this is critical, God then says that it is not good that the man should be alone. So there’s a problem. There isn’t anyone with whom the man can enjoy fellowship. God states that he will then be going to work to make a counterpart for him. So what happens? God creates a bunch of animals which he presents to Adam to name. The text then explains that no companion can be found among these other creatures. So, God takes a rib out of Adam and creates Eve. Now, the response of Adam is crucial for understanding the author’s intent in telling this story. He cries something to the effect of, “At last! This (creation) is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh.” And that’s the point! Finally, God had created someone who was “like him.” One that was his kind! This is reflected a little later when he names her woman because she was made out of the man. So when the text concludes the chapter by saying “For this reason…” or “For this cause…” depending on your translation, the reason or cause to which it is referring is the fact that God created someone who was bone of his bone and flesh of his flesh. In other words you could paraphrase it: “Because God created a companion for Adam that was the same flesh as him, a man leaves his mother and father and becomes one with his wife (as opposed to other creatures) so that they will be one (the same) flesh.” Thus, the distinction in “kinds” is maintained. The idea that man is different in God’s eyes from the other creatures with whom he is not compatible and that God provided a mate for him that was of similar “kind” or “flesh” with whom he was compatible is the author’s evidence for the distinctiveness of man as a separate kind and for why God had to make a companion for Adam that would be of similar “flesh” - all of this for the purpose of showing why people mate and reproduce among people and not with the other species.
Paul’s comments in 1 Corinthians 15:39 show this Jewish belief: “All flesh [is] not the same flesh, but there is one flesh of men, and another flesh of beasts, and another of fishes, and another of birds.” So, I think the point of the second creation narrative is to establish the idea that is alluded to at the end of the first one. Man is of a different flesh than the animals and God created a person of the “flesh of man” for Adam and this was why a man married a woman – namely so that they could have companionship and reproduce “according to their kind.” If you read the Old Testament law you will see these seemingly silly laws about not planting two different kinds of seeds in the same field or wearing clothing of two different fabrics and so we scratch our heads wondering what that was all about. What it was about was the attempt by the Jews to express their faith in the separate boundaries that God had established in making the world. Light and dark had their boundaries. The sea and the land had their boundaries. The sky had its boundaries. The animals had their boundaries in that they reproduced after their own kind. The plants had their own boundaries in that they reproduced after their own seed. And, finally mankind had its boundaries in that it was to reproduce after its own kind. The reason that seeing these chapters in the context of the greater Jewish view of keeping unalike kinds separate, helps us to see the point of the story of the first couple. God had solved the problem of human incompatibility with other kinds by creating one that was of like kind, much like he overcame the problem of the primordial chaos in chapter one by sorting it out and bringing it into a well-defined order. Thus, God is seen as facing a challenge in both chapters and using His sovereign power to solve them.
I went into that detailed exegesis of this chapter to show the main point that the author was trying to make. In a society such as the early Hebrew society which saw the main (or only?) purpose of sex as being for procreation, one would have been surprised if Moses had NOT used an opposite sex couple. However, back to the reason I said it was important to notice that God’s stated purpose in creating a companion for Adam was so that he wouldn’t be lonely. This will play a greater part in my argument later, namely that for human beings, the first consideration for the creation of a same flesh person was to fulfill the need for companionship. It would then be in the context of a companionship that procreation would take place.
So why not draw further conclusions based on the text? Why not say that Moses’ intent was also to show that God’s purpose for marriage was that it be between a man and a woman? My primary objection to this deduction is that the same Moses who wrote this chapter in Genesis did not seem to apply that particular idea when he wrote the law. In the law, women were treated as property and a man was not necessarily limited to just one. Especially is this the case in the levirate marriage where it would become conceivable that a man could have many wives. Also, to go with this idea, no where in the text of Genesis where polygamy was practiced serially does Moses make a single comment that the Lord was displeased with this behavior at all. For someone who had just written the creation narrative, with the supposed implication of its writing to be to establish a one man-one female model for marriage, it seems odd to me that this behavior was not deliberately cast in a negative light. However, for the time span that the conservative theologian would say is covered in Genesis, nearly 2500 years, how can we think that God would not have nixed this sin in the bud! To add to this, many ancient Jewish commentators saw no problem in men marrying multiple wives, that is, being one flesh with many women, and the reason they offered was that the idea of being one flesh was not meant by what we today think of as in a quantitative sense (one marriage relationship), but rather in a qualitative sense as I have laid out in this post – namely the idea of one flesh means “one type of flesh or the SAME flesh.” This was apparently the first biblical condition for marriage – it had to be with another human being. This understanding also makes perfect sense in light of the fact that bestiality was rampant among the pagan religions of the time where men and women would marry animals and have sex with them, thinking they were having sex with the gods. Someone just told me yesterday that this still goes on today in India!!! This would make it all the more crucial why Moses would have been making such a big deal about human reproduction and marriage needing to be among only humans – this was the DESIGN that God wanted to get across to a people who lived in a time where this presumption was not exactly as obvious as it is today. Like kind with like kind.
I think the fact that the earliest peoples throughout all the narratives and the law of which Moses was the same author are not practicing the supposed “one man, one woman” design without any condemnation of it is an argument from which the traditional approach cannot recover. There is simply no way in which to justify the conclusions of “one man, one woman, for the purpose of procreation” as having been Moses’ purpose in writing Genesis 2 if this practice went out without so much as brief remark as to its being sinful. And then to add the traditional evangelical doctrine of verbal-plenary inspiration to it, you would wind up with the unavoidable conclusion that God was the very one proscribing things such as levirate marriage in the law!!! How contradictory would that be? The culture’s primary focus at that time was procreation, procreation, procreation. It was like the ultimate, end-all-be-all of one’s adult life. The reason same sex relationships would have been looked down on in that society was for the very fact that they could not reproduce, and to a small tribe that was vastly outnumbered by the peoples around them, the procreation of as many people as possible was basically an issue of national defense!! Perhaps this was even why polygamy was not condemned.
Okay, I know that this post is getting really long, but it was crucial for me to lay out what I believe the point of the text is and provide evidence why my view of it is the way it was actually understood. And, more importantly, why the traditional view cannot claim this passage as having been written for the purpose of establishing an eternal marriage ethic. So, having explained why I don’t think there is an exegetical way of showing that the traditional view’s understanding was the intent of the author, I want to show why the logic of their position is seriously flawed as well.
Now remember that the traditional view believes that marriage was meant for only a man and a woman since procreation was its primary purpose. I have already argued briefly that the text of Genesis seems to imply that companionship was the first reason that God provided Adam with a mate. If this is the case, then it would seem that while Genesis doesn’t take the time to spell out all the different types of marriage relationships that can take place (it only restricts it to being between humans), the idea of gay marriages is not necessarily ruled out. For if two people get married for the primary purpose of companionship, then the ability to procreate would seemingly be a non-issue as long as this was the case.
However, for the procreationists, their position is ultimately self-defeating. First, let’s deal with the iron strict procreationist that says that the ONLY purpose of marriage is for child-bearing. This would create some agonizingly difficult situations. How about a couple that was past the age of childbearing? Should they be prohibited from marrying? What about people who are incapable of having children? Let’s take the example of a fictitious couple named John and Ann. Let’s say that they are engaged and are rapidly making plans for their wedding. Since the couple really wants to have kids one day, they decide to have fertility tests done for the purpose of putting their minds at rest. Tragically, it comes back that John has a rare disease in which his sperm are abnormal and any attempt to use his genetic material in a potential pregnancy would cause fatal genetic mutations. It’s settled, this couple is never going to be able to bear their own children. Should their pastor sit Ann down and tell her that it isn’t Biblical for her to marry John anymore since he is incapable of procreating? There are people out there who believe such things. If one partner is unfertile, then they should be disqualified from marriage (this only happens with the strictest of fundamentalists). For many years this was what people believed and was why in the middle ages, some communities required that a couple have children BEFORE they got married so that there was proof that procreation could take place. Also, these people bite the bullet and “deal with” the pleasure they get out of sex for the “greater good of obedience to God’s command to procreate.” Needless to say, the church does not have a good track record on the purposes for sex.
Now this is where the second more graceful procreationist breaks rank and says that procreation, while the primary purpose of marriage, is not the ONLY purpose of marriage. He or she would rightly say that the very idea of Ann not marrying John was ridiculous because if the couple really wanted to have children then they could adopt. They would say that the secondary purpose of marriage was for companionship. So since they could still fulfill the purpose of companionship even if they could never bear children, then it was okay for them to marry. This is why they allow elderly couples to marry, infertile couples to marry, and in some cases they would be even so inclined to let couples marry who have no desire to have children. This last group is controversial, but what they will say is that the command to reproduce does not have to apply to each individual couple. Which, if we are going to be consistent on the purpose of the first couple, would be to deny that the command in the text for them to reproduce is universally applicable. Yet, somehow it seems like they’re relying on reason when saying, “What good would it do to force a couple to have kids who didn’t WANT them?” After all, there’s no biblical exception provided for in the story of the first couple for such a situation and in the Old Testament, the inability to bear children, or more horrifically, the decision NOT to bear children would have been looked on with disgust. Think only of the shame Hannah had in being barren (1 Samuel 1).
So what are we to make of this non-textual approach? The logic is fascinating. They say a couple does not HAVE to have kids in order to be obedient to God in marriage. But surely by looking at the text of Genesis would we not have to conclude that was God’s intent? No, they say, because this was a command that was given to the first couple so that they would begin a process where mankind would spread out across the earth and the human race would flourish. Surely, they reason, God would not disapprove of certain couples refraining from having kids, especially when the couple had no desire to have them. So right here we see that the traditional interpretation gets qualified through the use of common sense logic. If procreation is not possible or not desired, then the couple should still marry for the purpose of companionship. So, I ask, why does the exception not apply to same-sex couples? They cannot procreate (at least not naturally), but they still desire companionship. In other words, if the primary purpose of marriage cannot be fulfilled or will not be fulfilled by choice and marriage is still allowed for the purposes of companionship and the like, then what is the rationale for denying same sex couples the right to marry, since obviously, according to their reasoning, procreative ability is not a NECESSARY PREREQUISITE.
It cannot be emphasized too strongly that this procreative exemption is done without warrant from the Genesis text. If an exception to the alleged procreation requirement can be made when it is not explicitly granted by the text, then why is it such a big deal that an exception to the opposite sex requirement is granted when IT is not explicitly granted by the text? This hermeneutic seems highly inconsistent in its application. To say that not all marriages have to follow the exact same pattern for procreation as is found in the first marriage when the first marriage is seen as the ideal and prototype of all future marriages seems to be self-defeating! For how can the first marriage be the ONLY model God intended for ALL marriages if we then turn around and say that not ALL marriages MUST be like it? I propose that if we understand that Moses’ point in chapter two of Genesis was to establish that marriage for a human is be restricted to the same flesh of humans, then the problem goes away and variations in marriages are okay as long as they are among humans. Thus, human diversity can be allowed for within the requirement that marriage takes place ONLY among humans.
Now, someone might object as say, “Well, then you’re saying that it’s okay for people to be polygamous.” Nope, this is where what I have focused on in my previous discussions comes into play. The primacy of the law of love. The reason we have laws in this country against polygamy is that it can be demonstrated that one of the partners ends up being exploited. Thus the charge of a slippery slope toward polygamy is a non sequiter. We know through research that true love and good health can only be found for both partners in a two-person marriage. So, to marry a third person would be a violation of the law of love. Biblical understanding grows and so when love became the focus of the believer in the NT testament, any such marriage arrangement such as polygamy was ruled out (as a side note, some say that since same-sex marriages weren’t mentioned in the creation story, then it proves it was not God’s intent. My reply is simple: love was not mentioned as a reason for marriage in the creation story either, so should we conclude that it wasn’t God’s intent for two people to love each other? I mean, most marriages in Biblical times were arranged, weren’t they?).
Now I would argue that the purpose of companionship is the PRIMARY reason for which most people do, and for which most people SHOULD get married. I just wanted to point out that even if one took the other position, it did not rule out marriage for gays and lesbians, unless you were to say procreation was the ONLY purpose of marriage, and I know that no one but the most repressed person takes that position any more.
However, more specific to the point that Bob was making was that of the anatomy. I simply reply to this by stating that if the issue is God’s intent in procreation, yes God clearly intended males and females to procreate. However, I highly doubt that anyone would argue that the primary reason for sex, nonetheless the ONLY reason for sex is procreation. If that were the case, then the only form of sexual activity that could be allowed was penile-vaginal intercourse. All other sexual forms would have to be prohibited because they don’t have the potential to be procreative. And let’s face it folks (since we’re all adults here, I don’t have the problem being specific), orgasm induced through oral stimulation is not procreative and you could use the argument from design to say that it should not be engaged in because God did not make the mouth for that purpose. The same could be said of anal sex, or any other type of orgasm that was not penile-vaginal in nature. And it would even mean that older married people SHOULDN’T have sex even in THAT manner because procreation would not happen anyway. This ridiculous way of looking at sex is the reason why most people are willing to admit that procreation is not the sole purpose of sex, especially when heterosexuals engage in all these non-procreative acts – even the “gay” ones – without twinge of conscience. Even Mr. Goetz says in the article he linked me to that sexual expression within marriage is unrestricted as long as it’s safe and mutually agreed upon. In other words, classic evangelical doctrine on this matter does not limit sexual activity to only those acts which are procreative, since that’s not the primary purpose of sex.
The point I’m trying to make to Bob, and I’m sorry if this has been offensive in any way, is that the primary purpose of sex is not procreation, but the mutual pleasuring of one another’s body done in love. The only reason that men and women “fit” in that sense is that, for the purpose of procreation, one partner has to have the anatomy to insert the seed and the other has to have the anatomy to receive it and then host the conceptus. God designed male and female bodies to be as such since he knew that that 95% of paired couples were going to be heterosexual and thus it would have to be in that context that the male-female anatomical complementarity would be necessary. And since it is clear that marriage is not intended for all people (since Paul celebrates celibacy and Jesus said some were born eunuchs), it is not an imaginative leap to conclude that heterosexual marriage was not the intent for all people either. You would expect the number of homosexual pairings to be small in comparison and it is, but why would we think variety would be a bad thing? Oh, and for those who think the primary purpose of sex is for procreation, the same logic as with marriage applies. If you cannot fulfill the primary purpose of reproduction, but exception is made for heterosexuals who can’t or will not fulfill that purpose, there is no basis for excluding homosexuals who are in the exact same situation.
I thank you for bearing with me on this long post. I wanted to thoroughly explain my position and why I think that simply focusing on anatomical complementarity is to assume because God created procreation in the context of male-female relationships because that was his only intent for marriage is to misunderstand that the primary purpose of marriage is companionship and that the primary purpose of sex is mutual physical love. The complementarity of sexual anatomy was put in place between males and females since God knew that the genetic endowment he bestowed upon mankind would result in 95% of couples being heterosexual and not the other way around. The other reason for the long post was to show that this position assumed something of the Genesis text that I don’t think was the intention of the author.